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Thursday, January 9, 2020

January 9, 1865 Black Soldiers Demanding Rights Under New Constitution

On January 9, 1865, just weeks after the decisive federal victory at the Battle of Nashville, an all-white convention of Tennessee Unionists met in the city to write a new constitution. The adoption of the constitution would ultimately restore the state government that had been dissolved under military control during the War and legally abolish slavery in the state. 

Proceedings of the Liberty and union convention, Liberty and union convention, Nashville, Tenn. [from old catalog]
Three Williamson Countians were delegates to the Convention: A. W. Moss, William P. Campbell and Frank Hardeman. 

Representatives to the Convention from Williamson County. 
Tennessee’s African-American population was not willing to be left out of the debate, however. On the day of the convention, a group of 59 black Nashvile residents signed a letter outlining their concerns to the convention.

Not surprisingly, their first demand was that the convention explicitly end slavery in the state. However, they also demanded 
basic citizenship rights, especially suffrage (the right to vote). In part, they based their right to suffrage on the service provided by the 200,000 black men as soldiers in the US Colored Troops - such as the more than 300 men from Williamson County. 

Below is the text of the letter in full:

To the Union Convention of Tennessee Assembled in the Capitol at Nashville, January 9th, 1865:

We the undersigned petitioners, American citizens of African descent, natives and residents of Tennessee, and devoted friends of the great National cause, do most respectfully ask a patient hearing of your honorable body in regard to matters deeply affecting the future condition of our unfortunate and long suffering race.

First of all, however, we would say that words are too weak to tell how profoundly grateful we are to the Federal Government for the good work of freedom which it is gradually carrying forward; and for the Emancipation Proclamation which has set free all the slaves in some of the rebellious States, as well as many of the slaves in Tennessee.

After two hundred years of bondage and suffering a returning sense of justice has awakened the great body of the American people to make amends for the unprovoked wrongs committed against us for over two hundred years.

Your petitioners would ask you to complete the work begun by the nation at large, and abolish the last vestige of slavery by the express words of your organic law.

Many masters in Tennessee whose slaves have left them, will certainly make every effort to bring them back to bondage after the reorganization of the State government, unless slavery be expressly abolished by the Constitution.

We hold that freedom is the natural right of all men, which they themselves have no more right to give or barter away, than they have to sell their honor, their wives, or their children.

We claim to be men belonging to the great human family, descended from one great God, who is the common Father of all, and who bestowed on all races and tribes the priceless right of freedom. Of this right, for no offence of ours, we have long been cruelly deprived, and the common voice of the wise and good of all countries, has remonstrated against our enslavement, as one of the greatest crimes in all history.

We claim freedom, as our natural right, and ask that in harmony and co-operation with the nation at large, you should cut up by the roots the system of slavery, which is not only a wrong to us, but the source of all the evil which at present afflicts the State. For slavery, corrupt itself, corrupted nearly all, also, around it, so that it has influenced nearly all the slave States to rebel against the Federal Government, in order to set up a government of pirates under which slavery might be perpetrated.

In the contest between the nation and slavery, our unfortunate people have sided, by instinct, with the former. We have little fortune to devote to the national cause, for a hard fate has hitherto forced us to live in poverty, but we do devote to its success, our hopes, our toils, our whole heart, our sacred honor, and our lives. We will work, pray, live, and, if need be, die for the Union, as cheerfully as ever a white patriot died for his country. The color of our skin does not lesson in the least degree, our love either for God or for the land of our birth.

We are proud to point your honorable body to the fact, that so far as our knowledge extends, not a negro traitor has made his appearance since the begining of this wicked rebellion.

Whether freeman or slaves the colored race in this country have always looked upon the United States as the Promised Land of Universal freedom, and no earthly temptation has been strong enough to induce us to rebel against it. We love the Union by an instinct which is stronger than any argument or appeal which can be used against it. It is the attachment of a child to its parent.

Devoted as we are to the principles of justice, of love to all men, and of equal rights on which our Government is based, and which make it the hope of the world. We know the burdens of citizenship, and are ready to bear them. We know the duties of the good citizen, and are ready to perform them cheerfully, and would ask to be put in a position in which we can discharge them more effectually. We do not ask for the privilege of citizenship, wishing to shun the obligations imposed by it.

Near 200,000 of our brethren are to-day performing military duty in the ranks of the Union army. Thousands of them have already died in battle, or perished by a cruel martyrdom for the sake of the Union, and we are ready and willing to sacrifice more. But what higher order of citizen is there than the soldier? or who has a greater trust confided to his hands? If we are called on to do military duty against the rebel armies in the field, why should we be denied the privilege of voting against rebel citizens at the ballot-box? The latter is as necessary to save the Government as the former.

The colored man will vote by instinct with the Union party, just as uniformly as he fights with the Union army.

This is not a new question in Tennessee. From 1796 to 1835, a period of thirty-nine years, free colored men voted at all her elections without question. Her leading politicians and statesmen asked for and obtained the suffrages of colored voters, and were not ashamed of it. Such men as Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, Hon. Felix Grundy, John Bell, Hon. Hugh L. White, Cave Johnson, and Ephraim H. Foster, members of the United States Senate and of the Cabinet, Gen. William Carroll, Samuel Houston, Aaron V. Brown, and, in fact, all the politicians and candidates of all parties in Tennessee solicited colored free men for their votes at every election.

Nor was Tennessee alone in this respect, for the same privileges was granted to colored free men in North Carolina, to-day the most loyal of all the rebellious States, without ever producing any evil consequences.

If colored men have been faithful and true to the Government of the United States in spite of the Fugitive Slave Law, and the cruel policy often pursued toward them, will they not be more devoted to it now than ever, since it has granted them that liberty which they desired above all things? Surely, if colored men voted without harm to the State, while their brethren were in bondage, they will be much more devoted and watchful over her interests when elevated to the rank of freemen and voters. If they are good law-abiding citizens, praying for its prosperity, rejoicing in its progress, paying its taxes, fighting its battles, making its farms, mines, work-shops and commerce more productive, whey deny them the right to have a voice in the election of its rulers?

This is a democracy–a government of the people. It should aim to make every man, without regard to the color of his skin, the amount of his wealth, or the character of his religious faith, feel personally interested in its welfare. Every man who lives under the Government should feel that it is his property, his treasure, the bulwark and defence of himself and his family, his pearl of great price, which he must preserve, protect, and defend faithfully at all times, on all occasions, in every possible manner.

This is not a Democratic Government if a numerous, law-abiding, industrious, and useful class of citizens, born and bred on the soil, are to be treated as aliens and enemies, as an inferior degraded class, who must have no voice in the Government which they support, protect and defend, with all their heart, soul, mind, and body, both in peace and war.

This Government is based on the teachings of the Bible, which prescribes the same rules of action for all members of the human family, whether their complexion be white, yellow, red or black. God no where in his revealed word, makes an invidious and degrading distinction against his children, because of their color. And happy is that nation which makes the Bible its rule of action, and obeys principle, not prejudice.

Let no man oppose this doctrine because it is opposed to his old prejudices. The nation is fighting for its life, and cannot afford to be controlled by prejudice. Had prejudice prevailed instead of principle, not a single colored soldier would have been in the Union army to-day. But principle and justice triumphed, and now near 200,000 colored patriots stand under the folds of the national flag, and brave their breasts to the bullets of the rebels. As we are in the battlefield, so we swear before heaven, by all that is dear to men, to be at the ballot-box faithful and true to the Union.

The possibility that the negro suffrage proposition may shock popular prejudice at first sight, is not a conclusive argument against its wisdom and policy. No proposition ever met with more furious or general opposition than the one to enlist colored soldiers in the United States army. The opponents of the measure exclaimed on all hands that the negro was a coward; that he would not fight; that one white man, with a whip in his hand could put to flight a regiment of them; that the experiment would end in the utter rout and ruin of the Federal army. Yet the colored man has fought so well, on almost every occasion, that the rebel government is prevented, only by its fears and distrust of being able to force him to fight for slavery as well as he fights against it, from putting half a million of negroes into its ranks.

The Government has asked the colored man to fight for its preservation and gladly has he done it. It can afford to trust him with a vote as safely as it trusted him with a bayonet.

How boundless would be the love of the colored citizen, how intense and passionate his zeal and devotion to the government, how enthusiastic and how lasting would be his gratitude, if his white brethren were to take him by the hand and say, “You have been ever loyal to our government; henceforward be voters.” Again, the granting of this privilege would stimulate the colored man to greater exertion to make himself an intelligent, respected, useful citizen. His pride of character would be appealed to this way most successfully; he would send his children to school, that they might become educated and intelligent members of society. It used to be thought that ignorant negroes were the most valuable, but this belief probably originated from the fact that it is almost impossible to retain an educated, intelligent man in bondage. Certainly, if the free colored man be educated, and his morals enlightened and improved, he will be a far better member of society, and less liable to transgress its laws. It is the brutal, degraded, ignorant man who is usually the criminal.

One other matter we would urge on your honorable body. At present we can have only partial protection from the courts. The testimony of twenty of the most intelligent, honorable, colored loyalists cannot convict a white traitor of a treasonable action. A white rebel might sell powder and lead to a rebel soldier in the presence of twenty colored soldiers, and yet their evidence would be worthless so far as the courts are concerned, and the rebel would escape. A colored man may have served for years faithfully in the army, and yet his testimony in court would be rejected, while that of a white man who had served in the rebel army would be received.

If this order of things continue, our people are destined to a malignant persecution at the hands of rebels and their former rebellious masters, whose hatred they may have incurred, without precedent even in the South. Every rebel soldier or citizen whose arrest in the perpetration of crime they may have effected, every white traitor whom they may have brought to justice, will torment and persecute them and set justice at defiance, because the courts will not receive negro testimony, which will generally be the only possible testimony in such cases. A rebel may murder his former slave and defy justice, because he committed the deed in the presence of half a dozen respectable colored citizens. He may have the dwelling of his former slave burned over his head, and turn his wife and children out of doors, and defy the law, for no colored man can appear against him. Is this the fruit of freedom, and the reward of our services in the field? Was it for this that colored soldiers fell by hundreds before Nashville, fighting under the flag of the Union? Is it for this that we have guided Union officers and soldiers, when escaping from the cruel and deadly prisons of the South through forests and swamps, at the risk of our own lives, for we knew that to us detection would be death? Is it for this that we have concealed multitudes of Union refugees in caves and cane-brakes, when flying from the conscription officers and tracked by bloodhounds, and divided with them our last morsal of food? Will you declare in your revised constitution that a pardoned traitor may appear in court and his testimony be heard, but that no colored loyalist shall be believed even upon oath? If this should be so, then will our last state be worse than our first, and we can look for no relief on this side of the grave. Has not the colored man fought, bled and died for the Union, under a thousand great disadvantages and discouragements? Has his fidelity ever had a shadow of suspicion cast upon it, in any matter of responsibility confided to his hands?

There have been white traitors in multitudes in Tennessee, but where, we ask, is the black traitor? Can you forget how the colored man has fought at Fort Morgan, at Milliken's Bend, at Fort Pillow, before Petersburg, and your own city of Nashville?

When has the colored citizen, in this rebellion been tried and found wanting?

In conclusion, we would point to the fact that the States where the largest measure of justice and civil rights has been granted to the colored man, both as to suffrage and his oath in court, are among the most rich, intelligent, enlightened and prosperous. Massachusetts, illustrious for her statesmen and her commercial and manufacturing enterprises and thrift, whose noble liberality has relieved so many loyal refugees and other sufferers of Tennessee, allows her colored citizens to vote, and is ever jealous of their rights. She has never had reason to repent the day when she gave them the right of voting.

Had the southern states followed her example the present rebellion never would have desolated their borders.

Several other Northern States permit negro suffrage, nor have bad effects ever resulted from it. It may be safely affirmed that Tennessee was quite as safe and prosperous during the 39 years while she allowed negro suffrage, as she has been since she abolished it.

In this great and fearful struggle of the nation with a wicked rebellion, we are anxious to perform the full measure of our duty both as citizens and soldiers to the Union cause we consecrate ourselves, and our families, with all that we have on earth. Our souls burn with love for the great government of freedom and equal rights. Our white brethren have no cause for distrust as regards our fidelity, for neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of the Union.

Praying that the great God, who is the common Father of us all, by whose help the land must be delivered from present evil, and before whom we must all stand at last to be judged by the rule of eternal justice, and not by passion and prejudice, may enlighten your minds and enable you to act with wisdom, justice, and magnanimity, we remain your faithful friends in all the perils and dangers which threaten our beloved country.

[59 signatures]

Source: Unidentified newspaper clipping of Andrew Tait et al. to the Union Convention of Tennessee, 9 Jan. 1865, enclosed in Col. R. D. Mussey to Capt. C. P. Brown, 23 Jan. 1865, Letters Received, series 925, Department of the Cumberland, U.S. Army Continental Commands, Record Group 393 Pt. 1, National Archives.
Published in The Black Military Experience, pp. 811–16, in Free at Last, pp. 497–505, and in Freedom's Soldiers, pp. 141–48.

A few days after this letter was submitted to the Convention, a resolution was passed to adopt a new Constitution. This constitution included provisions abolishing slavery in Tennessee. The new Consitution was ratified by a state-wide vote on February 22, 1865. In that vote, only "loyal", white men were allowed to vote. In Williamson County, the vote was 373-0 in favor of ratifying the new Constitution.  It is worth noting that at this time, most rebels were not at home - and would not have been eligible to vote if they were.
 Robert E. Lee did not surrender his army in Virginia until April 9, 1865, and the Army of Tennessee did not surrender until a few weeks later, on April 26th, 1865 in North Carolina. Regardless, however, the deed was done and the scourge of legal slavery was struck from the constitution of the state of Tennessee. Almost a year later, on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enacted abolishing slavery across the country.

Sally Gillespie: Born in Africa, Died in Williamson County, Tennessee 1787-1860

Sally Gillespie was born in Africa in 1787 and died in Williamson County in June 1860 - just one year before the Civil War - from burns.

At the time of her death, she was 74-years-old. The slave trade from Africa was outlawed in 1808 so she probably was not older than 21 when she was brought to this country as an enslaved person.

Nothing is known about Sally's early life in Africa, or how she was kidnapped and brought to America where she was sold into bondage. However, we know that by the 1820s, when Sally was in her 40s she was the property of the family of Isaac Gillespie in Williamson County, Tennessee.  They had arrived in Williamson County in the mid-1810s and may have brought Sally with them from Rowan County, North Carolina. 

In 1826, Isaac Gillespie died, and in his will, he bequeathed Sally to his wife Mary Ann McGuire Gillespie. 

A portion of Isaac Gillespie's will: "I further give and bequeath my beloved the negro woman named Sally. . .."

Isaac Gillespie's Will, 1826

Mary Ann Gillespie died in 1845, and by 1850 I believe that Sally was enslaved by the family of David Gillespie, Isaac and Mary Ann's 46-year-old son.  In the Census that year, David was enslaving one person in the 22nd District of Williamson County - a 60-year-old black female. I believe this was Sally.
1850 Slave Census - David Gillespie was enslaving a 60-year-old black female.
District 22, Williamson County, Tennessee
District 22 is in the far southeastern corner of Williamson County.  In this portion of an 1878 map of the County, you can see where David's son Robert Gillespie was living (circled in red). I believe this may be the same property where Sally was living in 1850.
A portion of 1878 Map of Williamson County
Showing District 22 where Sally Gillespie was enslaved and died
Little is known about the circumstances of Sally's death except that she died of burns on June 8th, 1860 in Williamson County. The Mortality Index noted that she was born in Africa and was 74 years old.
Portion of the 1860 Mortality Index, Williamson County, Tennessee
I believe she was still enslaved by David Gillespie's family. Several weeks later when the Slave Census was taken, it appears as though David Gillespie may have compensated for the loss of Sally's labor by hiring a 25-year-old black female from the estate of their neighbors, the Flemings.

1860 Slave Census - David Gillespie was hiring a 25-year-old black female from the Flemming estate.
Williamson County, Tennessee
No grave for Sally Gillespie has been located and it is not known if she had any children or left any descendants. Her life from Africa to America and ultimately to her death in Williamson County was an extraordinary one, worth remembering.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Ambush near Triune December 1864

On December 20, 1864, three white officers of the US Colored Troops were ambushed near Triune, in eastern Williamson County. They were taken prisoner, and marched to near Columbia, Tennessee, where they were all shot in the head. One man survived to tell the tale.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, p 171

Lt. George W. Fitch (Quartermaster of the 12th US Colored Infantry), Captain George G. Penfield (44th US Colored Infantry), Lt David Grant Cook (12th US Colored Infantry) and two other officers appear to have left Nashville on December 20, 1864, and traveled down Nolensville Road toward Murfreesboro. They were following behind their regiments who were pursuing the defeated Confederate Army of Tennessee after the Battle of Nashville on December 15 & 16, 1864. 

According to an account written by Lt. Fitch on January 3rd, 1865:

"I was captured on the 20th of Dec., 14 miles in a SE direction from Murfreesboro [Nashville?] in Company with two other officers Lieut. D G Cooke, 12th US Col and Capt C G Penfield 44th USCI by a Company of Scouts belonging to Forrest's command numbering 36 men commanded by Capt Harvey. As soon as captured, we were robbed of everything of any value incl clothing. We were kept under guard for three days with some other prisoners (private soldiers of Gen'l Steedman's division who were captured near Murfreesboro) until we reached a small town called Lewisburg some 18 miles south of Duck River. There the officers were sent under a guard of four men to report as I supposed to Gen'l Forrest's Headquarters. The guards told that was their destination. They took us along the pike road leading from Lewisburg to Mooresville about five miles and then left the road and turned to the right for the purpose as they said of stopping at a neighboring house for the night. After leaving the road about half a mile as we were walking along through a wooded ravine the men in advance of us halted, partially turned his horse and came up, drew his revolver and fired on me without a word. The ball entered my right ear just above the center passed through and lodged in the bone back of the ear. It knocked me senseless for a few moments. I soon recovered however but lay perfectly quiet, knowing that my only hope [page 2] lay in leading them to believe they had killed me. Presently I heard two carbine shots and then all was still. After about fifteen minutes I staggered to my feet and attempted to get away but found I could not walk. About that time a colored boy came along and helped me to a house nearby. He told me that the other two officers were dead, having been shot through the head. 

That evening their bodies were brought to the house where I lay. Next morning they were decently buried on the premises of Col. Jno C. Hill nearby. 

The shooting occurred on the 22nd and on the 23rd about midday one of Forrest's men came to the house where I was lying and enquired for me, said that he had come to kill me. The man of the house said that it was entirely unnecessary as I was so severely wounded that I would die anyway and he expected I would not live more than an hour. He then went away saying that if I was not dead by morning that I would be killed. After he left I was moved by the neighbors to another house and was moved nearly every night from the house to another until the 27th when I was retrieved by a party of troops sent from Columbia and brought within the federal lines.

The privates were sent off on a road leading to the right of the one we took about in the direction of Columbia I should judge. I cannot but think they were killed as about that time our forces occupied Columbia, the rebel army having retreated. There were 12 Privates belonging, I think to Cruft's Brigade. 

Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servant,
George M. Fitch
1st Lt. 12th USCI 


New York Times, December 28, 1862
It seems possible, if not probable, that the officers were murdered instead of being taken as POW's in reaction to their status as officers of Colored Troops.  Two years earlier, in late December 1862, Robert E. Lee, had issued General Order 111 that stated in part, "3d. That all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong, to be dealt with according to the laws of said States.
4th. That the like orders be executed in all cases with respect to all commissioned officers of the United States when found serving in company with armed slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy."

In other words, former slaves would be returned to slavery, while their white officers faced execution. On May 30, 1863, the Confederate Congress accepted the policy but added a condition that captured officers were to be tried and punished by military courts. Clearly, this did not happen in the case of the captured officers in Triune.
In response to their murders, and the suspected murders of the privates, Major General George H. Thomas, in command of the US forces in this part of the country, wrote a letter to John Bell Hood of the Confederate Army. He described the killings as "cold-blooded murder of prisoners of war." He also stated that:
"It is my desire as lies in my power to mitigate the horrors of this war as much as possible, but I will not consent that my soldiers shall be thus brutally murdered whenever the fortunes of war place them defenseless within your power. Such acts on the part of soldiers of your army are by no means rare occurrances. . . . Should my troops, exasperated by a repetition of such acts, take no prisoners of war at all in future, I shall in no matter interfere in this exercise of their just vengeance, and you will fully understand their reasons as well as mine who is responsible for the inauguration of the dreadful policy of extermination."
In other words, Major General Thomas was fed up with the Confederates' killing of his soldiers rather than taking them as POWs (the "take no quarter" behavior demonstrated at Fort Pillow), and he would not stop his own troops from reciprocating. He threatened Hood that if US Troops were to capture Confederates, he would not punish them if rather than holding them as prisoners of war, they instead killed the Confederates outright as "just vengeance."

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, pp 65-65

Major General Thomas was not the only officer who was frustrated by the Confederates' behavior at Triune. General Ulysses S. Grant addressed Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Confederate Army on March 14, 1865, directly about the matter. Grant wrote that, 

"It is not my desire to retaliate for acts which I must believe are unauthorized by commanders of troops in arms against the authority of the United States, but I would ask to have those barbarous practices prohibited as far as they can be controlled." He then referenced the killing at Milliken's Bend of the white officers of US Colored Troop soldiers. "I believe it has been the practice with many officers and men in the Confederate Army to kill all such officers as may fall into their hands."


Lt. Fitch, the only man to survive the murders appears to have joined the US Colored Troops as a citizen, not from another regiment. He enlisted in August 1863 and was quickly assigned to the Quartermasters Department. He served in that capacity, quickly moving up the ranks to become the acting assistant quartermaster until the time of his capture and injury. Following a brief hospital stay and recovery, he returned to work and was moved to work at the Contraband Camp in Clarksville, Tennessee. In June of 1865, he was promoted to Captain.

Captain Charles G. Penfield was born in Michigan. His father, William Penfield, was a Methodist minister. When he was 22 years old, Charles Penfield enlisted in the 18th Michigan Infantry Regiment on Aug 26, 1862. Almost two years later, he mustered out as a Sergeant and was transferred into Company A, 44th US Colored Infantry Regiment. While serving in the 44th, he was captured at Dalton, Georgia along with Williamson Countians Pvt. Granville Scales, Pvt. Harrison Roberts, and Pvt. Abram Ralls.
While serving in the 44th USCI, Captain Penfield was captured at Dalton, Georgia.
About six weeks later, he was again captured at Block House No. 2 - also with Pvt. Scales of Williamson County. He escaped and made his way to Nashville where he participated in the Battle of Nashville. Just four days later, he was again caught and this time his luck did not hold out - he was murdered. Following his killing, near Columbia, Tennessee, on December 22nd, his body was initially buried in a private cemetery. It was later re-interred at the Stones River National Cemetery.
Capt. Penfield's headstone at Stones River National Cemetery.
He also has a memorial plaque in North Dover Cemetery, where some of his family is buried.

Inventory of Lt. Penfield's belongings upon his death.

Lieutenant David Grant Cook was born in Chambersburg, Franklin Co., Pennsylvania, in 1835. As a child, his parents moved to Illinois and then Iowa. Cook became a school teacher in Illinois, intending to eventually become a Methodist minister. He mustered into the 92nd Illinois Infantry in August 1862. On August 14, 1863, he was sent to Tullahoma (Estill Springs) to report to his new assignment, 2nd Lieutenant of Company E of the 12th US Colored Infantry. Freeman Thomas, of Franklin, Tennessee, had arrived two days before to muster into the same regiment. In an interview, Thomas described his feelings upon joining the regiment:
I was sent to Tullahoma for training. This was the biggest thing that every happened in my life. I felt like a man, with a uniform on and a gun in my hand.
During his time with the 12th USCI, Lt. Cook's wife came from the north with their young child and joined him in camp.  This article provides an interesting description of six months with him in Nashville. Just before the Battle of Nashville, he was made acting quartermaster of the company. Cook was promoted to 1st. Lieutenant on December 8th, 1864, only 12 days before his capture and execution. 

According to an obituary published in the Dubuque (Iowa) Democratic Herald on June 6, 1865, the remains of Lieutenant Cook were brought there and interred in the Center Grove Cemetery about six months after his death.  The coffin was wrapped in the American flag and carried to its last resting place by his friends. His wife had a monument installed and engraved with a wreath, a sword and a book bearing the inscription, "He Lived For God and His Country." It also pointedly noted that he, "met his death at the hand of guerillas at Cottage [College] Grove, Tenn."
Headstone of  Lieut David G. Cooke
Dubuque, Iowa

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Franklin's Confederate Monument - Understanding Its Role In Our Collective History

Confederate Veteran Magazine, 1890

Today is not only the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin but it is also the 120th anniversary of the dedication of the Confederate Monument in Franklin on November 30, 1899. 

The Monument has garnered frequent public attention this year. Following the deaths of three people during the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia
 [which was organized to protest the city’s plan to remove a Robert E. Lee statue] and its aftermath in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, some Williamson County residents began to discuss the Confederate Monument in Franklin and what role it has today in representing our town's collective history. Spurred by Charlottesville's tragedy and subsequent community discussions, a group of three pastors and the CEO of the Battle of Franklin Trust created the Fuller Story initiative. Their goal was to add balance to the history represented on the Public Square through the placement of historic markers that explored diverse topics, including some related directly to the African American story in Williamson County. 

The Fuller Story group brought their proposal to the City in August 2018. Within weeks, the United Daughters of the Confederacy's Franklin Chapter No. 14 - which had been responsible for installing the monument in 1899 - protested. Their objection was based on a claim that they own the entire center of the square and therefore the UDC had the right to determine any changes to the space. The City of Franklin filed for a declaratory judgment regarding that issue. At the same time, the Board of Mayor and Alderman pushed ahead on the marker proposal and approved a resolution supporting their installation in February 2019. The markers were installed and unveiled on October 17th, 2019.

However, the issue of ownership and control of the Public Square and the land on which the Monument sits remains unresolved. The lawsuit is pending and is scheduled to be heard in Franklin on December 17th.

As this chapter of the Franklin Confederate monument's history draws to a close, it is worthwhile to look back 120 years to the era and day when the monument was unveiled - to examine the atmosphere in which it was planned for, installed and celebrated.  Today as it sits in the center of the Public Square, it is the largest monument in the City in the most prominent location in town. But it has no interpretive sign or marker itself. There is no information to help place it in a historical context.

City of Franklin Facebook Page, image retrieved November 27, 2019

Images of the Monument are closely associated with Franklin's identity - the Marker appears on hats, mugs, calendars, and websites. It is understandable - in numerous ways, the Monument has become conflated with the Battle of Franklin itself. However, many people do not have a good understanding of the historical setting in which Franklin's Confederate Monument was installed. That context is an important element of understanding its role in representing and dominating our told history then and now. 

I should note that in 1908, the federal government loaned Franklin's Confederate Memorial Association the four US Army cannons that sit on the square - one at each corner of the monument pointing out.  Some look to them as helping to balance the Confederate vs. Union story.  However, frequently people who visit Franklin with no historical background, and absent any interpretive markers, believe that the cannons are guarding the Confederate Monument - which further elevates its significance in Franklin's historical prominence.

Our town's history is much richer and broader than the Confederacy or the Battle of Franklin or the Civil War, but the physical dominance of the Monument without any contextualizing marker or information can tend to drown out the other stories that need to be told. At the time it was dedicated, 120 years ago today, the Monument only represented the experiences of a portion of Franklin's residents.   The placement of the Fuller Story markers and the future addition of a US Colored Troop soldier help to balance the portrayal.

Williamson County Demographics in 1899  

One aspect of the Confederate Monument's historical context is the social and demographic landscape of Williamson County at the time it was installed.  In the years leading up to the Civil War, the black (enslaved) population had been steadily growing in Williamson County.  As you can see in the attached chart, in 1860 - just one year before the Civil War began - the black population was larger than the white population and that growth trend likely would have continued unabated had the War not occurred.  However, following the War and emancipation, the black population began a dramatic decline that continued to present day.   

In the almost four decades from 1860 to 1899 (when the Monument was installed), the black population dropped from about 52% to only 37% of the County's population - although the total size of the population remained about the same. 

Throughout the county, black families were leaving in large numbers. Some moved during the immediate post War period, and others emigrated as part of the Exoduster Movement (read more here). These departures may be attributed at least in part to discrimination (i.e. Jim Crow laws) and violence or threats of violence (i.e. KKK-led attacks and lynchings) toward African Americans in Williamson County at the time. Others left in search of educational or economic opportunity. The 2018 Census numbers for Williamson County estimate that only about 4.5% of the population is African American.

By and large, the African American community in 1899 was made up of people who had been enslaved in Williamson County or its surrounding areas and those descended from them. They, along with the white residents, had lived through the Civil War or heard its legends. However, their wartime experience had been entirely different from that of their white neighbors.  

Period of Reconciliation.  

In the late 1800s, white Civil War veterans and the public began the process of reconciliation - or as some have named it - a method of "selective forgetting". The Lost Cause ideology was becoming popular among many white Southerners who were still coping with the economic, social, and psychological changes wrought by the War. At Memorial Day and Decoration Day services in Nashville during the 1890s, olive branches were frequently extended by speakers. 

As part of this reconciliation, in the 1890s, federal legislation created Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. 


This park was followed by one at Shiloh in 1894. That year a Memorial Day program was held at the National Cemetery in Madison, Tennessee. It was organized by the Grand Army of the Republic - a veterans organization of federal veterans of the US Army and Navy.  The two largest posts in Nashville - one white and one black - took charge of the day's events. During the program, Judge George R. Sage of Cincinnati spoke:
A year marks a third of a century since the beginning of the great conflict of arms in which those whose graves we are here to decorate, and those over at Mt. Olivet, whose graves were decorated [by Confederate veterans] a few days since, and hundreds of thousands of others, of the North and of the South gave up their lives. Since then a new generation has come upon the stage of action. Today not a voter in all the land who is less than 40 years of age has any personal recollection or knowledge of the events of that conflict, or of the causes which led up to it. The old Greeks had a law that there should be no monument of a civil war of any material more enduring than wood. Their philosophy was to consign to oblivion all the signs and tokens of civil war. But we have, as I earnestly hope and trust, a higher and better philosophy. The events of this, the greatest of all civil wars, will never be forgotten. Its monuments will be permanent. By common consent they will be permitted to remain.
This attitude by white veterans and the public was not uncommon - there was a new desire to move forward together and forget the conflicts that had torn the country apart.  However, little evidence exists as to what opinions were held by the African American veterans - including the more than 300 US Colored Troop veterans from Williamson County. One can't help but wonder how they felt about this newfound interest in reconciliation that seemed to leave them out of the relationship. One result of this majority approach to commemorating the War was that monuments were not erected to the Civil War dead or veterans in general, but - especially in Tennessee - they were installed almost solely to commemorate the Confederate dead and their stories.

Confederate Monuments Begin to Be Installed

Nearly a quarter of a century after the end of the Civil War - and a decade before Franklin's Monument was installed - a monument was placed in Nashville's Mount Olivet Cemetery in an area called Confederate Circle. This was one of the first Confederate monuments installed in Tennessee following the War and it attracted significant regional attention.

Confederate Monument in Confederate Circle,
Mount Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee
Photograph by J. Andrew McGill
Its installation was not without controversy, however. Newspapers carried editorials and letters debating the placement of the Nashville monument. Evidently, after the plans were well underway for the monument and funds had been gathered objections were raised about its planned location in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Some critics wanted it placed in a different space; others did not want it at all. These arguments will sound familiar to modern readers.

The Nashville Daily American
January 9, 1888
For example, an editorial in the Nashville Daily American newspaper on January 9, 1888, argued that the purpose of the monument was "to educate the public and fix in the minds of coming generations lasting memories of brave [Confederate] men" and that the monument should be erected on "Capitol Hill or some other place where people can see it" because to do otherwise would "be a sad commentary on the real purpose of the monument." In other words, the monument was about more than a place for private mourning by loved ones - it was to be a place for public remembrance and commemoration. This reasoning is what led to many subsequent monuments (such as Franklin's) being placed in town squares and in prominent places, rather than in cemeteries.

The editorial also noted that "Many good people - especially good women - have been engaged in this work."  These women were the forebearers of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

On the other hand, a letter to the editor titled, "The Living or the Dead?" and signed by "H.M.L." objected to the monument altogether. The author wrote: ". . . the question arises in my mind is [a monument] really the right way to honor these heroic dead by using this money to build a cold and useless monument of marble in yonder cemetery or elsewhere? . . . Can we not far better honor the dead by helping the living? . . . What more fitting and glorious monument could be built than an 'Industrial Training School' for the children of our dead and living heroes?"  Then, quoting Matthew 7:9, the author closed, "They 'ask for bread. Will ye give them a stone?'"

For some historical context, the same year that Nashville's Confederate monument was being debated (1888), a black man named Amos Miller was lynched from the courthouse balcony overlooking the Public Square in Franklin. Many believed that the Ku Klux Klan - which had been aggressive in the area for more than twenty years - was responsible for his murder.

    The Nashville Daily American
The following year, in May 1889, the Nashville Confederate monument was erected in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. The contributions that female descendants and family members of the Confederate veterans made toward the effort was acknowledged in an inscription on its side: "Erected through the efforts of women of the State in admiration of the chivalry of men who fought in defense of home and fireside, and in their fall sealed a title of unfading affection.

Williamson County Confederate Monument Association

A few months later, on August 10, 1889, likely inspired at least in part by the installation of the Nashville monument, the Williamson County Confederate Monument Association was formed and its bylaws adopted.  A group of men met in the office of Captain Thomas Fearn Perkins Jr, the Clerk and Master of the Williamson County Court. 

Courtesy Rick Warwick, Williamson County Historical Society

Captain Thomas F. Perkins Jr
Thomas F. Perkins Jr. was the grandson of one of Triune's wealthiest men and largest slaveholders before the Civil War and also a Tennessee Governor and had been the leader of a guerilla militia attacking Federal troops in Williamson County during the War. Captured several times he managed to escape until one final time when he was held as a federal prisoner until the end of the War.  After the War, he was considered a local hero by many and elected to the State Senate in 1881 where he authored what is often cited as the first "Jim Crow" law - a state law aimed at segregating Tennessee's railroad cars based on a passenger's race.  

The Confederate Monument Association that Perkins organized set their fundraising goal at $12,000 but initial subscriptions (pledges) at that first meeting were just $2,400 - an amount that was never significantly exceeded. 

Location, Location, Location.  According to news accounts at the time, the selection of the site for the monument was to be made at a meeting of “all subscribers about the first of January. Public sentiment is in favor of erecting the tribute on the Public Square here in Franklin." This was consistent with the placement of the vast majority of all Confederate Monuments ultimately erected in Tennessee. According to a survey conducted in 2013 by the Tennessee Wars Commission, of the approximately 70 monuments in the state, only 12 are in cemeteries while the rest are in public spaces (i.e., in or around county courthouses or other public spaces). In other words, the monument was to be erected in a place where it would physically dominate the landscape and serve as a public reminder, rather than be a site for private commemoration and memorial. It should also be noted that the description of "popular opinion" regarding the location of the monument likely only took into account the opinion of the white residents. 

Fundraising Begins.  A few weeks after the first organizational meeting, on August 23, 1889, an ice cream social fundraiser was held for the monument at Wesley Chapel, a United Methodist Church in the College Grove area. The fundraiser included a demonstration by the Perkins Rifles - a local militia group - and Lt. P.E. Cox gave an “eloquent appeal for the cause of the association.”  P.E. Cox was Parmenio Cox, son of ex-Confederate and US Congressman Nicholas N. Cox who lived in the house used today as the Lower School of Battle Ground Academy on Franklin Road. P.E. Cox was an attorney who was born during the Civil War and was in his mid-30s at the time he gave this speech.

In October 1889, the second annual convention of the State Association of Confederate Soldiers was held in Nashville. Leader of Franklin's Confederate Monument Association, Thomas Fearn Perkins Jr, was also President of this veterans' organization. At their annual meeting, he presided over a large number of attendees from various local branches - including Franklin's chapter the McEwen Bivouac No. 4.
At the convention, Perkins had the Confederate Chaplain Collins D. Elliott (and former head of the Nashville Female Academy) address the attendees; his speech was printed in the newspaper the next day and was entitled, "The Right of Secession."  Below are some of his comments, which I am including here because I think they are instructive regarding the attitudes of many people at the time, fully 24 years after the end of the Civil War:
1. Is it a sin for one man to claim property-right in his fellow-man, and a sin in the civil government to recognize such right?
Answer. It is not a sin in the light of our Bible for one man to claim property right in his fellow man, and less of all is the ownership of the negro by the white man in the South a sin.
2. All men are born free and equal.
Answer. In the atonement made by Christ, for the sin of all men, we believe in the fellowship of the black and the white man, but the negro is not the white man's equal nor is he entitled to equality neither in affairs civil nor religious. ...
Should not your bivouacs and all who call men to pray and speak on all Confederate occasions see to it that this Confederate cause be stated plainly that the rising generation, that children may know "why" in the defense of what cause their fathers died, bringing them into their present suffering and poverty.
In other words, at this Confederate reunion, Elliott was preaching that, based on his reading of the Bible, white supremacy was the "Confederate cause" that should be "stated plainly" at Confederate reunions and events so that their message could be passed on to educate future generations about the rationale for the Civil War (for "what cause their fathers died"). Rev. Elliott had been, before the War, the headmaster of the Nashville Female Academy where many of Williamson County's wealthiest white daughters attended school, and after the War continued to work as a school teacher.

It is worth pointing out that this was about a quarter of a century after the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the US Constitution had been ratified providing for, among other things, equal protection for all citizens - including African Americans.

Nashville Daily American
Lynching of Jim Taylor.  Two years later, in 1891, a black man named Jim Taylor was hung from the Murfreesboro Road Bridge in Franklin near today's Pinkerton Park. He was murdered by a mob following an incident with a police officer at a circus in Franklin. The mob was not willing to wait for the court system to take its course. Headlines reporting on his killing stated that "Judge Lynch Presided." 

Fundraising for Monument Lagged.  Over the next few years, fundraising activities for the monument lagged, perhaps due to the death in 1893 of Thomas F. Perkins Jr.

United Daughters of the Confederacy, 
Franklin Chapter No. 14

The women who had organized to raise funds and rally support for Nashville's monument were starting to create formal associations. Similar groups were forming throughout the state and around the country. On September 10, 1894, about 30 years after the Battle of Franklin, leaders of the two largest organizations met in Nashville to consolidate into what would become the United Daughters of the Confederacy. As a result, the very first chapter of the UDC was Nashville Chapter No 1, chartered ten days after the meeting. Franklin's Chapter No. 14 was chartered one year later on October 30, 1895. According to one description, 
The object of the association is to preserve a true history of the war and the gallant men who fought for constitutional liberty.”

Around this time, in August 1894, a Nashville woman - perhaps part of this nascent UDC - appears to have tried to jumpstart fundraising for the Franklin monument by hosting a euchre party at Fernvale Springs near Fairview.

During this era, women in Franklin - the future members of the Franklin UDC - had been responsible for the care of the Confederate Cemetery at Carnton and managing programs such as Confederate Memorial Day. They organized the decoration of the graves of the Confederate dead who - as the newspaper reported - " fell in the desperate struggle for the Lost Cause on Franklin's famous battle-field."

By February 1896, the local press seems to have been getting anxious to see some progress on having a monument installed in Franklin. One article said that they were "taking the lead in a movement to erect a Confederate monument" although little seems to have materialized from this effort.

The Tennessean Wednesday Feb_12, 1896

Jim Crow Segregation.  During this time period, racial segregation and discrimination in the South had worsened and become further codified. In 1896, the US Supreme Court upheld discriminatory segregation in its now widely discredited decision Plessy v. Ferguson. 

Franklin Chapter 14 of the UDC 
Takes Over Monument Fundraising and Planning

Efforts to raise funds until 1898 appear to have been piecemeal. For example, in November 1898, nine years after fundraising started, a local Chrysanthemum Club sale at the Williamson County Courthouse donated the proceeds to the monument fund. However, by January 1899, the Franklin UDC Chapter seems to have taken over fundraising for and management of the monument planning.  

Excerpt from Confederate Veteran magazine
January 1899
With the 35th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin approaching in eleven months, and after ten years of discussion, the women of the UDC were ready to see something come to fruition. In early May 1899, the UDC convened its own Monument Committee and accomplished what the men had not been able to do.  

Franklin UDC Monument Committee. They were chaired by 53-year-old Mae Sims Richardson. Richardson was the daughter of ardent Confederate Sallie Ewing Sims Carter Gaut. Gaut was a cousin and accomplice of Adelicia Acklin - widow of notorious slave trader Isaac Franklin and owner of the Belmont Mansion. Gaut had also enslaved two people whom I have written about previously - Millie Simpkins and 1st Sgt. Andrew Ewing. Gaut is credited with hanging the first Confederate flag in Franklin after the state declared its secession.  Gaut's daughter Mae Richardson was the wife of Confederate veteran and local attorney and judge R. Newt Richardson. 

Other members of the committee included:
Marienne "Mae" Hightower Sims Richardson
Louisa Henrietta Cochrane Perkins Gordon

As you can tell from reading their biographies, for these women the monument was not only a public project but it was personal. They were daughters, sisters, and wives of Confederate Veterans.  Many of them were also survivors of the War - first-hand witnesses to its violence, pain, and destruction.

At their first meeting, the Committee selected a design for Franklin's Confederate monument - an infantry soldier at parade rest atop a tall shaft. Representatives from three different monument companies from Louisville and Nashville came to town and submitted sealed bids to the Monument Committee.  At that point, the Committee reportedly had $1,468 in cash and $500 pledged toward the monument.

May 23, 1899 
Franklin Review Appeal

By May 15, 1899, the newspapers were able to announce that “The [UDC of Franklin] have decided to erect on the Public Square a Confederate Monument.” The Monument Committee had met at the home of their President Mae Richardson. The design was accepted by a vote of 18-3 and the contract signed for the price of $2,450. The committee contracted with Muldoon Monument Company of Louisville, KY through their agent M. K. Cullaton. The newspaper announced that the “shaft will be of Barre Vermont granite, surmounted by a statue of a Confederate infantryman at parade rest. The statue will be of Italian marble imported from Carrara, Italy.” By the time of this announcement, the UDC had $1,800 in cash and $200 pledged. Further fundraising was planned. 


The_Louisville Courier_Journal

One example of fundraising activities for the Monument included an admission fee charged to the "commencement exercises of the colored school" that was held at the Courthouse. By charging parents and friends to attend the graduation, money was raised for the Monument. It is not clear who charged the admission fee, or whose idea it was.

June 8, 1899
Franklin Review Appeal

Additionally, former governor Robert Love Taylor was enlisted to speak at the courthouse in Franklin and a fee was charged.
"Uncle Rastus" illustration
Life in Pictures by Robert Love Taylor
Taylor was a popular orator and writer who published many of his speeches including the "Love, Laughter and Songs" lecture given in Franklin that day.  

Among the stories he appears to have told were a series depicting "Uncle Rastus",  "Uncle Nicodemus" and other minstrel type characters.

I think it is important to remember that as these fundraising and planning efforts for the monument were underway, formerly enslaved people continued to live in and around Franklin.  The effect of slavery and their time in bondage had not been forgotten. For example, that same summer, Delia Miller was trying to reunite her family. She was searching for her mother Sarah and five siblings who had been enslaved in the Triune area of Williamson County; she published the attached newspaper notice seeking information about them.

The Christian Recorder (Philadelphia, PA), July 13, 1899

Also, many US Colored Troop veterans still lived in the County - including Pvt. Freeman Thomas (1845-1936), Pvt. William Holmes (1843-1906), and Pvt. John Dubuisson (1825–1909).

Planning for the Unveiling.  On September 15, 1899, the local Franklin UDC held a meeting to discuss the collection of the last needed funds for the monument and the unveiling. They invited all living Confederate Generals, bivouacs, camps, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and UDC chapters. Other invited dignitaries included Bishop Gailor from the Episcopal Church, and Dr. Kelley of Nashville. Rev. McNeilly was lined up to handle the ceremony. The group passed a resolution to request local Confederate veterans' assistance with greeting visitors. They also sent Muldoon & Co a letter asking for two weeks’ notice before the delivery so they could have a suitable groundbreaking ceremony.

In October, the UDC held a special called meeting to enroll new members and receive applications for additional members.  Additionally, the chapter's badge was decided upon: "a white button with a photograph of the monument attached to a crimson satin ribbon, with raised gilt letters bearing the following inscription "In honor of the Confederate Soldiers, by the Franklin Chapter of the U. D. C., Nov. 30, 1899."  Additionally, they adopted a chapter flag and worked on a program for the unveiling exercises.

On November 7, 1899, the UDC received notice that the monument shaft had shipped from Vermont and was expected to arrive in Franklin within a few days.

The foundation for the monument was poured on November 21, 1899 "in the presence of a large number of people.” According to the news report, "On account of a delay in transportation, no special exercises were held, though a fitting programme had been arranged."

Two days later, on November 23, 1899, the cornerstone to the base of the monument was laid with an “interesting programme and in the presence of a large crowd." A speech was made by George Armistead [editor of the Franklin newspaper the Review Appeal], prayer offered by [Confederate veteran] Elder Cayce, and a “strong box containing a brief history of the chapter [of the UDC] and history relics was deposited by the President, Mrs. R. N. Richardson.” Among the items placed in the box were, according to Virginia Bowman's book, "Historic Williamson County: Old Homes and Sites", copies of local newspapers, a Confederate Veteran magazine, war records of several veterans, and a picture of Sallie Ewing Sims Carter Gaut.

The next day, on November 24, 1899, the final meeting was held before the unveiling, and Committee assignments were finalized:
  • Chairwoman of the Monument Committee - Mrs. R. N. Richardson
  • Table Committee - Mesdames. George L. Cowan and A.W. Beckwith
  • Carriage Decoration - Mesdames Estelle Bostic, H.P. Cochrane Johnson
  • Reception Committee to meet train Mrs. R. N. Richardson, Miss Annie Claybrook
  • Flat Decorations - Mesdames Gentry, J. H. Henderson, Misses Susie Gentry, Alma Neeley, Alma Henderson, Louise Maude McGann
  • Court House - Mesdames Mary Cliffe, R. A. Bailey, Miss Claybrooke
  • Dinner Committee - Mesdames J. H. Bradley, J. B. Neeley, Misses Bettie Parrish and Sallie House [Sallie House was the niece of Col. John L. House, Confederate veteran and purported founding member of Franklin's KKK]
  • Platform - Mrs. George Nichols and Mrs. J. Britt [wife and daughter of George S. Nichols, believed to be a founding member of Franklin's KKK
  • Badges - Mrs. R. N. Richardson

On November 27, 1899, the Nashville American newspaper published a sketch of the monument.
Nashville American
Four tablets on the monument included the following inscriptions:

"Erected to the Confederate Soldiers,
by the Franklin U.D.C.
Nov. 30, 1899"

"In honor and memory of our heroes

both private and chiefs,
of the Southern Confederacy.
No country ever had truer sons.
No country nobler champions;
no people bolder defenders than to 
whose memory this stone is erected."

"Would it not be a blame for us,

if their memory passed from our land and hearts,
and a wrong to them and a shame to us?
The glories they won shall not wane from us.
In legend and lay our heroes in gray 
shall ever live over again for us."

"We who saw and knew them well are witnesses 
in coming ages of their valor and fidelity.
Tried and true. Glory crowned. 1861-1865."

The assumption inherent in the language is clear: the entire community was in agreement that "our heroes" were the men of "the Southern Confederacy" and the monument's purpose was to assure that "their memory [would not] pass[] from our land and hearts." The monument is not - as some have asserted - commemorating the dead on both sides of the Battle of Franklin.  It is not a Battle of Franklin monument. Rather, it is unmistakably honoring the men who fought only for the Confederacy - the men who were fighting to defend "our land and hearts." There is no question as to who "us" and "our" refers to.

A portion of Table of Contents
Goodspeed's History of Tennessee
The area's federal soldiers would receive no similar public recognition in the form of a monument or plaque. As I discussed in an earlier post, their very existence had been systematically attacked during the immediate post-War years by the KKK and many had been driven out of the area.  In fact, the African American veterans of the War were not even a footnote in the Lost Cause versions of history being conveyed at the time.  The gold standard of Tennessee history was Goodspeed's History of Tennessee, published in 1886, and still relied on by many historians and genealogists today. The tome spent 36 pages reviewing the regimental histories of the federal troops in Tennessee during the Civil War - with no mention of the US Colored Troops in the state.  It also dedicated more than 100 pages to the state's Confederate military history during the Civil War. Another example of this whitewashing of our history was a school textbook published in 1889 entitled, "School History of Tennessee" which included not a single reference to the 20,000 black federal soldiers from Tennessee during the Civil War. 

Installation of Monument, November 28, 1899 

On Tuesday, November 28th the monument was placed in the center of the public square.  According to Virginia Bowman's book, "Historic Williamson County: Old Homes and Sites", the committee decided to have the statue face south - toward the train station - "since nearly every guest [to Franklin] at that time arrived by train and came up Maple (Third) Avenue from the Depot."  A news report described how as the last piece of the statue was "being raised, a buggy [driven by Joseph A. Lockhart] ran into a guy rope, causing the statue to swing into the shaft, breaking out a piece from the hat of the figure." This event has given rise to the monument's nickname by many of "Chip."

Unveiling of the Monument, November 30, 1899

On the day of the unveiling, Confederate flags decorated the town of Franklin and the colors of the Confederacy (red and white) adorned businesses and homes. According to newspaper accounts, a large parade 1 ½ miles long and "imposing and brilliant" formed at the train depot at 9:30 am made up of "Hundreds of vehicles of every description . . . all gay with bunting." The crowd (estimated to be 10,000 people) marched through the streets to the square. The paper reported that, “Hundreds of veterans were in the procession." "A negro who followed his master during the war, was a conspicuous figure in a suit of gray.” Exercises were to begin at 10:30 am but the crowd didn't arrive at the square until 11 o'clock. Participating were Confederate veterans from Nashville's Cheatham Bivouac and Franklin's McEwen Bivouac. "Three bands made 'Dixie' and other martial airs resound from time to time almost continuously during the day."

Confederate Monument Dedication in Franklin, November 30, 1899
Photograph courtesy of the Williamson County Historical Society
The dignitaries at the monument were flanked by "sixteen of the fairest daughters of Williamson, appropriately costumed in the Confederate colors, each representing a Southern State or a Southern city prominent in the war. The bivouacs and soldiery were massed right and left, and stretching way far beyond the confines of the large square were packed equipages and the mass of citizens."

According to plans and newspaper accounts, the order of exercises on the day of the unveiling went something like this: 
  • Music provided by an orchestra, perhaps the National Guard's 5th Tennessee Regiment Band.
  • Prayers: "Dr. McNeily who was in the Battle of Franklin, and is now a noted preacher, opened the exercises with prayer." [McNeily had served as Chaplain of Quarles' Brigade in the Battle of Franklin, and former Williamson County slave and Confederate body servant, Osborne Cunningham worked for McNeily in the 1900s]
  • Song & Unveiling: “Maryland My Maryland: "The strains of 'Maryland, My Maryland,' floated out upon the air, and then Leah Cowan [13 years old], daughter of Capt George L. Cowan of Forrest's escort, assisted by Susie Winstead [9 years old], the newly-chosen 'Daughter of the Confederacy' for McEwen Bivouac, pulled the string that unveiled the monument."  [According to Virginia Bowman's book, also assisting in pulling the string were two boys - William Wird Courtney and Reppart Starnes, the son and grandson of Confederate veterans.]
Mariah Reddick was enslaved at the
Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee
She is shown here holding the infant Leah Cowan. Photo ca 1888
In 1899, Leah Cowan was one of two girls who helped unveil the Confederate Monument in Franklin, TN.

The monument had been draped in "a number of battleflags" including the flag of the 32nd Tennessee Regiment and a "cloud of veiling."

As the monument was revealed, "thousands of cheers, swelling in a mighty volume, greeted the stately shaft erected in honor of the gallant Southerners who met death on the field of Franklin."
  • "Address of welcome: "Dr. Hanner, who was the first Captain of the famous Williamson County Grays, delivered a felicitous address of welcome."
Captain James Park Hanner
Co. D, Williamson Grays, 1st (Feild’s) Tennessee Infantry
  • Salute of cannons: there is no mention in the newspaper account of this actually occurring although it was planned - perhaps the Square was too crowded
  • Introduction of speakers by John H. Henderson "in happy style. He delivered an address which attracted high commendation."
John H. Henderson, Sr.
  • Oration by Gen. Gordon: "was worthy of the man and the hour. . . . As a defense of the Southern soldier from his critics, it was impressive and forcible, yet never acrimonious. He was accorded an ovation." 
    • Gordon was from Pulaski, Giles County where he became one of the Ku Klux Klan's first members. In 1867, Gordon is widely believed to have been appointed the Klan's first Grand Dragon for the Realm of Tennessee, a position second only to Nathan Bedford Forrest's Grand Wizard. He is also credited with having written its "Precept" - a description of the KKK's complicated organizational structure (which included fittingly a "Council of Yahoos"), its secret oaths, dues, membership requirements, etc.  I haven't been able to find a copy of Gordon's speech in Franklin, but he was often asked to speak at the unveiling of Confederate monuments and was a strong proponent of the Lost Cause ideology. In 1890 at a Confederate reunion in Memphis, he commented, "it is not only proper but it is our duty to encourage such gatherings - our duty so that our children may not be taught by a partisan school literature that their fathers were malefactors, rebels and traitors. . . . You have been noble in peace as you were valiant in war; you have no apologies to make to any man; the cause for which you fought was lost, but it remains to us to win in peace the victories we lost in war."
George Washington Gordon
(1836 – 1911)
  • Oration by Gov. Benton McMillin who "acquitted himself handsomely in following Gen. Gordon. He was eloquent and aroused the audience to a high point of enthusiasm and was loudly cheered." McMillan had been a US Congressman before his election to the governorship and while in office had opposed the Lodge Bill of 1890, which would have provided protections for black voters in the South.
Benton McMillan
Governor of Tennessee1899-1903
  • Oration by Congressman Nicolas N. Cox was "very felicitous." Cox was a Confederate veteran, having served in the Tenth Tennessee Cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest. After the War, he settled in Williamson County where he practiced law and served in Congress from 1891 to 1901 as a Democrat.
Nicholas N. Cox
Member of US House of Representatives
7th District, Tennessee
  • Judge R. N. Richardson, John Holt, and Irby Bennett "made appropriate addresses."
Robert Newton Richardson was a successful attorney
and Confederate Veteran
His wife was chair of the Monument Committee of the UDC
  • Music "by a large choir of ladies interspersed the programme"
    • the song “Bonnie Blue Flag
      • ". . . Then here’s to our Confederacy, strong we are and brave,
 Like patriots of old we’ll fight, our heritage to save;
 And rather than submit to shame, to die we would prefer,
So cheer, cheer for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star. Hurrah! Hurrah!
 For Southern rights, hurrah!
. . . "
    • music “Dixie” 
      • "I wish I was in the land of cotton, Old times there are not forgotten;. . . In Dixie land I’ll take my stand, live and die in Dixie”. Dixie was a popular minstrel song from 1859 that had been adopted into a war-time tune popular in the South. 
  • Benediction by Dr. David Campbell Kelley "closed with a few well-chosen remarks, after which he pronounced the benediction." David Campbell Kelley was a prominent Methodist minister who served as a Colonel in the Confederate Army where he was Nathan Bedford Forrest's second in command. He earned the moniker the "Fighting Parson."
David Camnpbell Kelley

Lastly, US Senator W. B. Bate was - according to this account - "expected to attend. . . but sent instead [a] telegram. . . 'I am sorrow-stricken because I cannot be with you to-day. My heart is with you in the fullness of its love for the dead and living heroes who as patriots fought for our Confederate cause as never men fought before or since. God bless the old gray coat and all who wore it!"
Confederate Veteran Magazine, 1890

By the evening of November 30, 1899, Franklin's Public Square had an entirely new appearance and character.  The Lost Cause of the Confederacy had claimed our public space as its own and in so doing they managed to reshape the narrative of how Franklin and Williamson County physically and in many cases actually represented its own history. The Fuller Story markers certainly help to balance the story, but without understanding the context of the time during which the Monument came to be, we can never fully recognize the influence it has had over the way we tell our stories - and most importantly which stories we choose to highlight.