On March 19, 1864, as the 29th (Colored) Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was preparing for deployment to the South to fight in the Civil War, they were presented with their state (regimental) flag in Fair Haven.
According to The New Haven Daily Palladium, a local black woman presented the dark blue silk flag made by the Ball, Black & Co. of New York to the father of one of the unit’s officers, the Reverend Dr. Leonard Bacon. Bacon gave a long, passionate speech in which he told the soldiers, “We give you this flag to march under which tells you that you are a Connecticut regiment, and it is our confident expectation that you as a regiment will do honor to the State of Connecticut, as well as to the stars and stripes. And in order to do this, you must bring back this flag when you return without any dishonor.” Bacon concluded by reminding the 1,005 soldiers present that day that because they were men of color they would need to prove they were “worthy of the respect of fellow men,” in particular, whites. Immediately following the ceremony, as the regiment marched towards the wharf where the steamship Warrior was waiting to take them to the front, the soldiers could be heard shouting “We’ll show you we can fight! We’ll show you that we are men!” By the war’s end a year later, the 29th would suffer nearly 500 casualties in a half-dozen hard-fought battles in Virginia.
Cornel Garfman, MS, is a writer and historian.
This Today in History was published as part of a semester-long graduate student project at Central Connecticut State University that examined Civil War monuments and their histories in and around the State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut.