Black Civil War Soldier Gets Overdue Honors





For more than a century, Lt. Stephen Atkins Swails has lain in an unmarked grave in Charleston, S.C., his life story largely forgotten. But recently, local historians held a long overdue ceremony honoring the life of the extraordinary African-American soldier and statesman.

Swails was a member of the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment, one of the country's first black fighting units, famous for storming Fort Wagner in South Carolina. The unit's story was told in the Hollywood film Glory.

Ten years ago, Billy Jenkinson, an attorney and amateur historian in the village of Kingstree, S.C., came into contact with a trunk full of Swails' personal documents. The trunk had been abandoned and was on the way to the dump. Jenkinson had known Swails was a war hero, but the trunk revealed a whole other side to the story.



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