13th US Colored Infantry
Of all the Black regiments organized in Middle Tennessee during the Civil War, perhaps the most famous - and rightfully so - is the 13th US Colored Infantry. The organization of this regiment was begun at Murfreesboro in July 1863 from laborers in Clarksville, Gallatin, Murfreesboro, and surrounding cities and towns - including Franklin. The 13th USCI mustered in on November 19, 1863, in Murfreesboro. For approximately the first six months of service, the regiment was utilized as laborers to finish construction of the important Nashville and Northwestern (N&NW) rail line from Nashville to the Tennessee River. After the railroad was completed in May 1864, the regiment guarded the rail line from guerillas and the enemy. During this time, part of the regiment was at Johnsonville when General Nathan B. Forrest’s forces attacked in early November 1864. After the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, General Hood's Confederate Army of Tennessee marched to Nashville threatening an assault. The 13th USCI and several other regiments of USCT were sent to Nashville to help fortify the city. On December 15 and 16, 1864, the 13th USCI distinguished themselves at the Battle of Nashville. Colonel Hottenstein, leading the 13th USCI, reported the regiment went into action with 556 men. Of the enlisted men, 51 were killed, and 161 were wounded. This was a casualty rate of nearly 40%. The regiment then participated in the pursuit of Hood's troops through Franklin and Williamson County to Alabama. Following the Confederate surrender, the 13th US Colored Infantry returned to the N&NW railroad until they mustered out in January 1866.
So far, 64 men with ties to Williamson County have been identified as serving in the 13th US Colored. Infantry. No USCT Regiment had more men with ties to Williamson County - the 13th USCI claimed almost 17% of Williamson County's USCT soldiers . Many of them enlisted right in Franklin.
Pvt. Derry Armstrong, was in skirmish at Johnsonville 1864; involved in the Battle of Nashville Dec 16, 1864; mustered out with unit January 10, 1866 in Nashville. After the War, he settled in Mt. Pleasant near Columbia, TN with his wife and several children. He died around 1898. His paver has been sponsored by Lesley Parker-Rollins.
Pvt. Dublin Armstrong, was in the battle near Nashville on December 16, 1864; Dec. 27, 1864 sick in hospital in Nashville; back with unit by May 1865; Jan. 10, 1866 mustered out in Nashville. After the War, he lived in Maury County where he married and raised a family. In 1890, he received a pension for his service. He died in 1915 in Culleoka, TN and was buried 12 miles away in the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Giles County. Following his death, his wife Caroline received a widow's pension.
Musician Houston Armstrong was in the battle near Nashville Dec 16, 1864; he mustered out with unit January 10, 1866 in Nashville. He received a pension and was living in Maury County after the War. His paver was sponsored by Monique Armstrong
Pvt. Joseph Armstrong enlisted in the regiment at Franklin. He was a stonecutter and mustered out with unit January 10, 1866 in Nashville. He appears to have moved to the Mt. Pleasant area of Maury County after the War and received a pension for his service. His gravesite has not been located.
Cpl. Julius Armstrong was in the battle near Nashville Dec 16, 1864; mustered out Jan. 10, 1866 in Nashville; he settled in Maury County where he married, raised a family and worked as a stone mason. He received a pension for his service. His final resting place is not known.
Pvt. McNeil Armstrong enlisted in Franklin, TN and was in the Battle of Nashville Dec 16, 1864; he mustered out with unit January 10, 1866 in Nashville. Nothing else is known about him following the War, and no headstone has been located.
Pvt. Samuel H. Armstrong enlisted in Franklin, TN. He was wounded at the Battle of Nashville, and died on Dec 20, 1864, following the amputation of his right leg (femur). He was 20 years old when his remains were buried on Jan 1, 1865, in the US Burial Ground - South West City Cemetery L – 96; #11253; and later re-interred at the Nashville National Cemetery. Samuel had enlisted at Frankin in the regiment with his five brothers, Dublin, McNeil, Julius, Benjamin, and Houston, on August 12, 1863. They all served in Company A.
Pvt. Allen Buford was born in Mississippi and enlisted in the 13th at Franklin, TN when he was 19 years old. He served in the Battle of Nashville on Dec 16, 1864 and mustered out with unit January 10, 1866 in Nashville. After the War, he settled in Maury County where he lived with his parents and younger siblings. He married and started a family there before relocating to Kansas City, Missouri as part of the Exoduster movement around 1874. He received a pension for his service in 1890. He died there in 1934 and is buried in the Highland Cemetery. It is not known if he has a headstone.
Pvt. Edmund (aka Esmond) Carpenter, was 26 years old when he enlisted in Franklin, TN. He died of disease in the Regimental Hospital at Camp L. Thomas on March 12, 1864. No grave or headstone has been identified. His father Joseph Carpenter applied for a pension for his son's service in 1868.
Sgt. Stephen Childress mustered out with unit January 10, 1866 in Nashville. Following the War, he lived on Granny White Pike and worked for Vanderbilt University. In 1874, he opened a Freedmens Bank Account in Nashville. He died in 1897 and is buried in the Nashville National Cemetery, although his headstone has not yet been identified. His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Pvt. Squire [Esquire] Daniels was born in Williamson County around 1845 and enlisted in the regiment in Franklin. He was wounded in the Battle of Nashville on Dec. 16, 1864, but survived. He mustered out by order of the War Dept. on May 22, 1865 and was provided transportation back to Franklin. He married and started a family in Maury County. Later he relocated to Kansas City, Kansas as part of the Exoduster movement. He received a pension and died there in 1925. No burial location has been identified.
Pvt. Anthony Davis, deserted on Dec 25, 1863 from Camp Massey. He never mustered in.
Sgt. Williamson Friarson enlisted in Franklin on Aug 16, 1863. He was wounded in the battle of Nashville on Dec 16, 1865, and re-joined his company for duty on 30th of March 1865. He settled in Maury County after the War, where he married and raised a family. He received a pension, and after his death in 1907, so did his widow. He is buried in the Rosemount Cemetery in Columbia with a military headstone.
Sgt. Elijah Friarson was born in Virginia. When he was 18 years old, he enlisted in Franklin. He was wounded in the Battle of Nashville Dec. 16, 1864 and was in the hospital until March 1865. He mustered out Jan. 10, 1866 in Nashville. Nothing more is known about him.
Pvt. John H. Friarson, died from drowning near Camp L Thomas Tennessee June 1, 1864 while bathing; his mother Leah Friarson received a pension.
Pvt. Charles Galloway Enlisted in Franklin at 20 years old on Aug 16, 1863. He had been more in Maury County. Nothing more is known of him.
Pvt. Solomon Gant was born around 1840 in Maury County. He was enslaved by William Young there and as a young boy given to Young's daughter Laura. When she married William Powell Gant in 1857, he took on the Gant last name. Solomon Gant enlisted in Franklin, TN in August 1863 and was involved in the battle of Nashville. Following the War, he received a pension. He died in 1898 and was buried in the Nashville National Cemetery. His paver was sponsored by Dr. Sam Gant.
Pvt. Miles German was enslaved by the family of Dan German Sr. who owned land in Franklin where the McKays Mills subdivision is today. German died January 19, 1865at the General Hospital No. 16 of wounds received at Battle of Nashville, He was buried in the Nashville National Cemetery and his widow Ellen Jordan received a pension for his service. You can read more about him below.
Cpl. John Gordon enlisted in Franklin, TN, and fought in the Battle of Nashville. He mustered out Jan. 10, 1866 in Nashville. He died around 1891 and his wife Lou filed for a widow's pension.
Pvt. Thomas Gordon, was born in Maury County, TN and enlisted in Franklin, TN. He fought in the Battle of Nashville and mustered out Jan. 10, 1866. He relocated to Kansas City, Missouri as part of the Exoduster movement. In 1890 he filed for an invalid's pension. He died on November 6, 1897 and was buried in the Union Cemetery in Kansas City. He has no headstone. Pvt. Gordon was survived by a minor child who received his pension.
Pvt. Essex Granberry was wounded in the Battle of Nashville Dec 16, 1864 and sent to the hospital but returned to his unit by January 1865. He mustered out Jan. 10, 1866 in Nashville and began to use the name John McGuire. McGuire worked as a carpenter, married and raised a family in Nashville. He applied for a pension before his death in 1900. He appears to have been buried in an unmarked grave at Mount Ararat Cemetery in Nashville.
Musician James Hughes was born in Williamson County and enlisted in Nashville. He was in the Battle of Nashville . He was sick in the hospital in Nashville when his regiment mustered out January 10, 1866. He died three days later of small pox. No grave has been located. His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School in 2018.
Pvt. Alfred (Archer) Watkins was born in Virginia around 1833. He was enslaved by William E. Watkins in Nashville. On November 7, 1862, he escaped from bondage with 16 other people. Alfred Watkins worked as a laborer at Fort Negley in Nashville and then enlisted in Franklin in the regiment in August 1863. On January 1, 1864 he was appointed a1st Sgt of the Regiment. After the War, he appears to have moved to Waterproof, Tensas Parish, Louisiana. Other enslaved people from Williamson County - including Felix Battle of the same regiment - had been taken to Waterproof in slavery. By 1873, Watkins had moved back to Williamson County's District 6 where he married and lived with his wife and daughter until his death in 1910. Newspaper accounts noted his burial in Franklin but no headstone has been located.
Pvt. Wesley Watkins was born in Maury County around 1838. In 1858, while still enslaved, he married his wife Lucinda. The couple had two sons before he enlisted in Franklin. He died Feb. 19, 1864 in Hospital No. 16 in Nashville of typhis fever. The record of death said that his residence before his enlistment was Franklin. His remains are buried in the Nashville National Cemetery. His widow received a pension for his service.
Pvt. George Burnett worked as a teamster in the Quartermaster’s department; mustered out Jan. 10, 1866 in Nashville; he applied for a pension
Pvt. Tucker Burnett, died of pneumonia at the Regimental Hospital within a few months of mustering into the army on Jan. 1, 1864 at Camp Mussey; his paver was sponsored by Ron and Lisa Gonser
Pvt. Ephraim Crockett deserted from Camp Massey on Jan 12, 1864
Pvt. George Helms, died of wounds received at the Battle of Nashville Feb 11 1865, General Hospital, Nashville; his effects included one overcoat, one deep coat, two pair of trousers, one shirt, one pair shoes, one blouse, one feather; his remains were buried in the Nashville National Cemetery His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Musician Monroe Moore, was in the battle near Nashville Dec. 16, 1864; he died of typhoid fever at the regimental hospital at Camp Mussey. No gravesite has been located. His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Pvt. Austin Pake (Pope) mustered out Jan. 10, 1866. In 1875 he married Fannie Malone in Nashville and they raised a family there. He was a long-time employee of the Nashville Railway and Light Company. He died on August 27, 1918 in Nashville (obituary).
Pvt. Hiram Anderson was born into slavery in Franklin, TN around 1844. He was the second of seven children born to John H. Williams and Jemima Allison. The family was enslaved by James Allison. Hiram Anderson was engaged in the Battle of Nashville. In December 1865 he was admitted to the Pest Hospital in Nashville and was not able to muster out with his regiment. He died in 1866 and no headstone has been identified. He left behind a widow and two sons. His mother Jemima applied for his pension.
Pvt. Charles Andrews was born around 1844 in Williamson County. He survived the War to muster out. Following the War, he married, started a family and settled in Nashville. He died on New Year's Eve 1912 and was buried in the Nashville National Cemetery. His paver was sponsored by Wanda Graham.
Pvt. Tom Henderson aka Thomas Sowell and/or Thomas Voorhies was born in Maury County around 1831. He enlisted in the USCT under the name Thomas Sowell at Estill Springs (Tullahoma) in Franklin County. In 1893, he married Millie Esmon in Williamson County, the widow of another USCT veteran Hilliard Esmon Sr. The couple lived in District 21 with their son Albert. In 1890, he received a pension. It is not known when or where he died, or where he is buried.
Cpl. Benjamin Jordan Sr. was injured three times in the Battle of Nashville. He was returned to his unit by January 1865. On January 10, 1866, he mustered out in Nashville. After the war, he lived in the countryside outside of Nashville and gardened and sold vegetables in the city. By 1889 he had moved to Topeka, Kansas where he was working as a fireman and was a member of the veterans organization, the Grand Army of the Republic. In his Fort Pillow Post of the GAR were other men from Williamson County, including John Williams from this regiment. He died June 29, 1911, in Topeka. His funeral was handled by the local GAR post. He was buried in the Topeka Cemetery. It is not known if he has a headstone. His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Cpl. John Poynter [Pider/Pointer], was born around 1843 in Williamson County. He was the son of Nathanial Baugh and Mary Pointer. We enlisted in Nashville and was involved in the fighting at the Battle of Nashville. He died on June 2, 1865 at Waverly, Tenn after receiving a gunshot wound through the right shoulder and chest from guerillas. His remains were buried in the Nashville National Cemetery. See below for more information about his service. His paver was sponsored by Brant Bousquet.
Musician Felix Battle was the youngest Williamson County man who is known to have enlisted in the USCT. He was a 13-year-old laborer and was assigned to be a musician, probably a drummer boy. He survived the War, including the Battle of Nashville, to muster out with his regiment. About a year later, Felix Battle appears to have enlisted in the 38th Infantry of the regular army as a so-called Buffalo Soldier. Battle later moved to Louisiana, married and raised a large family. You can read a longer description of his service and life below. A memorial paver in his honor was sponsored by Tommy & Sue Justis.
Pvt. Jerry Collins. was born in Williamson County around 1832 to his parents Jerry Sr. and Mary Collins. He married Emaline Johnson around 1850 and by the time he enlisted in the regiment, he was a father of at least two young daughters. He mustered out Jan. 10, 1886. Following the War, he and Emaline settled in Nashville where Jerry ran an express wagon. They had several more children. In 1872, Jerry opened a Freedmen's Bank account in Nashville. In 1883, he filed for an invalid's pension for his service. He died in Nashville around 1901. His grave has not been located.
Pvt. Henry Crawford was born in the Triune area of Williamson County. When he enlisted in Nashville his occupation was hostler. He died May 3, 1864 of typhoid at Hospital No 16 in Nashville. His grave has not been located. His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Pvt. Jessie Carothers was born in Franklin and enlisted in Nashville. He served as a a teamster; mustered out Jan. 10th 1866 in Nashville; His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Pvt. Thomas Grier was in Battle of Nashville Dec 16, 1864; mustered out Jan. 10th 1866 in Nashville
Sgt. Columbus North mustered out Jan. 16, 1866 in Nashville; He married Julia Baugh and raised a family here. Later they moved to Topeka, Kansas and Sgt. North was active in the Ft Pillow GAR post along with others from Williamson County. He died in 1910 in Topeka and was buried with a USCT headstone.
Cpl. Edward "Ned" Scruggs Edward "Ned" Scruggs was born about 1836 in Williamson County, Tennessee. He was enslaved by Ed Scruggs on the Scruggs family farm on Carter's Creek Pike west of Franklin approximately where Grace Christian Church and Grace Christian Academy are today. Ned married Mary Kinnard around 1850 and their first child, London Scruggs, was born in 1851. Before the War, Ned worked as a laborer in Nashville for the US forces and then enlisted. Cpl. Ned Scruggs mustered out of the Army in January 1866 and returned home to Williamson County where he lived for a short while. Scruggs later moved to Alabama. He died on February 6, 1908, in Elmont, Limestone County, Alabama. No gravesite has been located. You can read a longer description of Cpl. Scruggs' life here.
Pvt. Horace Winston, was severely wounded in the Battle of Nashville Dec 17, 1864; Died in General Hospital No. 16 of Gangrene on January 6, 1865
Musician James Coleman mustered out Jan. 10, 1866
Pvt. Charles Cothan was transferred to the 101st US Colored Infantry. Following the War her lived in Giles County and received a pension for his service.
Pvt. Andrew Crawford, died on May 1864 in Nashville General hospital No. 16 from bronchitis; His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Pvt. Joseph Matthews II on detached service at Soldiers Rest, Nashville for his whole term of service; mustered out January 10, 1866 in Nashville
Cpl. Walter Simms Present during the Battle of Nashville; Jan. 10 1866 musters out in Nashville. He enlisted in the 38th Infantry, regular army (Buffalo Soldiers) in Nashville in January 1867. He drowned in the Rio Grand River on May 24, 1868. His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Pvt. Nathan Wilson was born in Franklin, TN around 1843. After mustering out, he lived in Nashville where he worked as a plasterer and contractor. He died in 1893 and was buried in the Nashville National Cemetery.
Pvt. Alexander Brown 18 years old; farmer; Dec. 21, 1864 sick in hospital in Murfreesboro; July/August 1865 was on daily duty as a nurse in the regimental hospital; was in skirmish near Huntington, Tenn. & at Battle of Nashville & Johnsonville; mustered out January 10, 1866 in Nashville; His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Pvt. Henry Chappell Enlisted in Franklin; 18 years old, farmer, Nov 19, 1863; deserted Dec. 28, 1863 from Camp Mussey, Tenn. while foraging – not eligible for a paver
Pvt. Joseph Crite was in a skirmish near Huntington, Tennessee and in battle of Johnsonville & Nashville, Dec. 15&16, 1864. After the War he returned to Williamson County and married Ellen Petway in 1868. He died Oct. 17, 1914 and is buried in College Grove, Tennessee. His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Pvt. James Parham, died at US General Hospital No. 11, January 22, 1865 of small pox. His remains are buried in the Nashville National Cemetery
Pvt. Jacob Tucker was in skirmish near Huntington and Johnsonville, and battle of Nashville Dec 15 & 16, 1864; mustered out Jan. 10, 1866. His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Pvt. Peter Waters, died on January 21, 1866, at the Pest Hospital of Small Pox – his hospital number was 999; he was buried in the Pest Hospital Cemetery. No gravesite has been located.
Cpl. John L. Wesley appointed to daily duty in QM department as teamster; Was in skirmish near Decatur, Alabama and Battle of Nashville, Dec 15 & 16, 1864; January 10, 1866 mustered out in Nashville
Pvt. John Williams, was in skirmish near Huntington, Battle of Johnsonville; Dec. 10, 1864 daily duty in 1st Kansas Battery [1st Independent Battery Kansas Light Artillery] on verbal order; January 10, 1866 mustered out with his unit. In the 1870s he moved his family to Topeka, Kansas as part of the Exoduster movement. There he became active in the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans organization. Other Williamson County members of the Fort Pillow Chapter included Granville Scales and Frank King, as well as Ben Jordan Sr (see above in Company D.
Pvt. Nathan Williams was a cook when he enlisted in Nashville. He was in the Battle of Nashville and survived to muster out. In 1878 he married Lizzie Herbert in Williamson County. In 1881, he filed for an invalid's pension. By the late 1880s he had moved to Nashville where he worked as a plasterer and contractor. He died in 1893 and was buried in the Nashville National Cemetery.
Pvt. Robert Bittick, died on Jan. 20, 1864 in Nashville of disease (typhoid fever). His remains are buried in the Nashville National Cemetery.
Pvt. Nick Crutchelow, died of disease May 6, 1864 at Camp L Thomas. No gravesite has been located. His paver was sponsored by Sara Crutchelow.
Pvt. Aaron Farris, died of disease January 5, 1864 at Camp Mussey. No gravesite has been located.
Cpl. William Redman, Killed in Action at the Battle of Nashville Dec 16, 1864. No gravesite has been located. His paver was sponsored by BGA Middle School 2018.
Pvt. Anderson Server reported as a deserter July 20, 1865 from the hospital.
The majority of Williamson County's soldiers in the 13th USCI served in Company A. And nearly all of the Williamson County men who enlisted in Company A enlisted right in Franklin, perhaps at the Historic Williamson County Court House.
All told, 17 of these local men of the 13th USCI died during their service in the Army. Five men died from wounds received at the Battle of Nashville and six were wounded at the Battle but survived. Ten local men died of disease while serving in the 13th, one died in an accident and one drowned.
An ad appeared in the Nashville Daily Union in late September 1863 announcing that a recruiting office had been opened for the 2nd US Colored Infantry (later renamed the 13th USCI). Men were instructed to report to Dr. Buchanan's old office on Cherry Street. "Persons volunteering will be at once sent to Camp [in Murfreesboro] and uniformed."
This recruitment was under the command of Major George Luther Stearns. According to a report by Colonel R. D. Mussey on October 10, 1864, to his superiors in Washington, DC, he described the recruitment of the 13th US Colored Infantry this way:
"SYSTEM OF RECRUITING
Major Stearns brought with him several experienced recruiting agents whose expenses, as well as those of an extraordinary character not allowed from the Government recruiting funds in raising troops were defrayed from a private fund raised chiefly in Massachusetts. Major Stearns stationed these agents at various eligible points and directed recruits to be brought to Nashville, to which place the fragment of the second regiment (now the Thirteenth U. S. Colored Troops) was ordered. His agents, by public meetings, by personal appeals, and by the employment of colored assistants, procured recruits freely. It was upon the 24th of September, 1863, that recruiting began."
"Negro recruits taking the cars for Murfreesboro, Tenn., to join the federal army"
From an issue of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Almanac.
Sixteen men who served in Company A of the 13th USCI, such as Alfred Watkins, enlisted right in Franklin, Tennessee on August 12, 1863. On this same day, about 100 men from Williamson County enlisted in Middle Tennessee in the 12th and 13th US Colored Infantries.
Late September 1863
Company A Encamped on Granny White Pike
On October 1, 1863, the Nashville Daily Union reported that the 2nd USCT ( later named the 13th USCT) was encamped on Granny White Pike in Nashville. Company A was sent on a recruiting trip to enlist new soldiers and received high praise for their performance.
At the time, 22 men with Williamson County ties were serving in the Company.
A recreation of the 13th US Colored Infantry regimental flag.
The day they were mustered in (November 19, 1863) the men of the 13th USCI were presented with their Regimental flag. It was described as a beautiful vibrant blue flag with a blazoned eagle and shield, marked "Thirteenth Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry" and "Presented by the colored ladies of Murfreesboro." According to a description printed in the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Daily Gazette:
The Regiment was mustered in on November 19th, on which occasion it was presented with a fine silk flag by the colored ladies of Murfreesboro. The presentation was deeply impressive. The officers all in front with heads uncovered, and the entire regiment kneeling received the “Star Spangled Banner” they had just sworn to support and defend. The mustering officer who presented the flag in the course of his address said, “though that flag had hitherto been borne by the red, the white and the blue, he rejoiced to think that henceforth it would be borne by the Black also."
The creation of this regimental flag by Black women signified the tremendous changes taking place in Middle Tennessee.
The 13th USCI was heavily engaged at the Battle of Nashville almost a year later. As they charged a Confederate stronghold at Overton Hill on December 16, 1864, at least five members of the color guard were shot down trying to get their flag at the top of the hill. It ultimately fell into Confederate hands and it is not known what happened to it.
Construction of the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad
From its formation in the fall of 1863 until May 1864, the men of the 13th were primarily used as laborers and guards on the Nashville and Northwestern railroad 30 miles west of Nashville near Kingston Springs. On March 10, 1864, a letter was printed in the Nashville Union, written by "J. W. R.", James Watson Russell, Chaplain of the 13th USCI. In it, he stated that the railroad they were building was a "military necessity" and pointed out that the men of the 12th USCI and 13th USCI who had been working to build it had been "gathered . . . from such a horrid state of slavery and wrong that even now they claim to be free. ... They cheerfully submit to the rigors of military rule, saying, 'We were never so happy before. Our old masters would get angry with us and sometimes punish us almost to death; and we do not understand why; but here if we are punished, we know why, for the officers tell us our duty, and never punish us unless we disobey. If we disobey, we know it; and if we are punished, we know what it is for.' . . . I have seen this regiment march a whole day without observing a single instance of straying or breaking ranks for pigs and poultry. . . . Our record in the army is just as good as any other and better than that of white troops on fatigue or road building. . . . It is quite a satisfaction to me to know that while some men consider the men of this organization to be unworthy because the soldiers have been negro slaves, they have shown as much bravery in proportion to their experience in mortal combat as the white troops, and more proficiency in the schools of the company and soldier."
During this time, the 13th had furnished an average of five hundred men as construction workers; other USCT and white regiments also provided laborers to this massive military effort. Confederate guerrillas periodically attacked the soldiers attempting to disrupt their work, but despite their efforts, the US Army completed the rail extension to Johnsonville (west of Nashville at the Tennessee River) quickly. These soldiers also built warehouses, barracks, a rail station, fortifications, and other facilities at Johnsonville. Between 5,000 and 7,300 African American soldiers are estimated to have worked on the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad project. By May 10, 1864, the 13th USCI soldiers completed their work on the railroad and were dispersed along the railroad line to provide guard duty at blockhouses.
Buffalo (New York) Morning Express Saturday May 7, 1864
Regarding construction of the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad: "The heavy work has been done by the 12th and 13th U.S. colored troops, who have been engaged on it since Novem ber last. What an immense amount of labor has been necessary, is evident from the fact between the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers there is one vast series of ridges, all of which have been pierced by the black soldiers, who are carving their history in this war, beyond the power of any biased chronicles of deny or distort."
Contact With Families
The men of the 13th USCI, and the majority of Black USCT soldiers in slave states, were largely illiterate. Prevented from learning to read or write while held in bondage, these soldiers now had little way to stay in touch with their parents, siblings, wives, and children. Unlike their white counterparts in both armies, their illiteracy meant that many of these Black soldiers were entirely cut off from communication with home. In the Spring of 1864, the 13th USCI was encamped at Camp L. [Lorenzo] Thomas as the men worked to build the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad from Nashville to Johnsonville.
James W. Russell, Chaplain of the Regiment, was granted a ten-day leave of absence in order to go "to Nashville, Chattanooga, and Ft. Donelson to carry money and intelligence [news] from the husbands and fathers of the 13th USCI to their wives and children. Many of these men have had no intelligence from their families since they were enlisted over seven months ago - and such a mission on my part will be most salutary to the interests and welfare of this regiment."
His mission of mercy appears to have taken longer than Russell planned, and a few weeks later he was in Chattanooga where he requested - and was granted - an additional thirty days' extension of his leave. This time, Russell described that originally his plan was to "visit Ft. Donelson, Nashville, & Murfreesboro, and since undertaking the mission I find it necessary to visit Columbia, Shelbyville, Wartrace and Stevenson (Ala) to carry money and intelligence to the wives and children of the 13th US Colored Troops and to set on foot some means through which the soldiers of that regiment can correspond with their families by mail."
Description of Camp of 13th US Colored Infantry by Paymaster, April 1864
... when my ambulance reached the top of the hill which gave me a full view of their position in the valley below I was surprised to behold one of the most beautiful and best laid out camps that I had ever seen in the army; and still more surprised afterwards, on being informed that they had not been in that position more than two weeks. ...
It was regularly laid out, the aisles of ample width, and the tents or huts regular and constructed with an eye to neatness, convenience, and health. They were generally square log cabins, with tent, or clapboard roofs, the corners cut square, the walls true and well chinked. Inside of every one was a neat gun-rack, and a place for every thing that belongs to a soldier; all blankets and clothing brushed, folded and laid away neatly, ashes taken up, floors swept, and the aisles and grounds of the whole camp cleared of all filth and brushed perfectly clean. All seemed to be on duty of some sort, and every order was obeyed with alacrity and without confusion. ... At four o'clock P. M., the Colonel invited me to attend his dress parade. ... The companies took their position in line with promptness, and gave evidence of discipline, which for the length of time they have bene in the service was remarkable. No jostling, no confusion, all attention and decorum. Not a word was uttered, nor a motion made but in obedience to order. The line was perfectly dressed, and in the manual of arms moved as if wired together. ...It was in fact a model dress parade. It seems to be a mooted question whether these negroes will fight. But let every one stand in front of that dusky line as I did, and note the firm, resolute and determined look, the earnest energetic movement, and he will feel in his blood that that line, led by such officers, would be dangerous to encounter.
Soon after dark the "church call" was sounded. In a moment the dusky throng, all of them, were seen winding their silent way to the place beneath the stars where they were accustomed to worship. They formed a large circle around the chaplain, and when their thousand voices rolled out upon the night air in a song of praise, there was a strange impressiveness in it. It partook of my notion of the scene when the children of Israel sang the song of deliverance upon the banks of the Red Sea. It was no contract-singing; those song-waves were but the commingling of wild, heart-born sighs, the offering of deep emotion. ... When the chaplain had concluded, he gave opportunity to his sable hearers to pray and make remarks. ... their prayers for their wives and little ones left in bondage, their thanks for their own deliverance, ... were uttered with a pathos that would have made any heart feel.
In their exhortations, the old men told the young men of the goodness of the Government in giving them a chance to be men - told them that their ignorance had kept them in slavery - that they must learn to read in order to know how to take care of themselves, learn their duty as soldiers that they might defend themselves and assist in saving the Government that had been so good to them - that they must make up their minds to succeed or to die - that it was a certain death if they fell into the hands of the rebels - that they must be religious men, always prepared to die, and then they could fight with courage; ...
Chicago Tribune Friday, April 1, 1864
Battle of Johnsonville
Colonel Mussey of the 100th USCT wrote in a report of the day:
The behavior of the colored troops at Johnsonville, Tenn., during the recent attack upon that place was, I am informed by several eye-witnesses, excellent. . . . . Some of the Thirteenth U. S. Colored Infantry, who were at Johnsonville, were upon the river-bank as sharpshooters, and armed with the Enfield rifle, and did good execution. The affair was slight, but it has gained credit for the colored troops.
Relics from the USCT camp near Johnsonville
Found in a trash pit at the camp site of the 12th and 13th Inf. Regts., USCT along the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad line, the relics include sardine cans, a drumstick holder, a bullet mold, a side knife, a U. S. eagle hat device for a Hardee hat, two hunting horn insignia infantry hat badges, a Federal canteen with a homemade lead stopper, a gun tool, and two worms (wipers) used to clean out a .58 caliber musket.
Battle of Nashville
On November 30, 1864 (the day of the Battle of Franklin) the entire regiment was withdrawn from Johnsonville to Nashville in preparation for Lt. General Hood's anticipated attack.
A week later, on December 7th, the men of the 13th USCI were placed into the 2nd Colored Brigade, along with the men of the 12th USCI and 100th USCI. The men dug-in and threw up rifle pits where they skirmished with the Confederates over the next week near Nashville. Col. John A. Hottenstein, commander of the 13th USCI Thirteenth gave this account of their movements in mid-December 1864 including their service on the first day at the Battle of Nashville:
During the time from the 7th to the 13th [of December] this regiment was occupied in throwing up rifle-pits along the line and preparing for a campaign. The men were reclothed and refitted in everything necessary for a long campaign. On the 13th the regiment was ordered out with the rest of the brigade on a reconnaissance near Rains' house, and had a lively skirmish during the afternoon, retiring at dusk. In this skirmish the regiment lost 1 man killed and 4 wounded. On the night of the 14th I received orders to be ready to move at 5 o'clock the following morning. Soon after daylight on the morning of the 15th we moved with the brigade and occupied the works thrown up on the right of the Chattanooga railroad and near the Nolensville pike. During the 15th the regiment lay behind those breast-works, under a severe fire from a battery in our front, without sustaining any loss.
On December 16, the Second Brigade, including the 13th USCT, participated in the fierce assault on the right wing of General Hoods Army of Tennessee at Overton Hill (Peach Orchard Hill). The battle site can be seen today just west of I-65 at the Harding Place exit, where a historical marker has been placed. You can read more about the Battle of Nashville and the role of the men from Williamson County in this blog post. It is hard to adequately describe the significance of the role that the men from Williamson County and the 13th USCI played in the Battle that day. You can learn more here.
At daylight on the morning of the 16th the regiment was under arms ready to move, and about sunrise I received orders from the colonel commanding to move across the Nolensville pike and feel the enemy in our front. I advanced my skirmishers to a piece of woods in our front, but the enemy had retired. I then received orders to move over to the Nolensville pike, where the remainder of the brigade then was, and to form my regiment as a reserve, in rear of the other two regiments of the brigade, and to regulate my movements by them. The brigade then moved to the right and front, and after considerable maneuvering joined the right to the left of the Third Division, Fourth Corps, where the men were ordered to lie down. In this position we were shelled considerably, by the enemy without any material damage. At about 2.30 I received notice that we would assault the works in our front, and in a few minutes afterward the order to advance was given. The regiment advanced with the brigade in good order, but before we arrived near the rebel works the troops in our front began to lie down, and skulk to the rear, which, of course, was not calculated to give much courage to men who never before had undergone an ordeal by fire. The fire of the enemy was terrific, but nevertheless the men, led by their officers, continued to advance to the very muzzles of the enemy's guns, but its numbers were too small, and after a protracted struggle they had to fall back, not for the want of courage or discipline, but because it was impossible to drive the enemy from his works by a direct assault. Before falling back all the troops on our right had given way, and it was to continue the struggle any longer. The regiment reformed on the ground occupied just previous to the assault by the One hundredth U. S. Colored Infantry, and was ready to again advance when a staff officer of the colonel commanding ordered me to take my regiment over to the left, where the remainder of the brigade was formed. I moved to the left, as ordered, and joined the brigade, which moved about miles to the front and encamped for the night, in the meantime the enemy retiring toward Franklin. The regiment went into action on the morning of the 16th, 556 men and 20 commissioned officers, lost 4 commissioned officers and 55 enlisted men killed, and 4 commissioned and 165 enlisted men wounded; total loss, 220.
The Scene in Franklin
Next, the 13th USCI participated in the pursuit of the defeated Confederates during their retreat south through Williamson County including Franklin. The more than 60 Williamson County men were returning as triumphant soldiers in the US Army - no longer slaves. Colonel Thomas Jefferson Morgan of the 44th USCI recounted the scene in his memoir (see left).
Col. John A. Hottenstein, commander of the 13th USCI described the regiment's puruit of the Confederates to Alabama:
The next day the regiment moved with the brigade toward Murfreesborough and arrived there on the 20th; thence to Stevenson and Decatur, where we arrived on the 25th, and drove the enemy out of the place, . . . The regiment moved with the brigade down the river in the direction of Courtland and arrived there on the 30th of December, and from thence to La Grange, Ala., on January 1, 1865. January 2 moved back toward Decatur and arrived there on the 5th. On the 7th we embarked on the cars for Nashville. Arriving at Scottsborough we were ordered in pursuit of the rebel Gen. Lyon, who had been on a raiding tour through Kentucky and Tennessee. The regiment marched in pursuit to--Landing, and returned thence to Larkinsville, Ala. Nothing of note occurred on this march, except the suffering of the men for the want of shoes and other clothing, which from the length of the campaign were worn out. Many of the officers and men were barefoot, and never did men display more soldierly conduct than on this march; without shoes and a great time without rations, they performed their duty cheerfully and without murmur. The regiment arrived at Nashville on the 15th of January and lay there until the 29th, when I received orders to move and reoccupy our former stations of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad. The regiment moved by easy marches to its former stations on the road, arriving at this place on the 2d of February, and on the 4th all of the different companies had arrived at the posts assigned them.
Source: Official Records PAGE 548-93 KY., SW. VA., TENN., MISS., ALA., AND N. GA. [CHAP. LVII. [Series I. Vol. 45. Part I, Reports, Correspondence, Etc. Serial No. 93.]
Cpl. John Poynter (Pointer)
This account appeared in The Columbus Daily Advocate on Monday September 29, 1902. It is certainly discussing the service and death of Cpl. John Poynter (Pointer) who was born in Williamson County around 1843. He died on June 2, 1865 near Waverly, Tennessee.
Pvt. Miles German was born around 1833 in Franklin, Tennessee. His life was tragically cut short after being seriously wounded at the Battle of Nashville where he was fighting as a private in the 13th Regiment of the United States Army's Colored Troops. However, his legacy continued with the story of his wife Ellen Jordan and their children. Both MIles and his wife Ellen grew up in Williamson County as enslaved children, teenagers and young adults from the 1830s through the early 1860s.
Miles German was enslaved by the family of Dan German Sr. who owned land in the area where the McKays Mills subdivision is today. The Dan German Sr. family patriarch was Joseph German II, who brought his family to Middle Tennessee in 1799 from Caswell County, North Carolina. In 1833, it appears that Miles German was born on the German farm. Daniel German Sr.'s farm consisted of more than 600 acres where he raised 13 horses, 8 milk cows, 7 working oxen, 16 other cattle, 48 sheep, and 150 swine (pigs or hogs). The farm produced 140 bushels of wheat, 35 bushels of rye, 150 bushels of Indian corn, and more than 1,000 bushels of oats, as well as 130 pounds of wool, 100 bushels of sweet potatoes, 550 pounds of butter, and 50 pounds of beeswax and honey. Miles German would have been very involved in the care of these animals and the production of these crops. About 1854 Miles German married his wife Ellen Jordan. She was enslaved by Freeman Walker Jordan and his wife Martha Ann Carothers Jordan. The couple was both about 21 years old andceremony was conducted by Smith Owens, who Ellen described as a "colored preacher." During this time, Miles German was kept in slavery separated from his wife. He was only allowed visitation at the German family's discretion. In 1855 the couple's first child, a son Jerry was born, followed by Augustus and then Alice.
On October 22, 1863, Miles German enlisted in Company I of the 13th US Colored Infantry at Stevenson, Alabama. On his enlistment papers, Pvt. German was described as a 30-year-old laborer of dark complexion and 5'7" tall. It appears that right around the time of Pvt. German's enlistment, his youngest child was conceived. The following summer Ellen gave birth to their daughter Martha Jane.
Pvt. German participated in the work of the 13th - including building and guarding the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad. On November 30, 1864 (as the Battle of Franklin was raging back at home) Pvt German and the whole regiment was ordered to Nashville and placed in the 2nd Colored Brigade under Colonel C. R. Thompson. As part of that brigade, the 13th suffered heavy losses in the battle of Nashville December 15-16, 1864; especially in the assault of Overton’s Hill (also called Peach Orchard Hill) on the 16th.
Pvt. Miles German was wounded at the Battle of Nashville and sent to General Hospital No. 16 in Nashville with a gun shot wound that fractured his right thigh. It was not until January 19, 1865, more than a month after his injury, that Pvt. German died at General Hospital No. 16 in Nashville. His remains were buried originally in the US Burial Ground, South-West City Cemetery near the City Cemetery at the base of Fort Negley in Nashville. A few years later, his remains were transferred to the newly created Nashville National Cemetery in Madison.
Within a year, by September 1865, Pvt. German's widow 32-year-old Ellen was living in Nashville with her children: 9-year-old Jerry, 7-year-old Augustus, 5-year-old Alice, and 2-year-old Martha Jane. While there, she completed an affidavit as part of an application for a pension. Around 1881, Ellen left Tennessee for Topeka, Kansas. She seems supported herself by taking in boarders and working as a domestic servant. She was counted in the 1885 Kansas census as a 40-year-old woman in the household of Samuel Schuler, a white man, and working as a servant. In April of 1899, the Oklahoma Indian Territory was opened up to settlers in a land rush. Many former Black Williamson Countians who had moved from Tennesee to Topeka moved one more time - to a town called Dover in Kingfisher County. They helped elect one of their own, Green Currin, to be the first Black state legislator in Oklahoma. Ellen Jordan German died in Dover, Oklahoma in 1904. Her gravesite has not yet been identified..
You can read a longer version of this story here.
Cpl. Ned Scruggs
Edward "Ned" Scruggs was born about 1836 in Williamson County, Tennessee. He, his parents Alfred and Lishy, and his eight brothers and sisters were enslaved by a man named Ed Scruggs on the Scruggs family farm on Carter's Creek Pike west of Franklin approximately where Grace Christian Church and Grace Christian Academy are today. Ned married Mary Kinnard, who was enslaved by the neighboring Claiborne Kinnard family who lived where the Kinnard Springs subdivision is today. Ned and Mary's first child, London Scruggs, was born in 1851.
In early 1862, Tennessee's Confederate Capitol at Nashville fell to the Federal forces and came back under Union control. After that time, Ned made his escape and went to Nashville to work as a laborer for the US Army. He was assigned #923 and his "owner" was listed as "T. Scruggs" - Ed Scruggs' son Theo Scruggs. Ned Scruggs was employed for 5 months at a rate of $7/month. Then, on September 24, 1863, Ned Scruggs enlisted in Company F of the 13th US Colored Infantry. This was the first day that enlistment opened for this regiment. In his enlistment papers Ned Scruggs was described as a 24-year-old farmer who was 5'11" tall. After his enlistment, he mustered into Company F at "Camp Rosencranz" in Murfreesboro on November 19, 1863. The next day, he was promoted to be a corporal - which indicates that he was literate.
At some point during his time in the Army, Cpl. Scruggs' son Jarvis visited him with provisions. In Scruggs' pension file, he stated:
"My father went in the army but I do not know his regiment. I was sent by my mother while my father was in the army at Nashville, Tenn. to take him six chickens and I took them to him."
Cpl. Ned Scruggs mustered out of the Army in January 1866 and returned home to Williamson County where he lived for a short while with Mary and their two sons - Lundy (who was then 14) and Jarvis (then 6). During this time, a daughter Delia was conceived and born to the couple. Scruggs' father Alfred was still alive and working for their former enslaver's widow.
Scruggs later moved to Alabama. He died on February 6, 1908, in Elmont, Limestone County, Alabama. No gravesite has been located. You can read a longer description of Cpl. Scruggs' life here.
Pvt. Felix Battle
Pvt. Felix Battle was born in October 1851 in Williamson County. It is believed that he was held in slavery by Charity Ann Horn Battle (daughter of Isaac Battle) and her husband Martin Clarke. The white Battle family took Felix back and forth between Louisiana and Tennessee when he was a small child.
He was the youngest Williamson County USCT soldier when he enlisted on April 6, 1864 in the 13th USCI. He was described as a 13-year-old laborer and was assigned to be a musician, probably a drummer boy. ; Dec. 17, 1864 sick in hospital in Nashville; He survived the War, including the Battle of Nashville, to muster out with his regiment on Jan. 10, 1866 in Nashville.
About a year later, Felix Battle appears to have enlisted in the 38th Infantry of the regular army as a so-called Buffalo Soldier. Enlisting with him was 1st Sgt. George Jordan, also from Williamson County. These were the first Black regiments created following the abolition of slavery in the U.S. He served one year and was discharged at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas on January 3, 1870.
Battle later moved to Tensas Parish in northeast Louisiana where her married his wife Catherine Evans in 1873. The couple had 23 children and Felix Battle was a successful and well-respected member of the community. He served on several juries, could read and write and owned his own farm. Most of her children were sent back to Nashville to attend school here and some stayed in the area.
He died on September 20, 1927 at his home at "Lake Misery" in Tensas Parish. He was described as "honest, energetic and faithful to duty." in his obituary published in the local paper. He was survived by s
A memorial paver in his honor was sponsored by Tommy & Sue Justis.
Pension card for the Father of Edmond Carpenter. Carpenter died during the War from disease.
Rhode White, widow of Nelson Jones. The couple was married in Franklin on August 16, 1863
Blog Posts About Members of the 13th USCI from Williamson County