59th US Colored Infantry

Two Williamson County men are known to have served in the 59th US Colored Infantry: Cpl. Wallace Sutton and Pvt. Washington Johnson.

Pvt. Washington Johnson had initially enlisted in the 17th US Colored Infantry but deserted on April 29, 1864 in Nashville. He re-enlisted in the 59th US Colored Infantry on Oct 15, 1864 at Memphis, Tennessee. Post war, he applied for a pension and used the name James Russell.  You can learn more about Cpl. Sutton's service below. 

OVERVIEW:  Organized March 11, 1864, from 1st Tennessee Infantry (African Descent). Attached to 1st Colored Brigade, District of Memphis, Tenn., Dept. of Tennessee, to June, 1864. 3rd Brigade, Infantry Division, Sturgis' Expedition, to June, 1864. 1st Colored Brigade, District of Memphis, District of West Tennessee, to February, 1865. Fort Pickering, Defences of Memphis, Tenn., District of West Tennessee, to July, 1865. 2nd Brigade, District of West Tennessee, to September, 1865. Dept. of Tennessee to January, 1866.

SERVICE:  Post and garrison duty at Memphis, Tenn., till June, 1864. Sturgis' Expedition from Memphis into Mississippi June 1-13. Battle of Brice's Cross Roads, Guntown, June 10. Ripley June 11. Davis Mill June 12. Smith's Expedition to Tupelo, Miss., July 5-21. Near Ripley July 7. Pontotoc July 11-12. Camargo's Cross Roads, Harrisburg, July 13. Tupelo July 14-15. Old Town Creek July 15. Post and garrison duty at Memphis, Tenn., and in District of West Tennessee till January, 1866. Repulse of Forest's attack on Memphis August 21, 1864. Mustered out January 31, 1866.


Organized at LaGrange June 6, 1863. Mustered in June 27, 1863. Attached to District of Corinth, 2nd Division, 16th Army Corps, Army of the Tennessee, to November, 1863. Post of Corinth, 2nd Division, 16th Army Corps, to January, 1864. 1st Colored Brigade, District of Memphis, Tenn., 5th Division, 16th Army Corps, to March, 1864.

SERVICE: Post duty at LaGrange, Tenn., till September, 1863. Moved to Corinth, Miss., and post and garrison duty there till January, 1864. Moved to Memphis, Tenn., and post and garrison duty there till March. Designation changed to 59th United States Colored Troops March 11, 1865 (which see).

A Brief Sketch of the Organization and Services of the Fifty-Ninth Regiment of United States Colored Infantry, and Biographical Sketches by Robert Cowden. 

“The average plantation Negro was a hard-looking specimen. ... His dress was a close-fitting wool shirt, and pantaloons of homespun material, butternut brown, worn without suspenders and hanging slouchily upon him and generally too short in the legs by several inches. ... His look, dress, manner, and opinion of himself were all the result of generations in slavery, and he was in no ways responsible for them."

In January 1864, the regiment marched through the streets of Memphis and the residents “saw what they had never before seen and had never expected to see- their own former slaves powerfully and lawfully armed for their overthrow and led and commanded by those whom they considered their invaders. The sight must have burned into their very souls.” 

This letter to the editor was written by the Regimental Chaplain, Abner Olds. He was describing the 59th USCI's involvement at the Battle of Brice's Crossroads.

Cpl. Wallace Sutton

Cpl. Wallace Sutton was born around 1836 in Williamson County and brought up there. He enlisted in Company K of the 59th USCI at LaGrange, Tennessee on May 15, 1863. During the War he contracted small pox but he survived to muster out with his regiment in Memphis on January 31, 1866. On October 13, 1869 he opened a Freedmen's Bank account in Memphis. His bank records revealed that he moved to Memphis after he mustered out. He was working as a carpenter and living on Main Street near Jackson in South Memphis.  He was married to his wife Nancy. The statement provided this interesting physical description of Cpl. Sutton: "Had two front teeth in the lower jaw shot away by a drunken man in the fort."  Perhaps the "fort" was Fort Pickering in Memphis, which was near where Cpl. Sutton was living.  During the late 1860s, Cpl. Sutton gave testimony to help some of the widows of his comrades obtain pensions. By 1900, Cpl. Sutton's wife Nancy had died. He continued living in Memphis until his own death on August 15, 1912.