Military Museum Recognizes Black History Month PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Art, Galleries & Museums
Written by Illinois National Guard   
Friday, 31 January 2014 15:05

New displays show service of African-American Soldiers in the Illinois National Guard

SPRINGFIELD, IL (01/31/2014)(readMedia)-- To recognize Black History Month, the Illinois State Military Museum has unveiled a new series of displays telling the story of the service of African American Soldiers in the Illinois National Guard in the Civil War and World War I.

"We've chosen to display artifacts from the Civil War and World War I to tell just a few of the stories of Illinois citizens that may not be well-known to the public or even our own National Guard personnel," said Bill Lear, Museum Curator. "African-Americans citizens have served in Illinois National Guard units throughout the state's history including the Civil War, Spanish-American War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and today's Global War on Terror. Displays like these help tell the complete story of the service of Illinois citizens and of the Illinois National Guard."

The centerpiece display in the museum lobby is the U.S. flag carried during the Civil War by the 29th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), the only black regiment from Illinois. Originally called the First Regiment Illinois Volunteers (Colored), the unit designation changed to the 29th USCT when it mustered into federal service on April 24, 1864 in Quincy, Ill.

The 29th USCT Soldiers saw their first action during the Siege of Petersburg at the Battle of the Crater in July 1864. They also fought at the Battle of Globe Tavern (August 1864), the Battle of Poplar Grove Church (September 1864), the Battle of Boydton Plank Road (October 1864), and ended the war on the Appomattox Campaign (March-April 1865). The 29th lost three officers and 43 enlisted men killed in action and 188 enlisted men to disease.

The 29th USCT was one of 175 United States Colored Troop regiments. By the end of the war, African American Soldiers numbered nearly 179,000 and constituted 10 percent of the Union Army.

Other displays show equipment and personal items from the 8th Illinois Infantry was renamed the 370th Infantry for service in France during World War I. The 8th Illinois was an all-black unit whose history dates from 1878 and whose units ranged from Chicago to Metropolis, including companies in Springfield, Peoria, Quincy and Danville.

The displays feature 370th uniforms, collar brass showing the unit of assignment, and weapons a 370th Soldier would have used.

"These displays of ordinary items that average Soldiers used and wore can really help you feel a connection to them across the years," Lear said.

These temporary displays will be open through Feb. 28. In addition, the main exhibit gallery on the museum's second floor contains permanent displays that offer more information about the 8th Illinois' service in the Spanish-American War and World War II and the 8th Illinois descendent, the 178th Infantry Regiment.

Located two blocks north of the intersection of MacArthur Blvd. and North Grand Ave., the Illinois State Military Museum tells the story of the contributions of the Illinois National Guard to the state and the nation from 1723 to the 21st Century. The museum is open 1 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission and parking are free. For more information call (217) 761-3910.

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