Corbit's Charge commemorates African American Civil War soldier

Each year, members of the Pipe Creek Civil War Roundtable commemorate a skirmish that took place in Westminster called Corbit's Charge. This year, though, the celebration will host an additional focus on an often unsung part of Civil War history, the United States Colored Troops.

Saturday, members of the Roundtable will dedicate a new gravestone for Cpl. Samuel Butler, a veteran of the United States Colored Troops. According to Steven Carney, a member of the group, black Civil War veterans are often overlooked because they were not common until the later years of the war. He said Carroll County was home to a number of black veterans.


"Samuel Butler served meritoriously during the Civil War and his gravestone had weathered to the state that no one could read his name or any other markings on the stone," Carney said. "We felt he needed to have a legible headstone that represented his name and military service."

Saturday, those gathering for the event will leave from Emerald Hill in Westminster at 10:45 a.m. to host a service at 200 Willis St., site of the Corbit's Charge monument, at 11 a.m. before heading to the Church of the Ascension cemetery for the 11:30 a.m. re-dedication ceremony at the cemetery.

Carney said the Roundtable wasn't even aware that Butler was buried in Westminster, until a member, in the midst of working on a project replacing graves of black troops from the Civil War, came across the seemingly blank headstone at a time of day when the sunlight shining on it made the USCT acronym visible.

They began to research the history of Butler and discovered that he was likely born a slave in Virginia before escaping to Massachusetts, where he joined the Union soldiers in the Civil War. He fought in the Battle of Petersburg, in Virginia, where he was wounded. After the war, he found his way to Westminster and was buried in the Ascension Church graveyard after death. Carney said as far as they can tell, Butler had no relatives, and there was no one left to tend to his grave site. For the re-dedication, the Roundtable had a new footstone made with Butler's vital information to be placed on his grave.

"He had this interesting narrative which was almost lost," Carney said. "This is an opportunity to educate and preserve his legacy. We thought the best way to do that was to bring people together to celebrate his life."

According to Carney, Carroll has a long legacy as a home for African-American soldiers following the Civil War, a group that is often overlooked in Civil War histories of the area. He said Carroll was home to an African-American post of the Granddaughters of the Republic organization, a predecessor of the American Legion.

Corbit's Charge, which took place on the streets of downtown Westminster in 1863, was a battle between fewer than 100 Union soldiers and nearly 6,000 Confederate cavalry near the intersection of East Main Street and Washington Road. Carney said this skirmish may have affected the course of the war, delaying Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart from reaching Gettysburg in time for the battle.

  • Carroll Yesteryears

The event this year features a particularly packed schedule, including artillery demos and demonstrations of wet-plate photography, tours of Westminster historic sites and cemeteries, lectures on Civil War masons, the Pratt Street Riot, antique sewing, a ladies' fashion show, children's activities and a Civil War dance.

Carney said last year they attempted to expand the event to bring out more than just Civil War historians to the commemoration of the battle. He said last year was a massive success, with about 1,500 attendees coming out through the course of the weekend.

In an attempt to spread the passion for history, the event will also feature a Junior Historian Program, where children who complete a number of activities at the Corbit's Charge weekend can trade in a worksheet for a Junior Historian badge. The Roundtable is also working to expand beyond just featuring Westminster history, reaching out to historical organizations throughout the county to turn the Corbit's Charge weekend into a way to highlight all of Carroll's Civil War history.


If You Go

What: Corbit's Charge


When: 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Saturday, June 24; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 25

Where: Emerald Hill, Westminster

Cost: Free

For more information: Visit