Friday, September 20, 2013

Black Brigade Parade, September 20, 1862

William Dickson marching with the Black Brigade
On September 20, 1862, the Black Brigade was dismissed to return to their homes and families. 

They presented William Dickson with a ceremonial sword to thank him for his leadership and kindness. Marshall P. H. Jones stepped forward and addressed the commander:
Colonel Dickson: The second day of September will ever be memorable in the history of the colored citizens of Cincinnati.  Previous to that date the proffered aid of that class of citizens, for war purposes, was coldly, we may add, forcibly rejected. Many calls for aid and assistance to suppress this gigantic rebel lion, as full in their demands as the one on that day, so far as this class of persons is concerned, had been made, yet there was no demand for our services. 
Deep in the memory of colored citizens of Cincinnati is written indelibly that eventful day, the second of September, 1862. We were torn from our homes, from the streets, from our shops, and driven to the mule-pen on Plum Street at the point of the bayonet, without any definite knowledge of what we were wanted for. Dismay and tenor spread among the women and children, because of the brutal manner in which arrests were made. The colored people are generally loyal. This undue method of enlisting them into the service of Uncle Sam had the appearance (though false) that the colored people had to be driven, at the point of the bayonet, to protect their homes, their wives, and their children. They went unwillingly, under such circumstances. 
Contrast this with the alacrity with which they responded to the gentlemanly request, even before they knew they would be remunerated for their services.
Sir, I have been selected by the members of the Black Brigade to thank you --deeply thank you -- for the very great interest you have taken in our welfare, for your exertions and final success in collecting all of the different working parties into one brigade, for the kindness you have manifested to us in these trying times. We deeply thank you; our mothers thank you; our sweethearts thank you; our children will rise up, thank you, and call you blessed.
. . . Therefore, as a small expression of the high esteem the members of the Black Brigade entertain for you, they all, each and every one, present you this sword, the emblem of protection knowing that, whenever it is drawn, it will be drawn in favor of freedom. And should you be called on, under other circumstances, to demand the services of the Black Brigade, you will find they will rally around your standard in the defense of our country.

Dickson then thanked them:
Soldiers of the Black Brigade! You have finished the work assigned to you upon the fortifications for the defence of the city. You are now to be discharged. 
You have labored faithfully; you have made miles of military roads, miles of rifle-pits, felled hundreds of acres of the largest and loftiest forest trees, built magazines and forts. The hills across yonder river will be a perpetual monument of your labors. 
You have, in no spirit of bravado, in no defiance of established prejudice, but in submission to it, intimated to me your willingness to defend with your lives the fortifications your hands have built. Organized companies of men of your race have tendered their services to aid in the defence of the city. In obedience to the policy of the Government, the authorities have denied you this privilege. 
In the department of labor permitted, you have, however, rendered a willing and cheerful service. Nor has your zeal been dampened by the cruel treatment received. The citizens, of both sexes, have encouraged you with their smiles and words of approbation; the soldiers have welcomed you as co-laborers in the same great cause. But a portion of the police, ruffians in character, early learning that your services were accepted, and seeking to deprive you of the honor of voluntary labor, before opportunity was given you to proceed to the field, rudely seized you in the streets, in your places of business, in your homes, everywhere, hurried you into filthy pens, thence across the river to the fortifications, not permitting you to make any preparation for camp-life. You have borne this with the accustomed patience of your race; and when, under more favorable auspices, you have received only the protection due to a, common humanity, you have labored cheerfully and effectively.
Go to your homes with the consciousness of having performed your duty, -- of deserving, if you do not receive, the protection of the law, and bearing with you the gratitude and respect of all honorable men. 
You have learned to suffer and to wait; but, in your hours of adversity, remember that the same God who has numbered the hairs of our heads, who watches over even the fate of a sparrow, is the God of your race as well as mine. The sweat-blood which the nation is now shedding at every pore is an awful warning of how fearful a thing it is to oppress the humblest being.

Statue of William Dickson
receiving Black Brigade sword from Marshall P. H. Jones
Dickson accepted the gift and led his troops through the streets with music playing and banners flying.

Black Brigade Memorial, Cincinnati, Ohio

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