CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — The glory marches on.
In commemoration of one of the original all-black infantries that served during the Civil War, the African American Culture and Heritage Festival is hosting a special march during Saturday’s parade in Charles Town.
Company B, an organization of professional re-enactors, will honor the 54th Massachusetts volunteer infantry by leading the parade, according to George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County NAACP chapter.
The parade begins at noon.
The volunteer organization has been a part of the AACHF for more than 15 years and was formed in 1988 as a U.S. National Parks Service affiliate.
In 1989, volunteers from Company B portrayed soldiers and technical assistants in the movie “Glory,” which gave a fictionalized account of the all-black infantry.
As it is one of the first African American units in the Civil War, Rutherford said that in light of the 150th anniversary, he thought it was appropriate to honor the unit.
“We think they need to be recognized,” Rutherford said.
In addition, while the 54th unit was formed in Massachusetts, one Charles Town native aided with the formation of the infantry.
With his grandmother owning property on the 200 block of Washington and Liberty as a free black, Martin Delaney was born free in Charles Town, said Douglas Perks, president of Jefferson County Historical Society.
However, for various reasons, Delaney and his family left Charles Town.
“It’s difficult for free people to live in a place where slavery was the rule of the day,” Perks said.
During the Civil War, Delaney served as a recruit and raised awareness for soldiers in the 54th infantry.
Near the end of the war, he was introduced to President Abraham Lincoln, and he became a major in February 1865, Perks said.
“He was a very remarkable man,” he said.
Perks said the commemoration Saturday will be significant because while it isn’t making the first time blacks had served in war, it marks the first time blacks had served in all-black units together, fighting for their freedom.
In addition, Perks said the information shared during the festival will be educational to some.
“It’s surprising what people know and what people don’t know. For those who are not familiar with the Civil War, it’s important to know the role these troops played as part of the Union Army, because I’m sure there are people who don’t realize that,” he said.
Perks said he has been to the parade almost every year, and will be there to watch the re-enactors march in commemoration Saturday.
Through the years, Perks said the AACHF has experienced “phenomenal growth.”
“Like everything, it starts out modestly, but it has grown every year. It’s such an interesting collection of activities. It’s just a bit of everything,” he said.
While Company B has been a part of the AACHF for more than 15 years, the anniversary tribute will commemorate one of the original black volunteer infantrys to sacrifice for the nation.
“It’s certainly appropriate at this festival to highlight them, especially in light of the fact we are in the midst of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War,” Perks said.