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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Pvt. Miles German, 13th US Colored Infantry, and his widow Ellen Jordan

Pvt. Miles German was born around 1833 in Franklin, Tennessee. His life was tragically cut short after being seriously wounded at the Battle of Nashville where he was fighting as a private in the 13th Regiment of the United States Army's Colored Troops.  However, his legacy continued with the story of his wife Ellen Jordan and their children and I hope you will read on to learn more about one of Williamson County's heroes.

Both MIles and his wife Ellen grew up in Williamson County as enslaved children, teenagers and young adults from the 1830s through the early 1860s.  For some more background into what that life may have been like for them, you may want to read this blog post.

Miles German's Early Life 
Enslaved by the German Family

Miles German was enslaved by the family of Dan German Sr. who owned land in the area where the McKays Mills subdivision is today. The Dan German Sr. family patriarch was Joseph German II, who brought his family to middle Tennessee in 1799 from Caswell County, North Carolina.  (Joseph German II was the great-grandfather of well-known Franklin doctor Dan German III who opened a hospital in downtown Franklin in the 1930s.) Joseph German died in 1818 when his son Daniel Sr was about 29 years old.

In the 1830 Census, Daniel German Sr was heading a household of just three white people and 15 enslaved people: 6 young boys and 2 young girls, four teenagers or young adults, and just three adults all under the age of 35.

In 1833, it appears that Miles German was born on the German plantation.  It is not known who is parents may have been or whether he had any siblings.

By the 1840 Census, Miles would have been about 7 years old.  The German farm consisted of five free white people - among them was Dan German Sr.'s son Dan German Jr, also about 7 years old - and 23 enslaved people, including Miles. Most of those enslaved on the German farm were quite young; only one person was over the age of 23 (a man) - everyone else was under 23 years of age. Ten of the enslaved were children under the age of 10 -- like seven-year-old Miles. 

In 1850, enslaved people were counted individually for the first time on the federal Census, and it is very possible that Miles German appears on the list of the 21 people enslaved on the Dan German Sr. farm. He would have been 16 or 17 years old at the time.

1850 Slave Schedule - Dan German Sr.
Williamson County, Tennessee - (NARA Series M432, Roll 907)
Note: I added the red lines to show what I believe could be divisions based on family unit or living arrangements. 
I suspect that Miles German could be the black boy listed as 16 years old in this census.

At that time, Daniel German Sr.'s farm consisted of more than 600 acres.  Based on the federal Agricultural Census taken that year, he owned 300 improved acres and 310 unimproved acres. He estimated his farm to be worth $8,000 and his farming implements worth almost another $1,000. Dan German Sr. owned 13 horses, 8 milk cows, 7 working oxen, 16 other cattle, 48 sheep, and 150 swine (pigs or hogs). In the previous year, the farm - using enslaved laborers - had produced 140 bushels of wheat, 35 bushels of rye, 150 bushels of Indian corn, and more than 1,000 bushels of oats. Also, the farm produced 130 pounds of wool, 100 bushels of sweet potatoes, 550 pounds of butter, and 50 pounds of beeswax and honey.  Miles German would have been very involved in the care of these animals and the production of these crops.

About 1854 Miles German married his wife Ellen Jordan.  

Ellen Jordan's Early Live Enslaved by 
The Freeman W. Jordan Family

Ellen Jordan was enslaved by Freeman Walker Jordan and his wife Martha Ann Carothers Jordan.  

Freeman Walker Jordan
Source: Lamb, Barry. "My Maternal Ancestors of Southwest Rutherford, Southeastern Williamson, Northwestern Bedford, and Northeastern Marshall Counties of Tennessee: Compiled and Written from 1977-2003 by Barry Lamb, Vol. 1. Historical Resources, Linebaugh Library, Murfreesboro, TN. H. R. 929.2 Lamb v.1.

Martha Ann Carothers
Photo from the family photo collection of Eugene Mullins
In 1837, when Ellen was about four years old, F. W. Jordan married Martha Ann Carothers. The Carothers family were large slave owners and slave traders in the Franklin area. [The combined white Carothers-Jordan families shared a cemetery the remains of which are now on the grounds of the Cool Springs Marriott hotel, in the parking lot. Both F. W Jordan and his wife Martha Ann Carothers were buried there.]  It is likely that Ellen Jordan was born on the Jordan farm, and F. W. Jordan and his wife were enslaving the teenaged Ellen in the Cool Springs area when she met Miles German.  

The map below gives a good sense of the geographic proximity between the farms where Ellen and Miles were kept in bondage.

A portion of 1878 DeBeers Map of Williamson County, Tennessee
1. Freeman W. Jordan 2. Pleasant Exchange Plantation (Carothers plantation)
3. Dan German Sr. 4. John E. Tulloss
Downtown Franklin is visible on the far left (west).
Murfreesboro Road is running east-west.
A small portion of the original German farm is still in the family - now named the Williams Farm - and visible as you drive on Liberty Pike into McKay's Mill subdivision. On the northwest corner of Liberty Pike and Montgomery Way is the German Family Cemetery for some of the white German, Buchanan and Allen descendants of the family. It is not known where the burial place for the enslaved may have been.  

Miles German and Ellen Jordan's Wedding and Marriage

In 1854 when the couple was both about 21 years old they were granted permission by F. W. Jordan to marry on the Jordan plantation "according to the customs of the country."  The ceremony was conducted by Smith Owens, who Ellen described as a "colored preacher." During this time, Miles German was kept in slavery separated from his wife. He was only allowed visitation at the German family's discretion. In 1855 the couple's first child, a son Jerry was born, followed by Augustus and then Alice.

Bill of Sale for Miles German
From Daniel German Sr. to his son in law John Tulloss, dated Dec. 7, 1858
In December 1858, Dan German Sr. sold 25-year-old Miles German to his son-in-law J. E. Tulloss for $1,200 on six months' credit.  Just a few weeks later, Dan German Sr. died and the probate of his estate became the subject of litigation that lasted for years and went to the state Supreme Court.

Document from a lawsuit involving Dan German Sr's estate,
Clerk of the Supreme Court, Middle Division of the State of Tennessee, April 23, 1872
As part of the probate of the estate a few other enslaved men were sold from Dan German Sr.'s estate on the public square in Franklin:
  • A "negro man slave Alfred" was sold for $935 to Samuel Thomas. He was 42 years old.
  • A "negro man slave Jake" sold for $1,020 to Franklin slave trader Charles A. Merrill. Jacob was 30 years old.
  • A "negro man slave Joe" sold for $1,210 to Dan German Jr. He was 25 years old.

Accounting of enslaved people sold out of Daniel German Sr. estate
Some other people enslaved on the Dan German Sr. farm were listed an inventory of the estate.  Those who were not sold were kept in the estate and distributed among Dan German Sr.'s heirs - including Lewis, Sarah, Lisa and Ike.
Partial Inventory of Daniel German Sr. estate
At the time of his death he was enslaving
Lewis (70), Sarah (60), Alfred (42), Jacob (30), Joe (25), Lisa (48), and Ike (16).
Alfred, Jacob and Joe were later sold.

Any of these people - those sold or those listed as property - could have been Miles German's family members. 

In 1860, another federal census was taken. At this time, Miles German was living on the John E. Tulloss farm, Dan German Sr.'s son-in-law. 
Tulloss was a 43-year-old farmer who had amassed $35,000 in real estate and $20,000 in personal estate - including 25 enslaved people such as Miles German.  In the slave census for John Tulloss that year, the people he enslaved were grouped by sex, except that one elderly couple appears to be counted first perhaps.  Following them are all the males - including probably 26 year old Miles - and then all the females.
John E. Tulloss's 1860 Slave Schedule
Williamson County, Tennessee
He was enslaving 25 people, 
among them was probably Miles German shown as a 26 year old man.

That same year (1860), Ellen's enslaver F. W. Jordan was farming with the help of $14,500 worth of "personal property" he owned - the majority of which probably included the people he enslaved such as 27-year-old Ellen and her children Jerry (5), Augustus (3), and infant Alice (1).
Freeman Jordan's 1860 Slave Census
Williamson County, Tennessee - East Subdivision
The highlighted entries are meant to only represent people that
could have been Ellen and her children.
There is no way to know for certain which enslaved people are which on these lists.

Miles German's Daughter Bettie.  During this time, Miles may have had another child - a daughter named Bettie. Only one source describes Bettie as being the child of Miles German. That source was a man named Freeman Thomas.  He was enslaved by the Carothers family and when Bettie was a small child, he worked on a farm where she lived. Later, Freeman Thomas and Miles German served in the US Army together. In the 1920s, Freeman was interviewed and he recalled his early interactions with Bettie. At the time of the interview, Bettie was married and lived next door to him:
I know Betty (Mrs. Lowe). The first year I was hired out she was not big enough to wait on the table. The first man I was hired out to was her master. I was nearly sixteen, and she was just a little thing, .... Her father died during the War. He was in the hospital when I was. Miles German was her father. He belonged to the same man as my father. . . . .
Later Freeman described one time when Bettie's mother tried to escape with Bettie: 
Betty’s mother, she broke and run and carried her daughter with her, but they caught her. I saw it, ‘cause I was working right there. I don’t reckon Betty ever seed her father to know him. [For more information about slave resistance in Williamson County, you can read this blog post.
When Bettie Lowe died in 1932 in Franklin, Freeman Thomas was the informant on her death certificate and he identified Bettie's mother as a woman named Carrie Watson and confirmed that Miles German was her father.

Civil War

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the United States. This news surely sent shock waves throughout Williamson County and likely reached Miles and Ellen on their respective farms in Franklin. By then, they were 27-year-old parents of three young children. The following April, US troops fired upon Fort Sumter and white men from Williamson County began organizing into militias. On June 8, 1861, Tennessee's legislature formally seceded from the United States government. Within about six months, however, on February 24, 1862, Nashville fell to US forces as gunboats and infantry regiments took over the city. 

Many enslaved people in Williamson County (called "contrabands" of war) began to emancipate themselves and gather around the arriving Army camps for protection, employment, shelter, and food. This was a very chaotic time. Williamson County became a war zone. The federal troops impressed large numbers of enslaved men, women and children to work for them as laborers.  They were used to build forts, construct railroads, and repair bridges and roads, as well as perform other vital functions for the federal army. 

Contrabands repair the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad
I believe that German Miles was likely impressed or volunteered to work on the railroads - or perhaps in another capacity - for the federal army during this time period. He was not the only German slave to work for the federal forces.  Among the laborers on Fort Negley in Nashville was Isaac German; listed as Laborer # 1530 who cited Dan Garman (probably German) as his enslaver. I think Isaac may have been 16 years old "Ike" who was listed in the inventory of Dan German Sr.'s estate inventory when he died in 1858.

[You can read more about the impressment of people to build Fort Negley and other fortifications around Nashville at this blog post.]

Enlistment in the 13th Regiment of the US Colored Troops.

Out of this pool of laborers, the US Army recruited regiments of black soldiers in Tennessee. Their recruitment was under the command of Major George Luther Stearns. According to a report by Colonel R. D. Mussey on October 10, 1864, to his superiors in Washington, DC, he described the recruitment of the 13th US Colored Infantry this way:


Major Stearns brought with him several experienced recruiting agents whose expenses, as well as those of an extraordinary character not allowed from the Government recruiting funds in raising troops were defrayed from a private fund raised chiefly in Massachusetts. Major Stearns stationed these agents at various eligible points and directed recruits to be brought to Nashville, to which place the fragment of the second regiment (now the Thirteenth U. S. Colored Troops) was ordered. His agents, by public meetings, by personal appeals, and by the employment of colored assistants, procured recruits freely. It was upon the 24th of September, 1863, that recruiting began."

On October 22, 1863, Miles German enlisted in Company I of the 13th US Colored Infantry at Stevenson, Alabama. On his enlistment papers, Pvt. German was described as a 30-year-old laborer of dark complexion and 5'7" tall.

More than sixty other men from Williamson County enlisted in his regiment and five were in his Company. Of those five men, four also enlisted at Stevenson, Alabama with Pvt. German. All of them died serving in the War. They were:

A fifth Williamson County soldier enlisted in the 13th US Colored Regiment at Stevenson, Alabama, but in Company H and he also died in service:

It appears that right around the time of Pvt. German's enlistment, his youngest child was conceived. The following summer Ellen gave birth to their daughter Martha Jane.

On November 19, 1863, Pvt. German mustered into the US Army at "Camp Rosencranz." Camp Rosencranz probably referred to  Sec. 30 of the Nashville & Northwest Railroad in Dickson County.
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.
The above sketch showing "negro recruits" boarding train cars for Murfreesboro likely depicts men such as Pvt. German and others from Williamson County - including Pvt. Ned Scruggs - heading to Fortress Rosencrans for their initiation into Army life.

The day they were mustered in, the men of the 13th USCT Regiment were presented with their Regimental flag. It was described as a beautiful vibrant blue flag with a blazoned eagle and shield, marked "Thirteenth Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry" and "Presented by the colored ladies of Murfreesboro." 

A recreation of the 13th US Colored Infantry regimental flag.
That same day, the 13th began work on a railroad line from Nashville west to the Tennessee River to complete an important transportation link for the US Army. Their work wasn't completed until May 10, 1864. During that period they furnished an average of 500 men as construction workers during this period.

Soon after mustering in, Pvt. German was sent on detached service to participate in a wagon convoy - probably to bring supplies - along the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad.

The men of the 13th were primarily used as laborers on the railroad 30 miles west of Nashville near Kingston Springs. A March 10, 1864 correspondence to the Nashville Union newspaper, written by "J. W. R." , presumably an officer of the 13th USCI, stated that the railroad they were building is a "military necessity" and pointed out that the men of the 12th USCI and 13th USCI who have been working to build it had been "gathered . . . from such a horrid state of slavery and wrong that even now they claim to be free." 

He went on, "They cheerfully submit to the rigors of military rule, saying, 

'We were never so happy before. Our old masters would get angry with us and sometimes punish us almost to death; and we do not understand why; but here if we are punished, we know why, for the officers tell us our duty, and never punish us unless we disobey. If we disobey, we know it; and if we are punished, we know what it is for.' . . . I have seen this regiment march a whole day without observing a single instance of straying or breaking ranks for pigs and poultry. . . . Our record in the army is just as good as any other and better than that of white troops on fatigue or road building. . . . It is quite a satisfaction to me to know that while some men consider the men of this organization to be unworthy because the soldiers have been negro slaves, they have shown as much bravery in proportion to their experience in mortal combat as the white troops, and more proficiency in the schools of the company and soldier."
Confederate guerrillas periodically attacked the soldiers and attempted to disrupt their work; but despite their efforts, the US Army completed the rail extension to Johnsonville (west of Nashville at the Tennessee River) quickly. These soldiers also built warehouses, barracks, a rail station, fortifications, blockhouses and other facilities at and near Johnsonville. Between 5,000 and 7,300 African American soldiers are estimated to have worked on the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad project. By May 10, 1864, the 13th USCI soldiers completed their work on the railroad and were dispersed along the railroad line to provide guard duty at blockhouses.
Image of Civil War Era Blockhouse
The 13th USCT and Pvt. German under the leadership of Colonel Hottenstein guarded Johnsonville, Waverly, and other key points along the rail line between May and December 1864.  

Battle of Nashville. On November 30, 1864 (as the Battle of Franklin was raging back at home) Pvt German and the whole regiment was ordered to Nashville and placed in the 2nd Colored Brigade under Colonel C. R. Thompson. As part of that brigade, the 13th suffered heavy losses in the battle of Nashville December 15-16, 1864; especially in the assault of Overton’s Hill (also called Peach Orchard Hill) on the 16th. Colonel Thompson’s report said the 13th was in the second line in that assault, but when the front lines faltered, pushed forward and some men actually mounted the Confederate parapet, but were forced to retire. “These troops were here, for the first time, under such fire as veterans dread, and yet, side by side with the veterans of Stone’s River, Missionary Ridge and Atlanta, they assaulted probably the strongest works on the entire line, and though not successful, they vied with the old warriors in bravery, tenacity, and deeds of noble daring.”

Image of the battlefield - Battle of Nashville
Unknown Location -somewhere on the Union line in Nashville during the Battle of Nashville
Photo: Library of Congress; In the public domain.

The Battle of Nashville, by Kurz & Allison, created/published circa 1891
An artistic rendering of the US Colored Troops at this key Civil War Battle
Source: Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-pga-01886,LC-USZC4-506, LC-USZ62-1289

For more detail about the role Private German and the men of the 13th US Colored Infantry may played at this significant Battle, please read this post.  

Colonel Hottenstein reported the regiment went into action with 556 men and 20 officers; of them, four officers and 51 men were killed, four officers and 161 men were wounded, and one was missing. The total casualties were 221. This was a loss of nearly 40 per cent of those engaged. Pvt. Miles German was wounded at the Battle of Nashville and sent to General Hospital No. 16 in Nashville with a gun shot wound that fractured his right thigh.

It was not until January 19, 1865, more than a month after his injury, that Pvt. German died at General Hospital No. 16 in Nashville. His remains were buried originally in the US Burial Ground, South-West City Cemetery near the City Cemetery at the base of Fort Negley in Nashville.  A few years later, his remains were transferred to the newly created Nashville National Cemetery in Madison.

Pvt. Miles German's headstone
Nashville National Cemetery
Widow Ellen Jordan German Filed for A Pension

Nashville Daily Union
October 19, 1865
Ellen Jordan German hired Ingersoll & Rogers
 to be her agent in filing for her widow's and minors pension.
Within a year, by September 1865, Pvt. German's widow 32-year-old Ellen moved to Nashville, or perhaps was living there during the War, with her children: 9-year-old Jerry, 7-year-old Augustus, 5-year-old Alice, and 2-year-old Martha Jane. While there, she completed an affidavit as part of an application for a pension in Nashville. She had hired William W. Ingersoll of Nashville to be her agent in the matter.

Ellen Jordan German's attorney/agent for her pension was W. W. Ingersoll

Below is Ellen Jordan's statement regarding Pvt. German's death, their marriage, and the dates of births of their minor children.

On May 15, 1866, Ellen Jordan German was granted a pension of $8 per month as Pvt. German's widow and $2 per month for her two youngest children.  However, she had difficulty in proving the ages of two of her older - but still minor - children who she claimed were also entitled to pensions.

Before she was able to prove her claim, on July 15, 1867, Ellen's youngest daughter Martha Jane died in Nashville. She was just four years old.

On April 4, 1868, Ellen Jordan German was able to obtain some very helpful assistance in proving the ages of her surviving minor children - and thus their eligibility for pensions.  Her former enslaver, F.W. Jordan completed an affidavit on her behalf. He acknowledged that he
"was the owner of said Ellen, previous to the war, and that during said Miles and Ellen's marriage and cohabitation there were born to them the following named children and that their dates of birth were as follows as appears from a record of the same Rept by him and that the entries were made at the time said children were respectively born, to wit: Jerry born August 1853 [later corrected to August 1855], Gustavus born August 1857, Alice born August 1859, Martha born August 1862."
Freeman W. Jordan
Source: Lamb, Barry. "My Maternal Ancestors of Southwest Rutherford, Southeastern Williamson, Northwestern Bedford, and Northeastern Marshall Counties of Tennessee: Compiled and Written from 1977-2003 by Barry Lamb, Vol. 1. Historical Resources, Linebaugh Library, Murfreesboro, TN. H. R. 929.2 Lamb v.1.

1872 Son Jerry German Opened Bank Account in Nashville

On February 14, 1872 Miles and Ellen's son Jerry opened a Freedmen's Bank Account. At the time, he was living on Jefferson Street in Nashville and described himself as a 15-year-old laborer. He also listed his living family members as his mother Ellen and his brothers Gus and John. It is not clear who John was - perhaps Ellen had another child after her husband Miles died.

Exoduster to Topeka, Kansas

Around 1881, Ellen appears to have participated in the Exoduster movement along with thousands of other formerly enslaved people and left Tennessee for Kansas. (Read more about Williamson County's Exodusters here.) She was living in North Topeka - perhaps in the Redmonville neighborhood where many other Williamson Countians settled as well.

In Kansas, she seems to have supported herself by taking in boarders and working as a domestic servant. She was counted in the 1885 Kansas census as a 40-year-old woman in the household of Samuel Schuler, a white man, and working as a servant. Also living there was an 18-year-old girl named Lucy German - perhaps a boarder from the German farm at home, or even a daughter or other relative.

Ten years later, she was still in Topeka, this time the head of a household made up of herself and two teenaged girls - Laura Smith and Bessie Smith (17 and 13 years old respectively). They had all been born in Tennessee.

By 1900 Ellen Jordan Miles was living alone in a home that she owned in Topeka.

Moved to Dover, Oklahoma

In April of 1899, the Oklahoma Indian Territory was opened up to settlers in a land rush.  Many former Exodusters took advantage of this opportunity to claim cheap land, including Green Currin and his family whom I have written about before in a post.  I believe that Ellen German went with them, or followed them, to a town called Dover in Kingfisher County where they settled.  

Ellen Jordan German died there in 1904. She was living in Dover and about to purchase a piece of property. Upon her death, she left her small amount of assets to a man named Oliver Wade in Topeka, Kansas.  I have not yet determined the relationship between the two. I have also been unable to locate Ellen's gravesite or that of any of her children.
Probate settlement, Ellen Jordan German estate.
Kingfisher (Oklahoma) Reformer

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