Residents in and around New Bern came out to celebrate and honor African American and Civil War history on Saturday.
The First North Carolina Colored Volunteer regiment was honored with a highway historical marker on the Academy Green near the corner of Hancock and New Streets.
The sign reads, “First North Carolina Colored Volunteers: State’s first regiment of black Union soldiers rallied here on July 23, 1863. In 1864, designated 35th U.S. Colored Troops.”
Historians say the NCCV fought for the north in the Civil War under the command of Harriet Beecher Stowe's brother, James Beecher. The Union occupied New Bern beginning in March of 1862. In July of 1863, soldiers from the 45th Massachusetts regiment came down to New Bern to train the NCCV.
The Colored Ladies Relief Association of New Bern stitched a flag designed by Beecher Stowe for the NCCV and though that flag no longer exists, an interpretation from a description of the flag was commissioned by the NC Museum of History for Saturday’s ceremony.
"Here in New Bern is probably the most progressive antebellum town, the most progressive Old South and the most progressive Southern town,” said Earl Ijames with the NC Museum of History, “because this is the place where freedom was birthed during the Civil War."
"Former slaves congregated in New Bern and many of them enlisted to serve in the Union Army," according to Michael Hill with the NC Office of Archives & History, "A total of 5,000 enlisted in New Bern, Elizabeth City and other places."