Friday’s rain wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of the Bureau County Historical Society as community members, local leaders and veterans gathered outside of the Sash Stalter Matson Building in Princeton to unveil a new monument dedicated to forgotten Civil War soldiers.
The newly constructed memorial pays tribute to 45 Black Civil War soldiers from Bureau County who served in the 29th Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry, the 8th U.S. Colored Artillery and the 13th U.S. Colored Artillery.
“On this day, history finally gets it right.”— Bureau County Historical Society President Jim Dunn
“The monument that we dedicate [Friday] will ensure that their names will be remembered from this day forward,” BCHS Board President Jim Dunn said. “On this day, history finally gets it right.”
Dunn thanked everyone who played a part in the creation of the monument, adding that Friday marked the culmination of hard work by everyone involved.
The monument itself was constructed by the Bureau County Historical Society through the financial support of Gary Johnson in memory of his late wife, Joyce M. Richmond.
“These good people, organizations and entities came together for a noble cause: to enlighten the people of today and tomorrow about 45 Black Civil War soldiers from Bureau County whose names history previously had failed to memorialize,” Dunn said.
Aside from Dunn, the unveiling also featured a variety of guest speakers including Princeton Mayor Ray Mabry, BCHS Executive Director Lex Poppens and BCHS volunteer Sarah Cooper, whose article published in the BCR in February helped spark the idea behind the monument.
“I had no idea when I wrote the article several months ago that it would lead to this special day,” Cooper said.
State Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, was the keynote speaker of the event. He detailed the importance of recognizing the service and sacrifice of the 45 individuals from Bureau County who were not included on the memorial constructed in Princeton’s Soldiers and Sailors Park.
“Although today we do not know for sure why these soldiers’ names were not placed on the 1913 monument, we can and we will make amends for that here today,” Spain said.
In the audience Friday was Frances Clarke, a descendant of Bureau County resident and Civil War veteran Charles Moses. Clarke was presented a flag from local veterans to honor the service of her relative.
“Although their names were overlooked for far too long, we can be proud of the fact that those days of neglected honor are now over,” Spain said. “We are proud of the fact that these soldiers stepped forward to defend this nation during such a perilous time.”
The monument is now on display outside of the Sash Stalter Matson Building, located at 15 Park Ave. W. in Princeton.
The 45 soldiers honored as part of the monument are as follows.
The soldiers who served in the 29th Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry include Robert Atkins, John Connor, Abraham Harrison, Thomas Jackson, Jacob Johnson, Dennis Johnson, Lewis Masters, Franklin Lindsay, Charles Moses, Rose Rhodes (or Roberts), Joseph Sanders, Jesse Smith, Richard Smith, Libby Thompson, William Washington, W.M. Washington, Charles West and James Wilson.
The soldiers who served in the 8th U.S. Colored Artillery include Jack Allen, Robert Bland, Horan Brown, John Coleman, William Cofield, John Cummings, John Edwards, Thomas Heckley, James Henry, Thomas Houston, King Howard, Henry Jackson, John Jones, Samuel Johnson, Andrew Manly, Wesley H. Patterson, Henry Prosson, Alexander Thomas, James Winson, John Williams and Thomas Williams.
The soldiers who served in the 13th U.S. Colored Artillery include George Baker, James Blake, Joseph Davis, Hamilton Stokes, Washington Turner and Aaron Wellcome.