Event spotlights untold history of local Black Union soldiers leading up to Juneteenth

Rockbridge Historical Society presents ‘Fighting for Freedom: Black Union Soldiers from Rockbridge’

You don’t have to be a history buff to get reeled into “Fighting for Freedom: Black Union Soldiers from Rockbridge”.

ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. – On Monday, June 14 at 7 p.m., you can log onto Zoom to hear the untold stories of Black Union soldiers from Southwest Virginia.

You don’t have to be a history buff to get reeled into “Fighting for Freedom: Black Union Soldiers from Rockbridge”.

Many of us know Rockbridge County has a rich American Civil War history, but this is unlike what you’ve heard before.

From old newspapers, national archives and ancestry databases, independent researchers Larry Spurgeon and Cinder Stanton uncovered the lives of more than 60 Black men born in Rockbridge County who fought for the Union.

They enlisted in 14 different states; scattered by the slave trade, escaping to freedom or they were free before they enlisted.

Eric Wilson, executive director of Rockbridge Historical Society told 10 News the soldiers and their lives bring a local context to Juneteenth.

“To focus on Black Union soldiers here and the efforts it took for them to find ways to fight really brings an important element to the Juneteenth narratives. It wasn’t just freedom and emancipation that was given to people, it was seized, it was deadly,” said Wilson. “These are really life portraits of a certain era. They tell very human stories, very distinct stories, often overlooked in how we think about who fought and why at this point of history.”

Fighting for Freedom: Black Union Soldiers from Rockbridge Monday, June 14, 7:00 PM Larry Spurgeon & Cinder...

Posted by Rockbridge Historical Society on Thursday, May 20, 2021

Larry Spurgeon is also a board member of the society and said he and Stanton have been researching since last fall, and he said their findings will be a surprise to anyone who takes time to watch.

When Spurgeon talked to other American Civil War buffs about these Union soldiers he said they were just as surprised as he was. He believed it’s because here in Virginia there’s been little thought of the men fighting for the Union since this state was part of the Confederacy.

Research shows around 10 of those Rockbridge soldiers were stationed in Texas at the time of Juneteenth, one died just days before.

The presentation takes a more human approach to uncovering what happened leading up to Juneteenth and after.

“What were their circumstances? How did they end up joining the Union Army and becoming free? What would that mean to them that they were emancipated and were immediately enlisted in the Union Army? So our hope is through stories it connects people,” said Spurgeon.

He said they continue to find more names and archives of Black Union soldiers.

During the presentation, you’ll also hear from descendants of soldiers. To join the Zoom presentation at 7 p.m. and get more information on the event, click here.

If you can’t make it at 7 p.m. they will record the presentation and will post it on YouTube at a later date.

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.