SIMPSONVILLE - The sacrifices of nearly 30 men killed in an ambush of a Civil War black unit near here 144 years ago have finally been recognized - including one from Franklin County.
The Shelby County Historical Society unveiled Sunday a roadside historical marker to the war dead at a ceremony at the Whitney M. Young Job Corps Center in Simpsonville.
The marker describes the battle and the mass grave where the men were buried and will be installed on U.S. 60 near where the "Simpsonville Slaughter" occurred.
On Jan. 25, 1865, soldiers of the U.S. 5th Colored Cavalry were moving a herd of cattle to Louisville when Confederate guerrillas ambushed them. Twenty soldiers died during the battle and another six later died of wounds.
Charles Long, former president of the Shelby County Historical Society, said the soldiers were exposed on a narrow dirt path.
"They were attacked from the rear and murdered viciously," Long said.
According to a newspaper account, about 15 guerrillas ambushed the soldiers and attacked "yelling like very devils and shooting their pistols in the air." The guerrillas escaped after attacking the column's rear guard and were commanded by Capt. Coulter.
Anderson Gray, a Franklin County farmer, was one of the men killed. Gray had enlisted for a three-year term at Camp Nelson in September 1864. Luke Busey, a survivor of the ambush, later lived in Franklin County.
The citizens of Simpsonville helped care for the wounded and buried the dead nearby in a mass grave.
The Simpsonville Trim #2 United Brothers of Friendship Lodge, an African American fraternal organization, created a cemetery at the site of the mass grave and maintained it until 1965 when the last member died. About 180 graves have been discovered in the abandoned cemetery.
Long said the Union army, encamped in Louisville, was indifferent to the ambush. No ambulances were sent until three days after the battle and the dead soldiers are still listed as missing in action.
Simpsonville Mayor Steve Eden, said he didn't even know the cemetery existed or that the massacre had occurred until he learned about the efforts to build a memorial marker.
Neither did Jerry Miller, a member of the Shelby County Historical Society who helped spearhead the effort to fund a memorial marker.
Miller only learned about the event three years ago while conducting genealogy research and read the diary of one of his ancestors who described the ambush.
"I've lived in this area 50 years and I'd never heard of this," Miller said. "I'm a Civil War buff and I've never heard of this. I couldn't believe it."
About 150 attended the dedication Sunday, which included musical performances and several historical presentations.
Miller said he was pleased with the turnout.
"But it's not important what I feel. It's important that these guys will be remembered 144 years after dying for their country."