Pennsylvania Grand Review

Honoring African American Patriots 1865 / 2010

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Grand Review, 1865

Posted by: pinsker

The Grand Review of US Colored Troops took place in Harrisburg on Tuesday, November 14, 1865.  The procession began at the southeast corner of Soldiers Grove, at what is now the junction of Seventh Street and South Drive.  Hundreds of USCT veterans marched before the residence of former Secretary of War Simon Cameron and then appeared before the state capitol building where they heard from speakers such as noted activist William Howard Day (pictured above).  Later that evening, they held a banquet.  It was, in the words of the great abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, “a pleasant and happy day.”

Posted Friday, February 26th, 2010 at 4:20 pm.

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Grand Review in Harrisburg, PA – November 14, 1865

Posted by: admin

After African American soldiers were not allowed to participate in the Union army’s Grand Review in Washington DC in May 1865, Harrisburg residents organized their own event on November 14, 1865 for those who served in the United States Colored Troops. While this earlier post provides an overview, several other newspaper articles offer interesting accounts about the event. “No day could have been chosen more propitious for the occasion,” as the correspondent for the Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer observed that November 14 was “one of the finest of this most pleasant Indian summer.” After Simon Cameron delivered a speech, letters from those who could not attend were read aloud. General Benjamin F. Butler explained that he had “witnessed…[African American soldiers’] bravery and good conduct on the battle-field, and, above all, their devotion and unswerving loyalty to the flag and government.” Even “when their offers of service in the beginning of the way were rejected with contumely,” George L. Stearns noted that they still “promptly volunteered at the call of their country when she needed them to help conquer a relentless foe.” Others used the event to argue for equal rights. “All constitutional privileges, all laws, all ordinances, all regulations of States, discriminating against colored men, must be made null and void,” as Senator Henry Wilson proclaimed. The event ended with “the John Brown Song,” which as the Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer correspondent described, “the assemblage sang…with great zeal.” You can also read more about the ceremony in an excerpt from Ceremonies at the Reception of Welcome to the Colored Soldiers of Pennsylvania (1865)

Posted Monday, November 1st, 2010 at 9:30 am.

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Harrisburg Grand Review: November 14, 1865

Posted by: admin

On May 23 and 24, 1865, Union soldiers paraded through Washington D.C. for a grand review of the troops, a celebration from the grateful citizens to the Union soldiers for their efforts and service in winning the Civil War. Noticeably missing from the celebration were the over 180,000 United States Colored Troops who fought along side these troops being honored in the nation’s capital. While denied participation in the “Grand Review of the Armies,” black regiments from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts gathered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on November 14, 1865 for their own Grand Review. Thomas Morris Chester, a prominent Harrisburg resident and recruiter of black soldiers served as grand marshal of the Grand Review. The troops marched through the main streets of the Pennsylvania capital to the home of Senator Simon Cameron who delivered a speech honoring the black troops and commending them for their service and sacrifice to the Union. Cameron, an abolitionist and one of the early advocates for using black troops in the war, gratefully acknowledged the soldiers in the speech that was reprinted in the North American and United States Gazette in Philadelphia the following day.

“I cannot let this opportunity pass without thanking the African soldiers for the compliment they have paid me, but more than all to thank them for the great service which they have been to their country in the terrible rebellion. Like all other men, you have your destinies in your own hands, and if you continue to conduct yourselves hereafter as you have in the struggle, you will have all the rights you ask for, all the rights that belong to human beings.”

The report called the celebration a success throughout and estimated that nearly seven thousand blacks attended the Grand Review as well as a sizable white population who came to pay their respects to “those who escaped the perils of a contest in which they risked their lives in defense of the nation honor and support of the constitutional authorities.” One of the prominent black participants was Reverend John Walker Jackson who offered a prayer that served as “a beautiful acknowledgment of the services which the black man rendered in the struggle for American nationality, civilization and freedom. The orator of the event, William Howard Day, discussed the attitude of the colored man and “the prospect which lay before him for improvement, social elevation and the acquirement of political rights.” The Grand Review concluded with a grand ball where the soldiers and those honoring them convened one last time.

Posted Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 at 11:42 am.

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Front and Center: Some Who Served in the United States Colored Troops

Posted by: willsa

Author of Front And Center

Author Anita Wills Blog About her Civil War Ancestors

“No officer in this regiment now doubts that the key to the successful prosecution of this war lies in the unlimited employment of black troops. Their superiority lies simply in the fact that they know the country, while white troops do not, and that they have peculiarities of temperament, position, and motive, which belong to them, alone. Instead of leaving their homes and families to fight they are fighting for their homes and families, and they show the resolution and sagacity which a personal purpose gives.”[1]

Approximately 180,000 African-Americans, comprising One Hundred sixty-three units, served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and many more served in the Union Navy.  Native Americans served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT), while some, mainly in the south, fought for the Confederates.  Black Indians, served in colored regiments with other African American and Native American soldiers.[2]

After the Civil War, many USCT veterans struggled for recognition and had difficulty obtaining the pensions rightful to them. The Federal government did not address the inequality until 1890 and many of the veterans did not receive service and disability pensions until the early 1900’s. My ancestors, Henry Green and Uriah Martin, applied for Pensions, and left documents of their lives before and after the Civil War.  When it came to Henry Green, and Uriah Martin, my mother told us they came from the Welsh Mountains. She passed down what she was told, and we did not doubt that what she said was true. The census records and documents on our ancestors, are proof that her version was correct. She stated that, Uriah Martin’s brother, William Penn Martin settled in California after the Civil War.

I found information on a William Martin in Yolo County California, who was born in Pennsylvania. He fit the profile somewhat but I have not proved him to my satisfaction. I was thrown off by the racial designation of white on the 1870 census. There was another William Martin at Michigan Bar, in Sacramento, and he too was from Pennsylvania, and is listed as white. Great Uncle William Martin’s trail in California has grown cold, and remains a mystery to our family.

The Martin and Green men, lived closer to the land then Walter Samuel, and were a little more rugged. Henry Green had tattoos of Anchors on both forearms, a fact that was mentioned in his Civil War Records.  They were remnants of the Natives, Free Blacks, and whites, who lived in and around the Welsh Mountains. The Welsh Mountain is a Community, which cuts through Lancaster and Chester County in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  The Mountains were a place of refuge for escaped slaves, free blacks, and Natives avoiding deportation to reservations. Many of the whites who fled into the mountains were criminals, or running from Indentured Servitude. During Pennsylvania’s slave period, African slaves and indentured whites both sought freedom in the Mountains. They soon made up a rugged group, now known as, Tri-Racial Isolates.

My mother passed the history of our ancestors through stories she told, when we were children. It was a means of keeping us occupied during the cold Pennsylvania Winters.  She spoke of the Civil War and our ancestors who were part of the Colored Troops. We learned about the Civil War in History Class, and looked through the books, for mention of the Colored Troop.  There was no mention of them in the history books, nor in the books in our library.  I knew that my mother would not make up tales about the family.  It was not until 1983 that I ordered copies of Uriah Martin and Henry Greens Civil War Records.  My mother and I poured over those records to glean information.

The Green and Martin families, were descendants of those rugged mountain folks, but lived in both worlds. They would come down and work on area farms and then head back to the mountains.  In later years, the young people came down, married, and/or joined the Military. My Grandfather Martin was the last of our line to live in the Mountains.  I remember going up there and seeing the haze over the trees. It was absolutely beautiful, and breathtaking, something that is hard to find words to describe. There were cases of people who wandered in the Welsh Mountains told Harrowing tales, of seeing Ghost like figures, and being shot at. There are even stories about people going in the Mountains and disappearing without a trace. These days there are only a few descendants, of the original people left on the Mountain. Developers have swept in, building upscale homes for Middle Class Families.

The Underground Railroad Colored Soldiers and the Welsh Mountains

My mother spoke about our Welsh Mountain ancestors, having been under the protection of William Penn. Her Paternal grandfather was named William Penn Martin, after his fathers brother, William Penn Martin Senior.  They and their ancestors, considered themselves, “Penn’s Indians”, even after the land was taken, and most Natives were shipped to Reservations out west. They were the Conestoga and Susquehanna who lived along the Rivers and Creeks in Chester and Lancaster County.

The area where they hunted, and fished, was also part of the Underground Railroad, which led from Southern States like, Virginia and Maryland to points north.  The Underground Railroad had many stops throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, because of it’s proximity to the south. My Great-Great Grandfather, Robert Pinn, was one of the unsung heroes of the Underground Railroad. He and his family were free blacks living in Virginia, until 1853, when the fled to Columbia (Lancaster County), Pennsylvania. He was a vocal Baptist Minister in Virginia and continued to Minister in Columbia, until he was forced to flee to Burlington New Jersey.  Robert Pinn was from a long line of Virginia’s Free Colored Population.  His grandfather, Rawley Pinn was a Revolutionary War Soldier, who fought at The Siege of Yorktown. His wife, Elizabeth Jackson-Pinn, was also a descendant of Free Persons of  Color, and her grandfather, Charles Lewis was a Sailor and Soldier during the Revolutionary War. Continue Reading…

Posted Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 at 3:21 am.


Voting Rights and the Grand Review

Posted by: admin

While Gerald G. Eggert’s article in Pennsylvania History focuses on the experiences of Harrisburg’s African American community throughout a century, it also includes a short but interesting description of Harrisburg’s Grand Review in November 1865. The parade in Harrisburg was clearly an opportunity for that community to honor the African Americans who served in the USCT during the Civil War. Yet the Grand Review’s organizers had other important objectives as well. “These leaders hoped to use the occasion to build support for extending the suffrage once more to blacks,” as Eggert observes. African American men in Pennsylvania, however, were not able to vote until the 15th Amendment was adopted in 1870. Pennsylvania History, which is the official journal of the Pennsylvania Historical Association, is available through a digital archive that contains all of the issues published between 1934 and 2005. Eggert’s article is available here as PDF file – see page 16 for Eggert’s description of the Grand Review. (Note that Adobe Reader has to be installed on your computer in order to read this article.)

(Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Historical Association – Gerald G. Eggert, “”Two Steps Forward, A Step-and-a-Half Back”: Harrisburg’s African American Community in the Nineteenth Century,” Pennsylvania History 58 (January 1991), 1-36.)

Posted Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 at 2:12 pm.

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1865 Article Promotes Upcoming Review

Posted by: pinsker


November 11, 1865


The good people of Pennsylvania, ever ready to show their appreciation of every good and noble act, have, through the Garnet E.R. League, of Harrisburg , made most brilliant arrangements to tender a formal welcome to our returned heroes, who have risked life and limb in defence of the Republic.

This reception will occur on next Tuesday, 14th inst., at Harrisburg . The order of exercises will be found (at least a part of them) ion our advertising columns. As the management has been intrusted to those who are au fait in matters of the kind, no failure can be anticipated in that direction.

We earnestly hope our people will not fail to show their appreciation of the services of our country’s defenders, and we look for our leading men to swell the multitude. The hospitality of our colored citizens of Harrisburg being unbounded, nothing will be wanting to add to the comfort of all who may visit that city.

We expect the various Rail Road companies will reduce the fare to and from the seat of the reception. While speaking on this subject, we must mention the Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road. This is one of the best managed roads in the State, and those who desire first class accommodations, will do well to patronize this company. Rally, then, and do not let our people in other States say that the colored citizens of the Keystone State are not alive to their own interests.

Courtesy of Accessible Archives

Posted Friday, February 26th, 2010 at 4:02 pm.