USS Gen. Bragg

The USS General Bragg, a 1,043-ton side-wheel steamer, was built at New York City in 1850 as the commercial steamer Mexico. In January 1862, she was taken by the Confederacy in New Orleans, converted to a "cotton clad" ram. This means that bales of cotton were stacked on her decks to absorb incoming rounds, reducing the damage to the structure of the boat. She was also renamed CSS General Bragg and was involved in action following the notorious massacre at Fort Pillow on May 10, 1862, in the Mississippi River. On June 6, 1862, she was run aground and captured by the US Navy's Western Flotilla during a naval battle off Memphis. On September 30, 1862, she was transferred formally to the US Government's War Department and entered Federal service as the USS General Bragg.

She patrolled the Mississippi River from Helena, Arkansas to the mouth of the Yazoo River, where she guarded against Confederate movements toward Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Bosticks enlisted in January 1863 at Memphis. After the US forces captured Vicksburg, Mississippi, in July 1863, the USS General Bragg remained in that area until December 13, 1863. At that time she moved downriver to patrol the Red River area. During the spring of 1864, she was guarding the mouth of the river in support of a joint expedition against Shreveport, Louisiana. On June 15, 1864, the ship engaged a Confederate battery with USS Naiad near Tunica Bend, Louisiana. It was an intense fight and 32 rounds were fired at USS General Bragg. For a time the ships got the worst of the action amid a hail of shot and musketry, but eventually drove off the Confederates with the help of USS Winnebago. General Bragg was disabled in the action. Williamson County's Stephen Bostick and William Bostick were injured in this engagement. A musket ball ripped through Stephen Bostick’s right shoulder and forearm injuring him so badly that he was taken off General Bragg to a hospital boat for treatment. William Bostick was working during the battle helping to pass ammunition (gunpowder) to others and in the heat of battle stepped on and fell through a hatch door, injuring his leg. Years later this injury would be the subject of his disability pension application.

On January 4, 1863, three brothers (Dudley Bostick, Hardin Bostick, and Stephen Bostick), their cousin William J. Bostick, and another man who had been enslaved with them in the Triune area of Williamson County and in Mississippi County, Arkansas all enlisted in the United States Navy in Memphis, Tennessee as firemen on the U.S.S. General Bragg. Some accounts state that the men were taken aboard the Navy ship first as "contraband" - meaning they were runaway slaves. Sometimes slaves were taken aboard ships to work as laborers and later - once the Emancipation Proclamation allowed for it - they were enlisted as sailors. This seems likely because four days after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, the men enlisted in the Navy.

Extensive research has been conducted into the stories of these men. A #SlavesToSoldiers blog post here details their story in great detail. The Bostick family was honored as a Pioneer Family by the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County and the video presentation above was a part of that program.

Stephen Bostick was born on March 15, 1844 on the John Bostick plantation in Triune, Williamson County, Tennessee. He was taken to Mississippi County, Arkansas by John Bostick's daughter and son-in-law along with some other people enslaved by the white Bostick family around 1860 (when he was about 15 years old). From there, he escaped and enlisted aboard the USS Gen. Bragg on January 3, 1863 (at 18 years old). He was injured on June 15, 1864. As a result of his injuries, Stephen was discharged from the Navy in 1864 and went to Cincinnati, Ohio (1865). Soon after he appears to have helped lead a group of family members from Williamson County to Murphysboro, Illinois where they established a farming community.

Three years later he married Sarah Chaney Woods in Illinois (even though she was also from Williamson County, Tennessee) and they raised a family of 14 children.

Stephen Bostick was the most prominent African American citizen in Murphysboro as well as one of its more successful farmers. Stephen Bostick died on December 3, 1928 in Pomona Township, Illinois and is buried in the Bostick cemetery.

On June 20, 1864 Stephen Bostick was being treated in the Hospital Pickney in Memphis for his injuries. He was issued a hospital ticket for his belongings - one hammock, four blankets, one mattress, one bag, one coat, four trousers, four drawers, one frock, two cotton shirts, five flannel shirts, 3 stockings, 2 boots and shoes, 2 handkerchiefs, 2 hats, 1 cap, $4.00 cash and a book.

William J. Bostwick. William was also enslaved by the Bostick family - he seems to have spelled his name "Bostwick". He is believed to have been born on January 14, 1843 on the Bostick plantation in Triune, Williamson County, and like the others, was taken to Arkansas in 1859 when he was about 15 years old. He was a second cousin to Hardin Bostick and brother-in-law to Dudley Bostick. On January 4, 1863, he enlisted in the US Navy at the age of 19. On June 15, 1864 he was wounded in the fighting at Tunica Bend, Louisiana. He was discharged from the Navy on September 14, 1865 in Mound City, Illinois. In 1871 he married Emma Fletcher (also from Tennessee) in Jackson County, Illinois. Their marriage is marred by the deaths of their first two sons in infancy, and then their next child, a daughter, was deaf and disabled. They had a son named William Grundy and another daughter. By 1888 William's leg injury from the Navy caused him to claim a disability pension from the Navy. On April 1, 1891 William Bostwick leaves to go to Hot Springs, Arkansas to seek treatment for "dropsy" and takes his son. William Bostick died at his sister's house in Murphysboro, Illinois on May 9, 1891.

Dudley Bostick. Dudley ("Douglas") Bostick was born on March 26, 1844, in Triune, Williamson County, Tennessee. He was William Bostwick's brother-in-law. In 1859 at the age of 15, along with the other slaves, he was taken to Arkansas to work on the Bostick plantation. On January 4, 1863 at 18 years of age, he enlisted in the US Navy as a 5'6" tall "first class boy" - the lowest rank. On April 1, 1865 he mustered out of the Navy at Mound City, Illinois. In December 1865, Dudley - along with Hardin Bostick and another former crew member of the General Bragg Isaac Morgan - arrived in Murphrysbroro, Illinois. According to census records, Dudley and his wife Luvenia (also from Tennessee) were married in 1866 in Illinois; they had nine children together. By 1910 Dudley was blind and renting a farm. He died on July 23, 1920.

Hardin Bostick - Hardin Bostick was born in February 1840 in Triune, Williamson County, Tennessee on the Bostick Plantation. He was a second cousin to William Bostick and brother to Stephen Bostick. He was about 19 when he was taken to Arkansas in 1859 and 22 in 1863 when he enlisted on the General Bragg - making him the oldest of the Bostick Navy men. On April 1, 1865 he mustered out in Mound City, Illinois - along with the rest of his shipmates. The Civil War ended about a month later. Hardin married Maria Jordon, another former slave from Williamson County -- specifically College Grove - right near Triune - on December 9, 1865 in Williamson County. Then they headed to Illinois; they had ten children that they raised in Illinois.

Burton "Burrell" Bostick - In March 1838 Burton (or Burrell?) Bostick was born in Triune, Williamson County probably on the Bostick plantation. He does not appear to have been a blood relation of the other Bostick Navy men. He was 21 years old when he was taken to Arkansas to work on the McGavock plantation in 1859, and 24 when he enlisted in the US Navy in 1863. He mustered out in 1865. Unlike the other Bosticks, he did not settle in Murphrysboro after he mustered out. He returned home to Williamson County. In 1867 a "riot" between disenfranchised Confederates and a group of newly freed slaves and some supportive whites occurred on the town square in Franklin, the county seat of Williamson County. Burrell Bostick was interviewed in the subsequent investigation on July 8, 1867. In his statement, he said that he lived at "Widow Bostick's about one mile from Franklin, Tenn." He described that he was "in the front at the head of the column" when the African-American men were marching. He also stated that he was one of three men who fired shots in return after they were fired upon, and that he was wounded in the head.

In the 1870 Census he was living with a group of other African American Bosticks in District 8, working as a farmhand. On March 20, 1872 he and Fannie Carter, a local girl from Williamson County, married. By 1880 the couple had moved to Nashville where Burt was working cutting wood. Burt and Fannie eventually had 12 children and he became a stonemason.