First Kentucky African-American Union Troops Honored

Feb 4, 2013

DANVILLE, Ky. -The first African-American recruits to join the Union Army in Kentucky during the Civil War will be honored Monday with a historical highway marker.

Enlisted African-American soldiers during the Civil War.
Enlisted African-American soldiers during the Civil War.

In May of 1864, 250 African-American men – mostly slaves – left Boyle County to enlist with the Union in Jessamine County. Though initially turned down by Union Col. Andrew Clark, the men were eventually accepted into the ranks. That decision became a catalyst for a policy change that enabled slaves to join the war effort and ultimately help win the war for the Union.

"Had it not been for the influx of African-Americans during that period, during that time of the Civil War,  it may have turned. It's possible that the Union would not have been as successful as they were," says Kentucky African-American historian Yvonne Giles. "They were so dedicated to the idea of freedom that they made the sacrifice and willingly joined."

The ceremony Monday will honor those first recruits with a historical marker unveiled by city leaders at Constitution Square Historic Site in Danville.