14th US Colored Infantry

On November 1, 1863, a white officer named Thomas Jefferson Morgan (read more below) reported to Gallatin, Tennessee to organize the 14th US Colored Infantry. A memoir that he wrote after the War about his time leading these men provides unique insight into the experiences Williamson County's USCT soldiers were experiencing. In addition, the Chaplain of the 14th USCI William Elgin kept a journal and it has likewise been very useful in the research regarding this regiment.

The men of the 14th US Colored Infantry served on duty at Chattanooga and in the District of East Tennessee until July, 1865. During that time, they were involved in fighting at Dalton, Georgia (August 15, 1864). Company B was on the skirmish line. Following the fight, Col. Morgan noted that the "regiment had been recognized as soldiers . . . After the fight, as we marched into town through a pouring rain, a white regiment standing at rest, swung their hats and gave three rousing cheers for the 14th Colored..." On September 27t, 1864, the regiment saw action at Pulaski, Tennessee.

Next, the 14th USCI was involved in the Siege of Decatur, Alabama (October 27-28, 1864). Again, thier valor was recognized: "As we marched inside hte works, the white soldiers, who had watched the maneuver, gave us three rousing cheers." In late November, the Regiment travelled from Chattanooga to Nashville to fortify the City in advance of the coming Battle of Nashville. On December 15-16, 1864, the 14th USCI fought alongside many other regiments of Black and white soldiers and defeated the Confederate Army of Tennessee. They pursued JohnBell Hood's Army back through Franklin and Williamson County - where some of the members had lived before the War. As Col. Morgan described:

When General Thomas rode over the battle-field and saw the bodies of colored men side by side with the foremost, on the very works of the enemy, he turned to his staff, saying: 'Gentlemen, the question in settled ; negroes will fight.' ...

After the great victory, we joined in the chase after the fleeing foe. Hood's army was whipped, demoralized, and pretty badly scattered. A good many stragglers were picked up. ...

After we had passed through Franklin, we had orders to turn about and return to that city. I was riding at the head of the column, followed by my own regiment. The men were swinging along, "arms at will," when they spied General Thomas and staff* approaching. Without orders they brought their arms to 'right shoulder shift,' took the step, and striking up their favorite tune of 'John Brown,' whistled it with admirable effect while passing the General, greatly to his amusement.

From there they were sent to Greenville, TN and served in the Dept. of the Tennessee until March,1866. They mustered out in Nashville on March 26, 1866.

At least thirteen men from Williamson County served in the 14th US Colored Infantry. They all enlisted between October 15 and December 15, 1863. In the fall of 1863, recruiting stations were being opened around Middle Tennessee to encourage African American men to enlist in the USCT - including one in Gallatin, Tennessee. All of the men from Williamson County who enlisted in the 14th USCI enlisted at Gallatin, This may be because there because of a large "contraband" or a refugee camp that had developed there under the command of General E. A. Paine.


  • Sgt. Isaac "Ike" Dalton was born in Williamson County and enslaved by the John Henry Dalton family. On November 15, 1863 when he was 18 years old he enlisted in Company B of the 14th USCI in Gallatin. He survived to muster out with his regiment. On August 12, 1868 he married Mary Jane Scales in Williamson County. He was a successful farmer in the Arrington area on Murfreesboro Road. He died in 1939 and is buried in a family cemetery on Murfreesboro Road. He has living descendants who still live in Williamson County. A paver in his honor was sponsored by Vincent A.Caviglia.


  • Pvt. Willis Green, enlisted in Company F, on 1 Nov 1863, at Gallatin when he was a 24 year old farmer. He was born in Williamson County about 1839. Sick in hospital in Nashville beginning Nov 24, 1863. On April 19, 1864 he deserted from General Hospital No. 16.


  • Pvt. Peter House, born in Franklin, Williamson County was described at enlistment as dark brown, 5’4” tall. He enlisted when he was a 27 year old porter in Company D on 1 Dec 1863 at Gallatin. He saw action at Dalton August 1864. In Nov/Dec 1865 he was on daily duty in the Drum Corp; he mustered out March 26, 1866 in Nashville


  • Pvt. Andrew G. Johnson, aka Andrew Giddens or Thub Giddens, enlisted Company F, on 1 Nov 1863, at Gallatin. He was born in Williamson County around 1841. When he enlisted he was a 22-year-old farmer. He mustered out March 26, 1866. He may have been a laborer on the Nashville fortifications before enlistment :"Andrew Johnson, owner R. Johnson, #641". Following the War, he moved to Maury County and started a family. By 1920 he had moved to Franklin and was living with his son Andrew Giddens, Jr at his home on South Margin Street. He died there on April 2, 1920 and appears to have been buried at the Toussaint L'Ouveture cemetery although no headstone has been located. His widow applied for a pension.


  • Pvt. William Johnson was born in Williamson County around 1843. He may have been a laborer on the Nashville fortifications before he enlisted in Company K, on 15 Dec 1863, at Gallatin when he was a 20-year-old farmer. He mustered in Feb. 27, 1864 in Chattanooga. A medical discharge was furnished April 20, 1866.


  • Cpl. Abraham McGavock was born in Franklin, Tennessee around 1842. He was the son of Dafney and Daniel Perkins and had 12 siblings including a brother (Fountain) and a sister (Mary London). Abraham, his mother Dafney, and siblings were enslaved by the family of Nicholas Tate Perkins on the west side of Franklin. His father Daniel was enslaved nearby on Thomas "Hardin" Perkins' Meeting of the Waters plantation on Del Rio Pike. When Cpl. McGavock was about five years old he was taken from his parents and siblings and sold to James McGavock who lived where the Forrest Crossing subdivision is in Franklin today. He was put in the care of an enslaved young woman named Julia McGavock who had previously been kept at nearby Carnton Plantation. He enlisted at 21 years old in Company G, on 15 Nov 1863, at Gallatin. He was appointed corporal April 1, 1865 and wounded by gunfire during a skirmish around that time. He mustered out in 1866 with a still festering wound and died in 1869 of complications from his injury. His full story is explored in this blog post. His memorial paver was sponsored by Laura Seay.


  • Pvt. Samuel Polk, was born around 1845 in Williamson County. He enlisted at 18 years old in Company B on 15 Nov 1863, at Gallatin. He deserted January 23, 1864 from near Bridgeport, Alabama


  • Pvt. Thomas Scales was born around 1835 in Williamson County. He enlisted in Company A, on 15 Oct 1863, at Gallatin, Tennessee, when he was a 28 year old farmer. In July & August 1865 he was on daily duty as a fireman in Knoxville, Tennessee. On March 26, 1866 he mustered out in Nashville.


  • Pvt. Robert Spratt was born in 1841 in Williamson County. He was a teamster when he enlisted in Company C, on 1 Nov 1863, at Gallatin. He died Dec. 2, 1865 in the Pest Hospital in Chattanooga. He is buried at the Chattanooga National Cemetery, Plot: J, 3546


  • Pvt. George Steel (Steele) was born in Williamson County in 1844. He enlisted in the Company F, on 1 Nov 1863, at Gallatin. He mustered out March 26, 1866 in Nashville. He retained his rifle.


  • Pvt. Samuel L. Thomas, was born in 1845 in Williamson County. He was an 18 year old farmer when he enlisted in Company D, on 1 Nov 1863, at Gallatin. On March 26, 1866 he mustered out in Nashville.


  • Pvt. John Wm Woodward was born in 1845 in Williamson County. He was an 18 year old farmer when he enlisted in Company I, on 15 Dec 1863, at Gallatin. He mustered in as an under cook in Gallatin on Jan. 1, 1864. On January 18, 1864 he was sick in General hospital No. 1 in Gallatin. He died August 23, 1864 in Chattanooga of chronic diarrhea. His records include an inventory of his effects. He is buried at the Chattanooga National Cemetery inPlot: J.


  • Pvt. Robert Washington was born in 1844. He enlisted in Sparta, Tennessee on April 1, 1864. He was 18 years old when he joined Company B. He survived to muster out. Following the War, he married Jane Perkins in Williamson County on January 11, 1868. The couple lived in District 18 of the County and Pvt. Washington was counted there in the 1890 Veterans' Census. By 1900 they had moved to Nashville.

Image: Detail from The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. A group of of USCT soldiers encamped near the Citico Mound, which was located along the Tennessee River near today's Riverside Drive. It is not clear which regiment they were with, but it could be the 14th USCI.

Photo Archives, Isaac Bonsall Collection of Photographs, Image ID 184909

Sgt. Charles Tyree

Charles Tyree was born in Sumner County, Tennessee. He enlisted in Company G of the 14th Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry on December 1, 1863 at the age of nineteen. He was wounded in 1864 and appointed Sergeant in 1865. He settled in Indianapolis in the 1870s, where he resided until his death in 1923. (Indiana Historical Society)

Letter from Sgt. Hannibal Cox to

President Abraham Lincoln

March 30, 1864


From a man of no education. And have been doomed to slavery –During life, and was born In Powhatan Co. [Virginia]and was raised in - Richmond Virginia. And I am now a Soldier In U. S. Army. – And I will Speak these few words In Answer to all whom it – May Concern. Where Ever it may roam.

I have left my wife And Children but – Tho. I. have not yet forsaken them. and made one grasp – at the Flag of the union and Declared it shall never fall– For we love it like the Sunshine, and the Stars and azure air. –

Ho for the flag of the union. the Stripes and the Stars of light.–A million arms. Shall guard it. and may god defend the right.–

Ay, brothers let us love it, and let Every heart be true.– And let Every arm be ready, for we have glorious work to do.–

Ho. for the Flag of the union. the Stripes and the Stars of Light.– a million arms shall guard it. and may. God defend the right.–

I. Hope we may meet again In the bonds of love to greet fare well I hope History may tell

Hannibal Cox

Co. B. 14th U. S. Colored Troops

Chattanooga Tenn

march 30th 1864

I. sends this for you to look at

you must not laugh at it

Col. Thomas Jefferson Morgan

Col. Thomas Jefferson Morgan organized and led the men of the 14th USCI. Early in the war, he served in Indiana regiments. Morgan wrote in his memoir that he "early advocated [for] the organization of colored regiments" and thus in October 1863 applied for a position as an officer in the US Colored Troops in Nashville. Morgan was accepted into the USCT and appointed a Major. From there, he was sent to report to Major George L. Stearns who was in charge of recruiting the troops.

Excerpts From

Reminiscences of Service With Colored Troops

in the Army fo the Cumberland, 1863-1865

by Thomas Jefferson Morgan

I was quite as solicitous about their mental condition as about their physical status, so I plied them with questions as to their history, their experience with the army, their motives for becoming soldiers, their ideas of army life, their hopes for the future, &c, &e. I found that a considerable number of them had been teamsters, cooks, officers' servants, &c, and had thus seen a good deal of hard service in both armies, in camp, on the march and in battle, and so knew pretty well what to expect. In this respect they had the advantage of most raw recruits from the North, who were wholly 'unusued to wars' alarms.' Some of them had very noble ideas of manliness. I remember picturing to one bright-eyed fellow some of the hardships of camp life and campaigning, and receiving from him the cheerful reply, 'I know all about that.' I then said, 'you may be killed in battle.' He instantly answered, 'many a better man than me has been killed in this war.' When I told another one who wanted to 'fight for freedom,' that he might lose his life, he replied, 'but my people will be free."


Excerpts From

by Thomas Jefferson Morgan


Organization of the 14th USCI in Gallatin, Tennessee

By order of Major Stearns, [November 1, 1863] I went to Gallatin, Tennessee, to organize the 14th United States Colored Infantry…There were at that time several hundred negro men in camp, in charge of, I think, a lieutenant. They were a motley crowd—old, young, middle-aged. Some wore the United States uniform, but most of them had on the clothes in which they had left the plantations, or had worn during periods of hard service as laborers in the army.

...They had not passed a medical examination, had no company organization and had had no drill. Almost immediately upon my arrival, as an attack was imminent, I was ordered to distribute another hundred muskets, and to 'prepare every available man for fight.' I did the best I could under the circumstances, but am free to say that I regard it as a fortunate circumstance that we had no fighting to do at that time. But the men raw, and, untutored as they were, did guard and picket duty, went foraging, guarded wagon trains, scouted after guerillas, and so learned to soldier —by soldiering.

As soon and as fast as practicable, I set about organizing the regiment. I was a complete novice in that kind of work, and all the young officers who reported to me for duty, had been promoted from the ranks and were without experience, except as soldiers. The colored men knew nothing of the duties of a soldier, except a little they had picked up as camp-followers.

Fortunately there was one man, Mr. A. H. Dunlap [see Sgt. Isaac Dalton's Company Description card with Dunlap's name on it], who had had some clerical experience with Col. Birney, in Baltimore, in organizing the 3rd U. S. Colored Infantry. He was an intelligent, methodical gentleman, and rendered me invaluable service. I had no Quartermaster; no surgeon; no Adjutant. We had no tents, and the men were sheltered in an old filthy tobacco warehouse, where they fiddled, danced, sang, swore or prayed, according to their mood.

How to meet the daily demands made upon us for military duty, and at the same time to evoke order out of this chaos, was no easy problem. The first thing to be done was to examine the men. A room was prepared, and I and my clerk took our stations at a table. One by one the recruits came before us a la Eden, sans the fig leaves, and were subjected to a careful medical examination, those who were in any way physically disqualified being rejected. Many bore the wounds and bruises of the slave-driver's lash, and many were unfit for duty by reason of some form of disease to which human flesh is heir. In the course of a few weeks, however, we had a thousand able-bodied, stalwart men.

I was quite as solicitous about their mental condition as about their physical status, so I plied them with questions as to their history, their experience with the army, their motives for becoming soldiers, their ideas of army life, their hopes for the future, &c, &e. I found that a considerable number of them had been teamsters, cooks, officers' servants, &c, and had thus seen a good deal of hard service in both armies, in camp, on the march and in battle, and so knew pretty well what to expect. In this respect they had the advantage of most raw recruits from the North, who were wholly 'unusued to wars' alarms.' Some of them had very noble ideas of manliness. I remember picturing to one bright-eyed fellow some of the hardships of camp life and campaigning, and receiving from him the cheerful reply, 'I know all about that.' I then said, 'you may be killed in battle.' He instantly answered, 'many a better man than me has been killed in this war.' When I told another one who wanted to 'fight for freedom,' that he might lose his life, he replied, 'but my people will be free."

The result of this careful examination convinced me that these men, though black in skin, had men's hearts, and only needed right handling to develope into magnificent soldiers. Among them were the same varieties of physique, temperament, mental and moral endowments and experiences, as would be found among the same number of white men. Some of them were finely formed and powerful; some were almost white; a large number had in their veins white blood of the F. F. V. [First Families of Virginia] quality; some were men of intelligence, and many of them deeply religious.

Acting upon my clerk's suggestion, I assigned them to companies according to their height, putting men of nearly the same height together. When the regiment was full, the four center companies were all composed of tall men, the flanking companies of men of medium height, while the little men were sandwiched between. The effect was excellent in every way, and made the regiment quite unique. It was not uncommon to have strangers who saw it parade for the first time, declare that the men were all of one size.'

In six weeks three companies were filled, uniformed, armed, and had been taught many soldierly ways. They had been drilled in the facings, in the manual of arms, and in some company movements.

The Nashville Daily Union, Thursday December 10, 1863

Sgt. Henry Johnson Maxwell - Recruiter

Among the men involved in recruiting soldiers into the 14th USCI was Henry Johnson Maxwell. Maxwell was born free near Charleston, South Carolina. Well-educated, he lived in several northern states and was active in advocating for voting rights for African Americans before the Civil War. Following the formation of the US Colored Troops, he joined the efforts of abolitionist George Luther Stearns in helping to organize USCT regiments in the Nashville area. He was stationed in Gallatin, Tennesse assisted in raising the 14th, 15th and 16th USCI. He resigned from being a recruiting officer and volunteered with the 2nd US Colored Light Artillery, Battery A. Following the War, he returned to Charleston where he became an attorney and was elected to the State Senate of South Carolina.

Arrival in Chattanooga, January 1864

Chaplain Elgin described their arrival in Chattanooga this way: "January 24th - Arrived in Chatttanoga by rail from Gallatin - distance 177 miles. Ours being the first Regiment of colored troops ever in Chattanooga and the first seen by most of the Cumberland Army, attracts great notice from the army. The command meets a far more cordial reception than we had expected. Went into camp one-half mile south of town in full view of the Tenn. River, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge."

Likewise, Capt. J. H. Meteer observed a similar reaction to the Black troops' arrival: "The 14th ‘Unwashed Americans’ arrived here last evening by rail from Nashville. As we were the first colored troops to have visited this place we created more excitement than so many monkeys and elephants. All the way from Stevenson here we were cheered by thousands of soldiers who are camped along the road … Old soldiers are almost universally in favor of the enterprise of arming negroes. Citizens, of course, are very bitter against them."

J.H. Meteer to C. Mills, August 8, 1864, Caleb Mills Collection, Indiana Historical Society, quoted in Renard Dissertation

Detail from photo "Close order Black Platoon Drill in Parade Plaza near Chattanooga, Tennessee."

Could be the camp of the 14th USCI.

Isaac Bonsall Collection of Photographs, Huntington Digital Library, Image 393251

Education.

Colonel T. J. Morgan was dedicating to educating his soldiers. He recalled in his memoir how, "In addition to the ordinary instruction in the duties required of the soldier, we established in every company a regular school, teaching men to read and write, and taking great pains to cultivate in them self-respect and all manly qualities. Our success in this respect was ample compensation for our labor. The men who went on picket or guard duty, took their books as quite as indispensable as their coffee pots."

Morgan was joined in his efforts by Chaplain William Elgin. One of his first endeavors was to create schools for the men and wrote on January 8, 1864 that he had, "prepared a tent for teaching in, organized five classes and began the work of educating the Regiment, resolved to do my utmost toward the mental, moral and spiritual culture of the men." He described in his diary that of the 1,000 men in the regiment they were hoping to bring to literacy, only about 50 could read upon enlistment.

Captain Meteer also was supportive of the efforts to educate the soldiers of the 14th USCI. In August 1864, he wrote that his men were “very anxious to learn to read, write &c. My head company cook, a man of 33 years, warped and stiffened by labor and abuse, was in tonight to take his first lesson in the Alphabet. He is very anxious to learn and I think will succeed. The Orderly Sergeant is anxious to get to studying Algebra and Philosophy….”

J.H. Meteer to C. Mills, August 8, 1864, Caleb Mills Collection, Indiana Historical Society, quoted in Renard Dissertation

Cleveland Daily Leader, Wednesday May 31, 1865

Journal entry from Chaplain William Elgin, 14th US Colored Infantry: May 10, 1864, Chattanooga.

"Received and issued today the following school books to the Reg't. - Primary Lessons 700, McGuffey's Spelling Books 360, 1st Readers 240, 2nd Readers 240, 3rd Readers 60"

Excerpts From

Reminiscences of Service With Colored Troops

in the Army fo the Cumberland, 1863-1865

by Thomas Jefferson Morgan

November 20th, 1863 - Bridgeport, Alabama

Gen. G. H. Thomas commanding the Department of the Cumberland, ordered six companies [of the 14th USCI] to Bridgeport, Alabama, under command of Major H. C. Corbin. I was left at Gallatin to complete the organization of the other four companies. [Note: Thomas Scales (Co A), Isaac Dalton & Samuel Polk (Co B), Robert Spratt (Co C), and Peter House & Samuel L. Thomas (Co D) of Williamson County were sent to to Bridgeport, Alabama. In fact, Samuel Thomas deserted from near there on January 23, 1864.]

When the six companies were full, I was mustered in as Lieutenant-Colonel. The complete organization of the regiment occupied about two months, being finished by Jan. 1st, 1864. The field, staff and company officers were all white men. All the non-commissioned officers,—Hospital Steward, Quartermaster, Sergeant, Sergeant-Major, Orderlies, sergeants and corporals were colored. They proved very efficient, and had the war continued two years longer, many of them would have been competent as commissioned officers.

When General Paine left Gallatin, I was senior officer and had command of the post and garrison, which included a few white soldiers besides my own troops. Colored soldiers acted as pickets, and no citizen was allowed to pass our lines either into the village or out, without a proper permit. Those presenting themselves without a pass were sent to headquarters under guard. Thus many proud Southern slave-holders found themselves marched through the street, guarded by those who three months before had been slaves. The negroes often laughed over these changed relations as they sat around their camp fires, or chatted together while off duty, but it was very rare that any Southerner had reason to complain of any unkind or uncivil treatment from a colored soldier.

About the first of January [1864] occurred a few days of extreme cold weather, which tried the men sorely. One morning after one of the most severe nights, the officers coming in from picket, marched the men to headquarters, and called attention to their condition: their feet were frosted and their hands frozen. In some instances the skin on their fingers had broken from the effects of the cold, and it was sad to see their sufferings. Some of them never recovered from the effects of that night, yet they bore it patiently and uncomplainingly."

Around this time, Col Morgan was joined in his efforts by Chaplain William Elgin. He kept a diary this time and writes about his days with the 14th USCI. One of his first efforts was to create schools for the men and wrote on January 8th that he had, "prepared a tent for teaching in, organized five classes and began the work of educating the Regiment, resolved to do my utmost toward the mental, moral and spiritual culture of the men."

Continuing Col Morgan's memoir -- "In January I had a personal interview with General Thomas, and secured an order uniting the regiment at Chattanooga. We entered camp there under the shadow of Lookout Mountain, and in full view of Mission Ridge, in February 1864."

As Chaplain Elgin described their arrival in Chattanooga - "January 24th - Arrived in Chatttanooga by rail from Gallatin - distance 177 miles. Ours being the first Regiment of colored troops ever in Chattanooga and the first seen by most of the Cumberland Army, attracts great notice from the army. The command meets a far more cordial reception than we had expected. Went into camp one-half mile south of town in full view of the Tenn. River, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge."

From Colonel Morgan -- "During the same month Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas, from Washington, then on a tour of inspection, visited my regiment, and authorized me to substitute the eagle for the silver leaf.

Chattanooga was at that time the headquarters of the Army of the Cumberland. Gen Thomas and staff, and a considerable part of the army were there. Our camp was laid out with great regularity; our quarters were substantial, comfortable and well kept. The regiment numbered a thousand men, with a full compliment of field, staff, line and non-commissioned officers. We had a good drum corps, and a band provided with a set of expensive silver instruments. We were also fully equipped; the men were armed with rifled muskets, and well clothed. They were well drilled in the manual of arms, and took great pride in appearing on parade with arms burnished, belts polished, shoes blacked, clothes brushed, in full regulation uniform, including white gloves. On every pleasant day our parades were witnessed by officers, soldiers and citizens from the North, and it was not uncommon to have two thousand spectators. Some came to make sport, some from curiosity, some because it was the fashion, and others from a genuine desire to see for themselves what sort of looking soldiers negroes would make.

Friday, October 28, 1864, at twelve o'clock, at the head of three hundred and fifty-five men, in obedience to orders from General Granger, I charged and took a battery, with a loss of sixty officers and men killed and wounded. After capturing the battery, and spiking the guns, which we were unable to remove, we retired to our former place in the line of defense. The conduct of the men on this occasion was most admirable, and drew forth high praise from General Granger and Thomas.

Hood, having decided to push on to Nashville without assaulting Decatur, withdrew. As soon as I missed his troops from my front, I notified the General commanding, and was ordered to pursue, with the view of finding where he was. About ten o'clock the next morning [October 29], my skirmishers came up with his rear guard, which opened upon us a brisk infantry fire. Lieutenant [Charles] Woodworth [of Company K], standing at my side, fell dead, pierced through the face. General Granger ordered me to retire inside of the works, and the regiment, although exposed to a sharp fire, came off in splendid order. As we marched inside the works, the white soldiers, who had watched the maneuver, gave us three rousing cheers. I have heard the Pope's famous choir at St. Peters, and the great organ at Freibourg, but the music was not so sweet as the hearty plaudits of our brave comrades.

As indicating the change in public sentiment relative to colored soldiers, it may be mentioned that the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 68th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, requested me as a personal favor to ask for the assignment of his regiment to my journey of 244 miles, we returned to Chattanooga, but not to remain.

Battle of Nashville.

Nashville, Tenn. —November 29, 1864, in command of the 14th, 16th and 44th Regiments U. S. C. I., I embarked on a railroad train at Chattanooga for Nashville.

[Pvt. Willis Green, from Williamson County, of Company F was identified as "sick in a hospital in Nashville beginning November 24, 1863" (probably 29th). It appears that upon his arrival in Nashville he went straight to the hospital. He was there for several months and on April 19, 1864 he deserted from General Hospital No. 16. He had likely heard news of Robert E. Lee's surrender and believed the war was coming to a close and decided to start his life as a free man. In January of 1867 he married his wife in Gallatin and the couple appear on an 1870 Census there.]

On December 1st, with the 16th and most of the 14th, I reached my destination, and was assigned to a place on the extreme left of General Thomas' army then concentrating for the defence of Nashville against Hood's threatened attack. [Note this is in response to Hood's attack on Franklin and in preparation for the Battle of Nashville. Col. Thomas was placed in charge of the 1st Colored Brigade composed of the 14th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 44th U.S. Colored Troops.]

The train that contained the 44th colored regiment, and two companies of the 14th, under command of Colonel Johnson, was delayed near Murfreesboro until Dec. 2nd, when it started for Nashville. But when crossing a bridge not far from the city, its progress was suddenly checked by a cross-fire of cannon belonging to Forest's command. I had become very anxious over the delay in the arrival of these troops, and when I heard the roar of cannon thought it must be aimed at them. I never shall forget the intensity of my suffering, as hour after hour passed by bringing me no tidings. Were they all captured? Had they been massacred? Who could answer? No one. What was to be done? Nothing. I could only wait and suffer. [See the story of Private Granville Scales of Williamson County who was one of the members of the 44th injured and taken prisoner of war in this event.] ...

Some of the soldiers who escaped lost everything except the clothes they had on, including knapsacks, blankets and arms. In some cases they lay (in the water hiding for hours, until they could escape their pursuers.

Soon after taking our position in line at Nashville, we were closely besieged by Hood's army; and thus we lay facing each other for two weeks. ...

On December 5th, before the storm, by order of General Steadman, I made a little reconnaissance, capturing, with slight loss, Lieutenant Gardner and six men, from the 5th Mississippi Regiment. December 7th we made another, in which Colonel Johnson and three or four men were wounded. ...

But the great day drew near. The weather grew warmer; the ice gave way. Thomas was ready, and calling together his chiefs, laid before them his plan of battle. ...

The morning dawned with a dense fog, which held us in check for some time after we were ready to march. ...

On the morning of December 15th [1864]...As soon as the fog lifted, the battle began in good earnest. Hood mistook my assault for an attack in force upon his right flank, and weakening his left in order to meet it, gave the coveted opportunity to Thomas, who improved it by assailing Hood's left flank, doubling it up, and capturing a large number of prisoners.

Thus the first day's fight wore away. It had had stubbornly resisted, but had been gallantly driven back with severe loss. The left had done its duty. General Steadman congratulated us, saying his only fear had been that we might fight too hard. We had done all he desired, and more. Colored soldiers had again fought side by side with white troops; they had mingled together in the charge; they had supported each other; they had assisted each other from the field when wounded, and they lay side by side in death. The survivors rejoiced together over a hard fought field, won by a common valor. All who witnessed their conduct, gave them equal praise. The day that we had longed to see had come and gone, and the sun went down upon a record of coolness, bravery, manliness, never to be unmade. A new chapter in the history of liberty had been written. It had been shown that, marching under a flag of freedom, animated by a love of liberty, even the slave becomes a man and a hero.

... During that night Hood withdrew his army some two miles, and took up a new line along the crest of some low hills, which he strongly fortified with some improvised breast works and abatis. Soon after our early breakfast, we moved forward over the intervening space. My position was still on the extreme left of our line, and I was especially charged to look well to our flank, to avoid surprise.

The 2nd Colored Brigade, under Colonel Thompson, of the 12th USCT was on my right, and participated in the first days' charge upon Overton's Hill, which was repulsed. I stood where the whole movement was in full view. It was a grand and terrible sight to see those men climb that hill over rocks and fallen trees, in the face of a murderous fire of cannon and musketry, only to be driven back. White and black mingled together in the charge, and on the retreat.

When the 2nd Colored Brigade retired behind my lines to re-form, one of the regimental color-bearers stopped in the open space between the two armies, where, although exposed to a dangerous fire, he planted his flag firmly in the ground, and began deliberately and coolly to return the enemy's fire, and, greatly to our amusement, kept up for some little time his independent warfare.

When the second and final assault was made, the right of my line took part. It was with breathless interest I watched that noble sprang upon the earthworks, and the enemy seeing that further resistance was madness, gave way and began a precipitous retreat, our hearts swelled as only the hearts of soldiers can, and scarcely stopping to cheer or to await orders, we pushed forward and joined in the pursuit, until the darkness and the rain forced a halt.

The battle of Nashville did not compare in numbers engaged, in severity of fighting, or in the losses sustained, with some other Western battles. But in the issues at stake, the magnificent generalship of Thomas, the completeness of our triumph, and the immediate and far- reaching consequences, it was unique, and deservedly ranks along with Gettysburg, as one of the decisive battles of the war.

When General Thomas rode over the battle-field and saw the bodies of colored men side by side with the foremost, on the very works of the enemy, he turned to his staff, saying: 'Gentlemen, the question in settled ; negroes will fight.' ...

After the great victory, we joined in the chase after the fleeing foe. Hood's army was whipped, demoralized, and pretty badly scattered. A good many stragglers were picked up. ...

After we had passed through Franklin, we had orders to turn about and return to that city. I was riding at the head of the column, followed by my own regiment. The men were swinging along, "arms at will," when they spied General Thomas and staff* approaching. Without orders they brought their arms to 'right shoulder shift,' took the step, and striking up their favorite tune of 'John Brown,' whistled it with admirable effect while passing the General, greatly to his amusement.


Hood's Retreat

We had a very memorable march from Franklin to Murfreesboro, over miserable dirt roads. About December 19th or 20th, we were on the march at an early hour, but the rain was there before us, and stuck by us closer than a brother. We were drenched through and through, and few had a dry thread. We waded streams of water nearly waist deep; we pulled through mud that seemed to have no bottom, and where many a soldier left his shoes seeking for it. The open woods pasture where we went into camp that night, was surrounded with a high fence made of cedar rails. That fence was left standing, and was not touched —until—well, I do believe that the owners bitterness at his loss was fully balanced by the comfort and good cheer which those magnificent rail fires afforded us that December night. They did seem providentially provided for us.

During the night the weather turned cold, and when we resumed our march the ground was frozen and the roads were simply dreadful, especially for those of our men who had lost their shoes the day before and disappeared to return no more, and we were allowed to go back to Chattanooga, glad of an opportunity to rest. Distance travelled, 420 miles.

[This long, difficult ordeal must have taken its toll on Williamson County's members of the 14th USCI. Sgt. Isaac Dalton was sick in General Hospital No. 4 in Chattanooga in January and February 1865.]

We had no more fighting. There were many interesting experiences, which, however, I will not take time to relate. In August, 1865, being in command of the Post at Knoxville, Tenn., grateful to have escaped without imprisonment, wounds, or even a day of severe illness, I resigned my commission, after forty months of service, to resume my studies.

I cannot close this paper without expressing the conviction that history has not yet done justice to the share borne by colored soldiers in the war for the Union. Their conduct during that eventful period, has been a silent, but most potent factor in influencing public sentiment, shaping legislation, and fixing the status of colored people in America. If the records of their achievements could be put into such shape that they could be accessible to the thousands of colored youth in the South, they would kindle in their young minds an enthusiastic devotion to manhood and liberty." - Thomas Jefferson Morgan

Headstone for Pvt. Robert Spratt, 14th USCI in the Chattanooga National Cemetery

Headstone for Pvt. John Woodward, 14th USCI in the Chattanooga National Cemetery


Daily American Union, Tuesday March 20, 1866

The 14th USCI would be holding its final dress parade before muster out.

Col. T. J. Morgan had commented on the 14th USCI participation in dress parades in his memoir:

"The regiment numbered a thousand men, with a full compliment of field, staff, line and non-commissioned officers. We had a good drum corps, and a band provided with a set of expensive silver instruments. We were also fully equipped; the men were armed with rifled muskets, and well clothed. They were well drilled in the manual of arms, and took great pride in appearing on parade with arms burnished, belts polished, shoes blacked, clothes brushed, in full regulation uniform, including white gloves. On every pleasant day our parades were witnessed by officers, soldiers and citizens from the North, and it was not uncommon to have two thousand spectators. Some came to make sport, some from curiosity, some because it was the fashion, and others from a genuine desire to see for themselves what sort of looking soldiers negroes would make."

Detail from photo "Close order Black Platoon Drill in Parade Plaza near Chattanooga, Tennessee."

Could be the 14th USCI.

Isaac Bonsall Collection of Photographs, Huntington Digital Library, Image 393251

The Colored Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee

March 1866

Report of a pension examiner regarding Sgt. Isaac Dalton's pension. Dalton was living in the Arrington area of Williamson County at the time of the report, May 20, 1936.