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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Private Henry Moon of the 17th USCI, Shot and Killed near Triune Feb 4, 1866 . . . and the Aftermath

About dusk on Sunday February 4, 1866, two men described as brothers, Lewis Moon and Henry Moon - both privates in the 17th US Colored Infantry Company E - were on furlough from Nashville and walking down Nolensville Pike heading to their home near Triune in eastern Williamson County.  They had both enlisted in Murfreesboro on January 17,1864 and were described as 5'5" tall farmers.  If they truly were brothers, perhaps their parents and a young Lewis and been sold from Virginia (where Lewis was born) to Wilson County (where Henry was born in 1846), and then later sold or taken to the Triune area - where they were now headed.  As the brothers walked down Nolensville pike that winter evening they were combat-tested veterans - both had fought at the Battle of Nashville; 20 year old Lewis was wounded on the first day of fighting on December 15, 1864.

According to the - somewhat conflicting - reports, John Henry Griggs, Jr. (a white man) and two other men - perhaps William Pogue and John Griggs Sr, confronted the soldiers and became involved in an altercation with them outside of John Bostick's gate. You can see John Bostick's farm identified just to the left of the 18 on the map below.  This would have been just south of the four-way intersection in Triune.

Jordan's Mill (below) would have been across from the site of the killing.
Jordan's Creek Mill, photo courtesy of Rick Warwick at the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County
This ad for the Mill appeared in the Nashville Republican Banner on May 21, 1867

John Henry Griggs was named in writing by Tom Jones and George Ryan as the man who shot Private Henry Moon during that incident.  Private Moon was wounded and taken to John Bostick's house where he was treated by Dr. Mills.  His older brother Lewis Moon went back to Nashville to report the shooting and Lt. Col Pickering of the 17th USCI sent an ambulance to retrieve the injured soldier.  However, despite their efforts Private Henry Moon died on Friday, February 9th, 1866.  His official military records state that he "died from wounds received from a civilian." He was buried in the Nashville National Cemetery in Madison, Tennessee and his grave is marked with a military headstone.  If you would like to visit his gravesite his remains are interred in the segregated section reserved for the US Colored troops in plot Plot J 14223, UR 14759.

Letter from  Lt. Col. Pickering Requesting an ambulance to collect Private Moon to Nashville
and informing the Brigadier General of the situation

On February 5th, 1866 - the day after Henry Moon was shot, George Ryan sent the following letter to Nashville to inform his commanding officer of the events that had transpired. 
 Triune, Williamson County, Tenn. 
February 5th, 1866
Dear Sir, one of your colored soldiers was shot near this place yesterday by John Griggs and two other men in company with Greggs to wit William Pogue and John H. Griggs. I did not see any of the affray but might just as I heard it. This John Griggs was one of Col? Houdons men and it is my opinion that he is a bad man. Your soldier is at John Bostick's on the Nashville and Nolensville Pike, 22 miles from Nashville. I live in Triune and it will not do for you to let my name to known as there is not but 4 Union men in this part of country and if we are known we could not live one week. 
Yours respectfully, George Ryan

Two articles appeared in the Nashville newspaper regarding the shooting of Private Moon.  As you can see, the reporting shows that there was some blame placed on Private Moon initially.
Nashville Union and American, Tuesday, February 6, 1866

Nashville Union and American, Wednesday, February 7, 1866.
I think that the newspaper erroneously refers to John Griggs as John Greggs . 

A statement made to the Freedmen's Bureau on November 30, 1866 by Thomas Jones.   Several months after Private Moon's death, another civilian made this statement to the military authorities - then in the form of the Freedmen's Bureau.
My name is Thomas Jones. I have been working on the Steam Mill for Mr. Joplin overseer of Triune Pike and he lives about 7 miles from Nashville. There was a colored soldier belonging to the 17th USC Infantry killed last March [February] at John Bostick's gate about 21 miles from Nashville and 1/2 miles this side of Triune. The name of the deceased soldier was William or Charles [Henry]Moon and belonged to Co. I [E].  I have learned the man that killed him, his name is John Henry Griggs. I saw him last Friday at the flour mill. Mr. Harrington, a white soldier of a Wisconsin Regiment and living in Triune knows the man Griggs, knows him to be the murderer.  John Scripen (col) working at the steam mill also knows the man. Doctor Mills, living at the house of Mr. Bostick, attended on the dying man. Lucy Bostick saw Griggs shoot the man Moon. He Henry Griggs talks about it.

Violence Begets Violence.  Well, it appears as though Mr. Ryan - who wrote to the officers of the 17th USCI on the day of the shooting - was right to fear for his life. Less than a year after he wrote his letter to the authorities, he was murdered on Christmas Eve 1866.  The newspaper accounts differ; some state that he was drunk and the perpetrator George Walton was acting in self defense.  While others state that clearly he was murdered for his political beliefs and actions.  I have copied them all here - you can make up your own mind.

Murfreesboro Monitor, January 5, 1867
Harrisburgh Telegraph, Harrisburgh, Pennsylvania, January 14, 1867

Bolivar Bulletin (Bolivar, Tenn.) Feb 2, 1867

March 22, 1867 - the Nashville Union and American

Philadelphia Inquirer, April 3, 1867
And then, amazingly, George Walton - who had killed George Ryan (our witness to the killing of Private Moon) was also murdered.

Republican Banner (Nashville) March 26, 1867

Memphis Public Ledger, April 5, 1867 - originally published in the Nashville Press and Times, March 26, 1867

Unfortunately, I can't find a copy of the report n the Nashville Press and Times that implied that Ryan was killed for being a Union loyalist.

Stage Coach that ran from Nashville to College Grove along Nolensville Pike. The driver and passengers discovered George Walton's body.  Photo provided by Rick Warwick, Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County

These newspaper articles help to remind us that not much has changed in the way that public opinion, the press and politics interact.

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