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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. One important point to note is that, according to family history, Wiley Scruggs' biological father was Joe Scruggs, the man who enslaved him. 


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 Scruggs and Jane Brown'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 [his father], 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 [his father] and saw all the dead soldiers lyin’ round, and I wanted to go home.” 

[The Williamson County Poorhouse was located at the time that Wiley Scruggs was speaking on Boyd Mill Pike, where the Westhaven neighborhood is today. This photograph from the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, courtesy of Rick Warwick, is of the poorhouse manager's house.]

Portion of 1878 Map of Williamson County
showing Joe Scruggs home and land

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 would have been about 12 years old when this painful event occurred. Wiley's mother's name was Milly Glass.  She appears to have had a relationship with Burton Glass who was probably originally owned by the neighboring Glass family.  In 1857, the couple appear to have had a son - Wiley's half-brother - Thomas Glass. During the Civil War, Burton Glass appears on the list of men who helped to build the fortifications in Nashville, including Fort Negley, for the US Army. Perhaps Milly's attempt at leaving was part of a plan to go to Nashville to join her husband. After the War, Milly and Burton reunited in Franklin, lived together, and Burton registered to vote and farmed until his death around 1908.]

He said before the war he was so stout and healthy his master [father] 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 Joe & Angeline Bennett Scruggs and Wiley's step-sister] 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 and Wiley's half-niece. Its interesting to note how the white and black Scruggs appear to have maintained relationships.]

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.  

[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."

[On December 7, 1941 Wiley Scruggs died at his home in Franklin. According to his death certificate, he was buried in Franklin's Toussaint L'Ouverture Cemetery but I cannot locate a headstone with his name on it. He and his brother Tom Glass had purchased a "family square" in the Cemetery and it is probably that he is buried there.]

[His will was filed in the County records leaving his assets to his wife, children and one grandson. He was providing for his family to the very end.]

An accounting of Wiley Scruggs' estate for probate.
It provides a good sense of what he was growing and selling on his farm.