One of the most important events of the Civil War — the siege at Petersburg, VA — was memorialized on a Forever stamp at the site where the battle took place and the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment was on hand for the ceremony. The first photo shows members of 26th U.S. Colored Troops and 54th Mass. Company B. The second photo shows a poster of USCT stamp which depicts the 22nd U.S. Colored Troops engaged in the June 15-18, 1864, assault on Petersburg, VA, at the beginning of the Petersburg Campaign. The third photo shows a 54th member posing with the stamp. The fourth and fifth photos show members of the 54th in front of the stage during the ceremony. The sixth photo shows Dr. Malcolm Beech speaking at the ceremony.
Chief U.S. Postal Service Inspector Guy Cottrell dedicated the stamps just yards from the location of an underground explosion — that took place 150 years ago today — which created a huge depression in the earth and led to the battle being named “Battle of the Crater.” Confederates — enraged by the sight of black soldiers — killed many soldiers trapped in the crater attempting to surrender.
The soldiers shown on the Petersburg stamp were part of the 175 regiments — more than 178,000 African-American men — who made up the United States Colored Troops,” Cottrell explained. “They were free blacks from the north as well as escaped and freed slaves from the south. These brave men placed their lives on the line to prove they were fit to be citizens. Beyond fighting to preserve the nation — they were fighting for their freedom and freedom of their families.”