RALEIGH – Several regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) fought with conspicuous gallantry in the Union Army efforts to capture Fort Fisher in 1865. The efforts of these former slaves and free blacks will be recognized with the dedication of a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker (www.ncmarkers.com) on Thursday, June 2, at 10 a.m. at the National Cemetery in Wilmington , at the Market Street entrance.
The Union Army and Navy staged a successful effort to capture Fort Fisher in Wilmington in January and February 1865, eliminating the South’s largest blockade running port and entry of supplies to the Confederate Army. USCT units engaged in the actions included the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 27th, 30th, 37th, and 39th regiments. These soldiers and their white officers faced a determined enemy and possible execution if captured, as several captured Confederate officers claimed.
The Confederates statements were not official Confederate policy, but they offered some insight, saying that if the blacks were free men, they would not be killed. If they were former slaves, they would be treated as house burners and robbers, and would be killed, as would Union officers.
Several hundred USCT are thought to be buried in Wilmington , although the exact number is unknown. The Wilmington National Cemetery records burials of 92 members of the USCT, including those who died in combat and those who later succumbed to disease. The burials include 88 African American soldiers and four white officers. This is the largest USCT burial ground in North Carolina . The ceremony is also part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial (www.nccivilwar150.com).
For info rmation on the Highway Marker program, contact Mike Hill at (919) 807-7290. The N.C. Highway Historical Marker Program is administered by the Office of Archives and History within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency dedicated to the promotion and protection of North Carolina ’s arts, history and culture. For info rmation on Cultural Resources, visit http://www.ncculture.com/