Re-enactors share stories of black men who served
This year marks the 156th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and commemorating this event in American history lends special resonance to the many African-American men and women who joined the war effort in helping secure America’s freedom, both during the Civil War and other wars in following years.
The Sable Soldiers are a New England-based group of re-enactors traveling the country to tell the story of African men and women who, despite harsh discrimination during the 19th century, decided to serve their country during wars that helped form modern America. These men and women would utilize the threat to country and home to seize the opportunity to gain respect and equality that would later shape the civil and equal rights movement of the 20th century.
On Tuesday, a group of people sat in building A on the Charles County Fairgrounds in La Plata to learn more about the
lesser known historical facts in the war for independence and the Sable Soldiers’ mission.
“It was an honor for us to come out today and share this information with people about the Sable Soldiers,” said Lujean Balen of the Sable Soldiers of the American Revolution. “A lot of people didn’t know about this so it was great to be here to educate the young and old.”
July 4 is a day of celebrating and commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress declared that the 13 American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, and the United Sates of America was no longer part of the British Empire.
According to the National Archives, Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, but it made the formal call for freedom on July 2. The Declaration of Independence became official on Aug. 2, 1776, after members of Congress signed the document.
However, the celebration of the nation’s independence would not be complete if it were not for the hard work and sacrifice of the Sable Soldiers.
“There were other people that contributed to America becoming what it is today. What America is today is not only through the efforts of George Washington,” Balen said. “Our role is to define the roles that others play, specifically African-American people.”
Balen began to ask those in attendance how their ancestors arrived in the United States. Not many people were able to give an answer, and those who were able to respond could only give a partial answer while some gave time and year.
“Knowing your history is important,” Balen said. “We have to go to the past to see where we are today in the present.”
One key element which was highlighted was that the general assemblies voted that every able-bodied “Negro, Mulatto, and Indian slave” could enlist and then get land and be free. The price for an African-American slave was far more expensive than that of an Irish slave. It cost 50 pence for an African-American slave and 5 pence for an Irish slave.
According to research, the Rhode Island First Regiment in 1778 became the first organized regiment largely comprised of enslaved and free African soldiers.
Later, African-American men would participate in the War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Civil War and Spanish-American War. By the time of WWI, more than 350,000 African-American men would eventually serve in military service.
“We can’t change the past,” said Leon Vaughan, member of the Sable Soldiers of the American Revolution. “We just have to bring it out.”
Sable Soldiers re-enacting and sporting uniform worn by soldiers in the 19th Century. From left, Anthony Chase, Leon Vaughan, Lujean Balen, and Maxwell Gaynor.
Members of the Sable Soldiers re-enactment group along with facilitator of Historic McConchie School and Farm Museum. From left, Maxwell Gaynor, Charlotte Weirich and Leon Vaughan
Lujean Balen of the Sable Soldiers of the American Revolution, representing the Rhode Island First Regiment, demonstrating how to use a rifle.