Simpsonville Remarks of
David E. Brown, Great great grandson of Private Samuel Truehart, Co. E - 5th USCC
January 25, 2009
Thank you for inviting me to join you today; I am honored to be here.
I am the great-great grandson of Samuel Truehart, a private in Company E the 5th USCC, born here in Shelby County, who enlisted in the unit at Camp Nelson, Kentucky in September 12, 1864. I am joined today by my mother, Samuel Truehartís only great-grand child. I am here to represent the men who fell near this spot 144 year ago today.
I always new my great-great-grand father served in the Civil War. My grandmother had his picture in uniform hanging in her home. It is with the picture that my quest began.
In the mid 1990s, I began to research my ancestorís service record over the Internet. The National Park Service was posting the service records of members of the USCT in preparation for the launching of the USCT Memorial in Washington, DC. As I could not find much on the unit or the battles in which it fought, I decided to combine my interests in genealogy, history and web site design and to develop a web site devoted to the history of the unit. My mission was to provide the information on the regiment that I could not easily find on the net.
To date, I have heard from several ancestors of other men of the 5th, including a relative of a Lt. and descendant of a private who lives in Germany. As I began developing the web site, I was particularly intrigued by the first Battle of Saltville and devoted much of my research to reconciling to two conflicting accounts of the battleís aftermath, the Saltville Massacre.
The newly formed 5th and 6th U.S.C.C., mustered in at Camp Nelson, were part of an army that marched under the leadership of the Military Governor of Kentucky, General Stephen Burbridge, to raid and destroy the strategic saltworks in Saltville. They were sent into battle with little training and poorly equipped.
Soon after daybreak on October 2, 1864, 500 of the 5th and 6th USCC spearheaded the attack on an entrenched and determined Confederate force defending Cedar Ridge, overlooking Saltville. By late afternoon, following intensive firefighting, the 5th and 6th USCC successfully penetrated the enemy lines and were close to taking Saltville.
However, expected reinforcements were not moved to the front and the soldiers were forced to retreat as munitions were depleted. In the haste of the twilight retreat, nearly fifty wounded and/or captured men of the 5th USCC were left behind. The remaining force swiftly left Saltville, fearing a retaliatory counter-attack, which never occurred.
The morning following the fierce conflict, the wounded and captured soldiers of the 5th and 6th USCC were summarily executed at point-blank range by renegade Confederate troops. News accounts of the day reported between 50 and 150 men were massacred.
I contrasted the two conflicting accounts of the massacre on my web site, but was not satisfied by the authorsí research or conclusions. One concluded that no more that 12 were murdered, while the other found it was closer to 50. I was determined to find out how many and who were the men murdered on that hill 135 years ago. Through extensive research and analysis, we determined the names of 46 men who were missing after the battle and never accounted for again. These are the men who are presumed to have been murdered and whose bodies were dumped in a mass grave.
I attended a similar event to this in Saltville in October 1998, at which the men massacred after that battle were formally acknowledged for the first time.
Two months after the first Battle of Saltville, General Stoneman led a second raid of Saltville, which again included the 5th USCC. This time they achieved the objective against token resistance from a much smaller number of Confederates. Although the Union forces now controlled Saltville, no effort was made to locate, retrieve, or determine what happened to soldiers forsaken and murdered just two month earlier.
Soon after I posted my Saltville research, John Trowbridge a notable Kentucky historian, came across my web site and forwarded me information about the Simpsonville events, which I immediately posted on my website. The information he provided included local newspaper accounts of the incident and a list of the fallen soldiers. It was this information that Uley Washburn came across on my web site that launched the efforts that brought us to this day.
My ancestor served in Company E and may well have been part of the group charged with moving the herd of cattle to Louisville. I suspect some of the fallen men were not only his comrades, but his friends. 22 men were presumably killed here, but have been listed as Missing in Action, and another 20 were injured. Of those injured, six eventually died from their injuries. 14 of the men 22 men killed were 23 and younger and most assumingly were former slaves, like my great-grandfather. They volunteered to serve in the Union army to earn their own freedom, but more significantly to fight for the freedom of their families and their people and to end the blight on our history that may have finally been almost fully eradicated earlier this week with the inauguration of the nationís first an African American president
I assert that we must also acknowledge that had these been white soldiers, this day would not have been so long-time coming. White MIAs would not have been forgotten for 144 years. But I am proud that the day has arrived and I have a part in it.
On behalf of the men of the 5th USCC, I am moved by and applaud all you for coming here today to acknowledge their service and sacrifice and to honor their memory.
I would like to thank Uley Washburn and J.T. Miller for their tireless effort to fill in the holes in our history and recognize the contributions of our heroes.
I thank the Shelby County and Kentucky Historical Societies, the Kentucky African American Heritage Trust and the local government for their support of this project. I thank each of the presenters. I thank the Whitney Young Job Corps Center and the young people in attendance and who helped with the event.
I have been a youth worker for over 30 years and have worked with Job Corps Centers and offices across the nation for most of those years. In fact, I believe young people from this center participated in a Presidential Forum focused on youth issues that my former organization hosted in DC prior to the 2004 election.
I would like to thank the 12th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery and the other re-enactors for joining us today.
Finally, I urge all of us to work to ensure that our Government formally acknowledges the sacrifice of each of the men killed, and support the construction on this ground a monument that marks their final resting-place and honors their memory.