111th US Colored Infantry

Four men with connections to Williamson County after the Civil War served in the 111th US Colored Infantry. All of these men were taken Prisoner of War at the Battle of Sulphur Branch Trestle in Athens, Alabama.

111th USCI

The 111th USCI was originally named the 3rd Alabama Colored Infantry. The Regiment was reorganized and renamed the 111th United States Colored Infantry on June 25, 1864, and was assigned to garrison duty in Pulaski, Tennessee.  In September, the 111th was sent into northern Alabama. Most of the regiment was garrisoned at Athens, but a detachment, including Company I, was sent to the blockhouse guarding the strategic trestle bridge on the Alabama and Tennessee Railroad at Sulphur Branch. On September 23, 1864,  near the town of Elkmont, Alabama, about 10 miles from Athens, Confederate Nathan Bedford Forrest's men reached Sulphur Branch Creek. The trestle bridge was 72 feet high, 300 feet long, and had defenses to match its imposing size. Double casemated blockhouses with walls 40 inches thick guarded each end and a large fortress stockade held a garrison of 1,000 men and two field pieces.

About 200 men were part of the 9th Indiana Cavalry; 300 more were from the 3rd Tennessee Cavalry (Union). The rest were men of the 111th USCT, including Company I along with Moore and McKay. Forrest heavily bombed the fortification, and captured the Federal soldiers. He paroled the white officers and sent the Black soldiers to Mobile as prisoners of war.

The remainder of the 111th USCI stayed on duty at Pulaski through January, 1865 when they were sent to provide guard duty on the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad and provided burial duty at Stones River National Battlefield through April, 1866. The Regiment mustered out on April 30, 1866.

Pvt. James Moore

Pvt. James Moore (1828 - 1893)

On September 25, 1864, James was taken prisoner of war when he was captured at Sulfur Branch Trestle in Athens, Alabama (see below).  They marched first to Tuscumbia. A train took them into Mississippi and finally to Mobile. Once they were in Mobile, the Confederates put the 806 black soldiers to work on the defenses against the Union fleet blockade. The men reportedly suffered abuse, such as whippings and having only cornmeal and mule meat to eat, - Dunnavant's book

More than seven months later, on May 4, 1865, according to his military records, Moore “was turned over to [US] Gen. Canby By [Confederate] General Dick [Richard] Taylor at the surrender of his army." Gen. Edward Canby commanded the Federal forces assigned to conduct the campaign against Mobile, Alabama in the spring of 1865. This culminated in the Battle of Fort Blakeley, which led to the fall of Mobile on April 12, 1865. Canby accepted the surrender of the Confederate forces under General Richard Taylor in Citronelle, on May 4, 1865 - the day that Pvt. Moore was released as a POW.

He was then ordered to Memphis, Tennessee; recaptured at Mobile, Alabama, May 16, 1865; mustered out April 30, 1886, in Nashville with his unit

By 1890, James Moore had moved his family to the Thompson's Station area of Williamson County. The following year he applied for an invalid's pension based on senility, rheumatism and cataracts. He died on December 26, 1893 at his home in Thompson's Station. No burial site has been located. A brick paver in his honor was sponsored by Franklin Mayor Ken Moore.

Sulphur Branch Trestle

Photo courtesy of Limestone County Alabama


Memorandum From Prisoner of War Records - Pvt. Calvin Love

Burial Detail at Stones River National Cemetery

"[These were] men who had given their lives for the country ..., and now sleep beneath the green sod of our beautiful cemetery, on the immortal field of Stone's River."

When Chaplain William Earnshaw, the first Superintendent of Stones River National Cemetery, wrote these words, he and the 111th United States Colored Infantry were nearing the end of nearly a year of locating and reburying Union soldiers from the battlefield, Murfreesboro, and the surrounding area. They began the work in October 1865. 

After the war, African Americans built their own thriving and prosperous community centered on the Stones River National Cemetery. The community was fittingly named “Cemetery” and included farms, homes, churches, and a school. Some of the people living there were veterans of the 111th United States Colored Infantry and their families.

National Park Service

Special Order No. 19, Nashville & Northwestern Railroad, Jan. 21, 1865

Nashville_Union and American Wed., May 29, 1867

Notice from the Freedmen's Bureau in Nashville, at No. 79 Cedar Street, that they were holding checks for Back Rations for members of the 111th USCI including Dock Lunnen, Allen House, James Frierson, Brown Coburn, Harrison Rivers, George Ellis, Charles Burlston, Lewis Gartee, Robert White, Thomas Tyler, Frank Rufin, Wm. Robinson, Lucius Hamlin and Edgar Smith. Also holding Certificates for Back Pay and Bounty due to Louisa Knight, Ester Nickerson, Leak Frierson, Eliza Watkins, Sally Roliford, Betty Celers, Lucinda Watkins, Mary Nelson, Sally Day, James Comack and Lina Mclans (perhaps impressed workers?); Also a Pension Certificate for Harriet Cabiness and a number of discharge papers. dated May 29, 1867