Saturday, July 4, 2009
Certainly their tenure in Vermont met with some discrimination and displeasure as evidenced by the initial reaction of some locals when they learned black troops would be sent to Vermont. As David Work noted, “Almost overnight Burlington acquired a substantial black community, a situation that clearly dismayed many residents. This led some residents to protest the assignment of black cavalry regiments to the local fort. On the other hand, one white officer, Major George Sands, marveled “at the sentiment antagonistic to a Negro regiment . . . in such a patriotic spot as Burlington.” He predicted that the African American soldiers would “give the people of “Burlington some lessons in patriotism.””Sgt. Osborne related; "Relations between civilians and soldiers were excellent.” He could remember only one instance of unjust treatment. One sergeant was reduced to the rank of private for not offering his seat on the trolley to an officer’s wife. It seems that some of the officers from the southern states tended to be harsher on the colored troops than their northern colleagues.The professionalism and conduct of the troops consistently impressed the community and attitudes gradually changed. By the time the black troops left for Fort Huachuca, Arizona in December 1913, Vermont newspapers and citizens were consistently praising their “courteous and gentlemanly conduct.” Some soldiers remained in the area after discharge or retirement. Several of the African-American veterans formed a tight knit community in Winooski, Vermont. They were well-respected, hard working, law-abiding citizens who raised families there. Some are buried in the nearby national cemetery; some descendants still live in the area.