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George Acklen - Found at Ft. Negley

Belmont Mansion is fortunate to have a talented researcher on staff. Recently, Andy Blair’s work to gain greater insight into the African American experience at Belmont has brought new information about George Acklen, an enslaved member of the Acklen household. He first caught our attention in one of the few surviving letters Adelicia wrote. This one to her brother Oliver B. Hayes states, “George left this morning, gone no one knows where unless to the camp…” This off-hand remark gave the first clue to learning more about George. We now know he worked on Union fortifications in and around Nashville and was paid for that work in November and December 1863. How long he worked or how often he was paid is not certain, but it appears he began in August 1862, the date of Adelicia’s letter. Interesting to note is that George was born in 1846 or 1847 so in 1862 he would have been about 15, ready to leave Belmont, work for the Union Army and a better life.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Later George appears as a witness in multiple Southern Claims Commission filings after the war and is listed as a Nashville resident in the years after 1870. He worked as a driver for a “dray” and a tanner. He does not stay here, however, and by 1880 appears in the St. Louis, Missouri, census as George Ackland, 35 years old and married to Rose. He appears several times again with the notation that he can read, though not write. George passed away in 1921, years after his wife; both are buried in the National Register listed Greenwood Cemetery of St. Louis.

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