201 23 1 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE

ST. LOUIS - A local genealogy organization is pleasantly surprised it successfully lobbied the Department of Veterans Affairs for a group of soldiers who no longer have a voice.

Newschannel 5 first met Sarah Cato in April 2013 at a meeting of the St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society. The group's goal: come to the rescue of the 56th U.S. Colored Infantry, Missouri slaves who fought for the Union Army in the Civil War.

Even though two mass grave markers at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery say 'unknown soldiers', the identities of the 56th have been known for decades. You can find their names at the St. Louis County Library, and their military records are digitized online.

"You can't have those two stones over there that say 'unknown' when I'm giving you a list of the men who died, who are buried there," said Cato. "In 1939 they had the information but for whatever reason they didn't put the names there."

Cato and the genealogy society lobbied the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington for over a year to recognize the soldiers individually by name.

"We kept pressing with the VA that something's gotta be done," said Cato.

Something has being done. The VA agreed to a bronze plaque with 173 names.

The plaque was completed at Matthews International in Pittsburgh and will ship to St. Louis in early August, in time for the dedication ceremony on August 15th. The members of the 56th, many of whom died of cholera, will no longer be referred to as unknown.

For over a year, Cato was tireless, organizing a ceremony at Jefferson Barracks last summer, and enlisting the aid of politicians like Congressman Ann Wagner.

Cato candidly admits she often doubted her genealogy group would be successful lobbying the Veterans Administration, and certainly not within 16 months.

"You have people who are really really sick who can't get to the hospital in 16 months, let alone something like this happen," said Cato. "I don't think they were fighting for just themselves, but that they were maybe fighting for us, as their descendants. We couldn't let them down because they were working for us already."

A local genealogy organization is pleasantly surprised it successfully lobbied the Department of Veterans Affairs for a group of soldiers who no longer have a voice.

Newschannel 5 first met Sarah Cato in April 2013 at a meeting of the St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society. The group's goal: come to the rescue of the 56th U.S. Colored Infantry, Missouri slaves who fought for the Union Army in the Civil War.

Even though two mass grave markers at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery say 'unknown soldiers', the identities of the 56th have been known for decades. You can find their names at the St. Louis County Library, and their military records are digitized online.

"You can't have those two stones over there that say 'unknown' when I'm giving you a list of the men who died, who are buried there," said Cato. "In 1939 they had the information but for whatever reason they didn't put the names there."

Cato and the genealogy society lobbied the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington for over a year to recognize the soldiers individually by name.

"We kept pressing with the VA that something's gotta be done," said Cato.

Something has being done. The VA agreed to a bronze plaque with 173 names.

The plaque was completed at Matthews International in Pittsburgh and will ship to St. Louis in early August, in time for the dedication ceremony on August 15th. The members of the 56th, many of whom died of cholera, will no longer be referred to as unknown.

For over a year, Cato was tireless, organizing a ceremony at Jefferson Barracks last summer, and enlisting the aid of politicians like Congressman Ann Wagner.

Cato candidly admits she often doubted her genealogy group would be successful lobbying the Veterans Administration, and certainly not within 16 months.

"You have people who are really really sick who can't get to the hospital in 16 months, let alone something like this happen," said Cato. "I don't think they were fighting for just themselves, but that they were maybe fighting for us, as their descendants. We couldn't let them down because they were working for us already."

201 23 1 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.ksdk.com/1sinhx9