Robert E. Bohrn, of Charleston, was awarded the Order of the Silver Crescent by Gov. Henry McMaster on Thursday. S.C. Rep. Spencer Wetmore, D-Folly Beach, presented Bohrn with the commendation at a Statehouse ceremony.

This award is the state’s highest civilian award for significant contributions, leadership, volunteerism and lifelong influence within a region or community. Bohrn earned the honor for one of the most important archaeological finds in the history of the country and state, according to a preess release.

Bohrn | Photo provided

Bohrn discovered the remains of Civil War-era African American soldiers who fought for the Union’s 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in 1987. The remains of 19 soldiers were identified with help from archaeologists from the University of South Carolina.

“These soldiers gave their lives for their country in a horrendous way, most of them dying from dysentery,” Bohrn said in a press release. “They didn’t die instantly, they just withered away.  When you see that guy laying there, who never had a chance to go home, who never saw his family again, that saddens me.” 

Artist rendering of the 55th Massachusetts soldiers whose remains Bohrn found near Charleston | Provided

The 55th Massachusetts was a secondary option to the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first Union regiments comprised of African American soldiers, which inspired the film, “Glory.” When Massachusetts’ then-Gov. John A. Andrew saw the demand for enlistment in the 54th, in 1863, he created the 55th Regiment. 

The 55th Massachusetts remained on Folly Island, clearing forest, building fortifications and hauling supplies. This was, and still is, the only such find of African American soldiers from the Civil War, according to a press release.

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