Peter Farley Fossett (1815-1901)

Peter Farley Fossett (1815-1901), husband of Sarah Fossett and a former slave of President Thomas Jefferson, was an entrepreneur, pastor and part of the Black Brigade—a collective of black soldiers. The Fossetts helped hundreds of slaves escape to freedom by way of Cincinnati and were co-founders of the First Baptist Church of Cumminsville. In September 1862, when the Confederate Army was heading north to Cincinnati from Lexington, Kentucky, all men were ordered to volunteer to defend the city. While free African-Americans were willing to serve, many Union soldiers balked at the idea of serving side by side with black soldiers. Without warning, more than 400 African-American men were rounded up and held in a holding pen on Plum Street. They were marched across the river and forced to build fortifications in Northern Kentucky. Abolitionists citywide complained and the men were subsequently released. Afterwards, they voluntarily answered the call to build fortifications to protect the city, causing the enemy to retreat. Many of those soldiers, known as the Black Brigade, later enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, led by Robert Gould Shaw. There’s a monument to the Black Brigade in Smale Riverfront Park.

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