Mary Meachum

Lindenwood professor Angela da Silva organized the May, 9 2015 Mary Meachum celebration. She poses here with an Abe Lincoln reenactor so in character that he wouldn't acknowledge any other name.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

An annual celebration remembering St. Louis’ participation in the Underground Railroad had added meaning this year. The 12th Mary Meachum event on Saturday also marked the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.

Held on the banks of the Mississippi where free black woman Mary Meachum tried to lead slaves across the river to freedom in Illinois, this year’s historical remembrance was billed as “The Great Jubilation” — a re-enactment of the days in the spring of 1865 when enslaved St. Louisans learned the war was over and they were free.

Nora Ibrahim

On the 159th anniversary of Mary Meachum's attempted crossing of the Mississippi River — from what was at the time the slave state of Missouri to the free state Illinois — St. Louis residents, local groups and officials gathered at the crossing site to announce plans for a permanent monument. For many of those who attended, it marks 15 years of hard work to get the site more widely recognized. 

(via Wikimedia Commons)

The Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, will be turned into a Civil War training camp tomorrow at the 11th annual Freedom Crossing Event Celebration.

Unidentified soldier at Benton Barracks in 1863
Library of Congress

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: What was Fairgrounds Park like in 1863? 24,000 men were on the grounds of what was known as Benton Barracks in the largest Union Army training camp in Missouri during the Civil War and the largest African-American recruitment and induction site from Ohio to California.