35th U.S.C.T. Virtual Symposium

Tryon Palace held the 35th USCT Symposium on September 12, 2020, featuring nine local and national scholars on the United States Colored Troops.  The 35th Regiment, United States Colored Troops Interpretive Reenactment Group, is one of the three military interpretive units at Tryon Palace and is dedicated to telling the stories of the original members of the 35th USCT Regiment that rallied in New Bern in 1863 after the Emancipation Proclamation.  In 2016, the Tryon Palace Foundation was awarded a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to form an interpretive group based on the experiences of the United States Colored Troops during the American Civil War and the 35th USCT Regiment.


Many African Americans fought in the Civil War for the Union Army. Following  New Bern’s occupation in 1862 and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, New Bern served as the recruiting headquarters for enlisting more than 5,000 volunteers for the United States Colored Troops (USCT). The 35th Regiment mustered on June 30, 1864 in North Carolina and was one of the first United States Colored Volunteers (NCCV) organized in the nation. This symposium will cover the struggles for freedom and citizenship  African Americans faced during the American Civil War. These speakers will combine pictures, historical documents, and personal vignettes to educate the public and honor the sacrifices of these soldiers made in the fight for freedom.

Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.”—Frederick Douglass, 1863—

Schedule of Events

9 AM Session I “Oh, Freedom” The USCT in the Context of the Civil War
Moderator: Craig Allen, 35th USCT Reenactment Group
Mitch Capel, Entertainer and Storyteller
“W’ren Dey Listed Colored Soldiers”
Dr. Frank Smith, CEO/Founder of African American Civil War Memorial Museum
“African American Civil War Museum”
Dr. Greg Mixon, Professor of History UNC Charlotte
“Power and the Absence of Power: Black Militiamen in the Carolinas, 1865-1880”

10 AM Session II “An Eagle in his Button” The North Carolina Connection
Moderator: David Theroith, 35th USCT Reenactment Group
Bernard George, Community Historian, founding member of 35th USCT Living History Reenactment Group
“Tryon Palace and the 35th United States Colored Troop”
Jerilyn Lee, Community Historian of the first 5 NC regiment of the USCT
Stories of the United States Colored Troops”
Chris Meekins, Research Historian for the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
“Finding Blue Coats and Brass Buttons on an Ancestor: Where to Look for Service in the United States Colored Troops”

11 AM Session III “Keepers of the Flame” Current Efforts to Commemorate the USCT
Moderator: Julian Tripp, 35th USCT Reenactment Group
Robert Walker, Former Mayor of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Chairman of the African American Monument Committee. 
The African American Monument at Vicksburg, Mississippi”
Heather Wilson, Deputy Director at Cameron Art Museum
United States Colored Troops Public Sculpture at Cameron Art Museum”
Bernie Siler, Advisor and Actor for “Glory.”
Their Last Full Measure of Devotion: Combat Heroes of Black Union Soldiers and Sailors”



 This project is made possible by funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.