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Pennsylvania’s Simon Cameron Staged Honorific Tribute of Black Troops After Civil War

By Steve Moyer | HUMANITIES, May/June 2015 | Volume 36, Number 3

In 1865, when a Grand Review of Union troops occurred along the august avenues of Washington, D.C., the 180,000 African Americans who had served during the Civil War weren’t invited to participate. In turn, Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, who had been Lincoln’s Secretary of War until 1862, organized a review of the troops in Harrisburg. African-American troops, according to cultural consultant Lenwood Sloan, came from twenty-five states to march in the streets of the state capital. Barbara Miller, writing in the Harrisburg Patriot-News, notes that recognition of the role of U.S. Colored Troops in the war will be among events planned in Dauphin County as part of the “Freedom Jubilee” commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The Civil War is not only “guns and sulfur in the air,” says Sloan in the Patriot, “It’s about the lives of people.”

Cameron was dismissed from Lincoln’s Cabinet for distributing a report that called for arming freed African-Americans slaves and leading them in battle against the Confederacy.

A recreation of the Grand Review will pass by the Harris-Cameron Mansion on Front Street in Harrisburg on November 14, with an actor portraying Cameron. An NEH grant to the Historical Society of Dauphin County, which has called the mansion its home since 1941, has assisted in the preserving of the society's historical photos and records.