Part of the Federal Garrisat Fort Negley, Nashville
Grooms depicts a line of African American Union troops, striking in their blue uniforms against a backdrop of red and white. As a state occupied by Northern troops, Tennessee was critical to the Union strategy to penetrate the South. Thousands of slaves freed during the invasion were put to work building Fort Negley, and Nashville also became a key site for the recruitment of African American Union troops. Nearly 13,000 of these soldiers played a heroic role in the Battle of Nashville in December 1864, which paved the way for Robert E. Lee’s surrender the following April because the only remaining army that might have come to his aid, the Army of Tennessee, was destroyed here.