The Shirk Brothers

The 26 Civil War veterans buried in North Queen Street Cemetery represent the service of African Americans in at least 12 United States Colored Troop Regiments: the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; the 3d, 22nd, 24th, 25th, 32nd, 43d, and 127th USCT Infantry Regiments (all raised in Pennsylvania); the 137th USCT Infantry, the 2nd U.S. Colored Cavalry, and the U.S. Marines. Among the dead here are John and James Shirk, freeborn Blacks who worked as farmers and laborers around Shippensburg. In 1863, the brothers enlisted in the nation's first African Americans combat regiments: John in company K, 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and James in company H of the 55th. John took part in the ill-fated July 1863 attack on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, depicted in the film Glory. He was later injured while dismounting cannon on James Island, in July 1865. James was injured as well, while digging entrenchments at Morris Island, but he and John survived to return to Shippensburg and live out their lives there. They both eventually received federal pensions for their wartime injuries. They died within days of each other in 1913. Their brother Casper also served in the Union Army during the Civil War.