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Civil War Monument Adds Names Of 107 Who Served In "Colored Troops"

The Cuyahoga County Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Cleveland's Public Square. The names of 107 African-American Civil War veterans are being added to the Roll of Honor. [Kevin Anderson / ideastream]
The Cuyahoga County Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Cleveland's Public Square. The names of 107 African-American Civil War veterans are being added to the Roll of Honor.

The names of 107 Civil War veterans who served in the U.S. Army's "colored troops" have been added to the Roll of Honor on  Cuyahoga County's Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Cleveland's Public Square.

Their names join the 9,000 veterans of that conflict who were from Cuyahoga County, or enlisted from here.

The names of 22 black troops were included in the monument when it was originally opened on July 4, 1894. Another black veteran's name was included in 1950. Wednesday's additions came after more than 20 years of research.

Tim Daley, executive director of the Monument, choked up while announcing the addition of "107 American heros." 

"Today, we shall speak their names aloud," he said at a ceremony at the Monument. "Today, we will shall bring them back to life. And today," he said, pausing to collect his emotions, "they shall not be doubted."

A staff member solemnly intoned the names.

"From the 12th United States Colored Troops Company K, Pvt. Alfred Johnsnon. From the 16th United States Colored Troops Company A, Robert Watkins, Pvt. Robert Watkins..." he said, reading from the list.

Not all of the 107 veterans were African-American. Two — Capt. Waldo Goff of the U.S. Colored Troops Company A Infantry and 1st Lt. Nicholas A. Gray, who served in the quartermasters area of the 27th U.S. Colored Troops Infantry—were white.

"With regards to the U.S. Colored Troops, their officers were white," said Daley.

The research that led to the addition of 107 veterans got its start with a student project headed by now-retired high school history teacher Paul LaRue in Washington Court House, Ohio, about 50 miles southwest of Columbus. His class was researching colored-troops veterans buried in a local cemetery. Their work eventually led to vets who were from Cuyahoga County.   

The list of names are in two gold frames and will be displayed in a case inside the monument, for now. Daley said a final determination on how they'll be acknowledged has not been made by the Cuyahoga County Soldiers' and Saliors' Monument Commission, which oversees the landmark.

He said whatever the commission decides to do, it will need to be "expandable."

"We still have a secondary pool of an additional 30 to 50 names that are very strong contenders, but yet we continue to miss one piece of information.  In most cases, it's the completion of service. We believe that records will come to light, probably within the next five years, that will allow us to plug those holes and those men would then be eligible to also be added, somewhere in the future, to our Roll of Honor."

Staffers chose June 19 for the ceremony because it marks Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating emancipation.


amy.eddings@ideastream.org | 216-916-6272