Louisvillian sculpture Ed Hamilton designs the ‘Spirit of Freedom’

The first national memorial to black Civil War veterans. Erected in 1998 in Washington, D.C.


Washington DC – Shaw – U Street Corridor: African-American Civil War Memorial

Spirit of Freedom, the African American Civil War Memorial, located at the eastern entrance of the U St/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo Metro station at U Street and Vermont Avenue, NW, was dedicated on July 18, 1998. Designed by sculptor Ed Hamilton and architect Marc Doswell, under the commission of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the memorial honors the contributions of of black soldiers and sailors to the Union cause during the Civil War.

The memorial features a 9’1/2″ bronze sculpture with a front high-base relief of three infantry soldiers and a sailor, and a backside low relief of a family group as the soldier, a son, leaves for the war. The sculpture sits on a two foot tall, granite-clad base. Five surrounding granite
walls contain 166 burnished stainless steel plaques listing the names of 208,943 soldiers and sailors who served in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. The plaques are arranged by regiment. Included among the names are 7,000 white officers who served with the troops.

The memorial was initially proposed in a resolution by the Washington, D.C. City Council in 1991. In 1992, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton presented Resolution 320 to the House of Representatives, and it was signed into law four months later. A nonprofit organization, The African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation, was formed to build the monument. Much of the $2.6 million in funding came from from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, as compensation for the disruption caused by subway construction. The land was donated by the U.S. National Park Service. The plaza was dedicated on Sept. 12, 1996. The monument was not completed at the time of its unveiling on July 18, 1998 because of construction delays. The complex was transferred to the National Park Service on October 27, 2004 and is managed by the National Mall and Memorial Parks of the NPS.

The greater U Street Historic District, roughly bounded by New Hampshire Avenue, Florida Avenue, 6th Street, R Street and 16th Street, in the Shaw neighborhood of northwestern Washington DC, is largely a Victorian-era neighborhood, made up of row houses constructed in response to the city’s high demand for housing following the Civil War and the growth of the federal government in the late 19th century. The area was predominately white and middle class until 1900, but as Washington became progressively more segregated, the U Street Corridor emerged as the city’s most important concentration of businesses and entertainment facilities owned and operated by blacks, becoming known as “Black Broadway” in its cultural heyday. The late 1960’s saw the neighborhood begin a fall into decline, marred by violence and drug tacking, that would last well into the revitalization and gentrification of the 1990’s.

Greater U Street Historic District National Register #98001557 (1998)


Steamboat ‘Jacob Strader’ – U.S. mail packet, also used to ferry soldiers around Louisville

Jacob Strader, Esq. (1795-1860) was a steamboat owner, banker (Cist names him as President and solicitor of the Commercial Bank in 1851), lawyer and President of the Little Miami Railroad. He sat on the Board of Trustees of the Cincinnati Medical College.

The steamboat “Jacob Strader,” was launched in Cincinnati in 1853 and named for this prominent citizen. Built for the U.S. Mail Line, the sidewheeler ran a regular Cincinnati to Louisville packet route. During the Civil War, she carried supplies to Union troops for the U.S. Sanitary Commission, as well as carrying wounded and sick soldiers.



Louisville Citizen Guard – sheet music

Lithograph drawings of the Louisville Citizen Guards on sheet music dated 1858, titled “Citizen Guards March to the Officers and Members of the Louisville Citizen Guards” by Carl O. Edelman.


“The period following the war with Mexico saw the formation of independent military companies in many parts of the nation. These units were often very popular and were, on occasion, the subject of musical compositions, as in the sheet music shown here. The Louisville Citizen Guards was formed in 1858, captained by Simon B. Buckner. Buckner subsequently served as a general in the Confederate army, was later a Louisville newspaper editor, and finally served as governor of Kentucky. With the coming of preparations for war, the Louisville Citizen Guards became part of
the Second Regiment of the Kentucky State Guard.”

According to Kentucky Illustrated (Schmidt): p. 129

Regarding Buckner:

“In the remaining years before the Civil War, he was adjutant general of the Illinois militia and directed the reorganization of the Kentucky State Guards. As the head of Kentucky’s military forces, he attempted to preserve its precarious neutrality. In July 1861, the Unionist-controlled military board of the state ordered the State Guard, which they considered pro-secessionist, to turn in its arms. He supported Kentucky’s neutrality, refusing a commission in the Union Army in 1861. Buckner resigned on July 20th, and 2 months later was named a Confederate Brigadier General, neutrality having come to an end. ”

General William Bull Nelson



ON page 669 we publish an illustration of the ASSASSINATION OF GENERAL NELSON BY GENERAL J. C. DAVIS, which took place ten days since at Louisville. Our picture is from a sketch by our artist, Mr. Mosler, who visited the spot
immediately after the affair. The Cincinnati Inquirer
gives the following particulars:

When the alarm was raised in Louisville that the enemy were marching on that city, General Davis, who could not reach his command under General Buell, then at Bowling Green, went to General Nelson and tendered his services. General Nelson gave him the command of the city militia so soon as they were organized. General Davis opened an office and went to work in assisting the organization. On Wednesday last General Davis called upon General Nelson in his room at the Galt House, in Louisville, when the following took place:

GEN. Davis. “I have the brigade, General, you assigned me ready for service, and have called to inquire if I can obtain arms for them.”

GEN. NELSON. “How many men have you?”

DAVIS. “About twenty-five hundred men, General.” NELSON (roughly and angrily). “About twenty-five hundred! About twenty-five hundred! By G—d! you a regular officer, and come here to me and report about the number of men in your command? G—d d—n you, don’t you know, Sir, you should furnish me the exact number?” DAVIS. “General, I didn’t expect to get the guns now, and only wanted to learn if I could get them, and where; and, having learned the exact number needed, would then draw them.”

NELSON (pacing the room in a rage). “About twenty-five hundred! By G—d I suspend you from your command, and order you to report to General Wright; and I’ve a d—d mind to put you under arrest. Leave my room, Sir!”

Davis. “I will not leave, General, until you give me an order.”

NELSON. “The h—l you won’t! By G—d I’ll put you under arrest, and send you out of the city under a provost guard! Leave my room, Sir!”

General Davis left the room, and, in order to avoid an arrest, crossed over the river to Jeffersonville, where he remained until the next day, when he was joined by General Burbridge, who had also been relieved by Nelson for a trivial cause. General Davis came to Cincinnati with

General Burbridge, and reported to General Wright, who ordered General Davis to return to Louisville and report to General Buell, and General Burbridge to remain in Cincinnati. General Davis returned on Friday evening and reported to General Buell. Nothing further occurred until yesterday morning, when General Davis, seeing General Nelson in the main hall of the Galt House, fronting the office, went up to Governor Morton and requested him to step up with him to General Nelson and witness the conversation that might pass between Nelson and him. The Governor consented, and the two walked up to General Nelson, when the following took place:

GEN. DAVIS. “Sir, you seemed to take advantage of your authority the other day.”

GEN. NELSON (sneeringly, and placing his hand to his ear). “Speak louder, I don’t hear very well.”

DAVIS (in a louder tone). “You seemed to take advantage of your authority the other day.”

NELSON (indignantly). “I don’t know that I did, Sir.” DAVIS. “You threatened to arrest and send me out of the State under a provost guard.”

NELSON (striking Davis with the back of his hand twice in the face). “There, d—n you, take that!” DAVIS (retreating). “This is not the last of it; you will hear from me again.”

General Nelsen then turned to Governor Morton, and said: “By G—d, did you come here also to insult me?”

Gov. MORTON. “No, Sir; but I was requested to be present and listen to the conversation between you and General Davis.”

GEN. NELSON (violently to the by-standers). “Did you hear the d—d rascal insult me?” and then walked into the ladies’ parlor.

In three minutes General Davis returned, with a pistol he had borrowed of Captain Gibson, of Louisville, and walking toward the door that Nelson had passed through, he saw Nelson walking out of the parlor into the hall separating the main hall from the parlor. The two were face to face, and about ten yards apart, when General Davis drew his pistol and fired, the ball entering Nelson’s heart, or in the immediate vicinity.

General Nelson threw up both hands and caught a gentleman near by around the neck, and exclaimed, “I am shot!” He then walked up the flight of stairs toward General Buell’s room, but sank at the top of the stairs, and was unable to proceed further. He was then conveyed to his room, and when laid on his bed requested that the Rev. Mr. Talbott, an Episcopal clergyman stopping in the house, might be sent to him at once. The reverend gentleman arrived in about five minutes.

Mr. Talbott found General Nelson extremely anxious as to his future welfare, and deeply penitent about the many sins he had committed. He knew that he must die immediately, and requested the ordinance of baptism might be administered, which was done. The General then

whispered, “It’s all over,” and died in fifteen minutes after he was conveyed to his room. His death was easy, the passing away of his spirit as though the General had fallen into a quiet sleep.