Creating the Black Brigade Monument

This is the story behind the creation of the Black Brigade Monument in Smale Riverfront Park. The monument honors the 718 black men who—after being brutally rounded up by provost guards and then set free—volunteered to build fortifications that eventually thwarted a Confederate attack on Cincinnati during the Civil War.

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Fascinating. I don’t know how I had missed that video.

A couple of years ago I had the chance to review possible text for parts of the park and the monument, but had not heard much about it lately. Hopefully it becomes a reality soon as it is not a well-known story even in the Cincinnati. As much as I like both the Civil War and local history, I had not heard of this group before I visited the James A Ramage Civil War Museum in 2006 (this is where I now volunteer.)

At this museum we tell their story as part of the discussion of the Confederate threat against Cincinnati between the battles of Richmond and Perryville. It is a fascinating story, happening before the Emancipation Proclamation and before official sanction to recruit black troops into the Union army. They were not officially enrolled, but my understanding is they did get the same pay as the white volunteers who came out for the “Siege of Cincinnati” (but were not allowed to carry firearms.) They disbanded after about 18 days, when the threat subsided, and some of them joined USCT regiments when they formed. Powhatan Beaty was a member of this group and later won a Medal of Honor at Chaffin’s arm in Virginia in 1864.

The video alludes to racial unrest in Cincinnati in the last few years, but there is one thing that is similar to 150 years ago, even though it technically was in a “free state.” This was a major step for African Americans to be able to contribute positively to what was their country too. Plus the work they did was actually in the very northern tip of Kentucky, a slave state. Most people in the area supported the Union, but not all, and slavery did exist in the counties where they worked (which was mostly Campbell County)

We’re hoping to have a descendant of one the Black Brigade members at our Battery Hooper Days August 18 and 19 at the museum in Fort Wright, Kentucky. I’m hoping to meet him and maybe hear his perspective on his ancestors.

I’m glad to see this on your blog. It is a story worthy of more attention, I believe, as not many organized (even if “unofficial”) groups of African-Americans had contributed to the war effort at that point in the war.

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