Williamson County's USCT Soldiers:

Fighting to Get Free

To date, the #SlavesToSoldiers project has identified 323 Black men who enlisted in the USCT and had ties to Williamson County. They were born or lived or enlisted in Williamson County. These men married here, served here, raised families here, died here, and/or are buried here. They are our native sons.

One of these soldiers, Pvt. Freeman Thomas of the 12th US Colored Infantry returned to Franklin and told the woman who had held him in bondage: "I ain't fighting you, I'm fighting to get free."

Additionally, USCT soldiers were active in Williamson County and you can learn more about them here.

Place of Birth

A majority (88% or 284) of the men honored by the #SlavesToSoldiers project were identified because their USCT Enlistment papers or other documents showed they were born in Williamson County, Tennessee

  • 284 USCT soldiers said they were born in Williamson County

    • 19 USCT soldiers specified what Williamson County town or city they were from:

      • 13 USCT soldiers were born in Franklin

      • Two USCT soldiers were born in Spring Hill

      • Two USCT soldiers were born in Eagleville

      • One USCT soldier was born in Triune

      • One USCT soldier was born in Brentwood

  • 38 men were not born in Williamson County but enlisted here or lived here before or after the Civil War

    • 24 men enlisted in Franklin (four of those were also born here)

Date of Enlistment

The first Williamson Countians to enlist in the USCT were two men who enlisted in the 46th USCI in Helena, Arkansas on May 1, 1863. They were followed by three local men who enlisted into the 55th and 59th USCI in mid-May, 1863 in LaGrange, Tennesee and Corinth, Mississippi. The very last two men from Williamson County to serve in the USCT enlisted in the 3rd US Colored Cavalry. They enlisted on November 20, 1865 in Corinth, Mississippi. The majority of Williamson County's USCT soldiers enlisted in 1863 - the first year that was possible.

Age of Enlistment.

The most common age of enlistment of these soldiers was 18 years old - 41 of the 308 men (13%) were 18 when they enlisted. The average age was just over 25 years old.

  • The youngest Williamson County USCT soldier was 13-year-old Felix Battle, a drummer boy in the 13th US Colored Infantry. Two 16-year-olds and five 17-year-olds from Williamson County enlisted in the USCT.

  • The oldest Williamson County USCT soldier was 51-year-old Abraham Winstead. Born in 1812 in Williamson County, Winstead enlisted in the 12th US Colored Infantry on August 14, 1863, along with more than other 50 local men.

Place of Enlistment

Of the men who were born in Williamson County, a majority (70%) enlisted in Tennessee. This makes sense - these soldiers had been born into slavery in Williamson County and then enslaved here or near here before the Civil War began. When the opportunity arose to enlist, they did so near home.

Six Williamson County-Born USCT Enlisted in Free States. Some men who had been born into slavery here enlisted far from Williamson County. Six men appear to have made their way to free states before the War where they then enlisted:

  • Three Williamson County-born men enlisted in Ohio

    • One of these men, Anderson Draper went to work for the 46th Ohio Volunteers when they were fighting near Shiloh in Hardin County, Tennessee and then followed the men home to Lima, Ohio where he enlisted in the 5th US Colored Heavy Artillery.

  • One Williamson County-born man enlisted in New York

  • One Williamson County-born man enlisted in Illinois

  • One Williamson County-born man enlisted in Pennsylvania

One example is Pvt. Alfred Fields. He was born in Williamson County around 1839. In 1863, he enlisted in the 3rd US Colored Infantry at Camp William Penn in Philadelphia - the largest federal training camp for Black soldiers during the War.

68 Williamson County-Born USCT Enlisted in Other Slave States. Alternatively, 68 Williamson County-born men enlisted in other slave states - indicating that they had been sold or taken there prior to the War:

  • 13 Williamson County-born men enlisted in Alabama

  • 14 Williamson County-born men enlisted in Arkansas

  • 15 Williamson County-born men enlisted in Kentucky

  • One Williamson County-born man enlisted in Louisiana

  • 20 Williamson County-born men enlisted in Mississippi

  • Five Williamson County-born men enlisted in Missouri

These 68 men constitute 24% of all the identified USCT soldiers who were born in Williamson County.

Conversely, it is likely there are USCT veterans who were born outside of Williamson County but brought here as children or teenagers. Their enlistment papers would not identify their residence in Williamson County - making it difficult to identify them as having lived here. For example, research has revealed that Sgt. Bird Johnson was born into slavery in Fayetteville, Kentucky, brought as a child to Franklin, Tennessee, and later enlisted in the 12th US Colored Infantry. Additionally, Private Henry Moon was born in Virginia and later brought to the Triune area along with his parents and a younger brother Lewis. Both brothers enlisted in the 17th US Colored Infantry. In February 1866, Pvt Henry Moon was shot and killed in Triune by a civilian. The brothers were heading home on a furlough to visit their parents who still lived in the Triune area. These stories vividly demonstrate the way local Black families were separated, divided, and moved.

23 Men Enlisted in Franklin. Twenty-three men enlisted in August 1863 into the 13th US Colored Infantry in Franklin, perhaps inside the Historic Williamson County courthouse.

Occupations Before Enlistment.

Virtually all of the Williamson County USCT were enslaved for all of their lives before they enlisted in the US Colored Troops. The vast majority of them were identified as being farmers (71%) or laborers (11%). However, many were highly skilled and worked in jobs such as baker, barber, blacksmith, cabinetmaker, cook, engineer, mechanic, shoemaker, stonemason, and stone cutter. Below are all of the occupations listed for the Williamson County USCT soldiers. Note that two men were identified as simply, "slave," and ten were identified as being "servants" - a euphemism for an enslaved person.

  • Baker (1)

  • Barber (2)

  • Blacksmith (5)

  • Boatman (1)

  • Cabinetmaker (1)

  • Cook (2)

  • Engineer (1)

  • Farmer (218)

  • Field Hand (5)

  • Hostler (4)

  • Laborer (34)

  • Mechanic (1)

  • Porter (2)

  • Servant (10)

  • Shoemaker (5)

  • Slave (2)

  • Stonecutter (1)

  • Stonemason (1)

  • Teamster (3)

  • Waiter (5)

Regiments Served by Williamson County USCT.

The majority of Williamson County's USCT soldiers served in Infantry regiments. The two most popular infantry regiments were the 12th US Colored Infantry (53 men) and the 13th US Colored Infantry (63 men). The other Williamson County USCT served in artillery and cavalry regiments.

Battles and Engagements Involving Williamson County USCT 's Regiments

Black men from Williamson County served in the Eastern and Western Theatres and were present at some of the most significant battles of the War and many smaller conflicts. Below is a list of all engagements that regiments in which Williamson County USCT belonged to were involved. Note that Williamson County men may not have been present at each of these events, but they were members of the Regiments that were. Additionally, other USCT regiments may have been at these engagements but they are not noted.

1863

June 5 thru 7, Milliken's Bend, LA: 5th USCHA, 49th USCI, 51st USCI

June 29, Battle of Goodrich's Landing, Mound Plantation, LA: 46th USCI, 49th USCI, 51st USCI

August 26, Fort Wagner, SC: 3rd USCI

Dec 3, Moscow, TN: 61st USCI

Dec. 4, Wolf River Bridge, TN: 61st USCI

December 13, Bayou Boeuf, AR, 3rd USCC

1864

January 20, Island No. 76 (Bolivar Bend) MS, 2nd USCLA Btry E

February 3 Haynes' Bluff, MS: 53rd USCI

February 3 Liverpool Heights, MS 47th USCI

February 14, Ross' Landing (Tecumseh Plantation, Chicot County), AR, 51st USCI

February 14, Waterproof, LA 49th USCI

February 28, Yazoo Expedition, MS 3rd USCC

March 5, Yazoo City, MS: 3rd USCC, 47th USCI

March 25, Fort Anderson, KY 8th USCHA

March 31, Roache's Plantation, MS: 3rd USCC

April Haynes' Bluff, MS: 3rd USCC

April 12 Fort Pillow, TN: 11th USCI (NEW) 2nd USCLA Co D

April 13 Indian Bay, AR 56th USCI

April 20, Waterproof, LA: 63rd USCI

April 24, Camden, AR: 57th USCI

April 26 & 28, Little Rock, AR: 57th USCI

May 13 Pulaski, TN 111th USCI

May 13 Yazoo City, MS 3rd USCC

May 24 Nashville, TN 15th USCI

May 31 Dallas, GA 110th USCI

June 4 Vicksburg, MS 3rd USCC

June 7 Ripley, MS 55th USCI

June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865 The Siege of Petersburg: 5th Mass Cav, 27th USCI, 29th USCI

June 10 Brice's Cross Roads, MS: 55th USCI, 59th USCI [Williamon County's Pvt.Obed Carlton,was captured]

June 15 Moscow, TN 55th USCI,

June 15, 1864 Baylor's Farm, VA 5th Mass Cav.

June 15-Apr 2, 1865 Petersburg, VA 5th Mass Cav., 27th USCI, 29th USCI

June 25 Ashwood, MS: 63rd USCI

June 29 Meffleton Lodge, AR: 56th USCI

July Floyd, LA 51st USCI

July 5 Jackson, MS 3rd USCC

July 16 Grand Gulf, MS 53rd USCI

July 26 Wallace's Ferry, AR 56th USCI

July 26 Big Creek, AR: 2nd USCLA Btry E

July 30, 1864 The Battle of the Crater: 27th USCI

August 15 & 16 Dalton, GA 14th USCI

August 16 & 17, Waterford, MS: 55th USCI

August 18 Decatur, TN 1st USCHA

August 24 Fort Smith, AR: 11th USCI (Old)

August 28 Holly Springs, MS 11th USCI (New)

September 4 N&NWRR, TN 100th USCI

September 14, Camp Marengo, LA: 63rd USCI

September 24& 25 Athens, AL (Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle) 110th USCI, 111th USCI [Williamson County's James Moore and Eli Perkins were captured]

September 25 Johnsonville, TN 13th USCI

September 26 Richland, TN 111th USCI

October 2 Saltville, VA 5th USCC

October 5 Fort Adams, LA 3rd USCC

October 10 South Tunnel, TN 40th USCI

October 11 Fort Donelson, TN. 4th USCHA

October 13 Dalton, GA 44th USCI [Five Williamson County USCT were taken POW]

October 21 Bryant's Plantation, FL 3rd USCI

October 21 Harrodsburg, KY 5th USCC

October 22 White River, AR 53rd USCI

October 28 & 29 Decatur, AL 14th USCI

November 2, 4 and 5 The Battle of Johnsonville: 12th USCI, 13th USCI, 2nd USCLA Batt A

November 26 Madison Station, AL 101st USCI

December 2 Nashville, TN (Block House No. 2) 14th USCI, 44th USCI

December 12 Hopkinsville, KY 5th USCC

December 15 & 16 Battle of Nashville, TN: 12th USCI, 13th USCI, 14th USCI, 17th USCI, 100th USCI, 2nd USCLA Batt A

December 17 & 18 Pursuit of Army of Tennessee (Hood's Retreat) 12th USCI, 13th USCI, 14th USCI, 16th USCI, 17th USCI, 44th USCI, 2nd USCLA Battery A

December 18 Arkansas River, AR 54th USCI

December 20 Saltville, VA 5th USCC

December 21 Nashville, TN 44th USCI

December 24 Murfreesboro, TN 12th USCI

December 27 & 28 Decatur, AL 17th USCI

1865

January 2 Franklin, MS 3rd USCC

January 7 Magnolia, TN 15th USCI

January 8 Scottsboro, AL 101st USCI

January 24 Boggs' Mills, AR 11th USCI (Old)

January 25 Simpsonville, KY 5th USCC

February Chattanooga, TN 16th USCI

March 10 Marion County, FL 3rd USCI

March 15 Yazoo City, MS 3rd USCC

March 18 Boyd's Station, AL 101st USCI

March 25 Brawley Fork, TN 17th USCI

March 27 to April 8 Spanish Fort, AL 68th USCI

March 31 White Oak Road, VA 29th USCI

March 31 to April 9 Fort Blakely, AL 47th USCI, 50th USCI, 51st USCI, 68th USCI

April 3 Capture of Richmond, 5th Mass Cav

April 4 Jacksonville, FL 3rd USCI

May Saline River, AR 54th USCI

September Fort Gibson, OK 54th USCI

November 4 Cabin Creek, 54th USCI

Experiences of Williamson County USCT Soldiers During the War.

Link to Virtual Find A Grave Cemetery.

Casualties.

Deaths from Disease. Regardless of which side of the War a soldier was fighting for or his skin color, the single largest killer of Civil War soldiers was disease. The same was true for Williamson County's USCT veterans. About 19% of Williamson County's USCT soldiers (56 men) died of disease during their time in service. The typical causes were typhoid, dysentery, pneumonia and rheumatism.

Twelve of the 308 local USCT soldiers were killed in action or died of wounds received while on duty.

Killed in Action:

  • Cpl. William Redman 13th US Colored Infantry Co I, Killed in action at the Battle of Nashville Dec 16, 1864. His paver has been sponsored by the BGA Middle School.

  • Pvt. Charles Clayburn 17th US Colored Infantry Co G, Killed in action in the Battle of Nashville Dec. 15, 1864. His paver has been sponsored by Joe Cashia.

Died from Wounds Received in Action

  • Pvt. Winstead Owens, 12th US Colored Infantry Co G, Died on Dec. 24, 1864 of wounds received at the Battle of Nashville

  • Pvt. Asbury Degraffenried, 12th US Colored Infantry Co K, Died on Dec. 20, 1864 of wounds (gunshot wound through abdomen) received in the Battle of Nashville

  • Pvt. Miles German, 13th US Colored Infantry Co A, died of wounds received at Battle of Nashville, January 19, 1865

  • Pvt. Samuel Armstrong, 13th US Colored Infantry Co A, died of wounds received at Battle of Nashville Dec 20, 1864

  • Pvt. George Helms, 13th US Colored Infantry Co B, died from wounds received at the Battle of Nashville Feb 11 1865

  • Pvt. Horace Winston, Horace, 13th US Colored Infantry Co F, Died of Gangrene after being wounded at the Battle of Nashville

  • Cpl. Henry McPearson, 17th US Colored Infantry Co H, died of wounds (arm broken by gunshot) received at Battle of Nashville Dec. 15, 1864

  • Pvt. John Jackson, 17th US Colored Infantry Co K, died Jan.10, 1864 from wounds received in the Battle of Nashville

You can learn more in these blog posts: Williamson County USCT Casualties and Memorial Day - Remembering the Fallen.

Pvt. James Moore (1828 - 1893)

111th US Colored Infantry

Lived in Thompson's Station are after the War.

Prisoners of War.

At least nine of Williamon County's USCT veterans were taken as Prisoners of War by the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Remarkably, all nine men survived captivity - many of them managed to escape and rejoin their regiments before the end of the War.

Experiences of Williamson County USCT Veterans After the Civil War.

Some Williamson County USCT Returned to Williamson County After the War. Some men who were born in Williamson County and served in the USCT returned here after the War. Research is ongoing into the number of men who made this choice. Several did return and you can read some of their stories by clicking these links:

Some USCT Settled in Williamson County After the War. Additionally, a few men who served in the USCT or other Black regiments appear to have had no ties to Williamson County before the War, but later lived here. For example:

  • Abram Ralls was born into slavery in Cass, Georgia, and was later enslaved in Alabama by a man named P. J. Ralls. He enlisted in the 44th US Colored Infantry during the War. Later, he lived in Williamson County for several decades.

  • William Holmes was born in Virginia and served in the 5th Massachusetts (Colored) Cavalry. After the War, he moved to Williamson County where he married a local woman and lived here until his death.

  • John Dubuisson is believed to have been from Louisiana. He served in the 100th US Colored Infantry in Middle Tennessee. After the War, he married a Williamson County woman and raised a family here. He is buried in the historic Toussaint L'Ouveture Cemetery in Franklin.

You can read more in these blog posts and other writings about the experiences of Williamson County and Tenenssee's USCT post-war.