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Nashville historians share significance of new marker in honor of US Colored Troops

Battle of Nashville marker
Posted at 7:17 PM, Oct 15, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It’s a story often told from one perspective and now a new marker in Nashville shares how US Colored Troops fought for their freedom in the Civil War.

South of I-40 off Polk Avenue and Fiber Glass Road, you’ll find the marker now proudly displayed for all to see. A sign to remember the Battle of Nashville in 1864, but also the countless USCT who fought against all odds.

Just down the road in Granbury’s Lunette, thousands of once enslaved Black men were tasked with storming the fort in 1864. They were outmanned, outgunned, and had almost no combat experience.

When Nashville historian David Ewing sees the sign, he thinks of his own great-great-grandfather. He says just like Taylor G. Ewing Sr. who helped build Fort Negley and later picked up a rifle, these men knew they were fighting for freedom. For themselves and this country.

“Some died, but many survived and got their freedom. It’s great that the city has finally honored their legacy here on this site,” Ewing said.

Ewing says what’s often lost in the history books was how brutal this fight was in reality. These troops sustained major casualties, but it delayed the confederate army enough who at the time thought this was the main attack. When in reality, Union soldiers were in the process of overwhelming confederates on Hillsboro Pike.

Jim Kay is the president of the Battle of Nashville Trust and says before that fateful day, no one knew what to expect of Black men in combat. That all changed when generals saw what they were willing to sacrifice in the name of freedom.

“This was a new chapter of American combat history,” Kay said.

Kay says it was a tough process to find the words and create the sign for approval by the Metro Historical Commission. He credits the persistence of descendants like Gary Burke, who carried these stories in hopes of making this day possible.

“His efforts were monumental here. This has been a long-time dream of his and much of this credit goes to him and him alone,” Kay said.

This is the first time Metro Nashville has honored these soldiers in this way and some hope, its far from the last.

To continue honoring these brave soldiers, the city of Franklin plans to unveil a new statue of a USCT soldier. The ceremony will be on the Square in downtown Franklin on October 23 starting at 10:30 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The week begins with a presentation at the Historic Franklin Theater on Main Street at 6:30 p.m. “Telling the Story of the Fuller Story.” The brothers of the Fuller Story, Hewitt Sawyers, Eric Jacobson, Kevin Riggs, and Chris Williamson will share their experiences in providing proactive solutions surrounding the controversy of confederate monuments.

Click here for more details on these and upcoming events.