Members of the Joshua L. Chamberlain Camp #20 Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War laid wreaths on the grave of Pvt. Pleasant Richardson during a Memorial Day Ceremony Saturday afternoon at the First Baptist Church Cemetery in Fincastle. Richardson was an escaped slave from Botetourt County when he joined the 45th Infantry U.S. Colored Troops in 1864. Richardson served until the end of the war when he returned to Botetourt where he married. Richardson was a member of First Baptist Church. It was an appropriate day for the service that started in the church. Richardson died on Memorial Day, May 30, 1935 when he was 89 years old. Charles Benjamin Hawley Sr., Commander of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Department of the Chesapeake, was guest speaker. His address is titled “The Effectiveness of U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War.” Hawley also told the audience that included about 50 persons that holding the service in the church was appropriate since the church was so important to their lives. He said it was also important to pass along their history to their children. He urged the audience to take time to use their computers to dig into their family’s past and their history. A descendant, a cousin, Judy Barnett of Fincastle, presented Richardson’s West Virginia Civil War Medal to the Botetourt County Historical Museum for permanent display following the service. Her late brother, Ed Barnett, was able to confirm the family connection and, in 2004, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History presented the family with the medal. The service included comments by the Rev. Montie E. Brown Sr., Alvin Smith, accompanied by Jean Toliver and the First Baptist Choir singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the reading of Walt Whitman’s “Bivouac On A Mountain Top” by Camp Secretary Al Linton and comments by Camp Commander Richard Uplinger.
Photos by Ed McCoy