Down a windy road nestled in the fields of Culpeper County, Va. is a profound piece of history that’s never been told.
Standing in front of the new Maddensville Historic Site memorial is like “standing in front of the Washington Monument,” said Reverend Eugene Triplett, vice president of The Freedom Foundation.
The monument is located in a quiet site honoring three veterans of the Union's United States Colored Troops (USCT) who were captured and executed in 1864 just 300 feet away.
“We don’t know from Black history about these soldiers,” said Triplett. “It was just a white Confederate soldier that wrote [a note] and said ‘we captured three negro soldiers. We shot them and left them laying on the road, so we don’t know their names. We don’t know who they were.’”
The tavern owner who received the letter had them buried, although the exact burial spot is unknown.
As many Civil War monuments representing the Confederacy are torn down, this monument has risen to speak for men who have remained voiceless until now.
“There are sides of truth, and we need to tell our side of the truth,” said Reverend Douglas Greene of Ebenezer Baptist Church. “Our truth is not in the history books, so we have to get our truth out one way or the other.”
And this monument is a start to the full history.
“To understand the courage that it took for those [Black] men to enter a war, they were actually fighting for their lives. They were fighting for their freedom. Our [white] ancestors were fighting for a lifestyle. It’s just no comparison,” said Kathy Weeks, a Virginia resident.
The Maddensville Historic Site sits on the Civil War Trail – a place to honor the forgotten lives lost and reflect on the nation’s difficult past. This story is being told only now, and experts believe there are more stories just like this one to tell, piecing together the true and complete story of American history.
“We found one needle [in the haystack], that's it,” said Triplett. “[We've got] plenty more haystacks out there all across the country.”
HyoJung Kim and Shawn Klein contributed to this story.