"Now we're in the process of recruiting people to be in that troop," says Kenneth Brown, a historian and enthusiastic battle reenactor. "We have five, but we need to grow. We have a goal to recruit at least 15 over the summer."
While Civil War reenactments are popular across the nation, with some battles attracting as many as 18,000 participants, Brown says his Richmond regiment doesn't find the usual popularity, so he needs more time to recruit.
"African-Americans have a very negative attitude in Richmond about the Civil War because of slavery," Brown says. But that's a narrow perspective, he contends. "The Civil War gave African-Americans the opportunity to fight for liberation."
Matthew Coleman, a soldier in the regiment, says he doesn't think recruitment should be a problem. "You'd be surprised how interested people are," he says.
There were many black regiments, Brown says, but "the highest concentration of black soldiers in the Civil War was between Petersburg and Richmond."
Coleman adds that the original 1864 regiment had white officers, as does the current reenacting troop.
Some Civil War-related organizations, such as the Museum of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, say it's too early to plan for the anniversary in 2011. The Tredegar National Civil War Center, a new museum planned for the west end of the Canal Walk, isn't scheduled to open until April 2005.
But in Petersburg, Pamplin Historical Park is getting ready, says Richard Lewis, marketing and media coordinator for the park.
Pamplin, which has 422 acres of museums and plantations devoted to the Civil War, plans to upgrade from a $30 million facility to a $75 million facility with museum additions. The improvements will culminate in time for the anniversary, Lewis says.
Lewis is excited about Brown's move to start the black regiment for reenactments. He says the park would love to have the soon-to-be-formed troop for its anniversary festivities. "If there were such a group assembled," Lewis says, "we would be deliriously happy to have them encamp here."
The offer sounds good, Brown says. "Now we just got to get the men."