Recognition for Black Civil War Soldiers at Jefferson Barracks

The Jefferson Barracks Military Post is located on the Mississippi River at Lemay, Missouri, south of St. Louis. It was an important and highly active U.S. Army installation from 1826 through 1946.

Jefferson BarracksThe men of Jefferson Barracks were first involved with the Black Hawk War in 1832. Troops were deployed from Jefferson Barracks to push “hostile Indians” back into their village in present day Iowa. Chief Black Hawk was captured and brought back to Jefferson Barracks. During the American Civil War, Jefferson Barracks served as a military hospital for both sides and a recruitment depot for the North. During the Mexican-American War, Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II, Jefferson Barracks served at various times as a recruitment center, training base, and as a rest and supply station for U.S. troops.

Perhaps most notable was the 56th U.S. Colored Infantry, an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment was composed of African American enlisted men commanded by white officers.

The 56th Colored Regiment losses during service consisted of: four officers and 21 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded; and two officers and 647 enlisted men by disease; for a total of 674 fatalities. The vast majority of the deaths due to disease occurred during a cholera epidemic that struck in August 1866 while the regiment was waiting to muster out.

There are 564 mass gravesites at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. In Section 57, over 100 members of the 56th are buried in a mass grave. Even though the grave marker says unknown soldiers, the identities of the 56th U.S. Colored Infantry have been known for decades and are listed on However, no tombstones, markers, or memorial plaques were even made to show the locations of the graves.

It took more than a year, but a local history and genealogy group has now successfully lobbied the Department of Veteran Affairs. The goal: get proper recognition for the 56th U.S. Colored Infantry.

You can read more and watch a video in the KDSK web site at

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