The Unity Group of Chattanooga, Coalition Partners and invited guests will hold a wreath laying ceremony at the United States Colored Troops Monument in Chattanooga National Cemetery on Saturday at 1 p.m. This is the opening event for the Juneteenth Week 2023: Celebrating the Wave of Freedom calendar which runs through June 19.
As an affiliating organization of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, several aspects of the commemorative activities are closely aligned with honoring the United States Colored Troops, which similarly recognizes the service of Buffalo soldiers and military veterans.
Throughout the duration of the Civil War, African- Americans performed in a wide variety of details and functions including rearguards, carpenters, chaplains, personal attendants, cooks, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots and laborers, which often included the burying of the dead. On Dec. 25, 1863, the Commander of the Cumberland, Gen. George H. Thomas -- “The Rock of Chickamauga” -- issued General Order 296 creating the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Cemetery and assigning oversight of the erection and completion to the Army's chaplain Thomas B. Van Horne. The USCT played a vital and instrumental role in the building and construction of the Chattanooga National Cemetery and burying fallen troops. USCT units stationed in and around Chattanooga would also serve with bravery and gallantry during many pivotal conflicts which helped to preserve the Union.
Over 179,000 would serve in the Army and 19,000 would serve in the Navy. Eighteen USCT and eight African American sailors would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their service during the Civil War.