- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. (AP) Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman were decorated officers during the Civil War, but Alfred B. Hilton had something that Grant, Sherman and many other famous Union soldiers didn't.
Hilton received the Medal of Honor, one of only 22 black Civil War soldiers who won the nation's most prestigious military decoration. On Thursday, family members, Harford County officials and members of the county's historical society held a small ceremony to rename a local park for him.
"This was an awesome experience for me," said Joyce Hilton Bransford Byrd, Hilton's great-great-grandniece. "I didn't approve of my last name when I was born, but now I'm proud to carry the Hilton name."
Hilton, a sergeant, was awarded the medal posthumously in April 1865 for his heroics at the Battle of New Market Heights near Richmond the previous fall. He grabbed the Union colors from the fallen color bearer and carried the flag to a line of entrenched Confederate soldiers before being shot several times in the right leg.
James Chrismer, the historian who researched Hilton, said the soldier died of complications stemming from the amputation of his right leg. Records are sketchy, but Mr. Chrismer said Hilton was in his 20s when he died.
"It was previously thought that all troops from Harford County were white, and then in my research I came across Hilton," Mr. Chrismer said. "White commanders were reluctant to use black troops. That's what makes this so amazing."
Fourteen blacks who fought at New Market Heights, including Hilton, were awarded the medal. Hilton had no children.
Mr. Chrismer said he wants to find out how many more blacks fought for the Union. So far, he said, he has learned of 175 men who served in the Army and Navy.
Mrs. Byrd said she didn't know much about her Civil War-era relative, but was aware that he was a hero. She said she had no knowledge of the ceremony on Thursday until the night before, when she received a letter from her sister stating that the county planned to rename the park.
Mrs. Byrd said she's not familiar with the medal and doesn't know where it is.
The park, formerly known as Gravel Hill Park, is located across the street from a lot where Hilton's home once stood before it burned down.


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