MARIETTA, Ga. — One hundred fifty seven years after a young African-American soldier died in the Civil War, he received the honor and recognition he’d so well deserved.
He was honored with a special ceremony at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Marietta thanks in large part to the dogged determination of a Civil War historian who wanted to learn more about the young man’s history.
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Historian Brad Quinlin believes the soldier was killed at some point during Union General William T. Sherman’s march across the Chattahoochee River on the way to Atlanta in 1864.
In 1951, researchers found bone fragments and part of a uniform near the river in Cobb County. A few years ago, Brad was able to get possession of those items from a collector. Quinlin began digging into the history of the remains shortly thereafter. Through research, he was able to identify 258 of the men who died in 1864.
“These are union saco buttons and this is Union breast plate it goes on a crate box,” Quinlin said. “A Springfield rifle was found with him, but that’s been lost and he actually had the confederate mini ball lodged in his right cranium when he was found. And that led us to know the circumstances of how he was killed.”
Quinlin was able to use DNA testing to narrow down the soldier’s identity to one of four men. He believes, but has yet to confirm, the soldier was a man named Samuel Tucker.
“A man of African Decent, one of Sherman’s stretcher bearers,” Quinlin said.
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Wednesday afternoon, Channel 2 reporter Audrey Washington was the only reporter to watch the ceremony to lay the soldier’s remains to rest. He was given a full military ceremony, complete with a 35-star U.S. Flag draped over the casket.
Washington spoke with LaMuriel Adams, chair member of the Old Zion Heritage Community, who directed Wednesday’s ceremony. Adams says even though she did not know this soldier, it was important to pay tribute to his sacrifice and the sacrifices of other African-American Union Soldiers.
“Probably a lot of people had no idea the number of African Americans who participated in the civil war. So this was kind of like a history story of the dear soldier,” Adams said.
For Quinlin, the research is not over. He wants to be 100% sure of the soldiers name so his descendants can honor him too. He told Washington the next stop is at the National Archives Research Center in Washington, D.C. where he hopes he can make the identity official.
“Maybe we can find that document or letter that says his name and then on the national cemetery I can change it, his headstone from unknown to his name,” Quinlin said.
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According to the National Archives, about 179,000 Black men served in the U.S Army by the end of the Civil War. Nearly 40,000 of those soldiers died, many without recognition or formal commendation.
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