Nearly a century after his death, a Black Union Civil War veteran from South Carolina recently received a veteran’s marker on his grave, according to the Associated Press.
The grave of Henry Benjamin Noisette, who joined the U.S. Navy in 1862, was adorned with a headstone on Nov. 10 at a Black cemetery in Charleston, S.C. The ceremony was attended by many descendants, Black re-enactors and Citadel cadets. The veteran’s grave marker was unveiled by his great-grandchildren, 61-year old twins Robert and Roberta Frasier.
Noisette’s history was recently discovered by researchers of the African-American Historical Alliance, a nonprofit aiming to raise awareness of Blacks’ role in the war and Reconstruction in South Carolina.
After escaping slavery, Noisette joined the U.S. Navy and served on the USS Huron, which saw action against Confederate defenses on the Stono River in South Carolina.
Though the Huron successfully captured a Confederate blockade runner, the ship’s crew suffered from infection that was diagnosed as fever. Noisette, stricken with severe arthritis, was discharged from the Navy in Philadelphia in 1863 after being transferred to the USS Princeton. Following the war, he returned to Charleston and died in 1911.
“Nobody ever told me that an African-American ever did anything to lift an arm” to help the Union, Russell Horres, a member of the African-American Historical Alliance’s board of directors told the AP. “This is just phenomenal.”
Veterans are entitled to headstones from the government, but Noisette was buried during a time when Blacks and Whites could not be buried in the same graveyard. The African American Historical Alliance has diligently worked to commemorate various Blacks who served in the Union.
In 2006, the group mobilized efforts to mark the grave of Lt. Stephen Atkins Swails, a member of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry regiment in the Civil War, said to be the first African American to be commissioned as an officer during the Civil War and whose post-war life included being elected mayor of Kingstree, S.C., according to NPR.Com. The famous regiment’s story was told in the 1989 film “Glory.”
Other states have also held ceremonies to honor the various African Americans who fought in the Civil War. On Nov. 6, Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania hosted a parade in Harrisburg celebrating the war’s Black soldiers, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News. The Pennsylvania Grand Review Parade was held to mark an event in 1865 in which women in Harrisburg organized a parade for Black troops from 25 states who weren’t allowed to march in Washington after the war had ended.