From 1866 to today, Juneteenth (June 19) has celebrated African American freedom and achievement. Join us in commemorating Juneteenth 2020 by walking in the footsteps of Martin Van Buren Buchanan.

(Donna Bohanon - Black History Committee, Friends of the Thomas Balch Library, Chair)

Born in 1844 or 1845, Martin’s mother Mahala was free while his father Robert was enslaved. Martin was born free due to a Virginia law, which assigned the status of a child to the “condition of the mother.” By several accounts Martin worked in the area around what is now known as Oatlands Historic House and Gardens until he enlisted in Company G, of the 2nd United States Colored Troops on September 30, 1863.

Martin served with his regiment until 1866, partaking in various roles including as a guard on a U.S. military ship called Matchless. Martin and his regiment mustered out of service in January 1866 and he moved back to Loudoun County by 1880.

Martin, alongside men and women who were formerly enslaved at Oatlands and other nearby plantations, established the community of Gleedsville in Loudoun County. Their names included Gleeds, Buchanans, Days, Turners, Allens, Valentines, Johnsons and Murrays. In 1890 the residents built Mt. Olive A.M.E. Church using rocks from the fields and wood cut locally. Today, it is the only surviving building from the original village.

In April 2015, after months of work with descendants, the community, and religious leaders, a @civilwartrails sign was erected in the center of what was Gleedsville.


Martin Buchanan Marker

Photo by Linda Walcroft from website Remembering Gleedsville 


To find out more about the incredible story of this community, visit the site located at @UULoudoun / 20460 Gleedsville Road, Leesburg VA.

For more information about Martin Van Buren Buchanan, see Essence of a People, Portraits of African Americans Who Made a Difference in Loudoun County, Virginia, publication of the Black History Committee, Friends of the Thomas Balch Library

To find out more about African Americans that served in the United States Colored Troops, see “From Loudoun to Glory:  The Role of African Americans from Loudoun County in the Civil War” by Kevin Dulany Grigsby

For more information about Juneteenth, see National Museum of African American History and Culture website, “The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth


This blog was written by the Civil War Trails committee and Donna Bohanon, Black History Committee, Friends of the Thomas Balch Library, Chair. For more information, visit: