By Kathy Kahn
In the shadow of the Palisades Center, there’s a patch of hallowed ground on a hillside that’s been lovingly tended to for 170 years: Mount Moor Cemetery.
It is the final resting place for black Americans who fought for this country from the time of the Civil War up to the Korean War in the early 1950’s. When the Civil War ended, the Army formally created six regiments of black soldiers for duty out West. Among those buried in Mount Moor are many of Rockland’s own “Buffalo Soldiers,” a nickname name given them by Native Americans who battled with the black soldiers in the Western Territories. The Indians considered them to be as tough—and just as resilient—as the mighty bison they held in such high esteem.
The nickname stuck and subsequent conflicts—the Spanish American War, both World Wars, the Korean “Conflict”–all had Buffalo Soldiers fighting alongside brothers of all colors on the front lines.
“Mount Moore Cemetery is hallowed ground,” said author Bill Battson, who shared its humble beginnings: the land was originally donated by James & Jane Benson in 1849 as a “Burying ground for Colored people.” Held privately for many decades, it has been maintained for the past 70 years by the Mount Moor Cemetery Association, Inc.
Vietnam veteran Willie Trotman, President of the Spring Valley NAACP, gave special kudos to the Nam Knights, who are a constant presence at every military event. Trotman was joined by several guest speakers, including William Stump, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, who is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to have the graves of soldiers at Mount Moore marked properly.
“We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude,” said Deputy Mayor Grant Valentine of the Village of Chestnut Ridge. “The current conflict our country is in right now reminds us of how hard our military have fought for this country. I hope that all people will honor and respect our men and women in uniform and that we will come together as Americans. We are truly ‘One Nation Under God.’”
Mount Moor Cemetery Association will be hosting a Zoom program on Wednesday, December 2, at 7:00PM to explore the history of the Buffalo Soldiers and their many contributions to their country, as well as the current quest to identify and properly mark the graves of servicemen buried in the historic cemetery. For more information, contact The Nyack Library or visit them at www.nyacklibrary.org