US Colored Troops

The Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect January 1, 1863, contained a provision that explicitly allowed African American men to serve in the Army and Navy and encouraged thousands across the south to emancipate themselves and enlist. The US Colored Troops were the segregated Army units created to accommodate these new soldiers.

Nationwide, they provided 6 regiments of cavalry, 13 heavy artillery regiments, 1 regiment of light artillery, and 135 regiments of infantry to the US Army. In Tennessee about 24,000 men served in the US Colored Troops. Many were recruited from among the ranks of men conscripted in 1862 and 1863 to build the fortifications around Middle Tennessee including Fort Negley in Nashville and Fort Granger in Franklin.

About 280 men with Williamson County ties who served in the US Colored Troops have been identified. Of these, more than half (150) served in the 12th, 13th and 17th US Colored Infantries – all of which saw significant action at the Battle of Nashville in December 1864. Five of Williamson County’s USCT veterans were taken as Prisoners of War. Ten were killed in action. 47 men died of disease during their enlistment, a common cause of death of soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Twenty of Williamson County’s US Colored Troop veterans are buried in Nashville National Cemetery. Many of those who survived returned to Williamson County and three are buried in Franklin’s Toussaint L’Ouveture Cemetery with official US Colored Troop headstones. 

The Nashville Colored Troops Memorial is located in the Nashville National Cemetery in Madison, Tennessee.
Col Thomas Morgan USCT, was an abolitionist from Rhode Island. He commanded several regiments of US Colored Troops and was at their helm during their pursuit of John Bell Hood's Confederate Army of Tennessee as they fled through Franklin after the Battle of Nashville in mid-December 1864.