Blackton and Hindman Township in Eastern Monroe County attracted many families during the late 1800s. One of those families was led by Union Veteran Nathan Cathey, from Maury County, Tennessee. He and his wife are buried at Mt. Union Cemetery near an old church east of Blackton. Although there is no military marker for his grave, he was a soldier in the American Civil War. His wife, Francis, also shares the same marker.
Nathan Cathey was born into slavery south of Nashville, Tennessee in Maury County. After the Federal occupation of that city in mid-1862, thousands of slaves from nearby plantations were brought into Nashville to construct fortifications. Among that number was a young man named Nathan Cathey. There is evidence that he had already started a family with Francis by that time, although they would not officially marry until January 21, 1868.
An eighteen-year-old Nathan joined Company A of what was then called the 3rd Tennessee Volunteers (African Descent). It was also titled the 1st U.S. Infantry Regiment (Colored) briefly, before being classified as the 12th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment. This regiment was organized between July and August 1863 around Nashville. Private Nathan Cathey enlisted July 21, 1863, at Elk River, Tennessee for a term of 3 years. His occupation was listed as servant and his height came in at nearly 5'8. Charles R. Thompson was the regiment's first colonel, and during August helped with construction along the Northwestern Railroad. From August until November 1863, the regiment remained at Elk River Bridge for drill and instruction. It also acted as guard for that important structure. On October 31, the 3rd Tennesse Volunteers (African Descent) was listed with 976 men.
After becoming sufficient at drill, the regiment was ordered to report to Brigadier General Alvan C. Gillem, at Nashville, for duty on the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad, which was then being extended. On August 1, 1864, General Gillem was transferred, and Colonel Thompson was given command of all troops assigned to the railroad. That left Lt. Colonel William Sellon in command of the regiment. While some companies were employed building the railroad, others were on guard duty and on the lookout for Confederate raiders.
In November 1864, General George Thomas began to concentrate all available forces at Nashville to meet Confederate General John B. Hood. The 12th took part in fighting around that city. On December 16, Private Cathey and the rest of his regiment were involved in the assault on Overton's Hill, which resulted in a bloody repulse. Although a defeat, these men of the 2nd Colored Brigade, including Cathey's 12th Infantry showed courage and earned the respect of their peers and enemy alike. In this charge, the 12th lost about a fourth of their number in casualties, including Major A.I. Finch, who was wounded. While their brigade was reforming, the Confederate line was broken beyond Overton's Hill and forced to retreat. The regiment joined in pursuit and participated in a sharp skirmish on December 27. It returned to Nashville on January 3. Private Cathey remained there until being mustered out on January 16, 1866. He was paid $9.36 in a final settlement and charged $2.29 for losing a gun sling, canteen, and two haversacks during his service. With that, the young man who had fought for his freedom, returned home.
After the war, Nathan Cathey and his family settled at Hampshire in Maury County, Tennessee. He and his wife Francis would have a large family. With word that land was available across the river though, the Cathey's moved to Monroe County in Arkansas. He would continue to farm and was appointed an election judge for Hindman Township in 1914. Cathey passed away in 1918 and was buried at Mr. Union Cemetery. His wife would apply and be granted a military pension for his service in the Civil War. #civilwarhistory #nathancathey #monroecountycivilwarveterans #arkansasveterans #12thunitedstatescoloredtroops #africanamericansinthecivilwar #arkansasunionveterans
12th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment History Online. published Nov. 27, 2016. TNGenWeb. https://tngenweb.org.civilwar/12th-u-s-colored-infantry...