Black Union soldier honored in Virginia
By DARRELL LAURANT
LYNCHBURG — As a steady rain pelted down on the Confederate arch in the Old City Cemetery on Sunday afternoon, a black Union soldier was honored just a few feet away.
Little, if anything, is known of the military career of Pvt. Alan Bobson just that it was short. Four months after being mustered into the 27th Regiment, United States Colored Troops Infantry in Ohio, Bobson died in Crumpton’s Tobacco Factory at the corner of 12th and Main in Lynchburg, a building that had been converted into a field hospital.
“A general order went out to Confederate troops in 1863 that any black soldier wearing a Union uniform should be shot on sight,” said Lynchburg College professor Clifton Potter, a member ofthelocal Sons of Union Veterans camp. “ Lynchburg was one place that allowed them to be treated in its hospitals. Duguid’s made his (Bobson’s) coffin.”
Wherever it is. Ted Delaney of the Old City Cemetery identified an area near the arch where some black Union veterans, including Bobson, were probably interred. Potter worked with the Veteran’s Administration to have a plaque made, and it was dedicated on Sunday. “Based on the records we found,” said Mark Day, another member of the Taylor-Wilson SUV Chapter, “(Bobson) was not among those whose remains were transferred to the Poplar Grove National Cemetery in Petersburg.”
A few of those resting in what was known as “Negro Row”atthe cemetery were apparently lost in the shuffle an oversight the Lynchburg SUV camp wanted to rectify, “Whenever the remains of a Union soldier turns up in this area, we do what we can to make sure he is properly remembered,” Day said.
Three such MIA’s are believed to be buried on the E.C. Glass property, Day said, and several have been discovered in Campbell County.
Although Bobson’sunit saw actionin a number of Virginia battles, records failed to show where he received the wounds thatultimatelykilled him.Sunday’s ceremony may have been long overdue and wet but it was appropriately solemn.
“Rain never bothered a Union soldier,” Potter said.
Huddled together beneath a hastily erected tent, the Soulsters on the Hill from Diamond Hill Baptist Church provided a capella spiritual music, concluding with “Amazing Grace.” SUV member Kevin Shroyer of Goode served as the chaplain and directed the service. The plaque was uncovered by Barbara Gay, a member of the SUV women’s’ auxiliary, and a floral wreath was placed behind it. Four blue-clad reenactors blasted a musket salute into the leaking sky.
“This was a man who was born free, but gave his life so that others could be free,” said Potter.
Laurant is a staff writer for The News & Advance in Lynchburg.
Interestingly, someone at the seminar I just led for LLI found my poem “Blue Child” to be one of the more moving pieces in the book. Since we had time left over at the end of the session, I read it aloud. You need to read the entire book to get the full poem, but the final lines will give you a feel for the piece which describes a black wounded Union soldier stumbling up the steps of a southern home:
...I did not know I would see you,
my younger, freer self, that I would ever
look in your expiring eyes, the eyes
I should see as my enemy’s,
that all I would see is a crying child,
wearing the burden of blue.
I would also recommend “Standpoint,” my poem about a gay, black soldier serving in the Civil War. The title “Standpoint” refers to the photo in the book (from the National Archives, soldiers on guard under an ancient tree), but also to perspective. Our point of view often grows from where we stand.