On May 23, 1865, Union General George Meade and about 80,000 men from the Army of the Potomac marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, for a Grand Review of the Armies. The following day, General William T. Sherman led 65,000 of his troops down the same path. The parades marked the formal end of the Civil War, honored the union troops, and lighten the mood in DC after the death of Abraham Lincoln.
Missing from those being honored, however, was about 10% of the troops. And it wasn’t an oversight.
According to the National Archives, about 180,000 African American men had served in the Union army. Another 19,000 African Americans had served in the Union Navy. But in 1865, African Americans were not allowed to march in the Grand Review.
To right that wrong, the African American Museum of the Civil War in DC organized a parade commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Grand Review. This time, the US Colored Troops would march
I was surprised at how much press the parade didn’t get. Lincoln assassination events had dominated the news cycle in DC for a couple of days. And even a vintage plane flyover for the 50th anniversary of D-Day was featured in more than a couple of news casts. But there was nothing about a parade that commemorated the end of the Civil War and — more important to the rest of the metro DC area — was scheduled to shut down a major street in downtown DC for a couple of hours on a summer Saturday.
“Are you sure you have the right day?” asked Mr. History Tourist.
I was pretty sure….
The parade route was from the Capitol to Freedom Plaza, just east of the White House. I took the subway to a spot halfway between and before I got out of the station, I could hear the fife and drums above.
The parade had started about 30 minutes before, but I was there in time to see a big chunk of it. There were lots of civilians in costumes as well. This young woman was a spectator and I asked to take her photo because she looked so perfect — like a 19th century model.
And for more interesting photos, I got the reenactors returning to their muster areas. What’s more fun than watching a mounted General Sherman and his staff waiting for a traffic light to turn green
The Union troops sang as they walked back to their buses. This group was singing Marching through Georgia when I took this shot.