11th US Colored Infantry (New)
This regiment was organized from June through August 1863 as the 1st Regiment Alabama Siege Artillery. During its years of active service, the reigment was reorganized several times. In January 1864, the regiment was stationed at Fort Pickering, Memphis, Tennessee, when it was consolidated into the 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery (in accordance with Special Order 25). The regiment then served on fatigue duty at Fort Pickering until early March, when it was reorganized, along with several African American pioneer companies, into the 6th USCT Heavy Artillery. The regiment was ordered to Fort Pillow, Tennessee where it was attacked on March 12, 1864 by Confederate cavalry forces under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest. (see more below) After the massacre, the surviving members of the regiment returned to Fort Pickering where it was reorganized as the 7th USCT Heavy Artillery. On January 23, 1865, the regiment was consolidated with several African American pioneer companies and designated as the 11th USCI (New). The regiment served on fatigue and picket duty until it was mustered out on January 12, 1866 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Four Williamson County-born men served in the 11th US Colored Infantry (New).
Cpl. James Fate, a 24-year-old farmer, enlisted on May 23, 1863, in Corinth, Mississippi in Company A of what was then called the 1st Alabama Siege Artillery. The troops were trained as both artillery and infantry soldiers.
Pvt. Solomon Higgens and Pvt. Charles Keith were both 44-year-old laborers when they enlisted on January 12, 1864, at Fort Pickering in Memphis in Company G.
Pvt. John Perkins, an 18-year-old waiter, enlisted as a private in Company A in Memphis on April 15, 1864.
"Remember Fort Pillow"
On April 12th, 1864, the regment was attacked at Fort Pillow by Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest and 1,500 cavalrymen. Companies A, B, C, and D of the 6th Colored Heavy Artillery, along with men of Company D, 2nd US Colored Light Artillery manned artillery to defend the Fort. The official records show that many of the Black soldiers and their white officers were killed. That day became a rallying cry for USCT Troops across the country - as they prepared for battle, they would yell "Remember Fort Pillow."
Incredibly, it appears that none of Williamson County's members of the regiment were there that day. Cpl. Fate was on detached duty at Fort Pickering and was not involved in the Fort Pillow massacre, although his Company was. Likewise, Pvt. Higgens had been sent on daily duty to the Engineering department beginning on April 3rd and also was not at Fort Pillow. Likewise, Pvt. Charles Keith was on daily duty in the Commissary of Company G, which was not assigned to Fort Pillow at that time.
Just three days after the assault at Fort Pillow, Williamson County-born John Perkins enlisted in Memphis. Perkins and all the survivors of the 6th US Colored Heavy Artillery were reformed into the 7th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment on April 26, 1864, and last on January 23, 1865, into the 11th United States Colored Infantry.
Six months later, on June 3, 1865 Pvt. Higgins was discharged for disability. On January 12, 1866, the regiment mustered out in Memphis.