Body Servants

During the Civil War, many Confederate soldiers took enslaved men with them to serve as cooks, servants, valets, horse grooms, carpenters, blacksmiths, teamsters and to work in other capacities. Some were conscripted in large scales to build fortifications and roads and to provide other services for the army throughout the South as well. Five of the men from Williamson County served in McLemore’s Division of the 4th Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry which fought at Chickamauga. The rest served in a variety of Middle Tennessee units. Unfortunately, the records of their names are not as readily available as those of the men enlisted in the US forces because their contributions and roles were treated differently and thus often not well documented. It is likely that large numbers of enslaved men from Williamson County were taken to War. I have only been able to ascertain the names of 38, but suspect the number is significantly higher. According to the History of the 20th Tennessee Regiment Company D, named “The Webb Guards”, which was “raised in the east end of Williamson County, in and around the four little villages of College Grove, Bethesda, Peytonsville, and Triune, in the spring of the year 1861” it “had more baggage and more negroes to wait on them than any other two Companies in the Regiment.”  But I have only been able to identify two men who were definitely body servants in this Company. Many of the Williamson County body servants were identified because they applied for pensions provided by the State of Tennessee in the 1920s for “those colored men who served as servants and cooks in the Confederate Army in the War Between the States” (1921 Public Acts, Ch. 129).

John Terrill was a body servant to Dr. John D. White, who served in the Confederate Army. John Terrill is also reported to have been an escort on Confederate General Chalmer’s staff during the Civil War. Source: Williamson County: Civil War Veterans. The Williamson County Historical Society, 2007: 94.