Chris Vera, of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society, and others interested in the cemetery's history want to raise $50,000 to renovate the area, build a walking path and create memorial wall panels that will tell the stories of those soldiers and other African American citizens who lived in Columbia's Tow Hill neighborhood, an early settlement where donated land from Quakers in 1823 harbored escaped or freed slaves. In addition, organizers plan to feature 17 to 20 loose tombstones embedded in a brick wall display.
Ground-penetrating radar, used in 2011, indicated 66 bodies buried there, Vera says, but no one can be sure. Records say that more than 180,000 African American solders joined the Union army or navy during the Civil War.
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