|Close up of Section of 1878 Map of Williamson County, |
showing J. Scruggs' farm along Carter's Creek Pike, west of Franklin
Tennessee State Library and Archives, D.G. Beers & Co.
Enslavement in Williamson County
"I have no record of any kind of my birth. I do not know of any public record of my birth, neither baptism record, nor any family records. . . .[T]he people who owned me before the Civil War . . . lived in Williamson County, Tenn., near Franklin, Tenn.. . . I do not know whether they had a family record of my birth. . . . My parents were slaves; could not read or write and did not keep any record of the birth of their children."
It is impossible to downplay the horror of what slavery was like for Ned. For example, in 1836, the year of his birth, in Nashville a lottery was held. Much like today, various prizes were the possible rewards. However, at that time, in addition to the chance to win a horse you also could win another person. Four people were being awarded - probably the members of a family, a mother named Nancy, father Charles, and three daughters Matilda (12), Rebecca (11) and Maria (6). This was the world that young Ned was born into.
|Portion of the Announcement for the Tennessee Internal Improvement Lottery, |
published in the Nashville Tennessean Saturday, March 26, 1836 https://flic.kr/p/SLT6AC
|1847 Inventory of Estate of Ed Scruggs (white)|
|1847 Inventory of Estate of Ed Scruggs (white) p2|
|Partial inventory of Ed Scruggs' slaves in 1847, showing Ned's family|
His father Alfred (b. 1792) and mother Felicia (Lishy) (b. 1810) had 8 children who survived:
- Lucy (b. 1830)
- Harrison "Harry" (b. 1835)
- Edward "Ned" (b. 1836)
- Burton (b. 1837)
- Harriet (b. 1838)
- Henderson "Henry" (b. 1840)
- George (b. 1841)
- Jenny (b. 1842)
- William (b. 1848)
The next record I could find of Ned's childhood was in 1849; it appears as though he was hired out for $10 that year. He was 13 years old.
For the next dozen or so years, Ned was hired out to work, sometimes with his brother Henry as a farm hand and rock mason. It appears as though he may have sometimes been hired out to the Scruggs' neighbors the Kinnards. During this time, when he was a teenager, Ned married Mary Kinnard, another enslaved person, in what was described as a "regular slave marriage" in his pension documents. They were recognized by "whites and blacks" and had the permission of their "owners" to marry. Their first child, London Scruggs, was born in 1851 when both Mary and Ned were just teenagers.
One of their neighbors was Wiley Scruggs (whom I've written about before)- another one of the Scruggs slaves. He lived on the Scruggs farm with his mother and was enslaved by Joe Scruggs - Theo's older brother. In 1909 he said that he remembered Ned and his wife Mary:
"I knew them or can remember them about the time of the breaking out of the war. . . . Ned Scruggs belonged to either Theo or his brother Ned [Ed] Scruggs. I don't know which as they were all in one place. Mary belonged to [the] Kinnard[s] & Newton[s] both, I don't know which owned her last. When I first knew Mary she belonged to Kinnard and was living as the wife of this Ned Scruggs."
|Deposition of Wiley Scruggs|
Mary and Ned would have two boys London (b. 1851) and Jarvis (b. 1859) during this time. This is what their oldest son, called "Lundy", said about them in a pension record:
"I can remember my parents before the war & they lived as man and wife & everybody regarded them as such til he went into the army. They had their owner's consent to live as man and wife then or they could not have lived together."In 1855, Theo Scruggs, the young enslaver of Ned Scruggs, was granted disbursement of his share of his father's estate - including Ned Scruggs - who was now 19 years old. In the estate papers, Ned was valued at $950.
Meanwhile, back in Williamson County, white men were starting to form Confederate militia units in preparation for an expected war involving Tennessee. On May 9, 1861 Theo Scruggs' brother Young Scruggs joined the Confederate Army in Company D of the Tennessee First Infantry - better known as the Williamson Grays.On June 8, 1861 Tennessee seceded from the United State of America.
The history of Sixth Regiment Ohio Volunteers, written by E. Hannaford, includes this recollection of their time in Williamson County in March 1862: “On the 18th, the Fourth Division marched nineteen miles, through Franklin, halting for the night near Spring Hill. The command was now traversing the fertile and highly-cultivated cotton regions of Middle Tennessee, and gangs of slaves were seen at work upon almost every plantation, or else clinging to the fences by the road-side, whence they watched the marching column with wondering eyes and unmistakable delight, as long as it remained in view.”
These US soldiers would have marched right near the Scruggs farm on Carter's Creek Pike in Franklin. Other US forces were also in the area occupying Franklin. Ned Scruggs surely would have seen them out foraging and on patrols, and perhaps been inspired and emboldened to leave for Nashville - maybe even enabled by them. Skirmishing continued throughout the year – with control of Franklin changing hands repeatedly.
|As early as August 1862, Ned obtained (or was perhaps impressed into) work building the fortifications for the US Army, including Fort Negley. His name appears on the Employment Rolls and Nonpayment Rolls of Negroes Employed in the Defenses of Nashville, Tennessee, 1862-1863. He was assigned #923 and his "owner" is listed as "T. Scruggs" - Theo Scruggs. Ned Scruggs was employed for 5 months at a rate of $7/month. He was one of the relatively few men who actually received his wages of $35. Its not clear if he was able to send some of this money home to Mary and their sons, but if he did it surely would have been a huge help to them.|
After completion of the forts in December 1862,its not clear what Ned did for work, but on September 24, 1863 in Nashville, Ned Scruggs enlisted in Company F of the 13th US Colored Infantry. This was the first day that enlistment opened for this regiment. The 13th USCI was just the second Civil War-era federal black regiment of infantry soldiers in the United States. Men were recruited into its ranks from among the laborers like Ned Scruggs who had worked to build forts in places such as Nashville, Gallatin and Murfreesboro and lived in the contrabands camps in those areas.
|"Negro recruits taking the cars for Murfreesboro, Tenn., to join the federal army", From a sketch of C. F. Hillen.|
Tennessee State Library & Archives. Image in the public domain.
|A recreation of the 13th US Colored Infantry regimental flag.|
The day after Ned Scruggs mustered in (November 20, 1863) he was promoted to be a corporal - which indicates that he was literate. He signed up for a three-year term of service under the command of Colonel John A. Hottenstein.
|March 10, 1864 Nashville Daily Union|
At some point during his time in the Army, Ned's oldest son Jarvis visited him with provisions. In the pension file, he says this:
"My father went in the army but I do not know his regiment. I was sent by my mother while my father was in the army at Nashville, Tenn. to take him six chickens and I took them to him."I'm sure Ned really appreciated receiving the care package of those birds!
|From Jarvis Scruggs' deposition in Ned Scruggs' widow's pension application, dated May 17, 1909|
|Later in life, Ned Scruggs would write in his pension application that he had injured his back while lifting logs to build these breastworks.|
Colonel Mussey of the 100th USCT wrote in a report of the day:
The behavior of the colored troops at Johnsonville, Tenn., during the recent attack upon that place was, I am informed by several eye-witnesses, excellent. . . . . Some of the Thirteenth U. S. Colored Infantry, who were at Johnsonville, were upon the river-bank as sharpshooters, and armed with the Enfield rifle, and did good execution. The affair was slight, but it has gained credit for the colored troops. Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Report of Col. Reuben D. Mussey, Series I, Vol. 39, Part I, Serial no. 77, 868
|Johnsonville, Tenn. Camp of Tennessee Colored Battery|
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
On December 7th, the men of the 13th USCI were placed into the 2nd Colored Brigade, along with the men of the 12th USCI and 100th USCI. The men dug-in and threw up rifle pits where they skirmished with the Confederates over the next week near Nashville. Col. John A. Hottenstein, commander of the 13th USCI Thirteenth gave this nonchalant account of their movements in mid December 1864 including their service on the first day at the Battle of Nashville:
During the time from the 7th to the 13th [of December] this regiment was occupied in throwing up rifle-pits along the line and preparing for a campaign. The men were reclothed and refitted in everything necessary for a long campaign. On the 13th regiment was ordered out with the rest of the brigade on a reconnaissance near Rains' house, and had a lively skirmish during the afternoon, retiring at dusk. In this skirmish the regiment lost 1 man killed and 4 wounded. On the night of the 14th I received orders to be ready to move at 5 o'clock the following morning. Soon after daylight on the morning of the 15th we moved with the brigade and occupied the works thrown up on the right of the Chattanooga railroad and near the Nolensville pike. During the 15th the regiment lay behind those breast-works, under a severe fire from a battery in our front, without sustaining any loss.
This is Col. Hottenstein's account of that day:
At daylight on the morning of the 16th the regiment was under arms ready to move, and about sunrise I received orders from the colonel commanding to move across the Nolensville pike and feel the enemy in our front. I advanced my skirmishers to a piece of woods in our front, but the enemy had retired. I then received orders to move over to the Nolensville pike, where the remainder of the brigade then was, and to form my regiment as a reserve, in rear of the other two regiments of the brigade, and to regulate my movements by them. The brigade then moved to the right and front, and after considerable maneuvering joined the right to the left of the Third Division, Fourth Corps, where the men were ordered to lie down. In this position we were shelled considerably, by the enemy without any material damage. At about 2.30 I received notice that we would assault the works in our front, and in a few minutes afterward the order to advance was given. The regiment advanced with the brigade in good order, but before we arrived near the rebel works the troops in our front began to lie down, and skulk to the rear, which, of course, was not calculated to give much courage to men who never before had undergone an ordeal by fire. The fire of the enemy was terrific, but nevertheless the men, led by their officers, continued to advance to the very muzzles of the enemy's guns, but its numbers were too small, and after a protracted struggle they had to fall back, not for the want of courage or discipline, but because it was impossible to drive the enemy from his works by a direct assault. Before falling back all the troops on our right had given way, and it was to continue the struggle any longer. The regiment reformed on the ground occupied just previous to the assault by the One hundredth U. S. Colored Infantry, and was ready to again advance when a staff officer of the colonel commanding ordered me to take my regiment over to the left, where the remainder of the brigade was formed. I moved to the left, as ordered, and joined the brigade, which moved about miles to the front and encamped for the night, in the meantime the enemy retiring toward Franklin. The regiment went into action on the morning of the 16th, 556 men and 20 commissioned officers, lost 4 commissioned officers and 55 enlisted men killed, and 4 commissioned and 165 enlisted men wounded; total loss, 220.
On the morning of the 17th we marched in pursuit of the enemy and reached Franklin in the evening. Source: Official Records PAGE 548-93 KY., SW. VA., TENN., MISS., ALA., AND N. GA. [CHAP. LVII. [Series I. Vol. 45. Part I, Reports, Correspondence, Etc. Serial No. 93.]I wonder what Ned Scruggs and the other previously-enslaved men from Williamson County were thinking - to be returning in US Army uniforms, triumphant, to Franklin? As Ned Scruggs and the rest of the 13th USCI (including almost 60 other men from Williamson County) marched through Franklin, Colonel Thomas Jefferson Morgan recounted the scene in his memoir as they saluted their top commanding officer, General Thomas:
Col. Hottenstein continued his description of the men's march in pursuit of John Bell Hood's defeated Confederate Army of Tennessee.
The next day the regiment moved with the brigade toward Murfreesborough and arrived there on the 20th; thence to Stevenson and Decatur, where we arrived on the 25th, and drove the enemy out of the place, . . . Source: Official Records PAGE 548-93 KY., SW. VA., TENN., MISS., ALA., AND N. GA. [CHAP. LVII. [Series I. Vol. 45. Part I, Reports, Correspondence, Etc. Serial No. 93.]During this portion of the march, Ned was apparently injured. He said that his foot was trapped between railroad cars when they were "en route from Murfreesboro to Decatur" and his foot was "mashed" and his back injured.
Next, according to Col. Hottenstein,
The regiment moved with the brigade down the river in the direction of Courtland and arrived there on the 30th of December, and from thence to La Grange, Ala., on January 1, 1865. January 2 moved back toward Decatur and arrived there on the 5th. On the 7th we embarked on the cars for Nashville. Arriving at Scottsborough we were ordered in pursuit of the rebel Gen. Lyon, who had been on a raiding tour through Kentucky and Tennessee. The regiment marched in pursuit to--Landing, and returned thence to Larkinsville, Ala. Nothing of note occurred on this march, except the suffering of the men for the want of shoes and other clothing, which from the length of the campaign were worn out. Many of the officers and men were barefoot, and never did men display more soldierly than on this march; without shoes and a great time without rations, they performed their duty cheerfully and without murmur. The regiment arrived at Nashville on the 15th of January and lay there until the 29th, when I received orders to move and reoccupy our former stations of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad. The regiment moved by easy marches to its former stations on the road, arriving at this place on the 2d of February, and on the 4th all of the different companies had arrived at the posts assigned them. Source: Official Records PAGE 548-93 KY., SW. VA., TENN., MISS., ALA., AND N. GA. [CHAP. LVII. [Series I. Vol. 45. Part I, Reports, Correspondence, Etc. Serial No. 93.]After this arduous march and injury its not surprising that Ned Scruggs eventually became sick. On October 12, 1865 his military records show that he was sick in the hospital in Nashville. He was absent from his company through November and December. He was admitted to the Hospital in Nashville with small pox and returned to duty January 3rd 1866 in Nashville.
When he [Ned] got out of the army he came back to my mother and they lived again as man and wife till he left this county. I think he stayed with my mother a year or two after he came back from the army. I know they called themselves man and wife here after the war & were so recognized till they parted. I do not know why they parted. I never saw my father after he left here, but he went to Giles County from here. I never heard if he went to Nashville. I know my father and mother never were divorced. He married again though in Giles County. I heard of it and heard of him again 3 or 4 times a year. I think he married another Mary after he left my mother that we heard was in Giles Co. Tenn.
In the 1900 Federal Census, Ned and Elvira were renting a farm in Gilbertsboro, Limestone County, Alabama where they were farming. Their sons Joseph & Neshy and daughter Martha Ann were living with them. Ned and Joseph could read and write. Ned was listed as 77 years old, although my calculations put it him at 64 years old. He died on February 6, 1908 in Elmont, Limestone, Alabama. I have not been able to locate his grave.