This Month in New Bern History – May 2020
At the Vanguard of History
by Bernard George
One hundred fifty-seven years ago this month, New Bern, North Carolina was the site of an event that would dramatically impact the conduct of the Civil War and provoke a major societal shift across our young nation. In 1863, the United States War Department created the Bureau of Colored Troops, organized to oversee and direct the historic incorporation of black troops into the Union army. On May 17 of that year, thirteen Union officers and a civilian recruiter arrived in New Bern to organize the “African Brigade,” the country’s first official major military unit largely made up of African American escaped slaves, then known as contraband.
This daunting military and social experiment would settle once ...