44th US Colored Infantry
The 44th U.S. Colored Infantry was organized in Chattanooga, Tennessee beginning April 7, 1864 for three-year service under the command of Colonel Lewis Johnson.
The regiment was attached to District of Chattanooga, Department of the Cumberland, to November 1864. Unattached, District of the Etowah, Department of the Cumberland, to December 1864. 1st Colored Brigade, District of the Etowah, Department of the Cumberland, to January 1865. Unattached, District of the Etowah, to March 1865. 1st Colored Brigade, Department of the Cumberland, to July 1865. 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, District of East Tennessee, July 1865. Department of the Cumberland and Department of Georgia to April 1866.
The 44th U.S. Colored Infantry mustered out of service April 30, 1866.
SERVICE: Post and garrison duty at Chattanooga, Tennessee, until November, 1864. Action at Dalton, Georgia, October 13, 1864. Battle of Nashville, December 15–16. Pursuit of Hood to the Tennessee River December 17–28. Post and garrison duty at Chattanooga in the District of East Tennessee, and in the Department of Georgia until April 1866.
The regiment was captured at Dalton, Georgia in the largest surrender of African American soldiers during the war. Although the white officers were soon paroled, approximately 250 enlisted men were returned to their former owners. Another 350 enlisted men were pressed into Confederate service as personal servants for officers or as engineer labor in Mississippi and at Mobile, Alabama. By December 1, 1865, only 125 of these men were still alive. Col. Johnson returned to Tennessee as soon as he was able and recruited again for the regiment, mustering approximately 300 men.
Seven men from Williamson County are known to have enlisted in the 44th USCI. Six of them were born here.
Pvt. Charles Austin [Alston] was born in Williamson County around 1846. He enlisted in Company B on March 16, 1864 in Chattanooga. He was described as an 18 year old farmer. On Oct 13, 1864 he was taken Prisoner of War. On Feb 20, 1865 he escaped from the enemy and rejoined his regiment. On April 30, 1866 he mustered out in Nashville
Pvt. George Norris was born in Williamson County around 1846. He enlisted in Company B on March 16, 1864 in Chattanooga. During the War, he served on detached service as Brigadier Teamster and in the quartermaster department. On April 30, 1866 he mustered out Nashville.
Cpl. Harrison Roberts was born in Williamson County around 1847. He enlisted in Company B on March 25, 1864 in Chattanooga. During the War, he served on detached duty in recruiting service. He was taken POW at Dalton, GA by Gen. John Bell Hood’s Army. He escaped and by April 1, 1865 was on color guard duty (escort) in the regiment. He died in a Hospital in Huntsville of consumption Feb. 24, 1866. He was jut 18 years old. His remains were buried in the Chattanooga National Cemetery. His mother Henrietta applied for a pension in 1886. USCT veterans Isaac Dalton [14th USCI] and Charles Austin of this regiment served as her witnesses on the pension application. She lived in Williamson County where she raised her younger children and died in 1893.
Cpl. Peter Sawyer was born in Williamson County around 1841. He enlisted in Company B on March 25, 1864 in Chattanooga. He was a boatman when he enlisted. abt 1841. At Dalton he was taken POW on Oct 13, 1864. He was “held until he escaped and reported within the Union Lines on or about March 1, 1865." He returned to his regiment and in July 1865 was granted a 10 days' furlough to Franklin, Tenn. He mustered out on April 30, 1866 in Nashville and moved to Huntsville, Alabama.
Principal Musician Granville Scales was born in Eagleville, Williamson County around 1847. He enlisted in Company B on March 25, 1864 in Chattanooga. He was taken prisoner of war twice (at Dalton and at Block House No. 2). He lost an arm but did not leave the service. After the War, he moved his family to Kansas and then to Oklahoma. Scales' paver in has been sponsored by Dr. Eleanore Fleming. You can read more about his life below.
Pvt. Abram Ralls was born in Cass, Georgia around 1845. He was enslaved by Dr. John Perkins Ralls in Cherokee, Alabama. He escaped from Dr. Ralls and made his way to Rome, Georgia where he enlisted in Company H on August 15, 1864. Captured at Dalton October 1864 and taken POW until the end of the war. After the war, he lived in Williamson County, Tennessee, for several decades before moving to Kansas City in the mid- 1880s.
Pvt. Martin Ridley was born in Williamson County around 1848. He worked as a laborer at Fort Negley - listed as laborer #304, enslaved by J. A. Ridley. He enlisted in Company H on November 11, 1864 in Chattanooga. He was just 16 years old when he enlisted. On Dec. 16, 1864 - during the second day of fighting at the Battle of Nashville - he deserted there. He returned to live in Nolensville after the War.
Pvt. Granville Scales was born in January 1845 and raised in Williamson County, Tennessee. His parents were Elinora and Jack Scales. They were likely enslaved by Joseph Henry Scales' family. During the Civil War, the farm was ransacked by federal troops and the "palatial residence" was burned. The Confederate cavalry in the area "enabled Mr. Scales to get away his negroes." It appears that those enslaved by the Scales family may have been taken south to Georgia. It could be that during the chaos of this time, Granville Scales made his escape. He enlisted in Chattanooga on March 25, 1864; his enlistment papers described him as a 17-year-old farmer.
Scales was captured at Dalton, Georgia (October 13, 1864) and then again at Block House No. 2 near Nashville on December 2, 1864. During the fighting at the Block House he was gravely injured in his arm which was amputated in the field. His pension application described how Scales
could not run to [the blockhouse] as Infantry was on one side of them & cavalry on other[.] At night Regiment slipped out, left its wounded, his arm slivered all to pieces was attended to by a C.S. [Confederate States] Surgeon who kindly cut it off for him near the shoulder and cared for him as kindly as if he were white & of his own command. The wounded were put in a little house near stockade [for] 3 days after he was cared for by his own surgeon & as Hood was repulsed and he was brought to Nashville & put in No. 16 Hospital as it was called after which he requested not to be discharged and was let go back to his Regiment at Chattanooga where quite young he was promoted to Drum Major’s place and remained with Regiment til discharged in Nashville in year 1866. . . .
Scales was back within Union lines and in a hospital at Nashville along with other wounded prisoners from the 44th by Dec. 18, 1864. Rather than being discharged for his disability Scales was reassigned to be a musician and by January 12, 1865 - little more than a month after losing his arm - he was on daily duty as drum major. By April 1, 1865 he was appointed the principal musician of his regiment which was stationed in Chattanooga. The primary Confederate surrender occurred about a week later on April 9, 1865. In support of his pension application later in life, his comrade Richard Ware from Nashville wrote that Granville Scales (who he described as small of statute and of "ginger cake color") was "liked by all for his brave conduct" in returning to his regiment and "stick[ing it] out till discharged."
On October 6, 1865 Granville married Eliza Scales in Chattanooga. Given that Eliza was also a Scales - it is possible that they had both been enslaved together. On April 30, 1866 the 44th USCI mustered out in Nashville and Scales' service in the military came to an end.
Granville Scales and his wife returned to the Eagleville area of Williamson County. While there he filed for and was granted an invalid pension. During this time, he lived near his parents in College Grove and tried to work as a farmer, but with just one arm, he found that very difficult. Granville and Eliza Scales had five children during this period and moved to Nashville where they built a house on Cannon Street near Fort Negley. On February 3, 1877 Granville's wife Eliza died in Nashville. She was only 30 years old. A few month later, in November of 1877 Granville Scales married Elenora Brown and the couple had two sons together. During this period, Granville was working on David Childs' thoroughbred horse farm two miles outside of Nashville.
In 1881, the Scales family participated in the Exoduster movement and moved to Topeka, Kansas where Granville Scales found work as an expressman (guard) on the railroad. Scales became an active member in the Grand Army of the Republic veterans organization in Kansas and served as an officer in the No. 321 Fort Pillow Post.
By 1889 the Scales family had moved to Oklahoma City. Scales was an influential member of the Black community there. He started a grocery business with his son Granville Scales Jr. They lived and operated their business in the "Big Deuce" neighborhood of Oklahoma City. On June 30, 1918 Granville Scales passed away in Oklahoma City at the age of 73. You can read a longer account of his life here.
Emphasis on Education
Second Lt. Morris Hall of the 44th USCI wrote in a letter home while organizing the regiment, that“of the 86 men mustered in…only 9 could read and write and 23 knew their letters.” He “at once sent home for primers, spelling and reading books and writing material.” By the time his company was mustered out of service after the War, “not one remained … who could not read and write and spell…as they went on duty you would see a book tucked under the belt, and as soon as a tour of duty was through they would spread a poncho or blanket on the ground and fill the time full of study, trying as far as possible to learn by themselves.” Morris Stuart Hall Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.
Pvt. Hubbard Pryor.
The most famous images associated with the 44th USCI are these two photographs taken of Pvt. Hubbard Pryor who enlisted on March 7, 1864 in Chattanooga - just a few days before many of the men from Williamson County. These "before and after" photos help bring to life the transformation that the men who enlisted in this and other USCT regiments went through during their enlistment process.
Capture at Dalton, Georgia by Gen. John Bell Hood.
Col. Lewis Johnson was appointed to command the 44th in the early fall of 1864 and a few companies - including Company B in which five Williamson County men served - became the permanent garrison of Dalton, Georgia. On the morning of October 13, 1864, advance units of the 40,000 man Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by General John Bell Hood, converged unexpectedly upon the little town, cutting off all avenues of retreat for the 600 enlisted African-American soldiers and 150 white officers of the 44th .
Hood had previously vowed to take no prisoners when confronting black soldiers and reportedly said that he "could not restrain his men and would not if he could." Although the 44th USCI's Colonel Johnson claimed that his black troops displayed the "greatest anxiety to fight," he surrendered to Hood and secured paroles for himself and the 150 or so other white officers. In a strange coincidence, one of the Confederate cavalry officers who helped capture Granville Scales and his comrades was Corporal Newton Cannon from back home in Franklin in Williamson County. In a memoir Cannon wrote late in life about the day and his interaction with Col. Johnson:
"At Dalton, we captured a stockade with a regiment of Negro troops with white officers, a Colonel Johnson in command. We marched them all night to prevent their recapture, through Snake Creek Gap to some place where our Army had stopped, and turned them over to the Provost guard. I allowed Colonel Johnson to ride my horse while I walked, and led him a part of the way. He seemed to appreciate my kindness, and said he believed I had saved his life, and printed me with a fine pair of saddlebags."
Meanwhile, the regiment's 600 Black enlisted men suffered a much harsher fate. According to several accounts, 250 members of the 44th found themselves re-enslaved with their former masters. Another 350 of the men were put to work rebuilding railroads for the Confederates in Mississippi as POWs. They subsisted on only one pint of corn meal per man per day and a small portion of fresh beef once or twice per week. Other members of the 44th were confined in Columbus and Griffin, Georgia where they were released during May 1865 in what one of them described as a "sick, broken down, naked, and starved" condition. By the end of the year, only 125 of these men were still alive but in desperate circumstances.
Williamson County's Pvt. Charles Austin, Cpl. Harrison Robertson, Pvt. Abram Ralls, and Principal Musician Granville Scales were all captured that day. Pvt. Ralls was held until the end of the War but the other three men managed to escape and return to the Regiment.
Here is Col. Johnson's report of what happened to his soldiers that day:
Blockhouse No. 2.
Following the capture of many members of the 44th at Dalton, Georgia, Col. Johnson was left with a decimated regiment. He quickly created a new, smaller, 300 man 44th US Colored Infantry Regiment. About 6 weeks later, the 44th- along with the 14th USCI - were soon called to Nashville to help fortify the city in preparation for the expected attack from Gen. John Bell Hood's army following the Battle of Franklin. On December 1, 1864, they left Chattanooga on train cars and were coming into Nashville. As they arrived at Blockhouse No. 2, located 5 miles from Nashville on the railroad line, they were attacked by Confederate cavalry. They found Blockhouse No. 2 garrisoned by Lieutenant George D. Harter and a small detachment of the 115th Ohio Infantry already being surrounded by the Confederates. This is a description from the perspective of the Ohio soldiers:
On the morning of the 2nd the enemy, most of whom wore the Federal uniform [as disguises], began surrounding the stockade. Before the movement was completed a train came up from Murfreesboro, having on board the 44th US Colored Infantry and part of the 14th US Colored Infantry. While the train was still on the Mill Creek trestle, it was fired upon by the Confederate battery, disabling the locomotive and injuring several men. Col. Lewis Johnson, commanding the colored troops, hurried his men to the blockhouse where they received ammunition from Harter and joined in defense of the post. From 10 am until dark an incessant fire of artillery was kept up by the enemy, nearly 500 rounds of solid shot from 10 and 20 pounders being discharged against the garrison. Several times the fire from the blockhouse compelled the enemy to change the position of his guns, but at dark the building was in a state of wreck. The north wing was destroyed, the west wing badly damaged, the main support of the roof had been shot away and the other supports were much weakened. Under the circumstances, Harter decided to evaluate the blockade; and accordingly at 3 am on the 3rd quietly withdrew and marched with his own detachment and the colored troops to Nashville, where they arrived safely about daylight. The Union loss in this action was 12 killed, 46 wounded, and 57 missing. [The Union Army: Cyclopedia of battles, p. 633]
Confederate Major General Nathan B. Forrest who led the attack made this note in his official report of that day:
On the 3d of December stockade No. 2 surrendered, with 80 prisoners, 10 men killed, and 20 wounded in the attack by Morton's battery. On the day previous, while assaulting stockade No. 2, a train of cars came from Chattanooga loaded with negro troops. The train was captured, but most of the troops made their escape.
Col. Thomas Jefferson Morgan, who had commanded the 44th upon its initiation, and was in Nashville awaiting their arrival, recalled the night this way in his memoir Reminiscences of service with colored troops in the Army of the Cumberland, 1863-65:
"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? Who could answer? No one. What was to be done? Nothing. I could only wait and suffer."
What all three accounts do not include is that when the Federal army "withdrew and marched" to Nashville and "most of the troops made their escape" they left behind their wounded - including Williamson County's Pvt. Granville Scales who was hit by a shell in the arm in the fighting and whom the Confederates captured along with the surgeon J.T. Strong and chaplain Lycurgus Railsback who had stayed to care for the men. The Directory and Soldiers' Registry of Wayne County, Indiana included a detailed description of Chaplain Railsback's actions at Block House No. 2 that night and in the days that followed. His account states that - due to the railroad track being on a high bridge - some of the men of the 44th fell a great distance when the railroad cars were attacked. Despite this, "the firm pluck of the colored soldiers saved us from immediate death."
About one-third of the men of the 44th were killed or injured in the attack and their ammunition nearly exhausted. After the able-bodied men had left in their successful attempt to sneak through the Confederate lines and get to Nashville (early on the morning of December 3rd), Chaplain Railsback and Surgeon Strong were left to take care of the wounded.:
"As soon as daybreak came, the two walked out and surrendered, and the 'whole face of the earth seemed to swarm with rebels in a short time.' Then trading commenced. They would trade for anything we had, but it was all their own way. They took every good article of clothing.I had even took my hat and boots, and then stripped our poor wounded." Presumably this included Private Scales. The account continues that, "Mr. Railsback carried the wounded out of the blockhouse, over a high breast-work, the mud being very deep, the rain falling rapidly and he suffering with hunger, having had nothing to eat since the previous morning. . . .
While engaged in this toilsome but benevolent service, the rebel chivalry remained seated on their horses taunting him with curses. It was not until Sabbath morning December 4th, two days after the fighting that he [Chaplain Railsback] was enabled to find a few pieces of hard bread affording some relief to himself and the wounded men from the gnawings of hunger. The attempt Hood made to take Nashville required all the rebel soldiers, so that but little attention was paid to their prisoners; and as soon as the rebels began their retreat, Messrs. Strong and Railsback made their way to Nashville, and procured assistance for their wounded men."
Chaplain Lycurgus Railsback was granted permission to take four men of the 44th and return to Blockhouse No. 2 several weeks later (on January 21, 1865) for the purposes of "collecting and properly interring" those who died there. According to the notes in Chaplain Railsback's military file, "These dead were hastily and incompletely buried by the enemy and some of them are even now exposed."
Freedmen's Bank Account opened by Cpl. Peter Sawyers in Huntsville, AL
Freedom earned: Marker recalls role of black soldiers in Civil War. Dalton Daily Citizen.The dedication of a new historical marker on Fort Hill, the site of the only Civil War battle involving black soldiers to take place in Georgia.
Honoring 44th U.S. Colored Troops: From Slaves to Union Warriors. The Civil War Picket, October 4, 2010.
Story of an African-American Civil War Regiment by Robert Scott Davis. Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 21, 2013.
White and Black in Blue: The Recruitment of Federal Units in Civil War North Georgia by Robert S. Davis. Georgia Historical Quarterly 85, no. 3 (2001): 347-74."The new black regiment moved to Rome, Georgia, in the middle of July 1864. Wagon trains of mixed white and black recruiting parties fanned out across the countryside in search of enlistees. To the disdain of white Georgians, Johnson quickly raised the minimum number needed for a regiment, some eight hundred men total, from fugitive slaves from Alabama and North Georgia. Muster records do not survive for the Forty-fourth to show place of residence, but a partial list of the former slaves indicates that they escaped from plantations and farms throughout northwest Georgia ... Colonel Mussey, formerly captain in the Nineteenth United States Infantry, wrote of his new soldiers: "For raiders in the enemy's country, these Colored Troops will prove superior, they are good riders - have quick eyes at night . . . know all the byways."
The 44th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment and the Dalton Fort by E Raymond Evans and David Scott
Berry College: Thomas Freeman and the 44th US Colored Infantry
The Brave Men of 44th USCT, Tunnel Hill Heritage Center and Museum
Podcast: Tenn in 20, Battle of FranklinTrust: Fighting To Be Free: Enslaved Tennesseans Who Fought in the Civil War
Information about Thomas Freeman of the 44th USCI who founded Freemantown in Floyd County, Georgia