Honoring a Civil War hero: Making things right in Wrightsville
Wrightsville is full of veterans memorials, at least six by one count. And the eastern York County, Pa., borough soon will be home to another one, a marker to honor a black fighting man who died defending Wrightsville and its Susquehanna River bridge from the Confederate onslaught in late-June 1863. That marker will be commemorated Saturday at Mount Pisgah Cemetery in Wrightsville. The memorial pictured here stands in the borough’s Fairview Cemetery. (See photos of other Wrightsville memorials below.) Also of interest: Can you add to this list of veterans memorials around York County?
It all boils down to a matter of fairness and justice.
If we feel compelled to commemorate a Confederate invader on Northern soil – an enemy of the United States of America – we should doubly honor a slain defender against that onslaught.
The York-based Social Friendship Lodge No. 42 Prince Hall, Free and Accepted Masons took up the project. That lodge’s membership consists of African-Americans, and it received aid from the Masonic Lodge near North York and others in the community.
The honoree will be the black volunteer who died in a trench – a trench he had just dug – fighting the charging Rebels.
One questions why Wrightsville and its organizations aren’t more involved in this project. The fighting man – the only mortality of the Battle of Wrightsville – died defending the town. Judging by the number of veterans monuments in Wrightsville – at least six – the borough is adept at recognizing its patriots.
One could also question why the marker won’t be placed in the town’s big cemetery – Fairview – instead of the historically black Mount Pisgah Cemetery, its planned site. (See description below.)
But since the Pisgah site, South Second Street, is being overseen by Social Friendship Lodge No. 42, that suggests the location is seen as appropriate in the black community for this long-overdue moment.
But perhaps the location is appropriate for another reason.
The volunteer slain in Wrightsville is among about 200,000 soldiers and sailors who served the Union in the Civil War.
Leroy Atwater, a member of Social Friendship Lodge No. 42, recognizes their service.
“This monument is not even a spit in the bucket of unknown black Civil War veterans across the country,” he said. His comment appeared in a York Sunday Daily Record/Sunday News editorial: A memorial to a black Civil War hero.
So maybe this marker, to be unveiled in a historically black cemetery, will indeed recognize the scores of black men with York County ties who served their country in the Civil War.
And in all wars.
This “Road of Remembrance” memorial, Eighth and Hellam Streets, in Wrightsville, honors World War I vets.
‘Flame of Freedom’ veterans memorial stands at Hellam and North Fourth streets in Wrightsville.
This War Mothers monument stands at South Seventh and Hellam streets.
This marker stands on the grounds of American Legion Post #469.
Also of interest:
In a York Sunday News column (2/17/11), historian June Lloyd wrote about Mount Pisgah Cemetery in a roundup of black cemeteries in York County:
‘Stone Church Cemetery, also called Mt. Pisgah Cemetery, is in Wrightsville. HSYC recorded 81 markers there in December 1934. Many of these were tin, which might now be gone. The earliest markers (1860s) recorded were for two children of Nelson R. and Margaret C. Williams. The cemetery is named for the nearby stone church building, erected in 1891. It still stands, no longer used as a church. The congregation, perhaps one of two AME congregations in Wrightsville at one time, dissolved in 1962. Some sources say there were up to 100 African American families in the Wrightsville area in the early 1800s, and that the congregation might date back to the 1830s. A public school was reportedly held in the church basement in the late 1800s. Civil War veterans buried there include Cpl. Henry Bear, 127th U.S. Colored Troops, who included Native Americans in his heritage.’
If you go:
What: Memorial dedication
Why: To honor an unknown black volunteer and others
When: 1 p.m. June 28
Who: The public is welcome.
Also of interest:
*Photos courtesy of York Daily Record/Sunday News.