Henry Noisette’s story is a unique tale in South Carolina’s rich Civil War narrative.
A slave who escaped to Union lines along the South Carolina coast, he later served aboard a Federal gunboat and took part in an attack on Charleston. After the war, he helped found a group that would eventually provide historians with a link to his own life.
And on Veterans Day, one group will honor a man whose story they say has been neglected for too long.
At a ceremony in Charleston Thursday morning, the African American Historical Alliance of South Carolina (AAHASC) will place an official Civil War veterans marker at Noisette’s grave.
Noisette is unique among the veterans of Civil War service in South Carolina in that he was with the United States Navy. A slave, he escaped to Port Royal (which was occupied by Union troops), where he joined the crew of the gunboat USS Huron. He was involved in the Federal blockade of Charleston in 1862, serving on the Huron during an attack on Confederate guns along the Stono River.
However, the marshy climate of Charleston was not good for his health. He suffered typhoid and did not serve for the rest of the war. After the war, he worked as a carpenter in Charleston, dying at age 70.
Russell Horres is a founding member of AAHASC. He said stories like Noisette’s are a little known part of the Civil War that he hopes the Alliance will be able to teach.
This keeping the story alive is what’s so very important. He is a piece of the fabric, and we definitely want him to be remembered with a marker.
Horres said the gravesite was almost lost to history, except for a group that Noisette helped form.
The interesting part of the story is that the family kept his grave site in memory by having a piece of embroidery that actually has the Black Burial Society that he helped form and had the different burial sites embroidered on the cloth.
The hour-long ceremony will feature an unveiling of the marker by Noisette’s descendents. It also includes an honor guard from the 54th Massachusetts Infantry reenactors (based on an African-American regiment that fought in Charleston). It will also feature cadets from the Citadel and a speaker from the US Navy who will talk about Noisette’s life.
The ceremony is just the beginning of the Alliance’s plans to honor the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston in 1861. Horres said African-American service is a significant part of the state’s Civil War history. Over 5,000 served, with many becoming future legislators in the state.
The ceremony begins at 10:30 am at the Friendly and Charitable Society Cemetery in the Charleston Neck.