Watkins Mill State Park to host “Slave to Soldier” program

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Watkins Mill State Park team members will be hosting a program titled Slave to Soldier, from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 17. This presentation is about Black soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

Starting in 1866, Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, was the receiving station for men of color following the Civil War. There, the most unlikely of soldiers, Cathay Williams, joined the United States Army in the United States Colored Troops. Williams, also known as Pvt. “William Cathay,” was the only female known to have served in what would become the Buffalo Soldiers.

Pvt. Isaac Johnson, the great-grandfather of one of the presenters, enlisted on May 6, 1866, and joined his company at Jefferson Barracks. An original Buffalo Soldier, he traveled across Missouri by rail to the western frontier to serve with honor in the 38th and 24th Infantries and later reenlisted into the famed 9th Cavalry. His story is the basis of Slave to Soldier.

The presentation will cover the evolution of the USCT from the first-ever Civil War engagement between Black troops and Confederate forces during the Battle of Island Mound in Bates County, to the development of off-shoots of the Buffalo Soldiers during World War II and the Korean War. All presenters will be dressed in period uniforms and attire.

This presentation is sponsored by the Missouri Speakers Bureau, jointly organized and managed by Missouri Humanities and the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Watkins Mill State Park is located at 26600 Park Road N, Lawson. For more information, call 816-580-3387.

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