Civil War veterans, Natchez, Mississippi, late 1800s: Photograph of a Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.) camp in Natchez. The G. A. R. was an organization for Union Civil War veterans. Just under 18,000 Mississippi African Americans served in the Union army during the Civil War.
Image Source: from Photobucket/Jeff Giambrone’s (chamchampionhilz’s) Bucket; the original photo is in the collections of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History
The Mississippi NAACP has started a campaign to have May 2016 designated as Union Army Heritage Month by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant. Union Army Heritage Month would recognize the service and sacrifice of Mississippi’s Union soldiers and sailors during the American Civil War.
The following is a portion of the petition that will be sent to Mississippi governor Phil Bryant:
Gov. Bryant, We Need a Union Army Heritage Month
Only a few weeks ago during National Black History Month, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant issued a proclamation officially decreeing April 2016 as Confederate Heritage Month. This proclamation was issued very quietly as it had been done under Governor Barbour, Governor Musgrove, Governor Fordice, and so on.
However, if it is heritage that should be honored by proclamation then the history of soldiers from Mississippi who served in the Union Army deserve their recognition as well.
These Mississippians were patriots who fought for the preservation of this great nation and we must preserve their history and legacy so that future generations can understand the sacrifice of our ancestors. To do otherwise would encourage a revisionist history that dishonors the memory of our families, friends, and neighbors who fought, bled, and died for freedom and for the nation.
And although we live proudly as citizens of these United States, the heritage that paved the way for that life has not been celebrated. Why?
A champion of Confederate heritage will say tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers from Mississippi fought in the war. But tens of thousands of White and Black soldiers from Mississippi fought for the United States in the war. Should not their lives be recognized too?
A champion of Confederate heritage will say that Confederate soldiers fought bravely and tirelessly often against overwhelming odds. But Black United States soldiers fought bravely and tirelessly often against overwhelming odds, most notably at the Battle of Milliken’s Bend where 750 untrained, unequipped United States Colored Troops defeated 5,000 battle-hardened and well-equipped Confederate soldiers. Should not their bravery be recognized too?
They say that many Confederate soldiers performed their duty with honor and should be recognized. But the very first Mississippian to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery was a Black man, Wilson Brown in 1864, but he has received no recognition. Should not his distinguished service be recognized too?
It is time for Governor Bryant to honor those brave White and Black men and women of Mississippi who fought for what they believed in, who fought for their freedom, who fought for their country and the preservation of the Union, who made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation and the promise of equality it held. Governor Bryant should proclaim the month of May UNION ARMY APPRECIATION MONTH and finally give those brave soldiers the honor and acknowledgement they deserve.
The entire petition is here, and it includes a link for signing the petition via an online form. The proposed text for the governor’s proclamation of Union Army Heritage Month is here.
My only comment (beside the fact that I think this is a great idea) is that this month should be named Union Military and Civilian Appreciation Month, to explicitly recognize the contributions of Mississippi’s Union sailors and civilians. Wilson Brown, who is noted as the first Mississippian to receive the Medal of Honor, was a landsman in the US Navy.
Wilson Brown was born in 1841 in Natchez, Mississippi. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy from that state and served as a Landsman on board USS Hartford during the United States Civil War. On 5 August 1864, during the Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama, Brown “zealously” performed his duties despite intense enemy shell fire that killed and wounded most of those around him. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his conduct in that action. Wilson Brown died on 24 January 1900 and is buried in the National Cemetery at Natchez, Mississippi.