<BURNING BRIDGES BACKSTORY>
1850s: East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad
The East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Company is established on 27 January 1848. The construction of the railroad is financed by the residents of Northeast Tennessee, who purchase stocks and bonds in the Company. The company builds 130.7 miles of 5 foot gauge railroad. It runs from Bristol down to Knoxville and through these Northeast Tennessee counties: Carter, Greene, Grainger, Jefferson, Sullivan, and Washington.
After its completion in 1858, the ET&VA Railroad becomes the main transportation line going through this region. It also connects with the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad, which runs from Knoxville down to Chattanooga. After the American Civil War begins, the ET&VA becomes the main railroad of the Confederacy, operating through a largely Unionist territory.
Northeast Tennessee Railroads in 1860: ET&VA stations thomaslegion.net/confederaterailroadseasttennesseevirginia.html
1860: The Northeast is not much changed
One would think that farmers in Northeast Tennessee would grow the southern cash crops of cotton and tobacco in larger quantities—now that the railroad provides a much larger market. However, the New York Times Opinionator Pages begs to differ:
“Few East Tennesseans, however, live close enough to the railroad … to capitalize on the growing market connections to the rest of the South. For the most part, the region remained defined by small farms and communities, with few connections to, or sympathy with, the slaveholding economy of the Coastal and Lower South.”
1860-1861: Secession crisis in Northeast Tennessee
During the secession crisis of 1860-1861, two elections are put before the citizens of Tennessee to vote yea or nay, for or against, seceding from the United States of America—one in February and one in June. On 9 February 1861, East Tennessee votes a resounding no to calling a secession convention, and the statewide vote is also nay, but not by a very wide margin.
Between the two votes, Presbyterian minister and Unionist William Blount Carter (1820-1902), a native of Elizabethton, Carter County, Northeast Tennessee, becomes an active Union leader. He campaigns tirelessly to drum up support for the United States; travels throughout the area, giving speeches; and serves as a delegate to the East Tennessee Conventions held at Knoxville in May and at Greeneville in June.
At the 8 June 1861 secession vote, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee heavily favor joining the Confederate States of America. W.B. Carter and his fellow Unionists suffer the heartbreak of losing their beloved state to their arch enemy. Plus, the Greeneville Petition to allow East Tennessee to become a separate Union state is summarily dismissed by Governor Isham Harris, a secessionist from West Tennessee, and the General Assembly. And Tennessee secedes.
8 JUNE 1861: Tennessee Ordinance of Secession
Adopted 6 May 1861 without the consent of the voters
Ratified 8 June 1861 by a vote of 104,471 to 47,183
First. We, the people of the State of Tennessee, waiving any expression of opinion as to the abstract doctrine of secession, but asserting the right, as a free and independent people, to alter, reform, or abolish our form of government in such manner as we think proper, do ordain and declare that all the laws and ordinances by which the State of Tennessee became a member of the Federal Union of the United States of America are hereby abrogated and annulled, and that all the rights, functions, and powers which by any of said laws and ordinances were conveyed to the Government of the United States, and to absolve ourselves from all the obligations, restraints, and duties incurred thereto; and do hereby henceforth become a free, sovereign, and independent State.
Second. We furthermore declare and ordain that article 10, sections 1 and 2, of the constitution of the State of Tennessee, which requires members of the General Assembly and all officers, civil and military, to take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States be, and the same are hereby, abrogated and annulled, and all parts of the constitution of the State of Tennessee making citizenship of the United States a qualification for office and recognizing the Constitution of the United States as the supreme law of this State are in like manner abrogated and annulled.
Third. We furthermore ordain and declare that all rights acquired and vested under the Constitution of the United States, or under any act of Congress passed in pursuance thereof, or under any laws of this State, and not incompatible with this ordinance, shall remain in force and have the same effect as if this ordinance had not been passed.
SUMMER 1861: Carter to the rescue
Soon after the General Assembly rejected the Greeneville Petition, Reverend William Blount Carter, [W.B. Carter I will call him; I will introduce you to his brothers later] wants to help his fellow Unionists who are suffering harassment, arrests, and violence from Confederate troops. He leaves East Tennessee, heading North, hoping to find some relief for his countrymen and women. Carter soon comes up with a plan to cripple the Confederacy by burning the main railroad bridges of the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad from Bristol to Knoxville.
28 JUNE 1861: Rumors causing much consternation about East Tennessee
CSA Senator Robert Toombs received a letter from his friend Sam Tate:
I came through East Tennessee yesterday. Saw some of our friends, but many more of our enemies. There is truly great disaffection with those people. It is currently reported and believed that [Senator Andrew] Johnson has made an arrangement at Cincinnati to send 10,000 guns into East Tennessee, and that they have actually been shipped through Kentucky to Nicholasville, and are to be hauled from there to near the Kentucky line and … to be conveyed to Union men in Tennessee. They openly proclaim that if the Legislature refuses to let them secede they will resist to the death and call upon Lincoln for aid. Nelson, Brownlow, and Maynard are the leaders.
President of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad
26 JULY 1861: CSA Governor Harris sends troops into Northeast Tennessee
After the Unionists hold the East Tennessee Conventions and submit a petition to become a separate state, Confederate officials go a little nuts. Fearing outright rebellion from the Northeast Tennesseans, Governor Isham Harris orders CSA General Felix Zollicoffer and 4,000 soldiers to Knoxville on 26 July 1861. This force will be in position to suppress any resistance to secession.
8 AUGUST 1861: Harris gets another term
Isham Harris is re-elected CSA governor of Tennessee on 8 August 1861, giving him more time to harass the Unionists. On 18 August 1861 he orders General Zollicoffer to arrest and, if necessary, banish pro-Union leaders from East Tennessee.
SEPTEMBER 1861: A reign of terror
Confederate general Albert Sydney Johnston orders General Felix Zollicoffer to march his troops north to the Cumberland Gap and repel any Union invasion from Kentucky. Secessionists and untrained soldiers unleash what Oliver P. Temple—author of East Tennessee and the Civil War—calls “a reign of terror” against Union sympathizers. They are subjected to interrogation, false arrest, and imprisonment.
“Bridge-burning part one: Union men take action but where is the army?” Kingsport Times News, accessed 7 February 2021, timesnews.net/news/local-news/bridge-burning-part-one-developing-the-plan-to-liberate-east-tennessee/article_2e69ad76-4009-5d17-a003-dc7c0f81b791.html
“Bridge-burning part two: Union men take action but where is the army?” Kingsport Times News, accessed 7 February 2021, timesnews.net/living/features/bridge-burning-part-two-union-men-take-action-but-where-is-the-army/article_7c6eafa7-5b5e-530e-95dd-2b5971044746.html
“East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad,” Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, accessed 8 February 2021, tnvacation.com/civil-war/place/2330/east-tennessee-virginia-railroad/
Meredith Anne Grant, “Internal Dissent: East Tennessee’s Civil War, 1849-1865,” 2008,Electronic Theses and Dissertations, East Tennessee State University, accessed 7 February 2021, dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3314&context=etd
Aaron Astor, “The Switzerland of America,” New York Times Opinionator Pages, 7 June 2011, accessed 8 February 2021, opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/the-switzerland-of-america/
Paul A. Whelan, “Unconventional Warfare in East Tennessee, 1861-1865,” University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Thesis, 1963, accessed 1 April 2021, core.ac.uk/download/pdf/268808064.pdf
<AUTUMN 1861: UNDERMINING CONFEDERATE AUTHORITY>
15 SEPTEMBER 1861: General Thomas takes command
In August 1861, George H. Thomas was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. On 15 September he assumes command at Camp Dick Robinson, a Union recruiting camp in southeastern Kentucky. Thousands of Northeast Tennessee Unionists have made the arduous trip across the mountains to enlist in the Union Army at that camp; thousands more will follow.
30 SEPTEMBER 1861: Carter reveals his plan to liberate his countrymen
On 30 September, William Blount Carter travels to Camp Dick Robinson and meets with USA Generals Thomas and William Tecumseh Sherman. Carter reveals a comprehensive plan to burn the main bridges of the East Tennessee and Virginia [ET&VA] Railroad. Carter’s proposal calls for several groups of East Tennessee Unionists to burn nine railroad bridges, on the same night, at the same time. He believes this will cripple the Confederacy; it certainly will keep them from sending more troops into the area by rail. General Thomas likes the plan, and although General Sherman is initially skeptical, he soon endorses the project as well.
Four of nine bridges targeted in Northeast Tennessee are over these rivers:
The Holston River at Zollicoffer, sometimes called Union, now Bluff City
The Watauga River at Carter’s Depot, now the town of Watauga
Lick Creek, near the town of Mosheim in Greene County
The Holston River at Strawberry Plains, northeast of Knoxville
OCTOBER 1861: A trip to Washington DC
WM. BLOUNT CARTER carries this message from General Thomas to General George B. McClellan in Washington DC:
HEADQUARTERS, Camp Dick Robinson
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN
Commanding Department of the Potomac
GENERAL: I have just had a conversation with Mr. W.B. Carter of Tennessee on the subject of the destruction of the grand trunk railroad* through that State. He assures me that he can have it done if the Government will entrust him with a small sum of money to give confidence to the persons to be employed to do it. It would be one of the most important services that could be done for the country, and I most earnestly hope you will use your influence with the authorities in furtherance of his plans which he will submit to you together with the reasons for doing the work.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. H. THOMAS,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.
*The ET&VA Railroad was known as the Grand Trunk Railroad because it linked the lower southern states to the North. Soldiers, supplies, and other materiel passed through Northeast Tennessee.
OCTOBER 1861: Meeting with President Abraham Lincoln
In a meeting with President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William Seward, and General McClellan, W.B. Carter presents his plan. Federal officials wholeheartedly approve the proposal. The Secretary of State gives Carter $2,500 to cover whatever expenses he might have. Carter also proposes that, after they destroy the bridges, the Union army will swoop down from Kentucky, liberate the Unionists, and run the Confederate forces out of their homeland. General McClellan promises to aid in the movement by sending an army into East Tennessee as soon as they burn the bridges.
MID-OCTOBER 1861: W.B. Carter returns to East Tennessee
Carter returns to his home in Elizabethton, Carter County, Northeast Tennessee in mid-October to organize the Unionists who will destroy the railway bridges. He is accompanied by two Union officers who have been assigned to help execute the plan—Captains William Cross from Scott County and David Fry of nearby Greene County. Carter sets up a command post in Kingston, Tennessee, southwest of Knoxville.
22 OCTOBER 1861: : Sherman directs Thomas to proceed
In a consultation between Generals Sherman and Thomas, Sherman directs Thomas to proceed with his expedition into East Tennessee. Thomas leaves Camp Dick Robinson with his little army on or about 22 October 1861.
22 OCTOBER 1861: You need not fear to trust these people.
NEAR MONTGOMERY, MORGAN CO., TENN.,
SIR: I reached here at 2 P. M. to-day. I am within six miles of a company of rebel cavalry. I find our Union people in this part of the State firm and unwavering in their devotion to the Government and anxious to have an opportunity to assist in saving it. The rebels continue to arrest and imprison our people. You will please furnish the bearers with as much lead, rifle powder. and as many caps as they can bring for Scott and Morgan counties. You need not fear to trust these people. They will open the war for you by routing these small bodies of marauding cavalry.
I am obliged to send this note unsealed.
In haste, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
WM. BLOUNT CARTER.
26 OCTOBER 1861: Letter about unlawful arrests in East Tennessee
MEMPHIS, October 26, 1861.
ROBERT JOSSELYN, Esq.
DEAR SIR: More than 100 persons have been arrested in East Tennessee without warrants in some cases, marched great distances and carried into court on no other charge than that they were Union men. In one case an old man named Duggan, a Methodist preacher, was arrested, carried fifty miles on foot (he a large, fleshy men), refused the privilege of riding his own horse, and all they had against him was that in February last he prayed for the Union. …
I have spent much time this summer and fall in trying to conciliate the people of East Tennessee. I thought I had succeeded. Just as the people were quieting down, getting reconciled, raising volunteers, &c., they commenced these arrests which have gone far to poison the minds of the people against the [CSA] Government, and if tolerated and persisted in the people of that end of the State at a critical moment will rise up enemies instead of friends. You ask me who makes these arrests. As far as I can learn they are instigated by a few malicious, troublesome men in and about Knoxville. I always hear the names of W. G. Swan, William M. Churchwell, John H. Crozier, [John] Crozier Ramsey and the postmaster at Knoxville mixed up with these matters. It is these men [who] have private griefs and malice to gratify and they aim to bring down the avenging arm of the Government to satiate their passions.
Crozier Ramsey is the [Confederate] attorney-general [for Knox County]. It is said he in most cases causes the arrests and makes the affidavit. Just think of this—an attorney degrading himself by turning [into] an affidavit man. You may inquire what is the remedy? I answer turn out Ramsey; put some man in Middle or West Tennessee in his place who has dignity and character; turn out the postmaster at Knoxville.
If the President [Davis] will then make it known to all officials that he discountenances all frivolous arrests, things will quiet down. If, however, he refuses to do this, retains Ramsey, then we may look for great trouble in that end of the State. If the President will write Landon C. Haynes, Senator-elect, and any other respectable man in East Tennessee he will be at no loss what course to pursue.
I address this to you to be certain the President will get it and receive attention.
[An attorney in Memphis, Tennessee and member of the CSA General Assembly.]
Referred to the Secretary of War [Judah P. Benjamin], that such inquiry may be made and action taken as will prevent as far as we may such proceedings as are herein described.
27 OCTOBER 1861: Men and women weep for joy …
NEAR KINGSTON, ROANE CO., TENN.,
October 27, 1861. (Received November 4.)
[Shows how slowly messages can travel in the mountains]
SIR: I am now within a few miles of our railroad, but I have not yet had time to obtain all the information I must have before I decide on the course best for me to adopt. If I can get half a dozen brave men to ” take the bull by the horns,” we can whip them completely and save the railroad. If I cannot get such leaders, we will make a desperate attempt to destroy all the bridges, and I firmly believe I will be successful.
There are 1,400 rebel troops at Knoxville, some poorly armed, some not armed, and many of them sick. There are 160 at the Loudon Bridge. I know of no other troops in East Tennessee except the 300 about whom I wrote to you from Montgomery. They have gone to Wolf River. Zollicoffer has 6,000 men all told; 1,000 of these are sick; 600 or 800 are not armed ; 1,600 of the 6,000 are at Cumberland Gap; the balance beyond the gap.
Our enemies here are very uneasy for the safety of Zollicoffer, and have been calling on [Confederate President] Davis for help; but, as I am informed, Davis says he is so pressed on the Potomac that he can spare none of the Virginia troops. I can gain no reliable information from Kentucky by way of Nashville. I hear of no troops passing over our railroad. We hear, by way of Knoxville, that [General Kenner] Garrard has driven Zollicoffer back 6 miles. I suppose it is true, as secessionists tell it.
This whole country is in a wretched condition; a perfect despotism reigns here. The Union men of East Tennessee are longing and praying for the hour when they can break their fetters. The loyalty of our people increases with the oppressions they have to bear. Men and women weep for joy when I merely hint to them that the day of our deliverance is at hand. I have not seen a secession flag since I entered the State. I beg you to hasten on to our help, as we are about to create a great diversion in General McClellan’s favor. It seems to me, if you would ask it, he would spare you at once 5,000 or 10,000 well-drilled troops. Will you not ask for more help?
I know you will excuse a civilian for making suggestions to a military man, when you remember that I am risking my life and that I am about to ask my people to do the same. I find more deficiency in arms in this part of East Tennessee than I expected. You must bring some small-arms with you. I am satisfied that you will have to take the road by Monticello and Jamestown, unless you come by Cumberland Gap.
I can assure you that whoever is the leader of a successful expedition into East Tennessee will receive from these people a crown of glory of which any one might well be proud, and I know of no one on whom I would more cheerfully bestow that crown than on yourself.
I regret that I can give you no more information, but I will communicate with you as circumstances may require. Perhaps it would be well for you to let General McClellan know that I have reached East Tennessee, as I know he is very anxious for my success.
I write in great haste, but believe you may rely on all I have written.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. BLOUNT CARTER.
28 OCTOBER 1861: To advance into East Tennessee …
Brig. Gen. W. T. Sherman, Commanding Department of Cumberland, Louisville, Ky. General : I have just returned from the Rockcastle Hills [KY]. Our troops have a decided victory, repulsing the enemy upon very nearly equal terms, and feel very much elated and are anxious for an advance. We are informed that [CSA General Felix] Zollicoffer has retired to his old position behind the Cumberland [Mountains], and intends to make a stand there. I am very sorry that we are not in a condition to march upon him at once, as I believe he could be easily driven out of Kentucky; but the men have no clothing, and we are scarce of forage. …
To advance into Tennessee, I ought to have four more regiments from some other State than Kentucky to follow after us as a reserve, and money in the hands of the quartermaster and commissary to defray necessary expenses. By taking in a train along with the army, two months’ supply of sugar, coffee, and other small stores, I think we can get on without any very serious difficulties. If you approve of my advance, let me know as soon as possible. I shall move in a day or two to Crab Orchard.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. H. THOMAS
29 OCTOBER 1861: Imminent danger to the railroads of East Tennessee
To: Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris
From: C. WALLACE, President, East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad
Wallace advises Harris of the imminent danger to the railroads of East Tennessee from pro-Union elements:
31 OCTOBER 1861: Thomas is 40 miles from the Tennessee border
General George H. Thomas arrives at Crab Orchard, a supply depot in Southeast Kentucky, 40 miles from Cumberland Gap on the Tennessee border.
Meredith Anne Grant, “Internal Dissent: East Tennessee’s Civil War, 1849-1865,” 2008, Electronic Theses and Dissertations, East Tennessee State University, accessed 7 February 2021,
“Union insurrection in East Tennessee,” War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0889, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021, ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/114/0889
“Union insurrection in East Tennessee,” War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0890, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021, ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/114/0890
1 NOVEMBER 1861: I am fully conscious of the difficulties …
Headquarters Department of the Cumberland, Louisville, Ky.,
November 1, 1861. General George H. Thomas, Crab Orchard, Ky.:
Dear Sir: Yours of yesterday is received. I am fully conscious of the difficulties you describe as to the Kentucky regiments. The telegraph is now completed to Nicholasville. Please have some trusty persons there to telegraph me news from yourself and Somerset. There are several regiments at Cincinnati, but I deem it wise to hold them in reserve till the development of the game, whether they go to Nelson, yourself, or McCook. From all I can learn, no large force can come in by the Gap this season, but the case is different towards Somerset and Nashville. I trust you have got clothing for your men, and that you have well secured the bridge over the Kentucky.
W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier- General, Commanding.
1 NOVEMBER 1861: Our Camp Calvert Correspondence
New York Times article covers the time period when General Thomas was marching his army toward Northeast Tennessee.
CAMP CALVERT, Friday, Nov. 1, 1861.
After the plucky little fight at [the Battle of] Wild Cat [southeast KY, 21 OCTOBER 1861], “Your Own” concluded that things in the mountains were beginning to warm up, and that he had better be in to see the sport. Accordingly he started and reached Nicholasville [KY], the terminus of the Covington and Lexington Railroad without let or hindrance. But once there his troubles began, nor do they seem disposed to come to an end.
Mounted on the back of an old gray horse whose early education had been sadly neglected in the matter of gaits—the only step he learned being a cross-eyed trot, half pace and half canter, that sent “yours truly” bounding Heavenward like Sancho Panza in the blanket, he started in pursuit of the advancing army. At Camp Dick Robinson he found one regiment guarding stores that should have been forty miles on the advance. Twenty miles further on is Crab Orchard or Camp Frey, where two more regiments were rusticating in the comforts of good quarters, and enjoying themselves hugely on Uncle Samuel’s beef and crackers.
But from Crab Orchard to Wild Cat, twenty-four mortal miles, is the roughest country upon which the sun shines. It is up hill and down dale, over rocks and through bogs. Now muddy as Egypt after the Nile has overflowed, and then sandy as the Jersey Pines. It must have been the creation of some of nature’s journeymen, for surely the mother of all good things never made such an abortion.
I stood in the battle-field of Wild Cat, and looked from the brow of Hoosier Hill, where the gallant Thirty-third Indiana so nobly repulsed the hordes of [CSA General Felix] ZOLLICOFFER, with amazement. Up its steep and rugged sides the foes of our land essayed to climb, and well nigh did they succeed, for had not the Fourteenth Ohio and its battery arrived on a double quick, after a forced march of thirty-five miles, there would have been no Thirty-third Indiana and no Third Kentucky Regiments to-day. They would have been slaughtered beyond salvation, and have poured out their blood a rich libation to the demon of procrastination’ who has so long presided in the councils of our nation. Beyond Wild Cat the country improves; though still rugged and mountainous, it is no longer sterile and inhospitable. Though $5 per acre would buy the best farm in the land, and thousand of square acres can be bought for a silver quarter each, still the country is self-supporting, and might even supply our army with much of its stores, if we had the ready money to pay for them.
Gen. SCHOEPF, the commander of the army in the Cumberland Mountains, (I said commander, which I believe is untrue, for he dares not to move a peg until he has the sign manual of Gen. THOMAS, who stays back at Crab Orchard or Dick Robinson,) is a Hungarian, well qualified, so far as I can judge after a week’s acquaintance, for the command. But he is stopped, checkmated, fretted, worried, tormented and annoyed every hour by the necessity of asking the consent of Gen. THOMAS to do this, that or the other thing. He hardly dares to post a picket or send out a scout without the permission of the Crab Orchard General first had and obtained. Then again, the Quartermaster sends up his stores by the mouthful. At no one time since the army advanced have we had three days provisions in camp.
If Gen. SCHOEPF is worth a row of pins, he surely is worthy of being trusted with some discretion, and ought not to be compelled to keep an army of 5,000 men doing police duty while the golden moments in which the conquest of East Tennessee and Kentucky ought to be completed, are slipping unmarked and unnoticed like the sand in the glass. We have with us the Thirty-fifth Indiana, the Fourteenth and Seventeenth Ohio, the Third Kentucky, half a brigade of Tennessee Volunteers, two batteries, and two hundred cavalry, commanded by Major HELVERTIA, a fine officer. The enemy has, perhaps, a few more men, say 6,000, at Cumberland Ford, 40 miles distant, strongly intrenched, but unequipped, ununiformed, poorly armed and badly demoralized. We have a road by which we can advance, pass to his rear and cut off his communication.
If this brigade were permitted to move and properly supplied with money to purchase stores, we would be in Knoxville, the home of Parson BROWNLOW, in less than a week. But we must possess our souls in patience while red tape and sealing-wax are blundering along. A messenger came in yesterday from Gen. THOMAS saying that the rebels were advancing against Somerset, a town 37 miles west of us.
Camp Calvert is at London, the county seat and about 14 miles beyond Wild Cat. They were represented as being 3,300 strong, while Col. HOSKINS has but 600 Kentuckians at Somerset. One regiment and a company of cavalry were started from Crab Orchard to reinforce him, and we sent out a courier, who has not yet returned. I think this movement means a reinforcement from [CSA GENERAL SIMON BOLIVAR] BUCKNER to ZOLLICOFFER.
We ought to be on the march to intercept them. When the history of the Kentucky campaign comes to be written there will be a sad day of reckoning for somebody. From its first inception to the present moment it has been a progressive series of blunders, or something; worse.
Camp Dick Robinson ought never to have been established, nor would it have been under any ordinary pressure. The history of its creation is this: DICK ROBINSON, a clever gentleman residing in Kentucky, ten miles from Nicholasville, sold $22,000 worth of mules to the South on time, mortgaging his estate to pay for them. The South repudiated, property depreciated, his creditors knew they could not make their money out of the land, so they, with their friends and his to the number of thirty-eight, procured the establishment of the camp. DICK ROBINSON has made from the rent of his land, his bar, and other incidental sources, the neat sum of $33,000. The location of this camp is on the middle of a turnpike, where teams must be unloaded and their burdens divided between four wagons, so that they can traverse the wild-cat country, while they might as well retain their original loads till they reach Crab Orchard, twenty miles beyond. Besides this, the Government owns a barracks, with plenty of land and buildings, at Harrodsburg, only 3 miles further from Nicholasville. Verily, there is something rotten in Denmark. There will certainly be a movement of some kind in a few days.
“The Campaign in Kentucky; Our Camp Calvert correspondence. A visit to the Battlefield of Wild Cat. The army in the Cumberland Mountains; How it is hampered. Movements of the Rebels,” The New York Times, reported 1 November 1861, published 9 November 1861, accessed 26 July 2021, nytimes.com/1861/11/09/archives/the-campaign-in-kentucky-our-camp-calvert-correspondence-a-visit-to.html
4 NOVEMBER 1861: A mistake to suppose East Tennesseans are submissive …
Knoxville, Tenn., November 4, 1861.
CSA General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General
Sir: The dispatches from General Zollicoffer state that he has reason to believe that the enemy with a force of 9,000 is approaching by Jacksborough or Jamestown [Tennessee towns]. Information from Assistant Adjutant-General Mackall says that there are about 10,000 men between Camp Dick Robinson and Cincinnati. This information has been received by the Union men in East Tennessee, and they are openly preparing for rebellion. Men are arriving here daily from the adjoining counties, bringing information that the Unionists are talking exultingly of the approach of the Lincoln Army and their intention to join it. The state of the country here is evidently worse at this time than at any previous period. General Zollicoffer bas taken all the troops from here, except about 1OO infantry and one company of cavalry, and most of the latter are absent on special duty. The necessity for a larger force at this point is urgent. Our commissary and quartermaster’s stores are liable to be seized at any moment, as also the railroad.
The state of the country here is evidently worse at this time than at any previous period. General Zollicoffer has taken all the troops from here, except about 1OO infantry and one company of cavalry, and most of the latter are absent on special duty. The necessity for a larger force at this point is urgent. Our commissary and quartermaster’s stores are liable to be seized at any moment, as also the railroad.
The state of the country here is evidently worse at this time than at any previous period. General Zollicoffer has taken all tbe troops from here, except about 1OO infantry and one company of cavalry, and most of tbe latter are absent on special duty. The necessity for a larger force at this point is urgent. Our commissary and quartermaster’s stores are liable to be seized at any moment, as also the railroad.
It is a great mistake to suppose that the people of East Tennessee are submissive or willing to acquiesce. They have only been held quiet by the force which was at Knoxville, and now that it is gone, they are evidently preparing for a general uprising if the Lincoln Army should make any advance into Tennessee. I need at least a regiment at this place to give protection to the stores of the Government and preserve quiet. There are three companies of infantry here under the late call of the governor for 30,000, but they have no arms. I communicate directly to the Department, because I think the exigency admits of no delay, and have no doubt it will meet with the approval of General Zollicoffer, to whom I send a copy.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. B. WOOD, Colonel, Commanding Post.
5 NOVEMBER 1861: Four regiments of disciplined men …
HEADQUARTERS, CRAB ORCHARD, KY.
BRIG.-GEN. W. T. SHERMAN.
GENERAL: I inclose copies of two communications from Mr. William B. Carter. If we could possibly get the arms and the four regiments of disciplined and reliable men we could seize the railroad yet. Cannot Gen. McClellan be induced to send me the regiments?
Very respectfully, your ob’dt servant,
GEO. H. THOMAS,
Brig.-Gen. U. S. V., Commanding.
5 NOVEMBER 1861: Thomas must be on the border …
W.B. Carter’s East Tennessee bridge-burning plan calls for General Thomas to be on the Tennessee / Kentucky border by 8 November, the day Carter has set for the bridges to be burned. After that part of the operation is complete, Thomas is to make a quick march to Knoxville, seize control of the railroads, and protect the bridge burners from Confederate retaliation.
5 NOVEMBER 1861: Sherman cancels the invasion …
With his little army of only a few regiments, General Thomas is on his way to East Tennessee. His superior, General William Tecumseh Sherman, is worried about the invasion to liberate the Unionists in that region. He comes to believe that sending unseasoned troops through the Cumberland Mountains with Confederate forces occupying Cumberland and Big Creek Gaps can come to no good end. Sherman cancels the invasion.
In a report issued in 1863, Union colonel Samuel Gilbert discusses the logistics required to move a 5,000-man army into East Tennessee, which sheds light on Sherman’s reluctance to continue the invasion. According to Gilbert, the nearest Union supply depot lies at Nicholasville, Kentucky and foragers have already picked the farms clean along the way. The invaders would have to transport food, ammunition, and other supplies via mule train over rough and mountainous roads. Gilbert estimates that they would need 924 wagons and 5,544 mules, traveling in sixteen-day circuits to move the small army to Cumberland Gap. And that is only the beginning.
Sherman might have been right to call off the invasion, but in the process, he creates a disaster for the Unionists who are expecting him to come to their rescue. They will suffer months and years of arrests, imprisonments, executions, and unimaginable hardships on the East Tennessee home front.
5 NOVEMBER 1861: W.B. Carter launches the bridge burning operation
Carter selects Senator Andrew Johnson’s son-in-law, Daniel Stover, to burn the two bridges at the very northeast tip of Northeast Tennessee—the bridge across the Holston River at the town of Zollicoffer in Sullivan County and the bridge across the Watauga River at Carter’s Depot in Carter County.
On his way to Kingston [southwest of Knoxville], where he will oversee the entire operation, Carter chooses Union soldier Captain David Fry to burn the Lick Creek bridge in Greene County. Fry recruits father and son, Jacob and Henry Harmon, Matthew Jacob Hinshaw, Alex Haun, Harrison Self, and Hugh Self [no relation] as his assistants.
For the Strawberry Plains bridge, fifteen miles northeast of Knoxville, Carter recruits former Sevier County sheriff William Pickens. Pickens selects several fellow Sevier Countians, among them David Ray, James Montgomery, and Elijah Gamble.
By the time Sherman cancels the invasion, W.B. Carter and the bridge burners are deep in the Northeast Tennessee wilderness, ignorant of the change in plans.
Word spreads among the Unionists of Northeast Tennessee that the smoke from the burning bridges will be the signal for all loyalists to rise up in arms against the Confederate States of America.
7 NOVEMBER 1861: I have done all in my power …
Crab Orchard, November 7, 1861.
Senator ANDREW JOHNSON, London, Ky.
DEAR SIR: I have done all in my power to get troops and transportation and means to advance into Tennessee. I believe General Sherman has done the same. Up to this time we have been unsuccessful. If the Tennesseans are not content and must go, then the risk of disaster will remain with them. Some of our troops are not yet clothed and it seems impossible to get clothing.
Very respectfully and truly yours,
GEO. H. THOMAS,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers.
7 NOVEMBER 1861: I sympathize most deeply with the Tennesseans
Headquarters, Crab Orchard, Ky., November 7, 1861.
Brigadier-General [Albin Francisco] Schoepf, Commanding,
Camp Calvert, London, Ky.
General: It is time that discontented persons should be silenced both in and out of the service. I sympathize most deeply with the Tennesseans on account of their natural anxiety to relieve their friends and families from the terrible oppression which they are now suffering; but to make the attempt to rescue them when we are not half prepared is culpable, especially when our enemies are as anxious that we should make the move as the Tennesseans themselves; for it is well known by our commanding general that [CSA General Simon Bolivar] Buckner has an overwhelming force within striking distance whenever he can get us at a disadvantage. I hope you will therefore see the necessity of dealing decidedly with such people, and you have my authority and orders for doing so. We must learn to abide our time, or we shall never be successful.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. H. THOMAS
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers.
[General Schoepf is a Polish military officer, trained in Europe, is fighting for the Union in the American Civil War.]
8 NOVEMBER 1861: Haynes letter to President Davis
Landon Carter Haynes was a lawyer and politician who served as a Confederate States Senator from 1862 to 1865. In the early 1840s, Landon Carter Haynes works as editor of the Jonesborough-based newspaper, Tennessee Sentinel. He became famous for his frequent clashes with Parson Brownlow, editor of the Knoxville Whig. Haynes must have had a crystal ball when he sent this message to Jefferson Davis—on the very day the railroad bridges are burned.
His Excellency President DAVIS.
DEAR SIR: Many friends here have urged me to address your excellency this note. What I have to say is in regard to Gen. Zollicoffer’s perilous position at Cumberland Gap and the danger of invasion by the Lincoln forces of East Tennessee by way of Jamestown, Fentress County.
It is thought here, by all who are acquainted with things in East Tennessee, that re-enforcements, if practicable, ought to be sent forthwith. It is I fear a grand mistake to suppose the Union party in East Tennessee has lost its hostility to the Confederacy. At the election day before yesterday [election of state officials] with perfect unanimity that party refused to cast a vote for men who had been its late leaders because they were running for seats in the Confederate Congress; and if a force shall be thrown into East Tennessee or on the line which now seems probable and which General Zollicoffer is unable to defeat the flames of rebellion will flash throughout East Tennessee; the railroad will be destroyed, the bridges burned and other calamities not necessary to mention will follow. I regard the state of affairs from all the information I possess as perilous. Respectfully, your obedient servant,
LANDON C. HAYNES
<8—9 NOVEMBER 1861: TWO NORTHEAST TENNESSEE RAILROAD BRIDGES BURNED>
All occurring on the night of the 8th or the morning of the 9th of November.
PLEASE READ THESE POSTS ABOUT THE BRIDGES THAT WERE BURNED:
Alex Haun burns Lick Creek bridge
Daniel Stover burns Zollicoffer bridge
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Captain David Fry
When Tennessee seceded from the Union, David Fry left his wife and children in Greeneville, Northeast Tennessee and joined the Union Army in Kentucky. He was subsequently elected Captain of Company F of the 2nd Tennessee Infantry. Fry and a group of Greene County men burn the Lick Creek railroad bridge at two o’clock in the morning of 9 November 1861. As soon as the destruction of the bridge is well under way, Fry allows the Confederate guards at the bridge to go free and orders his men to return to their nearby homes and act as if nothing has happened. Fry himself heads North, hoping to make his way back to Kentucky. He was told that a Union army invasion would begin immediately after the bridges were destroyed and would protect the men who burned the bridge and their families. That promise is broken, and the Unionist civilians are left to suffer the Confederate backlash alone.
Engraving in Barton’s A Hero In Homespun depicting the burning of a railroad bridge in East Tennessee on the night of November 8, 1861. Public domain.
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Burning the Lick Creek Bridge
Captain David Fry, a Greene County farmer, led the group of Lick Creek bridge burners in the darkness of the early morning hours of 9 November 1861. Many of these Unionist men could hardly wait to do their part, to make life under Confederate control easier. They had no worries—General George H. Thomas and his little army were going to swoop down from Kentucky as soon as the bridges were destroyed. Their colleagues and their families would be protected. They could not have known that their plans would backfire so horribly. The families of these brave men were taught to be ashamed of their actions; their story was not told for many decades. The modern railroad bridge over Lick Creek stands on the original limestone pillars. When the creek’s water level drops, the remains of the blackened wooden posts of the Civil War Lick Creek Bridge become visible just above the water’s surface.
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Lick Creek Bridge Burners in The New York Times
Captain David Fry reached Greene County two days before the burning of Lick Creek Bridge and spent some time with his wife before recruiting several Greene County men to assist him in destroying the bridge. Excerpts from the New York Times:
“The Bridge Burners; Interesting particulars regarding the movements of Unionists,” The New York Times, 2 March 1862, accessed 8/8/21, nytimes.com/1862/03/02/archives/the-bridge-burners-interesting-particulars-regarding-the-movements.html
9 NOVEMBER 1861: The conspiracy went awry almost immediately
The two vulnerable railroads converging on Knoxville – the East Tennessee & Virginia and the East Tennessee & Georgia – served as the only reliable and efficient transportation and communication link between Richmond and the Deep South. … The [bridge burning] conspiracy went awry almost immediately. At Lick Creek, the conspirators let the captured guards go free after they took the oath of allegiance to the Union. It was a fatefully naïve move; the guards immediately notified Confederate authorities. Even worse, during the attack on the bridge one of the guerrillas had casually mentioned “Jacob Harmon’s gun” in front of the guards; he dutifully passed that piece of intelligence along. A few days later Confederate investigators went to the home of the ringleaders and arrested many of the participants (though some escaped to Kentucky). But the real failure came with a last-minute decision by General William T. Sherman to call off the federal invasion from Kentucky … too late to get word to the conspirators.
Aaron Astor, “The Conspiracy at Lick Creek,” The New York Times, 14 November 2011, accessed 11 August 2021, https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/the-conspiracy-at-lick-creek/
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Disaster at Strawberry Plains Bridge
The attempt at burning the bridge at Strawberry Plains fails. Spanning the Holston River 15 miles northeast of Knoxville—perhaps the most important railroad bridge in Northeast Tennessee—the 1600-foot-long Strawberry Plains Bridge is crucial to railroad transportation during the Civil War. W.B. Carter assigned former Sevier County sheriff William Pickens to handle this important task.
The lone guard at the bridge, James Keelan, fights off a group of men; he and some of the arsonists are severely wounded in the scuffle. When Pickens is shot, he drops their only box of matches, and it falls down below the bridge. With no chance of recovering the matches and being unwilling to ask for help from nearby houses for fear of being caught, the Sevier County would-be bridge-burners gathered their wounded and dispersed.
Steven Bradley Davis, “From Death, Life: An Economic and Demographic History of Civil War Era Knoxville and East Tennessee,” Masters thesis, 2006, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, accessed 20 April 2021, From Death, Life: An Economic and Demographic History of Civil War Era Knoxville and East Tennessee
“Union Rebellion in East Tennessee,” War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0891, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021, War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0891 UNION REBELLION IN EAST TENNESSEE. | eHISTORY (osu.edu)
<CONFEDERATE REACTION TO BRIDGE BURNING AND UNIONIST UPRISING>
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Bridges burned on ET&VA Railroad
KNOXVILLE, November 9, 1861.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN: Two large bridges on my road were burned last night about 12 o’clock; also one bridge on the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad at the same time, and an effort made to burn the largest bridge on my road. There is great excitement along the whole line of road, and evidence that the Union party are organizing and preparing to destroy or take possession of the whole line from Bristol and Chattanooga, and unless the Government is very prompt in giving us the necessary military aid, I much fear the result. The only hope for protection must be from the Government. Unless the Government gives us the necessary aid and protection at once, transportation over my road of army supplies will be an utter impossibility. It cannot be done. We have arrested four of the individuals engaged in burning one bridge, and know who burned another, but for want of the necessary military force fear we cannot arrest them.
JOHN R. BRANNER, President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.
9 NOVEMBER 1861: A worse state of feeling never prevailed in East Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, November 9, 1861. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War
DEAR SIR: I have just time to say that … the bridge at Charleston over Hiawassee River, on East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad, was burned last night by the Lincolnites, and that the bridge at Strawberry Plains, on East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, over the Holston, was set on fire and the guard badly, if not mortally, wounded. It shows that there is a concerted movement among them to destroy the railroad bridges and cut off communication from one portion of the Southern Confederacy with the other. A worse state of feeling never prevailed in East Tennessee than at the present moment. The belief that the enemy are about to enter our borders has emboldened them to such an extent that there is no telling what damage they may do. I believe it important that you should have this information at once. On this account I have thus hastily given you such information as I have obtained.
R. G. FAIN, Brigade Commissary.
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Watauga bridge threatened by Union guerrillas
BRISTOL, November 9, 1861.
Hon. JOHN LETCHER.
DEAR SIR: Upon the oath of J. H. Rudd, conductor of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Company, and news received from A. M. Millard, the representative of Sullivan County, Tenn., by note whose handwriting was testified to by George Pile and Jos. R. Anderson. I do hereby inform you that the bridge across the Holston was burned last night by about fifty Union men and that a Union force is now assembling near Watauga bridge [Carter’s Depot] reported to number about 500 for the purpose of attacking Capt. McClellan’s troops now stationed at the bridge and burning the bridge, and ask aid as we are unable to form any idea of the result of this; and furthermore state that all communication between this place and Nashville by railroad and telegraph is cut off and ask that you appeal to President Davis to call out the militia of East Tennessee to suppress rebellion.
WM. F. MOORE,
Justice of the peace,
Washington County, Va.
Burning Bridges: Cycle of Destruction
On the night of Friday, November 8, 1861, the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad bridge that stood on the piers in front of you erupted in flames. A group of Union sympathizers, who had been plotting secretly for weeks, burned this and four other bridges that night to disrupt the rail lines that the Confederacy needed to transport men and supplies.
The ringleader, the Rev. William Blount Carter, a Presbyterian minister, devised the plan and took it to Union generals George H. Thomas and William T. Sherman, and S.P. Carter, his brother. They sent the Rev. Carter with a letter of support to Washington, DC, where he met with President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward, as well as Gen. George B. McClellan. Lincoln approved the project and provided $2,500 for supplies. Carter placed Col. Daniel Stover, the son-in-law of future President Andrew Johnson, in charge of burning the Holston River bridge. At the last minute, however, Sherman called off the attack because he had decided it was impractical. The word did not reach Carter and his volunteers, who proceeded to burn this bridge and four others, out of the nine bridges targeted for destruction. Sherman’s meant that no Union forces were in position to capture Bluff City [Zollicoffer], called Middletown in that era. The Federals did not move into northeastern Tennessee until more than two years later.
The bridges were soon repaired, although some were burned again later. The Middletown bridge was later replaced.
In some mysterious way, one Saturday [sic] night about eleven o’clock, five bridges … were set fire to, and were in ashes by daylight. … This put the very devil in the Secessionists, although he had been in their midst all the while.
~ William G. ‘Parson’ Brownlow, 1862
MINI BIO: W.B. Wood CSA
Early in the Civil War, the fair grounds two miles west of Knoxville, were converted into a Confederate enlistment camp. On 26 July 1861, General Felix Zollicoffer arrived and assumed command of the Confederate forces in East Tennessee. Zollicoffer remained in Knoxville until September 1861, when he was ordered to march his troops to Cumberland Gap, leaving Col. W.B. Wood in charge of the camp at the fair grounds. This really is a mini bio, because there is little information about Col. Wood, but pay close attention to the following letters he sent and received during the bridge burnings and the Unionist uprising of November 1861. Some of his correspondence with CSA Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin is chilling.
10 NOVEMBER 1861: Five of the Lick Creek incendiaries arrested
Dispatch from Confederate COLONEL W. B. WOOD in Knoxville to General Zollicoffer:
Five of the incendiaries who burned the Lick Creek Bridge have been arrested. I have sent up for them. Regretting as much as anyone this calamity, I feel that I did all that I could to prevent it and am glad that it is no worse. I had a company at Lick Creek, but the incendiaries deceived them, and getting possession of their guns, took them prisoners and accomplished their ends.
General Albert Sidney Johnston
Considered by Confederate States President Jefferson Davis to be the finest general officer in the Confederacy, Albert Sidney Johnston was appointed to the rank of full general on August 31, 1861. He was killed at the Battle of Shiloh on 6 April 1862. Davis believed the loss of General Johnston “was the turning point of our fate.” thoughtco.com/general-albert-sidney-johnston-2360588
10 NOVEMBER 1861: Col. Danville Leadbetter
RICHMOND, November 10, 1861.
Herewith you will receive an order to report to Tennessee, to keep up the line of communication by rail between Bristol and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Upon arriving in Tennessee you are authorized to call upon the railroad companies, and also upon communities in vicinity of railroad, for aid and material, employing both where necessary, giving certificates usual in such cases. While reconstructing bridges and repairing the roads you will give due care to the telegraph communication, re-establishing it where interfered with, exercising in this the authority granted with regard to the road. To enable you to carry out these instructions Stovall’s battalion, with a light battery, will be ordered to report to you at Bristol, and a regiment ordered from General Bragg at Chattanooga, to be so disposed of as may best secure successful accomplishment of your orders. You will report to General Albert Sidney [A. S.] Johnston by letter your arrival in Tennessee, the nature of your instructions, also advising General Zollicoffer to the same effect. Full and frequent reports are desired of your operations, respecting condition of the [rail]road, and disposition of the population adjacent thereto.
I am, sir, respectfully, &c.
Adjutant and Inspector General.
10 NOVEMBER 1861: Leadbetter will leave in the morning
Dispatch addressed to R. L. Owen, President Railroad, Lynchburg:
Colonel Leadbetter of Engineer Corps will leave in the morning with a battalion and battery of field pieces He is charged with the duty of restoring and guarding the communications. … Your earnest cooperation with him is relied on by the President.
J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War.
11 NOVEMBER 1861: SPECIAL ORDERS, Number 216.
Richmond, Va., November 11, 1861.
Colonel Danville Leadbetter, Provisional Army, is hereby assigned to the command of the troops to be stationed for the protection of the railroads between Bristol and Chattanooga, Tenn. He will reconstruct bridges, repair and keep open the line of communication between those points and will call upon railroad companies for such aid as he may require to carry out this order.
By command of the Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin
11 NOVEMBER 1861: A general uprising in all the counties
KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861.
Adjutant-Gen. [SAMUEL] COOPER:
Three bridges burned between Bristol and Chattanooga, two on Georgia road. Five hundred Union men now threatening Strawberry Plains; fifteen hundred assembling in Hamilton County; and a general uprising in all the counties.
I have about 1,000 men under my command.
W. B. WOOD, Col.
11 NOVEMBER 1861: The whole country is now in a state of rebellion
KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861.
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen.
SIR: My fears expressed to you by letters and dispatches of 4th and 5th instant have been realized by the destruction of no less than five railroad bridges—two on the East Tennessee and Virginia road. … The indications were apparent to me but I was powerless to avert it. The whole country is now in a state of rebellion. A thousand men are within six miles of Strawberry Plains bridge and an attack is contemplated to-morrow. I have sent Col. Powel there with 200 infantry, one company cavalry and about 100 citizens armed with shotguns and country rifles. Five hundred Unionists left Hamilton County today we suppose to attack Loudon bridge. I have Major Campbell there with 200 infantry and one company cavalry. I have about the same force at this point and a cavalry company at Watauga bridge.
An attack was made on Watauga yesterday. Our men succeeded in beating them off, but they are gathering in larger force and may renew it in a day or two. They are not yet fully organized and have no subsistence to enable them to hold out long. A few regiments and vigorous means would have a powerful effect in putting it down. A mild or conciliating policy will do no good; they must be punished; and some of the leaders ought to be punished to the extent of the law. Nothing short of this will give quiet, to the country. Gen. Zollicoffer at great inconvenience to himself has sent me Col. Powell’s regiment numbering about 600 effective men which I have disposed of as above stated.
I have arrested six of the men who were engaged in burning the Lick Creek bridge and I desire to have instruction from you as to the proper disposition of them. The slow course of civil law in punishing such incendiaries it seems to me will not have the salutary effect which is desirable. I learn from two gentlemen just arrived that another camp is being formed about ten miles from here in Sevier County and already 300 are in camp. They are being re-enforced from Blount, Roane, Johnson, Greene, Carter and other counties. I need not say that great alarm is felt by the few Southern men. They are finding places of safety for their families and would gladly enlist if we had arms to furnish them. …
W. B. WOOD,
Col., Commanding Post.
11 NOVEMBER 1861: I felt it to be my duty to place this City under martial law
KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861.
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen.
SIR: I have had all the arms in this City seized and authorized Maj. Campbell to impress all he can find in the hands of Union men who ought now to be regarded as avowed enemies for the use of the new companies. I felt it to be my duty to place this City under martial law as there was a large majority of the people sympathizing with the enemy and communicating with them by the unfrequented mountain paths, and to prevent surprise and the destruction of the commissary and quartermaster’s stores.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. B. WOOD, Col., Commanding Post.
11 NOVEMBER 1861: They threaten to burn Watauga Bridge to-night
BRISTOL, November 11, 1861.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War|
I have just returned from the burned bridge. We have at the next bridge, 10 miles beyond, about 250 men, under Capt. McClellan. They have two cannon, which they found on the cars … The camp of the enemy is at N. G. Taylor’s, 5 miles distant, with about 400 men. Another camp, at Elizabethtown, 2 miles farther, is said to contain 500 men. The two may be confounded. There is no doubt but that re-enforcements are every moment reaching them from Watauga County, North Carolina, and Johnson, Carter, and Washington Counties, Tennessee. These counties can furnish about 2,000 Lincolnites, and each fresh occasion emboldens them. They threaten to burn Watauga Bridge to-night. Should they be successful, it will bring forward hundreds now quiet. It is all important they should be disposed of before they unite their different forces, now ranging from 50 to 500. A fight occurred last night [10th] between 22 of our scouts and the main camp of the enemy. We captured 2, killed 9, and lost none. I have given orders for all trains to give way to the troop trains now coming forward. They will reach here to-morrow morning.
Can I do anything for you?
RO. L. OWEN,
President Virginia and Tennessee [V&T] Railroad
[The V&T extends westward from Lynchburg, Virginia to Bristol, Tennessee, a total distance of 204 miles.]
12 NOVEMBER 1861: FROM THE REBEL STATES, The New York Times
Movements in East Tennessee. The Destruction of the Rebel Communications. GREAT ALARM IN RICHMOND. THE BRIDGE-BURNING IN TENNESSEE. THE STRUCTURES DESTROYED.
[Parts of this article were first published in the Knoxville Register and Memphis Appeal, both Pro-Confederate newspapers, which explains the Confederate slant.]
The Lick Creek bridge was guarded by several soldiers attached to Capt. MCLINN’s company, encamped near Midway. They were approached by a gang of ruffians, who first engaged them in friendly conversation and then suddenly overpowered them, and executed their hellish incendiarism.
They carried the captured sentinels, we are told, to a house at some distance, and after forcing them to take an oath to support the LINCOLN Government, released them. They hurried to their camp and gave such information as led to the immediate arrest of six of the incendiaries, who were yesterday brought to this city [Knoxville] and safely lodged in jail. We learn that they have made confessions which will probably lead to the capture of all engaged in this extensive conspiracy.
This diabolical plot does not seem to have been participated in by the great body of the East Tennessee Union men, but seems to have been confined to a number of desperate and reckless traitors, who confidently believed that before they could be brought to justice, the Lincoln forces from Kentucky would have forced their way through the mountains to their rescue, They have again experienced how little dependence is to be placed upon the boasts and promises of MAYNARD and JOHNSON [JOHNSTON].
The cowards who were reported to be approaching Jamestown and Big Creek Gap, have retreated back into Kentucky, to escape from HARDEE and his brave forces, leaving their duped and misguided co-laborers here to their fate. There is no earthly probability that any of LINCOLN’s troops will ever be able to force their way into East Tennessee, and all such attempts as the late incendiary one, must only result in bringing a terrible retribution upon the heads of the foolish depredators. …
It is rumored that large numbers of Union men are arming and mustering in Blount and Sevier Counties; for the purpose of protecting the incendiaries who attempted to fire the Strawberry Plains bridge, all of whom, numbering some sixteen, were from Sevier County. …
AMOUNT OF DAMAGE DONE.
The damage to the railroads in East Tennessee by the incendiarism of last week, is estimated at $50,000.
OTHER INSURRECTIONARY DEMONSTRATIONS.
In an extra issued on Nov. 15, the Memphis Avalanche says:
“A most reliable gentleman from East Tennessee arrived here this morning, and reports that Chickamauga Creek, the Charleston, Lick Creek, and Upper Holston [Zollicoffer] bridges were burned at precisely 1 o’clock on Friday night. Other bridges were fired at the same time, but were extinguished. The telegraphic wires were destroyed at the same time. A thorough organization exists among the Unionists in East Tennessee. … “
From the Memphis Appeal.
Great excitement prevails along the route. The people were thoroughly aroused, and flocking into every Station, determined to exterminate the traitors between Bristol and Chattanooga, where the principal damage was done. Bristol and Chattanooga are situated at the extremes of the Railroad system of East Tennessee, 241 miles apart. Gen. CLARKE of Mississippi was at Bristol, among the detained passengers; and being advised that there was a force of 500 Unionists at Uniontown [Zollicoffer], where the bridge had been burned, he mustered a force of about forty, principally returning soldiers, and marched against them. A conflict took place at night, but the traitors fled early … leaving indications that some of them are hurt. …
NOTHING SERIOUS APPREHENDED.
From the Memphis Appeal, Nov. 16.
We apprehend nothing serious from the recent outbreak in East Tennessee, but regard it, on the contrary, at least in point of time, as one of the most fortunate incidents of the crisis. It was evidently one act in a carefully arranged program of the enemy, all of whose parts were to have been executed simultaneously, but which has eventuated in a miserable abortion. We have long been aware that there was a deeply disaffected element in this section of the State, and have repeatedly pressed upon our authorities—State and Federal—the necessity of exercising a proper espionage over their movements. …
It was a stroke of policy merely that induced the abandonment of the Greeneville Convention and the ostensible acknowledgment of the Confederate Government by the arch conspirators who were encouraging this scheme. In fact, it was a most dangerous part of their conspiracy, inasmuch as it disarmed our authorities, and the adherents of our cause in that section, of all vigilance. They thought that the refractory spirit of the rebellion that at first showed its head had been permanently quelled, and looked for no further manifestation of it.
This insurrection, however, … gives evidence of a deep-laid plot among a few of the most reckless traitors of that region to resist the sovereign voice of the people of the State by force of arms, so soon as they have hope of assistance from the Lincoln despotism. It is fortunate that it has occurred at the present time, when we are fully able to put a lasting quietus upon it, from which no appliances of future Federal aid will ever be able to resuscitate it. We now have an open foe to conquer, who is rendered impotent by the very disclosure of his hostility—and not less so by his isolation. …
“FROM THE REBEL STATES, “The New York Times, accessed 20 March 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/1861/11/23/archives/from-the-rebel-states-movements-in-eastern-tennesseethe-destruction.html
Another view of a bridge very similar to the Lick Creek Bridge.
12 NOVEMBER 1861: S.P. Carter’s East Tennessee Brigade
HEADQUARTERS EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE,
Camp Calvert, November 12, 1861.
Brigadier General GEORGE H. THOMAS, U. S. Army.
DEAR GENERAL: Yesterday I sent forty-five pounds rifle powder, fifty pounds lead and twenty boxes rifle caps into East Tennessee for the Union men. I borrowed the whole from Colonel Garrard. Will you have the kindness to have rifle powder forwarded to me not only to return that borrowed but also for further distribution among the mountain men? The ammunition sent yesterday was to be delivered to the men mentioned by my brother in his letter to you. Lead and caps are also needed.
We thank you, general, for your assurance that as soon as you can you will move toward East Tennessee. Our men and officers have entire confidence in you and shall be most happy to see you in our midst. If the reports made to me to-day are true—and they seem to be reliable—we might get possession of the mountain passes without loss or even opposition. Do you not think so?
I am persuaded you will do what is right and proper.
S. P. CARTER,
Acting Brigadier-General. comdg.
East Tennessee Brigade.
Because the Confederates are still occupying Northeast Tennessee, S. P. Carter chooses Camp Calvert in Laurel County, southeast Kentucky as his recruitment camp. Since his enlistees are mostly refugees from Northeast Tennessee, he calls his unit the East Tennessee Brigade.
12 NOVEMBER 1861: 500 Tories threaten movement on Strawberry Plains
JACKSBOROUGH, November 12, 1861. Gen. S. Cooper:
Col. Wood, Knoxville, writes that 500 tories threaten movement on Strawberry Plains, and 1,500 from Hamilton County moving towards Loudon Bridge. Col. Churchwell, Cumberland Gap, has information indicating a strong force along from 6 miles beyond Barboursville to Rockcastle Camp, fortifying as they advance. I will have the pass blocked in two days. Gen. Carroll has one armed regiment, but has not forwarded it. Please cause Churchwell’s requisition of 22d October for ammunition and implements for three 8-inch howitzers to be filled and expressed to him.
F. K. ZOLLICOFFER, Brig.-Gen.
12 NOVEMBER 1861: Governor Harris requests aid from His Excellency
NASHVILLE, November 12, 1861.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS:
The burning of railroad bridges in East Tennessee shows a deep-seated spirit of rebellion in that section. Union men are organizing. This rebellion must be crushed out instantly, the leaders arrested, and summarily punished. I shall send immediately about 10,000 men to that section; cannot arm larger force at present. If you can possibly send from Western Virginia a number of Tennessee regiments to East Tennessee, we can at once repair the bridges and crush out the rebellion. I hope to be able very soon to collect a large number of sporting guns in the State to arm our volunteers, and will co-operate with the Government to the fullest extent of my ability in all respects. If a part only of the Tennessee troops in Western Virginia shall be sent, I would prefer Anderson’s brigade.
ISHAM G. HARRIS.
13 NOVEMBER 1861: The Lincolnites are encamping at Elizabethton
JONESBOROUGH, TENN., November 13, 1861.
J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War:
The Lincolnites are forming an encampment at Elizabethton [Carter County]; now have from 1,000 to 1,300 men, and more coming, within 6 miles of our railroad, at Watauga Bridge. They also have from 600 to 1,000 men near Strawberry Plains Bridge, the most important and expensive bridge on our road, and still collecting in greater numbers, and threatening to take and burn the bridge and take possession of the [rail]road. If these two bridges are burned our road stops. The demonstrations are such in East Tennessee that a much larger force is necessary. They are cutting the telegraph wires as fast as we put them up.
JOHN R. BRANNER,
President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.
13 NOVEMBER 1861: Troops moving to crush the traitors
JOHN R. BRANNER, President R. R. Co.,
Troops are now moving to East Tennessee to crush the traitors.
You shall be amply protected.
J. P. BENJAMIN Acting Secretary of War.
13 NOVEMBER 1861: A force of Unionists some 1,000 strong
BRISTOL, TENN., November 13, 1861.
Gen. A. S. JOHNSTON, C. S. Army, Bowling Green, Ky.
SIR: Agreeable to instructions from the Adjutant-Gen.’s Office, I have the honor to report that I have been assigned by the War Department (Special Orders, No. 216) to the command of troops to be stationed for the protection of the railroad from this point to Chattanooga, rebuilding bridges, and keeping open the communication. Stovall’s battalion Georgia Volunteers is hourly expected from Richmond, and a regiment from Gen. Bragg’s command is ordered to report at Chattanooga as the force for this service.
The country traversed by the [rail]road is represented as being in a very disturbed condition. Two bridges have been burned between this and Knoxville … The telegraph wire is down. It is currently reported that Andrew Johnson was expected at Greeneville, his place of residence, on Sunday, the 10th, and that his country friends assembled to greet him. They were disappointed. A force of Unionists, some 1,000 strong, is known to be assembled at Elizabethton, on the Watauga [River], about twenty-five miles from this place, and I propose to move against them at the earliest possible moment. Another force is known to be encamped at Strawberry Plains, well on toward Knoxville. Passengers continue to traverse the road, the only difficulty being detention from the destruction of bridges at the points named.
Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
D. LEADBETTER, Col., Provisional Army C. S.
14 NOVEMBER 1861: I have sent 4,500 rifles
RICHMOND, November 14, 1861.
Gen. L. P. WALKER, Huntsville, Ala.:
I have sent to Gen. A. S. Johnston 4,500 rifles, being half of all that we have received.
J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War.
14 NOVEMBER 1861: Disarm Union men and seize leaders
Jacksborough, (Via Knoxville 15th.)
General COOPER, Adjutant-General: I have ordered all posts and detachments to disarm Union men and seize leaders. Have made dispositions to cut off and crush tories of Rhea, Hamilton and Sevier [Counties]. Blockade here nearly complete. One regiment marches for Wartburg to-day.
F. K. ZOLLICOFFER,
“Civil War in Knox County,” Rootsweb: Knoxville Civil War Roundtable, accessed 24 July 2021, sites.rootsweb.com/~tnknox/Civil%20War.html
“FROM THE REBEL STATES,” The New York Times, published 23 November 1861, accessed 20 March 2021, nytimes.com/1861/11/23/archives/from-the-rebel-states-movements-in-eastern-tennesseethe-destruction.html
War of the Rebellion, Serial 114 Page 0841, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 March 2021, https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/114/0841
War of the Rebellion, Serial 114, Page 0844, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 March 2021, https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/114/0844
War of the Rebellion, Serial 114 Page 0892, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 March 2021, https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/114/0892
War of the Rebellion, Serial 114 Page 0892 & 0893, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 March 2021, https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/114/0893
16 NOVEMBER 1861: W.B. Carter returns to Kentucky
HDQRS. EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE, Camp Calvert
Brig. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS,
U. S. Army, Cmdg., &c., Crab Orchard, Ky.
GEN.: My brother William has just arrived from East Tennessee and the news he brings I think of so much importance that I will dispatch a special messenger to convey it to you. My brother left Roane County near Kingston on Monday night last. He reports that on Friday night, 8th instant, of last week he succeeded in having burned at least six and perhaps eight bridges on the railroad, viz.,: Union bridge in Sullivan County, near the Virginia line; Lick Creek bridge in Greene County; Strawberry Plains in Jefferson County, fifteen miles east of Knoxville, partially destroyed; …
The consternation among the secessionists of East Tennessee is very great. The Union men are waiting with longing and anxiety for the appearance of Federal forces on the Cumberland Mountains and are all ready to rise up in defense of the Federal Government. … Gen., if it be possible do urge the commanding general to give us some additional force and let us advance into East Tennessee; now is the time, and such a people as are those who live in East Tennessee deserve and should be relieved and protected. You know the importance of this move and will I hope use all your influence to effect it. Our men will go forward with a shout to relieve their native land. The brigade commissary has not yet handed in his report of the amount of provisions on hand; but I think we have already nearly if not quite a month’s supply on hand.
With much respect, I am, dear general, yours, very truly,
S. P. CARTER, Acting Brig.-Gen.,
Cmdg. East Tennessee Brigade.
MINI BIO: Samuel Powhatan Carter USA
Samuel Carter was a member of the prestigious Carter family of Carter County, Northeast Tennessee, and brother of W.B. Carter and James P.T. Carter. On 10 October 1861, Lieutenant Samuel P. Carter, U. S. Navy, was assigned as acting brigadier general to the 1st and 2nd East Tennessee Regiments. He was ordered to enlist Unionists for the Union Army within his native Northeast Tennessee. The Confederates had occupied the region in July 1861, so Carter raised a brigade of infantry at Camp Dick Robinson, Kentucky, from among the hundreds of his neighbors who were fleeing to Kentucky. When corresponding with Unionists who remained behind Confederate lines, he adopted the code name Powhatan. On 6 December 1861, Carter’s Brigade was designated as the 12th Brigade of General George H. Thomas’ 1st Division. The brigade served at London, Kentucky, in front of Cumberland Gap, and along the Kentucky-Tennessee border. In April 1862, the regiment was assigned to Brigadier General S. P. Carter’s 24th Brigade of General George W. Morgan’s 7th Division of the Army of the Ohio.
The New York Times described Carter’s Raid:
It appears that Gen. CARTER, with a thousand cavalrymen, left … Richmond, Ky., on the 21st of December; that he marched through Southeastern Kentucky and through the southwest corner of Virginia into East Tennessee, and fell upon the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad where it crosses the Holston River [Zollicoffer] … and burned the wooden trestle … bridge there, and also that over the Watauga River [Carter’s Depot]; that he fought two brisk skirmishes, and killed, wounded and captured over 500 rebels, beside capturing 700 stand of arms and a large amount of rebel stores; and that, after thus doing his work, and chastising the rebels, he returned to Kentucky [on 2 January 1863] with a loss of but ten men. The distance traversed by these bold riders, from the point of starting in Kentucky to the point of action in Tennessee, was over two hundred miles, through a mountainous country, affording few passable roads and only the most scanty supplies.
Plans to follow the raid with an invasion and occupation of East Tennessee were canceled when S.P. Carter reported the route impracticable for a large force. In July 1863, Carter was placed in command of the XXIII Corps cavalry division and continued campaigning across Tennessee throughout the year.
FINALLY, AN INVASION
On August 6, 1863, in a reorganization of the XXIII Corps, the 1st and 2nd Tennessee Regiments were separated, and the 1st Tennessee placed in the 1st Brigade of Brigadier General S. P. Carter’s 4th Division (Cavalry). The regiment, now described as the 1st East Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Infantry, was ordered to concentrate at Stanford, Kentucky. On 3 September 1863, the Union finally invaded East Tennessee with a large force commanded by General Ambrose Burnside. Carter’s brigade participated in Burnside’s East Tennessee Campaign during the balance of the year. While Carter was serving in the Union Army, the U.S. Navy promoted him to lieutenant commander in 1863, then to commander in 1865.
“1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment,” Tennessee & the Civil War, accessed 28 July 2021, tngenweb.org/civilwar/1st-tennessee-volunteer-infantry-regiment/
“Carter’s Raid and its Results,” The New York Times, 8 January 1863, accessed 29 July 2021, nytimes.com/1863/01/08/archives/carters-raid-and-its-results.html
General Samuel Powhatan Carter USA
Commander of the East Tennessee Brigade
Camp Calvert, Laurel County, Kentucky
Library of Congress
17 NOVEMBER 1861: Affairs are not so bad as reported
BRIGADE HEADQUARTERS, Chattanooga, Tenn.
SIR: In obedience to orders two regiments moved to this point. Affairs are not so bad as reported. Suppose that Col. S. A. M. Wood has reported to the War Department a full account of his expedition against Clift and the breaking up of his camp. Five prisoners taken with arms. To-night I send a reconnoitering force to North Chickamauga Creek where the citizens are mostly disloyal and a good many in open rebellion. As soon as sufficient information can be obtained a larger force will be sent to capture Clift and his troops. So soon as they return I will move to join Gen. Zollicoffer at Jacksborough.
I inclose you a copy of oath and bond I have taken from Union prisoners taken before my arrival.
W. H. CARROLL, Brig.-Gen.
We,___and___, acknowledge ourselves indebted to the Confederate States of America jointly and severally in the sum of $10,000, but to be void if—shall faithfully and honestly support the Constitution and laws of the Confederate States of America and if he shall faithfully and honestly render true allegiance to said Confederate States in all things; and if he shall not directly or indirectly by writing, talking or otherwise seditiously or rebelliously attempt to excite prejudice in the mind of any person or persons against the existence, perpetuity or prosperity of said Confederate States; and if he shall not in any manner directly or indirectly aid, assist, encourage or advise the United States or any officer, agent or adherent thereof in the present war against the Confederate States. Witness our hands and seals this___November, 1861.
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and honestly support the Constitution and laws of the Confederate States of America and I will faithfully and honestly render true allegiance to said Confederate States in all things and in every particular; and I further swear that I will not directly or indirectly by talking, writing or otherwise seditiously or rebelliously attempt to excite prejudice in the mind of any person or persons against the existence, perpetuity or prosperity of said Confederate States; nor will I in any manner directly or indirectly aid, assist, encourage or advise the United States or any officer, agent or adherent thereof in the present war against the Confederate States. Witness our hands and seals this___November, 1861.
19 NOVEMBER 1861: Leadbetter asks Benjamin what to do with prisoners he took at Doe River Cove
JOHNSON STATION (Via Jonesborough.)
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN: Yesterday we dispersed the insurgents, 300 strong, at Doe River [Daniel Stover and his men]. Took thirty prisoners in the neighborhood; none very prominent. What shall be done with them? Are those not known as criminals to be released on their oath of allegiance? Those known to have been insurgents I recommend be sent to Richmond and kept there. Please telegraph to Jonesborough, Tenn.
Unionists escaping across Northeast Tennessee mountains
Sketched by A. W. Warren
20 NOVEMBER 1861: A high degree of Confederate anxiety
This letter from Madison T. Peoples from Union County, Northeast Tennessee, indicates a high degree of anxiety in regard to the Unionist rebellion.
OKOLONA, TENN., November 20, 1861.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
SIR: In my judgment there is not a Union man in Carter County who was not involved to some extent in the rebellion. Many of them were drawn into it by wicked leaders and some have heartily repented but many others will seek the first favorable opportunity to repeat the experiment. Under these circumstances what can be done to hold them in check in the future? If a northern army invades the State at any future day a majority of our population will undoubtedly tear up the railroad, burn the bridges and destroy the lives and property of Southern men. If the military commander at this point could have a discretionary power which would enable him to inquire into the character of the rebels and give certain ones the option to join the Confederate service during the war or be sent on for trial for treason I have no doubt the ends of justice would be attained and much annoyance to the Government avoided. This perhaps would be rather a highhanded movement, but the disease is a desperate one and requires severe and energetic treatment.
Every Union man in the county either took up arms or was fully advised of the intention of his party to do so, so they are all principals or accessories before the fact. If they are all prosecuted every citizen of East Tennessee must be arraigned before the court or brought up as witnesses. Nearly every rebel in my county could be convicted if all the Southern-rights citizens were brought up as witnesses; but this perhaps would look too much like political prosecutions.
Martial law ought to be enforced in every county in East Tennessee to hold these bad men in proper restraint but our President is very averse to such a policy. But be assured if the Northern despotism succeeds in throwing a strong military force in here we shall have much worse than martial law. Even now our most quiet and law-abiding citizens have been shot down in cold blood from behind coverts by the tories and the proof can be made that Unionists have been tampering with the slaves.
The mass of the Union party religiously believed that a Northern army of at least 100,000 men was in East Tennessee before they began this rebellious demonstration. The Southern men have all been disarmed and the tories have apparently disbanded in most of the counties but really gone home to await the approach of an invading army. If we are invaded, every Southern man will be taken a prisoner or else murdered in the night time. Our very existence depends on Mr. Lincoln’s ability to invade the state.
Asking your pardon for my boldness and the hasty manner of writing this letter,
I am, very respectfully,
MADISON T. PEOPLES.
20 NOVEMBER 1861: Recruits are arriving almost every day
CAMP CALVERT, EAST TENN. BRIGADE
General GEORGE H. THOMAS,
Commanding, Crab Orchard.
GENERAL: Recruits are arriving almost every day from East Tennessee. We have no arms to put into their hands. The Union men coming to us represent the people in East Tennessee as waiting with the utmost anxiety the arrival of the Federal forces. They are all ready to join them and do their part toward the deliverance of their native land. Union camps are already forming in some of the counties and unless help soon reaches them as they have but little ammunition they will be scattered or destroyed.
With the hope of soon seeing you here, respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. P. CARTER,
Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding.
20 NOVEMBER 1861: I respectfully request that instructions be forwarded
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War.
SIR: The rebellion in East Tennessee has been put down in some of the counties and will be effectually suppressed in less than two weeks in all the counties. Their camps in Sevier and Hamilton Counties have been broken up and a large number of them made prisoners. Some are confined in jail at this place and others sent to Nashville.
In a former communication I inquired of the Department what I should do with them. It is a mere farce to arrest them and turn them over to the courts. Instead of having the effect to intimidate it really gives encouragement and emboldens them in their traitorous conduct.
We have now in custody some of their leaders—Judge [David T. ] Patterson, the son-in-law of Andrew Johnson; Col. [Samuel] Pickens, the senator in the legislature from Sevier and other counties, and several members of the legislature, besides others of influence and some distinction in their counties. These men have encouraged this rebellion but have so managed as not to be found in arms. Nevertheless all their actions and words have been unfriendly to the Government of the Confederate States. The influence of their wealth, position and connections has been exerted in favor of the Lincoln Government and they are the parties most to blame for the troubles in East Tennessee. They really deserve the gallows and if consistent with the laws ought speedily to receive their deserts; but there is such a gentle spirit of conciliation in the South and especially here that I have no idea that one of them will receive such a sentence at the hands of any jury impaneled to try them.
I have been here at this station for three months, half the time in command of the post, and I have had a good opportunity of learning the feeling pervading this country. It is hostile to the Confederate Government. They will take the oath of allegiance with no intention to observe it. They are the followers and slaves of Johnson and Maynard and never intend to be otherwise. When arrested they suddenly become very submissive and declare they are for peace and not supporters of the Lincoln Government but yet they claim to be Union men. At one time whilst our forces were at Knoxville they gave it out that great changes were taking place in East Tennessee and the people were becoming reconciled and loyal. At the withdrawal of the army from here to the Gap and the first intimation that the Lincoln army was like to penetrate the State they were in arms, and scarcely a man with only a few honorable exceptions but what was ready to join them and make war upon us.
The prisoners we have tell us that they had every assurance that the army was already in the State and would join them in a very few days; that the property of Southern men was to be confiscated and divided amongst those who would take up arms for Lincoln. I have to request at least that the prisoners I have taken be held if not as traitors as prisoners of war. To release them is ruinous; to convict them before a court at this time next to an impossibility; but if they are kept in prison for six months it will have a good effect. The bridge-burners and spies ought to be tried at once and I respectfully request that instructions be forwarded at as early a day as practicable as it needs prompt action to dispose of these cases.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. B. WOOD, Col., Cmdg. Post.
20 NOVEMBER 1861: I sent a few men to arrest Andrew Johnson’s sons and son-in-law
Wartburg, One Mile from Montgomery, November 20, 1861.
Lieutenant- Colonel MACKALL,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Bowling Green, Ky.
SIR: I sent a few men up to Greeneville to arrest [U.S. Senator] Andrew Johnson’s sons and son-in-law. Have no late news from Carter and Johnson Counies. By this time I presume General Carroll is at Knoxville in command and instructed to make proper dispositions to guard the railroads and crush the tory combinations. The recent burning of the bridges brought a crisis which I think demonstrates that but comparatively a small proportion of the population will now give countenance to hostile acts against the Confederate Government and that those who are still hostile are only running upon their own destruction. They should now be dealt very severely with. Leniency and forbearance have gradually won a many thousands over wh would have been driven to the enemy had our policy been severe two month ago but those that are yet hostile can only be cured of their folly by severity. They should be made to feel in their persons and their property that their hostile attitude promises to them nothing but destruction.
F. K. ZOLLICOFFER,
21 NOVEMBER 1861: … to drive the rebels from their country
HEADQUARTERS EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE,
Camp Calvert, near London, Ky., November 21, 1861.
Honorable HORACE MAYNARD.
DEAR SIR: The copy of Evening Star received this evening assures me you have not forgotten me. Our men are most anxious to return to East Tennessee, not so much to see their families as to drive the rebels from their country. We are all inclined to think that help will be deferred until it is too late to save our people. This ought not to be so. Two or three batteries and 10,000 men provided even with powder and lead for the people could save East Tennessee at this time. Will help never come? Can you not get those in power to give us a few more men and permission to make at least an effort to save our people? do try. They are even now in arms and must be crushed unless assistance soon reaches them.
With respect, yours, truly.
S. P. CARTER.
MINI BIO: Horace Maynard
Horace Maynard (1814–1882) was an American attorney, politician, and ardent Union supporter in the Civil War era. He was elected to the House of Representatives from Tennessee on 4 March 1857. He spent much of his first two terms in Congress fighting to preserve the Union. Along with fellow Unionists Andrew Johnson, T. A. R. Nelson, and William G. Brownlow, Maynard worked feverishly to keep Tennessee in the Union during the secession crisis of 1860 and 1861. In the weeks leading up to the state’s referendum on secession on 8 June 1861, Maynard travelled across East Tennessee and made dozens of pro-Union speeches.
After Tennessee seceded from the Union, Maynard headed for Washington, D.C. to take his seat in the U.S. Congress. When Confederate forces occupied East Tennessee on 26 July 1861, Maynard pleaded with President Abraham Lincoln to send troops to free the region, warning that East Tennesseans’ “tears and blood will be a blot on your administration that time can never efface.” With the help of Senator Andrew Johnson, Congressman Maynard kept the pressure on President Lincoln to rescue the Unionists, but it was more than two years before Union troops entered Knoxville.
Congressman Maynard won a third term in 1861 on the Unionist Party ticket, becoming one of the few Southern congressmen to maintain his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives during the Civil War. In December 1861, he blasted Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas for balking at an invasion of East Tennessee after Unionists burned railroad bridges there, calling his efforts ‘disgraceful.’ Maynard was obviously unaware that General Sherman had called off the invasion and ordered Thomas to return to camp. In 1863 Andrew Johnson, military governor of Tennessee, appointed Horace Maynard attorney general of the state. Like many other Unionists, Horace Maynard’s property had been confiscated by the Confederates, and he was unable to return to his home in Knoxville after the war. However, he was again elected to Congress and represented Tennessee’s Second District until 1875.
Tennessee Congressman Horace Maynard
24 NOVEMBER 1861: We have arrivals every day from East Tennessee
HEADQUARTERS EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE,
Camp Calvert, November 24, 1861.
Brigadier General GEORGE H. THOMAS,
Commanding, Danville, Ky.
GENERAL: We have arrivals every day from East Tennessee. The condition of affairs there is sad beyond description and if the loyal people who love and cling to the Government are not soon relieved they will be lost.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. P. CARTER,
Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Instructions relative to the fate of East Tennessee Unionist prisoners
WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A., Richmond
Col. W. B. WOOD, Knoxville, Tenn.
First. All such as can be identified as having been engaged in bridge-burning are to be tried summarily by drum-head court-martial and if found guilty executed on the spot by hanging. It would be well to leave their bodies hanging in the vicinity of the burned bridges.
Second. All such as have not been so engaged are to be treated as prisoners of war and sent with an armed guard to Tuscaloosa, Ala., there to be kept imprisoned at the depot selected by the Government for prisoners of war. Wherever you can discover that arms are concealed by these traitors you will send out detachments, search for and seize the arms. In no case is one of the men known to have been up in arms against the Government to be released on any pledge or oath of allegiance. The time for such measures is past. They are all to be held as prisoners of war and held in jail till the end of the war. Such as come in voluntarily, take the oath of allegiance and surrender their arms are alone to be treated with leniency.
Your vigilant execution of these orders is earnestly urged by the Government.
Your obedient servant,
J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War.
P.S. Judge [David T.] Patterson, Colonel [SAMUEL] Pickens and other ringleaders of the same class must be sent at once to Tuscaloosa to jail as prisoners of war.
A drumhead court-martial is held in the field to hear urgent charges of offenses committed in action. The term comes from previous times of war when the regimental drum was used as a writing surface.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Those who voluntarily surrender themselves and their arms
Captain DAVID McCLELLAN, Elizabethton, Tenn.
DEAR SIR: On the first page I had you copy an order from the War Department and call your especial attention to it. You will send all prisoners under the first and second clause [Benjamin’s letter above], except such as surrender voluntarily themselves and arms to me to be sent to headquarters at Greeneville with the necessary witnesses to establish the charges against them. Those who voluntarily surrender themselves and their arms and have had no complicity with bridge-burning nor have been in arms you will please follow the order from the War Department.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. J. WHITE, Captain.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: A general court-martial is hereby appointed
A general court-martial is hereby appointed to meet at Knoxville on the 28th of November or as soon thereafter as practicable for the trial of such prisoners as may be brought before it.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Trial by court-martial
KNOXVILLE, TENN., November 25, 1861.
Hon J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
The military authorities in command at this post have determined to try the bridge-burners and other men charged with treason by a court-martial.
What shall I do?
J. C. RAMSEY,
CSA District Attorney.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Benjamin hopes they hang every bridge-burner
RICHMOND, November 25, 1861.
J. C. RAMSEY, District Attorney, Knoxville:
I am very glad to hear of the action of the military authorities, and hope to hear they have hanged every bridge-burner at the end of the burned bridge.
J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Re-establish the Government of the Union
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, ADJT. GENERAL’S OFFICE,
Washington, D. C., November 25, 1861.
Brigadier General D. C. BUELL,
Commanding Department of the Ohio.
GENERAL: I am still convinced that political and strategical considerations render a prompt movement in force on East Tennessee imperative. The object to be gained is to cut the communication between the Mississippi Valley and Eastern Virginia; to protect our Union friends in Tennessee and re-establish the Government of the Union in the eastern portion of that State. Of course Louisville must be defended but I think you will be able to do that while you move into Eastern Tennessee. If there are causes which render this course impossible we must submit to the necessity but I still feel sure that a movement on Knoxville is absolutely necessary if it is possible to effect it. Please write to me very fully.
Very truly yours,
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Many of them have been lying out in the woods
HEADQUARTERS EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE,
Camp Calvert, November 25, 1861.
Brigadier General GEORGE H. THOMAS, U. S. Army,
Commanding, Danville, Ky.
GENERAL: The rebel force at Cumberland Gap is from the best information I can obtain so small that I think we will meet with but little opposition in case it is determined to advance by that pass. Our desires are to get to East Tennessee as soon as possible in order that our loyal friends there may be relieved. Many of them have been lying out in the woods to escape their enemies but as the season advances they will be driven to their houses and be forced into the rebel ranks or carried to prison. Let us up and help them now when it will require so little to accomplish this desirable and necessary end.
I am, general, respectfully and truly, yours,
S. P. CARTER,
Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding.
27 NOVEMBER 1861: Fulfill the commitment made to the bridge burners
Brigadier General D. C. BUELL.
GENERAL: What is the reason for concentration of troops at Louisville? I urge movement at once on East Tennessee unless it is impossible. No letter from you for several days. Reply. I still trust to your judgment though urging my own views.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
MINI BIO: General Don Carlos Buell USA
West Point graduate General Don Carlos Buell succeeded General William Tecumseh Sherman at Louisville, Kentucky, as the commander of the Army of the Ohio on 15 November 1861. Although the Lincoln administration immediately began pressuring him to occupy East Tennessee, Buell dragged his feet. His excuse was that the bridges of the ET&VA railroad were still being rebuilt, and he would have to rely on wagons for supplies that would surely be attacked by Confederate cavalry.
Buell led Union armies in two great Civil War battles—Shiloh and Perryville—and did not perform particularly well at either. The military and the Union citizenry greatly criticized him for his failure to pursue and defeat a much smaller Confederate force after the Battle of Perryville [8 October 1862]. His failure to invade and stabilize East Tennessee did not win him any laurels, either.
Prior to leaving Louisville on 1 October 1862, Buell had received orders from Washington relieving him of command, to be replaced by General George H. Thomas, his second in command. However, Thomas refused to accept the position while the army was in the middle of a campaign, and Buell remained in charge.
After the battle ended, President Lincoln urged an immediate pursuit of the Confederates. Buell told him that the route south of Perryville would entail traveling through East Tennessee where the rough, wooded country with few roads would be too difficult to maneuver through. Again refusing the President’s direct request to enter East Tennessee.
On 24 October 1862, Buell was relieved from command of the Army of the Ohio and replaced by Maj. Gen William Rosecrans. A military committee investigated Buell’s conduct during and after Perryville, but came to no conclusions, and Buell considered his reputation vindicated. He was ordered to Indianapolis to await future assignments, but none came. When General Ulysses S. Grant was appointed general-in-chief of the army in March 1864, he offered Buell a possible assignment but Buell refused to serve under either Sherman or George H. Thomas because he outranked both of them.
28 NOVEMBER 1861: At present they seem indisposed to fight …
HDQRS., Greeneville, East Tenn., November 28, 1861.
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen., Richmond.
SIR: I think that we have effected something—have done some good; but whenever a foreign force enters this country be it soon or late three-fourths of this people will rise in arms to join them. At present they seem indisposed to fight and the great difficulty is to reach them. Scattering in the mountain paths they can scarcely be caught; and as their arms are hidden when not in use, it is almost impossible to disarm the Cavalry, though a bad force for fighting them in case they would fight is yet the only force which can reach them. It is adequate too to disperse and capture them in their present state of morale. I am confident that a mounted regiment with two very light guns would do more to quiet this tier of counties than five times the number on foot. Twenty-two prisoners have been sent to Nashville from Carter County and we have now in confinement some five or six known to have been in arms and who will be sent to Tuscaloosa under the order of the War Department dated the 25th instant.
Very respectfully, general, your obedient servant,
D. LEADBETTER, Col., Provisional Army, C. S., Cmdg.
29 NOVEMBER 1861: Those who do not support the Government should remove from its limits
GEN. ORDERS, No. 4. HDQRS., Knoxville.
The Government of the Confederate States has not nor will it interfere with individuals on account of their political opinions. The President of the Confederate States issued a proclamation, stating that all those who did not fully recognize their allegiance to the Government should dispose of or remove from its limits, with their effects, before October 1861. Those persons who remained tacitly recognized the Government and are amenable to the laws. The commanding general at this post will endeavor to fully carry out the policy of the Government. While he will afford ample protection to all citizens who peaceably pursue their ordinary occupations, he will order the arrest of all who may take up arms against the Government or who in any manner may aid or abet its enemies or incite rebellion, in order that they may be tried by military law.
By order of Brig. Gen. W. H. Carroll, commanding post
The danger of punishment by Confederate authorities lasted for nearly two years.
29 NOVEMBER 1861: Keep up the hearts of the Tennesseans
WASHINGTON, Monday night.
Brigadier General D. C. BUELL, Louisville.
MY DEAR BUELL: Keep up the hearts of the Tennesseans. Make them feel that far from any intention of deserting them all will be done to sustain them. Be sure to maintain their ardor for it will avail you much in the future. I am not as a general rule at all disposed to scatter troops. I believe in attacks by concentrated masses but it seems to me with the little local knowledge I possess that you might attempt two movements—one on Eastern Tennessee say with 15,000 men, and a strong attack on Nashville as you propose with say 50,000 men.
I think we owe it to our Union friends in Eastern Tennessee to protect them at all hazards. First secure that; then if you possess the means carry Nashville.
In haste, truly, yours,
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
29 NOVEMBER 1861: I permitted to take the oath of allegiance
Knoxville, November 29, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond.
SIR: I am just in receipt of yours of 25th. Your instructions shall be strictly obeyed. I have not heretofore released any against whom there was proof that they had been engaged in any rebellious movements. It was only those who were arrested upon mere suspicion that I permitted to take the oath of allegiance. I telegraphed you to-day that Judge Humphreys had issued writs of habeas corpus in the cases of several prisoners who are beyond doubt guilty of burning the railroad bridges predicated as I understand upon the affidavits of Baxter and other lawyers. Your instructions are fully understood and I shall not allow any interference in their execution.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
WM. H. CARROLL,
29 NOVEMBER 1861: Arrest all who may take up arms against the Government
HEADQUARTERS, Number 4
Knoxville, November 29, 1861.
The Government of the Confederate States has not nor will it interfere with individuals on account of their political opinions. The President of the Confederate States issued a proclamation stating that all those who did not fully recognize their allegiance to the Government should dispose of or remove from its limits with their effects before October 1861. Those persons who remained tacitly recognized the Government and are amenable to the laws.
The commanding general at this post will endeavor to fully carry out the policy of the Government. While he will afford ample protection to all citizens who peaceably pursue their ordinary occupations, he will order the arrest of all who may take up arms against the Government or who in any manner may aid or abet its enemies or incite rebellion in order that they may be tried by military law.
By order of Brig. General W. H. Carroll, commanding post
G. H. MONSARRAT,
Acting Assistant Adjutant- General.
29 NOVEMBER 1861: Tories recently captured with arms in their hands against the Government
KNOXVILLE, November 29, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
General W. H. Carroll, commanding this post, has ordered a general court-martial for the trial by the military authorities of persons charged with burning the bridges in East Tennessee and of the tories who have been recently captured with arms in their hands against the Government. The question as to the jurisdiction of courts-martial in such cases has been raised in the court and it is insisted that the civil authorities have some jurisdiction of the persons in such offenses. Please instruct what course to pursue. A court martial will be much more effective in ferreting out the offenders. Please answer at as early a moment as possible as it is very desirable to put these matters through rapidly. Writs of habeas corpus have been and will be issued.
R. F. LOONEY,
Colonel and President of Court.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: Let not one of these treacherous murderers escape.
RICHMOND, November 30, 1861.
Colonel R. F. LOONEY, Knoxville:
Courts of justice have no power to take prisoners of war out of the hands of the military nor to interfere with the disposal of such prisoners by the military. An answer to a writ of habeas corpus that the prisoner was captured in arms against the Government and is held as a prisoner of war is a good and complete answer to the writ. Send this dispatch to General Carroll and let him send at once all the prisoners to jail at Tuscaloosa as prisoners of war except those found guilty of bridge burning and murdering the guards placed at the bridges. Let not one of these treacherous murderers escape.
J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: The importance of dealing justly and generously with the Union element
EXCHANGE HOTEL, Richmond, Va.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
MY DEAR SIR: The object of the interview which I sought on yesterday and which was so readily accorded to me by the President [Jefferson Davis] and yourself in reference to affairs in East Tennessee was to impress your minds with the importance of dealing justly and generously with the Union element of that section as the best means of securing their affections and loyalty to this [Confederate] Government. The causes which have induced such obstinate adhesion to the Federal Government on the part of so many were frankly stated in our conversation. Until they are made to feel that they will be recognized as citizens entitled to the same consideration and protection vouchsafed to those entertaining opposite views they will not yield a willing allegiance or active and efficient support to the Confederate Government.
Whilst the Government therefore with a steady purpose inflicts just punishment on actual offenders by due course of law it is essential that the Union men should be made to feel that they in common with the adherents of this Government are the object of solicitude on the part of this Government and that they will be protected against arrests for opinion merely and against lawless exactions and unauthorized impressment of their private property by the soldiery stationed among them. This can be most successfully done by placing the civil and military power of that department in the hands of discreet men with enlarged, liberal and just views who are capable of rising above the influence and demands of local combinations and cliques, with instructions to proceed at once and discharge such prisoners as are now held without sufficient cause (for in my opinion there are quite a number of this character) and to redress the wrongs of citizens whose property has been seized or improperly taken from them by the soldiery.
This policy will tend to repress violence and conciliate favor. By degrees their strong and deeply-seated hostility to this Government can be overcome. Followed by proper efforts they can be induced to volunteer for active service and so strongly committed and identified with the South as to render them useful and effective in achieving our independence and preventing the possibility of civil war in the event a Federal force should be able to force its way into East Tennessee. If there is no good reason of public policy to the contrary I would be pleased to carry back a passport for Brownlow to leave the country as well as a copy of the instructions under which the military and civil authorities are required to act, because it is believed that if the spirit of the Government as manifested by its executive officer was better understood by the people of East Tennessee it would exert a salutary influence and remove some of the apprehensions which are now driving them to desperation and to violence. It is my purpose to leave in the morning and with your permission I will call at 2 o’clock to learn your pleasure in the premises.
JNO. [JOHN] BAXTER.
John Baxter is an attorney in Knoxville and a delegate to the East Tennessee Convention. He takes the Oath of Allegiance to the Confederacy in order to provide legal defense for Unionists who have been charged in Confederate courts. The letter above shows his loyalty to the Confederacy. Baxter defended several members of the bridge-burning conspiracy. By mid-1862, he once again supports the Union.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: Confederate Proclamation to the people of East Tennessee
HDQRS., Greeneville, East Tenn.
TO THE CITIZENS OF EAST TENNESSEE:
So long as the question of Union or disunion was debatable so long as you did well to debate it and vote on it, you had a clear right to vote for the Union but when secession was established by the voice of the people you did ill to distract the country by angry words and insurrectionary tumult. In doing this you commit the highest crime known to the laws. Out of the Southern Confederacy no people possess such elements of prosperity and happiness as those of East Tennessee. The Southern market which you have hitherto enjoyed only in competition with a host of eager Northern rivals will now be shared with a few States of the Confederacy equally fortunate politically and geographically. Every product of your agriculture and workshops will now find a prompt sale at high prices and so long as cotton grows on Confederate soil so long will the money which it brings flow from the South through all your channels of trade.
At this moment you might be at war with the United States or any foreign nation and yet not suffer a tenth part of the evils which pursue you in this domestic strife. No man’s life or property is safe, no woman or child can sleep in quiet. You are deluded by selfish demagogues who take care for their own personal safety. You are citizens of Tennessee and your State one of the Confederate States.
So long as you are up in arms against these States can you look for anything but the invasion of your homes and the wasting of your substance. This condition of things must be ended. The Government commands the peace and sends troops to enforce the order. I proclaim that every man who comes in promptly and delivers up his arms will be pardoned on taking the oath of allegiance. All men taken in arms against the Government will be transported to the military prison at Tuscaloosa and be confined there during the war.
Bridge-burners and destroyers of railroad tracks are excepted from among those pardonable.
D. LEADBETTER, Col., Cmdg.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: East Tennessee men take the oath
Twenty-one of the prisoners lately brought here—Nashville—from East Tennessee, yesterday appeared in the Confederate Court, acknowledged the error of their ways, took the oath of loyalty to the Southern Confederacy, and attached themselves to a company being raised in Nashville.
~ Nashville Daily Gazette
<EXECUTIONS OF NORTHEAST TENNESSEE BRIDGE BURNERS>
30 NOVEMBER 1861: Executed the same day by hanging
[Written 8 December 1861]
HDQRS., Greenville, Tenn.
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen.
SIR: At the date of my last letter [30 NOVEMBER 1861] a part of the force under my command was engaged in the pursuit of a party of insurgents moving from their camp, in the northern part of Greene, towards Cocke County. As usual, their force was dispersed and only some stragglers could be picked up. Among these prisoners were three who had been of the party that burned the Lick Creek Bridge.
They were Henry Fry, Jacob M. Hinshaw, and Hugh A. Self. All confessed their own and testified to the others’ guilt, and also gave, as correctly as they could remember, the names of the whole party engaged in that crime. Fry and Hinshaw were tried by drumhead court-martial on the 30th ultimo and executed the same day by hanging. I have thought it my duty to ask of the Department that the punishment of Hugh A. Self be commuted to imprisonment. He is only sixteen years old, not very intelligent, and was led away on that occasion by his father and elder brother, both of whom I learn have now been captured by Gen. Carroll’s troops. …
At the farm houses along the more open valleys no men were to be seen, and it is believed that nearly the whole male population of the country were lurking in the hills on account of disaffection of fear. The women in some cases were greatly alarmed, throwing themselves on the ground and wailing like savages. Indeed, the population is savage. …
The whole country is given to understand that this course will be pursued until quiet shall be restored to these distracted counties, and they can rely upon it that no prisoner will be pardoned so long as any Union men shall remain in arms. … It is believed that we are making progress towards pacification. The Union men are taking the oath in pretty large numbers and arms are beginning to be brought in. Capt. McClellan, of the Tennessee cavalry, stationed by me at Elizabethton, reports that Carter County is becoming very quiet, and that, with the aid of a company of infantry, he will enter Johnson County and disarm the people there. I shall send the company without delay.
The execution of the bridge burners is producing the happiest effect. This, coupled with great kindness towards the inhabitants generally, inclines them to quietude. Insurgents will continue for yet a while in the mountains, but I trust that we have secured the outward obedience of the people.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. LEADBETTER, Col., Cmdg.
Execution of Henry Fry and Jacob Madison Hinshaw
From Parson Brownlow’s book, Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession with a Narrative of Personal Adventures Among the Rebels
30 NOVEMBER 1861: Hanging of Fry and Hinshaw
Henry Fry and Jacob Madison Hinshaw are hanged from a tree near the railroad station at Greeneville on 30 November 1861 for the role they played in the burning of the Lick Creek Bridge. Fry’s 17-year-old son watches the execution. According to family lore, Henry Fry was told at the hanging that he would be spared if he would pledge allegiance to the Confederacy. His last words are said to have been: “When there ceases to be fleas in a hog pen and rebels in hell is when I will pledge allegiance to the Confederacy.”
Henry Fry left his wife and five children, and Jacob Madison Hinshaw left a wife and a young son less than two years old.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: Henry Fry and Jacob Madison Hinshaw
A correspondent of the Richmond Examiner writes from Greeneville, Tenn., the particulars of the hanging of two of the bridge-burners of East Tennessee by the Confederates:
The two culprits were not aware of their doom until a few moments before the hour, (4 o’clock p.m.) and, short as the time was, they busied themselves in speaking, on oath, their full confession of guilt before the court-martial. FRY confessed that he poured the turpentine on the bridge, and afterwards set fire to this combustible material; carried the sentinel off some half mile, and made him swear never to reveal the names of the offenders. They came in sight of the gallows—a temporary affair erected on the hill-side, in full view of the town—and a large oak limb was substituted as the cross-beam for this novel engine of death, and a shudder passed over them which was perceptible to all. They then knew that in a few moments they must die the death of a felon.
The whole battalion under arms was drawn up around the ground, and the ropes were adjusted by Corporal MCVAY, of our company. The caps were drawn over their pale faces, the ladder was taken from the tree; the stillness of death pervaded the whole throng; the minute-hand was within a few seconds of 4 o’clock; the watch still went tick, tick; their knees shook visibly; the whole frame was ready to give way to nature’s spirit. Hark, it is 4 o’clock! The trigger is touched, and lo! dangling at the rope’s end, between heaven and earth, are seen two strangling human beings! The struggles of one were short; the other seemed a little loath to give up the spirit from his tenement of clay, but in a few short moments they were both dead.
Fry and Hinshaw were hanged near the Greeneville Railroad Depot, seen here.
Dave Ross Photography
2 DECEMBER 1861: Crittenden arrives at Knoxville to command in East Tennessee
MINI BIO: George B. Crittenden
George Crittenden’s father was a U.S. Senator from Kentucky. George attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1832 in the middle of his class. His father and brother sided with the North, but George’s loyalty lay with the South. During the secession crisis of early 1861, George accepted a commission as colonel in the Confederate States Army. Confederate officials commissioned him as a brigadier general in the Provisional Confederate Army on August 15, 1861.
Crittenden accepted a promotion to major general on 9 November 1861 when he replaced Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer as commander of the District of East Tennessee, headquartered in Knoxville. Maj. Gen. George Crittenden arrived at Knoxville on 2 December 1861 to take command of the Confederate forces in East Tennessee and Southern Kentucky.
On 19 January 1862, USA Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas defeated Confederate forces under Crittenden and Zollicoffer at the Battle of Mill Springs, breaking the Confederate hold on eastern Kentucky. Zollicoffer was killed in action in that battle.
Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee had Crittenden arrested on 1 April 1862 on charges of drunkenness; he was restored to command on 18 April 1862. General Braxton Bragg ordered a court of inquiry in July, and busted Crittenden down to the rank of colonel in October 1862. To his credit, Crittenden served the Confederacy in the Trans-Allegheny Department during the next two years.
2 DECEMBER 1861: President of ET&VA protests disruption of his railroad’s schedule
MORRISTOWN, December 2, 1861.
J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
I must inform you that in several instances the military authorities who are in command of troops and volunteers along the line of our [rail]road have taken possession of our road and trains and forced our engines and cars out of the face of regular schedules. This I will not submit to. I have been doing all any man can do to promote the interests of the Government and favor the speedy transportation of troops and army stores along our line. If this course is persisted in by the military authorities any more, I shall on my part stop all of our engines and cars immediately, and then if the Government wishes to take possession of our road and control it, I shall not object in any way whatever. I think it is my duty to inform you of the facts. If we are permitted to manage and control our road, I think I can do so better than any other parties. Please answer.
JOHN R. BRANNER,
President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.
3 DECEMBER 1861: I must still urge the occupation of East Tennessee
WASHINGTON, December 3, 1861.
Brigadier General D. C. BUELL, Louisville.
MY DEAR BUELL:
Please send then with the least possible delay troops enough to protect these men. I still feel sure that the best strategical move in this case will be that dictated by the simple feelings of humanity. We must preserve these noble fellows from harm; everything urges us to do that—faith, interest and loyalty. For the sake of these East Tennesseans who have taken part with us I would gladly sacrifice mere military advantages; they deserve our protection and at all hazards they must have it. I know that your nature is noble enough to forget any slurs they may cast upon you. Protect the true men and you have everything to look forward to. In no event allow them to be crushed out. You may fully rely on my full support in the movement I have so much at heart—the liberation of East Tennessee.
Write to me often fully and confidentially. If you gain and retain possession of East Tennessee you will have won brighter laurels than any I hope to gain.
With the utmost confidence and firmest friendship, I am, truly, yours,
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Major-General, Commanding U. S. Army.
4 DECEMBER 1861: Lick Creek bridge repair
The Lick Creek bridge is so far repaired that it can be crossed by the cars to-morrow or Monday. The repairs have been made of a temporary trestle-work, which will answer every purpose. The upper Holston bridge is in progress of repair, but will not be ready for five or six weeks, we presume.
~ Richmond Dispatch.
Modern-day view of Lick Creek Bridge
4 DECEMBER 1861: Railroad officials threaten to cease railroad traffic in East Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, EAST TENN., Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN Secretary of War, Richmond
DEAR SIR: With great respect for you individually, and an earnest desire to serve the Confederate States to the extent of our ability with our lives and our property, we notify you that unless certain unbearable evils are at once corrected we shall cease to run any trains on the roads of which we are the presidents on and after the 15th instant. We are forced to this position from considerations entirely unavoidable on our part. The military, influenced by no more patriotism than ourselves, have for days past, and without the least necessity for so doing taken possession of the running of our trains, ordering them out in the face of incoming trains, thereby endangering the lives of all on board and hazarding the property of individuals and the company. Moreover, the Quartermaster-Gen. has assumed to dictate tariffs for Government freights at such ruinous rates as will in a short time break down every railroad company in the south. Without boring you with a detail of the multitude of good and sufficient reasons for the course we adopt, we will just say that while we are held responsible for the lives and property in our charge in the management of these roads, the movements of the trains and the control of the finances of the company are ordered by men incompetent, irresponsible, and reckless-maybe very good military men, but certainly very bad railroad managers. We are unwilling longer to assume such responsibilities or to sacrifice whatever reputation we may have by continuing identified with roads so controlled. For eight months now we have labored night and day (with the halter of the Lincolnites around our necks and our lives and property in jeopardy) as good, true, and loyal citizens for the Confederate States, and do not consider that we are any the less loyal now in placing these responsibilities in your hands. The burnt bridges are in a very forward state of rebuilding, and will give others you may send here to take our places but little trouble to complete. We also advise you to send here good engine runners and machinists. Our men cannot be kept here much longer in present condition of things, feeling that their lives are constantly in the hands of an inconsiderate and reckless soldiery.
C. WALLACE, President East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad Company.
JNO. [JOHN] R. BRANNER, President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Company.
4 DECEMBER 1861: Scott County Confederate prisoners-of-war
CAMP CALVERT, KY., December 4, 1861.
Brig. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS, Cmdg., &c., Lebanon, Ky.
GEN.: We have some rebels in camp from Scott County, East Tenn. They were brought in yesterday by some Tennesseans and Kentuckians. They have been noted for the bitterness of their enmity to the union cause and the unrelenting manner in which they have persecuted loyal men. Four of them are said to be members of a rebel company of rangers one of whom is a sergeant.
What shall be done with them?
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. P. CARTER, Acting Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
5 DECEMBER 1861: Tories have made a stand.
KNOXVILLE, December 5, 1861.
Hon. SECRETARY OF WAR:
The following dispatch received this morning dated from Bird’s Point: Capt. Cocke just in with two bridge burners and other prisoners. Have no news from Col. Leadbetter. Col. Powel reports by special messenger that he has seen no gathering. Will hold his position. Will throw my forces over the river in the morning and report.
Dispatch from Morristown says courier in from [Capt.] Monsarrat.
Cannonading and musketry at 8 o’clock. Tories have made a stand.
WM. H. Carroll,
Brig.-Gen., C. S. Army.
7 DECEMBER 1861: Captured thirty ringleaders
KNOXVILLE, December 7, 1861.
Hon. SECRETARY OF WAR:
Capt. Monsarrat has dispersed the Tories in Cocke County and captured thirty of the ringleaders.
WM. H. Carroll, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
7 DECEMBER 1861: Our people are pursued as beasts of the forest
WASHINGTON, December 7, 1861.
General D. C. BUELL:
We have just had interviews with the President and General McClellan and find they concur fully with us in respect to the East Tennessee expedition. Our people are oppressed and pursued as beasts of the forest. The Government must come to their relief. We are looking to you with anxious solicitude to move in that direction.
8 DECEMBER 1861: Rescuing our loyal friends
Honorable Mr. MAYNARD and Governor JOHNSON of Tennessee:
I have received your dispatch. I assure you I recognize no more imperative duty and crave no higher honor than that of rescuing our loyal friends in Tennessee whose sufferings and heroism I think I can appreciate. I have seen Colonel Carter and hope he is satisfied of this.
D. C. BUELL,
I hope you aren’t getting too sick of reading these messages to General Don Carlos Buell. I find it hard to believe the assurances he gave to his superiors and others—while he sat on his behind in Louisville.
8 DECEMBER 1861: I should be ashamed to look them in the face
WASHINGTON, December 8, 1861.
General GEORGE H. THOMAS.
GENERAL: You are still farther from East Tennessee than when I left you nearly six weeks ago. There is shameful wrong somewhere; I have not yet satisfied myself where. That movement so far has been disgraceful to the country and to all concerned. I feel a sense of personal degradation from my own connection with it greater than from any other part of my public actions. My heart bleeds for these Tennessee troops. I learn they have not yet been paid and are left without either cavalry or artillery at London [Kentucky] and not permitted to do what is their daily longing—go to the relief of their friends at home. With Nelson and the measles and blue grass and nakedness and hunger and poverty and home-sickness the poor fellows have had a bitter experience since they left their homes to serve a Government which as yet has hardly given them a word of kindly recognition. The soldiers of all the other States have a home government to look after them. These have not and but for Carter who has been like a father to them they would have suffered still more severely. That they at times get discouraged and out of heart I do not wonder. My assurances to them have failed so often that I should be ashamed to look them in the face.
With renewed assurance of confidence and sympathy,
I am very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Pottertown Bridge Burners: Unionists Pay the Ultimate Price
When Tennessee left the Union in June 1861, Greene County was a hotbed of divided loyalties. Several Unionists, who crafted multi-colored earthenware pottery which is still highly valued, were among the occupants of the nearby community named “Pottertown.” That autumn, celebrated antebellum potter Christopher Alexander Haun conspired with other residents to cripple the Confederate-controlled rail system by burning railroad bridges. The Rev. William Blount Carter, a local minister and Unionist, devised the plan. President Abraham Lincoln approved and promised Federal forces would protect the bridge burners’ families.
Capt. David Fry, Co. F, 2nd Tennessee Infantry (U.S.) came from Kentucky with orders to burn the bridges. With his help, Carter finalized the plan to burn all major railroad bridges in East Tennessee in one night. On November 8, 1861, local Unionists arrived at the home of Jacob Harmon, Jr, another local potter, and were sworn into Fry’s command.
About sixty men then went to the Lick Creek railroad bridge, where they captured Confederate pickets. After burning the bridge, they released the Confederates, a decision they soon regretted. Although the president had promised military protection, Confederates later captured several men associated with the bridge burning and hanged Haun, Henry Fry, Jacob Harmon Jr., Henry Harmon and Matt Hinshaw. Confederate President Jefferson Davis commuted Harrison Self’s sentence.
The Harmons are buried here in the family cemetery. Haun’s pottery kiln stood a few hundred feet up Pottertown Road to the right, and the Bridge-Burner Memorial marker and flagpole are on the left.
“I am very glad to hear of the action of the military authorities and hope to hear they have hung every bridge-burner at the end of the burned bridge.” —Confederated Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin
Jar made by Christopher A. Haun —Courtesy Donahue Bible Collection, Mohawk, Tenn.
Capt. David Fry (left) and Sgt. John McCoy —Courtesy Donahue Bible Collection, Mohawk, Tenn.
“Execution of Jacob Harmon and His Son, Henry,” from Parson Brownlow’s Book (1862)
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
Marker is in Mosheim, Tennessee, in Greene County.
Marker can be reached from the intersection of Pottertown Road and Gravel Woods Road.
10 DECEMBER 1861: I have no fear of their being crushed
LOUISVILLE, KY., December 10, 1861
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,
Commanding U. S. Army.
MY DEAR FRIEND: As I informed you by telegraph I received your letters of the 3rd and 5th. I have by no means been unmindful of your wishes in regard to East Tennessee and I think I can both appreciate and unite in your sympathy for a people who have shown so much constancy. That constancy will still sustain them until the hour of deliverance. I have no fear of their being crushed. The allegiance of such people to hated rulers even if it could be enforced for the moment will only make them the more determined and ready to resist when the hour of rescue comes. The organization of the division at Lebanon has been with special reference to the object which you have so much at heart though fortunately it is one which suits any contingencies that can arise. I shall hasten its preparation with all the energy and industry I can bring to bear. The plans which I have in view embrace that fully.
D. C. BUELL.
Captain David Fry, on the left
10 DECEMBER 1861: Hang every bridge burner you can catch
RICHMOND, December 10, 1861.
General W. H. CARROLL, Knoxville:
Execute the sentence of your court-martial on the bridge burners. The law does not require any approval by the President, but he entirely approves my order to hang every bridge-burner you can catch and convict.
J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War
10 DECEMBER 1861: Alex Haun condemned to death in Knoxville
KNOXVILLE, December 10, 1861
Hon. SECRETARY OF WAR J. P. BENJAMIN:
The court-martial has sentenced C. A. [Christopher Alexander] Alex Haun, bridge-burner, to be hanged. Sentence approved. Ordered to be executed at 12 o’clock to-morrow.
WM. H. CARROLL, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
11 DECEMBER 1861: Execution of a bridge burner in Knoxville
Bridge Burner [Alex Haun] to be Hanged.
One of the bridge-burners, convicted by the Court Marshal, now in session here, will be hanged today near Camp Sneed, on the railroad, just west of the Marble Works. Considerable curiosity was manifested by the public yesterday at the sight of the gallows which was being erected. A number of people visited the place in the afternoon, under the impression that the execution would take place yesterday.
~ Knoxville Register
11 DECEMBER 1861: Alex Haun executed by hanging
HDQRS. RIFLE BRIGADE, Knoxville.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
SIR: In pursuance of your instructions by telegraph of yesterday, the sentence of death pronounced by court-martial upon C. A. Haun, the bridge-burner, was executed by hanging at 12 o’clock to-day. The court-martial is still in session engaged in the trial of a number of others charged with complicity in the same crime. …
The traitorous conspiracy recently so extensive and formidable in East Tennessee is I think well nigh broken up as there is at present but little or no indication of another outbreak. I have small detachments of my force out in every direction suppressing any rebellious spirit that may be manifested and arresting those who are known to have been in arms against the Government. I am daily receiving the most encouraging evidences that the people are beginning to return to a sense of duty and patriotism as many of those who were heretofore unfriendly toward us are coming forward and giving every assurance of future fealty.
I have the honor to be, yours respectfully,
WM. H. CARROLL, Brig.-Gen.
11 DECEMBER 1861: Carroll declares martial law
PROCLAMATION. HDQRS. RIFLE BRIGADE,
Knoxville, Tenn., December 11, 1861.
The exigencies of the time requiring as is believed the adoption of the sternest measures of military policy the commanding general feels called upon to suspend for a time the functions of the civil tribunals. … Now therefore be it known that I, William H. Carroll, brigadier-general in the Confederate Army and commander of the post at Knoxville, do hereby proclaim martial law to exist in the city of Knoxville and the surrounding country to the distance of one mile from the corporate limits of said city.
By order of Brig. Gen. William H. Carroll:
H. C. YOUNG, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.
11 DECEMBER 1861: No honest man can endorse what these East Tennessee fools have done
Letter from John F. Hays to Mrs. Benj.
Cleveland, Tenn., Dec. 11, 1861
Dear Mrs. Benj:
My family are all well and getting along in the same old way. … Elizabeth sends her love to you and says she would like to see you very much. Since the [Confederate] Military Authority have taken charge of East Tennessee they have arrested a great many men, and from appearances are not near done yet. Day before yesterday about twenty left for Tuscaloosa, Ala., to be held as prisoners of war until peace is made … They had no trial, but were arrested as prisoners of war and taken off. They are liable to be exchanged for Southern prisoners in the North, but we can’t think such will be the [case].
I have been told several times that I do not believe I am to be arrested, because as I understand, nobody but such as burned the bridges, took up arms or encouraged the taking up of arms against the Confederate States are to be arrested, and make some false statement against me to the military commanders I shall not be lugged into this thing. I am innocent to any charges against me concerning this bridge burning rebellion. I have been a Union man, but not such as that, and no honest man can endorse what these East Tennessee fools have done. I am sorry for the ignorant who have been duped into it.
Give my respect to the Judge and all his family,
John F. Hayes
[I don’t know either of these people, but the letter is priceless.]
13 DECEMBER 1861: Predatory bands in Northeast Tennessee counties
Knoxville, Tenn., December 13, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
SIR: Your order to me of the 10th instant to join General Zollicoffer immediately with all my armed force reached me last night. I immediately set about making the necessary arrangements to carry the same into effect as indeed I had been doing for some days previous under instructions from General Zollicoffer himself. A portion if not all of my command would now have been on the march for General Zollicoffer’s present position but for the unsettled condition of affairs in East Tennessee … The indications of an extensive outbreak in East Tennessee at that time were so alarming that I deemed it unsafe to move my command through that country wholly unarmed. I therefore made application in every direction for guns of any description to serve me until my own should be ready for use. …
When I reached here I found a general feeling of alarm and uneasiness prevailing throughout the surrounding country. Information every day reached me from all points that recreant [cowardly] Tennesseans with a few miscreants [villains] from other States were organizing themselves into predatory bands in the counties of Blount, Sevier, Cocke, Hancock, Scott, Campbell and other counties bordering on the North Carolina and Kentucky line. I immediately sent out scouting parties of cavalry together with such small detachments of infantry as I could arm to protect and assist the loyal citizens of these counties in driving these base ingrates from their midst.
These various parties have succeeded in arresting many of the rebellious and disaffected and bringing them to this place for trial. Out of the number thus arrested I have sent and will send about 100 as prisoners of war to Tuscaloosa. I have for some days past been receiving information from sources entitled to much credit that a considerable force of the enemy were threatening a descent from the Kentucky border upon the counties of Campbell and Scott by way of a small pass in the mountains above Cumberland Gap.
I have the honor to be, yours, respectfully,
WM. H. CARROLL,
15 DECEMBER 1861: A Change of Sentiment in East Tennessee
A correspondent of the Knoxville Register, writing from Bradley County under date of the 11th inst. informs that paper that since the Message of Lincoln [?] has reached that county, Scarcely a Union man can be found—all declare themselves for the South. One or two hundred of them have joined the Southern army in the last forty eight hours. There is a much better feeling than has ever prevailed in the community before. The people say they have been misled by their leaders in regard to the policy of the Northern government. … Bradley county is going to furnish a regiment for the Confederate army. Dr. Thompson will go into the regiment, and many more prominent Union men … have declared themselves strongly for the South. Wm. Hancock, formerly a Union man, is now raising a company for the Bradley Regiment. The other companies in progress are Capt. W. H. Camp’s (a Southern Rights man.) Capt. Frank Triplett’s (late Union,) and Joe Perrine’s (late Union). Our correspondent’s account of the good work says the Register that is going on in Bradley will carry joy to every true Southern heart in the State. May we not hope to hear similar accounts from every county in East Tennessee. God grant that we may yet be a band of brothers in defense of rights against the encroachments of Northern despotism and abolition fanaticism.
~ Nashville Daily Gazette
17 DECEMBER 1861: Testimony of the Confederate Guards at Lick Creek Bridge Burning
ISAAC N. HACKER, corporal in Captain M. Live’s company cavalry, C. S. Army, aged about twenty-four years, a witness in behalf of the Confederate States was sworn and testified as follows:
On the night the Lick Creek bridge of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad was burned in the early part of November 1861, I with six others was detailed from Captain M. Live’s company as guard at said bridge. Between 2 and 3 o’clock whilst five of us were in a tent near the bridge we were surrounded by a band of from forty to sixty men armed the most part of them with guns who, we in the tents being almost wholly unarmed, took us prisoners. The band was led by a man who called himself [Colonel] Captain Fry.
After taking us prisoners they placed a guard around us in the tent and all but the guard went to the bridge and in less than five minutes the bridge was in flames. After the bridge was burned the band or a large part of them came to the tent, gave us of the guard our choice either to take an oath not to take up arms against the Government or to die right then and there, to be killed immediately. We took the oath. They took the names of the guards down. During the time Fry cursed and abused us of the guard; he said, “That night three months ago you men or men of your sentiments ran me from Greene County, but now I have you under my thumb and will do with you as I please.” He also said he had within the past week been all over the railroad from Chattanooga to Bristol, and that all the bridges between these places would be burned that night; that Jeff Davis and South Carolina had had possession of it long enough; that they were now going to take it and use it themselves.
They represented that they had a whole regiment besides cavalry near at hand. Some one of the crowd said the damned wire was done telling on them now. A telegraph wire runs along the line of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. Some one of attacking party asked, “Where is Henry Harmon’s gun.” Some one else of the party replied, “I’ve got it.”
JOHN W. McDANIELS, witness on behalf of the Confederate States, aged nineteen years, sworn and testified as follows:
On the evening preceding the night on which the Lick Creek bridge was burned I was pulling corn in a field. Jacob Harmon and Jonathan Morgan came to the side of the field next to the public road when Harmon said he wanted us to come to his house that night and bring our arms. I told him I had no arms. He said he wanted me to come anyhow. Said he had seen Colonel Fry from Kentucky and that they were to burn the bridge that night. I went to Jacob Harmon’s house that night in company with James McDaniels, Hugh A. Self, Andrew Self, Cannon Hann and Harrison McDaniels, all of whom are young men unmarried but Cannon Hann. We got to Harmon’s at about 9 o’clock, the time appointed by Harmon. I saw there on that night (in addition to those who went there with me as above stated), viz, Henderson Lady, John Lady, William Housewright, Jacob Myers, Jonathan Morgan, Harrison Self(the present defendant), Alex [Hann] Haun, Arthur Hann, Henry Wampler, Matt. Hincher, William Hincher (drinking), Thomas Harmon, Henry Harmon and Jacob Harmon. David Fry he was there when I got there. Defendant came there after I got there.
There were several present whose names I did not know. We staid till about 12 at night. David Fry administered an oath. I think he administered it to nearly all who were there. Oath was taken by putting hand on a U. S. flag; swore to support the Stars and Stripes and not to reveal anything of what was done that night and to do anything pressed upon us that night to do. Harrison Self, I think, was in the room when some of them took the oath. I think he himself took the oath. After the oath was administered to the party the party went to Lick Creek bridge, took the guard in tents prisoners and then they burned the bridge. Crowd then dispersed. Harrison Self went with the party from Harmon’s to the bridge. I saw him between the bridge and Harmon’s after the bridge was burned. Harmon I first referred to when I was in the field passed up toward the house of the defendant. I think Harrison Self’s gun was there that night. Do not remember to have seen it in his house.”
THOMAS HARMON [son of Jacob Harmon also testified], witness on behalf of the Confederate States, sworn and testified as follows:
On the day preceding the night on which the Lick Creek bridge was burned Daniel Smith came to my father’s house. My father was not present. Smith said that he had particular business with my father, Jacob Harmon. Said that Fry was to be there that night at my father’s and he was going to tear up the railroad. Said Fry wanted father to come over to his (Daniel Smith’s) house; the [rail]road was to be torn up that night. Father came back and I told him what Smith had said. Father went in the direction of Smith’s. Said he was going there. I was slightly acquainted with Daniel Smith; have seen him since in the jail in Knoxville.
That night at about 8 o’clock a crowd commenced assembling at my father’s house. There came the following persons, to wit, John McDaniels, Harrison Self (the defendant)—he came in late—Andrew Self, Hugh Self, James McDaniels, Cannon Hann, Arthur Hann, Matt. Hincher, Henry Fry, Jacob Myers, William Willoughby, Granville Willoughby, Lazarus Rednens, another Rednens whose Christian name I do not know, James Guthrie, Elijah Willoughby and several others who were strangers to me. Jonathan Morgan was there; my father was there.
ALEXANDER LOWE, first witness for defense, private in Captain Fry’s company, C. S. Army, who being first sworn testified as follows:
I resided on the defendant’s farm at the time the Lick Creek bridge was burned in Greene County, Tenn. Before the burning of the bridge on the evening previous to its being burned defendant said it was a bad thing to burn the bridge. On the evening before the burning of the bridge Jacob Harmon came by the field where I was pulling corn with John McDaniels and told us to come down to his house that night; that the bridge was to be burned that night. In the evening in question I went past the house of the defendant. Saw him; asked him if anything had been said to him about the bridge-burning; told him what had been told me. Defendant said he had heard about the same thing. Defendant said it was a bad thing. I asked defendant if he was going. Said he did not know whether he was going down to Harmon’s or not. He did not as I recollect say to me for me to stay at home and that he would go down to Harmon’s and prevent it.
Something was said about my wife being sick but nothing about his going down for the purpose of preventing it that I now recollect. Defendant lives about three or four miles from the bridge. He said he thought it was a bad thing. Don’t know that he said it ought or ought not to be done. I was not at his house. I passed on by. Saw him at the hog-pen. Went on home. Saw him about dark. Defendant has been strong Union man. Not been a fool about it. Never acted harshly or made any threats to my knowledge. Not hostile to soldiers of Confederate States. Sold them supplies once-some salt. Never heard of his refusing to sell supplies. He lives a little over one mile from Jacob Harmon’s. He said it was a bad thing. Those are the only words of condemnation of the bridge-burning that I recollect of his using. I was not giving the conversation particular attention. I did not think the thing would be done at all.
I have taken this testimony of the Confederate soldiers who guarded the Lick Creek Bridge from the court-martial of Harrison Self on 16 December 1861. It gives us a general idea of what happened that night.
17 DECEMBER 1861: Court-martial and execution of Jacob and Henry Harmon
In the autumn of 1861 Jacob Harmon Jr. and his son Henry joined their Unionist neighbors in a daring plan to stop the flow of Confederate soldiers and supplies through East Tennessee. They would accomplish this by burning the wooden trestles that held up the railroad bridges on the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad. On 7 November, Jacob Harmon visited neighbors who were Union supporters and asked for their assistance.
On the evening of 8 November 1861, dozens of men gathered at Harmon’s house, where they took an oath of secrecy. After midnight, they traveled to the edge of Harmon’s farm where the railroad bridge crossed Lick Creek. There they found several Confederate guards camping under the bridge and arrested them. After destroying the bridge, the Unionists released the guards.
The burning of the railway bridge caused great alarm among Confederate authorities; they sent more troops into East Tennessee to guard the railroad bridges. Hundreds of Unionists were arrested for the crime of treason for bridge burning or taking up arms against the Confederate government.
Col. W.B. Wood, in command at Knoxville, received these orders from CSA Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin: “All such as can be identified as having been engaged in bridge burning are to be tried summarily by drumhead court-martial and executed on the spot by hanging. All such as have not been so engaged are to be treated as prisoners of war and sent with an armed guard to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and held in jail there until the end of the war. Such as come in voluntarily, take the oath of allegiance, and surrender their arms, are alone to be treated with leniency.”
War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Civil War has no entries for the trial of Jacob and Henry Harmon. We only know that they were tried, sentenced, and hanged on the same day, 17 December 1861. Jacob Harmon’s son Thomas died later in the Knoxville jail.
Execution of Jacob Harmon and his son Henry.
19 DECEMBER 1861: Description of the situation in East Tennessee in the autumn of 1861 [Wow!]
HDQRS. CARROLL’S BRIGADE,
Knoxville, Tenn., December 19, 1861.
Hon. D. M. CURRIN, Richmond, Va.
[David Maney Currin, Sr.(1817-1864) was a Tennessee attorney and politician who served in the Confederate States Congress during the American Civil War.]
DEAR SIR: I regret to trouble you with this communication, but feel myself called upon to do so by a sense of duty both to the Confederate Government and to the people of East Tennessee. It might, perhaps, have been more properly done by some one higher in authority than myself. At the [instance] insistence, however, of a number of leading citizens, together with many officers of the Army, I have concluded to undertake the task of laying truthfully before some one connected with the administration of the Government a fair and truthful statement of the present unhappy condition of affairs in this portion of the State, believing as I do that when laid properly before the heads of the Government it will induce a thorough and most salutary change in the policy now being pursued in reference to that deluded portion of our people who have heretofore been unfriendly to the present revolution. There are some very important facts connected with the recent political history of East Tennessee which apparently have not yet come to the knowledge of the Government or have been entirely overlooked, while others of less importance have been greatly exaggerated. To these I beg to call your attention.
In the beginning of the present contest between the North and South the attitude assumed by East Tennessee was a very doubtful one, and it was deemed best by those fully acquainted with the temper and sentiment of the people to pursue a conciliatory policy towards them. Mr. Davis himself, I believe, adopted this view of the case, and for a time pursued the mild course thus indicated. The result was a very great change in the public mind …
In September  Maj.-Gen. Polk sent Gen. W. H. Carroll here for to endeavor to bring the people over to the support of the Confederate Government and to enlist one or more regiments for the Army. Gen. Carroll succeeded beyond his expectations, raising and organizing in a very short time a full regiment … now we have in all nearly 10,000 effective soldiers in the field that in June were almost unanimous in opposition to us. This gratifying result I am satisfied is attributable almost entirely to the liberal and conciliatory policy … There were still left a few leading miscreants [villains] and a handful of ignorant and deluded followers, who were wicked enough for the commission of any crime, however detestable. By these, and these alone, were the bridges burned, … while the mass of the people were entirely ignorant of their designs … The numbers engaged in these outrages have been greatly overestimated, as facts have been developed in the investigations that have been made by the court-martial now in session at this place [Knoxville], which satisfy me that there were not, at the time the bridges were burned, 500 men in all East Tennessee who knew anything of it. …
After the bridge burnings, Col. Leadbetter and Vance CSA moved their commands into that portion of the State bordering on the Virginia and Kentucky line, while Gen. Carroll and Col. Wood moved from the west in the direction of Chattanooga and Knoxville. Scouting parties were sent out in every direction, who arrested hundreds suspected of disloyalty, and incarcerated them in prison, until almost every jail in the eastern end of the State was filled with poor, ignorant, and for the most part harmless men, who have been guilty of no crime save that of lending a too credulous ear to the corrupt demagogues [Unionist leaders] whose counsels have led them astray. Among those thus captured were a number of bridge-burners. These latter were tried and promptly executed.
The rigorous measures adopted by CSA military commanders here struck still greater terror into those who had before been Union men, and to avoid arrest and subsequent punishment, concealed themselves, thus giving the semblance of guilt to actions innocent in fact, and entirely natural under the circumstances which surrounded them. About 400 of the poor victims of designing leaders have been sent to Tuscaloosa as prisoners of war, leaving their families in a helpless and destitute condition. The greatest distress prevails throughout the entire country [East Tennessee] in consequence of the various arrests that have been made, together with the facts that the horses and the other property of the parties that have been arrested have been seized by the soldiers, and in many cases appropriated to personal uses or wantonly destroyed.
Old political animosities and private grudges have been revived, and bad men among our friends are availing themselves of the opportunity afforded them by bringing Southern men to hunt down with the ferocity of bloodhounds all those against whom they entertain any feeling of dislike. The officers in command here have used every effort to restrain the soldiery from all acts of lawless violence. …
My position in the Army enables me to speak advisedly of these things, and I venture to say that if assurances of safety were given to those persons who have fled from their homes under apprehensions of danger they would return and be good and loyal citizens. The wretched condition of these unfortunate people appeals to the sympathy and commiseration of every humane man. … Those best acquainted with affairs here are fully impressed with the belief that if the proper course were pursued all East Tennessee could be united in support of the Confederate Government.
Strong appeals have been made from all sections to Gen. Carroll to release those now in prison here and the return of those sent to Tuscaloosa; but, under the instructions from the Secretary of War, by which he is governed, he does not feel at liberty to do so. Col. H. R. Austin visits Richmond for the purpose of impressing these views upon the President. Col. Landon C. Haynes will follow in a few days for the same purpose. I beg you to give them every assistance you can in bringing this important matter before the President and Secretary of War.
Respectfully, your friend,
H. C. YOUNG.
CSA Assistant Adjutant-General on the staff of General W. H. Carroll in Knoxville.
[I have heavily edited this document for length and readability.]
23 DECEMBER 1861: I fear that he has been captured by the rebels
HEADQUARTERS TWELFTH BRIGADE,
Somerset, December 23, 1861
Brigadier General GORGE H. THOMAS,
Commanding First Division, Lebanon, Ky.
GENERAL: Captain [David] Fry, Company F, 2nd Regiment East Tennessee Volunteers, was detailed for special service in October last by your orders and left for Tennessee in company with my brother, Rev. W.B. Carter. I fear that he has been captured by the rebels, and if not that he is so environed by them as to leave but little hope of his being able to return to his regiment. …
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. P. CARTER,
Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding Twelfth Brigade.
26 DECEMBER 1861: East Tennessee prisoners not considered safe in Tuscaloosa
RICHMOND, December 26, 1861.
General WITHERS, Mobile:
Have you the means of receiving and guarding in Mobile about 100 or 150 prisoners taken among the traitors of East Tennessee? They are not considered safe in Tuscaloosa.
J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War.
28 DECEMBER 1861: Bring back to their families all innocent men
SIR: At the request of many of our most reliable friends in East Tennessee I have come to Richmond to lay before you a faithful account of East Tennessee matters. It is the opinion of the best informed and most reliable men in East Tennessee that all the Confederate troops now employed in guarding the railroads and suppressing rebellion in East Tennessee except … might be safely sent to other points where troops are really needed, and that if proper measures were immediately adopted to bring back to their families all innocent men who have been carried or frightened away from their homes it would restore peace and a sense of security to the people and put an end to all appearances of disloyalty to the Confederate Government in East Tennessee; and I believe that the wrongs they have suffered if properly explained and promptly relieved will afford an occasion for a striking display of the justice, wisdom and power of the Confederate Government which will do more to insure the fidelity of the people of East Tennessee than all the severity of punishment advised by the violent partisans of that section who have provoked the prejudices of the people against themselves and consequently against the Government of which they were supposed to be the true exponents.
H. R. AUSTIN.
29 DECEMBER 1861: Advisable to get arms and troops into East Tennessee at a very early day
Washington, D. C., December 29, 1861
Brigadier General D. C. BUELL, Louisville:
Johnson, Maynard, &c, are again becoming frantic and have President Lincoln’s sympathy excited. Political considerations would make it advisable to get the arms and troops into East Tennessee at a very early day; you are, however, the best judge. Can you tell me about when and in what force you will be in East Tennessee? Is Schoepf competent? Do you wish any promotions made from your colonels? Better get the East Tennessee arms and clothing into position for distribution as soon as possible. I will write you fully as soon as I am well enough. Please answer by telegraph.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Major-General, U. S. Army.
31 DECEMBER 1861: Mr. President, you are murdering your country by inches
On the last day of 1861, the president [Lincoln] held a meeting with his Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Ohio senator Benjamin Wade was blunt: “Mr. President, you are murdering your country by inches in consequence of the inactivity of the military and the want of a distinct policy in regard to slavery.”
That night, Attorney General Edward Bates wrote in his diary: “The Prest. is an excellent man, and in the main, wise; but he lacks will and purpose, and I greatly fear he has not the power to command.”
David Zax, “Frozen in Place: December 1861,” Smithsonian Magazine, published December 2011, accessed 14 July 2021, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/frozen-in-place-december-1861-49441/
“Civil War Harmon Executions,”Genealogy.com, accessed 15 August 2021, genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/harmon/6044/
Matt Lakin, “Civil War history found in details,” Knox News Archives, posted 25 November 2008, accessed 15 August 2021, archive.knoxnews.com/news/local/civil-war-history-found-in-details-ep-410707141-359692111.html/
“Execution of Jacob Harmon and His Son Henry,” Shades of Gray and Blue, Middle Tennessee State University Walker Library, accessed 15 August 2021, civilwarshades.org/document/execution-of-jacob-harmon/
“The importance of the Railroads in East Tennessee during the Civil War years of 1861-1862,” accessed 14 May 2021, teachtnhistory.org/File/A._Taylor_Unit.pdf
“Testimony about the burning of the Lick Creek Bridge,” The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Civil War, Serial 114 Page 0862-0864, accessed 15 August 2021, ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/114/0861