HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP: Sacrifices of African-American soldiers remembered at Stoutsburg Cemetery

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Stoutsburg Cemetery Association President John B. Buck (left) with Frederick Minus

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Memorial Day is intended to honor the soldiers, sailors and airmen and women who gave their lives in wartime to preserve and protect American’s freedom – including the 38,000 African-American soldiers who died while serving in the Union Army and the Union Navy during the Civil War.
So said Frederick Minus, an African-American historical re-enactor. He spoke at the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association’s annual Memorial Day ceremony Sunday afternoon.
Although African-Americans have lived in the Hopewell Valley for more than 300 years, the Stoutsburg Cemetery – located off Province Line Road – dates to 1858. The land was acquired from the Stout family as a burial ground for African-Americans.
The Stoutsburg Cemetery contains the graves of several African-American military veterans, including a Revolutionary War veteran and many Civil War veterans who belonged to a segregated infantry unit. There are veterans from subsequent wars, also.
Few people realize that 209,000 African-American men served in the Union Army and the Union Navy in the Civil War. Those who signed up for the Union Army served in one of the 166 regiments in the U.S. Colored Troops, Minus said.
President Abraham Lincoln called on each Union state to raise regiments of soldiers. New Jersey Gov. Joel Parker, however, was opposed to the Civil War and to the President’s order.
Gov. Parker asked for the 2,900 New Jersey African-American men who signed up with regiments in Pennsylvania to be counted toward New Jersey’s quota, Minus said. This meant New Jersey did not have to enroll as many white soldiers, he added.
Minus said the 209,000 African-American soldiers who served in the U.S. Colored Troops fought in 449 battles, 39 of which were considered key battles. They were led by 7,000 white officers.
He noted that of those soldiers, 15 African-American Union Army soldiers and eight African-American Union Navy sailors were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. An additional Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously by President Bill Clinton.
African-American soldiers who served in the Civil War died at a higher per capita rate than their white counterparts – whether it was due to gunshots or disease. In the span of 18 months, 38,000 African-American soldiers died, Minus said.
Minus, who belongs to the 6th Regiment of the 6th U.S. Colored Troops re-enactment group and to the Sons of Union Veterans, encouraged the attendees to look into joining the Sons of Union Veterans. It is open to descendants of Civil War soldiers who fought for the Union.
“Many of you have the right to be one of the Sons of Union Veterans. When we look at these monuments in the Stoutsburg Cemetery to the men who served in the 127th Colored Infantry, they are your relatives,” Minus said.
Minus urged the attendees to learn from history because “if you don’t know where you came from, you won’t know where you’re going. From the cotton fields to the White House, we made it.”
“But you have to stay ever vigilant to the mission of freedom,” Minus said.