ABOVE PHOTO: Tennessee House of Representative Brenda Gilmore with members of the 13th USCT. Rep. Brenda Gilmore was the prime sponsor who pushed for the
recognition and proclamation from the Governor.
By Tim Hodge
The Columbia Daily Herald
COLUMBIA, TENN.–Five African-American gentlemen in full 1860s-era Union troop regalia marched toward the west side of the Maury County Courthouse in
Two of them held the Tennessee and United States flags, a slight breeze brushing leaves past their feet as clouds covered the sky.
The men were part of the 13th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops honor guard. They were there to pay tribute to 54 members of the U.S.C.T. and
four white soldiers from Maury County who fought and died for the Union in the Civil War.
The 58 names were recently discovered and added to Maury County War Memorial Monument on the courthouse lawn. Several ancestors of those men were present
during the ceremony this month, and some applauded as their relatives’ names were read aloud.
Finding those names was no easy task, taking about two years of research.
Jo Ann McClellan, the Genealogical Society of Maury County president and the African American Heritage Society of Maury County president, combed military
records from the 1860s in search of relatives.
McClellan found her ancestors but also the 58 Maury County Union soldiers’ names who were not on the memorial monument.
“We basically went through hundreds of thousands of records one by one just to identity the ones from Maury County,’’ McClellan said.
Elizabeth Queener, African American Heritage Society of Maury County board member, said discovering the names was a coincidence. While doing some research
for her cousin, Queener found a male Union Troop from Maury County who was in the 13th U.S.C.T. Regiment.
Additional research revealed the names of those who were honored Saturday.
“We are not here to rewrite history. We are just here to correct it,’’ Queener said.
The 13th U.S. Colored Infantry was formed with freed and former slaves on Sept. 24, 1863, in Murfreesboro, according to www.13thusct.com. The ranks were
filled on Nov. 19, 1863, in Nashville, the place where the U.S.C.T would make their mark on history.
The 13th Regiment helped repel Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest and his forces several times while they tried to cut off the crucial Union supply
line in Nashville, according to the website.
In Dec. 1864, members of the 12th, 13th, and 100th U.S.C.I. were combined into the Second Colored Brigade. On Dec. 16, 1864, the brigade took part in a
decisive Union assault on Overton Hill, otherwise known as Peach Orchard Hill in Nashville. The 13th Regiment was part of an advance that went on to be
called “a charge into hell itself.’’
Norman Hill, a 13th U.S.C.T. Regiment honor guard member, has been in the group for about 16 years. The 13th Regiment primarily guarded and helped build
railroads, but their valiant efforts in the Battle of Nashville attracted some unexpected attention.
“They did such a substantial charge at that battle that even the Confederate generals noted their bravery and their activity,’’ Hill said. “So, we are
quite proud of them, and we stand and represent them.’’
This recognition was almost unheard of for a Southern general, according to the website. More than 5,000 African-American troops fought for the Union in
Nashville. The battle was declared a Union victory.
On July 7, 1865, the 13th was transferred to St. Louis, Mo., and taken out of service.
Seeing the names added to the memorial was a “culmination of a continual growth of the group’s journey,’’ Hill said.
The names will give future generations a glimpse into their past, and they can continue that growth, he added.
Leave a Comment