Northeast Tennessee Railway Bridges Timeline

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

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
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.

Counties of Northeast Tennessee
Unicoi and Hamblen Counties were not established until after the Civil War

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.
Samuel Tate,
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.

Tennessee Governor Isham Harris
Photographer: Mathew Brady

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,
“Bridge-burning part two: Union men take action but where is the army?” Kingsport Times News, accessed 7 February 2021,
“East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad,” Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, accessed 8 February 2021,
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,
Aaron Astor, “The Switzerland of America,” New York Times Opinionator Pages, 7 June 2011, accessed 8 February 2021,
Paul A. Whelan, “Unconventional Warfare in East Tennessee, 1861-1865,” University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Thesis, 1963, accessed 1 April 2021,

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


William Blount Carter

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
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,
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.
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,

General George H. Thomas
Photographer: Mathew Brady

26 OCTOBER 1861: Letter about unlawful arrests in East Tennessee
MEMPHIS, October 26, 1861.
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.
Very respectfully
[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 …
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,

Brigadier General Felix Kirk Zollicoffer CSA (1812-1862).
Tennessee Portrait Project

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,

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,
“Union insurrection in East Tennessee,” War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0890, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021,

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.

General William Tecumseh Sherman
Photographer: Mathew Brady

1 NOVEMBER 1861: Our Camp Calvert Correspondence
New York Times article covering 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 [southeastern 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.

Judah P. Benjamin
Secretary of War CSA

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
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,
Brig.-Gen. U. S. V., Commanding.

Tennessee Railroad Yard and Depot
Nashville, Tennessee railroad yard with locomotives during the Civil War.  
Library of Congress

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,
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,
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.]

Lincoln’s “Beanpole and Cornstalk” Bridge over the Potomac Creek (Photographed in 1864)
Photograph: Francis Trevelyan Miller and Robert S. Lanier, eds., The Photographic History of the Civil War, 10 vols. (New York: Review of Reviews Co., 1911), 5:272.
Wooden trestle bridge similar to those in Northeast Tennessee.

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,

Please read these posts about the Northeast Tennessee bridges that were burned:
Alex Haun burns Lick Creek bridge
Daniel Stover burns Zollicoffer bridge

Northeast Tennessee Bridges Burned
Map showing bridges targeted and bridges destroyed on 8 November 1861.
Red squares show the Lick Creek and Zollicoffer [Union] bridges burned in Northeast Tennessee.
Black squares indicate the Watauga [Carter’s Depot] bridge and Strawberry Plains bridge, which were not burned.
Public domain

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 (

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.
Very respectfully,
R. G. FAIN, Brigade Commissary.

9 NOVEMBER 1861: Watauga bridge threatened by Union guerrillas
BRISTOL, November 9, 1861.
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.
Justice of the peace,
Washington County, Va.

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.

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.

General Samuel Cooper
Adjutant General and Inspector General of the Confederate Army throughout the Civil War.

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. …
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?
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: 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.

A wooden trestle bridge similar to the one at Lick Creek, this one at Bull Run in Virginia

12 NOVEMBER 1861: Governor Harris requests aid from His Excellency
NASHVILLE, November 12, 1861.
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.

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.
President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.

13 NOVEMBER 1861: You shall be amply protected.
JOHN R. BRANNER, President R. R. Co.,
Jonesborough, Tenn.:
Troops are now moving to East Tennessee to crush the traitors.
You shall be amply protected.
J. P. BENJAMIN Acting Secretary of War.

Col. Danville Leadbetter CSA

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.

FEBRUARY 1861: Convention or No Convention

4 FEBRUARY 1861: The Seceded States Create a Government
At a convention in Montgomery, Alabama, delegates from the seven seceded states meet in Montgomery, Alabama, to establish a government, which they name the Confederate States of America. They also adopt a document similar to the United States Constitution, but with greater emphasis on the rights of each state. On 8 February, those states elect Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as the Confederacy’s first president.

7 FEBRUARY 1861: Newspaper article urging a pro-secession vote:
On Saturday next Tennesseans are to decide at the ballot-box the destiny of the State—to say whether they will go with their friends of the South or their enemies of the North. If you would have your State continue her connection with her Southern sisters—a connection of political equality, of interests, of sympathy, of affection—have upon your ticket the word “Convention” and the names of the Southern Rights candidate.
~ Nashville Daily Gazette

The voting tomorrow, although not at all decisive of the fate of this State, is of such importance to it, that the native Tennessean will do well to permit nothing but his own knowledge of the situation of the State, its requirements, and its honor to influence his vote. Sit down, Tennessean, to-night, reflect coolly and calmly on the lessons and teachings of your life; forget parties, sects and everything but your wife and little ones. Consider their needs and those of the business by [which] you feed, clothe and lodge them; be guided wholly and solely by your own judgment.
~ Memphis Daily Argus

To-day the people of Tennessee are deciding whether the State convention shall be held, and who are their choices for delegates to that body. Although at this time nothing definite is known regarding the voice of the State, we have no doubt that the majority in favor of the convention will be very large. The next question which will come up is, whether or not the action of that convention shall be submitted to the people for ratification or rejection; whether the convention, composed as it will be of delegates of every shade of opinion, will be allowed the final disposition of a question involving the destiny of Tennessee, or whether the people after having been furnished with the action of that body, shall be permitted to either approve or disapprove those actions at the ballot box.
~ Memphis Daily Argus

9 FEBRUARY 1861: The vote against secession
In the election on February 9, old Vox Populi [the opinions of the majority] spoke emphatically. In regard to the calling of a Convention, the movement was rejected by a vote of 69,675 to 57,798—not a wide margin. The decision by the people was a significant one, in that the action of both Governor Harris and the General Assembly was rebuked. West Tennessee supported the convention; Middle Tennessee was almost equally divided; East Tennessee rejected it overwhelmingly.
~ Messages of the Governors of Tennessee

In the weeks following the February 9 vote against holding a secession convention, both secessionists and Unionists launched intensive public speaking campaigns in East Tennessee. The threat of violence underscored many of the rallies, and both sides were warned not to enter certain areas where their opponents held a strong majority.

10 FEBRUARY 1861: The Result
The people of Tennessee yesterday had an opportunity of saying through the ballot-box whether or not they desired the assembling of a State Convention… The indications are that a large majority voted for “No Convention.” However much we might have desired a different result, we feel fully satisfied that the proposition to hold a Convention has been defeated. The people have spoken, and we have naught to say against their decree. It may bring no harm, or it may remit evil only-which of the two will be known before the expiration of many days.
~ Nashville Daily Gazette

18 FEBRUARY 1861: Jefferson Davis inaugurated
Jefferson Davis is inaugurated President of the Southern Confederacy during a ceremony in Montgomery, Alabama. In his address he quotes from the U.S. Constitution and makes many references to armed conflict, primarily in regard to defense of Southern lands.
~  Chronology of Major Events Leading to Secession Crisis

28 FEBRUARY 1861
The House passes a measure supported by President-elect Lincoln which prohibits the federal government from interfering with slavery in states where it exists.
~  Chronology of Major Events Leading to Secession Crisis

Alex Haun burns Lick Creek bridge

Burning the bridge at Lick Creek
In November 1861, a talented potter named Christopher Alexander Haun—most often called ‘Alex’—lives in a part of Greene County known as Pottertown, a Unionist enclave in the Confederate State of Tennessee. Several other potters have their homes there as well, and they all use clay found near Lick Creek to make their wares. These are rural potters who run businesses selling their clay creations, often as a supplement to farming. Their finely crafted earthenware is still highly prized today. Alex Haun and the other potters staunchly support the Union.

On the eve of the bridge burning, Jacob Harmon, also a local potter, visits his Unionist neighbors and asks for their help in burning the bridge. When Harmon knocks at Alex Haun’s door, he agrees to assist in burning the Lick Creek bridge the following night.

On November 8, 1861, forty to sixty men, including Alex Haun, arrive at Jacob Harmon’s home and are immediately sworn into Company F of the Second Tennessee Voluntary Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army. They then travel to the edge of Harmon’s farm, where the railroad bridge crosses Lick Creek.

The Unionists find several Confederate soldiers camping under the bridge and immediately take them into custody. The burners make quick work of firing the bridge. Other bridge burners force their captives to swear an oath to the Union and promise not to tell what they have witnessed that night, then releases them. They do not keep their word.

Confederate authorities are livid at this guerrilla action from the Unionists of Northeast Tennessee, and they quickly strike back. Within hours of the bridge burning, the Rebels capture several bridge burners, including Alex Haun, aged 40, Jacob Harmon, 43, and his son Henry Harmon, 22. A Confederate court-martial at Knoxville finds these men guilty of treason for participating in the burning of the Lick Creek Bridge.

Elizabeth Cobble Haun

10 DECEMBER 1861
From the Knoxville jail, Alex Haun corresponds with his wife, Elizabeth Cobble Haun, trying desperately to prepare her for life without him and how to support herself and their children.

Knoxville, Tenn., 10 December 1861

Dear Elizabeth Haun, children, mother, brother, and sisters, neighbors, and friends:

I have had my trial, but I have not heard my sentence. I fear it will be bad. They may take my life and they may not … When I hear my sentence I will write again. If I should not reach home soon I want you all to do the very best you can. Betsy, take care of your corn for bread. There are going to be hard times about bread. And have that ware [his pottery] finished off, and get shoes and clothing and something to go on … Children, be good to your mother and serve God. …

C.A. Haun

11 DECEMBER 1861
Alex Haun’s sentence is death. By hanging. On the day of his execution, he writes again to his wife. His thoughts are with her and their children, whom he knows he will never see again.

Dear Elizabeth:

I want you to move where we used to live on Arthur’s place, where he can see to you and the children, and work for  him instead of working to and fro among strangers; and make the children read the Testament every Sabbath they are not at preaching … keep them away from all bad company. Do not suffer them to use bad words or quarrel with one another, and learn them manners; it will be for their benefit.

If any one comes to you hungry turn them not away empty if you have it … Let Arthur or some one relate your situation and cause of my death to the government authorities, and the government will surely do pretty liberally for you and the children in the way of support and education … Have Bohanan Henshaw or Sam to finish off that ware, and do the best you can with it for your support … Dear friends one and all, farewell for a little season.

C.A. Haun

Haun then writes to Colonel Baxter, an officer at the Knoxville jail:

I have to die today at twelve o’clock. I beg of you to have my body sent to Midway P.O. [a small town near their home in Greene County] directed to Elizabeth Haun. This much I beg of you to do.

C.A. Haun

And again to Elizabeth:

Dear Elizabeth:

I have the promise this morning that my body shall be sent home to you. Oh! live for heaven. Oh! my bosom friend and children, live for Heaven. Meet me in heaven, I pray. My time is almost out. Dear friends, farewell in this world. Farewell earth and earthly troubles.

C.A. Haun

Christopher Alexander Haun is hanged at noon on 11 December 1861 at the Knoxville jail, for treason against the Confederate States of America. His family buries him not far from the the Lick Creek bridge on Pottertown Road in Greene County.

Paula Gammell, Christopher Alexander Haun,” accessed 15 May 2021,

Sarah Elizabeth Hickman, Christopher Alexander Haun,” Tennessee Encyclopedia, Tennessee Historical Society, 8 October 2017, accessed 15 May 2021,

Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain

Confederate Diarist of Northeast Tennessee
Eliza Rhea Anderson was born 1 August 1816 at Blountville, Northeast Tennessee. Her father died when she was still a toddler. After losing financial support with the death of their husbands, women of the antebellum era moved in with their closest male relative. Mrs. Anderson’s lived with her brother for many years.

Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain’s diary published in 2004,
edited by a distant relative, John N. Fain

In 1832, Eliza’s mother marries Nicholas Fain, a merchant, banker, and president of the Rogersville and Jefferson Railroad. On 17 December 1833, sixteen-year-old Eliza marries Nicholas Fain’s son and her step-brother, Richard Gammon Fain. Richard owns a two-hundred-acre farm east of Rogersville, Hawkins County, Northeast Tennessee, where Eliza raises chickens [probably] and thirteen children!

Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain is not the mistress of a large plantation. She is of the wealthy class, but not nearly as rich as a plantation mistress. Her hometown of Rogersville is in the valley of Crockett Creek, a southwest-flowing tributary of the Holston River—not an ideal place for a plantation.

American Civil War
As the Civil War approaches, sentiments in Rogersville is divided between the North and the South. Many of its citizens are Unionists who support the twenty-six East Tennessee counties whose leaders tried to secede from the state of Tennessee and remain in the United States of America. The Tennessee General Assembly denied their request.

The Fains strongly support secession and slavery. They own eight slaves when the Civil War begins; four are under the age of twelve. Eliza’s views of slavery are sometimes offensive, and I will not be sharing those entries with you. Some of her religious expressions are also a bit much. However, hers is the only diary I know of that chronicles life in Northeast Tennessee so well.

Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain keeps an excellent diary from the age of 19 until her death at age 75—from shortly after her marriage to Richard Gammon Fain in 1833 until her death in 1892. During the Civil War years, she records her daily activities and the impact the war has on her home and family—as it unfolds in and around Rogersville and the Fain farm two miles away. Confederate troops occupy Rogersville for most of the war, but Union forces occasionally take control as the conflict progresses.

Eliza’s Diary
January—May 1861

Monday, 14 January 1861
I have been reading tonight from the New York Observer, the Sentinel of the Country. All as yet seems to be hostile with no concession on the part of the North and no giving way in the South.

Thursday morning, 24 January 1861
Gloomy this morning with a mist falling. Yesterday quite a cold day and sleeting the greater part of the day. I at home so happy with the loved of this precious place. Our political world still wears the aspect of hostility and want of love and patriotism. … We as a people of the South have shown to the North the most unmistakable evidences of love and forbearance. What have we not done to conciliate and now the blow has been struck which forever seals our destiny in the election of a sectional President who takes into his hands the reins of our Federal government. He will appoint a cabinet of his own selection which the South cannot approve of. …

I love my country, I love her constitution. I love everything connected with her whole history, but the disposition I see in one portion of her to usurp entire control. I cannot find it in my heart to say I submit. … Treat us as brethren or let us go so that we may treat each other as brethren of the same parentage.

4 March 1861
Today is the inauguration of President Lincoln. The struggle has come …

16 April 1861
Days are dark in the extreme in the history of our country. All overtures of peace from the South have been rejected. … Fort Sumter was attacked by the Confederate troops under the command of G. Beauregard on Friday morning at 4. Gen. Anderson it is said has surrendered.

18 April 1861
Never before in our country’s history have we been called to witness such dark foreboding hours. … Fort Sumter has been taken without any serious loss of life. … On Friday morning 4 o’clock Ft. Sumter was attacked—surrendered on Saturday at 1. … The horrors of battlefield scenes has been deeply impressed in my mind during the last 10 days. … The South have sued for peace upon all terms; consistent with the maintenance of her dignity of character; as a part of a free self governed people; how has she been treated – with duplicity, intrigues and cunning which her high toned peace loving men were not able to detect. Now what alternative has she left? Nothing but to defend herself …

29 April 1861
Peace is still a stranger in our beautiful land. Of all places of the earth none seems to have been so lavishly decorated as our own fair, yea fairest Republic but I fear the desolating hand of civil war.

12 May 1861
I have bid my sons farewell a few minutes since. I do feel I have given my sons [?] not to make war upon an enemy but to act in self defense to resist the invasion of a foe to civil liberty … The name traitor rebel, and other odious epithets are heaped upon us and for what—because we have dared to resist an oppression threatening the extinction of the whole Southern population. …

Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain’s sons Nicholas “Nick” Fain (1840-1900) Samuel A. “Sam” Fain (1842-1874) and her nephew Samuel “Sam” Rhea Gammon join the 19th Tennessee Infantry Regiment CSA in May 1861. They receive training at Knoxville and serve in a unit called the “Hawkins County Boys.”

18 May 1861
Yesterday morning I bid my beloved husband [Richard Gammon Fain] farewell. How hard to part from those so dear at all times, but how peculiarly trying at this time, when everything in our political world wears an aspect of such gloom and darkness. … My dear loved one has gone to act as Commissary General for Tennessee troops. … I feel much worn down, have been passing through scenes of such excitement for several days … My garden and other domestic cares press heavily. Had my sheep sheared yesterday—today in my garden.

MINI BIO: Richard Gammon Fain
Before the American Civil War, Richard Gammon Fain (1811-1878), husband of Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain, was a merchant and bank officer in Rogersville and president of the Rogersville and Jefferson Railroad. He also served in several civic positions, including postmaster of Rogersville for several years in the 1840s.

An 1832 graduate of West Point, Richard accepts the rank of major in the Confederate ArmyHe serves as Commissary General for the Provisional Army of Tennessee in Knoxville from 14 October 1861 until June 1862After the Provisional Army of Tennessee is absorbed into the Confederate Army, Fain becomes Assistant Commissary of Subsistence on the staff of General Felix K. Zollicoffer, still in Knoxville. 

In June 1862, Fain is assigned to organize the CSA 63rdTennessee Infantry Regiment, with himself as colonel. The Fain boys, who were old enough to serve in the Confederate Army, eventually joined their father’s regiment.

Because of ill health, Richard Fain writes his letter of resignation from the Confederate Army from Missionary Ridge while serving with the Army of Tennessee in the Chattanooga Campaign. The letter, now in the National Archives, includes a statement from an army surgeon about Richard’s health:

“I certify that I have carefully examined Col. R. G. Fain, 63rd Tennessee Regiment, and find him unable to perform the duties of the office because of chronic disease of the liver and peculiar irritability of the system which prostrates him on the least exposure. I therefore recommend his discharge from service.”

As you will see in her diary entries, Eliza is very unhappy with Richard leaving his army post. She does not take his health issues too seriously. She is mortified when he takes the oath of allegiance to the United States and applies for a pardon, which President Andrew Johnson grants in October 1865. Eliza wonders why “a God of truth, of love, should permit such a people to overcome us.”

Richard Gammon Fain dies on 11 September 1878 at Mossy Creek (Jefferson County, Tennessee) and is buried in the cemetery at Rogersville Presbyterian Church.

Eliza’s diary
June 1861

2 June 1861, Sabbath
Darkness, darkness, all is dark as yet so far as our difficulties with each other are concerned. The troops from the North are still advancing. Troops are moving in from the South to meet and repel this attack … My soul is troubled to its greatest depth. My husband, my sons are gone. The sacredness of the home circle has been invaded—perhaps never again to be as it has been.

On last Friday morning before day I was awakened from my sleep with a feeling of indescribable grief. I rose early, my purpose fixed to write to a friend who was throwing his influence on the side of the North. I sat down and addressed to him a few lines which I do trust may lead him to think …

6 June 1861
Troubles are still thickening around us. This evening received from my loved husband the lengthiest letter I have yet received dated 4 June. I have been thinking all day of the pleasures I should feel in welcoming him home but his letter has rather driven the hope from me. They are expecting orders every day to march to Virginia.

I received this evening a printed letter from the editor of the Mothers Magazine soliciting so earnestly for remittance from his southern patrons saying he has never felt like taking sides against the South, has ever felt they knew better how to manage their affairs than they of the North could do it for us. …

16 June 1861
At home sweet home although so sadly broken up. My helpless little darling daughters lying around me on the floor giving vent to the girlish impulses of t he heart not knowing or comprehending the deep sources of grief which disturbs my peace on this calm, beautiful Sabbath morning. My husband has been permitted to revisit his home. … He came Saturday the 8th and remained until Tuesday morning the 11th a 6:00 o’clock when I set out with him to Knoxville. We arrived at Knoxville around 11 having had a comfortable ride.

Put up at Lamar House and after dinner went out in omnibus to fairgrounds to visit my dear, darling boys [her sons]. Never will I forget the feeling I had when I came in sight of and entered the gates leading to tents. I had often imagined to myself the look of the tented field but never until that day had any realization of its appearance and never, while I live, can I forget the expression of gladness beaming from the sunburnt face of that band of noble volunteers. … I feel there are many connected with nineteenth regiment East Tennessee who are good young men. … My heart rises in gratitude and love to God for giving to Southern homes husbands, sons, and brothers who go forth so cheerfully, so nobly for the maintenance of civil and religious freedom. …

Eliza’s diary
July 1861

10 July 1861
Had a letter from Nick [her son, Nicholas Fain] yesterday. He says Capt. Heiskell did not seem displeased with him for staying over his time—spoke jokingly of putting him on extra duty. He went back 1st of July, Monday. They are not encamped on Cumberland Mountain. As they stand sentinel upon the fastness of the mountain may their thoughts be turned by thy Holy Spirit … My dear Sam [son Samuel A. Fain] seems to have forgotten he has ever known a mother’s love or a mother’s care.

Eliza is fortunate that her husband and sons are stationed nearby in Knoxville, which allows all of them to visit back and forth.

11 July 1861
On the 2nd of this month—Tuesday night—I saw for the first time the comet … which appeared during the reign of Charles the fifth and caused the abdication of throne by him. I was so struck by the grandeur and beauty of the sight—was walking through my yard listening for the return of Powell [son George Powell Fain] and Gus [son John Lynn Fain] when my attention was directed towards the heavens and what a beautiful sight struck my view. …

23 July 1861
I have said farewell again this morning to my best, my dearest earthly friend. my loved Richard [her husband Richard Gammon Fain] more precious than any other living being on earth. Heart doubly sad this morning—husband gone—hours of darkness rapidly approaching. The news from Virginia calculated to elate the heart in one point of view but in another to make it feel so sick of the wickedness of man. The news was received yesterday of a great battle [First Bull Run] between the Southern and Northern troops. …

The dark and lowering clouds of civil discord seem to threaten the destruction of our loved East Tennessee. A man came to brother Hiram [Eliza’s brother-in-law, who also kept a Civil War diary] Sunday night saying a difficulty was likely to occur at Sneedville—that the Union men were or had taken H. Roses’s company of volunteers prisoner. …

There are errors in Eliza’s diary, particularly when it comes to news of the war. Not only does information travel slowly through the mountains, but the inaccuracies are often outrageous, causing Eliza to worry over information that is totally false or highly adulterated. News of the First Battle of Bull Run, fought on July 21, didn’t reach her until July 23, and she believed the battle was still being fought on the 23rd. It’s like the game where people whisper a certain message to each other, and by the time it reaches the last person, the entire meaning has changed.

28 July 1861
My Sabbaths are days now of such intense feeling and I cannot keep from asking questions concerning the well being of those who have left all in our Southern homes to go forth for what I feel is civil and religious liberty. This morning brother George got back from Knoxville having gone down on Wednesday to make some arrangements about their company. … on that day he travelled with some who were going back from Virginia who had been spectators of the deadly conflict this day week [a week ago today] (21st) ever memorable to one who was on that train with the remains of a darling son who had fallen to rise no more … I asked George if he thought his father seemed much distressed He said he seemed so much elated at the success of our armies [in the First Battle of Bull Run—a Confederate victory] he did not seem to feel the death of his child much. I have always felt to the truly patriotic heart there is no cause where we could lose our sons which would carry with it an alleviation of sorrow so much as the thought of Liberty, Liberty.

Eliza’s Diary
Autumn 1861

Sabbath, 18 August 1861
I do so feel this morning crushed at the thought of the great desecration of my holy day. … O the baneful influences of military life over the soul. It is this I dread more than all things else. I dread that the hearts of my sons will be estranged for all that is good. Sam is home today but cannot remain long in one place … seems to be so reckless.

The scenes of the 21st fighting [First Battle of Bull Run] are vividly impressed upon the minds who now travel upon our trains. Fain has again been down the country, saw on the trains several wounded. One who had both hands taken off. O how many how many poor soldiers have been crippled for life, how deplorable the results of war. … Our Southern people have many of the Northern wounded to care for. …

September 1861
[Account of a trip to Nashville]
We got on comfortably to the river in Col. Walker’s hack, crossed the river, were soon seated in our comfortable train. Moved on quite pleasantly to Gap [?], waited a short time when the train which was to bear us from our home to the west came up. What a sorrowful sight I was called to witness as I entered the car. Our noble soldiers returning wounded and sick and maimed for life. My heart was sad indeed at the sight. … We traveled nicely but crowded until we reached the collision which had taken place that morning between a freight and gravel train. … About 2 o’clock on Thursday 5th of Sept., with him [her husband] who is dearer to me than all else, left Knoxville for Nashville. … We travelled over that long and dangerous road [railroad] between Chattanooga and Nashville [the C&N]. … After supper Richard went out into another car to smoke, staid so long I felt uneasy. I did not know what to do. I imagined many things and amongst others felt afraid that someone had knocked him the head but after a while he came and I was relieved. Took breakfast at Murfreesboro and arrived at Nashville about 7 o’clock and in a short time was surrounded by the loved friends of Nashville.

13 October 1861
On Wednesday 25th Sept, Sam [Samuel A. Fain] came home from camp sick. I felt so glad to have him at home. My heart would have been so distressed at the thought of a son sick in camp. He is now well for which I do trust and feel so thankful.

27 October 1861
This day week [a week ago] I was surrounded by the sight of home, husband, sons, friends. … On Tuesday morning Abram Gammon, Nick Fain, Sam Fain and J. K. P. Gammon left us for their Kentucky camp. I felt so sad at parting from them for ought we know it is the last look we may ever have on their loved faces.

10 November 1861
This morning finds heart , soul and body in a state of great excitement from the rumor of burnt bridges and strong apprehensions of a rebellious movement on the part of the Union desperados of East Tennessee. I fear at a late hour men of standing who have aided and abetted that feeling may find themselves as well as the rest of us involved in irretrievable ruin.

14 November 1861
Last Sabbath evening my beloved husband returned having been so strongly solicited by Mr. McFarland and others to come and see what could be furnished for the reconstruction of the burnt bridges from our timbers at the river. He went back on Monday and got to Knoxville at 9 o’clock p.m. When shall my home be home again, when will the loved be restored. On last Tuesday morning about 5 a.m. messengers from town came requiring sons Sam and Ike to go immediately and make preparation for a trip to railroad to succor troops stationed at Watauga Bridge. Before going a great distance they ascertained they had been fired upon whilst out on a scout from Mr. N. Taylor’s barn. Some were slightly wounded but no lives lost I understand. How deplorable is such a state of affairs.

Isaac “Ike” Anderson Fain (1844-1917)
The Fains’ fourth son, Isaac “Ike” Anderson Fain was 17 when the Civil War began. Records are unclear as to when he enlisted in the Confederate Army. He joined his father’s regiment, the 63rd, with the rank of sergeant but was demoted to private in December 1862. He then served as an orderly for his father, but in June 1863 he was appointed forage master, a low-level position. He did not accompany the Sixty-Third to Virginia in spring 1864 and was removed from the regimental roll. Ike then joined a local cavalry unit and served near Rogersville for the remainder of the war.

Sabbath, 24 November 1861
Gloom Gloom impenetrable gloom hangs over me this morning. My son Ike left home this morning with gun strapped on his back and his provisions in a bag to go to Bays Mountain where it is said a number of our poor deluded and infatuated Union men have collected for resistance to the law and to work wickedly.

Eliza’s Diary
Winter 1861

26 December 1861
Since listing the above, all things have been made to succumb to military rule. The rebellion has been suppressed and many of the members of it have been arrested. Some have paid the high price of life for life. Old Mr. Bird an old man of 60 years was one of the ringleaders … He was shot on a high spur of that mountain region … I have felt troubled when I thought of his death and feel upon the leading Union men of East Tennessee rests the blood of these poor deluded victims. Two more men by the name of Harmon [Jacob and Henry] have been hung in Knoxville; implicated in that atrocious and diabolical deed of bridge burning. … Buck [a slave ?] and Ike made a narrow escape. Ike told me that he never felt so frightened in his life with bullets flying by him and he could see no one. A merciful God preserved the life of my child.

Eliza’s Diary
Winter 1862

“60th Tennessee Infantry in the Civil War,” Hawkins County Genealogy & History, accessed 25 May 2021,

Carolyn Medine Jones, “Sanctified Trial: The Diary of Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain, a Confederate Woman in East Tennessee,” Civil War Book Review, accessed 4 January 2021,

“Confederate Commissary General,” State of Tennessee, Tennessee State Library and Archives, accessed 5 January 2021,

Fain Diaries,” Angelfire, accessed 4 January 2021,

Holly Young, “John H. Crawford Papers: Letters from the Civil War,” (2011). Undergraduate Honors Theses. Paper 15, accessed 25 May 2021,

John N. Fain, editor, Sanctified Trial: The Diary of Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain, a Confederate Woman in East Tennessee, Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 2004

28 July 1861
My Sabbaths are days now of such intense feeling and I cannot keep from asking questions concerning the well being of those who have left all in our Southern homes to go forth for what I feel is civil and religious liberty. This morning brother George got back from Knoxville having gone down on Wednesday to make some arrangements about their company. … on that day he travelled with some who were going back from Virginia who had been spectators of the deadly conflict this day week [a week ago today] [First Battle of Bull Run] ever memorable to one who was on that train with the remains of a darling son who had fallen to rise no more … I asked George if he thought his father seemed much distressed. He said he seemed so much elated at the success of our armies [in the First Battle of Bull Run—a Confederate victory] he did not seem to feel the death of his child much. I have always felt to the truly patriotic heart there is no cause where we could lose our sons which would carry with it an alleviation of sorrow so much as the thought of Liberty, Liberty. I feel glad that I am not where these scenes of excitement would be before my eyes; I feel I can hardly bear it when I am just to hear of it.

Daniel Stover burns Zollicoffer Bridge

Daniel was born on 14 November 1826 in Elizabethton, Carter County, Northeast Tennessee, to William Ward Stover and Sarah Murray Drake. In 1852 Daniel bought five tracts of land from his father for $1, with the understanding that his parents will continue to live there for the rest of their lives. Daniel’s dollar also buys him the farmhouse, the barns, and other outbuildings on the land. Luckily, the property is adjacent to the Watauga River just outside the town of Elizabethton. 

In he vicinity of Elizabethton, Northeast Tennessee

Isaac Lincoln is born on 5 March 1750 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, son of John Lincoln and Rebecca Flowers, who migrated to the Watauga area of Northeast Tennessee in 1773 or 1774. Isaac is the great uncle of Abraham Lincoln—yes, the Lincoln who would become president—who was born on 12 February 1809. Isaac married Mary Ward in Carter County on 29 August 1780. They had only one child, a son, and he died.

Indeed the Lincolns welcomed two orphan children among their extended family into their home and raised them: William Ward Stover, son of Mary Ward Lincoln’s sister, and Phoebe Williams, daughter of Mordecai Williams [died 1848] and Elizabeth Stover [died 1851]. Isaac and Mary Lincoln raised William and Phoebe as their own children. Mary Ward Lincoln left the bulk of her estate to Daniel’s father William Ward Stover when she passed in 1834.

I did not expect to find members of the Lincoln family in Northeast Tennessee. It is a distant link, true. But if you think about Daniel’s father and Mary’s nephew, William Ward Stover, and his relationship with Isaac and Mary Ward Lincoln—which makes Daniel related to Mary by blood. Then think about how Daniel’s father-in-law, Andrew Johnson, became Abraham Lincoln’s running mate in 1864 and advanced to the presidency when Booth assassinated Lincoln a few months later—well, my head is spinning right now.

Daniel Stover meets Mary Johnson while she is studying to become a teacher. She is the daughter of Andrew Johnson of nearby Greeneville, who will eventually become president. Daniel and Mary marry on 27 April 1852, and they live on Daniel’s land in Carter County. They have three children, Andrew, Eliza, and Sarah. An article in the Watauga Democrat states, “Their home was the scene of many brilliant parties and many prominent people were entertained in its walls.”

Carter County native W.B. Carter comes up with a plan to hinder Confederate operations by burning four railroad bridges in Northeast Tennessee. He places great trust in Daniel Stover when he assigns him to destroy two of the four railroad bridges. Stover swears to keep the operation secret until the day set for burning the bridges, 8 November 1861. On that day, Stover selects about thirty men to be his assistants and explains their mission.

Stover tells his men that in addition to doing a great service for their country, they will receive a small payment from the Federal government. He assures them that they should not fear any repercussions against them by the enemy. USA General George H. Thomas and his army are waiting on the Tennessee/Kentucky border, ready to move in quickly and protect the bridge burners from Confederate retaliation.

Colonel Daniel Stover

The little town in Sullivan County where the ET&VA railroad bridge crosses the Holston River has had several name changes. It was called ‘Middletown’ when it was platted, but after the East Tennessee and Virginia [ET&VA] railroad was completed in the late 1850s, the town adopted the name ‘Union.’ That’s confusing because of everything else we call ‘Union.’ The residents took back the name ‘Union’ after the Civil War, but it became ‘Bluff City’ on 1 July 1887 and still has that name today. But I’ve decided to use ‘Zollicoffer’ as the town’s name because it was the most used during the war. It comes from CSA General Felix Zollicoffer, a native of Middle Tennessee who was killed at the Battle of Mill Springs on 19 January 1862. Yes, you heard me right, a town in Northeast Tennessee was named after a Confederate general. But this is Sullivan County; they had a strong Confederate following there. I know, the town wasn’t called Zollicoffer when the bridge was actually burned—just bear with me.

Daniel Stover and his men mount their horses and begin the journey to Carter’s Depot, to destroy the bridge over the Watauga River there. Upon their arrival, they discover that a regiment of Confederate cavalry under the command of Capt. David McClellan is guarding the Watauga bridge. Stover quickly abandons that operation; he and his small band of Unionists would be no match for those well-trained soldiers on horseback.

The bridge burners leave immediately for the town of Zollicoffer, where the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad runs straight through the little village and crosses the Holston River. Only two guards are keeping watch at the Zollicoffer bridge that night, and they are quickly subdued. The men immediately work on setting fire to the bridge, and it is soon ablaze.

Now Daniel has to decide what to do with the guards. They beg pitifully for their lives and promise not to say anything about the men who burned the Zollicoffer bridge. A man named Jenkins is particularly vocal. Keen, a bridge burner, has been Jenkins’s neighbor for some time and does not believe the man would ever betray him. On his word, Jenkins’s life is spared. On his word, they spare Jenkins’s life. However, as soon as he is free, the man reports Keen and others he recognized to Confederate authorities. 

I am giving you several different accounts of the burning of the bridge at Zollicoffer, which will give you a better understanding of these events. Nobody tells the whole truth, and even their version of the truth is filtered through their own life experiences during these traumatic events.

J.G. BURCHFIELD’S VERSION: Burning the Zollicoffer Bridge
Although he is only 15 years old, Burchfield actively participates in burning the bridge across the Holston River at Zollicoffer. He wrote:

We all rode to the [railroad] station, dismounted, and rushed to the bridge. It would be impossible to describe the haste with which each man did his part. A guard was captured at the bridge, and in five minutes from the time we reach it, the flames were driven from the south end to the north end of the bridge. All re-mounted and returned by the way we came.” He slept that night and “felt that death would be visited upon any of the men who participated in that night’s fearful work.

DANIEL ELLIS’S RENDITION: Burning the Zollicoffer Bridge
This is Daniel Ellis’s version of burning the bridge—he calls the town Union. In this excerpt from his book, The Thrilling True Adventures of Daniel Ellis, he makes perhaps the most insightful statement about the bridge burnings. In this short passage, he mentions twice that Federal troops would soon be arriving in Northeast Tennessee—emphasizing how much these men are relying on the Union Army to aid and protect them.

In the month of November 1861, the troubles of the Union people in the upper portion of East Tennessee began in earnest. Orders had been received from the government of the United States to burn all the bridges … It was to be done at night, secretly, and every true-hearted Union man that was advised of this design readily engaged in a combination to assist in this contemplated work of destruction. It was generally believed by all who had been advised of the project, that if this destruction could be accomplished there would then be nothing in the way to prevent the Federal troops from coming to East Tennessee to stay; and consequently, we all joined heart and hand in the business.

Being a citizen of Carter County, I united with the company which had been selected to burn the bridge over the Holston River at the town of Union in Sullivan County, Tennessee. The bridge over the Watauga River at Carter[‘s] Depot, six miles from Elizabethton … escaped destruction, owing to the fact that a company of Rebel soldiers were stationed there.

The bridge at Union not being thus guarded, was destroyed without any trouble as the few guards who were stationed there were suddenly captured, and their lives spared as they avowed most solemnly that they would never reveal the names of any of the party concerned in burning the bridge. But their solemn asseverations [declarations of the truth of a statement] soon proved to be “as false as dicers oaths”* for so soon as they met with their partners in rebellion, they immediately disclosed the name of every man with whom they were acquainted, and guessed remarkably well in regard to those with whom they were not personally acquainted. This was not very hard for them to do, for up to this time there were not very many who had disclaimed their principles, but … openly declared themselves as firm and steadfast friends of the Union.

The injury which was thus done so enraged the Rebels, that the Union citizens, in order to insure their self-protection, assembled together in a body of some several hundred men, and armed themselves as best they could, believing all the time that the Federal forces would soon visit this portion of East Tennessee, and relieve them from the dangers which surrounded them.

Daniel Ellis, The Thrilling True Adventures of Daniel Ellis: 1861~1865, (Independently published (November 5, 2016), 13-20

“as false as dicers oaths”*
(See quotation above.) The most popular game among dice-players was liar’s dice. In this game, each player rolls the die, but only they can see what they’ve rolled. Then they lie about their roll so other players will guess incorrectly and the best liar wins.

9 NOVEMBER 1861: First bridge burner arrested
S. H. Hendrix of Carter’s Depot, who actively participated in burning the Zollicoffer bridge, is the first man arrested, and the first to tell Keen and others that Jenkins has betrayed them. Hendrix writes this letter:

On Saturday morning when the excitement was at its highest I was arrested and carried to the headquarters of Capt. McClellan and ordered placed in the guard house with six guards over me. I was the first man arrested for bridge burning, but proved such a conclusive alibi by Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Brown (my uncle and aunt) and Miss Bettie Bishop, daughter of James Bishop, that I was sent home under guard, and under promise to remain inside the Confederate lines and report to headquarters twice a day.

 Through my anxiety to get with the Union forces so as to inform Lafayette Cameron, Jonas H. Keen and Landon Carter that they had been betrayed and reported by Jenkins and were in great danger, I made my escape on Monday and went up the river through the pines and brush to the bend of the river below Buck’s Rock, crossed the river at what was then called the “Devil’s Stairs,” and made my way to Elizabethton and told Cameron, Carter and Keen what I had learned while a prisoner at Carter’s Depot.”

 General George H. Thomas’s troops do not arrive to protect the people of Northeast Tennessee; the men who risked their lives to burn the bridges are left on their own. Realizing there may be no protection from the Union army, the Unionists are overwhelmed. They create a small regiment and elect Daniel Stover its colonel. Knowing that heavy Confederate reinforcements are on their way, the bridge burners retreat to Elizabethton, near Stover’s home, but they feel very exposed there and move farther south.

In the valleys of the mountains along the Doe River in Carter County there are fertile coves—a cove in the Appalachian mountains is defined as a small valley between two ridges that is closed at one or both ends. Six miles south of Elizabethton, the bridge burners encamp at Doe River Cove—now the town of Hampton. Unionist farmers in the neighborhood furnish the men with cattle, sheep, flour and cornmeal and feed for their horses.

This excerpt about Daniel Stover is from a biography of Eliza McCardle Johnson, his mother-in-law:

On November 8, 1861 Daniel led the burning of the Holston River [bridge]. For this he was hunted down, and targeted for capture by Confederate troops. This forced Daniel and his men to seek refuge in the caves [coves] of the nearby mountains during the subsequent winter months and that is where he contracted tuberculosis. Most of the other men were among the working poor with families unable to provide their own sustenance. Daniel’s wife Mary [daughter of Eliza McCardle Johnson]directed that her farm’s livestock be slaughtered to keep the poor families fed. Not wanting to tip off the Confederates searching for the militia in the mountains, however, often inhibited her from smuggling the food baskets she and her mother prepared for them. Many often starved or froze to death in the mountains, a fact which weighed heavily on Mary.

Miller’s Cove

Stansberry, Brian. Miller’s Cove in the Foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee [Similar to Doe River Cove]. User:BrineStans, 3 September 2007. GNU Free Documentation License,

Colonel Danville Leadbetter arrives at Johnson City, Northeast Tennessee, with a large Confederate force and moves out on the Taylorsville road towards the Union camp. The Confederates have sent Leadbetter to arrest the bridge burners and rebuild the bridges. Constant rumors about the enemy circulate through Stover’s camp, and the men expect them to appear at any time.

16 NOVEMBER 1861
Realizing the hopelessness of taking on Leadbetter’s force, the bridge burners disband their little army and leave Doe River Cove on 16 November 1861. Many of these men are caught and sent to prison, where they endure all kinds of abuse. Most of Stover’s men hide in the mountains until Daniel Ellis feels it is safe enough to lead them across the mountains to Camp Dick Robinson in southeastern Kentucky, where many enlist in the Union Army. Still others remain in the mountains for almost two years—until September 1863—when General Ambrose Burnside marches his Federal army into Northeast Tennessee and takes Knoxville.

CSA Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin and Col. Danville Leadbetter correspond about the bridge burners:
19 NOVEMBER 1861
JOHNSON STATION, November 19, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN:
“Yesterday we dispersed the insurgents, 300 strong, at Doe River. 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.”

19 NOVEMBER 1861
RICHMOND, November 19, 1861.
Colonel D. LEADBETTER Jonesborough, Tenn.:
“Send all the prisoners known to be criminals or to have born arms against the Government to Nashville to be tried for high treason. Discharge the others on their taking oath of allegiance. I have ordered a regiment from North Carolina to report to you at Jonesborough.”
J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War.

A month later, Col. Danville Leadbetter, commanding Confederate forces in the Northeast Tennessee area, reports to Adjutant Gen. Samuel Cooper in Richmond:
“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. 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.”

All that remains of the Zollicoffer bridge are the brick piers that once held the trestles.

On 27 February 1862 Edwin M. Stanton, Union Secretary of War, offers Daniel Stover a commission as a Colonel in the 4th East Tennessee Infantry USA for three years or the term of the war. The official certificate bears Stanton’s signature but states that the President of the United States appointed him. As part of his commission, the government authorizes Daniel to raise a regiment of volunteers from Tennessee. Many of the men who were with him during the previous months join his unit. Stover accepted the commission on December 3, 1862.

MAY 1863
In May 1863, Stover submitted a letter describing the progress in assembling a regiment of men. He concludes the letter by noting that since May 1862, more recruits have come into camps. The 4th is composed wholly of exiles from East Tennessee, who were brought out of the Confederate lines by officers and pilots sent in for that purpose. On May 29, 1863, Stover’s unit left Louisville and was mustered into service in June. They remained in upper East Tennessee until July when ordered to Nashville to be mustered out. Col. Stover saw no service in the field.

JULY 1863
Daniel’s service records show that he is frequently absent due to tuberculosis. The record states, “his lungs are very debilitated by frequent pneumonia, he is very dehydrated … and he is unfit to resume duty and won’t be for the next 30 days … he contracted a severe cold which affected very seriously his lungs …”

A letter written to Col. T.S. George in Nashville describes Daniel’s condition:
“I desire to call your attention to the case of Colonel Daniel Stover of the 4th East Tennessee Infantry. He has been for several months seriously indisposed – at times confined to his bed – and unable to perform the duties incidental to field service. As you are aware, this Regiment was recently captured at McMinnville and the other officers are now engaged in its reorganization. I therefore respectfully ask that leave of absence may be extended to Col. Stover until he shall be restored to health as to be able to take the command of his Regiment.”

R. Knoffe, Surgeon with the 10th Tennessee Regiment, reports that Daniel suffers from tuberculosis or what was referred to at that time as consumption. Knoffe adds, “he will never be fit for any service.”

1 AUGUST 1864
Service Records for Daniel for the remainder of 1863 and into 1864 show similar reports of illness. On August 1, 1864 Daniel submitted his letter of resignation:

I have the honor to tender my resignation as Colonel of the Fourth Tennessee Infantry. Exposure whilst lying out in the mountains of East Tennessee, to avoid the confederates who were seeking my destination, added to what I have undergone since my entry into the U.S. Service, and has destroyed a once vigorous constitution and rendered me totally unfit for service. I enclose the certificate of Surgeon Knoffe who has been my attending surgeon for many months.

18 DECEMBER 1864
Colonel Daniel Stover dies in Nashville, Tennessee, on December 18, 1864. The army returns his body to Carter County, where his family buries him next to his parents. After the war ends, Daniel’s widow Mary Johnson Stover returns to their farm near Elizabethton and finds the buildings destroyed and the food reserves depleted. She and her three children live with her parents in Nashville.


“Bridge Burning: Names of Men Who Burned the Bridge at Zollicoffer, “History of the 13th Regiment, Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry, USA, Chapter VII, accessed 20 February 2021,

“Burning of the Railway Bridges, “War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0844, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021,

“Burning of the Railway Bridges, “War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0845, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021,

“Daniel Stover: My 2nd Great Granduncle on my Father’s Side Part 1,” accessed 25 April 2021, 

“Daniel Stover: My 2nd Great Granduncle on my Father’s Side Part 2,” accessed 25 April 2021,

“Daniel Stover: My 2nd Great Granduncle on my Father’s Side Part 3,” accessed 25 April 2021,

“East Tennessee and the Civil War, “Oliver P. Temple, 1899, Chapter XVII, Burning the Bridges, Pages 366—387, accessed 15 February 2021,

“First Lady Biography: Eliza Johnson,” National First Ladies’ Library, accessed 25 April 2021,

“Heros and Heroines of Carter and Johnson Counties in the Civil War,” History of the 13th Regiment, Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry, USA, Chapter XXVIII, accessed 20 February 2021,

Samuel Scott and Samuel Angel, History of the 13th Regiment, Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry, USA, Alpha Editions, July 1, 2019,

“Isaac Lincoln,” Findagrave, accessed 25 April 2021,

“John Burchfield (Company G),” 13th Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry USA Wiki, accessed 29 April 2021,

“Lincoln Family,” An American Family History,      accessed 25 April 2021,

Daniel Ellis, The Thrilling True Adventures of Daniel Ellis: 1861~1865, (Independently published (November 5, 2016), 13-20

JANUARY 1861: Secession Fever

JANUARY—JUNE 1861: The South secedes

South Carolina seceded in December 1860. During the months of January and February 1861, six more states secede: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Leaders in these states believe that, despite his promises, Abraham Lincoln will abolish slavery. After a long pause, four more states leave the Union in April and May 1861: Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina, with Tennessee being the last to secede on 8 June 1861. These eleven states form the Confederate States of America.

Secession Exploded
By William Wiswell

This anti-Confederate satire is a vision of the Union defeat of the secessionist movement. A monster representing secession emerges from the water at left. He is hit by a charge from a mammoth cannon “Death to Traitors!” operated by Uncle Sam (right). The explosion sends several small demons, representing the secessionist states, hurling through the air. Prominent among them is South Carolina, in a coffin at upper right. Tennessee and Kentucky, two Southern states internally divided over the secession question, are represented by two-headed creatures. Virginia, though part of the Confederacy, is also shown divided–probably an acknowledgment of the Appalachian and eastern regions’ alignment with the Union. Among the demons is a small figure of Tennessee senator and 1860 presidential candidate John Bell, with a bell-shaped body. In the foreground is a large American flag on which Winfield Scott, commander of the Union forces, and a bald eagle rest.

7 JANUARY 1861: Governor calls for a secession convention

Tennessee Governor Isham Harris, a secessionist from West Tennessee, convenes a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly on 7 January 1861. Harris asks the lawmakers to approve a convention to consider the state’s position on secession. However, the legislators do not believe they have the authority to call a State Convention without a vote of the people. They call for a referendum in which all Tennessee voters will decide whether a secession convention should be held, setting the date for 9 February 1861.

JANUARY 1861: Parson Brownlow

Pro-Union newspapers accuse Governor Harris of treason. William G. Brownlow, editor of the Knoxville Whig, particularly despises Governor Harris and says so daily in the pages of his newspaper. As a minister in a previous life, Brownlow acquired the nickname ‘Parson.’ He became well known in the late 1830s and early 1840s as editor and publisher of the Knoxville Whig. He believes strongly in his principles and personally attacks his political opponents, sometimes to the point of bodily harm. Against slavery in decades past, during the Civil War, Brownlow returns to his anti-slavery views, going so far as to call for emancipation. He also staunchly opposes secession.

By 1861, the Knoxville Whig has 14,000 loyal subscribers, and some secessionists accuse Brownlow of being the root cause of the stubborn Unionist sentiment in East Tennessee. Knoxville Democrats try to counter Brownlow’s editorials by supporting the Knoxville Register, East Tennessee’s dominant newspaper. Radical secessionist Jacob Austin Sperry edits the Register, but he flees when USA General Ambrose Burnside takes possession of Knoxville in September 1863.

9 JANUARY 1861: Shall Tennessee submit?

In the House of Representatives yesterday, Mr. [William H.] Wisener of Bedford [County], presented a series of resolutions declaring against the policy of holding a State Convention, as proposed by Governor Harris, … We must confess that we were not prepared to expect such broad indications towards submission, from any member of the Tennessee Legislature. But for charity sake we take it for granted Mr. Wisener has not lately paid much attention to the political events of the day, and is especially ignorant as to what has been lately transpiring in Congress.

For we cannot see how any Southern man, who is at all familiar with the history of the times, can in his capacity as the Representative of a Southern constituency, in a Southern Legislature solemnly declare it inexpedient for the people of his State to hold a convention and determine whether they will resist or submit to the Abolition rule now about to be inaugurated [Abraham Lincoln]. … No event of the future can be put down as more certain than that Tennessee will resist … [Tennessee will resist the actions of the Federal government.]

~ Nashville Daily Gazette

20 JANUARY 1860: Is secession the answer?

The Rev. Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge writes an open letter to his relative—Vice President John C. Breckinridge—calling for moderation in resolving the differences between North and South. This is an excerpt:

Wholly unable to comprehend how it can be to the interest of any State to secede from the Union—or how the right to secede can be considered anything else but purely revolutionary; and sees nothing in the past conduct of the Federal Government to justify secession if it were a constitutional remedy; nothing in the aspect of the times promising anything but disaster to the country, to every seceding State, and most especially to herself, from the application of any such remedy, whether by war, by revolution, by the formation of new confederacies, or by the secession of individual States.

24 JANUARY 1861: The rhetoric is heating up

The state of New York offers men and money to the Federal Government “to be used in coercing certain sovereign States of the South into obedience to the Federal Government.” The Tennessee House responds by saying:

It is the opinion of this General Assembly, that whenever the authorities of that State shall send armed forces to the South for the purpose indicated in said resolutions, the people of Tennessee, uniting with their brethren of the South, will ‘welcome them with bloody hands to hospitable graves.’

From a letter by W.W. Fergusson of Riddleton, Tennessee:

Yes, we are all for fighting. Everybody is willing—even the ladies. … I think there is enough patriotism & bravery in this state to sustain the Southern confederacy against the United States troops and all the Yankees who dare accompany them. … The South will never unite with the North again—never.”

~ January 24, 1861

26 JANUARY 1861
We can never live in a Southern Confederacy and be made hewers of wood and drawers of water for a set of aristocrats, and over-bearing tyrants. We are candid in urging East Tennessee to withdraw from Middle and West Tennessee, if they shall be so reckless as to consent to go out of the Union. The people of East Tennessee are with us in this, and will demand it, sooner than be oppressed with direct taxes and forced loans. We have no interests in common with the Cotton States. We are a grain-growing and stock-raising people, and we can conduct a cheap Government … The vile and wicked leaders who have precipitated the revolution, will do none of the fighting, but will manage to hold civil and military offices, with large salaries, to pay for which, money will be wrung from the masses by a system of direct taxes. And these common people will themselves have to shoulder their knapsacks and muskets, and do the fighting.
~ Parson Brownlow, editor of the Knoxville Whig newspaper

Welcome to my blog!

Hi there, I’m Maggie MacLean, author of the Northeast Tennessee Civil War blog. I’m just getting started after months of research and trying to find the perfect theme, which is not easy for a history blog.

I’m not a historian, nor do I write like one. I am an avid reader and researcher of Civil War history since childhood. I have a more casual style of writing, and I will try to explain situations that are not always clear in the history books. I came to prefer a timeline format for this blog because it forces me to write concise entries without a lot of interpretation.

For the purposes of this blog, I will be writing about the 18 counties of Northeast Tennessee: Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Scott, Sevier, Sullivan, Union, and Washington.

If you see errors on this blog or have something to say, please leave a comment.

FYI, I have an autoimmune disease, which makes writing a perfect activity for me.

If you have even half as much fun reading this blog as I am having writing it, Google should send me lots of traffic.

1860: Anti-Secession in Northeast Tennessee

1858—1865: Sub-Divisions in East Tennessee

The State of Tennessee comprises three Grand Divisions: West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and East Tennessee. There are even further divisions within East Tennessee—Southeast Tennessee, Knox County, and Northeast Tennessee—demonstrating how strongly each subdivision is attached to either the Union or the Confederacy. With new markets provided by the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad—completed in 1858—Southeast Tennessee sells increased quantities of cash crops to the South and identifies more with the Confederacy. Knox County, once strongly Unionist, relates more with the Confederacy after Southern troops occupy Knoxville in July 1861. Northeast Tennessee remains primarily Unionist from the entrance of the railroad in 1858 until the close of the Civil War in 1865.

1 MARCH 1860: A Unionist speaks out

More than nine months before South Carolina secedes from the Union, a U.S. congressman speaks his mind at a political convention. William Brickly Stokes is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from DeKalb County, Tennessee (4 March 1859—4 March 1861). On 1 March 1860, Stokes expresses his opinion of secession at the Opposition Party’s State Convention:

It may be mischievous to lull the people into security by proclaiming that the Union cannot be dissolved; … that the ties of kindred blood, of a common lineage and language will prevent it; … and that, if nothing else should avail, the magnitude of material interest dependent upon the preservation of the Union will prevent its dismemberment. The Union cannot be saved by such teaching. It should be remembered that the ties of blood and natural affection are often broken by repeated wrongs; that a family quarrel, of all others, when entered upon, is the most bitter and relentless … No! The safety of the Union depends upon the united action and energies of all good men, North and South, and with the blessing of the God of our fathers upon their efforts, the Union can and will be preserved.

JUNE—DECEMBER 1860: Anti-secession campaign

Leaders in East Tennessee begin an anti-secession campaign and spend much of the latter part of 1860 holding meetings and speaking at rallies in counties throughout the region. Men such as Senator Andrew Johnson, Congressman Emerson Etheridge, Congressman Thomas A.R. Nelson, newspaper editor Parson Brownlow, and Horace Maynard, one of the few Southern congressmen to maintain his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives during the Civil War. This strong Unionist leadership early in the secession crisis is essential in keeping East Tennesseans loyal to the Union.

AUTUMN 1860: Governor Harris is working behind the scenes

During the presidential campaign of 1860,Tennessee Governor Isham Harris, a secessionist from West Tennessee, warns that the state must be ready to consider secession if the “reckless fanatics of the north” should gain control of the federal government. After Abraham Lincoln is elected President of the United States on 6 November 1860, Harris begins his own campaign to sever Tennessee’s ties with the United States. Southern Democrats, convinced that Lincoln would abolish slavery, begin calling for secession.

20 DECEMBER 1860: Why can’t everyone live free?

When Abraham Lincoln, a known opponent of slavery, is elected president in November 1860, the South Carolina legislature call a state convention. On 20 December 1860 the delegates vote 169 to 0 to leave the United States of America. This is the culmination of decades of debate between the North and the South about slavery and extending slavery into new Federal territories.

25 DECEMBER 1860: Is the Union lost?

During the secession crisis in Tennessee, most people in the state are not much interested in leaving the Union. However, as secession fever reaches the Unionist counties in Northeast Tennessee, more and more people sense impending conflict. As far away as the state capital of Nashville, a lawyer writes on Christmas Day 1860:

I am of the opinion that our beloved Union is drawing to an ignominious end. Lincoln has been elected President & the whole South is shaken from center to circumference—God grant that we may be preserved from civil war & a servile insurrection.

William L. B. Lawrence Diary


“Civil War Sourcebook,” Thousands of articles chronicling the Civil War in Tennessee, accessed 9 February 2021,    

“East Tennessee Convention of 1861,” Civil War Wiki, accessed 10 February 2021,

“Historical Markers and War Memorials in Tennessee,” Historical Marker Database, accessed 10 February 2021,                  

Meredith Anne Grant, “Internal Dissent: East Tennessee’s Civil War, 1849-1865,”2008,Electronic Theses and Dissertations, East Tennessee State University, accessed 24 March 2021,

“Timeline 1861,” Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints, Articles and Essays, Library of Congress, accessed 10 February 2021,

“William Brickly Stokes,” Wikipedia, accessed 18 January 2021,