Photo credit: Camp William Penn Museum. Joseph W. Becton (left) and Robert F. Houston (right), members of the Third Regiment Infantry United States Colored Troops Re-enactors.
APRIL 4, 2018; PHILADELPHIA, PA – On Saturday April 21, 2018, at 11am, a new Civil War commemoration will be unveiled at Philadelphia National Cemetery, dedicated to the United States Colored Troops (USCT) buried there.
Erected by the Veterans Administration, the new sign celebrates the achievements of the USCT, nearby Camp William Penn, and those who died, whether of disease or battle wounds, or who enjoyed post-war lives.
The Mütter Museum of medical history is co-sponsoring the dedication ceremony of the interpretive sign as the latest in a series of annual events commemorating the medical dimension of the Civil War. These events augment the exhibition, Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits: Injury, Death, and Healing in Civil War Philadelphia. The exhibition, which opened in 2013 and closes in late 2019, highlights stories and experiences of a white soldier, black soldier, physician, and female nurse, framed by the words of poet Walt Whitman.
“Across the country, people are questioning the presence of statues and monuments to soldiers of the Civil War, but in Philadelphia, a new memorial will be dedicated at Philadelphia National Cemetery. Of all the monuments and statues to Civil War generals and soldiers in the City of Philadelphia, none recognizes the achievements of the black soldiers who, according to President Abraham Lincoln, were essential to saving the Union,” says Director of the Mütter Museum, Robert D. Hicks, Ph.D., who will participate in the ceremony.
Hicks adds that “Black soldiers experienced higher mortality due to disease than white troops during the war, and doctors—usually white—struggled to understand how black bodies differed from white ones. The data collected on the health and performance of black soldiers constituted the first public health record of African Americans in the United States.”
“Many of the USC Troops buried in the cemetery were trained at nearby Camp William Penn, the first and largest federal training camp for black soldiers in what is now Cheltenham Township,” says Joyce Werkman, President, Citizens for the Restoration of Historical La Mott (CROHL), co-sponsor of the dedication event. The village of La Mott is located in the area once occupied by the training camp. CROHL operates the Camp William Penn Museum, open seasonally.
The unveiling ceremony will include music, the presentation of wreaths, USCT re-enactors, and light refreshments. Speakers include Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Dwight Evans, Congressman (PA-02nd District), and Charles L. Blockson, Curator Emeritus of Temple University’s Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.
The event is free and open to the public, beginning at 11am on Saturday, April 21 (rain date: May 5, contact 215-885-2258, or email).
Location: Philadelphia National Cemetery, 6909 Limekiln Pike (entrance at Haines Street and Limekiln Pike), Philadelphia, PA 19138
About The Mütter Museum
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia was founded in 1787 by a group of physicians including Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of our nation’s Declaration of Independence. It is not an academic organization, as the name suggests, but a not-for-profit educational and cultural institution, with the mission of advancing the cause of health while upholding the ideals and heritage of medicine.
The College is home to the Mütter Museum, America’s finest museum of medical history, which displays collections of anatomical specimens, models and medical instruments in a nineteenth-century setting. This includes slides of Einstein’s Brain, the 139 skulls from Hyrtl’s collection, and a special exhibition on Civil War medicine.
For Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia: firstname.lastname@example.org, 215-399-2340
For information onsite for day-of / rain date: email@example.com, 215-885-2258
The Mütter Museum helps the public appreciate the mysteries and beauty of the human body while understanding the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.