Franklin as Military Outpost

The Federal construction of Fort Granger solidified Franklin’s role as a military outpost. By the spring of 1863, the Federal presence in Franklin was almost constant, and Franklin’s remaining citizens entered into a period of cohabitation with an occupying military. This had a myriad of consequences for the people who lived in and around Franklin and its occupying forces.

Col. Henry Mizner, 14th Michigan Mounted Infantry. From Heritage Auctions.

Supplying the Army

For many Franklinites, Federal occupation meant constant pilfering of their supplies and possessions. This is exemplified in Colonel Henry Mizner’s account of the 14th Michigan Infantry’s transition to a mounted infantry:

“Having no cavalry at my disposal, and the character of my duties requiring continual scouting throughout the surrounding country, I was ordered by Major General Gordon Granger to mount my regiment from the enemy’s country, which I did completely, capturing some seven hundred horses, supplying my ambulances with horses without drawing one from the Government.”1

Dr. Samuel Henderson. Photo courtesy of Rick Warwick.

Mounting his regiment from the “enemy’s country,” of course, meant taking them from Williamson county civilians. On April 13, 1863 Dr. Samuel Henderson complained that the “Federal soldiers have taken every horse, mare and mule that I have…have broken into my smokehouse repeatedly and have taken all my hams…have taken a good deal of my corn and all of my hay and near all of my fodder.”2 Col. Mizner was so successful in acquiring horses and mules that he sent the surplus to quartermasters in Nashville. Presumably, those whose animals were seized were supposed to receive a voucher. By August, however, Col. Mizner became aware that most animals were being taken without vouchers, and on August 6 he issued the following order in a Franklin newspaper:

“The Colonel Commanding has learned that horses and mules have been seized and no receipts given therefore. The Government of the United States will not tolerate such conduct but will severely punish the offenders. The people of that portion of Tennessee within my jurisdiction must rest assured that complete vouchers will be given for any horse or mule and all forage seized for the use of this command.”3

Despite orders from above, however, theft continued. On November 6, 1863, Dr. Samuel Henderson complained that two more of his mules had been stolen.4

Food theft by soldiers also became an everyday problem for people living in and around Franklin. Smokehouses were the most common target, as they were stocked with cured meat. Williamson County Primitive Baptist minister Jesse Cox wrote in February 1864 that Federal soldiers had broken into his smokehouse and taken twenty-two hams and shoulders.5 These kinds of thefts exasperated civilians and irked military officers, who usually punished the offenders (if they were caught). Corporal Joseph Sawyer, Milton Vosburgh, and Adam Littlejohn of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry were caught with a ham stolen from some Williamson County smokehouse. Vosburgh and Littlejohn’s punishments are unknown, but Sawyer was demoted to private.6

Joseph Sawyer, from


African Americans in Franklin

What enraged the landed white residents of Franklin and Williamson County the most, however, was the confiscation or abandonment of their enslaved people. Women, children, and men fled behind Federal lines. One soldier from the 22nd Wisconsin Infantry wrote in Franklin in October 1863, “Fields…still fenced but grown to weeds hinted by their neglect how armies are recruited.”7 They were housed in contraband camps, with little or no shelter, and many were put to work for the Federal army. A contraband camp in Franklin sat to the west of Fort Granger. By July 1863, there were more black refugees in Franklin than the Federal army was able to organize. Col. Mizner issued an order that month that “no negroes will be allowed within the camp lines except those actually employed.”8

On January 1, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation established the United States Colored Troops. Enslaved men in Williamson County freed themselves by the hundreds, joining the USCT and United States Navy, via the Provost Marshall’s office in the Franklin courthouse. Company A of the 13th USCT was formed here August 1863.9 USCT occupational presence began the following year. The 17th USCT, organized in Nashville the previous December, spent January through November 1864 guarding the railroads in Franklin, Murfreesboro, Hollingsworth, Gallatin, Liyter Bend, Lebanon, Stevenson, and Saundersville guarding the railroad.10 In March 1864, Franklin resident Moscow Carter wrote to his brother Tod, then a prisoner at Fort Johnson:

“We have for the first time during the Federal occupancy of this town a Corps of n***** soldiers, or as I heard a soldier call them the other day “smoked Yankees” quartered in this vicinity. I think there is but a company yet. I understand it will be increased to a regiment. Among the citizens there is a general feeling of disgust, and so far as I can understand men’s feelings, the officers and soldiers of the garrison are not a little chagrined at their presence.”11

At the Masonic Hall, graffiti on the second floor walls testifies to animosity toward USCT.

Many USCT in Tennessee found themselves frequently confronting their pasts. One USCT veteran, Freeman Thomas, talked about returning to see his Franklin mistress, Mrs. Caruthers, after the Battle of Nashville. He said:

“I went to see my mistress on my furlough and she was glad to see me. She said, “You remember when I was sick and I had to bring you to the house and nurse you?” and I told her, “Yes’m, I remember.” And she said, “And now you are fighting me!” I said, “No’m, I ain’t fighting you, I’m fighting to get free.””12

John Park. Photo courtesy of Rick Warwick.

Oath of Allegiance

The oath of allegiance was a phrase that loomed large over Franklin during Federal occupation. Col. Mizner of the 14th Michigan listed among his successes in Franklin and Columbia that he had caused “more than five hundred citizens to take the oath of allegiance.”13 Among Southern sympathizers, the oath of allegiance was almost universally loathed and seen as being forced upon them. Franklin secessionists like John Park saw taking the oath of allegiance as turning their backs on loved ones fighting in the Confederate military. In August 1862, Park asserted in a letter to a Federal officer that individuals and whole committees were being extorted to take the oath of allegiance. He described citizens being threatened with arrest, imprisonment, and banishment and being escorted by military file to the Provost Marshall’s office to take the oath of allegiance. Park alleged that, like him, many of the targets were private citizens who had “remained at home pursuing their peaceful avocation.”14 Park, a physician, was arrested in the course traveling to treat patients and forced to take the oath of allegiance.

Jesse Cox, a traveling Williamson County preacher, wrote on December 31, 1863 that everyone in Franklin had taken the oath and that many had been banished from their homes and property, but that he had so far escaped. Less than two months later, Jesse Cox took the oath of allegiance to prevent being driven out of his home.15

Jesse Cox. Photo compliments of TSLA.

Taking the oath, however, opened doors–doors that could provide economic gain and a lifeline for citizens to make it through the war. Ultimately, taking the oath of allegiance allowed Southerners to obtain much-needed supplies and engage in trade. Persons wishing to purchase family or plantation supplies or sell cotton had to obtain a permit. This required taking an oath of allegiance and paying 5% interest on the goods. The system was designed to push people into a corner, giving them no option but sign the oath of allegiance to prevent starvation for themselves and their families. 


Trade between the United States and Confederate States during the war was never completely cut off. Historian Merton Coulter argues that General Grant’s drive to occupy Tennessee was “as much a campaign for opening up commerce with that region as for bringing about a military decision.”16 By the end of 1861, Treasury officials had developed a permit system allowing trade in occupied areas. The permit system was flawed and doomed to change every half a year or so, until August 1864, when it was taken over entirely by the military. Trade was a door that swung both ways, allowing arms and munitions to be smuggled into the South from the North. The Kentucky border in particular was notorious for its leakiness. The U.S. Military attempted to curtail smuggling by placing restrictions on who could transport goods in problematic areas. In order to buy or sell anything, a person in an occupied area had to first take the oath of allegiance.17

The Federal presence of 1863 in Franklin climaxed in a Unionist rally that summer. On August 22, 1863, Military Governor Andrew Johnson visited the town and held a Unionist rally on the public square. Sensing the turning tide, prominent Franklinites W.S. Campbell, D.B. Cliffe, Samuel Henderson, Frank Hardeman, A.R. Pinkston published a public statement in the Nashville Daily Union the following day calling for a reconciliation and reunion to the United States Government at haste.18 Franklin Unionists who had suffered through the early days of the war suddenly found the tables turned. All of the sudden, they were positioned to take advantage of a burgeoning war economy kick-started by the Federal stance that Franklin was no longer in a state of rebellion. That same August, trade stores began to open in Franklin, and the town’s Unionists were the first to apply for permission to open stores.19

Mary Priest (above) and Dan M. Cliffe (right). Photos courtesy of and Rick Warwick, respectively.

Franklin Unionist William P. Campbell, who just months before had fled behind Federal lines for protection, was appointed Local Special Agent. His job was to approve trade stores and oversee trade in Franklin. Persons wishing to purchase goods from a trade store had to sign an oath of loyalty, fill out an application, and put down money. They were limited in the value of the goods they could import monthly. Between August 1863 and the end of the war, at least seventy-two trade stores opened and sold goods in Franklin. All buying of goods was supposed to be done through the trade stores. Most stores sold goods ranging from dry goods and groceries, to clothing, hardware, stationary, and cutlery. Goods could only be imported from designated cities. Among the first people to open trade stores in Franklin, many were hawkers from Nashville, Kentucky, and Ohio. Some were occupying soldiers. Two were women. Among these inaugural shop owners were a handful of Franklin residents , including Dan M. Cliff, Daniel B. Cliffe, Charles Moss, and Mary Priest. Eventually well-known members of Franklin society, such as Robert Buchanan, Joseph Parkes, Robert Rainey, and Fountain Branch Carter, formed partnerships in the trade stores. Those who could exploited the military occupation of Franklin for economic gain, and some made a lot of money.20

Trade authority certificate for J.L. Parkes and Robert Rainey. Courtesy of the National Archives.


Trade stores employed anywhere from one to four people, with many owners having a partner and one or two clerks. In August 1864, the military took over control of the trade stores from the U.S. Treasury, and new permits had to be issued. Many of the store owners from the earlier permit system reapplied and continued their trade stores under the new system.21

This came to a screeching halt on November 30, 1864.


1 – John Robertson, Michigan in the War (Lansing: W.S. George & Co., State Printers and Binders, 1882); 346.
2 – Rick Warwick, ed., Diary of Samuel Henderson, Williamson County Historical Society Journal, No. 33 (2002), 24.
3 – Rick Warwick, ed., Williamson County Historical Society Journal, No. 29 (1998), 86.
4 – Rick Warwick, ed., Diary of Samuel Henderson, Williamson County Historical Society Journal, No. 33 (2002), 25.
5 – Jesse Cox, Tennessee State Library and Archives, TVA, 546.
6 – Sharon Sawyer Mora, Joseph Benton Sawyer, Co. I, 2nd Michigan Cavalry, Blog.
7 – 22nd Wisconsin scrapbook, 4 Oct. 1863,
8 – Rick Warwick, ed., Williamson County Historical Society Journal, No. 29 (1998), 83.
9 –, 13th Company A muster records.
10 – Bobby Lovett, The African American History of Nashville, Tennessee: 1780-1930 (University of Arkansas Press, 1999), 61.
11 – Moscow B. Carter Papers, 1853-1908, Tennessee State Library and Archives,  Microfilm accession number 1971.

12 – Unwritten History of Slavery: Autobiographical Accounts of Negro Ex-Slaves (Nashville: Fisk University, 1968), 129.
13 – Robertson, 346.
14 – Rick Warwick, ed., Williamson County Historical Society Journal, No. 26 (1995), 76.
15 – Jesse Cox, Tennessee State Library and Archives, TVA, 545.
16 – E. Merton Coulter, Commercial Intercourse with the Confederacy in the Mississippi Valley, 1861-1865, The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Mar. 1919), 380.
17 – Ibid.
18 – Nashville Daily Union, “Great Mass Meeting for Union and Restoration at Franklin, Tennessee,” 23 Aug. 1863.
19 – By April 1863 trade stores are allowed in Franklin, Shelbyville, Manchester, Columbia, McMinnville, Murfreesboro, and Gallatin. Existing records suggest, however, that trade stores in Franklin did not open until August 1863.
Nashville Daily Press, 14 Aug. 1863.
20 – National Archives Record Group 366, Records of Civil War Special Agencies of the Treasury Dept. – Records of the first special agency; Franklin, TN district (1863-65).
21 – Ibid.