On June 19th, Americans celebrate Juneteenth National Independence Day. This American holiday commemorates the date when the last enslaved individuals in the United States were freed after the Civil War. In Connecticut, more than eighty percent of eligible Black men enlisted to fight in two “Colored” Infantry units. Today, the Westport Museum and Saugatuck Church honored their service and that of their Commander, Lieutenant Louis McDonough, who is buried at the church’s Evergreen Cemetery in Westport.

Lieutenant McDonough and his men served in the 29th Connecticut Volunteer Regiment aided in the efforts to enforce the emancipation of enslaved people in Galveston Texas on June 19th, 1865, or “Juneteenth” a federal holiday. Fifteen men from Westport were part of the 29th. Their names were Pvt. Samuel Benson, Pvt. Thomas Benson, Pvt. James Burns, Pvt. John Frye, Pvt. Thomas Gregory, Musician Frank Jackson, Pvt. Joseph H. Jackson, Pvt. William H. Jackson, Pvt. William H. Johnson (1st), Pvt. William H. Johnson (2nd), 1st Lt. Louis R. McDonough, 2nd Lt. Louis R. McDonough, Pvt. John Thompson, Pvt. Charles C. Williams, and Pvt. Charles Yan Tross.

“The commemoration of Lieutenant McDonough and his men is part of the Westport Museum’s mission of making history whole by ensuring that hidden histories are surfaced,” said the Museum’s executive director, Ramin Ganeshram.

The memorial was unveiled by local veteran VFW Post 399 Junior Vice Commander/American Legion Post 63 Commander, Sergeant First Class Buyile Rani, CT Army National Guard (Retired). Remarks were made by VFW Post 399 Quartermaster/American Legion Post 63 Adjutant, Phil Delgado, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired), who stated, “The veteran community is honored to acknowledge the bravery and sacrifices of the 29th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry on Juneteenth. Dedicating a plaque serves as a reminder of the progress made in pursuit of equality.” This dedication ceremony highlights the historical contributions of Black soldiers and emphasizes the ongoing efforts to recognize and honor their service.

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