Mr. Bill Radcliffe Descendant of Edward Ratcliff Biography
Dressed in his uniform atop St. Cloud Hill, Bill Radcliffe was the first United States Colored Troop living history interpreter who commemorated the legacy of Fort Negley. Radcliffe, a Nashville native, has always had a love for history, and his family made sure it was part of his upbringing. Radcliffe’s family served in WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Desert Storm, and Radcliffe himself served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
In 1988, Radcliffe had an opportunity and enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company B, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of the black soldier during the Civil War. While researching, Radcliffe came across the name Sergeant Edward Ratcliff who won the medal of honor for his bravery in Yorktown during the Civil War. His father’s middle name was Edward, and he was also a Sergeant.
Although Radcliffe formed the relation in his mind, he did not realize the true connection he had to Sergeant Edward Ratcliff until later into his living history reenactment journey. It was through Radcliffe’s godmother that he was introduced to the Radcliffes in Williamsburg and Hampton where he participated in the reenactment of the Battle of New Market where his ancestor won the medal of honor. His godmother insisted that this was his family, and it wasn’t until Radcliffe met Edward Radcliffe, the grandson of Sergeant Edward Ratcliff, that he had no doubt in his mind.
“I feel like Sergeant Ratcliff was looking down going, ‘there you go, finally’. You know, so I carried that one, and it's just been a good journey.”
Throughout Radcliffe’s journey as a living history interpreter, he has been a part of multiple documentaries, TV interviews, public speaking events, and news articles highlighting the Civil War. Part of the 13th U.S. Colored Troops Living History Association, Radcliffe reenacts the Battle of Nashville to honor the African Americans who built and defended Fort Negley. Radcliffe also modeled for the first African American statue in a national cemetery to commemorate the legacy of the United States Colored Troops. Radcliffe’s likeness stands as a life-size bronze statue that sits in the Nashville National Cemetery as well as Freedom Park in Helena, Arkansas. Radcliffe played a significant role in keeping Fort Negley’s narrative alive before the site was open to the public, and he continues to be a community leader who protects and preserves the sacred land.
“I always treated this place with veneration and respect. And people come and people go with their ideas and agreed big plans. It's not allowable. Not to me. Not to them, so as long as we're doing what's right. Preservation and remembering what occurred here, what was done here. Fort Negley will be always remember.”