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Monday, May 27, 2019

"Only One Killed"

Throughout the Civil War in newspapers around the United States, lists of the dead were published with tragic regularity.  It must have been hard not to become numb to the names and numbers.

On Tuesday January 10, 1865, the Nashville Daily Union published an especially long list following the Battle of Nashville.  It also included a column penned by "B. F. Taylor" that I think bears repeating here and remembering for the sentiment today - Memorial Day.

Only One Killed.

"Our loss today was very small - only one killed and sixteen wounded."

"Only one killed." Every day we see this little sentence in the columns of the newspapers. Every day the sunlight of some happy home is extinguished forever; a breach made in some family circle, a bright jewel stolen from the treasury of some fond mother's love. Ah, yes, every hour some sentinel falls at his post of duty, and is thrown from the ramparts of time into the surging waters of eternity. 

"Only one." The careless reader scans the words without a pang.

"One one." Who was that one? Perhaps a boy in years, a mother's darling; a youth whose happy laugh was but yesterday as the gush of a summer rill in a bower of roses; whose young life was the crowning happiness of an aged mother's declining years - or it was one just entering manhood's years, hopeful and generous, whose brow was crowned with fresh laurels, whose path was strewn with flowers were no serpent lurked; one whose great soul panted to do brave and noble deeds in his country's defense, and went forth early in the struggle, a very veteran in bravery and daring. But that lion heart is still now. Victory will never light that bright eye or flush that bronzed cheek with love again.

"Only one." A bridegroom, with the image of his girl wife imprinted on his noble heart, as she stood one short week before at his side. The orange blossom, not yet faded from her pure brow, must be replaced by the sable garb of widowhood. Was her loss small?

A tall, strong man, high in his country's favor, girt with the halo of victory won in many hard-fought battles, has fallen in a little skirmish, when our loss was "only one." Who mourns for that noble hero? All his noble self-sacrificing heroism is forgot by the careless reader, who rejoices that "our loss was small."

An aged patriot, bowed down with care and old age, who shouldered a musket and went forth in the defense of his country, when the young and strong heeded not her call, has fallen at his post of duty. Ah, old man, your generous self-sacrifice is not thought of when "our loss is only one."

Daily our brave soldiers, who risk life and happiness for our defense, are passing away hourly in some far distant battlefield the soil is flung upon the unknown hero. As often in the morn we find some sweet flower that blushed at sunset has withered up forever, so, daily, when the soldier rises from the bivouac to stand again at his post, he misses some brother soldier, whose cheery cry in the siege and struggle of yesterday so encouraged the faint-hearted.

Let us then, when we read "only one killed" give a tear of regret to the fallen, and a thought of sympathy to the stricken mothers, wives, and sisters, the joy of whose lives has been so rudely quenched.


Benjamin Franklin Taylor
ca 1863
If the pearl that has dropped from the jeweled crown of happiness is not yours, or the music that is forever hushed causes no gloom at your fireside, return thanks that you have been spared, sorrow with the sorrowing, grieve with the afflicted, and remember that "only one" is a loss to deplore; if small to our country, it is great to some poor bleeding heart.


***********

I believe the author of this essay was Benjamin Franklin Taylor who served as a field correspondent with the federal Army.


List of Deaths.  To help humanize the deaths so eloquently described in the above passage, I have pulled from the list of the deaths for the two week period ending January 7th 1865 all those African American men who lost their lives.  Primarily they were soldiers in the Army's US Colored Troops. I concentrated on them because that is the focus of this blog, but there are many caucasian federal soldiers, Confederate soldiers, federal employees and citizens listed among the dead as well.  When possible, I have tried to identify them and provide some background information about their lives so that their loss will not seem to have been "so small."

List of Deaths in the U.S. Hospitals, Nashville, copied from the Record of W. R. Cornelius, Government Undertaker . . . for two weeks ending January 7th, 1865.

  • Gilbert Riggans, 12th USCI, Co E [born in Clarksville, he was 31 years old and married to his wife Louisa, father of 4 young children; he died Dec 23, 1864 of small pox, buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Anderson [Andrew] Price (Cpl), 13th USCI, Co F [born in Franklin Co., AL, died of pneumonia on Dec 23, 1864; buried in Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Alex Shields, 13th USCI, Co K
  • Wilson Lubley, 13th USCI Co K
  • Samuel McNight 13th USCI Co D
  • Harvey Lee, 9th USCI 
  • Lewis Martin, 13th USCI Co A [born in Sumner Co, Tenn; enlisted in Franklin when he was 31 years old; died Dec 19, 1864 of wounds received in battle of Nashville; he left behind a wife Minerva]
  • George Tilford, 100th USCI Co C [enlisted when he was 31 years old; died of typhoid fever]
  • Charles Evans, a "colored recruit" [buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Wm Lewis, 13th USCI Co H [born in Brunswick County, VA, he died of small pox in Nashville when he was 27 years old; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Alex [Alexander] Thompson, 100th USCI Co E [born in Harrison Co., Kentucky; enlisted at 33 years old in Covington, KY; died Dec 24, 1864; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • James H Welch, 12th USCI Co A [born in Circleville, Ohio, died Dec 24, 1864 in Nashville of disease]
  • Arthur Scruggs [Stigger], 12th USCI Co E [born in Madison County, AL, enlisted when he was 33 years old at the Elk River; died December 24, 1864 of disease; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • O Owens, 12th USCI Co G
  • Lt. Dennis Dease, 12th USCI Co H [was born in Ireland, enlisted in a New Jersey regiment before transferring to be an officer of the 12th USCT; he died of wounds received in the Battle of Nashville on December 25, 1864 in Nashville, he left a widow Margaretburied in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Louis Logwood, 9th USCI [USCHA] Co B [alias Lewis Feruguson, born in West Virginia; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • [Clayborne] Moore, 12th USCI Co B [born in Limestone, Alabama; enlisted when 18 years old; wounded in action in the Battle of Nashville; died Dec 25, 1864 of a gunshot wound; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Jno McFeeters, 13th USCI Co C 
  • George Lewis, 12th USCI Co I [born in Madison County, Alabama, 24 years old; died of wounds received in the Battle of Nashville; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Mose Sweet [Streets] (Cpl), 100th USCI Co E [born in Woodford Co, KY; wounded in Battle of Nashville, died of effects of gunshot wound to right breast December 25, 1864
  • George Blue, 18th USCI Co B [Born in North Carolina, enlisted in Missouri; 43 year old Blacksmith; died of disease; had been enslaved by Betsy Blue of Calloway Co., Missouri; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Jas Taylor, 100th USCI, Co E
  • Edward [Edmond] Galbreth, 100th USCI Co H [born in Clarksville, TN, accidentally shot Dec 26, 1864 at Camp Foster, in Nashville; 15 years old, drummer boy; buried in Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Richard Day, 13th USCI Co D [born in Davis Co, NC; enlisted at 26 years old in Nashville he was married; died of small pox; buried in Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Henry Clay, 13th USCI Co F [18 years old, born in Winchester, Franklin Co., Tenn; died of small pox; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Anderson Dougle [Douglass], 13th USCI Co H [20 years old, born in Maury Co., Tenn; killed in action in the battle of Nashville]
  • James Yowe?s, "colored recruit"
  • J [Jacob] D Toliver, 100th USCI Co H [died from wounds received in action; gunshot wound received in the Battle of Nashville; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Edward Blackwell, 13th USCI Co D
  • Henry Holland, 13th USCI Co K [born in Todd Co, KY, died of wounds received in the Battle of Nashville, buried in the Nashville National Cemetery] 
  • Geo Harrison, 17th USCI Co A [born in Christian Co., KY; 21 years old when he enlisted in Clarksville, TN; died of a gunshot wound in the leg received at the Battle of Nashville; he is buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • M Hown, 18th USCI Co A
  • Edward Vanher [Vanleer], 12th USCI Co I [born in Brumsy?Co., Virginia; a 49 year old engineer; died of wounds received at Battle of Nashville; he is buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • George McCray, 13th USCI Co B [born in Maury Co, died of wounds received in the Battle of Nashville]
  • Robert Jones 111th USCI Co K [born in Lawrence County, AL, he enlisted at the Sulphur Branch Trestle when he was 25 years old; listed "slave" as his occupation; died Dec. 28th, 1864 of disease in Nashville; buried in Nashville National Cemetery]
  • James [Isaac] Carter (Sgt) 18th USCI Co G [born in Boone Co, Mo; enlisted Jefferson City, Mo; died Dec. 28, 1864; buried in Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Frank Chapman, 111th USCI Co C [born in Madison, AL; 48 years old; died of disease on Dec 28, 1864; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • James Hughes, 14th USCI Co G [born in Allen Co., Kentucky; 18 years old when he enlisted in Gallatin; Died in Nashville Dec 29, 1864; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Jordan McCain [McLain], 13th USCI Co K [born in Logan Co., KY; 19 years old, died of wounds received in Battle of Nashville; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Wm [Willis] Ruger [Rucker] (Sgt), 13th USCI Co D [born in Maury Co, TN; he was 34 years old when he enlisted; he was wounded in the battle of Nashville (gun shot wound to the left lung) and died in the hospital a few days later; he is buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Thomas Angel 100th USCI Co D [21 years old from Pennington, KY; died on Dec 30, 1864 of wounds received in Battle of Nashville; buried in Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Henry Crawford (Sgt) 100th USCI Co E [born in Missouri, enslaved by Mary Crawford; enlisted in Lebanon, KY; died of gunshot wounds, buried at Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Unknown, 101th USCI Co C
  • S [Sylvester] Sheridan, 12th USCI Co B [25 years old, born in Georgia; (perhaps Monroe Co, Ohio, enlisted Circleville, Ohio) died on Jan 2, 1865 of wounds received in the Battle of Nashville; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Unknown, colored
  • F Case, 12th USCI Co F
  • Thomas Watson, 13th USCI Co E 
  • Jno Saunders, 1 US Colored [I suspect this was the same Pvt John Saunders who was an unassigned recruit from Indiana; his records state that "no certain account" can be made of him; he enlisted in the fall of 1864 in Evansville, Indiana; per his records he was a "drafted man"; he is buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Benj Hughes, 101st USCI Co D [E] [born in Benton County, Arkansas, he was 21 years old when he enlisted in Huntsville, Alabama; he died of disease in Nashville on December 31, 1864; he is buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Jos Richmond [Rickman], 12th USCI Co B [born in Ohio, "drafted man"; enlisted at Circleville, Ohio, living in Chillicothe, Ohio before service; wounded in Battle of Nashville, died Dec. 31, 1864; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Jackson Broadway (Sgt), 12th USCI Co K [born in Nashville; died Jan 1, 1865 of disease; he was married]
  • Unknown, Colored
  • D Rollins, 14th USCI Co C 
  • S [Samuel H] Armstrong, 13th USCI, Co A [born in Maury Co, enlisted in Franklin with his five brothers; died Dec 29, 1864 from wounds received in Battle of Nashville (gunshot wound, amputation at right thigh; he is buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • B Franklin, 10th USCI Co G
  • George Pierce, 2nd [light artillery?] USCI Co A
  • Robert Headon (Capt), 12th USCI Co E [enrolled in Evansville, Indiana; later appt Captain of 12th USCI; died of wounds received in the Battle of Nashville]
  • Unknown (cold) soldier
  • Jno Lewis (cold) soldier
  • Wm Howard, 100th USCI [buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Robert Nolen, 12th USCI Co B [23 yr old, born in Tennessee; enlisted in Cincinnati, Ohio; wounded in Battle of Nashville, died of gangrene]
  • Henry Green, 13th USCI Co F [I] [born in Bedford, TN; 21 years old; died of wounds received at the Battle of Nashville]
  • Ransom Wills, 44th USCI Co F [24 years old from Atlanta, Georgia; enlisted in Rome, GA; Died Dec 30, 1864 from wounds received in the Battle of Nashville; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Wm W Lewis, 12th USCI Co F [born in St. Louis, Mo; 22 years old; buried in Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Sgt. Henry Lanear, 44th USCI [enlisted in Chattanooga, POW - captured at Dalton, GA; escaped and returned to duty; died of small pox in Nashville on January 4, 1865; no grave located]
  • Josiah Dickey, 13th USCI Co F [24 years old, he a blacksmith from Louisiana; enlisted in Nashville; died of typhoid fever; he was married and had been living in Columbia, TN before enlistment; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Thos Greedy [Grigsby], 12th USCI Co B [born in Limestone, Alabama, he was 19 years old when he enlisted at the Elk River; he was wounded at the Battle of Nashville; died in the hospital January 2, 1865; he is buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • George Nancy, 12th USCI Co E [born in Madison Co, Alabama; 44 year old; died Jan 2,1865 of disease in ambulance going to hospital in Nashville; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • M [Marshall] Hoffs [Hobbs], 17th USCI Co H [19 year old from Alabama; died of disease; buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
  • Hamilton Lisbry, 12th USCI Co C [buried in the Nashville National Cemetery]
The_Nashville_Daily_Union
Tue__Jan_10__1865_

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Memorial Day at Fort Negley 2019

This morning I was invited to give the keynote address at Fort Negley's Memorial Day program at Fort Negley Park in Nashville. Over the years since I began this blog and have undertaken this work, it has become so meaningful to me to participate in these events.  Memorial Day is truly a memorial service - a day of remembrance and commemoration.  The cookouts and swimming can come later.  Below are my remarks from the day.  I was so honored and truly humbled to be asked to participate.




I was so honored to participate in the program
with my friend Gary Burke and Nashville Councilman John Cooper.
Councilman Cooper was the first person to contact me several years ago
 to ask me to try to work on the genealogy of the laborers at Fort Negley.
It has been incredibly fulfilling and fruitful work. 

Good morning.

Thank you so much for inviting me to speak here at Fort Negley today. It is truly a privilege.

We are here to commemorate Memorial Day – or as it was first called Decoration Day - a day set aside to honor and remember those who have lost their lives serving our country in the armed services.

I appreciate your taking time out of your day -- to recognize all those who have made this ultimate sacrifice. I want to take just a moment and remember those among us who have served or are currently serving in the military, and in particular any here who have lost a loved one in service. We are genuinely humbled by your sacrifices.

As we assemble here at the base of this magnificent Fort, it is hard not to focus primarily on those lives lost during the Civil War and predominantly on those whose deaths were connected to this place.

As I am sure many of you already know, during the early part of the Civil War - in the spring and summer of 1862 -- thousands of enslaved people - men, women, and children - fled businesses, farms and plantations throughout middle Tennessee seeking freedom and protection that they believed would come from being close to the US forces that had recently arrived in Nashville. However, many of them were instead impressed by those same troops as laborers.

From August to December 1862, the construction of this stone fortress was made possible by the work of more than 2,700 impressed African American laborers – a combination of free people of color and escaping enslaved people.

It was fabricated out of more than 62,000 cubic feet of white limestone quarried from this site and then built on the crest of what was then called Saint Cloud Hill. When completed Fort Negley was the crown jewel of the five Federal fortifications that ringed the City and was the largest inland stone fort built during the Civil War.

The success of this monumental construction project led to the use of more self-emancipated African American workers to construct additional forts, repair bridges, build railroads and perform essential tasks for the Army in other Tennessee towns. Fort Granger in Franklin where I live is one such example.

Here at Fort Negley, both during and after construction, the African American laborers lived in a contraband camp on the northeast side of the worksite.

Freeman Thomas, who had been born and enslaved in Franklin, was one of those workers. In an interview with Fisk University researchers, he described how he claimed his freedom and became a laborer on the fortifications. 

I ran off from my master when I was about fifteen years old . . .. I was in the field shucking corn on the Murfreesboro Pike [in Franklin]. All at once I heard a band playing. Everybody in the field broke and ran. Not a man was left on the place. 
[The Captain] sent us back to work on a fort they were building [probably Fort Granger in Franklin]. When we finished this, I was sent along with others to work on Fort Negley in Nashville.
The authorities had me and a good many others … at work on … Fort Negley.
While Freeman Thomas survived the War, many others from his time working at Fort Negley did not and were initially buried in the cemeteries at the base of St. Cloud Hill. The civilian laborers had been provided no shelter, dirty water, and poor-quality food. As a result, it is estimated that between 600 and 800 of these workers died during the five months of the Fort's construction. That is about a 25% mortality rate. To put it in perspective – of the approximately 300 African American men from Williamson County who I have identified as having enlisted in the US Army during the Civil War, only about 20% of them died during their service – making the work building Fort Negley comparatively more deadly.

The dead were probably buried right near - if not on - these grounds.

Their graves may have mingled with those of federal and Confederate soldiers. The Nashville City Cemetery sits adjacent to the Fort – to its northeast, and early in the occupation, it was used by the Federal authorities for burials. When the Army needed more space, they expanded "due west" and "southwest" of the City Cemetery – toward the Fort – and creating the not very creatively named U.S. Burial Grounds Due West City Cemetery, and the U.S. Burials Grounds Southwest City Cemetery.


Nashville Daily Union
October 16, 1864, page 3
During the course of the war, an undertaker hired by the Army buried more than 13,500 federal soldiers and 1,000 government employees, as well as 8,000 Confederate soldiers and 10,000 formerly enslaved people and white refugees – more than 30,000 graves in total. According to a Nashville Daily Union article from October 16, 1864, the federal soldiers were all "buried in a part of the city cemetery set apart for soldiers. His name is entered on the record of the Government Undertaker, W. R. Cornelius, and numbered. A corresponding number, together with the name, company and regiment of the deceased is marked legibly on the coffin, and also on a neat headboard at the grave."
Nashville Daily Union
October 16, 1864, page 3

Nashville Daily Union
October 16, 1864, page 3

In essence, the area surrounding the Fort had become during that period not only an African American neighborhood but also a large cemetery.

During the construction of the fort, in the fall of 1862, Abraham Lincoln announced that the Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect the coming January. The Proclamation did not free those enslaved in Tennessee, but it did have a significant impact on the men working on Fort Negley. It allowed for black men to enlist in the US Army and Navy as soldiers and sailors.

Freeman Thomas, the Fort Negley laborer from Franklin, described how he made the transition from enslaved to laborer and then to soldier.

We all went and joined the Army. The captain asked what we wanted…. We told him …that we had come to join the Army. . . . they took us and put us in the Regiment and made soldiers out of us.
This was the biggest thing that ever happened in my life. I felt like a man, with a uniform on and a gun in my hand.

Approximately 20,000 African American men served in Tennessee’s regiments of the Army's racially-segregated US Colored Troops made possible by the Emancipation Proclamation.

As a result, hundreds – perhaps thousands of men - went straight from building this Fort to defending it and all of Nashville. The men of the 12th US Colored Infantry, in particular, are known to have been recruited out of the ranks of the former Fort Negley laborers. On August 12th and 13th 1863, exactly one year from the date the work on the Fort commenced, hundreds of black men enlisted in the 12th Colored Regiment in Nashville – perhaps they even enlisted right here at the Fort.

As the war progressed, some of those men died and were buried back here in the cemeteries the Army had created around Fort Negley. I would like to tell you about a few of these men who helped built Fort Negley, enlisted in the 12th Colored Infantry, and then were initially buried at its base. Their stories are truly what Memorial Day is all about:

Pvt. Andrew Bradford was born in Nashville and was a field hand before he was listed as laborer #1188 on the employment roll for the fortifications. He was just 19 years old when he enlisted in the 12th US Colored Infantry, Company K, and died in the Cumberland Hospital in Nashville. He was buried in the South West portion of the federal burial grounds.
Pvt. William Johnson was from Smith County. He enlisted on August 12,1863 and died of consumption almost exactly two years later at the Wilson Hospital on August 14th 1865. He was buried in the South West Federal Burial Grounds, although his burial records state he was buried in the City Cemetery.

Pvt. Thomas Smith was from Sugar Creek, Tennessee. He was described as a 19-year-old “servant” when he enlisted in Company A of the 12th Colored Infantry. He died of chronic diarrhea on May 7, 1865 in Hospital No. 16 in Nashville. He was buried in the South West federal burialgrounds [##23489]

Pvt. Rufus Thompson was born in Morgan County, Alabama. His name appears as laborer #1619 of those who worked on Nashville’s fortifications. He enlisted in the 12th US Colored Infantry, Company I. He died of pneumonia in Hospital No. 16 in Nashville on May 6, 1864. [burial location in federal burial grounds prior to Nashville National Cemetery is not noted]

Pvt. William Lawrence was born in Alabama and served as laborer #870 on the fortifications in Nashville. He enlisted in the 12th US Colored Infantry, Company A on July 19, 1863. On his enlistment papers he was described as a 21-year-old servant. He died in Hospital No. 16 in Nashville. He was buried in the South-West cemetery.

Pvt. Moses Tucker was born in Richmond, Virginia. He appears to have been listed two times as a laborer on the fortifications – as laborer # 291 and#2694. He was enslaved by someone named S. Tucker. On August 12, 1863, he enlisted in the 12th US Colored Infantry, Company H. He was described as a 40-year-old laborer. He died in the Wilson Hospital in Nashville and was buried in the South-West City Cemetery. He left behind a wife Mary.

Pvt. Sampson Garrette was born in North Carolina. He was listed as laborer #1352 on the fortifications. When he enlisted in the 12th US Colored Infantry in Nashville, he was a 39-year-old married man. He died in the Wilson General Hospital in Nashville on January 4, 1865 and was buried in the SouthWest city cemetery.

Pvt. George Curry was born in Maury County, Tennessee. He was listed as Laborer #1999 on the fortifications and enlisted in the 12th US Colored Infantry when he was just 19 years old. He died in Nashville and was buried in the South West Cemetery.

In July 1866, following the Civil War, and a year or two after these men had died, 65 acres was purchased on Gallatin Pike in Madison to create a new National Cemetery. From October 1867 to January 1868, the US Army transferred, re-interred, and marked the graves of its dead soldiers – including these Fort Negley laborers. 






This is a sample page from W R. Cornelius, the undertaker hired by the federal government, to re-inter soldiers at the Nashville National Cemetery. It notes the name, rank and regiment of the soldier, as well as the original burial location and the new gravesite in the Nashville National Cemetery.

In total, there were 11,613 removals from just the three graveyards in the area of Fort Negley to the newly created Nashville National Cemetery in Madison.

However, that also means that of the 30,000 souls laid to rest near Fort Negley, close to 2/3 were never moved and may still lay at the base of St. Cloud Hill. It is still not clear precisely where all of the remains are today. An archaeological study completed in January 2018 found that there are “likely human remains” on this site.

Further archaeological study is needed and fundraising for that work is ongoing.

As dreadful as it is to think about all those forgotten souls, it is also worth considering the profound shift in attitudes that allowed the government to create integrated national cemeteries that contained the remains of thousands of dead white and African American soldiers. It was truly radical.

Until that time, most enslaved African Americans – including most likely any deceased Fort Negley laborers - had received cursory burials in unmarked graves. Except for the rare case of the "favorite house slave," the graves of enslaved people generally went unmarked. Their deaths and their lives were often unrecorded – their stories were quite literally lost to history.

And even when free people of color were buried in marked graves, they were often laid to rest in segregated parts of cemeteries. Graveyards for the enslaved were frequently separated from those of the white enslavers. They may have been placed at the edges of little-valued property. Graves were often marked with wood slabs or field stones. Sometimes graves were simply identified using plants, such as cedars or yuccas. Often family groupings could not be preserved – there was no "family square" for the enslaved.

Today most cultures document the location of graves with headstones, often inscribed with information and tributes to the deceased. It is a way of demonstrating respect for the dead. Providing a formal burial and headstone is a form of remembrance for those left behind.

Being buried in an unmarked grave – on the other hand - has a metaphorical meaning. It can be viewed as consignment to a disgraceful end. It suggests that the deceased is not worthy of commemoration. That is why wartime burials in unmarked graves by the enemy are often considered to be so troubling and undignified. One of the most notorious Civil War era examples of this is the shallow mass-grave of the men of the African American 54th Massachusetts who were killed in action during the Battle of Fort Wagner. If you've ever seen the movie " Glory" – that scene is hard to forget.



As the War came to a close, and African Americans began to claim the rights that had been so long withheld from them, they were able to insist on equal treatment of their fallen soldiers. This demand for identical burials in National Cemeteries was a way of asserting equal recognition for their role in the War.

When you visit the Nashville National Cemetery – or any of the other National Cemeteries – and look out across the rolling green hills filled with rows of matching marble headstones, it is not immediately apparent the rank, color or creed of the fallen soldier being honored. They are all equal in death as they should have been in life.



The enormity of the pain caused by the thousands of Civil War deaths - Federal, Confederate, white and black - was unprecedented in many ways. And the response to the loss of so many sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers inspired a unique reaction – the creation of Decoration Day – later called Memorial Day - an annual commemoration urging citizens to decorate the graves of the fallen and to observe a day of remembrance. Those post-Civil War national cemeteries were so significant to this commemoration – they provided a place for families to remember. They became sites of public recognition and memorial.
So, with that in mind, what better place to be today – at a time dedicated to public memorial and memory - than at Fort Negley Park – A place to truly remember the forgotten. To honor our fallen soldiers and also those who were not dignified with a headstone or a place to be publicly memorialized.

I believe that Nashville is ready to - for the first time - fully tell the story of what happened here during the Civil War. This region has never embraced its Civil War history - the good, the bad and the ugly. The whole history needs to be told and there is no better place than Fort Negley Park. Nashville has the opportunity to honor the 800 who died here and the 2,771 who built this remarkable place, including Pvt. Freeman Thomas, Pvt. Andrew Bradford, Pvt. William Johnson, Pvt. Thomas Smith, Pvt. RufusThompson , Pvt. William Lawrence, Pvt. MosesTucker, Pvt. Sampson Garrette, and Pvt. George Curry.


Pvt. Andrew Bradford's headstone at the Nashville National Cemetery
He was laborer #1188 at Fort Negley, served in the 12th US Colored Infantry and died during the War.
He was initially buried in the South West portion of the federal burial grounds. 
Fort Negley has newly been designated as a "Site of Memory" by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as part of its Slave Route Project. Other such Sites of Memory in the United States are the Statue of Liberty, Philadelphia's Independence Hall, and the University of Virginia and Monticello in Charlottesville, Va. We are in good company. With this designation and other work, the Park with the support of the Fort Negley Descendants Project, the Friends of Fort Negley, and other partners finally has the opportunity to explain to the public the diverse ways in which the past has shaped the present – they can challenge preconceptions and introduce many Nashvillians to a shared history and stories they have never heard before. But perhaps most importantly, this place can be a site to honor and remember.

There is an old saying that, “A soldier never dies until he is forgotten.” Fort Negley Park can be a place where stories and people are not forgotten.

Thank you so much for your courtesy today