By Joe Farley, Joe Farrell and Lawrence Knorr | The Harrisburg Patriot-News
“The United States Colored Troops (USCT) were regiments of the United States Army during the Civil War that were composed of African-American soldiers. First recruited in 1863, by the end of the war, the men of the 175 regiments of the USCT constituted approximately one-tenth of the Union Army. While they did not fight at the Battle of Gettysburg, many of these men were immortalized for their subsequent heroics in the 1989 movie Glory starring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.
“Zion Hill Cemetery in Columbia, Pa., is the final resting place of many soldiers who fought with the USCT, including at least seven who fought with the famous 54th Massachusetts Company D regiment. immortalized in the film. This regiment was one of the first official African-American units during the Civil War. Troops from Pennsylvania made up more than 20 percent of the unit.
“There are black Civil War veterans buried in Mechanicsburg, Pa., in what is called the Lincoln Colored Cemetery. The authors were surprised to make this discovery having lived in Cumberland County for more than 30 years and were unaware that the cemetery even existed. If not for the Boy Scouts of America and Vietnam Veterans of Mechanicsburg, it is very possible that the cemetery would have been forgotten. For a time, the Boy Scouts cared for the cemetery. That changed in 1998 when the Vietnam Veterans adopted the cemetery, taking on the responsibility of tending to the grounds. As a result their efforts, a monument honoring the USCT was erected, tombstones were reset, a flag pole flying an American flag and a POW/MIA flag now stands in the cemetery and is illuminated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Replacement of the flags and a memorial service is held there every Memorial Day at 2 p.m.
“You can learn more about the U.S. Colored Troops and many other Civil War-era Pennsylvanians in the book Keystone Tombstones Civil War at http://www.keystonetombstones.com.”
SOURCE: The Harrisburg Patriot-News