Harpers Ferry event explores U.S. Colored Troops

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Sgt. Peter H. Butler
Sgt. Peter H. Butler of the U.S. CT

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — Harpers Ferry National Historical Park this weekend hosts a two-day commemorative event exploring the 1864 recruiting party held there for the newly established U.S. Colored Troops only five years after John Brown’s raid and attempt to free and arm slaves. “Desperate Courage: Raising a New Army of United States Colored Troops” will focus on the stories of the 19th Maryland, the regimental battalion that marched through the streets of the town, according to Kim Biggs of the National Park Service.

Activities will include living-history exhibits from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and ranger-guided programs at 2 p.m., April 26-27. A special display, “Raising A New Army: The Men of the 19th USCT,” will be open on the second floor of the John Brown Museum.

In 1859, Brown attacked the armory and arsenel at Harpers Ferry in an effort to arm black men. Thirty-six hours later, U.S. Troops captured Brown, and on December 2 he was hanged, though church bells in New England rang in his honor.

Four years later, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and John Brown’s dream of an army marching forward to freedom became a reality. The proclamation also opened the door for the army to recruit blacks as soldiers, and thousands of African Americans flocked to wear the blue uniform.

For more information, please call 304-535-6029 or visit the historical park site online.