Several times a year for almost three decades, D.C. resident Calvin Osborne has suited up in a Civil War uniform to reenact the stories of Black soldiers who fought for the abolition of slavery.
Ever since he saw the 1989 movie “Glory,” about one of the Union Army’s first Black regiments, Osborne said he has felt a calling to honor Civil War troops of color.
“That movie shook my soul,” said Osborne, 59, who is the associate director of the D.C. Office of Federal and Regional Affairs. “Until that time, I didn’t know that Black soldiers had fought for their own freedom.”
Osborne joined the District’s Black Civil War reenactment group, Company B, and is now president of the volunteer organization. He said he has found purpose in researching the lives of Black Civil War soldiers, most of whom were once enslaved.
But then last year, he found out about an even more personal connection to the Civil War: He learned his great-great-grandfather, William Lacy, had escaped slavery at age 14, then fought in the Civil War.
“When they told me he was my great-great-grandfather, it was all I could do to hold back tears,” Osborne said.
Now, after years of portraying various Black Union Army soldiers at Civil War reenactments around the country,Osborne plans next month to button up his Civil War uniform and reenact scenes from his great-great-grandfather’s life.
He will do it at the dedication of a new headstone for Lacy’s grave in Broken Arrow, Okla., near Tulsa, where Lacy spent his final years.
“What were the odds that I had spent 28 years reenacting these soldiers’ lives, only to learn that my own great-great-grandfather had actually been there?” he said. “It gave me goose bumps.”
Shortly after he learned of his great-great-grandfather, Osborne found out that Lacy was buried in the Thomas Smith Cemetery, and so he drove to Oklahoma with his wife, Tracy Osborne. He said he was saddened to see that Lacy’s grave marker and the marker of his wife, Lucinda Lacy, had toppled over.
He was able to prop up Lucinda Lacy’s marker but had to order a new headstone for William Lacy from the Department of Veterans Affairs, he said.