15th US Colored Infantry

The 15th US Colored Infantry was initially organized at Shelbyville, Tennessee beginning in September 1863, soon after the battle of Chickamauga. Later, recruitment moved to Nashville beginning December 2, 1863. 

Records show that 24 men who were born in Williamson County enlisted in the 15th US Colored Infantry.  Most enlisted in Columbia, Tennessee. It seems likely that these men were laborers at Fort Granger in Franklin before being taken to Columbia for enlistment (see below).

The Williamson County men who enlisted in the 15th US Colored Infantry include:

On November 28, 1863

On November 28, 1863

On December 2, 1863

On December 3, 1863

On December 4, 1863

On December 5, 1863

On December 8, 1863

On December 9, 1863

On December 11, 1863

On December 14, 1863

On December 31, 1863

On January 11, 1864

On January 14, 1864

On January 18, 1864

In March, 1864  the regiment reported to Lieutenant Colonel J. L. Donaldson, Chief Quartermaster for the Department of the Cumberland, at Nashville, for duty in his department.

On March 11, 1864

On April 15, 1864

On April 30, 1864, with Colonel Thomas J. Downey in command, it was reported in the District of Nashville, Post of Nashville, under Brigadier General R. S. Granger. 

On June 15, Col. Donaldson wrote Major General W. T. Sherman: “Captain Mussey informs me that General Lorenzo Thomas has ordered the 15th and 17th Colored Regiments to Bowling Green. These regiments are here on fatigue duty under my orders, and I cannot possibly spare them. Please countermand the order or I shall be paralyzed; as it is, I am struggling to keep my head above water.” The next record of the regiment found Colonel Downey in command at Springfield, Tennessee, on August 31, with the 15th, under the command of Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Cyrus F. Jackson, as the only regiment stationed there. Colonel Mussey stated that in September or October, 1864, some recruits from Ohio were assigned to the regiment.

On September 11, 1864

The regiment continued to be reported at Springfield until April 1865; at first under Lieutenant Colonel Jackson, later under Captain (later Major) George T. Armstrong. Reports indicate that during this period it did guard duty on the Edgefield and Kentucky (now Louisville and Nashville) Railroad. 

In a letter from Major General George H. Thomas to General Sherman, dated October 21, 1864, he stated that the 15th and 17th, about 1200 strong, were guarding the Commissary Depots in the Nashville District.

On December 23, 1864, Brevet Brigadier General I. L. Donaldson was authorized to withdraw a portion of the 15th from the Edgefield and Kentucky Railroad for duty in Nashville.

On February 28, 1865, the regiment was reported at Springfield, with Captain Fielding L. Davies in command. On March 8, Colonel A. A. Smith, at Clarksville, was ordered to relieve that portion of the 15th from duty on the Edgefield and Kentucky Railroad between Clarksville and Bowling Green Junction, so that the guards between Springfield and Bowling Green Junction could be strengthened. On April 14, 1865, the regiment was relieved from duty on the railroad and ordered to report to Brevet Brigadier General J. L. Donaldson at Nashville.

On August 20,  1865 Major General George H. Thomas reported that the 15th was still on duty at Nashville, guarding public property, and added: “They had better remain here, as they now know what is expected of them, and are becoming reliable.”

Dyer’s Compendium states that the regiment remained in Middle Tennessee until mustered out of service on April 7, 1866.

Laborers at Fort Granger in Franklin, Tennessee

Research has revealed that the Williamson County  men who enlisted in Columbia were likely first paid laborers at Fort Granger here in Franklin, Tennessee.  Late in 1864, the US Senate sent investigators to report on the "Condition and Treatment of Colored Refugees" [Impressment of Black Laborers by Union Forces in Franklin; Senate Report Condition and Treatment of Colored Refugees, 38th Cong., 2d sess., S. Ex. Doc. 28 serial 1,209, Dec. 28, 1864.]

"They were only paid for one month (i.e., $10 each) – so still owed $80; but “induced to sign pay-rolls for this balance, which were taken by Lieutenant Brisbane, who was the quartermaster at this post at that time. The white laborers were paid, but not the colored. These colored men were afterward enlisted by Lieutenant Powell of the 15th colored regiment, and assigned to companies A and B, and are on duty at Columbia, Tennessee. Lieutenant Wharton is at the front, on Major General Thomas’ staff. He has not furnished them certificates, or any evidence whatsoever, of their claim against the government. It was represented to us that when Lieutenant Brisbane paid them the ten dollars, he had money sufficient to make the payment. He kept the rolls, and took them away with him.”

Headstone for Anderson Boxley, Company A

 He died of dysentery in a Nashville hospital on July 18, 1865. Initially he was buried in the Southwest City Cemetery near Fort Negley, but his body was re-interred at the Nashville National Cemetery in Madison.

Headstone for Abraham Creight (Crite), Company A, 

Pvt. Crite survived the war, married and moved to Nashville where he worked as a teamster. When he died in 1910, his family had his remains buried in the Nashville National Cemetery with a USCT headstone. 

Headstone for William Jordan. His remains were reinterred in the Nashville National Cemetery with a headstone that misspelled his name as William Tardam.

A canteen from the 15th USCI, Company I

Wesley Hannah from Williamon County served in this Company

Headstone for Cpl. Peter Hughs (Hughes), Company B, a 23-year-old married farmer. He mustered in at Shelbyville on Jan. 4, 1864. On January 16, 1864,  he was diagnosed with pneumonia and dysentery and he died at Wilson General Hospital, Nashville January 23, 1864. His remains were initially buried in the Due West City near Fort Negley but later reinterred at the Nashville National Cemetery. He left behind a widow Matilda and daughter Josephine who received a pension for his service.

Headstone for Pvt. Preston Moss, Company D, a 31-year-old farmer. He was transferred to Company G of the 101st USCI, an invalid corps. He died in General Hospital Nashville, Tenn No. 16 on Dec 1, 1864, of chronic disease of the heart. His remains were buried in the Nashville National Cemetery - Plot: , L.15361. His wife and minor children applied for a pension in his name.

Headstone for Pvt. Josephus Swanson, Company E, enlisted in Shelbyville. He was a married, 21-year-old farmer.  He died in the Cumberland Hospital in Nashville on March 30, 1866 from “anasarca following variola” (Generalized massive edema following smallpox). His effects consisted of a blouse, drawers, and shoes. Pvt. Swanson was buried in the Small Pox Cemetery 2 miles N.W. of Nashville. Later his remains were reinterred in the Nashville National Cemetery. His wife Bettie McEwen applied for a pension following his death.

Headstone for Pvt. Peter Ratcliffe Jr, Company B, a 29-year-old farmer, husband, and father of a 2-year-old daughter at the time of enlistment. Before the War, Pvt. Ratcliffe and his family were been enslaved by the family of Gideon Ratcliffe.  Following the War, he returned to Williamson County and lived the rest of his life in Franklin on Natchez Street in a home he purchased from local preacher and businessman ANC Williams. Ratcliffe died in Franklin on October 27, 1920 and is buried at the historic Toussaint L'Ouveture Cemetery in Franklin.

February 1866 Camped in Nashville. 

Following the official end of the War, the 15th USCI stayed on duty in Nashville. On February 1, 1866  a fire broke out at the Cumberland Hospital where white troops were recovering from injuries and disease. The men of the 15th USCI sprang into action and provided help in extinguishing the flame and removing the patients.  The regiment mustered out of service on April 7, 1866.