Center re-issues book on African-American Civil War veterans 

Shippensburg University's Center for Applied History is re-releasing the book Dum Spiro, Spero: Chambersburg’s Black Civil War Soldiers and Sailors: A Tribute to the Veterans Laid to Rest in the Mt. Vernon and Lebanon Cemeteries 

The release coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 150th anniversary of War Department General Order Number 143 that established the federal  Bureau of Colored Troops on May 22, 1863. 

The book is composed of essays written in Spring 2010 by Shippensburg undergraduate history majors who were enrolled in the Theory and Practice of History class taught by Dr. Steven Burg, chair and professor of history in the history and philosophy department. 

The class documented the lives of the more than four dozen African-American Civil War soldiers and sailors who were laid to rest in Mt. Vernon and Lebanon Cemeteries, Chambersburg’s African-American cemetery off U.S. 30 west of Chambersburg. Student Luther Scott Karper volunteered to organize the essays into a book after the class ended and Burg wrote an essay that serves as a foreword to the collection. 

“The creation of the United States Colored Troops on May 22, 1863, was one of the most dramatic events in the history of American Civil War,” said Burg. “It was the moment when black men who had been denied the basic rights of citizenship, and who could still be owned as property, put on their nation’s uniform, and took up arms to defend their country and bring an end to slavery. This books seeks to document the lives and stories of some of the African-American men with Chambersburg connections who answered Abraham Lincoln’s call for black troops to aid the Union cause.” 

Little information was available on the men, so the students conducted extensive research in a wide variety of primary sources. They traveled to the Pennsylvania State Archives and the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and conducted extensive research in records such as original Civil War muster rolls, Civil War pension files, the United States census, and newspaper obituaries to document the lives of the forgotten warriors.  

According to Burg, “Through persistent research, these students uncovered the hidden lives of these remarkable men, a group of Civil War soldiers whose stories are too often forgotten. We hoped that telling the stories of these local people would help bring the story to life for residents of our region, and also be a small way to honor the incredible sacrifices and hardships these men faced in service to our country.”  

The book can be ordered from the on-demand publishing website, and it should be available from Amazon in the near future, using the following information: Luther Scott Karper, editor, Dum Spiro, Spero: Chambersburg’s Black Civil War Soldiers and Sailors. Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Center for Applied History, 2013. 173 pps. ISBN: 9781300793045.