Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Fighting for Freedom - Promise Land Civil War Heroes

Marker ID:  
Location: 707 Promise Land Road, Charlotte, TN
County: Dickson
Coordinates: N 36° 12.616    W 087° 19.886
  36.21026666    -87.33143333
Waymark: None


The Emancipation Proclamation, issued January 1, 1863, authorized the recruiting of African Americans as United States soldiers. It inspired men, like brothers John and Arch Nesbitt, to join the U.S. Colored Troops and fight for their freedom. John Nesbitt enlisted on October 5, 1863, as a private in Co. H, 4th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment. He served in Kentucky, Tennessee, and finally Arkansas, where he was discharged on February 25, 1866. Arch Nesbitt enlisted on August 24, 1864, in Co. G, 12th U.S. Colored Infantry, and in December fought in the Battle of Nashville. The regiment then guarded the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad, which passed through the southern end of Dickson County and crossed the Tennessee River at Johnsonville. Nesbitt was honorably discharged on January 16, 1866.

At the end of the war, the Nesbitt brothers joined other newly freed black men, women and children in this community know as Promise Land, close to the farms where they had once labored as slaves. Suffering from service-related injuries, John Nesbitt tried for years to secure disability compensation from the War Department. In 1880, he received a pension retroactively, and he used some of the money to buy the land here, including the site on which Promise Land School was erected early in the 1880s. The community supported the school until 1899, when John and Ellen Clemmons Nesbitt deeded it to the Dickson County School system. It served as a public elementary school until it closed in May 1956.

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get and eagle on his button and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pockets and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.” —Frederick Douglas