Pennsylvania to honor black Civil War troops

Pennsylvania is taking an unusual tack in celebrating the upcoming sesquicentennial of the War Between the States. Next month, the state will kick off a year-long commemoration of the Pennsylvania Grand Review and the role blacks played in the North’s victory.

Unknown to many Americans, the Pennsylvania Grand Review took place in November 1865, organized by the citizens of Harrisburg, Pa..

It was designed to honor the United States Colored Troops from 25 states who had been excluded from the Grand Review of the Armies, a military procession held earlier that year in Washington, DC, to celebrate the end of the Civil War.

“Pennsylvania was the only state to hold such an event after the Civil War, and yet this defining moment was nearly lost in the passage of time,” said Mickey Rowley, a Pennsylvania tourism department official. 

The event is scheduled for Nov. 4-7 in Harrisburg. It will feature the stories of 100 African-American soldiers, color guards and regiments from various states, community and historical groups, and descendant families.

The Pennsylvania Grand Review was an attempt to make up for yet another slight to black Union troops. At the end of the war, the Federal army held a Grand Review of its troops in the nation’s capital to celebrate the South’s defeat.

However, the US War Department did not invite black regiments or soldiers to participate, a painful insult to the nearly 200,000 African-Americans whose contributions had been essential to the Union’s victory.

Instead, it was left to a group of civilians, mostly women, from Harrisburg to organize an alternative Grand Review for the nation’s black troops. This event took place on the streets of the Pennsylvania state capital on Nov. 14, 1865.

The upcoming Grand Review will feature regiments from several states, including North Carolina, New York, Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

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