Mr. Gary Burke Descendant of Peter Bailey Biography
Gary Burke’s personal relationship with Fort Negley formed when he met Bill Radcliffe and Dennis Boggs at the Inglewood Branch of the Nashville Public Library where they were speaking about African Americans in the Civil War. The group later became the 13th USCT Living History Association where Burke became heavily involved in preserving the untold history of the Black Soldier during the Civil War.
“Living history is telling a story setting a scene where you know exactly how the life was of a soldier. So tents a set up fires are made. We do drilling exercises like soldiers would do because it does mean something to us when we’re here on this hill.”
Militarywise, Burke’s father served in the Korean war, and his grandfather fought in WWI. Burke’s late father left him documents tracing their family’s ancestry. Burke was surprised when he saw records dated from the Civil War, and one of the War Department records stated on the backside “grandmother receiving pension from the Civil War”.
After six years of being a living history interpreter, Burke discovered that he was the great-great-grandson of Peter Bailey, a private with Company K, the 17th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. Private Peter Bailey was stationed at Fort Negley during 1864 and 1865. He was 5’8” and only eighteen years old when he entered the Civil War. Private Bailey fought in two engagements, Granbury’s Lunette and Peach Orchard Hill, while living through terrible conditions to secure the future of his descendants, and Burke holds that bravery close to his heart. Burke visited Private Bailey’s gravesite in Lincoln Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois where he placed a Sons of Union Veteran marker on his final resting place to honor his legacy.
“I was already fighting a battle against ignorance about African Americans who served in the Civil War. And then, to find out my own flesh and blood did it was gratifying.”
Burke plays a crucial role in preservation efforts, and he believes it is his duty to be an advocate for those who labored, fought, and died at Fort Negley. In addition to his role with the 13th USCT Living History Association, Burke serves on the Friends of Fort Negley Board, the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society Board of Directors, the Friends of Stones River National Battlefield, the Sons of Union Veterans, and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.
“somebody has to speak with them and I'm one of those of many. It is our duty to pass that on not only to our families, but to future generations”