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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Henry and Samuel Dullivan - 29th Connecticut Volunteers

I grew up in the picturesque town of Wilton, Connecticut - a bedroom community of New York City.  In many ways, it is not unlike Franklin, Tennessee where I now live - both are wealthy, mostly white, satellite suburbs near a larger city (New York and Nashville). 

Connecticut Blues Fife and Drum Corp
When I was a child, my earliest historical memories consist of July 4th parades complete with Fife and Drum Corps and re-enactors dressed as Minutemen - rather than the Civil War era interpreters from my current hometown. 
The Bridgeport Post Friday November 15, 1974
An article about the local Wilton Fife and Drum Corp in 1974.
I was five years old and remember the country's
bicentennial celebrations that year.

At my award-winning public schools, we learned about the history of the region during the American Revolution. However, one thing I don't remember being taught was the fact that slavery existed in Connecticut until 1848 - barely 15 years before the outbreak of the Civil War. This may be entirely inaccurate; perhaps I was taught this, but it did not make any lasting impression. However, my memories of my American history teachings on this topic was similar to what many Americans probably learned - that slavery was largely - if not entirely - a Southern institution.

In fact, on the eve of the American Revolution, Connecticut had the largest number of slaves (6,464) in New England.  During the Revolutionary War, over 300 men from Wilton served as soldiers. One of these was an African American man named Cato Treadwell (1762–1849), who served three years in the 2nd Brigade of the Connecticut Line. Pvt Treadwell died at the age of 86, one year after slavery was abolished in the state. A longer description of Pvt. Treadwell's life is available here.

In preparation for a trip home last year, I decided to do some research into the African American history of Wilton and was pleased to see that a group of students from my alma mater - Wilton High School - had recently conducted a thorough research paper into the topic.  Their report describes the lives of those enslaved there and the history of slavery in the region. 

One story that was beyond the scope of their report involved the Dullivan family.  Henry Dullivan (b 1817) and a relative Samuel Dullivan (b 1822were both born in Wilton.  It is not clear to me the relationship between Henry and Samuel - I suspect that Samuel may have been a younger brother to Henry.

On May 30, 1841, 24-year-old Henry Dullivan married 21-year-old Susan Jackson at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in nearby New Canaan, Connecticut. In church records, it noted that Henry "Dulerman" was from Wilton and his bride Susan was from New York. They were identified as colored.

Statement from Rev. Ogden of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, New Canaan, CT
Attesting to the marriage of Henry and Susan Dullivan

Original Sanctuary of St. Mark's Church, New Canaan, CT
where Henry Dullivan and Susan Jackson were married in 1841

In the 1850 Federal Census, Henry and Susan "Dulerman" were living in Wilton with their children Samuel (named after his uncle?), Mary, John Henry, Sarah and infant Augusta Ann. 

Henry and Susan had at least eight children over the next twenty years: 
Samuel b. 1842
Mary b. 1844
John Henry b. 1845
Sarah b. 1848
Augusta Ann, b. 1850
Maria b. 1852
Susan C., b. 1853
John J. b. 1860
In January 1860, Samuel Dullivan married Ann Maria Freeman in nearby Norwalk, Connecticut. 

Statement from Ann Marie Freeman Dullivan, widow of Samuel Dullivan / pension application
Approved pension applications of widows and other dependents of Civil War veterans who served between 1861 and 1910.

Six months later, the 1860 Federal Census was taken.  I have not located Samuel and his new bride in the census records.  But Henry and his family were counted by George Hurllbutt on June 6th, 1860 in Wilton, CT.  Henry was a laborer as was his eldest son Samuel.  Living with the family was 75-year-old Susan Brown, who I suspect may have been Henry's mother-in-law.

On May 8, 1863, Susan and Henry's young son John J. died in Wilton.  He was just three years old and was buried in the cemetery of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Wilton.

Seven months later, a few days after Christmas 1863, Henry and Samuel enlisted in the 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  They were somewhat late to the regiment - recruiting had begun the previous August. Both men were assigned to Company G. Samuel was described as being 41 years old and Henry was described as 44.  Both were born in Wilton.

According to a history of the regiment, the men should have been compensated well for volunteering. In addition to their pay, they were to receive: a bounty of $310 from the state of Connecticut, $75 from Fairfield County (where they enlisted), and $300 from the US Government. However, it appears that most of the men received only the state-promised bounty.

Within the week, by January 1st, 1864 the regiment was filled. Other Black men who enlisted after that date in Connecticut were formed into the 30th Connecticut (Colored) Volunteer Infantry. Like the three Black regiments in Massachusetts, Connecticut’s 29th and 30th (Colored) Volunteer Infantry (CVI) retained their original state designations throughout the war, rather than being called "US Colored Troops." 

The 29th CVI and the Dullivans stayed in New Haven at Camp Terry, likely training, until early March when they received orders to move to Annapolis, Maryland. In advance of their departure, the 29th CVI was presented with its first battle flag, a 33-star US banner, by a local minister, the Reverend Dr. Mott, on March 8, 1864, in the Fair Haven section of New Haven, Connecticut. 

The 29th (Colored) Regiment CVI 35-star US “National” flag was presented to the unit when it became part of the 25th Army Corps in March of 1865 – Courtesy of the Connecticut Office of Legislative Management, from the book Qui Transtulit Sustinet by Geraldine Caughman

According to an account in the New Haven Daily Palladium a local Black woman presented to the unit its second battle flag—its regimental colors.

This 29th (Colored) Regiment CVI state "regimental" flag 
was presented to the unit March 19, 1864, in Fair Haven, CT - 
Courtesy of the Connecticut Office of Legislative Management, from the book Qui Transtulit Sustinet by Geraldine Caughman

Reverend Dr. Leonard Bacon, father of Captain Leonard Woolsley Bacon - one of the regiment's white officers - gave a long and passionate speech in which he told the departing soldiers,
“We give you this flag to march under which tells you that you are a Connecticut regiment, and it is our confident expectation that you as a regiment will do honor to the State of Connecticut, as well as to the stars and stripes. And in order to do this, you must bring back this flag when you return, without any dishonor.”

Bacon concluded by reminding the 1,005 soldiers that as men of color, they would need to prove themselves “worthy of the respect of fellow men." Immediately following the ceremony, as the regiment marched towards the wharf where the steamship Warrior was waiting to take them to the front, the soldiers could be heard shouting, “We’ll show you we can fight! We’ll show you that we are men!”

A sketch of the 29th regiment of Connecticut colored troops

Pvt. Isaac Hill, author of the regiment's history described how:
"Never did my eyes hear, or my eyes perceive, or my heart feel the strong yearnings of nature as they did at that moment; mother's weeping for their sons, and wives for their husbands, and sisters for their brothers, and friends for their friends, that were then on their way to the scene of conflict. White and colored ladies and gentlemen grasped me by the hand, with tears streaming down their cheeks and bid me good bye, expressing the hope that we might have a safe return.

It is not hard to imagine that Henry and Samuel Dullivan along with their wives and Henry's children (ranging in age from 21 to 3) could have been there to witness the same scene.

One of the two 29th (Colored) Regiment CVI 
guidon flags used as markers on the 
left and right flank of the regiment during battle.
 Courtesy of the Connecticut Office of Legislative Management



Throughout the War, in addition to the two flags presented in March of 1864, the regiment also carried two small, white triangular flags, each displaying the unit’s number - 29. These flags, known as guidons, were carried into battle on hand-carved wooden staffs on the left and right flanks of the regiment. 

As the 29th's transport ship passed New York City, their "drummers assembled on deck and played, at which flags were displayed by the citizens, and cheers given in response." That night they passed Cape May, New Jersey before spending a few weeks in Annapolis, Maryland. They were then sent forward to Beaufort, South Carolina where they arrived on April 16th. Upon disembarkment, they marched through the main street and camped near the New York 26th Volunteers on the "right" of Beauford. 

According to the regimental history, on May 20th, the Paymaster arrived. The men had received no pay until this time. 

"Soon their spirits fell when they learned they would receive only $7 per month. Company A took the lead in the dissatisfaction, it being the first company, and Company B next, Company K next, company C next, and so on till Company D, it being the last company ... After the companies all expressed their indignation at the small sum of $7 per month, the officers called them in line and told them they would receive $16 the next pay day, and they had better take this - at the same time promising them, that in the future they should receive full pay. They did as he wished."

Brigadier General Rufus Saxton

Two days later, on May 22, 1864, General Rufus Saxton greeted the regiment, 
"Boys, I have come to greet you with an order I have received that you are to be considered soldiers of the United States and receive your pay as white soldiers, and I hope you will consider yourselves men. Although your skins are dark, you have the same muscle as white men, and the same courage to fight. It is for you to get the same skill by strictly attending to your duty, not from fear of punishment, but because you are soldiers. ... Boys, if you ever want to make good soldiers you must look a white man straight in the face, and let him know that you are a man."

Just five days later, on May 27, 1864, Pvt. Henry Dullivan died in General Hospital No 6 in Beaufort, South Carolina of "typhoid malarial fever."
Register of US Colored Troop Deaths During the Civil War
Entry for Pvt Henry Dullivan

About six weeks later, on July 19, 1864, Pvt. Samuel Dullivan likewise died of typhoid fever in Beauford, South Carolina. 

Pvt. Henry Dullivan headstone
Beauford National Cemetery

Pvt Samuel Dullivan headstone
Beauford National Cemetery

The men were buried in the Beauford National Cemetery following the War. Soon after their deaths, the 29th CVI left Beauford for Hilton Head, South Carolina and then Fort Monroe, Virginia. From there the regiment went up the James River, past Jamestown, and on to Bermuda Hundred, VA. The 29th Regiment fought in the Siege of Petersburg in Petersburg, Virginia from August 12 through September 24 and took several other actions in Virginia before arriving in Richmond, Virginia and witnessed President Abraham Lincoln's address on April 5, 1865. You can read the full account of the 29th CVI's contributions to the federal war effort here.  Also, there are two accounts written by Black soldiers in the CVI - A sketch of the 29th regiment of Connecticut colored troops and
Out of the briars : an autobiography and sketch of the Twenty-ninth Regiment, Connecticut volunteers

Broadside outlining the history of the Twenty-ninth Regiment. 
Baltimore : J.C. Fuller & Co., c1864

Henry Dullivan Family.  During this time, Henry's widow Susan was left in Connecticut to raise their children. The couple's 12 year old daughter Maria died around 1864 and is likely buried with her younger brother in the cemetery of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Wilton.  By the fall of 1864, Susan was pursuing a pension. She was living in Norwalk, CT - the town next to Wilton.

Statement from Susan Jackson Dullivan's pension application

In 1870, Susan was counted in the federal census living in Norwalk with her eldest son Charles who was working as a cook. Curiously, her two minor daughters - Augusta Ann and Susan - for whom she was collecting a pension, were not living with her. One of them was supposed to be severely disabled, according to the pension file.

1870 Federal Census, Norwalk Connecticut 
Portion showing Susan Jackson Dullivan living with son Samuel. 

Henry and Susan's oldest child Samuel Douglas Dullivan married and moved his family to New Haven, Connecticut where he worked as a whitewasher. In 1898, Samuel D. Dullivan was widowed and by 1910 he had moved to New York City with some of his grown children, including Samuel Jr whose son David Douglas Dullivan served in the US Air Force during the Korean War, keeping his great grandfather Pvt Henry Dullivan's legacy alive.

Headstone for David Douglas "Pharoah" Dullivan

In 1917, it appears as though another of Henry and Susan's children, Sarah, died. She was buried in the St. Matthews Cemetery in Wilton, Connecticut, along with her younger siblings. I believe that at this time, the family may have installed a headstone for their father and siblings. The headstone seems to have also left room for Susan mother to be included upon her death.

Photograph of Henry Dullivan family headstone.

Samuel Dullivan Family.  Like Susan Dullivan, Samuel Dullivan's widow Ann Marie Freeman Dullivan likewise claimed a pension. She was also living in Norwalk, Connecticut at the time although she later moved to Easton, Connecticut - a small town next to Wilton - where she died in early 1888. According to the probate records, she owned 30 acres and some basic furniture and farm equipment. She left no known descendants.

Inventory of Ann Marie Freeman Dullivan's estate

In 2008, a monument was installed in New Haven, Connecticut to honor the men of the 29th Connecticut Infantry by a group organized as The Descendants of the Connecticut 29th Colored Regiment C.V. Infantry, Inc. 

On the monument’s west face, a bronze plaque depicts soldiers carrying the United States flag and the unit’s colors while others stand by with rifles. Below the plaque, the unit’s six engagements are listed.

The west face also lists the 45 officers and enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, and the 152 men who died from disease or accident - including presumably the names of Pvt. Henry Dullivan and Pvt. Samuel Dullivan, although I have not been able to confirm this personally.
The south face is inscribed with a detailed history of the unit.





Sunday, September 20, 2020

Kidnapping & Re-enslavement of Freedmen in Middle Tennessee

During the Civil War in Middle Tennessee - and likely many other places throughout the American South, people who had escaped from slavery were recaptured and sold back into bondage. 


On September 20, 1862, an article appeared in the Nashville Daily Union newspaper. It described how eight Black people had been kidnapped, placed in the slave pen of Henry H. Haynes, and then taken South to be sold back into slavery. 


According to the article, four people who had been impressed to work on the fortifications in Nashville - such as Fort Negley - had been taken “without authority to the slave pen” of Henry H. Haynes and “run off South by some one.” Four other people who had also been impressed by the Federal authorities were “found in the pen, where they had been taken, it seems without authority.” This was evidently a relatively common occurrence - and underscores the vulnerability of people who were seeking freedom from enslavement during the Civil War. These eight people had claimed their freedom, been impressed by the US Army in Nashville, and were then kidnapped and placed back into slavery.

References to this practice appear in both the records of the Provost Marshall (the military police in Nashville) as well as a book about the Army of the Cumberland (Annals of the Army of the Cumberland).

For example, according to the Annals of the Army of the Cumberland, large numbers of enslaved people emancipated themselves from slavery and fled to the Federal camps where they found work. Initially, their enslavers did not try to regain them:

One of the marked results of the war has been the escape from Rebel masters of large numbers of slaves. Flocking to our camps, where they are universally known as contrabands, they have been made useful in a multitude of ways by the Army of the Cumberland. As cooks, as waiters, as teamsters, as laborers, in the hospitals, in warehouses, in stables, on the fortifications, on steamers and railways, they have been constantly employed with the advantage to themselves and the government. ... At first no particular caution seemed to be exercised to prevent their escape or any considerable efforts put forth for their recovery. Their whilom [former] masters were apparently content to let them go or stay as they pleased, congratulating themselves that it was simply so much pork and cornbread saved when they abandoned the lean larder of a southern plantation for the ample store of a Yankee camp. Those left behind were enough for all their present needs, and too many to be decently fed and clothed from the scanty crops and scantier stocks of the Southern Confederacy.

However, beginning around January 1862, the attitudes toward these new Freedmen began to change. Instead, slave holders began to move the people they held in bondage to places more securely within the Confederate-held states; they also began to try to recapture people who had gained their freedom and fled to Nashville. Rewards were paid for their return:

With the last New Year [Jan 1862], however, another policy seems to have been inaugurated, either by the civil authorities at Richmond or by the military  leaders in camp. Whether it was that the number of fugitives had become alarmingly large, or that the influence of the Emancipation policy was feared, whether it was the dread of an armed insurrection or a general stampede to the Federal lines, or whether it was all of these combined, that caused the changes of policy, is not easy, and not necessary, to determine here. Suffice it to say that measures were at this time taken to remove into the interior and southward these slaves in Tennessee and other border states that could be reached, and to recover from the Federal lines as much as possible of those who had escaped thither.  The spies and scouts of the secret service soon scented this new game, and were on the alert. It was found that considerable rewards have been offered in Murfreesboro and other places in the Southern Confederacy for the delivery of negroes within the rebel army lines. Emissaries were found in Nashville, engaged in trapping and carrying away by force such likely negroes as they could lay their hands upon– at the same time acting as spies and furnishing the rebels with important information.

For example, this letter, signed by the Acting Adjutant of the Fortifications in Nashville describes a meeting between himself and H. H. Haynes "Negro dealer [in] Nashville" in July 1862 in which Haynes asked the Adjutant if he "was disposed to engage in the business [of stealing people] he would take any number [the Adjutant] would furnish, that he would come at any appointed time of the night & hour and receive them [the kidnapped people] outside of [the Federal lines], that he would pay [the Adjutant] $50 per head and after [Haynes] had sold or disposed of [the kidnapped people] he would divide the profits with [the Adjutant]."

Letter in the Federal Provost Marshall’s evidence file against Dr. Hudson

A Federal spy was sent to Franklin, Tennessee to meet with men who were well known as “extensive negro dealers.” Specifically mentioned was a man named "J. Prior Smith." I suspect perhaps this was S. [Sidney] Prior Smith who owned a large farm, in the 8th District of Williamson County and whose brother Preston was an officer in the Confederate Army. 

Sidney Prior Smith
Smith lived in the Moran Road area of Hillsboro Road, north of Franklin.

According to the Annals of the Army of the Cumberland:

Measures were at once taken for the detection and punishment of those engaged in this nefarious traffic. A suitable person was dispatched to Franklin, Tennessee, where resided several men formerly well known as extensive negro dealers, for the purpose of obtaining reliable information of the parties in the business and the means by which it was carried on. With one of these men. - J. Prior Smith who had one million dollars of Southern money for investment in negroes - this agent became very intimate and finally engaged to purchase for him men, women, and children. Four likely children from 1 to 8 and 10 years of age he was to be paid $10 per pound; and for every man and woman that he would get out of Nashville and vicinity, he was to be liberally rewarded. Smith also gave him letters of introduction to prominent citizens of Nashville, both of them entered cheerfully into the scheme and suggested various means of carrying on the business.

The involvement of Prior Smith was further described by a Federal spy 
Henry Newcomer. in a statement in the evidence file against another conspirator, Dr. J. R. Hudson: "He has entered into an engagement with me to furnish [Prior Smith] with the negroes ... He is to get a pass from Dr. Swift to send outside of the lines fo milk fo the hospitals and in that way we are to get the negroes out."


Letter in the Federal Provost Marshall’s evidence file against Dr. Hudson

The referenced Dr. Hudson was the son in law of John Napier, one of the owners of the Napier Iron Works in Dickson County.  He used this connection to further his efforts in kidnapping people back into slavery. His engagement was described in the Annals of the Army of the Cumberland:

One of them - Dr. J R [John Rolfe] Hudson - was particularly interested, and for months busied himself in kidnapping young boys and running them South. He tampered with the officers of the Engineer Corps in charge of the fortifications then being constructed., offering them half the profits, or $500 each, for every man they would permit him to steal out of their squad of laborers. He would procure passes for himself and servants to go out to his farm, and the servants would never come back. He would send them out with his wood wagons, and when once beyond the lines it would be passed on to their destination and sold. His speculations, however, were interfered with materially by the Army Police; he was indefatigable, in the business, and only ceased trapping Negroes when trapped himself.
In February 1863, the Provost Marshall began to gather evidence against Dr. Hudson through the use of the Federal spy, Henry Newcomer: "He [Dr. Hudson] proposed the trapping of boys from 14 to 15 years & smaller and told me [Newcomer] if I would engage with him & turn them over to him he could get at least one thousand dollars each, & he would give me $500 for each boy big enough to plow and men could be sold from $1,500 to $2,000 for each."

Later that year the US Provost Marshall, based on this evidence, sent Dr. Hudson and his wife “South via Vicksburg”.

The actual kidnapping of the newly emancipated people was also described in the records.  In the Annals, it was described how a man named Norris hired a group of men to help him re-enslave Freedmen for a minister who previously enslaved them and wanted them back:

Accordingly he takes with him five men, some of them armed, – and in the middle of the night makes a descent upon their cabin, and has them in his hands before they've barely know what is the matter. Four of the men he chains by locking their legs together with trace-chains, and fastens them together by twos. In an adjoining cabin are four other Negroes, ... he concludes he may as well take them along too, and they are surprised and secured in the same way. Resistance is in vain: they struggle as best they can, howling, begging, and imploring not to be taken down south. They might as well appeal to a stone. He knows no mercy, and shows none. Once in the wagon they are driven off as rapidly as his four horses can draw them. By twisting and turning from one road to another, he evades the Federal forces, and in about eight days reaches his destination, Huntsville, Alabama, when the Negroes are turned over to their ministerial master and Norris received his reward.

These troubling accounts make clear the precarious state that newly Freedmen found themselves in: despite having claimed their freedom and made their way safely inside Federal lines they could find themselves captured yet again and sold or taken back into bondage yet again.  It also clearly illustrates how desperately many Southerners were to cling to the vile institution of human slavery - even as it was crumbling around them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

City of Franklin's Law "For the Regulation of Slaves" - 1823

On September 9, 1823, the Mayor and Aldermen of Franklin enacted a new law "for the regulation of slaves" within the city limits. 

 In the 1820 Federal Census, the population of Williamson County was 20,640. Of those people, 7,047 were enslaved African-Americans - about 34% of the entire population. Only 75 free People of Color lived in the County. The Mayor of Franklin at the time of its new law regulating enslaved people was Dr. Edward P. Breathitt. He was born in Henry County VA and married Mary Pauline Eaton in Franklin in 1815. By 1820 his family was enslaving 9 other people. In 1823, when he was Franklin's mayor, he was 33 years old. When he died in 1837, his headstone described that he was, "a learned and skillful physician, an affectionate husband and father… a kind and indulgent master."

The new law stipulated that a "suitable person" (presumably a white man) should be hired to serve as watchman for two-month terms. The watchman's job was, "to watch and patrol the different streets, lanes, alleys and squares, to examine kitchens and other suspected places of resort for negro assemblies within the corporation." This was to be done every night. Of those nights,  "at least three nights in each week" the watchman was to start at 9 pm and patrol for at least five hours. On the other nights, it was the watchman's discretion. The law required that on Sunday he was to "take particular care that negroes are not permitted to pass with anything for sale without written permission" from the white people who controlled them. If the watchman did "apprehend" an enslaved person trying to sell things without permission, they were to punish the enslaved person "with any number of stripes [whipping lashes] not exceeding thirty-nine." At 9 pm at night, the watchman was to "sound the trumpet" to "disperse all collections of negroes."

The law also targeted white people in an attempt to prevent them from encouraging or influencing the enslaved population. For example, they were prohibited from attempting to, "buy, sell, trade, barter or borrow" anything of value from an enslaved person without the permission of their enslaver or the person who controlled them.   Additionally, free people were prohibited from selling to enslaved people (without permission of the enslaver), "any spirituous liquors, beer, cider, ale, porter, wine or any drink capable of producing intoxication."  Also, free people were prohibited from permitting, "any slave or slaves disorderly to assemble at his or their house or place of residence." Anyone who violated these provisions would be fined $5 for "each and every offense." 

There was also a provision of the law that stipulated that if a "negro slave" settled in the City of Franklin "under pretense of hiring his or her time" or if they occupied "any house or by any other means reside" in the City of Franklin the watchman was to "take them up" and by order of any justice of the peace they would be committed to prison. There was an exception to this rule for Black people who were "in the actual service of some free or white inhabitant of Franklin." If they were not so excepted, they were to remain in the jail until "the owner" paid a fine of $8 plus "prison charges and other costs of commitment." If any white inhabitant of Franklin attempted to enter into an agreement "contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act" they would be fined e$20 for each offense.

The law also applied to free people of color ("any free negro or mulatto") and targeted prayer services and worship. It required that if they entertained "any slave or slaves" in their home "during the Sabbath or in the night, between sunset and sunrise" they could be fined $5 "for each and every offense." 

Below is the full text of Franklin's 1823 law. In 1831, Nat Turner led one of the largest slave rebellions in America in Virginia.  Three years later, the City of Franklin adopted a revised Slave Watchman bill. The population of Williamson County's enslaved population continued to grow. By 1860, the last census before the Civil War, slightly more than half of the people living here were held in bondage. Dozens of men were employed as overseers on the larger farms and plantations. The entire system was designed to control, subdue, and defeat thousands of residents for no reason other than the color of their skin.

An Act
By-Laws of the Town of Franklin

An act for the regulation of slaves within the corporation of the town of Franklin and for other purposes.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the mayor and aldermen of the corporation of the town of Franklin, That there shall be elected once in every two months a suitable person to serve this corporation as watchman for the term of two months ensuing the time of his appointment who shall be allowed and paid at the expiration of his term of service by the board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Section 2. Be it enacted, That it shall be the duty of the watchman to watch and patrol the different streets, lanes, alleys and squares, to examine kitchens and other suspected places of resort for negro assemblies within the corporation, at least three nights in each week, and five hours in each night after nine o’clock and other nights at his discretion. Sunday he is to take particular care that negroes are not permitted to pass with anything for sale without written permission from their owner, overseer or other person having the control and management of such negro specifying what they have for sale. To apprehend and punish with any number of stripes not exceeding thirty-nine any slave, who shall hereafter offer anything or commodity, for sale without written permission as aforesaid. To disperse all collections of negroes on Sundays or other days or times with or without passes, to sound the trumpet at the hour of nine each night and to take an oath before some justice of the peace for the county of Williamson, faithfully to perform the several duties required of him by this act.

Section 3. Be it enacted, That no free man, trader or other free person whomsoever, shall within the corporation buy, sell, trade, barter or borrow any commodities or things whatsoever, with, to or from, any slave or servant without the written consent of the master, mistress or other person having the control and management of such slave or servant, and if any such free man trader or other free person as aforesaid shall within this corporation, buy, sell, trade, barter or borrow any commodities or things whatsoever, without the consent aforesaid, he, she or they so offending shall forfeit and pay the sum of five dollars for each and every offense to be recovered in the name and for the use of this corporation before any jurisdiction having cognizance thereof.

Section 4
. Be it enacted, That if any free person or persons shall sell within this corporation, any spirituous liquors, beer, cider, ale, porter, wine or any drink capable of producing intoxication, to any slave or slaves, without a permit in writing from the owner or other person having management of such slave or slaves, or for the proper use of such slave or slaves, either with or without such permit, knowing the same to be for his or her use as aforesaid, or shall permit any slave or slaves disorderly to assemble at his or their house or place of residence, every person so offending shall be fined in a sum not less than five, nor more than twenty dollars, to be recovered before any jurisdiction having cognizance thereof.

Section 5. Be it enacted, That if any negro or slave shall settle within the limits of this corporation under pretense of hiring his or her time or shall occupy any house or by any other means reside therein unless in the actual service of some free or white inhabitant of this corporation every such negro slave shall by the watchman be taken up and by order of some justice of the peace be committed to prison, there to remain until the owner of such negro or slave shall pay to the treasurer of this corporation the sum of eight dollars together with prison charges and other costs of commitment.

Section 6. Be it enacted, That if any inhabitant of this corporation under pretense of hiring or by any collusive agreement with the owner of any slave or with the agent of continuance within this corporation of any such slave or slaves except in his or her actual service, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act every person or persons shall forfeit and pay the sum of twenty dollars for each offense, to be recovered before any jurisdiction having cognizance thereof, in the name and for the use of this corporation, with costs.

Section 7. Be it enacted, That if any free negro or mulatto shall entertain any slave or slaves in his, her or their house or residence during the Sabbath or in the night, between sunset and sunrise, he, she, or they so offending shall forfeit and pay the sum of five dollars for each and every offense to be recovered before any jurisdiction having cognizance thereof.

Passed 9th September 1823

E. Breathitt, Mayor

E. Cameron, Recorder

This Act was published in The Independent Gazette on October 17, 1823. Many thanks to County Historian Rick Warwick for a copy.

Friday, August 28, 2020

August 1963 - The Civil Rights Movement in Williamson County, TN

 On today's date (August 28) in 1968, 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington and listened to Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech.



That event was the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement that summer and Dr. King predicted that it would "go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation." And it had an impact right here in Williamson County, Tennessee. At the time, African Americans made up about 1/3 of the County's 25,000 residents.

A few days before the March, the Williamson County Committee of Christian Men (WCCCM) presented a petition to the County Court (predecessor to today's County Commission) requesting action on six areas in which they wanted an "extension" of rights for the Black community. Their request focused on six areas:
  1. The desegregation of the seven County-run whites-only high schools and the one high school for Black students (Natchez High School)
  2. Employment of Black residents by the City and County governments
  3. Jury service for Black residents
  4. Improved opportunities for employment in local factories
  5. Equal opportunity in public housing
  6. Service in all public business (i.e., no longer being denied equal service by restaurants, stores, etc)
To address these issues, the County Court approved the formation of a 12-person "bi-racial committee" of Franklin and Williamson County residents.  Under the plan, the County Judge (i.e., County Mayor) Jim Warren and Franklin Mayor Asa Jewell were each to appoint three white and three Black members of the committee.  The WCCCM's petition read in part, "we have come not to pressure but to join hands in this movement."

The Nashville Banner, August 28, 1963

This was not the first time the WCCCM had made such appeals to community leaders. Two years earlier, in August 1961, seven years after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the WCCCM had filed a formal request of the Franklin Special School Board to desegregate the schools in the City for elementary and middle school students. They had also asked at that time for greater representation on jury duty and in leadership positions in city and county government. 

That fall of 1961, Franklin Special School District desegregated its schools using a "grade a year" voluntary plan - starting with first grade. This meant that Black families had to volunteer to send their six-year-olds to all-white schools. Two families sent daughters to the all-white Franklin Elementary School that year. The desegregation plan did not apply to Williamson County schools or to the high schools in Franklin.





It wasn't until the fall of 1967 that the Williamson County School Board desegregated the County schools.  The formerly all-Black Natchez High School briefly became an "annex" to Franklin High School. No attempt was made by the County to archive or save the trophies or artifacts important to Natchez High School, which had a thriving football team, marching band, and other extracurricular programs important to the Black community. Following the desegregation of public schools, several private schools formed in the area in reaction to this change.

The spring of that first year of desegregation, on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  Four months later, the Williamson County Court adopted the current version of the County Seal depicting the Confederate Flag - you can read more about the context of these events in my blog post here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

It is Time to Revise Williamson County's Official Seal

On today's date, 1968, Judge Fulton Greer accepted the current (and first and only) version of Williamson County's official seal at the July 15, 1968, Quarterly Court Term.

Wiliamson County Seal

According to the County's website, "The upper left section depicts a flag and cannon, which symbolizes the rich history in the county."  It hardly needs pointing out that the seal does not merely contain "a flag." It is the Confederate flag - It is not the flag of the United States nor the flag of the state of Tennessee.  Using this particular flag only reflects one part of our rich history - it leaves out the men who fought for the Union during the Civil War - white and black; it omits the history of Williamson County's native sons who fought to preserve this country. 

This has to change. It is shameful that we as a community are choosing to elevate one flag - to celebrate the values celebrated by this flag - and it is NOT the flag of our own country.  

It is also worth recognizing that this version of the "Confederate flag" represented on our official County seal was originally the battle flag of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.  Later, that flag came to be seen as a national symbol of the Confederacy and was eventually co-opted by many associated with racial violence. 

Those of you who have read my blog before know that I think it is always important to understand the context in which events occur.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  Here is a brief timeline of national and local events that I believe are meaningful to understanding the significance behind the time period when the Confederate flag was the sole flag chosen to represent Williamson County's history.

May 1954. US Supreme Court unanimously passes the Brown vs. Board of Education decision ending racial segregation in public schools and knocking down the doctrine of "separate but equal."

September 1957.  Black families in Nashville were harassed and threatened on their first day of school as their first graders desegregated public schools. That night, one of the schools was bombed.



That same month in Little Rock, Arkansas the Governor called in State Guardsmen to prevent nine high school students from attending school there. Later that month, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to the school to prevent the state guard from stopping the students from attending high school.

Spring 1960 Sit-ins held by college students in Nashville cafeterias and stores to protest their segregation policies.

Agitators attack a sit-in demonstrator at Woolworth's lunch counter, February 27, 1960.
Part of the Nashville Banner Collection at Nashville Public Library.

Summer 1961. The state began a several years' long 100th-anniversary commemoration of the Civil War that was heavy on the Lost Cause and Confederate symbolism, including a parade around the state Capitol by three Confederate cavalry regiments - one of which was made up of young boys on ponies making up the Kavalry Kadet Korps [i.e., KKK] of Savannah, Tenn.


August 1961. Seven years after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, public schools in Williamson County were still segregated and a group of citizens in Franklin filed a formal request of the School Board for action to be taken. They also pushed for greater representation of African Americans on jury duty and in leadership positions in city and county government. At the time, Williamson County's population was about 25,000 people - about one-third of whom were Black.



Fall 1962.  Franklin Special School District desegregated using a "grade a year" voluntary plan - starting with first grade. This meant that Black families had to volunteer to send their six-year-olds to all-white schools.  Two families sent daughters to the all-white Franklin Elementary School that year.  The desegregation plan did not apply to Williamson County schools or to the high school in Franklin.


August 1963. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr gave his "I Have a Dream" speech during the Civil Rights March in Washington DC

July 1964. President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.

November 1964 - Franklin held a commemoration of the Battle of Franklin and the Confederate Monument was rededicated.



October 1966 - US Department of Education was withholding federal funds for the Franklin Special School District due to failure to adequately comply with desegregation orders.

Fall 1967 - Williamson County School Board desegregated Franklin High School and the formerly all-black Natchez High School briefly became an "annex" to FHS. No attempt was made by the County to archive or save the trophies or artifacts important to Natchez High School, which had a thriving football team, marching band, and other extracurricular programs important to the Black community. Following the desegregation of public schools, several private schools formed in the area in reaction to this change.


April 1968. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in Memphis, Tennessee

July 1968 Judge Fulton Greer accepted the current (and first and only) version of Williamson County's official seal at the July 15, 1968, Quarterly Court Term

November 1968 - Williamson County voters went for George Wallace in that year's Presidential election.  Wallace was running as the far-right American Independent party candidate and was a staunch segregationist. 

George Wallace campaigning in front of the Confederate flag

Clearly, during the years leading to the adoption of the Williamson County seal, historical memories of the Civil War, the Confederacy, and the Lost Cause had become intertwined with opinions about racial segregation for many. That may not have been the motivating factor behind the adoption of the flag on Williamson County's seal. However, regardless of the rationale, it is no longer appropriate - and never was - to only honor the flag of the Confederacy while the American flag was left off of the official County seal.

It is also worth noting that in 1968, America was embroiled in the Vietnam War.  Men from Williamson County were fighting across the world under that flag.  Several young Black men came home in body bags - including Pvt. Richard Carothers (killed in 1966 and a graduate of Natchez High School), Pvt. James Andrew Cunningham (killed in Vietnam in 1967, a 1964 Natchez High School graduate), Pvt Charles Herbert Hardison (died in Vietnam in 1968, enlisted when still a student at Natchez High School), and Spc John Willie Woods Jr (killed in Vietnam in 1966 and captain of the Natchez High School football team his senior year). 

This week, the Williamson County Commission (the modern version of the County
 Court that adopted the seal in 1968) voted to form a task force to determine whether or not there is “substantial need” to alter the Williamson County seal. The resolution calls for the nine-member task force to receive public input, determine whether there is a need to alter the seal, and study the various community impacts of such an alteration, reporting this information to the commission in September. The following representatives would comprise the task force:
County Mayor Rogers Anderson will form the task force, which will present its determination concerning the county seal to the commission at its meeting on Monday, Sept. 14.

Should the task force and the commission decide the seal should change, the County's resolution includes a clause finding that it meets the definition of a "memorial" requiring the consent of the 
Tennessee Historical Commission to be changed.  This is the same authority that governs the removal of Confederate monuments like Franklin's Confederate Monument. Therefore, a request would go before that body, where it would need two-thirds approval before a final decision could be made by the Williamson County commission.