Add monument for Black soldiers

Published 6:35 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Overwhelming local public opinion seems to favor keeping our Civil War memorial in place but adding some “context” to make it a learning “hook” (teachers use that term) for future generations.

One can reasonably argue this monument has “stood the test of time” by enduring for 115 years now. But perhaps that longevity, tempered by history, wisdom and knowledge, could be enhanced by telling a fuller story of our county’s role in the greatest existential conflict our nation has yet faced.

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An accompanying monument dedicated to the contribution of local African-American soldiers to that struggle would be most appropriate and greatly enhance that noble story. The 36th “USCT” (United States Colored Troops) Infantry Regiment, recruited from local volunteers, is a wonderful example of the commitment and dedication of Isle of Wight County citizens to the cause of freedom and emancipation. The historical record lists many brave men from our county and surrounding areas who joined this storied unit. They wore the “US” brass buckle on their blue Union Army uniform to fight for the cause of justice and freedom

Our county should erect an additional monument, next to the existing one in Monument Circle, as a tribute to those exceptional citizens who took up arms and fought for the cause of their fellow African-Americans and their families. What better tribute to the realization of emancipation can be imagined?

And what better “contextualization” than to balance the existing monument by memorializing the sacrifice of both sides? My great-grandfather August Burckard of the 10th New York volunteer infantry regiment would be so proud that a Southern county, which sent so many of its sons into battle, would commemorate the sacrifice of his fellow comrades who bravely fought to preserve the Union.

I think our local NAACP, other organizations and the congregants of many local churches would support this commemorative endeavor. What better way to remember the heroism and sacrifice of their ancestors than to realize a permanent memorial to them? I’m also sure county taxpayers would not mind contributing to this worthy cause.

Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson could unite this community by introducing such a motion at their next meeting.


Albert Burckard