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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Driving & Walking Tours of Important African American sites in Franklin, Tennessee

Did you know that there are several tours that can take you to sites that are significant to African American history in Franklin, Tennessee? 

Architectural Walking Tour

The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County has developed two fantastic walking tours that take you through downtown Franklin and even to Fort Granger near Pinkerton Park.  They explore many elements of Franklin history, including stories of African Americans who lived here and made significant contributions to our history.  

The first tour travels along East Main to 1st Ave South and then to Fort Granger. This tour covers the housing provided for African American laborers who worked a the Lillie Mills and Fort Granger which was constructed in part by African American laborers.

The second tour covers the Public Square to the Jails to 2nd Ave. North and South. This tour includes a discussion of African American preacher William Perkins' house, the Shorter Chapel AME sanctuary on 2nd Avenue South, the William and Docia Owen House, and the Bucket of Blood neighborhood. 

Audio Cellphone Tour

The City of Franklin offers an audio driving tour that has several stops related to African-American history. This self-guided audio tour includes sites such as the McLemore House, the Hard Bargain neighborhood and Toussaint L'Ouverture Cemetery. To begin your tour, call 615-216-1597 and enter the appropriate stop number followed by the # sign. You may disconnect and rejoin by calling the number above again at the next stop. Each stop has an audio tour sign on site with audio tour instructions.

In addition, videos have been produced to accompany the stops along the way - so if you can't get out and make the drive, you can still hear the content and see the location. You may even want to watch the videos ahead of time so that you can understand what you will be seeing before you get there. 

Stop #12, Toussaint L'Ouverture Cemetery Corner of Del Rio Pike and Hillsboro Rd. (part 1)
1. Private Samuel Johnson (WWI)
2. Mariah Reddick (a slave and servant of the McGavock family at Carnton)
3. Dr. Charles C. Johnson (physician)
4. John Douglas House (musician)
5. ANC Williams (business man)

Stop #13 Toussaint L'Ouverture Cemetery, Corner of Del Rio Pike and Hillsboro Rd. (part 2)
6. Freeman Thomas (Civil War Veteran)
7. Robert Rucker, Sr (land developer and home builder)
8. Mattie Otey Winstead (nurse)
9. Ephriam Otey (Confederate body servant)
10. Rev. J. T. Patton (funeral home owner)

Stop #14, McLemore House, 446 11th Ave. North

Stop #15, Hard Bargain Neighborhood, 446 11th Ave. North

Courage Faith and Commitment

Additionally, Franklin's specifically African American Heritage Tour, "Courage, Faith, and Commitment," is a driving tour of 20 historically significant sites relating to African Americans guided by a brochure. 
Stop by Carnton Plantation or the Visitor Center on 4th Avenue in downtown Franklin for a free copy of the brochure or you can download one using this link for a 90-minute self-guided tour that leads visitors from the Public Square and Main Street through four distinct neighborhoods, ending at Carnton. Some sites are publicly accessible or available by appointment or paid admission; privately-owned sites can only be viewed from public streets.

Here is the text from the brochure:

This self-guided driving tour called "Courage, Faith and Commitment" highlights Franklin's African American heritage. Before the Civil War, African Americans made up more than half of Franklin’s population, including slaves and a small free black community that included a barber and a baker. During the war and after emancipation, several men joined the United States Colored Troop units and fought for their freedom. After the war, Franklin experienced racial tensions as residents struggled with the tumultuous social changes sweeping across the country. The Franklin Riot of 1867 started as a political event but ended in gunfire, injury or death to 39 people.

African Americans persevered through those tough years to create close-knit and thriving neighborhoods. Living in a small town rather than on a farm or plantation allowed African Americans to learn skilled trades, including carpentry, stonemasonry, teaching, and chair making. Many African Americans became entrepreneurs, operating businesses, farms, stores, and funeral homes.

The effects of the civil rights movement, integration, and urban renewal changed Franklin’s historic African American neighborhoods, as new opportunities lured them to other places. Fortunately, neighborhood revitalization and recognition are bringing new life to these historic communities that made such necessary and important contributions to Franklin’s growth and prosperity.

The 20 sites on this tour provide an opportunity to experience the diversity of Franklin’s history. Some sites are publicly accessible during posted visited hours or are available by appointment. Several remain in private ownership and can only be viewed from the public thoroughfares. Please respect the rights of property owners and only enter the properties that are open and accessible to the public.

This driving tour takes about 2 hours and begins at the Lillie Mills silos on First Avenue in historic downtown Franklin.

1. LILLIE MILLS AND L&N RAILROAD COMPLEXES, First Avenue South between East Main and South Margin Streets
Along First Avenue, the silos of the former Lillie Mills flour plant and the railroad depot still mark the landscape. These were key downtown industries that employed many African Americans, and contributed to the development of the downtown African American community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

2. DOWNTOWN & THE "BUCKET OF BLOOD", Area bordered by the Harpeth River, the railroad tracks, Main and Church Street
This downtown area currently houses restored homes, shops and offices. However, between 1870 and 1960, this same area housed a vital working class African-American neighborhood.

After the Civil War, former slave Rev. William Perkins became the first freedman to purchase a home in the neighborhood. African American residents representing a variety of professions and skills worked as carpenters, railroad workers, gardeners, shoemakers, cooks, nurses and washwomen called this their home.

On First Avenue, the Lillie Mills flour plant operated for several decades. The mill provided jobs for many African-Americans, and established the area along East Margin Street as an industrial center. In the early 1900s, two rows of company houses for African American mill workers were built around the plant, nicknamed “Bucket of Blood.” Although many stories abound about the neighborhood’s name, local lore suggests that a man was killed in the rough area, and bled a “bucket of blood,”

The downtown neighborhood experienced significant changes as the mill closed, government offices expanded beyond the square, and neighborhood revitalization brought more retail to the area and a few of the historic African American structures remain part of the landscape today.

3. GREEN HOUSE, Corner of Second Avenue & Church Street
The “Green House” is the oldest remaining African American house in downtown Franklin. William “Munch” and Docia House purchased the corner lot on 2nd Avenue and Church Street in 1906 and their home remained in the family for over ninety years. In 2001, preservationists Thelma Battle and Pearl Bransford persuaded City Hall not to tear down the house for a parking lot.

4. WILEY MEMORIAL CHAPEL METHODIST EPISCOPAL, 112 Second Avenue South (presently Pull-Tight Theatre)
The Methodist Episcopal Church was built ca. 1869, and served as a vital community institution through the mid-twentieth century. A dwindling congregation caused the church to close in 1945. The former church currently houses the Pull-Tight Theatre.

5. COURTHOUSE SQUARE, The Public Square in the heart of downtown
After the Civil War, on July 6, 1867, the courthouse square was the site of the infamous Franklin Riot when Franklin’s Colored League marched through Franklin’s square to protest speeches by two congressional candidates. A.N.C. Williams attempted to avoid violence by communicating the League’s desire to march peaceably to the assembled white attendees. Events escalated and shots were fired on both sides, but Williams’ proved instrumental in calming tensions between blacks and whites and working for a peaceful solution to the conflict on the square.

6. A.N.C. WILLIAMS' STORE, 428 Main Street
Perhaps Franklin’s most prominent early African American merchant and entrepreneur, A.N.C. Williams opened one of the first African American businesses in downtown Franklin in 1863, operating a shoe repair business on the square. After purchasing a lot between 4th and 5th Avenue, Williams constructed a building and opened a general merchandise store. Williams operated his store for sixty-four years, openly catering to both black and white patrons despite Jim Crow laws and segregation. Due to failing health, he retired in 1928 as the oldest continually operating merchant on Main Street, having owned and managed his successful store for over sixty years.

7. OLD CITY CEMETERY, Fourth Avenue North
Before the establishment of Toussaint L'Ouverture Cemetery, many of Franklin's African American citizens were buried in the Old City Cemetery's eastern quadrant.

8. TOUISSANT L'OVERTURE CEMETERY, Corner of Hillsboro Road and Del Rio Pike
In 1884, a group of African American residents purchased four acres and created their neighborhood cemetery. The Toussaint L’Ouverture Cemetery is a prominent landmark in the Hardbargain neighborhood,named for the slave leader who led the 1812 revolution ending French colonial rule in Haiti. The cemetery houses veterans from both World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as well as members of the many African American Masonic and social organizations. Prominent citizens buried here include A.N.C. Williams and former Carnton slave Mariah Reddick, one of the central characters in the novel Widow of the South. The cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

9. CHARLES JOHNSON ELEMENTARY HISTORIC MARKER, Corner of 11th Avenue North & Mt. Hope Street
This school was named for Dr. Charles C. Johnson, a prominent local African American physician who operated the first hospital for African Americans in Franklin. Built in 1956 to teach the growing numbers of Franklin’s African American children, it served grades K-8. Under pressure by federal lawmakers and the black community, Franklin’s schools began limited desegregation in 1962, and Johnson Elementary was fully integrated in 1971.

10. HARD BARGAIN, Bordered by 11th Avenue North, Mt. Hope Street, 9th Avenue North & Green Street
This area is first mentioned in the 1866 county road book. Hard Bargain developed from a series of lots originally purchased by Judge W.S. McLemore in 1873. Local lore suggests the neighborhood received its name from the difficult bargain he struck for the land. Although a few of the lots were purchased by white families, the area quickly became an African American neighborhood comprised of skilled trades people and domestic servants.

In 1880, former slave Harvey McLemore built one of the neighborhood’s earliest homes, which remained in his family for five generations. His home, located on 11th Avenue North, now houses the McLemore House African American Museum.

Franklin Primitive Baptist church, established in 1867, was the first church in the area, followed by several others including the St. John’s Episcopal Church “Negro Mission” and the Green Street Church of God, which stands with an active congregation.

11. McLEMORE HOUSE, Corner of Glass Street & 11th Avenue
Built in 1880 by former slave Harvey McLemore, this was one of Hardbargain’s earliest homes and reflected a stable, middle class African American neighborhood. The house stayed in the McLemore family for 117 years, and was sold through a joint purchase by the Heritage Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and the African American Historical Society. The building currently houses the McLemore House Museum and is open for tours by appointment.

In the early 1900s, the Natchez Street community was demonstrative of the courage, faith, and commitment of African Americans in Franklin. Prominent African American entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, and educators lived and worked in the self contained community. Working-class citizens literally built portions of Franklin by digging wells, laying brick, stonemasonry and working in neighborhood businesses. Although the buildings no longer stand, several twentieth century Natchez Street industries included the American Syrup and Preserves Company; Southall Brothers Lumber Mill; and the J.W. Beasley Lumber Mill. Beasley also built company houses along the bordering streets of Carter and Strahl, which housed both black and white mill workers.

Franklin’s African American school was located on Natchez Street, demonstrating the neighborhood’s deep commitment to education. First known as the Claiborne Institute, later the Franklin Training School and finally Natchez High School, residents took great pride in the students, sports teams, bands and staff. Schools in Franklin implemented an integration policy in 1964, and Natchez High School graduated its last class in 1967.

Nicknamed “Baptist Neck” because it extends between several historic active churches, this neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

13. PROVIDENCE UNITED PRIMITIVE BAPTIST CHURCH, corner of Natchez and Granbury Streets
This church stands at the corner of Natchez and Granbury Streets. In 1883, Atha Thomas sold the land for this church to Wallis Bradley, Randal Brown, Harrison Scruggs, Jack Wilburn and Aaron Blakely. It was first called the “Two-Seat” church. In 1904 it became the Providence UPB Church.

Granbury Street (library parking lot)
Nicknamed “Beasley Town,” these small company homes provided residences for both black and white lumber mill workers and their families, which was very unusual during segregation. Encompassing three acres, the area contained 36 houses built by mill owner W.J. Beasley, each of which had a small garden plot. Mr. Beasley collected the rent for these homes each week, and expected families to have money ready at the appointed time when he made his rounds.

15. NATCHEZ HIGH SCHOOL, 335 Natchez Street (presently Claiborne Hughes Health)
In 1888, the Ninth Neighborhood School Committee purchased the lot on Natchez Street. The first school on this site was called the Claiborne Institute in honor of first principal Willis Claiborne. The school was rebuilt in 1907 as the Franklin Colored School, and expanded in 1925 as the Franklin Training School. The present building was built in 1949. In 1962, teachers at Franklin Training School worked with the Williamson County Board of Education to change the school’s name to Natchez High School to reflect the desire for equality in education and recognition that the school had evolved beyond industrial training programs. After integration, the school graduated its last class in 1967.

16. SHORTER CHAPEL A.M.E. CHURCH, 152 Fowlkes Street (at the corner of Natchez St)
This church congregation purchased the Franklin Methodist Episcopal Church South building on Second Avenue & Church Streets in 1873. In 1925, the congregation erected its present Victorian-inspired building on the corner of Natchez and West Fowlkes Streets.

17. NATCHEZ COMMUNITY CENTER, 233 Natchez Street
The Natchez Community Center facility has long been a pillar of the neighborhood. Formerly a neighborhood grocery, a pentecostal church, funeral home and other businesses of necessity, the Center continues to empower the community by servicing diverse needs.

The First Missionary Baptist Church, organized in 1871, holds distinction as the neighborhood’s oldest congregation. In 1901, the First Missionary Baptist hosted the Colored Missionary Baptist Association, when a group of three to four thousand African Americans gathered for this religious meeting. This type of gathering for African Americans was unusual in a town whose population was only 3,000 total.

19. BELL TOWN (HISTORIC MARKER), Cummins and Evans Streets
Bell Town housed several black businesses, churches,and a Lodge of black Freemasons. A historic marker in the Cummins Street Church of Christ parking lot stands as a testament to the neighborhood and founding church member A.N.C. Williams.

20. CARNTON PLANTATION SLAVE HOUSE, 1345 Eastern Flank Circle
Carnton Plantation reflects the intense toil and skilled craftsmanship of the slaves that built and sustained it before emancipation. By 1860, Carnton owner John McGavock owned 44 slaves that worked the fields and in the home. Carnton has one remaining slave cabin, an unusual two-story brick structure, believed to be used for both living quarters and a location for weaving, spinning and sewing. The building was restored in 1982.
Carnton Plantation is open daily for paid, guided tours. The tour of the house lasts about an hour not including the additional time needed to explore the grounds & outbuildings including the slaves cabin.

The tour ends at Carnton Plantation.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Alfred Fields, 3rd Regiment US Colored Troops Veteran

Alfred Fields'
Company Descriptive Card

Sometimes my research turns up stories of incredible bravery in battle or remarkable achievements after the War.  However, Private Alfred Fields' story is not one of these because - frustratingly - I have not been able to find many records regarding his military service and nothing about his life after he left the armed forces. What we do know is that he served in the 3rd Regiment of the US Colored Troops at an extraordinarily special and important time in the early history of the enlistment of African American soldiers in the United States Colored Troops - and his story helps us understand that history.  His tale is one of a Black man from Williamson County who wound up at the largest and most famous training camp for African American soldiers in America listening to speeches by Frederick Douglass and being supported by the efforts of famous abolitionists like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Tubman. 

According to my research, the enlisted men of this regiment were principally from the interior of Pennsylvania. How he wound up in Pennsylvania is a mystery to me - because according to his military records he was born in Williamson County. Perhaps he was a runaway slave - the training camp where he was sent was situated on land owned by some of the most famous conductors of the Underground Railroad.  Maybe they had been helping him - other men in his regiments were runway slaves who had come through that stop on the Railroad.  However, I somehow doubt this - all the other accounts of enslaved people who ran away from Middle Tennessee went north through Ohio to Canada and then sometimes to Upstate New York - but not East. But of course, he could have been an exception. 

Or maybe he had been sold farther north instead of south - which was uncommon and probably unlikely - and then ran away.   If he was originally a slave in Williamson County, I can't find any slave holders named Fields living here, but there were white Fields living there at the time of the outbreak of the Civil War. Maybe they had previously owned Alfred Fields and then sold him? perhaps he still used their name?  

Nashville Daily Union, August 7, 1863 p4
One last clue is contained in a small item in the Nashville Daily Union newspaper published on August 7, 1863 - one month after Alfred Fields enlisted.  The piece discusses the use of "colored soldiers" as substitutes for white draftees to fill quotes and then states, "Now our negroes are going off to Philadelphia to enlist, as they get their bounty there."

We can only speculate.  But perhaps Alfred Fields saw an opportunity to be paid a handsome bounty and struck out for Philadelphia to enlist.  However, his enlistment papers do not show that he was a substitute for a white soldier - although that could have been his motivating factor in heading to Philadephia originally.

We will probably never know how he wound up in Philadelphia in the summer of 1863.  Maybe it is not important.  What matters is that he did.

Recruitment of Black Men in Philadelphia, July 1863

In the summer of 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee invaded Pennsylvania with his Army of Northern Virginia, rampaging through Lancaster and Gettysburg. The bloody battle of Gettysburg occurred on July 1-3rd; during their retreat, Lee's men reportedly took scores of free black Pennsylvanians as slaves. In response, the African American community in Philadelphia mobilized to start enlisting Black men into the newly created US Colored Troops.  
On July 5th, a "Mass Meeting" was held at the National Hall in Philadelphia for the Promotion of Colored Enlistments. The final speaker was Frederick Douglass. 

Cover Page of Published Remarks
Address at a Meeting for the Promotion of Colored Enlistments, Philadelphia
Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress

In the speech he gave that day, it may have been the first or one of the first times, he uttered this famous phrase: "Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U. S.; let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on the earth or under the death which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States." The speech was a stirring call to arms. He concluded with, "Young men of Philadelphia, you are without excuse. The hour has arrived and your place is in the Union army. ..."

In addition to this personal appeal from Douglass, thousands of copies of a recruitment circular were distributed in the city at that time, reading in part as follows:

Photo from the Gilder Lehrman collection.
The original text by Frederick Douglass 
is in the public domain.

"This is our golden moment. The Government of the United States calls for every able-bodied colored man to enter the army for the three years' service, and join in fighting the battles of Liberty and the Union. A new era is open to us. For generations we have suffered under the horrors of slavery outrage and wrong! Our manhood has been denied, our citizenship blotted out, our souls seared and burned, our spirits cowed and crushed, and the hopes of the future of our race involved in doubt and darkness. But now the whole aspect of our relations with the white race is changed.

If we love our country, if we love our families, our children, our homes, we must strike now while the country calls. More than a million of white men have left comfortable homes and joined the armies of the Union to save their country. Cannot we leave ours and swell the hosts of the Union, save our liberties, vindicate our manhood and deserve well of our country?

Men of color! Brothers and fathers! We appeal to you! By all your concern for yourselves and your liberties, by all your regard for God and humanity, by all your desire for citizenship and equality before the law, by all your love of country, to stop at no subterfuges, listen to nothing that shall deter you from rallying for the army. Strike now and you are henceforth and forever Freemen!"

Enlistment in the 3rd US Colored Infantry.  

Perhaps Alfred Fields was one of the young men in the audience in National Hall on July 5th. Or perhaps he read these stirring circulars. In any case, on July 7th, 1863 he answered their call.  Alfred Fields enlisted in Company E of the 3rd Regiment of the US Colored Troops on July 7, 1863, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On his Company Description card, we first learn that he was a 24-year-old farmer who was born in Williamson County, Tennessee. After his enlistment, he and the other men of the 3rd Regiment would have assembled at Camp William Penn, at Chelton Hills, about 7 miles north of Philadelphia - the first and largest Federal training facility for African-American soldiers during the Civil War. Three men who trained at this Camp would ultimately go on to be awarded the Medal of Honor - and Private Fields' 3rd Regiment of the USCT was the first regiment to train there. The Camp first opened on June 26, 1863, and on June 30th, several hundred black men marched on 6th Street in Philadelphia on their way to the newly organized camp in Chelten Hills. By Independence Day, 1863, the camp was fully open for the training of the nearly 11,000 men who would eventually pass through the gates of the camp. Private Fields enlisted just a few days after this - and maybe he was encouraged to enlist by seeing the men marching a few days earlier. 
Camp William Penn

[Camp William Penn, Pennsylvania]
Digital ID: (digital file from original item, front) ppmsca 10898
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-10898 (digital file from original item, front) LC-DIG-ppmsca-10899 (digital file from original item, back)
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

The following article appeared in a local Philadelphia newspaper shortly after the 3rd US Colored Infantry was formed. It described how quickly they were able to recruit enough soldiers - a testament in part, I'm sure, to the effectiveness of Frederick Douglass' call to arms.

On the afternoon of Saturday, July 18, 1863 - just 11 days after Alfred Fields enlisted - the Frederick Douglass entered Camp William Penn to address the 3rd Regiment. As the leader prepared to speak, he saw a number of black troops standing on barrels with rails over their shoulders. They were being punished for breaking military rules. 

According to reports, Douglass was visibly angry because this meant that some of the men in the 3rd Regiment had been misbehaving in Camp. And he knew that at least one of their white officers already thought the black recruits would not be able to become good soldiers. He is reported to have said to the troops,
The fortunes of the whole race for generations to come are bound up in the success or failure of the 3rd Regiment of colored troops from the North. You are a spectacle for men and angels. You are in a manner to answer the question, can the black man be a soldier? That we can now make soldiers of these men, there can be no doubt!
Detail from Camp William Penn, Pennsylvania / photographed by B.F. Reimer, 615 & 617 North Second Street, Philadelphia. Creator(s): Reimer, B.F. (Benjamin F.), photographe. Date Created/Published: [between 1863 and 1865].

The events at Camp William Penn were being closely watched by its champions and critics alike. In order to be sure that all went well with this first real large scale experiment of enlisting black soldiers, Douglass was working with abolitionists right in the neighborhood around the Camp - such as Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, and William Lloyd Garrison. This must have been an incredible time to be a member of the 3rd Regiment; Alfred Fields from Williamson County, Tennessee was right in the middle of it all.

The importance of the 3rd Regiment as the first African American troops to be trained at the Camp was commemorated by the presentation of this beautiful flag that was made for the men.

Presented by a committee of ladies of Phila. Oct. 1863
3rd United States Colored Troops.
Digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3b32595
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-86078 (b&w film copy neg.)
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
David Bustill Bowser, a black artist who painted Abraham Lincoln and the white abolitionist John Brown, designed the colorful regimental flags.

On July 29, 1863, the men participated in a moving ceremony in which they were presented with a handmade American flag.

August 4, 1863 in the New York Times

Presentation of a Flag to the Philadelphia; Colored Regiment.
. . .

Yesterday afternoon the Third Colored Regiment, now steamped at Camp William Penn on Chelton Hill, about eight miles from the city, and half a mile from the North Pennsylvania Railroad, were the recipients of a large and handsome American flag, presented to them by the Committee who were instrumental in raising the regiment.

The occasion was celebrated by a flag raising, at which speeches were made by GEO. H. EARLE, Esq., and Judge KELLEY.

A special team left the depot of the North Pennsylvania Railroad at 3 1/2 P.M., consisting of fourteen cars well loaded with colored persons, and among tham a sparking of white ladies and gentlemen, all bent on witnessing the ceremony. A band, composed of colored musicians, escorted the excursion party.

Shortly after the arrival of the excursion train at Chelton Hill, the regiment was formed and taken to an adjoining field, where they were put through a series of field maneuvers, which were executed with commendable promptness and witnessed by about fifteen hundred spectators, comprising all colors, ages and sexes.

After an hour spent in drilling the regiment, they were marched to the camp-ground near by, and formed into a hollow square around a lofty flag-pole, at the peak of which the emblem of our nationality was destined to float to the breeze. About 5 1/2 o'clock the raising of the flag took place, the colored band attached to the regiment playing the "Star-Spangled Banner." Immediately afterward Col. LEWIS WAGNER, the commander of the camp, mounted a rough stand, and proposed three cheers for the Star-Spangled Banner, which were given by the regiment with a will.

Mr. GEORGE H. EARLE then mounted the stand, and proceeded to address the regiment and concourse of visitors who were present.


Mr. EARLE said he felt very happy to say a few words on this occasion, but was unable to say all he felt. He informed those assembled that they stood on consecrated ground -- that had witnessed a struggle during the Revolutionary war. The inspiration of the present moment is as from Heaven, and like the voice of the Great Creator, for it is the day that tells us that America is calling into the service all her servants for the purpose of protecting her nationality, regardless of color.

Your enemies in the North opposed sending you to the field, but no men are more respected than you when under arms. Your enemies have said you would not fight. Have you not fought already? We knew what you could do, and therefore did not think it necessary to search history to prove any of your deeds. Not a farmer in the neighborhood complains of any improper conduct on the part of any of you. Nothing has been destroyed while you have been encamped here, and you have conducted yourselves with entire propriety. Show me another regiment that can say as much.

At Milliken's Bend your brethren fought well and reflected honor on you; the same can be said of the conduct of the colored troops at Morris Island. Their Colonel said, "Take that battery." and it was taken. A colored man bore the colors in the fight, and faced all dangers presented to him. Baton Rouge was another example of the bravery of colored troops.

Why should you not fight? Are not your hearts in the present struggle? Are you not fighting for the freedom of your own race? You fight for the principles of PATRICK HENRY, "Give me liberty or death."

The speaker felt that the men before him would do all in the line of duty that the Committee who raised the regiment expected of them. Fifteen months ago the creation of a negro regiment would have caused a riot in the city, but public opinion was changed, and officers and men are respected now. The speaker then paid a glowing tribute to the American flag. After some further remarks, in the course of when he urged the members of the regiment to perform all services required of them, Mr. EARLE retired with applause.

A number of cheers were given by the regiment at the conclusion of Mr. EARLE's remarks, after which Judge KELLEY stepped forward for the purpose of saying a few words.


He said he had come for the purpose of speaking, but simply to witness the proceedings of the day, and what he had to say should be made very short, as he was anxious to witness the battalion firing of the regiment with blank cartridge. He had, however, a very important secret to impart to the white people present, and that was that JOHN BROWN's soul was matching on, and, with the help of God, it would continue to do so, and that with the aid of soldiers of African descent, the flag that now floated proudly above their heads would soon wave over a country in which there were nothing but free men. He told the regiment that they had redeemed their race in Philadelphia from a prejudice that had long existed against them, and that prejudice was that the colored race were a race of cowards. You must show the world that the free men of African descent in the North can fight as well as their slave brethren in the South have done. You are to proceed to Florida, and the Colored race are to make that State a Free State of our Union.

As soon as you leave for the seat of war, another regiment will be formed on the ground you now occupy, and they will soon follow you to fight for your race. The black man is to make Florida free, and if France attempts to create an empire on this continent, the tropical regions of the country was swarm with legions of black men, who will frustrate any attempt on the part of European potentates to carry out any of their schemes on this continent.

The article then went on to state that, "The regiment is entirely full, well armed with new muskets, and thoroughly equipped in every respect. They will make a street parade through the city on Saturday and will leave for Florida as soon as the complement of commissioned officers has been appointed."

P.S. Duval & Son, United States Soldiers at Camp "William Penn" Philadelphia, PA:"Rally Round the Flag, Boys! Rally Once Again, Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom" (Philadelphia: Published by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments, 1210 Chestnut Street), 1863. Chromolithograph with hand-coloring.

This is the first hint we get of Alfred Fields' future destination - they are heading to Florida!

However, because of continuing racism in Philadelphia, the 3rd regiment was not allowed to parade in the city. The August 8, 1863, edition of the Christian Recorder, a black newspaper published  by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, explained the situation: 
“At the latter part of last week several of our daily papers published the gratifying intelligence that the Third Regiment of Philadelphia Colored troops would come into the city from Camp William Penn, to go through the evolutions of a street parade. The day came, but with it also came the postponement of the promised treat indefinitely. This has been a source of grievous disappointment to a great many, both colored and white.”
[Camp William Penn’s Black Soldiers In Blue By Donald Scott – November ’99 America’s Civil War Feature]

The Christian Recorder noted the 3rd Regiment’s great anger about not being able to parade shortly before it departed.
[N]ot only were the friends of the regiment disappointed, but when the intelligence reached the encampment it caused a great commotion amongst the men, amounting, as we have been told, almost to a state of mutiny, which had been the consequences of so frequently disappointing the men on this account. What right any man has to interfere with colored, more than with white troops, we cannot conceive. Does the government want to get them up in some dark corner, and prepare them to do just what white men are prepared to do in the dark? It should be remembered, that these men are human beings, and have their five senses, and feel just as well as the whites do. They are not ignorant of the manner in which they are treated; and of course they know what they are, and the kind of treatment they deserve. And the men who would interfere with, or molest them in any way, deserve the severest punishment. We, therefore, hope that both the Government and Philadelphia will redeem themselves from last week’s doings.

Unfortunately, the men of the Third never did get their parade,  Rather, they left for Charleston on August 17, 1863.   Here is how it was described in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The Philadelphia Colored Regiment.; ITS DEPARTURE FOR CHARLESTON.
The Third colored regiment, . . . took their departure for Charleston yesterday morning. The regiment left camp at half-past seven o'clock, and taking the cars of the North Pennsylvania Railroad, arrived at America and Master streets about nine o'clock. The line of march was then taken up, . . . where they embarked on board the steamers Star of the South, . . . , and Cumbria, . . . . The streets through which they passed were crowded with citizens.
At Poplar-street wharf they were met by an immense crowd of colored friends and relatives, who had waited for over an hour to welcome them. The steamers did not leave the wharf until 11 1/2 o'clock, during which time baggage, &c., was taken aboard. As the steamers moved away from the wharf, the regiment received a perfect ovation; the people gave cheer after cheer, and the troops left amid great enthusiasm. They were also greeted with the heartiest cheers from the wharves and vessels along the river front, as they moved down the river. As the vessels containing the regiment moved down the river, the men crowded the decks, waving caps, handkerchiefs, &c., and singing the anthem of "John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave."
. . . .

So, while the 3rd Regiment did not leave in a grand parade, it does sound as though the African American community of Philadelphia and some of the rest of the city's citizens did turn out to send them off to War.  

And they went straight into battle - they were soon participating in the famous siege of South Carolina’s Fort Wagner at Morris Island. On July 18th, the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry had participated in the initial bloody assault on the Fort. The US forces continued to press the Confederates at the Fort and the 3rd US Colored Infantry - including presumably Alfred Fields, was immediately put into the trenches, and shared in the hardships. The loss during this siege to the 3rd USCT was six killed and twelve wounded - but Fields appears to have escaped unharmed. 

According to one account,
In one of the night attacks which resulted in the capture of a line of rifle-pits, a Corporal was reported missing. Two days after, the advance sappers came upon his dead body. Warned by previous experience, they were careful to examine it thoroughly before attempting to remove it. A small string was discovered attached to its leg, which led away to the trigger of a torpedo buried in the sand. Such was the warfare which this command was called to meet.
On September 7th, the Confederates abandoned the Fort. 

Early in the year 1864, the regiment moved to Florida. A remarkable letter to the editor of the Christian Recorder newspaper in Philadelphia from Sergeant Thomas Rockhold of Company D of the 3rd Regiment, dated May 29, 1864 gives some incredible details about what the men were doing in the early days in Florida. Private Fields was in Company E, but we can surmise that his activities were likely very similar to those of many of the men described in this piece.  It is important to know that at the same time the 3rd Regiment was in Florida the 8th Regiment - which had arrived at Camp William Penn after them - had been sent to Florida.  This Regiment was new and entirely untested in battle.   They wound up being slaughtered in the disastrous Battle of Olustee which is referenced in the letter below.

Head Quarters 3d U.S.C.T.
Jacksonville, Florida,
May 29th, 1864.

MR. EDITOR: - I, now, this beautiful Sunday afternoon, sit myself down, according to promise, to write a few lines to you, hoping they may find you and all your friends enjoying good health.

I will commence my correspondence with you by giving you my Florida Expeditions. Our regiment left Hilton Head on the 6th of February, for Jacksonville, Fla., and we arrived there on the 8th. Just as soon as we landed we were ordered to camp. Here we remained until the 8th of February, when we received orders, in the night, to surprise the rebel camp, called "Camp Finagan," about ten miles from Jacksonville. We got to the rebel camp about 1 o'clock at night, but were too late to do any good; but we had the pleasure of liberating some of our flesh and blood. There were about two hundred slaves at that place that had the pleasure of saying: "We are free from the chains and fetters of slavery." On the morning of the 9th we were ordered to fall in and march to the next station, called by the natives of the State, "Ten Mile Station." . . .

On the morning of the 10th of February, we started to the next station, called Baldwin, the junction of all the railroads that lead to Georgia, Mobile, and Charleston. We arrived there about noon of the same day, and went into camp; some of us to do picket duty, and some to do provost guard duty; . . .

There we staid one week, while that awful slaughter came off at Olustee; but as God knew best, we did not have to go up there to be murdered like dogs.

On the 15th of Feb., the fight took place; and on the 16th, early in the morning, the wounded came in by the wagon load, and ambulances loaded down. But the worse of all, was to see the poor soldiers come in with no hats on, and some with arm and hands off. Our regiment stayed at Baldwin till all of the wounded were off the field; and about 10 o'clock at night, we took up a line of march for Jacksonville, down the railroad, to keep the rebels from flanking us, and cutting off our communications with the army. We got as far as Camp Finagan that night, where we bivouacked. We rolled logs together and made up camp-fires; though tired and worn out, we made some coffee in our tin cups, and it tasted as good as if our mothers had made it. The next morning, at half-past eight o'clock, we started for, we didn't know where, but we went in camp on Stocklain's Road, and stayed two days; and on the third day, we were ordered on the railroad, about three miles from the main road. . . .

Since I have been staying at Jacksonville, I have attended four cotillion parties, given by the colored ladies of this place.

I will bring my letter to a close, by bidding you good-bye. May God bless you, and may you be prosperous in all your undertakings.

I hope to hear from you soon; and I hope the next letter I write may be better.

Yours until death,
Orderly Serg't of Co. D, U.S.C.T.

On the return of the troops to Jacksonville, after the disastrous battle of Olustee, the Third was drilled as a heavy artillery regiment, and garrisoned the forts in the area. 

In September 1864, small parties were frequently sent out into the surrounding country, the expeditions occasionally extending far into the interior, for the purpose of freeing slaves and destroying property belonging to the Confederate government. 

According to one account, on one occasion, a group of twenty-nine enlisted men of the Third - perhaps Alfred Fields? -  and one private of another regiment, all under command of Sergeant Major Henry James, scouted about sixty miles up the St. John's River in boats, rowing by night, and hiding in the swamps by day.  The men marched thirty miles into the interior, gathered together fifty or sixty runway slaves and several horses and wagons.  They burned store-houses and a distillery belonging to the Confederate government and returned bringing their recruits and loot into camp.  On their way back to camp, they were stopped by a group of Confederate cavalry, which they beat off after a short fight, and the men of the 3rd managed to cross the St. John's without losing a man, carrying with them their wounded. The courage and good conduct displayed by the men of the 3rd in this incident - made up entirely of African American soldiers - was deemed to be "highly creditable", and were commended in an order by the General commanding the Department of the South. 

It was somewhat remarkable, that the regiment never lost a man as prisoner. Apparently the men believed that immediate death was preferable to the treatment likely to be experienced as prisoners. On one occasion, a soldier who had been surrounded and driven into the river, stubbornly refused repeated calls to surrender, and was killed on the spot.
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Source of information regarding the 3rd Regiment:  Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.

The Civil War came to a close on May 9, 1865, and then the regiment was posted at Tallahassee, Lake City, and other points in Florida.  On May 22, 1865 Private Fields was placed on police duty but its not clear in which city.  The regiment remained in service in Florida, until October 1865.  

Muster Out rolls

Then on Oct. 31, 1865 Alfred Fields mustered out of the US Colored Troops with his unit in Jacksonville, Florida, and at this point his trail runs completely cold.  I can find no records for an Alfred Fields in Florida, Pennsylvania or Tennessee - or any where else for that matter - in the years after the war.  Perhaps he changed his name.  

But his story is still one worth telling.  A slave from Williamson County, Tennessee who manages - somehow - to make his way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, then enlists in one of the first African American regiments of the Civil War, is among the first to train at the largest and most famous Camp, listens to Frederick Douglass give a rousing speech to the US Colored Troops, fights at the famous battle of Fort Wager, and then participates in freeing his fellow man in Florida.  Just what we know of the period of his life from July 7,1863 to October 31,1865 was astounding.  I only wish we knew the rest.