Kentucky African American Civil War Memorial
Historical Marker #2226 in Frankfort commemorates the only monument in the state that honors the nearly 25,000 African American Kentuckians who served in the United States Colored Troops during the American Civil War.
Although Kentucky remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, there are only a handful of Union monuments in Kentucky. Importantly, the only one that honors Kentucky's African American Civil War soldiers is located in Greenhill Cemetery in Frankfort. This ten-foot limestone pillar was dedicated on July 4, 1924, by the Women's Relief Corps No. 8 of the Grand Army of the Republic. One side of the monument is engraved with, "In Memory of the Colored Soldiers Franklin County, Kentucky Who Fought in the Civil War 1861-1865." The other three sides of the monument list 142 African American soldiers' names.
More than 24,000 Kentucky African American soldiers served in the war, which represents nearly one-third of the total number of Union soldiers from the state. Kentucky provided more black soldiers than any other state, save Louisiana. More men probably would have served if they had been allowed to enlist before the spring of 1864. However, President Lincoln's delicate handling of the slaveholding border states delayed recruiting efforts in the commonwealth. Almost half of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) who enlisted from Kentucky were recruited, trained, and placed in infantry, artillery, and cavalry units at Camp Nelson in Jessamine County. Many of those who trained at Camp Nelson saw combat at Saltville, Virginia, the 1864 Nashville Campaign, the Petersburg/Richmond Campaign, and the Wilmington, North Carolina Campaign.
The day before the monument was dedicated the Frankfort State Journal ran the following article: "Colored Soldiers Monument to be Unveiled- The monument, which has been erected to the memory of the Colored Soldiers of the Civil War from Frankfort and Franklin County, will be unveiled at Green Hill Cemetery tomorrow afternoon at four o'clock. Short and appropriate exercises are to be held. This monument has been erected at the cost of several hundred dollars under the direction of the Colored Women's Relief Corps, and each soldier's name has been cut on the stone. Contributions are being made to the fund by patriotic and public spirited citizens of both races."
As the only monument that honors Kentucky's African American Union soldiers, Greenhill Cemetery plays an important role in commemorating Kentucky's Civil War past.