Saturday, September 01, 2018

Why no Battle of Nashville markers for U.S. Colored Troops?

Marker at Peach Orchard Hill, where 13th U.S.C.T. attacked on Dec. 16, 1864.
Railroad Cut in South Nashville, where U.S.C.T. made futile assault on Dec. 15, 1864.
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U.S. Colored Troops fought bravely at the Railroad Cut (Dec. 15, 1864) and Peach Orchard Hill (Dec. 16) at the Battle of Nashville. But no battlefield markers on the mostly developed ground at either site note the valor of the African-American soldiers.

 At Peach Orchard Hill (see video below), the 13th U.S.C.T. suffered more than 200 casualties, including the loss of five color-bearers. "I never saw more heroic conduct shown on the field of battle than was exhibited by this body of men so recently slaves,” an Ohio officer recalled of the black troops’ performance on Dec. 16 at Peach Orchard Hill. Reported the Nashville Tennessean on Dec. 19, 1889, "There was no other occasion perhaps during the war where colored troops were so severely treated."

Twenty-five years after the battle, Aaron P. Baldwin, an officer in the 6th Ohio Light Battery, recalled the assault by the U.S.C.T. at Peach Orchard Hill:
War-time image of Aaron Baldwin.
We had often seen colored troops, but they were invariably doing garrison duty, and to see them march out in line of  battle and form for a charge was decidedly interesting to us and of course drew all our spare attention. If we ever had any question as to the bravery of colored troops, the events that soon followed showed us that no braver troops ever went into a fight. All was ready when Gen. [Thomas J.] Wood gave the order to cover the advance and to continue firing so long as the battery could do so with safety to the charging lines. This we did until the colored troops had reached the enemy's earth works. In the meantime the rebels had not been idle. They marched three distinct lines of infantry around the brow of the  hill, one line above the other, thus giving them four distinct lines of fire. This turreted fire was all directed upon the colored troops, and the action that lasted not more than 20 minutes left more than 400 colored troops lying on the field. One color bearer reached the earth works but fell, pierced with 17 bullets, rolling down into the trench, where he concealed his colors on his person. The charge having proven a failure, the reserves as well as what was left of the colored brigade fell back upon the battery line for reformation. The color bearer that was so seriously wounded was brought off of the field and with him the colors. He died within two hours after the action.
At the Railroad Cut on the foggy morning of Dec. 15, the  U.S.C.T. -- part of a diversionary attack of about 7,000 soldiers on the extreme right of the Confederate line -- were ambushed. Soldiers, many of them former slaves, leaped into the cut, breaking bones ... or suffering a worse fate.

We'll aim to help the effort to honor the U.S.C.T. for Battle of Nashville valor. Stay tuned.

The 13th U.S.C.T. are believed to have formed up here in preparation for the assault at Peach Orchard Hill.
This sliver of land in a residential area is managed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

-- Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

-- Lewis, George W., The Campaigns of the 124th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Akron, Ohio, The Werner Co., 1894
-- Nashville Tennessean, Dec. 19, 1889.
-- The Summit County (Ohio) Beacon, Dec. 25, 1889.

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