RYE, NY — Saturday, June 3rd, a week after the official recognition of Memorial Day, some 20 people gathered at the African-American Cemetery, located within Greenwood Union Cemetery in Rye, to remember soldiers buried there.
This year’s remembrance was for those who served in the 29th Connecticut Volunteer Regiment – an all colored troop – which has at least 6 of their brethren buried at the segregated cemetery. Six soldiers of the 29th, all from the Rye area, are buried in the cemetery. Enoch Hearn, Abram Johnson, Abram Lattin, John Perkins, John Randell and James Robeson all served with the 29th Connecticut Volunteers, which lost a total of 198 men during the war. These men survived the battles they fought in which were mostly in Virginia and died after they returned home to the Rye area. Those buried in Rye all died after the war, Thomas said.
Friends of the African-American Cemetery organizer, David Thomas, reminded those who attended that black soldiers were paid less than their white counterparts. Most of the volunteers of the 29th Connecticut Volunteers, a Union Civil War unit composed of freed and escaped slaves who fought across the country. They declined being paid at all rather than receive less. For them, it was more a matter of helping to free their enslaved brothers and sisters.
“There’s a lot here that needs to be remembered,” said David Thomas, President of the Friends of the African-American Cemetery. “This was a forgotten site.”
The battle-hardened soldiers saw action throughout the South, Thomas said, including the seminal battle of Petersburg, Virginia, which came near the war’s end. The 29th is credited as the first infantry unit to enter Richmond, Virginia when the city surrendered to the North in 1865.