The Black Brigade of Cincinnati was a military unit that was organized during the Civil War when the city of Cincinnati, Ohio was in danger of being attacked by the Confederates. The men that were a part of the Black Brigade were among the first of their race to be employed by the military of the North.
The Black Brigade of Cincinnati consisted of over 700 African-American men who lived and worked in the Queen City with their families. Within the month of September 1862, this group of men constructed fortifications in Northern Kentucky in preparation for a Confederate attack on Cincinnati, which was at the time the sixth largest city in the United States. Their efforts were heralded by both black and white communities, and their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Dickson, a white man, gave them high praise for their dedication and patriotism.
Cincinnati did not allow black males to join their volunteer militia. Labor was hard, and the police guards at times oppressed the workers by force. These black men worked on the fortifications until September 20. The Brigade had 1 fatality: Joseph Johns killed in an accident 17 September 1862.
The Black Brigade was later recognized as the first formal organization of Northern Colored People for military reasons. Several members of the Black Brigade went on to serve in the newly formed United States Colored Troops, including Powhatan Beaty, a former slave who went on to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor in a battle that took place in Virginia near the town of his former owner.
The first piece of public art to be commissioned in Smale Riverfront Park is a monument to Cincinnati’s little-known Black Brigade. A monument to their valiant efforts has been built as part of the first phase of the park.
The monument has now been installed south of new Mehring Way in the park’s East Tree Grove. The monument’s concept called for it to be built into the earth, much like the original Black Brigade fortifications. It consists of bronze statues and plaques, interpretive signs, and carved stones which includes the names of all 718 members of the brigade.
Some of the information for this Post was obtained from the John and Phyllis Smale website…..in Cincinnati…..go and visit and take your children to learn this story of American history.
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