Adapted from a news release…
During Winchester’s Juneteenth weekend a new Civil War Trails sign was unveiled at 15 North Cameron Street, on the ground of City Hall. The sign enables visitors to stand in the footsteps of the 19th “United States Colored Troops.” These soldiers, many formerly enslaved, came to Winchester in 1864 to recruit local Black men into their ranks. It is a compelling story.
In his opening remarks, Mike Faison, President of the Winchester Area NAACP branch quoted Frederick Douglass. “He who would be free must himself strike that blow” and Faison ex-plained that, “179,000 men, and thousands who were former slaves, volunteered to fight for the Union army; nearly 37,000 gave their lives for the cause.” Mr. Faison also mentioned the or-ganizations who came together to help promote the story and bring the project to fruition. The project was the result of a community partnership between the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Shenandoah University’s McCormick Civil War Institute, the City, the Winchester NAACP and Civil War Trails, Inc. Each playing a different role in the funding, creation, and placement of the sign.
Winchester-Frederick County is home to over two dozen Civil War Trails sites. Each Civil War Trails site like the new sign at City Hall are marketed internationally by another partnership, comprised of municipal destination marketing organizations, state travel offices, parks, and museums. There are over 1,350 Civil War Trails sites across six states and an ever-increasing number are focused on telling these long marginalized African American stories. “The fuller story of the Civil War is incredibly diverse,” said Drew Gruber, Executive Director of Civil War Trails, Inc. “and as you move past the age-old, same-old stories you find out about men like these and its hard not to find inspiration in their tenacity and sacrifice.”
This is the first of two projects being planned in the region focused on telling a more complete and engaging narrative of the Civil War. Justin Kerns, Executive Director of the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau said, “We’re trying to expand the story of the Civil War and its impacts on the community, versus what battle happened where.” The group hopes the next project will manifest at Stephenson’s Depot where another compelling personal story has been uncovered.
To find out more about this project or to plan your trip navigate to: visitwinchesterva.com or call their visitor center at 540-542-1326.