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Saturday, September 23, 2017

1st Sgt. Andrew Ewing, 12th US Colored Infantry

Andrew Ewing was a veteran of the 12th US Colored Infantry - he served as the sergeant major of the regiment. 

Childhood in Bondage

He was born in 1831 in Williamson County and was enslaved initially by Alexander Ewing.

Statement by Sallie Ewing Gaut, daughter of Alexander Ewing, that "Andrew Ewing belonged to estate of my father Alexander Ewing. I was Miss Ewing and Andrew Ewing was my property or under my control until he enlisted in the Federal army. He had been living at Franklin, Tenn - he was very smart and competent for a negro."

Sallie Ewing Gaut, her brother 
inherited control of Andrew Ewing
When Andrew Ewing was three years old, Alexander Ewing died and Andrew passed into his estate. An inventory of Alexander Ewing's property dated July 8, 1834 shortly after his death, included a list of the goods and chattel owned by him.  It included the names and ages of twenty people - one of whom was "little Andrew, age 3 years."  I believe this three-year old boy was Andrew Ewing.  According to Alexander Ewing's daughter Sallie, Andrew was placed in a trust for her brother William - who was an infant at the time.

Accounting of Alexander Ewing's estate, including "little Andrew age 3 years"
In 1835 as Alexander Ewing's estate was probated, it included a list and valuation of the people enslaved by the family.  Andrew was now listed as 8 years old (valued at $350) and shown with his 29-year-old mother Mary ($400) and 10-year-old sister Mattie ($350).

1835 List of people enslaved by the Ewing Estate

Andrew Ewing's Early Life as a Slave

Andrew was hired out from "year to year" from his adolescence through his teenage and early adult years. This was a common practice which I covered in more depth in another blog post.

Andrew was "hired out around from year to year" - Statement by Sallie Ewing Gault
During this time, Andrew married Jane Briggs in a "slave wedding."  They had a son and two daughters: Herbert "Hub" b. 1855, Annetta b. 1857, and Fanny b. abt. 1859.  

Civil War

On February 24, 1862 Nashville fell to US forces.  Many slaves in Williamson County (contrabands) began to emancipate themselves and gather around the arriving Army camps for protection, employment, shelter, and food. According to the History of the 78th Volunteer Pennsylvania Infantry:

The summer of 1862 was a very eventful and critical period in the War. About the middle of March General Buell commenced his march through Franklin and Columbia to Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. . . . On the 23rd of March the 78th Regiment left Camp Andy Johnson, marched twenty-two miles southward, and bivouacked a mile south of Franklin. On the 25th we marched eighteen miles farther south to Camp "Bill Sirwell" on Carter's Creek, not far from Columbia. From this time onward the Regiment with Head Quarters at Franklin and Columbia guarded the lines of communication between General Buell's Army and his base of supplies on the railroads running southward through Franklin, Columbia and Pulaski.  . . .we guarded Franklin, Columbia, Pulaski, the railroad over Carter's Creek and many other important adjacent points.

These US soldiers would have marched right through Franklin. Andrew, Mary and their children would have seen them out foraging and on patrols, and perhaps they were inspired and emboldened to leave for Nashville - maybe even enabled by them. Skirmishing continued throughout the year – with control of Franklin changing hands repeatedly. On September 22, 1862 President Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation. Its hard to know how or when Andrew Ewing would have first learned of this seemingly impossible announcement. Although the emancipation sections did not apply to Tennessee, it laid out a tantalizing dream for so many enslaved people across the South. And for Andrew Ewing, it also declared that he could serve in the US Army or Navy.

Life as a Laborer and Soldier

That same year, when Andrew was about 31 years old, he made his way, along with thousands of other enslaved laborers to Nashville where he worked to build fortifications, including Fort Negley, for the US Army. His name appears on the list of nearly 3,000 "paid and unpaid" (mostly unpaid) laborers that helped to build forts during the Civil War.  His "owner" was listed as "W. Ewing" - William Ewing - Sallie Ewing's brother.

On August 12, 1863, Andrew enlisted in the 12th US Colored Infantry, Company B.  He was described as 5"7" tall, 30 years old, a laborer, and born in Williamson County.   The following is an excerpt from a Report that was compiled by General George Stearns regarding his efforts to recruit African American troops for the US Army:

General George Luther Stearns
Andrew Ewing's enlistment papers.
Shortly after he mustered into the 12th USCI, Andrew Ewing and the rest of his regiment were sent to guard the railroad bridge over the Elk River.

On December 1, 1863 Andrew Ewing was promoted to sergeant major of the regiment - an impressive accomplishment which indicates that he was both literate and well respected by enlisted men and officers alike. 

The 12th US Colored Infantry spent much of the rest of the War west of Nashville near Johnsonville helping to build and guard the railroad line to the Tennessee River.  In early November 1864 they were involved in an attack by Confederate John Bell Hood's forces on the Johnsonville battery.  

Johnsonville "Colored" Battery west of Nashville
In early December 1864 they marched to Clarksville where they were involved in skirmishes with Confederate forces.  This was just days after the bloody Battle of Franklin back home where Andrew Ewing's family may have been.

On December 15-16, 1864 the 12th US Colored Infantry participated in the Battle of Nashville. I've written more extensively about this significant event here.  Andrew Ewing was injured during the fighting when a cannonball broke a tree limb out of a tree that he was standing either in or under and the limb fell and injured his leg.  However he stayed with his company for the pursuit of Hood's Confederate Army of Tennessee - at least as far as Franklin.  When the US Army troops arrived in Franklin on the heels of the defeated Confederates, Sgt Ewing was "left sick at Franklin, Tenn."  I have not been able to determine exactly where he was left - in a field hospital? in one of the buildings used as a US Army hospital such as St. Paul's Episcopal Church or the Masonic Hall? I would love to know.

December 18, 1864 - Andrew Ewing was "Left sick at Franklin, Tenn"
About a year later, in October 1865, Andrew Ewing was discharged from the Army due to disability.  The reason stated was "rheumatism and stiffness of the knee and ankle joints . . . contracted in December [1864] during a campaign from Nashville, TN to LaGrange, AL in the line of duty resulting from cold and exposure after the Battle of Nashville."

Andrew Ewing's disability certificate
William B. Giles
Hired Andrew when he left the Army
Life as a Freedman

Shortly after he left the Army, Sergeant Ewing must have returned to Williamson County because by January 1st he had entered into a Labor Contract, negotiated under the auspices of the Freedmen's Bureau.  Sergeant Ewing and William B. Giles signed Labor Contract #368.  Andrew Ewing agreed to work in Giles’ blacksmith shop and Andrew's wife agreed to help in the Giles' house; the Ewing's were to be paid $275 for the year.  The families were living in District 21 of Williamson County near Jordan's Store (south of College Grove). 

In 1868, Sgt. Ewing applied for a pension from the US government, and in 1869 Andrew's wife died.  Sgt Ewing worked for W. B. Giles learning the blacksmith trade for several years - at least through 1870. Andrew appears on the 1870 Census as a "domestic servant" working for the Giles family.  Soon after he seems to have married Mary Ellen Gadsey and the couple moved to Brentwood.  

Andrew and Mary Ellen had 7 daughters together.  By 1880, the Ewings moved to Nashville to raise their daughters and Sgt Ewing was still trying to work as a blacksmith, although the pension examiners found him at this time to be nearly 75% disabled by his war injuries. 

Sgt. Ewing was a hard worker and despite his disability continue to try to work his whole life.  When he was almost 70 years old, in 1900, his daughter Lilly told a pension examiner that he was working at "Bush's brickyard in north Nashville", when he was able, "batching bricks" - in other words - he was making bricks by hand.  Bush's Brickyard continued to make some bricks by hand until the 1950s although most of them were mass produced for this large company that still exists today under the name R. D. Herbert & Sons.  

On February 24, 1901, at the age of 70, Sergeant Ewing died of pneumonia at his home in Bryant Town.  I have not been able to locate his grave.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wiley and Jane Brown Scruggs Family

Photograph of the Wiley and Jane Scruggs of the Southall community,
 Courtesy of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County & Rick Warwick;  
1st row. Cora Scruggs Blain, Wylie Scruggs, Jane Brown Scruggs, Willie Scruggs, Jr.,
2nd row. Pearl Scruggs Cunningham, Mary Lizzie Scruggs Cannon, Tom Scruggs

On June 5, 1941 an interview written by Jane Bowman Owen, the widow of local newspaper editor Dick Owen, appeared in the local paper.  Jane and Dick Owen happen to have built the house that my family live in today in the Hincheyville neighborhood of downtown Franklin.  Jane's interview was just one of hundreds that she conducted with local residents over the years in a column called "Who's Who in Williamson County." The interview that appeared on this day was with Wiley and Jane Scruggs, two formerly enslaved people from Williamson County.  Without the tireless work of Rick Warwick at the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County its possible this article and others like it may never have come to light.  I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude in making them so accessible in the edited volumes that he re-published.

I am going to transcribe the column below in italics with additional information and comments added in brackets for clarification. 


Three miles south of town on the Carter’s Creek Pike is the cleanest cabin anyone ever put foot in, and is the home of Wiley Scruggs and his faithful wife, Jane. 

On December 10, Mr. Scruggs will celebrate his 90th birthday and in August Mrs. Scruggs will reach 83.  They own a farm of 32 acres, which they bought in 1888 for $1,300 and they worked hard and paid for it in three years’ time.  

They married on his 21st birthday when his wife was only 15, and have “lived happily ever.”  
Wiley and Jane's marriage license

Of their 10 children only 8 are living, one daughter Mary Lizzie lives across the road on another cared for place and Pearl, with her recently acquired husband lives with her parents.  

[Wiley and Jane had ten children - 
Lula, born 1875
John, born 1877
Pearl, born 1880
Mary Lizzie, born 1881
Thomas, born 1882
Cora, born 1886
Wylie Scruggs Jr., born 1889
Delia Scruggs, born 1891

At the time of the interview (1941), daughter Mary Lizzie and her husband Jim Cannon were living across the street from Wiley and Jane.  Mary Lizzie and Jim were about 60 years old and had three teenagers living at home - the youngest of their twelve children.  At the same time, Mary Lizzie's sister Pearl was living with her parents.  Pearl had recently married her husband John Cunningham.]  

Tom, the well-remembered porter at Jennette’s market, who died not so many moons ago, was a son.  

[Wiley and Jane's son Tom had died in October 1940 at Vanderbilt Hospital after a brief illness.]

Around the door [of Wiley and Jane Scruggs' house] grows all kinds of pretty flowers and the yard with its thick covering of grass is well kept.  Neatly trimmed box hedge lines each side of the walk leading from the stile at the pike.  The entrance hall and “spare” bedroom are covered with beautiful red carpeting which Mrs. Scruggs proudly said, “We bought them at Mr. Jim Harrison’s sale and we had taken good care of them.” And their condition shows this to be true.  Several pieces of antiques, especially the beds in both rooms, prove they have escaped the prey of antique hunters.  The kitchen, too, was spotless and a fire crackled in the stove where Pearl was preparing to make cherry preserves, made from fruit gathered from a tree in the yard.

Mr. and Mrs. Scruggs worked hard in their day and generation and now that old age has overtaken them they are fortunate enough to have a cow to furnish them milk, hens to lay eggs, and by frugality manage to pay their taxes, keep warm in winter and have enough to eat to stay well and healthy.  Mr. Scruggs says he “mostly” votes the Democratic ticket.  He says he has outlived all his medical advisors, Drs. Gentry, German, Shannon and Howlett, and now he takes what his wife prescribes.  His hair and beard are hoary, has lost all but two teeth, but he looks as if he will live well past the century mark.

When asked if he remembered the days of the Civil War he said, “I minds the days of Hood’s Battle of Franklin.  I was livin’ with Mr. Joe Scruggs, who owned me since I was born.  Our home was where the poorhouse is now and we could hear the roar of the battle.  The next morning, I came to town with Mr. Joe and saw all the dead soldiers lyin’ round, and I wanted to go home.” 

He was raised in the house, attended “Miss Angeline’s” needs, set and waited on the table, made fires through the winter and always saw that there was plenty of cool water fresh from the spring.  At the close of the war his mother planned to leave, with the other slaves and told him when she came into the dining room at supper time with the last plate of hot biscuits she would clear her throat and that would be the signal for him to follow her.  Instead he crouched in the corner close to his mistress for he said he knew he was getting plenty to eat where he was and treated well.  Where they would go he knew nothing of.

His mother made the second trip for him and he still refused to go.  As he slept in the “big house” he did not hear the slaves leave in the night but he rose early the next morning and went to the quarters.  When he neared his mother’s cabin he could not keep the tears from his childish eyes and wailed, “Mammy.”  The door opened and there she stood for she could not go off and leave him.  

[Wiley's mother's name was Milly Glass and his father was Burton Glass, according to his death certificate.  They were probably originally owned by the neighboring Glass family.  During the Civil War, Wiley's father Burton appears on the list of men who helped to build the fortifications in Nashville, including Fort Negley, for the US Army. That is likely why he is not mentioned in this story about Wiley and his mother leaving the Scruggs farm.  Perhaps Miley was planning to leave to go to Nashville to join her husband. After the War, Milly and Burton returned to Franklin where Burton registered to vote and farmed until his death around 1908.]

He said before the war he was so stout and healthy his master was offered $1,200 for him.  He scratched his head, chuckled and slyly remarked, “I sho’ aint never been worth that much since.”

Mrs. Scruggs gave him a drink in a clean dipper from the well in the yard.  He settled back in his chair, wiped his mouth on his shirt sleeve, pushed his dog away from his feet and remarked, “At the close of the war, there was 45 of us whites and blacks and now Miss Nannie Scruggs [the daughter of his former enslavers Joe & Angeline Bennett Scruggs] and me are the only ones left.  Miss Florence’s children comes to see us sometimes.  Pretty little Miss Marie Kenneday was out here not long ago.  She sho’ is pretty and sweet, just like her great-grandma used to be.” 

[Nannie Scruggs was the youngest of Joe and Angeline Scruggs' four daughters. Florence was the third; she married David Kenneday. Marie Kenneday was their daughter. Its interesting to note how the children and grandchildren of Wiley's enslavers maintain such close relationships with him after he gained his emancipation.]

Mrs. Scruggs sat close by her husband keeping watch to see that he did not tire himself.  When asked to whom she belonged she was quick to say, Miss Irene and Miss Anna Brown is my white folks.  

[I think that Jane Brown Scruggs was enslaved by Benjamin Brown and his wife Virginia.  Two of their daughters, Irene and Anna never married.  They were retail coal dealers and lived on Columbia Avenue - these were the "white folks" to whom Jane Scruggs is referring.]

I was a daughter of Wash Brown, who belonged to Mr. Ben Brown, their father.  Early in life I began delivering babies.  I have a list of 335 white babies in my book.  I never kept an account of the colored babies. 

She said her mother pieces and quilted 150 quilts and she herself has made close to 100.  She displayed some of them giving their patterns, one in red and white she called “Ways of the World.”  The reason for the appellation she did not disclose but the work was well done, the stitches small and well placed.

Jane Scruggs' mother - Catherine Poyner
(daughter of Dick Poyner)
b. 1828
[Jane's mother - the quilter to whom she referred - was Catherine Poyner.  Catherine was the daughter of Williamson County's famous furniture maker Dick Poyner - who was emancipated before the end of the Civil War. I've already discussed the story of Catherine's sister Mary in some depth - she married William Holmes - a veteran of the US Army.]

The aged couple belongs to the Primitive Baptist Church and both were present on the fourth Sunday in May at the footwashing at Hard Bargain Church.  [The 4th Sunday in May foot washing services at the Primitive Baptist Church in the Hard Bargain neighborhood of Franklin were legendary.  Newspaper accounts beginning in the late 1800s describe crowds of thousands of African Americans arriving by train, wagon, carriage, car and on foot from Nashville and Columbia to participate.  You can read these articles here, here, here, here, and here.]

The 4th Sunday in May foot-washing service at Franklin Primitive Baptist Church on Mt. Hope St,, Hard Bargain, Franklin, Tennessee, May 1926
Photograph courtesy of Rick Warwick at the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County.

This photograph is from a newspaper article published July 20, 1947 in the Nashville, Tennesseean regarding the foot washing service at the Primitive Baptist Church.  This was just a few years after Wiley and Jane Scruggs were interviewed and shows the inside of the church and what the participants were wearing.
They have a good garden and have stored in the cellar fruit and vegetables gathered from their own place and prepared Mrs. Scruggs and Pearl for the long winter months when the earth refuses to yield.  The horse, “Dolly” and the buggy are about as ancient in comparison as the old folks but they can carry them safely to and from town, about the only trips they make.  They get their groceries at the store across the road from Mr. Yates. 

To see these old folks in a house as orderly as one can be kept, their bodies and clothes clean, nothing but respectful language coming from their mouths and with childlike faith in the Eternal it makes one wonder if we realize all that was meant in the words of the son of David when he said, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit . . . .For in much wisdom is much grief: and in he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”

[This condescending closing to the article is probably typical of the way that many white citizens viewed former slaves in Williamson County.  Despite the language, we are fortunate to have this description of Wiley and Jane's home and family as well as his childhood and experience during the War and Battle of Franklin - even if it is through the lens of a third party.]

Nashville Globe, February 16, 1912, p1
This newspaper article from 1912 describes some of the leading African American citizens and includes Wiley Scruggs as a prominent farmer in "close proximity to Franklin."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Edward "Ned" Scruggs, Veteran of the 13th USCT, Company F

Edward "Ned" Scruggs was born about 1836 in Williamson County, Tennessee.  He and his family were enslaved by a man named Ed Scruggs on the Scruggs family farm on Carter's Creek Pike west of Franklin and were probably born there as well.  According to Rick Warwick of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County this large farm was later called the Pigg-Haralson Farm and owned by E.G. Sellers.  For clarity, I'm going to refer to Edward "Ned" Scruggs as Ned to keep him distinct from Ed Scruggs, his former enslaver, although Ned did use both the name Ed and Ned throughout his life.
Close up of Section of 1878 Map of Williamson County,
showing J. Scruggs' farm along Carter's Creek Pike, west of Franklin
Tennessee State Library and Archives, D.G. Beers & Co.
Enslavement in Williamson County

Ned Scruggs served in the Army - in the 13th US Colored Infantry - during the Civil War.  In his pension application he stated this about his early life:

"I have no record of any kind of my birth. I do not know of any public record of my birth, neither baptism record, nor any family records. . . .[T]he people who owned me before the Civil War . . . lived in Williamson County, Tenn., near Franklin, Tenn.. . . I do not know whether they had a family record of my birth. . . . My parents were slaves; could not read or write and did not keep any record of the birth of their children."

It is impossible to downplay the horror of what slavery was like for Ned. For example, in 1836, the year of his birth, in Nashville a lottery was held. Much like today, various prizes were the possible rewards. However, at that time, in addition to the chance to win a farm, or a steam boat, you also could win another person. Four people were being awarded - probably the members of a family, a mother, father, and two daughters. This was the world that young Ned was born into. [Link to Internal Improvement Lottery announcement in newspaper]

In 1847, when Ned was about 11 years old the man who enslaved him, Ed Scruggs, died leaving his large landholdings and slaves to his own wife and children. Ned became the property of Ed's son Theo, who was just 13 years old at this time - two years older than Ned.

1847 Inventory of Estate of Ed Scruggs (white)
1847 Inventory of Estate of Ed Scruggs (white) p2

The inventory of Ed Scruggs' estate included 12 horses and mules, one yoke of oxen, 18 head of cattle, 30 sheep 150 hogs and the 41 people he was enslaving.  Among those individuals I found an eleven year old Ned Scruggs along with his parents Alfred and Felicia and his siblings, Lucy, Henry, Burton, Harriet, Henderson, and Jenny.

Partial inventory of Ed Scruggs' slaves in 1847, showing Ned's family
I found a Freedmen's Bank record for a William Scruggs who was born in Franklin that I believe was another brother born after this inventory was taken.  William was a teamster in the Civil War and later lived in St. Louis working on a steamship.  You can see that he listed Ned and his sister Harriet as his siblings as well as their parents Alfred and Felicia (Lishy).  From what I have pieced together, Ned's family tree looks something like this:

His father Alfred (b. 1792) and mother Felicia (Lishy) (b. 1810) had 8 children who survived:

  • Lucy (b. 1830)
  • Harrison "Harry" (b. 1835)
  • Edward "Ned" (b. 1836)
  • Burton (b. 1837)
  • Harriet (b. 1838)
  • Henderson "Henry" (b. 1840)
  • George (b. 1841)
  • Jenny (b. 1842)
  • William (b. 1848)

The next record I could find of Ned's childhood was in 1849; it appears as though he was hired out for $10 that year.  He was 13 years old.

For the next dozen or so years, Ned was hired out to work, sometimes with his brother Henry as a farm hand and rock mason. It appears as though he may have sometimes been hired out to the Scruggs' neighbors the Kinnards.  During this time, when he was a teenager, Ned married Mary Kinnard, another enslaved person, in what was described as a "regular slave marriage" in his pension documents.  They were recognized by "whites and blacks" and had the permission of their "owners" to marry.  Their first child,  London Scruggs, was born in 1851 when both Mary and Ned were just teenagers.  

One of their neighbors was Wiley Scruggs - another one of the Scruggs slaves.  He lived on the Scruggs farm with his mother and was enslaved by Joe Scruggs - Theo's older brother.  In 1909 he said that he remembered Ned and his wife Mary:
"I knew them or can remember them about the time of the breaking out of the war. . . . Ned Scruggs belonged to either Theo or his brother Ned [Ed] Scruggs. I don't know which as they were all in one place. Mary belonged to [the] Kinnard[s] & Newton[s] both, I don't know which owned her last. When I first knew Mary she belonged to Kinnard and was living as the wife of this Ned Scruggs."

Deposition of Wiley Scruggs
The Scruggs families lived next to Claiborne Kinnard (just to the south) - this may be who Wiley Scruggs is referring to in regards to Mary.  

Mary and Ned would have two boys London (b. 1851) and Jarvis (b. 1859) during this time.  This is what their oldest son, called "Lundy", said about them in a pension record:
"I can remember my parents before the war & they lived as man and wife & everybody regarded them as such til he went into the army. They had their owner's consent to live as man and wife then or they could not have lived together."
In 1855, Theo Scruggs, the young enslaver of Ned Scruggs, was granted disbursement of his share of his father's estate - including Ned Scruggs - who was now 19 years old.  In the estate papers, Ned was valued at $950. 

Portion of Probate Records for Theo Scruggs, showing Lot No. 2 - Ned is listed as 17 years old and valued at $950. The "Mary and child" listed is perhaps his wife Mary (14) and oldest son London (4); they are valued at $1,100.
Ned's siblings Harry, Harriett, and Henderson are also valued.
His parents Alfred and Letitia, who would have been elderly were valued at $200 along with the livery..

The Civil War

On December 20, 1860 South Carolina seceded from the United States.  This news surely sent shock waves throughout Williamson County and likely reached Ned Scruggs.  By now, Ned and Mary were 24 years old and the parents of two young sons - Lundy (9) and Jarvis (1).  The following April, US troops fired upon Fort Sumter and men from Williamson County began organizing into militias.  Across Virginia the enslaved had begun to flee toward the US army troops at Fort Monroe, and US Army General Butler coined the term "contraband of war" in May 1861 to describe them and the authority under which he allowed these refugees to seek safety within his lines.   

Meanwhile, back in Williamson County, white men were starting to form Confederate militia units in preparation for an expected war involving Tennessee.  On May 9, 1861 Theo Scruggs' brother Young Scruggs joined the Confederate Army in Company D of the Tennessee First Infantry - better known as the Williamson GraysOn June 8, 1861 Tennessee seceded from the United State of America.  

On February 24, 1862 Nashville fell to US forces.  Many slaves in Williamson County (contrabands) began to emancipate themselves and gather around the arriving Army camps for protection, employment, shelter, and food. This was a very chaotic time.  Williamson County was a war zone.  According to the History of the 78th Volunteer Pennsylvania Infantry

The summer of 1862 was a very eventful and critical period in the War. About the middle of March General Buell commenced his march through Franklin and Columbia to Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. . . . On the 23rd of March the 78th Regiment left Camp Andy Johnson, marched twenty-two miles southward, and bivouacked a mile south of Franklin. On the 25th we marched eighteen miles farther south to Camp "Bill Sirwell" on Carter's Creek, not far from Columbia. From this time onward the Regiment with Head Quarters at Franklin and Columbia guarded the lines of communication between General Buell's Army and his base of supplies on the railroads running southward through Franklin, Columbia and Pulaski.  . . .we guarded Franklin, Columbia, Pulaski, the railroad over Carter's Creek and many other important adjacent points.

These US soldiers would have marched right near the Scruggs farm on Carter's Creek Pike in Franklin. Ned Scruggs surely would have seen them out foraging and on patrols, and perhaps been inspired and emboldened to leave for Nashville - maybe even enabled by them. Skirmishing continued throughout the year – with control of Franklin changing hands repeatedly. On September 22, 1862 President Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation. Its hard to know how or when Ned Scruggs would have first learned of this seemingly impossible announcement. Although the emancipation sections did not apply to Tennessee, it laid out a tantalizing dream for so many enslaved people across the South. And for Ned Scruggs, it also declared that he could serve in the US Army or Navy.

Life as a Paid Laborer and Soldier

When the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, 
it’s hard to know what 27-year old Ned Scruggs would have thought of it. However, we do know that along with about 300 other men from Williamson County he would take advantage of provisions that allowed him to serve in the military.

On March 5, 1863, the US forces in Franklin suffered a significant defeat at the Battle of Thompson’s Station. Ned would have likely heard all about this fighting. Later that spring, the US Troops began constructing Fort Granger in Franklin to more securely hold the town and protect the bridge and railroad at the Harpeth River. The presence of US Army forces in Franklin created an opportunity for many of the enslaved people living there and nearby - such as Ned Scruggs. On April 2, 1863 a group of these "contraband slaves" made their way in to Nashville from Franklin, as was described in this newspaper article:
Nashville Daily Union, April 2, 1863

This was surely just one example of thousands of enslaved people who fled to Nashville during the War. Ned also took this opening and left the Scruggs farm for a chance at something better.  However, in the pension records, one person recalled that Mary did not accompany Ned to Nashville.  She appears to have stayed in Franklin with their two young children.

Ned obtained (or was perhaps impressed into) work building the fortifications for the US Army, including Fort Negley. His name appears on the Employment Rolls and Nonpayment Rolls of Negroes Employed in the Defenses of Nashville, Tennessee, 1862-1863 He was assigned #923 and his "owner" is listed as "T. Scruggs" - Theo Scruggs. Ned Scruggs was employed for 5 months at a rate of $7/month. He was one of the relatively few men who actually received his wages of $35. Its not clear if he was able to send some of this money home to Mary and their sons, but if he did it surely would have been a huge help to them.

Upon completion of the forts, on September 24, 1863 in Nashville, Ned Scruggs enlisted in Company F of the 13th US Colored Infantry.  This was the first day that enlistment opened for this regiment.   The 13th USCI was just the second Civil War-era federal black regiment of infantry soldiers in the United States.  Men were recruited into its ranks from among the laborers like Ned Scruggs who had worked to build forts in places such as Nashville, Gallatin and Murfreesboro and lived in the contrabands camps in those areas. 

In his enlistment papers Ned Scruggs was described as a 24-year-old farmer who was 5'11" tall.  After his enlistment at the end of September, he mustered into Company F at "Camp Rosencranz" on November 19, 1863.   Camp Rosencranz was probably referring to Fortress Rosencrans in Murfreesboro.   This sketch showing "negro recruits" boarding train cars for Murfreesboro likely depicts men such as Ned Scruggs heading to Fortress Rosencrans for their initiation into Army life.  
"Negro recruits taking the cars for Murfreesboro, Tenn., to join the federal army", From a sketch of C. F. Hillen.
Tennessee State Library & Archives. Image in the public domain.
The day they were mustered in the 13th USCT Regiment was presented with its Regimental flag - a beautiful vibrant blue flag with a blazoned eagle and shield, marked "Thirteenth Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry" and "Presented by the colored ladies of Murfreesboro." The day after Ned Scruggs mustered in (November 20, 1863) he was promoted to be a corporal - which indicates that he was literate.  He signed up for a three-year term of service under the command of Colonel John A. Hottenstein. 

March 10, 1864 Nashville Daily Union
From its formation in the fall of 1863 until May 1864, the men of the 13th were primarily used as laborers on the Nashville and Northwestern railroad 30 miles west of Nashville near Kingston Springs. This March 10, 1864 correspondence to the Nashville Union, written by "J. W. R." , presumably an officer of the 13th USCI, states that the railroad they are building is a "military necessity" and points out that the men of the 12th USCI and 13th USCI who have been working to build it had been "gathered . . . from such a horrid state of slavery and wrong that even now they claim to be free."  This is interesting to me, because it implies that the writer understands, or maybe implies, that despite their service in the Army they are still not entirely "free."  He goes on somewhat patronizingly, "They cheerfully submit to the rigors of military rule, saying, 'We were never so happy before. Our old masters would get angry with us and sometimes punish us almost to death; and we do not understand why; but here if we are punished, we know why, for the officers tell us our duty, and never punish us unless we disobey. If we disobey, we know it; and if we are punished, we know what it is for.' . . . I have seen this regiment march a whole day without observing a single instance of straying or breaking ranks for pigs and poultry.  . . . Our record in the army is just as good as any other and better than that of white troops on fatigue or road building. . . . It is quite a satisfaction to me to know that while some men consider the men of this organization to be unworthy because the soldiers have been negro slaves, they have shown as much bravery in proportion to their experience in mortal combat as the white troops, and more proficiency in the schools of the company and soldier."

During this time, the 13th had furnished an average of five hundred men as construction workers; other USCT and white regiments also provided laborers to this massive military effort.  Confederate guerrillas periodically attacked the soldiers attempting to disrupt their work, but despite their efforts, the US Army completed the rail extension to Johnsonville quickly. These soldiers also built warehouses, barracks, a rail station, fortifications, and other facilities at Johnsonville. Between 5,000 and 7,300 African American soldiers are estimated to have worked on the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad project. By May 10, 1864 the 13th USCI soldiers completed their work on the railroad and were dispersed along the railroad line to provide guard duty at blockhouses.  

At some point during his time in the Army,   Ned's oldest son Jarvis visited him with provisions.  In the pension file, he says this: 
"My father went in the army but I do not know his regiment. I was sent by my mother while my father was in the army at Nashville, Tenn. to take him six chickens and I took them to him."
I'm sure Ned really appreciated receiving the care package of those birds!
From Jarvis Scruggs' deposition in Ned Scruggs' widow's pension application, dated May 17, 1909

The 13th USCT under Colonel Hottenstein guarded Johnsonville, Waverly, and other key points along the line between May and December 1864, and again from mid-January 1865 to the end of the war. The Record of Events indicates that Company F (Ned Scruggs' Company), along with other Companies were summoned to Johnsonville in July 1864 from various points along the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad to help construct and garrison the Lower Redoubt portion of Fort Johnson at Johnsonville. In the course of that work, Ned "incurred injury of [his]back caused by lifting logs to build breastworks."

Later in life, Ned Scruggs would write in his pension application that he had injured his back while lifting logs to build these breastworks.
African American troops occupied this Lower Redoubt at Fort Johnson on the eve of and during the Battle of Johnsonville. On the morning of November 4, 1864, Confederate Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked Johnsonville in an attempt to disrupt the supply routes provided by the railroad.  The Battle of Johnsonville was a significant and unique land and water battle - a full description of which is beyond the scope of this blog post.  I encourage you to learn more about it.  

Colonel Mussey of the 100th USCT wrote in a report of the day:

The behavior of the colored troops at Johnsonville, Tenn., during the recent attack upon that place was, I am informed by several eye-witnesses, excellent. . . . . Some of the Thirteenth U. S. Colored Infantry, who were at Johnsonville, were upon the river-bank as sharpshooters, and armed with the Enfield rifle, and did good execution. The affair was slight, but it has gained credit for the colored troops.  Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Report of Col. Reuben D. Mussey, Series I, Vol. 39, Part I, Serial no. 77, 868

Johnsonville, Tenn. Camp of Tennessee Colored Battery
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
On November 30, 1864 (the day of the Battle of Franklin) the entire regiment was withdrawn to Nashville in preparation for Lt. General Hood's anticipated attack.  

On December 7th, the men of the 13th USCI were placed into the 2nd Colored Brigade, along with the men of the 12th USCI and 100th USCI.  The men dug-in and threw up rifle pits where they skirmished with the Confederates over the next week near Nashville. Col. John A. Hottenstein, commander of the 13th USCI Thirteenth gave this nonchalant account of their movements in mid December 1864 including their service at the Battle of Nashville:   

During the time from the 7th to the 13th [of December] this regiment was occupied in throwing up rifle-pits along the line and preparing for a campaign. The men were reclothed and refitted in everything necessary for a long campaign. On the 13th regiment was ordered out with the rest of the brigade on a reconnaissance near Rains' house, and had a lively skirmish during the afternoon, retiring at dusk. In this skirmish the regiment lost 1 man killed and 4 wounded. On the night of the 14th I received orders to be ready to move at 5 o'clock the following morning. Soon after daylight on the morning of the 15th we moved with the brigade and occupied the works thrown up on the right of the Chattanooga railroad and near the Nolensville pike. During the 15th the regiment lay behind those breast-works, under a severe fire from a battery in our front, without sustaining any loss.
On December 16, the Second Brigade, including the 13th USCT, participated in the fierce assault on the right wing of General Hoods Army of Tennessee at Overton Hill (Peach Orchard Hill). The battle site can be seen today just west of I-65 at the Harding Place exit, where a historical marker has been placed. You can read more about the Battle of Nashville and the role of the men from Williamson County in this blog post.  It is hard to adequately describe the significance of the role that the men from Williamson County and the 13th USCI played in the Battle that day.  You can learn more here.

This is 
Col. Hottenstein's rather matter-of-fact report of that day:
At daylight on the morning of the 16th the regiment was under arms ready to move, and about sunrise I received orders from the colonel commanding to move across the Nolensville pike and feel the enemy in our front. I advanced my skirmishers to a piece of woods in our front, but the enemy had retired. I then received orders to move over to the Nolensville pike, where the remainder of the brigade then was, and to form my regiment as a reserve, in rear of the other two regiments of the brigade, and to regulate my movements by them. The brigade then moved to the right and front, and after considerable maneuvering joined the right to the left of the Third Division, Fourth Corps, where the men were ordered to lie down. In this position we were shelled considerably, by the enemy without any material damage. At about 2.30 I received notice that we would assault the works in our front, and in a few minutes afterward the order to advance was given. The regiment advanced with the brigade in good order, but before we arrived near the rebel works the troops in our front began to lie down, and skulk to the rear, which, of course, was not calculated to give much courage to men who never before had undergone an ordeal by fire. The fire of the enemy was terrific, but nevertheless the men, led by their officers, continued to advance to the very muzzles of the enemy's guns, but its numbers were too small, and after a protracted struggle they had to fall back, not for the want of courage or discipline, but because it was impossible to drive the enemy from his works by a direct assault. Before falling back all the troops on our right had given way, and it was to continue the struggle any longer. The regiment reformed on the ground occupied just previous to the assault by the One hundredth U. S. Colored Infantry, and was ready to again advance when a staff officer of the colonel commanding ordered me to take my regiment over to the left, where the remainder of the brigade was formed. I moved to the left, as ordered, and joined the brigade, which moved about miles to the front and encamped for the night, in the meantime the enemy retiring toward Franklin. The regiment went into action on the morning of the 16th, 556 men and 20 commissioned officers, lost 4 commissioned officers and 55 enlisted men killed, and 4 commissioned and 165 enlisted men wounded; total loss, 220.
Next, the 13th USCI participated in the pursuit of Hood during his retreat south through Williamson County.  This is what Col. Hottenstein said about those days beginning on December 17, 1864 and their subsequent return to Nashville:

On the morning of the 17th we marched in pursuit of the enemy and reached Franklin in the evening. The next day the regiment moved with the brigade toward Murfreesborough and arrived there on the 20th; thence to Stevenson and Decatur, where we arrived on the 25th, and drove the enemy out of the place, . . . The regiment moved with the brigade down the river in the direction of Courtland and arrived there on the 30th of December, and from thence to La Grange, Ala., on January 1, 1865. January 2 moved back toward Decatur and arrived there on the 5th. On the 7th we embarked on the cars for Nashville. Arriving at Scottsborough we were ordered in pursuit of the rebel Gen. Lyon, who had been on a raiding tour through Kentucky and Tennessee. The regiment marched in pursuit to--Landing, and returned thence to Larkinsville, Ala. Nothing of note occurred on this march, except the suffering of the men for the want of shoes and other clothing, which from the length of the campaign were worn out. Many of the officers and men were barefoot, and never did men display more soldierly than on this march; without shoes and a great time without rations, they performed their duty cheerfully and without murmur. The regiment arrived at Nashville on the 15th of January and lay there until the 29th, when I received orders to move and reoccupy our former stations of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad. The regiment moved by easy marches to its former stations on the road, arriving at this place on the 2d of February, and on the 4th all of the different companies had arrived at the posts assigned them.  Source: Official Records PAGE 548-93 KY., SW. VA., TENN., MISS., ALA., AND N. GA. [CHAP. LVII. [Series I. Vol. 45. Part I, Reports, Correspondence, Etc. Serial No. 93.]
As Ned Scruggs and the rest of the 13th USCI (including almost 60 other men from Williamson County) marched through Franklin, Colonel Thomas Jefferson Morgan recounts this scene in his memoir as they saluted their top commanding officer, General Thomas.  

What an incredible moment that must have been for these men to return to Williamson County as triumphant soldiers rather than enslaved men.

As they continued on their long march south Ned was apparently injured.  He said that his foot was trapped between railroad cars when they were "en route from Murfreesboro to Decatur" and his foot was "mashed" and his back injured.

After this arduous march and injury its not surprising that Ned Scruggs eventually became sick.  On October 12, 1865 his military records show that he was sick in the hospital in Nashville.  He was absent from his company through November and December.  He was admitted to the Hospital in Nashville with small pox and returned to duty January 3rd 1866 in Nashville.

Just one week later, Ned Scruggs mustered out of service on January 10, 1866 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Post War Life and Reconstruction

According to his pension, Ned returned home to Williamson County and lived for a short while with Mary and their two sons - Lundy (who was now 14) and Jarvis (now 6).  A daughter Delia was conceived and born to the couple.  

Ned's father Alfred appears to have stayed on the Scruggs farm in the Southall area of Franklin, although by the 1870 Federal Census his mother seems to have died.  They were living next door to their former enslaver's widow Alpha Scruggs and her sons Ed Jr, Theo and Young (the Confederate veteran).

1870 Federal Census from Williamson County, District 5, showing Alfred Scruggs heading a household of various perhaps unrelated members and living next door to Alpha Scruggs, the widow of their former enslaver, as well as her children Ed, Theo and Young.
His brother Harry had married and was also living in Williamson County working as a stone mason.  Ned's brother Burt also married and remained farming the Scruggs farm through at least the 1880s. 

However, the strains of slavery and the wartime separation appear to have been too much for Ned and Mary's relationship and the marriage ended soon after his return from the War. This what their oldest son Lundy said in a pension request:
When he [Ned] got out of the army he came back to my mother and they lived again as man and wife till he left this county. I think he stayed with my mother a year or two after he came back from the army. I know they called themselves man and wife here after the war & were so recognized till they parted. I do not know why they parted. I never saw my father after he left here, but he went to Giles County from here. I never heard if he went to Nashville. I know my father and mother never were divorced. He married again though in Giles County. I heard of it and heard of him again 3 or 4 times a year. I think he married another Mary after he left my mother that we heard was in Giles Co. Tenn.
Lundy was right - Ned did marry another Mary in 1868 in Giles County.  But sadly she and their young son died in 1872.  Ned married a third time, to Celia Ann Suttles on "Zach Bradshaw's place" in Giles County, Tennessee.  The couple had a son George, but then Celia died as well.  In 1874, Ned - who seems to have been an incurable romantic - rolled the dice again and married Elvira Maples on December 12, 1874 when he was 38 years old - almost exactly ten years after he had participated in the Battle of Nashville.  This time his luck had changed and the marriage would last the rest of his life.

Ned settled down as a farmer in Giles County, Tennessee with Elvira raising his son George.  In the 1880 Census, Ned was listed as being 49 years old, Elvira was 24 and Ned's son George was a 9 years old.  

In 1883 Ned Scruggs filed for a pension based on the injuries he received during Hood's retreat and working to build breastworks.  

Around this time, Ned and Elvira would move to Limestone County, Alabama and start their own family of three children - Martha Ann (b. 1884), Joseph (b. 1887) and son Neshy (b. 1891).  The year that their  youngest son Neshy was born, Ned was 54 years old.  Ned was working as a "stone or rock mason and farmer" according to his pension records.

In the 1900 Federal Census, Ned and Elvira were renting a farm in Gilbertsboro, Limestone County, Alabama where they were farming.  Their sons Joseph & Neshy and daughter Martha Ann were living with them.  Ned and Joseph could read and write.  Ned was listed as 77 years old, although my calculations put it him at 64 years old.  He died on February 6, 1908 in Elmont, Limestone, Alabama.  I have not been able to locate his grave.