Search This Blog

Monday, March 19, 2018

Corporal Abraham McGavock, 14th US Colored Infantry (1842-1869)

Abraham McGavock was born about 1842 in Franklin, Tennessee.  He was the son of Dafney and Daniel Perkins and had 12 siblings including a brother (Fountain) and a sister (Mary London). Abraham, his mother Dafney and siblings were enslaved by the family of Nicholas Tate Perkins on the west side of Franklin.  His father Daniel was enslaved nearby on Thomas "Hardin" Perkins' Meeting of the Waters plantation on Del Rio Pike. 

When Abraham was about five years old he was taken from his parents and siblings and sold to James McGavock who lived where the Forrest Crossing subdivision is in Franklin today. He was put in the care of an enslaved young woman named Julia McGavock who had previously been kept at nearby Carnton Plantation. When Abraham was 21 years old, he enlisted in the US Army's 14th US Colored Troops to fight during the Civil War.  He was appointed corporal and wounded by gunfire during a skirmish in 1865.  He mustered out in 1866 with a still festering wound and died in 1869 of complications from his injury. His life's story is much richer and complicated than this simple description, though.  Please read on to understand not just his history but that of his incredible parents.


Enslaved by the Perkins Family

Daniel Perkins, Abraham's Father.  Abraham's father Daniel Perkins was enslaved by Thomas "Hardin" Perkins (born May 3, 1757 near Halifax, Virginia).  Daniel was born in  Virginia - probably also near Halifax on the Perkins Plantation.  He was born by at least 1772 but could have been born as early as 1760. According to statements made by his wife, Dafney, she remembered that he could recall hearing the cannons of the American Revolution being fired.  This was entirely possible.  Thomas Hardin Perkins was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Virginia line in 1777.  Daniel would have been a young boy or even a teenager, and the fighting and excitement of military action would certainly have been memorable to Daniel.  
Dafney Perkins statement, December 7, 1874, Nashville, Tennessee: My late husband, Daniel Perkins died just before the late war at a very old age, though he often stated that he heard the report of cannons during the Revolution of 1776

Thomas Hardin Perkins left Virginia and came to Williamson County in 1800, just as the area was being incorporated.  He brought a now adult Daniel and other enslaved people with him.  Soon after, Thomas Hardin Perkins began construction, most likely using enslaved laborers, of a two-story brick home which was completed about 1810. Its likely that Daniel was among those who helped to build the home or furniture for it because elsewhere in probate documents Daniel was described as a "joiner", indicating that he was skilled at fine carpentry work. Built at the forks of the Big Harpeth and West Harpeth Rivers, this house is called "Meeting of the Waters" and is one of the finest homes built in the county before 1830. 
Meeting of the Waters
Meeting of the Waters
Photograph from Southern Exposure Magazine

Perkins, Thomas Hardin
In 1801, Thomas Hardin Perkins shows up in the county records as holding 22 people in slavery in Williamson County. He paid taxes on 1,163 acres that year. By 1830, he was enslaving 159 people. In 1838, Thomas Hardin Perkins died. His estate settlement included Daniel who was described as "Daniel the joiner." Daniel was hired out for the year 1839 for $51 to someone named L. H. Bullock.  

After the settlement of Thomas Hardin Perkins' estate it appears as though Daniel may have gone to live with Hardin Perkins' grandson P.G.S. Perkins near the Meeting of the Waters plantation.  In the 1860 Census he owned just two enslaved people - and one of them was a 100 year old man.  In that Census, any enslaved people aged 100 years of age or older were named individually and in this case, this person was named 'Daniel."
1860 Slave Schedule - PGS (Stiver) Perkins - he enslaved two individuals.
One was a 100 year old black man named Daniel.

Daniel and Dafney's youngest three children were born in the period prior to the death of Hardin Perkins. Their son Fountain may have been first, followed by their daughter Mary in 1840, and last Abraham in 1842. They were all born on the nearby Nicholas Tate Perkins' plantation where Dafney was living.  According to Dafney,  Daniel died just after the fighting at Fort Donelson in Clarkesville during the Civil War (February 18, 1862). He is likely buried at the Meeting of the Waters plantation in a cemetery where both white and black Perkins are believed to be buried.

Dafney Perkins, Abraham's Mother, was Enslaved by Nicholas Tate Perkins  Nicholas Tate Perkins was Thomas Hardin Perkins' cousin and he emigrated to Williamson County from North Carolina around the same time. In 1803, he purchased a land grant on the west side of Franklin that was originally called Poplar Grove because of a grove of yellow poplar trees on the property. When Nicholas Tate Perkins came to Tennessee he brought some enslaved people with him, including Dafney Perkins.  
Statement of Dafney Perkins, dated May 28, 1889 in Topeka, Kansas: "I was born in Virginia. I moved to Williamson Co., Tenn. when I was 2 years old. I belonged to Nicholas Perkins who lived between Big Harper & Little Harper Creek near Franklin, Tenn. After Nicholas Perkins died I belonged to his grandson Daniel Perkins whose father Peter was already dead. Daniel Perkins still lives near Franklin, Tenn."
Dafney remembered being brought to Tennessee by the Perkins family as a very young child; she would have been about 2 years old at the time. Soon after his arrival in Williamson County, around 1810, Nicholas T. Perkins, most likely using enslaved laborers, constructed his "Two Rivers" plantation home on Del Rio Pike.

Two Rivers Home, Del Rio Pike, Franklin, Tennessee ca. 1810
Photograph By Skye Marthaler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Nicholas T. Perkins constructed  "Montpier" in 1822 and  "River Grange" (also known as "Poplar Grove") in 1825.  He eventually amassed a plantation totaling 12,000 acres along the Natchez Trace and West Harpeth River.   Like his cousin Thomas Hardin Perkins, Nicholas Tate Perkins was also a large slaveholder.


This was the Mill that Caesar Southall says the slaves would meet at in the days before the Civil War.  He refers to it as Moses' Mill because it was owned by P.W. Moss for a period of time.  It is most well known as "Boyd's Mill."
Image courtesy of Rick Warwick / Heritage Foundation of Williamson County

The 1820 Federal Census shows that Nicholas T. Perkins enslaved 61 people, 28 of whom were "engaged in agriculture" (probably working as farm laborers). Many of those he enslaved were very young (24 were children under the age of 14). Dafney would have been a 10 year old girl. Just ten years later, the 1830 Federal Census shows that he was then enslaving 97 individuals, 14 of whom were girls between the ages of 10 and 23. Dafney would have been 20 years old. In the 1830s, Nicholas T. Perkins employed an overseer named William Denton to manage the people he held in bondage.

During this time period, Dafney gave birth to her first 10 children. In her pension application she refers to her husband Daniel as her "colored husband" which makes me wonder if the father of some of her first ten children was white. I can find no information about her first ten children, all of whom would have been born from about 1825-1838. Tragically, eight of these children were sold south "long before the Civil War and are gone" from her entirely.

Statement of Dafney Perkins, dated May 28, 1889 in Topeka, Kansas: "Abraham McGavock was my youngest child - I never had any children born since him. I had 13 children. The only one I know anything about is my daughter Mary Bailey here in Topeka. Three died & 8 were sold south long before the war and are gone from me entirely."

This statement by Caesar Southall gives a sense of how many people were enslaved on the Perkins Plantation. Caesar was enslaved on a nearby plantation and he says that:
It [was] said Perkins was so wealthy he did not know his colored people as he would meet them in the road and ask them who they belonged to.
Statement of Caesar Southall, dated April 9, 1881
I am a native of Williamson County, Tennessee and 48 years old, born September 2, 1832, the slave of John Southall of Williamson County, and lived [with]in 7 miles of the Perkins Plantation where Mrs. Dafney Perkins lived with her old husband, [outside] of visiting the same church Sundays, we went to the same mill "Moses Mill" and visited [backward] and forward the Perkins place. It [was] said Perkins was so wealthy he did not know his colored people as he would meet them in the road and ask them who they belonged to. I knew her and husband 15 years before the War. We called her Aunt Dafney then."
In the 1840 Census, Nicholas Tate Perkins was enslaving 50 people, including Dafney and probably her 11th child, son Fountain. That same year, Dafney's daughter Mary London was born and may be included in the census. Two years later Abraham was born in 1842. In 1843, when Dafney was 33 years old Nicholas Tate Perkins died.

Statement by Hardy Crutcher in Dafney Perkins' pension application, dated April 12, 1880. "I knew this old lady before the War as a slave as she and [her] children lived [with] in 2 1/2 miles of me in Williamson Co. for while I belonged to Crutcher she belonged to Perkins and her children belonged to same man she did who sold Abraham Perkins her son [to] James McGavock in that County. Dafney's husband belonged [to] Hardin Perkins, a cousin of her master. I knew Daniel Perkins [her husband] died as I knew him well. He was a friend of mine. I was not at his funeral but knew he died. I was a slave then."

All of Nicholas Tate Perkins' property, including the people he enslaved, went into probate.  


Portion of Nicholas T. Perkins' estate settlement, listing the enslaved people who would be set aside and divided among his heirs and next of kin: London, Anderson, Phillis, Harry, Yellow Jenny, Black Jenny, Sheridan, Bachus, Nancy 1st, Maria?, Chaney & Child Jim?, Josh, Ellen, Rotheater?, Henderson, Jasper, Daphne, Milly, Gabriel, Julius, Matthew, James, Betty, Fortune, Katy, Violet, Wilkin, Sam, Betsy, Sylvia Violet?, Mary LondonArch, Nancy 2nd, Henry, Delilah, Mahala, Hector, Peter, Smith, Amy Jane, John, Marshall, Albert, Fountain, Phillip, Ann, Elijah, Harriet, July, Eugene, Obediah?, Sidmore?, Nathan, Sophia, Ahern?
You can see on this inventory of property a list of the people enslaved by Nicholas Tate Perkins; the list included Daphne (Dafney), her daughter Mary London, and son Fountain.  A boy "Arch" is on the list right next to Mary London but no Abraham. I suspect Abraham may have been called "Arch" when he was younger.  

By 1850, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854, and 1855, Dafney and her daughter Mary London were being held in a trust on behalf of Nicholas Tate Perkins' grandson Daniel P. Perkins and were hired out each year to earn money for him.







I do not know what happened to Abraham's brother Fountain. I have not been able to find him in any later records. I wonder if he was sold away as a child the way that Abraham was, or perhaps did not survive.

Abraham Sold to James McGavock

Abraham's childhood story is tragic and probably not uncommon. In 1848, when he was a young child, Abraham was divided from the Nicholas Tate Perkins estate and sold to James McGavock. Abraham was separated from his mother, father and siblings, and the only home he had ever known. Several records confirm this.

This statement by a woman named Julia McGavock Hughes, dated Sept. 28, 1889, describes in heartbreaking detail that she was given 4-year-old Abraham to "rear." Julia would have been just a teenager herself at the time.

I first knew [Dafney] some years prior to the war. We both were slaves and resided near Franklin, Williamson Co., Tenn. I belonged to James McGavock there and [Dafney] belonged to Daniel Perkins there. [Dafney]'s husband Daniel Perkins also resided there. He died there during the War in 1861 to 1865. [Dafney] and her husband had three children, to wit, Fountain, Mary London and Abraham. Abraham was sold when about 4 years old to my master James McGavock and was afterwards known as Abraham McGavock. The said Abraham was given me by my said master to rear, and I reared him until he was some 19 years old when he entered the Union Army.
Statement of Julia Hughes, dated Sept. 28, 1889

The James McGavock mentioned in the above statement was James Randall McGavock, the son of Randall McGavock who owned Carnton plantation on the east side of Franklin. James McGavock owned Riverside Plantation which was about 7 miles from young Abraham McGavock's former home on Del Rio Pike. The main house forms the centerpiece of the Forrest Crossing subdivision in Franklin today.
Riverside Plantation,McGavock-Gaines House, built circa 1835    


At the rear of the house are several outbuildings. The largest of these is a ca. 1832 double pen two-story log building. This building was originally used as a residence for James McGavock's family and later as housing for those he enslaved. Since Abraham and Julia were enslaved at Riverside during the time that this building was used as slaves' quarters it is quite possible that they lived in this cabin.
ca. 1832 double pen two-story log building originally used as a residence by James McGavock and his family and later as slaves' quarters. Information from the National Register Application for the McGavock-Gaines House application. Photograph from the Tennessean
In the 1850 Census, James R. McGavock was listed as enslaving 17 individuals.  One of these was an 8 year old boy.  Abraham was 8 years old in 1850, so this could be him.  


James Randall McGavock
1812-1862


1850 Slave Schedule for James R. McGavock
Williamson County, Tennessee, District 8


In the 1860 Census, just one year before the Civil War broke out, James Randall McGavock states that his real estate was worth $79,500 and his personal property (which included his slaves) was valued at $13,000.  Abraham would have been 18 years old.


Statement of Julia McGavock Hughes, May 4, 1882, Nashville, Tennessee: It was some 16 years before the war, my master bought a little 4 year old boy named then Abraham from Kemp Perkins, guardian of Daniel Perkins, he then became Abraham McGavock. The little boy nearing ?? was given me to raise. I and he slaves and I took care of him until he was about 19 years old when he entered the Army. He wrote me several letters. I knew his mother as then a slave living on Kemp Perkins [hired?] out as she belonged to young David Perkins. She lived a while on our place as she was hired about and she was there when Abraham was my master's slave. The old mother I now fully identify I have not met her for 10 years before and today she did not know me. She must be seventy years old. Master and all of us recognized her as the mother of Abraham McGavock. He was raised by me as if my son and never married or paid [attention] to girls when he left my slave home 1863."

Civil War


On June 8, 1861, Tennessee voted to secede from the Union during the Civil War.  This formally marked the area's entry into the war although preparations had already begun and surely Abraham, Daphne, Daniel and the other enslaved of Williamson County were well-aware of what was occurring. On February 24, 1862 Nashville fell to US forces. Abraham would have been 20 years old. Many enslaved people in Williamson County began to emancipate themselves and gather around the arriving US Army camps for protection, employment, shelter, and food. According to Dafney's pension file she and Abraham both went to Nashville during the War. Dafney said, "I became free by the coming of US Troops into our Country in 1863 by leaving and coming to Nashville alone." She may have been following US troops or seeking paying work.  Thousands of the enslaved from Williamson County took this path and fled to refugee camps (called "Contraband Camps") in Franklin, Brentwood and Nashville. Many were put to work building fortifications for the US forces, often without pay and little food or shelter.

We know that Abraham also left and was in the Nashville area.  Their flight may have been hastened by Congress' passage of the 2nd Conscription & Militia Act in July 1862 which granted freedom to any slaves that could get behind US Army lines.  When the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, its freedom provisions did not apply to Tennessee, but it did include a section that made clear that African American men could serve in the US Army and Navy.  Within months the US Colored Troops were being organized in Nashville.

Statement by Dafney Perkins, April 12, 1880, Nashville, Tennesse: "I am a native of Virginia. and raised in 3 miles of Franklin, Williamson County, the place where Hood received such a whipping in 1864. I was slave of Nicholas Perkins April 19, 1861 and I became free by the coming of US Troops into our Country in 1863 by leaving and coming to Nashville alone. My only boy that had not been sold away off from me named Abraham McGavock and who had lived in 3 miles of me in Williamson County had come to Nashville before me. He had been the slave of James R. McGavock who lived in 3 miles of my master there."

Civil War Service


Inspection and Enlistment.  On November 15, 1863 Abraham enlisted in the United States Army's 14th US Colored Infantry along with 11 other men from Williamson County. I have written a longer blog post here about the 14th USCI here.  The 14th was organized in Gallatin, Tennessee and then was sent to Chattanooga.  As was described by one of Abraham's comrades, they, "made headquarters at Chattanooga. . . were as a Regiment in the fight at Dalton, Georgia, then Decatur, Alabama, then Nashville, Tennessee. On each of these [they] lost men and had all [their] wounded quartered at Chattanooga."
Statement of Lafayette Putnam, 14th USCI, Company H, March 29, 1881
Abraham and the rest of the men of the 14th USCI had the good fortune to be under the command of Colonel Thomas J. Morgan.
Col. Thomas J. Morgan
United States Army
Col. Morgan had been ordered to organize a regiment of US Colored Troops and later wrote about this experience in his memoir Reminiscences of service with colored troops in the Army of the Cumberland, 1863-65. The passages describing his time at the head of the 14th USCI provide us with a unique window into the experiences that Abraham would have lived through at this incredible time in his life as he transitioned from enslaved laborer to emancipated US soldier. For example, we know that Abraham would have been inspected and interviewed, naked, by Col. Morgan and some officers of the 14th, to determine their fitness for duty. 

Enlistment in the 14th USCI, Company G.  Abraham McGavock enlisted on November 15, 1863.  He would have been one of the "motley crowd" described by Col. Morgan that was sheltered in an "old filthy tobacco warehouse".  He was described as being a 21 year old farmer, of dark complexion, 5' 3 3/4" tall.  During the early days of his military service, the regiment was uniformed and armed.  They were then taught to drill and began the process of learning how to be soldiers.  During his free time, Abraham seems to have spent some time visiting his mother Dafney in Nashville.

Benjamin Ashworth was one of Abraham's comrades and he recalls these visits this way: "Abraham McGavock stayed at his mother's all the time he had to spare, doted on her. She washed his clothes and cared for him as only an old mother could do, and he left her as the Regiment moved south for Stevenson, [Alabama]."
Statement by Benjamin Ashworth, Co G, 14th USCI, March 1881 (Peter Bailey - Dafney's grandson, witness): Abraham McGavock stayed at his mother's all the time he had to spare, doted on her. She washed his clothes and cared for him as only an old mother could do, and he left her as the Regiment moved south for Stevenson, [Alabama]."

Dafney also remembers this time: "In Nashville, I looked up my son and he gave me $5.00 to rent a house on Line Street [today's Jo Johnston Ave] and I did it. He was in the 14th Reg. US Col Infantry then and was armed and uniformed."
Dafney Perkins statement, April 12, 1880, Nashville, Tennessee: "In Nashville, I looked up my son and he gave me $5.00 to rent a house on Line Street [today's Jo Johnston Boulevard] and I did it. He was in the 14th Reg. US Col Infantry then and was armed and uniformed."

After Abraham's Company was sent to Stevenson Alabama, according to Benjamin Ashworth, Abraham wrote to Dafney and sent for her to come stay with him there for several weeks.  Ashworth recalled that Abraham was, "quite proud of his old mother in showing her around and introducing her to his comrades."  During the War, "Corporal McGavock would often speak of her after and have letters read he got from her and send her letters at Decatur, Chattanooga & other points our Regiment lay and one at these places."
Statement by Benjamin Ashworth, Co G, 14th USCI, March 1881 (Peter Bailey - Dafney's grandson, witness):"I remember after there at Stevenson I was in his confidence he told me of his writing for her and she did come and stay with him several weeks, he there defrayed all her expenses. She brought no child along nor did I ever see any but this one Corporal Abraham McGavock. I remember he was quite proud of his old mother in showing her around and introducing her to his comrades, when her visit was finished he sent her back to Nashville, as I was one to see her off. Corporal McGavock would often speak of her after and have letters read he got from her and send her letters at Decatur, Chattanooga & other points our Regiment lay and one at these places."

Chattanooga

By February, 1864 the 14th US Colored Infantry, along with Abraham McGavock, was sent to Chattanooga, the headquarters of the Army of the Cumberland.



View of Chattanooga, Tennessee during the Civil War. Shows military encampments, including tents. 1864, TSLA
According to Col Morgan's memoir, their camp was laid out with "great regularity" and their "quarters were substantial, comfortable and well kept."  He also described that, 
the regiment numbered a thousand men, with a full compliment of field, staff, line and non-commissioned officers. We had a good drum corps, and a band provided with a set of expensive silver instruments. We were also fully equipped; the men were armed with rifled muskets, and well clothed. They were well drilled in the manual of arms, and took great pride in appearing on parade with arms burnished, belts polished, shoes blacked, clothes brushed, in full regulation uniform, including white gloves. On every pleasant day our parades were witnessed by officers, soldiers and citizens from the North, and it was not uncommon to have two thousand spectators. Some came to make sport, some from curiosity, some because it was the fashion, and others from a genuine desire to see for themselves what sort of looking soldiers negroes would make. 

Dress parade of First South Carolina, (U.S.C.T.), Beaufort, S.C. This shows what the 14th USCI may have looked like on parade in Chattanooga in 1864.


Col. Morgan did explain that the 14th Colored Infantry didn't spend all their time in Chattanooga showing off their parade drills however.  He explained in his memoir that:

Soon after reaching Chattanooga, heavy details began to be made upon us for men to work upon the fortifications then in process of construction around the town. This almost incessant labor, interfered sadly with our drill, and at one time all drill was suspended, by orders from headquarters. There seemed little prospect of our being ordered to the field, and as time wore on and arrangements began in earnest for the new campaign against Atlanta, we grew impatient for work, and anxious for opportunity for drill and preparations for field service.
I used every means to bring about a change, for I believed that the ultimate status of the negro was to be determined by his conduct on the battlefield. No one doubted that he would work, while many did doubt that he had courage to stand up and fight like a man. If he could take his place side by side with the white soldier; endure the same hardships on the campaign, face the same enemy, storm the same works, resist the same assaults, evince the same soldierly qualities would compel that respect which the world has always accorded to heroism, and win for himself the same laurels which brave soldiers have always won.

In August 1864 the 14th US Colored Infantry were involved in their first combat when they were sent to Dalton, Georgia.  You can learn more about it in my blog post about the 14th USCI here.  Within weeks they were fighting again, at Pulaski, Tennessee, against a cavalry force led by Nathan Bedford Forrest on September 27th, 1864. Next, they were sent to Decatur, Alabama where they headed into combat on October 28, 1864 against John Bell Hood's Army.  After this series of engagements, the men headed on a long march back to Chattanooga, but their rest was not to last.  

On November 29, 1864 they were summoned to Nashville to fortify the City in advance of what would be the Battle of Nashville.  They arrived to a terrible ice storm and they would be hunkered down for two weeks. Benjamin Ashworth, Abraham's comrade recalled that he and Abraham went to find his mother Dafney Perkins: "She . . .was still living on Cedar Street [today called Charlotte Avenue] Nashville, and she washed and cooked for us. Corporal McGavock made her house his house and helped provide for her."


Statement by Benjamin Ashworth, Co G, 14th USCI, March 1881 (Peter Bailey - Dafney's grandson, witness): Hood's rebel forces in moving on Nashville we were pushed ahead and were in the fight here [Nashville] 15 December 1864 and me, Corporal McGavock and I went to see her [Dafney Perkins]. She . . .was still living on Cedar Street [today called Charlotte Avenue] Nashville, and she washed and cooked for us. Corporal McGavock made her house his house and helped provide for her. At last Hood was repulsed and we pursued them into Alabama, we too were in the charge at Nashville."

Once the weather broke, they faced off against John Bell Hood's Confederate Army on the morning of December 15, 1864.  I have described the courageous role of Williamson County's USCT soldiers in this battle in more depth in this post.  On December 16th they effectively finished off their opponents, and began to push them out of the area during Hood's retreat.  The 14th USCI pursued the Confederate's through Franklin to Murfreesboro, and eventually were sent back to Chattanooga where they went into Winter Headquarters.

Winter Headquarters In Chattanooga


Again, much of what we know about this time in Abraham's life comes from his comrade Benjamin Ashworth's statement in his mother's pension file: "I was like him, after deserters, collecting forage and such duties as a soldier must perform. The white troops mustered out and we [were ]in charge of public property. A number of our [men] were killed by them in the discharge of our duties as colored soldiers were disliked especially in East & Middle Tennessee. Our cook and two others were killed one day in Chattanooga by white troops to be mustard out. There were therefore so many incidents."
Statement by Benjamin Ashworth, Co G, 14th USCI, March 1881 (Peter Bailey - Dafney's grandson, witness): "I was like him, after deserters, collecting forage and such duties as a soldier must perform. The white troops mustered out and we [were ]in charge of public property. A number of our [men] were killed by them in the discharge of our duties as colored soldiers were disliked especially in East & Middle Tennessee. Our cook and two others were killed one day in Chattanooga by white troops to be mustard out. There were therefore so many incidents."
Abraham McGavock Wounded During Pursuit of Hood

During his time after the Battle of Nashville and Hood's Retreat, Abraham McGavock was engaged in what was described as a "running fight" by several of his comrades. He was shot in the shoulder and taken to the regimental hospital in Chattanooga. According to reports in his pension file, the bullet wound did not "go cleanly through" his shoulder.  While he was recovering there, Dafney made her way by train from Nashville to Chattanooga to care for her wounded son and Abraham made provisions for her to stay in the camp.

In his statement dated April 12, 1880, Sgt Lafayette Putnam, who served in the 14th US Colored Troops, Co. A with Abraham McGavock said,"I never saw but one of her [Dafney's] children that one named Abraham McGavock who fed and housed his mother at Chattanooga, at least she was in a little house back of his captain's tent."
 Statement dated April 12, 1880, Sgt Lafayette Putnam

On April 1, 1865, Abraham McGavock was promoted to Corporal.  There are no records in his file to indicate that his promotion was related to his injury or as a recognition for his actions in the incident - but it is possible - the timing would be about right.  According to statements in his pension, he was able to return to his Company but was not able to fully perform his duties after his injury.

Abraham McGavock mustered out of the Army on March 26, 1866 in Nashville with his regiment.
Post War Years


When Abraham was discharged, he went to straight to his mother Dafney and appears to have moved in with in her at her house in Nashville.  Soon after he went to see the woman who helped raise him on James McGavock's plantation from the time he was a young boy.  Julia was still living in Franklin at what she called her "slave home."  In a statement she gave in Dafney's pension application she described their reunion this way: "I remember it was 1866 and I was as glad to see him as a mother and I groped him and swung him around."

Statement of Julia McGavock Hughes, May 4, 1882, Nashville, Tennessee:"He was with his mother at Nashville after discharge as he came to see me I was still at my slave home in Williamson County. I remember it was 1866 and I was as glad to see him as a mother and I groped him and swing him around."
According to a statement from Henry Thompson, a comrade of Abraham's,during this immediate post-war period Abraham may have worked as a porter in a Nashville railroad station taking care of luggage and sweeping the station.  

Hardy Crutcher was a former slave from Williamson County.  He moved to Nashville in 1864 and worked as a shoe maker. He "lived within a 100 yards of ... Dafney Perkins, and her son Abraham McGavock on Gay Street.... I knew them intimately as they lived in a house he purchased already built on a leased piece of land near me and he died in that house, his mother the claimant present. ...Abraham was a steady, sober, hardworking young man ..." Note that Gay Street is just one block over from Line Street (Joe Johnston Ave) where Dafney was reportedly living just prior to the Battle of Nashville.  Perhaps they had  moved.


Hardy Crutcher's statement, April 1880: "I have lived in Nashville since 1864 and . . . lived within a 100 yards of claimant Dafney Perkins, and her son Abraham McGavock on Gay Street in his lifetime. I knew them intimately s they lived in a house he purchased already built on a leased piece of land near me and he died in that house, his mother the claimant present. The lease ran out and ? the old lady was turned out of doors after he died. Abraham was a steady, sober, hardworking young man and his mother is a woman now very old."

Soon after Abraham's discharge, however, his wound and the subsequent infection appears to have severely effected his health.  He relied on Dafney to care for him.  

Jonas Taylor was a white man from Kentucky who had served as a blacksmith in the US Army.  After the war he moved to Nashville where he met Dafney Perkins, whom he referred to as "Aunt Dafney." He helped her and gave this statement in 1881 on her behalf in the pension application: 
I think it was in the last of 1866 or first of 1867 I made the acquaintance of Dafney Perkins, "Aunt Dafney." I found her begging and working for her son Abraham McGavock and self for he was sick and deathly sick. She told me how he was sick from a wound and could not [work]. In sympathy for the wounded of our cause [I] gave her provisions and a half now & a quarter again & so on as I could and saw Abraham a worthy, light fellow. A Doctor Hogle in North Nashville attended him as well and reasonably as any one. I took an interest in her and her son and gave her employment. Some of her race could help her care for Abraham ....

Statement of Jonas Taylor, April 4, 1881: "I think it was in the last of 1866 or first of 1867 I made the acquaintance of Dafney Perkins, "Aunt Dafney." I found her begging and working for her son Abraham McGavock and self for he was sick and deathly sick. She told me how he was sick from a wound and could not ???. I sympathy for the wounded of our cause gave her provisions and a half now & a question again & so on as I heard and saw Abraham a ? light fellow. A Doctor Hogle in North Nashville attended him as well and reasonably as ?? an could I took an interest in her and her son and gave her ??. Some of her race could help her care for Abraham who soon died and was buried at this place 16 years ago." 

This statement by Richard Spencer, one of Abraham's former comrades is heartbreaking regarding the condition in which Dafney and Abraham were living: "They were very poor and she worked hard to keep him in his sickness. When I visited him at his mother's he was thin in flesh, weak, had a cough and a sore on his shoulder near his shoulder bone. I think the sore was where he was shot in the army. ...I gave him a little money now and then when I visited him before he died - it was cold in the winter time and they had no fire in the house to make them comfortable."
Statement of Richard Spencer, dated October 1, 1889. "They were very poor and she worked hard to keep him in his sickness. When I visited him at his mother's he was thin in flesh, weak, had a cough and a sore on his shoulder near his shoulder bone I think the sore was where he was shot in the army. ...I gave him a little money now and then when I visited him before he died - it was cold in the winter time and they had no fire in the house to make them comfortable."

In his statement dated April 12, 1880, Sgt Lafayette Putnam, another comrade of the 14th US Colored Troops, Co. A, described Dafney this way: "for her age, very energetic beyond her age."  She was working as a nurse at the time to support herself and Abraham.

Abraham's Death

Dr. Lorenzo Hogle treated Abraham at the end of his life.  He did not survive for long after the end of the War. The pension file is slightly confusing on the exact date of Abraham's death, but he appears to have died on or about April 2, 1869. He would have been only 27 years old. 

His mother believed that she "had him buried at 'Mount Ary' and I paid $3 for the ground to bury him. This was a colored cemetery southeast of Nashville near Murfreesboro Pike."

Statement of Dafney Perkins, dated May 28, 1889 in Topeka, Kansas: I had him buried at "Mount Ary" and I paid $3 for the ground to bury him. This was a colored cemetery southeast of Nashville near Murfreesboro Pike.

Nashville Republican Banner, Sunday February 21, 1869
I think that Dafney's memory was either faulty on this detail or perhaps the person she hired to bury her son cheated her.  At the time that Abraham died, there are reports in the local newspapers of unauthorized burials in the Nashville City Cemetery.  I found records of Abraham's body being buried in the Nashville City Cemetery, not the African American Mount Ararat Cemetery where Dafney thinks he was buried.  Unfortunately, no headstone exists that identifies Abraham's body in either cemetery.

However, not everyone was taking advantage of Dafney at this difficult time. Dr. Hogle, in his statement says that he "furnished the clothes" that Abraham was buried in upon his death.
Statement of Lorenze D. Hogle, M.D., Sept. 30, 1889, Nashville, Tenn.

After Abraham's death, Dafney stayed in Nashville working as a midwife, nurse and cook, taking in washing and pursuing her pension. According to her neighbor and friend from back in Williamson County, "She was a very respectable woman, and acted as a mid wife among her neighbors here. And in that way helped to earn her living. She was always very poor. Had no property of her own and no one was legally bound to support her after the slaves were given their freedom."


Statement of Hardy Crutcher, Sept. 28, 1889. "She was a very respectable woman, and acted as a mid wife among her neighbors here. And in that way helped to earn her living. She was always very poor. Had no property of her own and no one was legally bound to support her after the slaves were given their freedom."

In the 1870 Census, Dafney appeared in the Nashville City Census with assets of $200. She confirms that she was born in North Carolina and accurately stated that she was 60 years old. On March 21, 1873, Dafney applied for a pension under Abraham's name.  She spent nearly 20 years trying to prove that she was his mother and entitled to a pension.  In 1880, Dafney appeared in the 1880 Census on Line Street (today's Joe Johnston Avenue). She was living with two other Perkins' - perhaps relatives or people related by ties to the Perkins plantation in Franklin. Her home was described by Abraham's doctor in her pension application as an "old frame shanty."
1870 Census, Davidson, District 13 - showing Dafney 60 years old, taking in washing
1880 Census, Davidson - showing Dafney aged 74, living on Line Street with a 100 year old man named Runnel Perkins and 11 year old girl named Rosa Perkins


Dafney Moved to Kansas

About 1886, when she was 76 years old, Dafney moved to Topeka, Kansas. She lived with her grandson Peter Bailey, Mary's son.  In 1887 she appeared in the Topeka City Directory living on Chase Avenue.

In 1889, Dafney was growing increasingly desperate for her pension and perhaps was aided in her efforts by her grandson.  She must have been incredibly persistent and well-loved because many of Abraham's friends, doctors and comrades were willing to testify on her behalf, as well as the white descendants of those who had enslaved her son. Her pension file contains 159 pages of statements. In 1890, Dafney's pension was finally approved. 
Wichita Daily Eagle, June 14, 1890, page 1

Unfortunately, whatever financial relief it provided for her was short lived.  By the end of the year her pension was closed due to her death.  I have not located her death certificate, gravesite or headstone.
Dafney Perkins pension discontinued due to her death. She was last paid on June 4, 1891.
However, the legacy of Dafney and her son Abraham McGavock will live forever.  Their love for each other, strength of character, and ability to persevere should inspire us all.  

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
SaveSave
SaveSave
SaveSave
SaveSave
SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave