Local News

Historians rediscover vital Civil War work by all-black North Carolina infantry

Posted February 22
Updated February 23

A group of local historians have rediscovered a critical part of North Carolina History: a Civil War regiment responsible for keeping the Union intact.

What makes this re-discovery even more unique is that the soldiers were all African-American.

The 135th Infantry isn't well known, but a group of historians is fighting to change that. Led by Union General William T. Sherman, the 135th served with some of the strongest troops in the Civil War.

"This particular regiment is comprised of men who followed Sherman from Georgia through South Carolina and into North Carolina," said Earl Ijames, who works at the North Carolina Museum of History.

This infantry of U.S. Colored Troops was organized in Goldsboro with more than 200 black North Carolinians in the regiment. Though they didn’t go into battle, they were vital to developing infrastructure for the Union.

At one point, the 135th built a bridge over the Neuse River so troops could travel over.

"That bridge is crucial because that Atlantic coastline railway is the main corridor of traffic, trade and transportation of eastern North Carolina into Wilmington," Ijames said.

Until the recent rediscovery of records and photographs, the troops and their contributions had largely been forgotten.

"A lot of African-American history has been minimized and literally, throughout the Jim Crow era, blotted from the pages of history," Ijames said. "So, we have to go back and rediscover it through the primary sources."

With the new information, researchers are hoping that even more people come forward with photographs and artifacts from their ancestors to finish telling the story in their own words.

Museum curators and researchers will present their all research Thursday at the Goldsboro Library. The presentation begins at 7 p.m.

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