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History comes alive in Harpers Ferry

By Staff | Oct 10, 2014

On Saturday Oct, 11, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will stage a soldier and citizen vote for the 1864 Presidential Election. The public is invited a glimpse into the final moments of that election in which Republican President Abraham Lincoln was seeking a second term in office.

Success on the battlefield translated as votes at the ballot box. Approaching the election, Lincoln’s government carefully watched the Shenandoah Valley Campaign hoping that a Union victory would be seen as “might makes right,” in the eyes of the voters.

The national election in 1864 was certainly one of the most important in history. It played a decisive role in the final outcome of the Civil War. Emancipation and the restoration of the Union were to be assured if the Republican candidate, President Abraham Lincoln, won re-election. A victory for Democratic candidate Gen. George McClellan very probably would have gained the South an armistice, restored slavery and provided the South with some degree of independence.

Visitors are also encouraged to see the park’s special African-American exhibit called “Terrible Swift Sword: The 19th US Colored Troops,” on the second floor of the John Brown Museum. This special sesquicentennial exhibit on the 150th anniversary of the recruiting of the 19th United States Colored Troops at Harpers Ferry, features the 19th USCT as the only African-American troops stationed in the Shenandoah Valley and who were at Harpers Ferry in 1864.

The exhibit displays an original U.S. Colored Troops officer’s sword, an officer’s Portmanteau carried by an officer in the 54th Massachusetts and a number of artifacts and letters from the 19th United States Colored Troops.

The exhibit illustrates the struggle of black soldiers to obtain their freedom, the relationship of the officers who volunteered to lead these black troops and the support given these soldiers by ladies from a small New England town.

These diverse stories told of the efforts of two races and both genders to establish a nation where all men were truly equal.