Stop 5: Peter Wilson
Thirty-four year old Peter Wilson enlisted as a private in company C, 36th USCT Infantry on July 13, 1863 at Pylmuth, NC. Probably born near Windsor, NC, before he enlisted he was a slave owned by Dr. Turner Wilson, most likely engaged in farming since he listed “Farmer” as his pre-enlistment occupation. Less than a year after his enlistment he was killed in action by Confederate guerillas at Pierson’s farm near Richmond on June 16, 1864.
In addition to these soldiers buried in the National Cemetery, the African-American community would also be instrumental in commemoration in the years immediately after the Civil War.
On May 5, 1868 General John A Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued General Orders No. 11 declaring that May 30, 1868 was designated for the decoration of the graves of those who had died in defense of their country. Decoration Day was born. This announcement had little effect on local white resident; Fredericksburg citizens continued to decorate Confederate graves but not the Union ones. African-Americans heeded the call, however, and began coming in 1868 from Washington and Richmond to honor those soldiers who had died for their freedom. Gradually, local citizens became involved and the first multi-racial ceremony was held by Fredericksburg citizens in 1871, but African-Americans remained heavily involved until the 1880s.
Change came in 1884 when the GAR returned to Fredericksburg and held a ceremony of reconciliation with Confederate veterans. They agreed to honor the Union dead jointly and the GAR agreed to exclude African-Americans from attending the ceremony. Exclusion gradually dulled the enthusiasm of the black community and after twenty more years they turned their focus to Shiloh Cemetery to honor their own war dead.