Re-enactors of Mississippi 3rd U.S. Colored Cavalry returning to Natchez

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Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-Clifford M. Boxley is organizing the Civil War encampment of the 3rd U.S. Colored Cavalry that will take place on Thursday, June 13, at the Bluff. He is pictured in this 2014 tintype photo wearing a 6th Heavy Artillery uniform at the 150th anniversary of the Fort Pillow Massacre in Tennessee that occurred on April 12, 1864.

JANS – Re-enactors of Mississippi 3rd U.S. Colored Cavalry will ride into Natchez on Thursday, June 13, and set up camp on the Bluff, announced Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-Clifford M. Boxley.

“They will ride into Natchez as the [cavalry] did in October of 1864 on their way down to Woodville, where they defeated the Confederates,” he said.

The 3rd U.S. Colored Cavalry program will be held in Natchez for the third time. It was previously held in 2014 and 2018. Boxley said the re-enactors will engage the public and talk about the cavalry’s history during the Civil War. He noted the event is a celebration of history and recognition of the military contributions of African Americans.

The encampment is free and open to the public. It will last from 9-4 p.m. Boxley said the re-enactment is all about education. “We want people to visit the set-up and interact with the re-enactors,” he said. “We want them to see the horses and get educated about the use of weapons, which are replicas.”

Richard Wilder, president of Buffalo Soldiers Florida Inc., said he looks forward to participating in the program.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “Our mission statement says that we are lecturers of history. We try to share that history as realistically and accurately as possible. Not much is being said or is known about the 3rd U.S. Colored Cavalry. It is an honor for us to represent this regiment and to be in the same places as our ancestors.”

Boxley believes the Colored cavalry, who were also called “Black Horse Soldiers,” have not received the credit that is due to them. The unit came to Natchez on Oct. 3, 1864, before traveling to Woodville, which they reached on Oct. 5, 1864. There, they captured prisoners and supply wagons, and with assistance from the 5th Illinois Cavalry Regiment, they attacked the Confederates who were camping at Bowling Green Plantation, which was owned by Judge Edward McGehee, and forced them to retreat, according to historians.

The cavalry burned the plantation, seized cannons, and captured 41 Confederate soldiers, before heading back to Natchez, according to William A. Dobak, author of “Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops 1862-1867.”

Role-play actors

As for the participants in the Natchez encampment, Boxley said they will include a representative of the Natchez-based 6th Heavy Artillery who joined the cavalry at Kingston, after they defeated the Confederates in Woodville.

In addition to Boxley, the coordinator of Friends of the Forks of the Road Society Inc., participants in the program will include Darrell White, Royal Hill, Danielle Terrell, Jamall McCullen, Jackie Marsaw, all of whom were role-play actors of the Black and Blue Civil War Living History program. For the upcoming program, they will portray important figures of various regiments who accompanied the cavalry.

Boxley said he will portray “the old, enslaved man who showed Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant where to cross over the Mississippi River from the Louisiana side to Bruinsberg where there were good roads to get up behind Vicksburg.”

Wilder will portray Alfred Woods, a former slave who ran away. “When the 3rd U.S. Colored cavalry was formed, he was one of the first to join and he became a spy for the Union Army,” Wilder said.

White will serve as a Union sailor who worked as a crewman on the Union Navy Boat that transported the 3rd U.S. Colored Cavalry and other white Union regiments on their way to Wilkinson County after camping in Natchez.

Hill will portray a Mississippi Marines Brigade fireman on the boat Queen of the West, the flagship of the brigade; Terrell will portray Margaret Wood, wife of the 3rd U.S. Colored Cavalry Scout Alfred Wood; McCullen will portray Carey Blanchard of the 70th Infantry USCT; and Marsaw will appear as Ellen Anderson of Warren County whose property was seized by the Union Cavalry on May 1864.

Route and activities

Beginning at 8 a.m., on June 13, nine re-enactors, which include seven Black soldiers and two white officers, will ride from the Forks of the Road to the Natchez Bluff.

The troops will ride on St. Catherine Street to N. Dr. M.L.K. Street, where they will turn left and ride to Main Street and turn right. From there, they will ride down Main to Broadway Street and turn right to the encampment site on the Bluff.

The program will begin with the bugle call for reveille at 9 a.m., at which time the flag will be raised. The troops will be inspected and then they will fall out for breakfast.

A re-enactor portraying Colonel Embury D. Osband will demonstrate the loading and firing of Civil War era weapons. The program will end with the sound of retreat at 4 p.m., which signals the end of the day.

Boxley said he’s hopeful that local residents and visitors alike will come out for the day’s program. “We invite everyone to come right in. We think they will enjoy the experience and learn a lot about Natchez’s history,” he said.

Boxley said the Civil War re-enactment in Natchez is one of four he initiated that will be held this year. The other sites include Vicksburg National Military Park from June 7-8; the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson from June 10-12; and Claiborne County Fair Grounds in Port Gibson on June 12.

For more information, call Ser Boxley at 601-442-4719.

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Re-enactors of Mississippi 3rd U.S. Colored Cavalry returning to Natchez

By Jackson Advocate News Service
June 3, 2024