State still has Civil War medals for 200 in black Union companies

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Seven months after the Civil War ended and one week before ratification of the 13th Amendment made slavery unconstitutional, two West Virginia companies of an all-black Union Army regiment gathered near Philadelphia to receive their final pay and discharge papers.

The date was Dec. 13, 1865, and the place was Camp Cadwalader, an Army base a few miles from Camp William Penn, where the men of the 45th U.S. Colored Infantry began their basic training in June 1864.

Among the regiment’s recruits, according to Army records, were 212 “colored men mustered into the service of the United States to the credit of West Virginia.”...

The year after the war ended, the state of West Virginia issued 26,000 medals to honor West Virginia troops for their service. The two West Virginia companies of the 45th Colored U.S. Infantry were among those authorized to receive the medals, but only two or three were ever collected, according to [state Archives historian Greg] Carroll.

The more than 200 medals from the two West Virginia African-American infantry companies are among about 4,000 unclaimed West Virginia Civil War service medals still being held at the Cultural Center for descendants to claim.

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