My friend, historian Elaine Russell, emailed me with a suggestion: For Black History Month, why not talk about blacks who served in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy? Elaine is a member of the Captain W.Y.C. Hannum Chapter 1881, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and has extensively researched the Civil War, especially as related to Blount County. The following information comes from her research.
One of the men she mentioned was Charles Boyd, body servant to Confederate veteran W.Y.C. Hannum, for whom the UDC chapter is named, and one of a number of blacks who served the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Boyd was born into slavery in Alabama, later belonging to the Hannum family of Maryville. Boyd saved Hannum’s life after Hannum was wounded in the battle of Cedar Run, Virginia. According to an article published in 1917 in The Knoxville Journal & Tribune, after the war Boyd returned to Maryville as a free man “where he and his former master became lifelong friends, and remained as such up to the time of the death of his former master ...” Boyd died April 18, 1917, and is buried at Mt. Gilead Cemetery at the corner of Rankin Road and Hannum Street, Alcoa.
At a wreath laying ceremony in 2011 on the 94th anniversary of Boyd’s death led by the Hannum UDC (and reported in The Daily Times, April 2011), Elaine said, “Charles Boyd saved the life of Capt. Hannum by carrying him to safety when he was wounded.” Boyd is considered a “Forgotten Confederate,” a term Elaine said refers to Confederates of color. The UDC documents and recognizes the service of these soldiers as well as the white soldiers.
Elaine said Tennessee was the first state to recognize the service of men of color in the Confederate Army. She said, “On April 9, 1921, the Tennessee legislature passed an act providing pensions to those who were in the war with their masters and served them to the end of the war.” More than 250 “colored pension applications” are on file at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Boyd did not benefit from the pension, since he died in 1917.
As Elaine looked through the files, she discovered one soldier from Blount County on the list — William Carter. She obtained a copy of his pension application and began piecing his story together from census records, deeds, marriage records, etc. When she obtained his death certificate, she found his place of burial listed at Baker’s Creek Cemetery in Greenback, but no stone marked his final resting place. In May 2014, members of the Hannum UDC and some of Carter’s family members attended a ceremony in which a monument placed in the cemetery near the marked grave of his brother, Frank Carter, was dedicated.
Sgt. William Carter was a free black who, according to his pension application, served in Company D, 62nd Infantry, under Capt. Rowan. He resided in the Meadow Community following the Civil War.
“In one part of the application, it has a statement there, ‘Who was your master?’ and he says, ‘I was freeborn.’ That just struck me as proof that there were freeborn black Confederates of their own accord who went and served the Confederacy,” Elaine was quoted as saying in a story that ran in The Daily Times. “I have researched his life from the 1850 census (he was born in 1844), all the way to the 1930 census, and his death on May 15, 1930, at his son’s home in Knoxville. I have a copy of his death certificate, his approved Tennessee Colored Man’s Pension Application, his marriage license and certificate, the deed to his farm in the Meadow Community and a bill of sale for a portion of it.”
A third man was Hugh Cansler. Elaine said Cansler was the son-in-law of William B. Scott, the first, and thus far, the only, black mayor of Maryville, and served in the Confederacy before working in a Union Buggy Factory in Knoxville. Like Carter, Cansler was born free. “Cansler applied for the Tennessee Colored Man’s Pension, but his application was not approved,” Elaine said. “My guess is because he did not stay with the Confederacy until the end of the war.”
Historical research can often yield the unexpected. Like it or not, as the late news anchor Walter Cronkite said as he signed off every night, “That’s the way it is.”