Civil War  |  Historic Site

USCTs and the Confederate Right Flank at Nashville


Intersection of Polk Avenue and Fiber Glass Roads
Nashville, TN 37210
United States

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This heritage site is a part of the American Battlefield Trust's Road to Freedom: Tennessee Tour Guide app, which showcases sites integral to the Black experience during the Civil War era. Download the FREE app now.

Battle of Nashville
Made up of USCT regiments recruited from Tennessee and elsewhere, the 1st and 2nd Colored Brigades played a critical role when they assault the Confederate right flank during the 1864 Battle of Nashville. Date: c. 1891. Credit: Kurz & Allison. Library of Congress

On December 15, 1864, several regiments of United States Colored Troops (USCT) engaged in fierce fighting with Confederate forces here as the Battle of Nashville began.

After its defeat at Franklin, the Confederate Army of Tennessee stubbornly moved to recapture Nashville. Among the Union forces opposing this threat were the 1st and 2nd Colored Brigades, consisting of eight USCT regiments, recruited primarily from Tennessee, serving with a provisional detachment of white infantry and artillery soldiers. Most of the Black soldiers had been building and guarding forts and railroads over the past year while fending off sporadic small-scale attacks. Many from the 2nd Colored Brigade faced a hailstorm of Confederate artillery at the Battle of Johnsonville in early November.

The foggy morning of December 15 brought a new combat experience. Union leaders ordered the USCT brigades to launch a diversionary assault against the Confederate right flank. Approaching the Confederate line at Granbury’s Lunette, the 1st Brigade took heavy fire, suffering around a hundred casualties, including many who attempted to take cover in the adjacent railroad cut. The 2nd Brigade fared better, as the 13th USCT occupied the earthworks and exchanged shots with the Confederates for the rest of the day, eventually forcing the southerners to withdraw.

Charles Clayburn, born in Williamson County, Tennessee, enlisted as a private in the 17th USCT, Company G, on April 5, 1864. The 18-year-old died in action near here on December 15, 1864, leaving his effects “on the field.” There is no record of his burial.

Clayburn’s commander recalled that day, saying:

“Colored soldiers had fought side by side with white troops. They had mingled together in the charge. They had supported each other. They had assisted each other from the field when wounded, and they lay side by side in death…A new chapter in the history of liberty had been written.”

Know Before You Go

There is a historical marker here placed by the Metropolitan (Nashville) Historical Commission across Polk Avenue and south of the preserved remnants of Granbury’s Lunette. There is another marker placed by the Battle of Nashville Trust and Tennessee Civil War Trails nearby at 1252 Foster Avenue. Be alert and cautious as you explore along these heavily travelled roadways.

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