Black Soldier from Civil War Will Finally Get Military Burial

Article excerpt

More than 75 years after his death, Pvt. Tom Scott will finally get a military burial. The Union soldier volunteered for duty in Lexington, Ky., in 1863 at the age of 19 and served in the cavalry through the Civil War.

Recently, President Clinton signed a letter commending his service, and next month the federal government will bestow military honors and erect a permanent headstone to mark his grave.

Pvt. Scott did not receive any medals while he was alive, nor was his service distinguished by any particular act of heroism. Nonetheless, he fought for freedom in the truest sense.

Born into slavery, he was a black Union soldier who served with the 5th Regiment, Company K, in the U.S. Colored Troops.

Through the efforts of Pvt. Scott's great-granddaughter, Marie Davenport, and other descendants of black Civil War soldiers, a new history of the war is being uncovered, soldier by soldier.

This weekend at Howard University, descendants of the U.S. Colored Troops joined scholars and teachers to share information about their legacy and debate how it should be taught to future generations.

Frank Smith Jr., founder and executive director of the African-American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation, headed the first annual conference, titled "Impact of African-Americans in the Civil War."

He says the idea is to explore new ways to present history in classrooms, parks, museums and battlefields across the nation and to inspire modern generations by focusing on the progress their ancestors made.

"I hope that we can find some way to motivate today's youth by showing them people who overcame great obstacles," Mr. Smith said. "If [their ancestors] can overcome these obstacles and do good things, our young people can overcome drugs and poverty and do something themselves to contribute to this legacy."

Sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation; Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. Inc.; and Black Entertainment Television, the conference consisted of three panel discussions on the dynamic blacks brought to the war and to postwar society, the quest to recover and reconstruct the histories of individual soldiers, and new methods and techniques for incorporating the story of black troops into the curriculum.

"This is a part of history that hasn't really been told," said William Still, descendant of the legendary Underground Railroad conductor of the same name and a panelist at the conference, which started Friday. …