Backstory Thomas Amos Rogers Nelson (1812-1873) is an attorney and politician in Northeast Tennessee during the American Civil War era. He represents the 1st Congressional District in the 36th U.S. Congress (1859–1861), where he gains a reputation as a Southern Unionist—white Southerners living in the Confederate States who are opposed to secession.
During the 1860-1861 secession crisis, T. A. R. Nelson canvasses the region, giving dozens of speeches, trying to keep East Tennessee in the Union. He also serves as president of both meetings of East Tennessee Convention; the first session met in Knoxville on 30 May 1861; the second in Greeneville on 17 June 1861. The Unionists petition the Tennessee General Assembly, asking that East Tennessee be allowed to form its own state and remain in the Union. The legislature denies their request.
25 MARCH 1861: A Meeting with the President Northeast Tennessee Congressman Thomas A. R. NELSON writes about a meeting he has with President Abraham Lincoln: “[I] had it from his own lips … that he was for peace, and would use every exertion in his power to maintain it …. He expressed a strong hope that, after a little time is allowed for reflection, [the Confederate states] will secede from the position they have taken …. [I was] well pleased with the President’s frankness.”
4 AUGUST 1861 – OCTOBER 17, 1862: CONFEDERATES ARREST U.S. CONGRESSMAN THOMAS A. R. NELSON
4 AUGUST 1861: Congressman Thomas A. R. Nelson arrested by Confederates During the secession crisis of 1860-61, Northeast Tennessee Unionist Thomas Amos Rogers Nelson actively campaigns to keep Tennessee in the Union. Even after Tennessee joins the Confederacy on 8 June 1861, voters in Nelson’s district reelect him as a Unionist [the name used by a coalition of Republicans, northern Democrats and anti-Confederate Southern Democrats] to the U.S. Congress in 1861. On his way to Washington DC to take his seat, Nelson is arrested and carried to Richmond VA as a prisoner.
United States Congressman from Tennessee Thomas A. R. Nelson
CONFEDERATE CORRESPONDENCE ABOUT THOMAS A. R. NELSON
6 AUGUST 1861: Arrest of prominent East Tennessee Unionist Thomas A. R. Nelson BRIGADE HEADQUARTERS, Knoxville, August 6, 1861. Adjt. Gen. S. COOPER, Richmond, Va. SIR: Thomas A. R. Nelson, with an escort of three men, supposed to be on his way to take his seat in the Federal Congress at Washington, was arrested about midnight night before last in Lee County, Virginia, by a company of Home Guards of that county. He was brought to a camp under my command at Cumberland Gap, and was from there sent, under a guard of 60 men, to Abingdon, VA. The knowledge of the event has apparently produced much excitement among Nelson’s adherents here, giving rise to menacing language. … F. K. ZOLLICOFFER, Brig.-Gen.
NELSON’S ACCOUNT OF HIS ORDEAL Published in the New York Times, 31 August 1861 The Knoxville Whig, of the 24th, contains the promised address of Hon. THOMAS A.R. NELSON to the people of East Tennessee. It occupies two columns of the Whig. After stating the causes which led to his light, the mode of his arrest, the reasons for his Unionism, with which the reader is already familiar, he says: While on the way to Richmond, I had some conversation with a portion of the Tennessee delegation to the Southern Congress, and during my stay there was visited by various members of Congress and other public men connected with the Southern Confederacy. The intense solicitude which was expressed, especially by the most prominent and distinguished of the original Secessionists, who, without any request on my part, volunteered their kind offices with generous liberality, in regard to the conciliation of the people of East Tennessee, and the unusual kindness and consideration with which I was treated as a prisoner, convinced me that I was in error in supposing that the military power would be exerted for any other purpose than that of retaining the Railroad and of resisting aggressive acts on our part. Acting under this changed conviction, believing that, if I were retained as a prisoner, or punished with death, under any strained construction of the treason laws, my friends in East Tennessee would in either event retaliate by arresting public men of the opposite party here; that this would lead to counter arrests, and that the horrors of civil war would immediately exist among us, I felt that it was due to you and to myself that I should obtain my release as soon as possible, on the best, terms I could effect without dishonor; and, after various informal propositions and consultations, I finally addressed to President DAVIS the following letter.
12 AUGUST 1861: T. A. R. Nelson petitions Jefferson Davis for his release and the release of his son from prison RICHMOND, Aug. 12, 1861. To His Excellency Jeff. Davis, President of the Confederate States. SIR: I have been arrested, and, as I learned since my arrival in this city, upon the charge of treason, but whether against the State of Tennessee or the Confederate State, I am not advised. I am conscious of no act, either against the State or the Confederacy, that will support or sustain such an accusation. I am sincerely anxious to preserve the peace and quiet of East Tennessee, the section of the State in which I reside, as best promotion of the peace and interest of the entire State. I ask to be discharged from a vexatious prosecution, that I may return home peacefully, to follow my private interests and pursuits, assuring your Excellency that I will not, either directly or indirectly, by counsel, advice or action encourage aid or assist the United States Government to invade or attain success in the present struggle with the Confederate States, nor will I counsel or advise others to thwart or cripple the Confederate States in the pending contest with the United States, nor will I do so by my own acts. In view of the increased majority in the election which has just taken place in Tennessee, I shall feel it my duty, as a citizen of that State, to submit to her late action, and shall religiously abstain from any further words or acts of condemnation or opposition to her Government. The parties arrested with me, with the exception of my son, who acted by my command, were mere guides and conductors through the mountain passes, on my way to my place of destination, and whatever view may be taken of my own course, they are innocent; in no way responsible, legally or morally, and have committed no offence against the laws of the Confederacy or the State of Tennessee, and I ask that they also be discharged from custody by Your Excellency. Very respectfully, Your obedient servant, THOS. A.R. NELSON.
13 AUGUST 1861: President Jefferson Davis orders Nelson’s release after he agrees not to oppose the Confederate government. RICHMOND, Aug. 13, 1861. SIR: I have received your letter of the 12th inst., in which you ask to be discharged from arrest and prosecution, and make promise that you will, as a citizen of Tennessee, submit to her late action, and religiously abstain from any further words or acts of condemnation whatever, or opposition to her Government. The desire of this Government being to maintain the dependence it has asserted by the united feeling and action of all its citizens, it has been its policy not to enter into questions of differences of political opinions heretofore existing. I am, therefore, pleased to be spared the necessity of inquiring whether the accusation against you be well founded or not, vexatious or not, and to rest content with your submission as a loyal citizen of your State to her recent action in adhering to this Confederacy and adopting its permanent Constitution by an increased majority. I have ordered your discharge and that of your companions from custody. I am, &c., JEFFERSON DAVIS
17 AUGUST 1861: Nelson returns to his home in Jonesborough and resumes his law practice. Since my return home, I am content with my own course in the promises. But whether it was right or wrong, wise or unwise, I feel bound, as an honorable man, to act up to the spirit and letter of the obligation I assumed. I shall offer no plea of duress, because neither the Southern Confederacy nor any earthly power could have compelled me to make an agreement that my judgment and conscience did not approve in the situation in which I was placed. No terms or conditions, expressed or implied, public or private, attended my release other than those plainly expressed in the two above-quoted; but I have thought it due to our past relations and the painful solicitude many of you have felt in my behalf, that I should thus briefly address you. While I did not promise allegiance or active support to the Southern Confederacy … I feel perfectly free to say that the failure of the Government of the United States for four long months to sustain us in our position; its apparent inability to do so … within any reasonable time; … the mutual hatred which has grown up between the antagonist sections of the Union, … as well as other causes, have painfully impressed my own mind with the belief that, unless some wonderful and improbable change is effected, our beloved Union is gone forever, and it is our policy and duty to submit to a result which, however we may deplore it, seems to be inevitable. Aware that my advice as well as my motives may be liable to misconstruction, I would still most respectfully recommend to my friends the propriety of abstaining from all further opposition or resistance to the Confederate authorities, … although I have no authority to speak for them, I am satisfied that no military power will be exerted among us, except such as may be indispensably necessary to retain military possession of East Tennessee. And to those of our citizens who have gone beyond the limits of the State … I think I can safely say, without arrogance, that from the course which was adopted towards me, they would risk nothing returning to the State … THOS. A.R. NELSON. KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 17, 1861.
I found no evidence that Mr. Nelson ever attempts to take his seat in the U.S. Congress again.
26 AUGUST 1861: Official Confederate correspondence relative to East Tennessee Unionist T. A. R. Nelson’s expected public support for the Confederacy KNOXVILLE, TENN., August 26, 1861. Hon. A. T. BLEDSOE, Bureau of War, Richmond, Va. DEAR SIR:I have with others labored hard and with some success to allay the spirit of disaffection in this region … I stopped at Jonesborough one day to confer with Col. T. A. R. Nelson and through him to learn what the Unionists design, and the result of a long interview has strongly impressed me with the belief that he will not only abstain from doing anything hostile to the Confederacy but that in due time … he will come out openly for the Southern cause and he has given me aid already in getting up volunteers. At my instance Union leaders now here from different counties are to-night engaged in preparing an address … and advising their friends in Kentucky and elsewhere to return to their homes and submit to “the powers that be.” I propose publishing a handbill containing a sort appeal to my friends and relatives … this indorsement of it by his friends and Gen. Zollicoffer’s general order holding out the olive branch. This may lead to such mutual confidence that both sides may deem their rifles useless here … Very respectfully and truly, yours, A. M. LEA, Brigade Commissary.
4 OCTOBER 1862: Confederate authorities attempt to insure loyalty of East Tennesseans with indorsement of T. A. R. Nelson and Nelson’s “Address to the People of East Tennessee.” HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF EAST TENNESSEE Knoxville, Tenn., October 4, 1862. Editor ATHENS POST: SIR: An address to the people of East Tennessee, by Thomas A. R. Nelson, will appear in the Knoxville Register to-morrow. I desire that you copy it in your paper, which I presume you will do without any request from me, and give it a wide circulation; and I shall be pleased if you will give it a complimentary editorial notice in a way that will be agreeable to Mr. Nelson and calculated to encourage others to follow his example. This is no time to permit party feelings to drive from our support any who are able to serve our cause by bringing about a more loyal and better feeling in East Tennessee. Of course I do not want my name to appear in connection with it. Very respectfully, SAM. JONES, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
4 OCTOBER 1862: Meet CSA Gen. SAM. JONES HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF EAST TENNESSEE, Knoxville, Tenn., October 4, 1862. Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.: SIR: After being a few days in command here … I became satisfied that much good might result to our cause by putting myself in communication with … the most influential Union men. Without knowing any of them personally I selected Hon. Thomas A. R. Nelson … and invited him to meet me here. … he came very promptly, and after a private interview he, on my suggestion, wrote and placed in my hands, to be used as I thought proper, an address to the people of East Tennessee. … I will have it published and widely circulated and hope it will be productive of good. I expect in a day or two to converse with a few other influential men whom I have invited to meet me, and I hope they may be brought to see the propriety of following Mr. Nelson’s example. I believe there are Southern men in East Tennessee … who have heretofore been strong Union men should change their course and come out in support of the Government. … I regret to believe that much hostility and treachery exists in this department. I have a detachment out now in an adjoining county to kill, capture, or disperse a party of some 200 or 300 armed men collected together in the mountains to join the enemy in Kentucky; and I hear there are other such bands. … I have received no instructions from you and am not informed as to the policy … I should pursue. I send with this a short proclamation to the people of East Tennessee. They … will indicate somewhat of the policy I propose to pursue, and I have respectfully to ask that you will submit them to the President and inform me if they meet his approval. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, SAM. JONES, Maj.-Gen.
3 OCTOBER 1862: Address of Hon. T. A. R. Nelson to the People of East Tennessee. KNOXVILLE, TENN., October 3, 1862. In all the speeches which I made to you in the spring and summer of 1861, as well as in a printed address to the people of the State on or about May 30, 1861, I declared in substance that if I had believed it was the object of the North to subjugate the South and to emancipate our slaves in violation of the Constitution, I would have gone as far as the farthest in advocating resistance to the utmost extent. My attention has just been called to a proclamation issued by the President of the United States on 22 September 1862 [Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation], in which he declares that— “On the 1st day of January, A. D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State, or any designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be thenceforward and forever free, and the executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they make for their actual freedom.” I need scarcely remind you that one of the evils which I dreaded and predicted as the results of which were made to dissolve the Union was, that in the progress of war they might open the way for servile insurrection and the overthrow of the institution of slavery. My opinions as to the unconstitutionally and impolicy of secession remain unchanged … The paramount causes which have controlled and influenced my conduct and opinions were love for the Union and an unshaken confidence that we had the best Constitution and Government in the world; but of all the acts of despotism of which the civil war in which we are now engaged has been the prolific source there is not one which in the slightest degree equals the atrocity and barbarism of Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation. At one blow it deprives all the citizens of the slave States without distinction of the right to hold slaves, a right guaranteed by the very Constitution he pretends to uphold. … We are in the midst of a sea of difficulties. Many acts have been done in the South to which we were bitterly opposed as a people, and which we who have adhered to the Union in spite of perils and dangers could not justify or palliate; but the Union men of East Tennessee are not now and never were Abolitionists. … I am aware, my countrymen, that you will find difficulties in bringing your minds to the same conclusion at which my own has arrived. Many wanton and unauthorized acts of cruelty and oppression have been perpetrated among you, which, instead of changing your opinions, have only been calculated to aggravate and intensify a heroic principle of endurance. Many of these acts have been committed in remote places, without the knowledge or approbation of the authorities at Richmond or of those who have held the supreme command in East Tennessee, and under such circumstances that you have felt it dangerous to complain. … Gradually and slowly these outrages have at last become known, and in the very recent proclamation issued by Maj.-Gen. Jones you have the assurance that your complaints will be heard and the most energetic measures adopted to remedy the evils to which you have been subjected. Let not then a sense of private and present wrongs blind you against the enormities already perpetrated and still more seriously contemplated by Mr. Lincoln’s administration. … But if, through fear or any other cause, Mr. Lincoln’s infamous proclamation is sustained, then we have no Union to hope for, no Constitution to struggle for, no magnificent and unbroken heritage to maintain, no peace to expect, save such as with the blessing of Providence we may conquer. The armies which have been sent near you to tantalize you with hope have been withdrawn, and with cool audacity Mr. Lincoln virtually tells you that you have no rights. No alternative remains but to choose the destiny which an arrogant and unprincipled administration forces upon us. It is almost unnecessary to declare to you that I adhered to the Union amidst good report and evil report, suffering and danger, while it was in my power to support it, and that, when my efforts were paralyzed and my voice silenced by causes beyond my control, I have cherished the hope that all might yet be well; but “the last link is broken” that bound me to a Government for which my ancestors fought, and what ever may be the course of others, I shall feel it my duty to encourage the most persevering and determined resistance against the tyrants and usurpers of the Federal administration, who have blasted our hopes and are cruelly seeking to destroy the last vestige of freedom among us. … He [Lincoln] has called armies into the field without authority, according to his own acknowledgment, and has become a military dictator. THOS. A. R. NELSON.
17 OCTOBER 1862:Confederate authorities deny incarcerating T. A. R. Nelson’s son to force Nelson’s “Address To The People of Tennessee” HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF EAST TENNESSEE, Knoxville, Tenn., October 17, 1862. Hon. THOMAS. A. R. NELSON, Jonesborough, Tenn. DEAR SIR: I regret to hear that some persons, incapable it seems of appreciating the manly and patriotic motives which prompted your address to the people of East Tennessee, have attributed it to a desire to procure thereby the release of your son. It is due to you that I should state that neither you nor any one else ever intimated to me that you desired the release of your son, nor did I intimate any promise of intention of releasing him. I took it for granted that you did desire it, but I had too just an appreciation of your character to suppose for one moment that your action on so important a matter would be influenced by that motive. I had heard that your son was young and indiscreet, and had committed the offense for which he was arrested in violation of your expressed wishes and while you were absent from home. I have released a number of prisoners besides your son, and I released him because I supposed that it would be gratifying to you, and because I judge that the boy would be more likely to become a loyal and useful citizen if brought within your influence than if left in prison with persons older and more culpable than himself. If you think the insinuations against your motives worthy of notice you are at liberty to make such use of this note as you may think proper. Very respectfully and truly, SAM. JONES, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
17 OCTOBER 1862: HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF EAST TENNESSEE, Knoxville, Tenn., October 17, 1862. Hon. THOMAS A. R. NELSON, Jonesborough, Tenn. DEAR SIR: … You may remember that I mentioned to you that I thought it highly probable that many people in East Tennessee would deny that President Lincoln had issued his proclamation of the 22nd ultimo and denounce it as a secession forgery unless some one in whom they had confidence would come forward and assure them it was genuine. I am sorry to hear that many persons not only deny the authenticity of Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation but of your address also. They say the whole thing is a secession forgery, gotten up by the Knoxville Register. I am convinced that your address has already been productive of much good, and I am equally well convinced that you can render far more effective service to the country and especially to the people of East Tennessee by going among them and addressing them in public meeting. It is of the first importance that the Union men should now come out and give cordial support to the Government. If the present opportunity is lost it is impossible to see what other can offer for bringing them to the support of the Government under which they now live. I know that other gentleman of influence are willing to join you and canvass East Tennessee, and I venture to urge you to lose no time, but enter on the work now. I would not make the suggestion if I were not convinced of your earnest desire to promote the peace and harmony of East Tennessee now and for the future. I am satisfied that you and others can soon biting about such a state of feeling in this section of the country that the troops now in service in this particular section may with safety be withdrawn. The depredations so long and justly complained of will cease and that cause of imitation be removed. It is surely worth an effort to produce even that benefit to the community. I believe you can accomplish that and much more. In haste, yours, very respectfully and truly, SAM. JONES, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
I found no evidence that Mr. Nelson ever canvassed East Tennessee for the Confederacy. It appears that he remained quiet and out of the public eye for some time. I did find the following correspondence with Provost-Marshal of East Tennessee S. P. Carter at Knoxville concerning mistreatment of East Tennessee Unionists by Union troops. Please note Mr. Nelson’s address. After USA Gen. Ambrose Burnside occupied Knoxville in early September 1863, Mr. Nelson moved from his home in Jonesborough to Knox County, near Knoxville.
26 DECEMBER 1863: Unionist civilians in dire straits FLAT CREEK, KNOX COUNTY, TENN, December 26, 1863. Brig. Gen. S. P. Carter: SIR: Unable to reach home, I have been staying for the last ten days at the house of Maj. Gaines McMillan, who will hand you this note. He goes to Knoxville in the hope of procuring a guard for his property. Having always been a Union man, he cheerfully furnished to the army all the corn and other articles he could spare; but soldiers, in defiance of your safeguard, came and took all his oats; others threatened to break open his smoke-house and insulted his family in his absence, and were with great difficulty restrained by my persuasions and entreaties from forcibly taking his provisions. He has been and is daily annoyed in every conceivable way without the power of resistance. I sincerely hope that you may devise some plan to relieve him from further vexation and loss. Although I … understand that you are not in command of the army of East Tennessee, I hope that, as a native of the country, you will exert your influence to mitigate the horrors of war among us. Supposing that Governor Johnson and Mr. Maynard had in charge the interests of our people, I, in common with others, cherished the hope that they would use their influence with the President to cause the army to be instructed before they came here that they were about to enter the country of friends and not of enemies, and that, by their good conduct, they should make the contrast broad and deep between the behavior of the hostile Armies, and especially that as the Union population had suffered greatly from the rebels, they should be promptly paid for everything that might be taken by the Federals … I suppose that the exertions … our members of Congress made have been unavailing, as the Union Army is more destructive to Union men than the rebel army ever was. Our fences are burned, our horses are taken, our people are stripped in many instances of the very last vestige of subsistence, our means to make a crop next year are being rapidly destroyed, and when the best Union men in the country make appeals to the soldiers, they are heartlessly cursed as rebels; or when certificates are given as to property taken, they are generally for much less than the true amount, and a citizen in attempting to enforce a claim against his Government has to run the gauntlet of “the circumlocution office,” until, discouraged and disheartened, he turns away, feeling that the Government which he loved and honored and trusted, and which never did him any harm before the war, has at last become cruel and unjust, and cares nothing for his sorrows and sufferings. In many instances soldiers take property without giving any certificates, and the result is a fearful and alarming state of robbery and plunder. Can you do nothing to remedy these evils? Can you not, in behalf of an outraged and disappointed people, urge Gen. [John G.] Foster [then in command of East Tennessee] to hold all officers to the strictest accountability for the conduct of their soldiers and compel them to listen to and redress the wrongs of the people? If nothing is done and promptly done, starvation and ruin are before us, and there will be nothing here to support the army next summer. Let me urge you, as you love East Tennessee, and as you would preserve the Union party from ruin, to exert a prompt and energetic influence on the whole subject. Very respectfully, THOS. A. R. NELSON
26 DECEMBER 1863: Gen. Carter requests aid for Unionists OFFICE PROVOST-MARSHAL-GEN. OF EAST Tennessee, Knoxville, December 26, 1863. Brig. Gen. E. E. POTTER, Chief of Staff: GEN.: I have the honor to forward, for information of the commanding general, a letter this day received from Hon. Thomas A. R. Nelson, in relation to the conduct of United States troops toward loyal citizens of East Tennessee. In doing so I respectfully renew my request that the most stringent measures be adopted to put an immediate check to acts which are alike unjust to our citizens and discreditable to the United States service. I am, general, very respectfully, &c., S. P. Carter, Brig. Gen. and Provost-Marshal-Gen. of East Tennessee.
8 MARCH 1862 Col. James P.T. Carter USA and his troops are ordered on 8 March 1862 to proceed to Big Creek Gap, Tennessee and capture or disperse the Confederate forces that are blockading roads and molesting the Unionist civilians. Col. Carter is the youngest of the Carter clan from Elizabethton—brother of bridge burner W.B. Carter and brigadier general Samuel P. Carter, who is also serving in Northeast Tennessee.
10 MARCH 1862 On the morning of 10 March 1862, Col. Carter leaves with his command, which consists of the First East Tennessee Regiment, the Second East Tennessee Regiment, a detachment of the First Kentucky Cavalry, and Company B of the Forty-ninth Indiana Regiment led by Lt. Col. James Keigwin.
Big Creek Gap: Natural Opening Inscription. The road in front of you winds through Big Creek Gap, one of the few natural openings through the Cumberland Mountains in the region. During the Civil War, this corridor was much narrower and steeper, and even lightly loaded wagons found travel extremely hazardous. Cumberland Gap, one the main migration route[s] from the eastern states to the west and a strategic gateway during the Civil War, is about thirty miles northeast of here. Early in the conflict, Confederate military engineers ringed Cumberland Gap with defensive works and considered the pass impregnable from the north and east. East Tennessee citizens who supported the Union alerted Federal commanders to the possibility of flanking the fortifications via Big Creep Gap. After a rigorous march, a detachment of Union soldiers, including a company of Campbell County men under Capt. Joseph A. Cooper, first penetrated the narrow passage here in March 1862 and routed the Confederate cavalry posted nearby. A more substantial offensive effort under U.S. Gen. George W. Morgan occurred in June, producing a bloodless Confederate withdrawal from Cumberland Gap. Subsequently, control of the Gap changed hands several times. Across the highway, on a small knoll above and the right of the old rock quarry, are remnants of the earthworks that defended Big Creek Gap. They are the only know[n] Civil War-era fortifications in Campbell County. In the summer of 1861, the 19th Tennessee Infantry (CS) and other units stood watch here to guard the state border and prevent local men from joining the Union army in Kentucky. Rifle pits, gun emplacements, and ammunition dumps by soldiers from both are still extant. (captions) (upper right) “Drawing Artillery Across the Mountains,” Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 21, 1863. (lower right) Gen. Joseph A. Cooper Courtesy http://www.generalsandbrevets.com and USA Gen. George W. Morgan, Leslie’s Illustrated History. Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. Marker is in LaFollette, Tennessee, in Campbell County at the intersection of North Tennessee Avenue and North Indiana Avenue (U.S. 25W) https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=74229
13 MARCH 1862 Carter and his soldiers arrive at the foot of the north side of the Cumberland Mountains at 6 o’clock pm and learn that two companies of the Confederate First Tennessee Regiment Cavalry are encamped at Big Creek Gap. With the road completely blocked, Col. Carter sends the Union cavalry unit around another road. Carter and his men set off again at 9 o’clock pm, planning to meet on the other side of the mountain, about nine miles away. They are troubled during their march by the total darkness of the night and the necessity of walking single file through the narrow passageways in the mountains.
14 MARCH 1862 At about 6 o’clock am, after an intense skirmish of about 15 minutes, the Carter’s troops completely rout the Southerners, capturing dozens of horses and mules, and several wagons. Because of the poor visibility and bad roads, the cavalry did not arrive until after the skirmish.
Report of Big Creek Gap: Col. James P. T. Carter HDQRS. SECOND EAST TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS, Camp at Flat Lick, March 23, 1862. GEN.: In obedience to your order of the 8th instant to proceed to Big Creek Gap and Jacksborough, Campbell County, Tennessee, and capture or rout the rebel forces which were reported to be in that vicinity blockading roads and molesting the persons and property of Union citizens, I left with my command on the morning of the 10th instant [‘instant’ means the 10th day in the current month], accompanied by Lieut. Col. James Keigwin, of the Forty-ninth Indiana Volunteers, and marched to Big Creek Gap via Boston. My force consisted of the Second East Tennessee Regt. Company A, of the First East Tennessee Regt., Capt. Cooper; Company B, of the Forty-Ninth Indiana Regt., Capt. Thompson, and a detachment of Lieut. Col. Munday’s First Battalion Kentucky Cavalry. We arrived at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains, on the north side, on the 13th instant, at 6 o’clock p. m. I then learned that two companies of the First Tennessee Regt. rebel cavalry were encamped at Big Creek Gap. Finding the road completely blockaded, I detached the cavalry, and sent them around by another road, with orders to meet the main body of the command at a certain point on the opposite side of the mountain. Procuring the services of a guide, I divided my command, placing one portion under charge of Lieut.-Col. Keigwin. We took up the line of march at 9 o’clock p. m., intending to meet at a point on the opposite side of the mountain about daybreak. The distance we had to march was about 9 miles, yet so difficult was the ascent of the mountain that it was only by the superhuman exertions, as it were, of the men that the march was made. The men, however, bore it patiently, and moved on “eager for the fray.”
Having to pass through narrow ways in single file, and the night being very dark, a portion of the infantry got lost, and did not arrive in time to take part in the skirmish. About 1,300 of the infantry came upon the camps of the rebels, under command of Lieut. Col. John F. White, at about 6 o’clock a.m. of the 14th instant, and after a sharp skirmish of about five minutes the rebels were completely routed. The rebel loss was 5 men killed, 15 wounded, and 15 taken prisoners, among whom were Lieut.-Col. White and Lieut. Hoyl. We captured 86 horses (27 killed), 7 mules, and several wagons, a large amount of camp and garrison equipage, a quantity of powder, and a large amount of quartermaster and commissary stores-a sufficient amount of the latter to supply the command during their stay. It being impossible to bring off the quartermaster stores I caused them to be burned and the powder destroyed. Owing to the darkness of the night and the impassability of the roads the cavalry did not arrive till after the skirmish. Had the troops been able to get up in time I am satisfied that we could have succeeded in capturing the whole force. On the arrival of the cavalry we marched to Jacksborough, distance 5 miles, and there overtook the rear guard of the cavalry; killed 1 man and captured Capt. Edward Winston, of the Corps of Sappers and Miners. We hoisted the Stars and Stripes over the town, and on the 15th instant marched to Fincastle, and from thence to Woodson’s Gap, where we encamped a few days.
Learning that there was a manufactory of saltpeter in the neighborhood, I sent a detachment of cavalry with orders to destroy the same. They destroyed about 1,000 pounds of saltpeter, broke up the kettles, burned up the shed, and destroyed about 11,000 pounds of bacon and 20 sacks of flour. Our loss was 1 wounded-Lieut. Myers, Company H, Second East Tennessee Volunteers. His wound, however, is not dangerous.
Officers and men behaved admirably, and proved that they are ready and willing at all times to meet the rebels. The people through the section of country over which we passed are truly loyal in their sentiments and hailed the advent of our troops with unbounded enthusiasm. Everything they had was freely tendered to us. We found forage and provisions abundant on the route after we left Boston. The position we had at Woodson’s Gap was a very strong one, and could have been held against a large force, and had we been permitted to remain we would no doubt have had an opportunity of meeting the forces at Cumberland Gap which had been sent out to attack us, but on the 19th instant I received an order from you to report at headquarters with my command at the earliest possible moment. I accordingly took up the line of march for this place on the 20th instant, and arrived here on the 23rd instant without the loss of a single man. Your obedient servant, JAS. P. T. Carter, Colonel, Second East Tennessee Volunteers. Later Acting Brigadier-General, Comdg., Twelfth Brigade.
Report of Big Creek Gap: Gen. E. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army, HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE, Knoxville, March 15, 1862. GENERAL: I have the honor to report that the enemy, having passed the Cumberland Mountains, yesterday surprised and captured, without the fire of a gun, I believe, the larger number of two companies of the First East Tennessee Cavalry near Jacksborough. Their force consisted of a regiment of infantry.
Couriers who arrived last night bring the intelligence that they are moving in this direction. I have ordered forward to Clinton two Alabama regiments, the Third Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, a battalion of North Carolina Volunteers, a section (two pieces) Third Maryland Artillery, and a portion First East Tennessee Cavalry (an aggregate of 2,000 men), the whole under the command of Colonel D. Leadbetter, who had received such instructions from me as I thought necessary for the exigency.
From what I have learned of the character of the troops from East Tennessee in our service, of their strong Union proclivities, greatly increased by their near relationship to and from intimate association with many citizens who have fled the country and espoused the Federal cause, I am satisfied the capture near Jacksborough was the result of treachery. Pickets detailed from them cannot be relied on, and even officers are not free from suspicion of more fidelity to the Federal than to out service. It is not an individual opinion that some of the regiments from this section are disloyal, but it is the conviction of many of our friends, who know the public sentiment prevailing in those counties in which they were raised and the strong personal ties which would influence them to become so. There is a want among them of that confidence in the loyalty of each other which would make them faithful in the discharge of their duty to their fellow soldiers and to the country, and this is aggravated, too, by the opinion, which exists to some extent, that East Tennessee cannot be defended by the force we have in the field, and must be abandoned upon the advance of the Federal Army.
I cannot, therefore, too strongly urge upon the Department the propriety, if not the necessity, of removing these troops to some other point, where they cannot prove traitors, either by purchase or from love to the Federal Government, and where, if they do not make efficient soldiers, they cannot be tampered with by the enemy. If this be done, and their numerical strength be supplied by troops from other States, I am persuaded it would in every respect be to the advantage of the service. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, E. KIRBY SMITH, Major-General, Commanding.
USA Col. James P. T. Carter claims victory for his brave soldiers and the pro-Union sentiment in the surrounding area.
CSA Gen. E. Kirby Smith the Union victory is the result of treachery.
Conflict in Campbell County: War in the Mountains Inscription. The Civil War in Campbell County was often personal. Few residents owned slaves, and a large majority – 1,094 to 60 – voted against secession in June 1861. Local men formed what became Co. A and Co. B, 1st Tennessee Infantry (US), at the courthouse in Jacksboro on August 1-2, 1861. Despite the strong Unionist sentiment, Confederate forces occupied the rugged mountain region later that year to secure several strategic gaps and to block any large Federal advance from Kentucky.
Confederate control did not last long. In March 1862, Union forces won an engagement at Jacksboro, raised the United States flag at the courthouse, and then marched north to destroy a saltpeter operation near here. The Federals noted that “the people…are truly loyal in their sentiments and hailed the advent of our troops with unbounded enthusiasm.” The expedition destroyed 1,000 pounds of saltpeter (essential to the manufacture of gunpowder), numerous kettles, 11,000 pounds of bacon, 20 sacks of flour, and a shed.
Travel through the mountains was challenging and dangerous. One night in April 1863, William Sloan carried dispatches from Kentucky to Confederates near Jacksboro. He confided to his diary, “the darkness was at times so pitchy that it gave me the sensation of passing through a tunnel, or dark underground passage; but of course there was some light else my horse could not have found his way, but such light was not discernible to my senses. Altogether it was the most dismal ride I ever took in my life, to say nothing of being uncomfortable.” Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. Marker is near Jellico, Tennessee, in Campbell County on Indian Mountain State Park Circle in Indian Mountain State Park. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=119921
15MARCH 1862 The Federals raise the United States flag over Jacksborough and march to Fincastle, and from there to Woodson’s Gap, where they camp for a few days. Col. Carter soon receives an order to report to headquarters with his command as early as possible.
For a short period of time the entire area of Big Creek Gap and Jacksborough are involved in the Civil War.
Burnside’s East Tennessee Campaign Since his arrival in Knoxville on 3 September 1863,USA Gen. Ambrose BURNSIDE has been creating a plan to run the Confederates out of Northeast Tennessee. He sends Gen. Samuel Perry CARTER[brother of bridge burner W.B. Carter] and his cavalry to clear the roads and byways from Virginia. Not content to sit and wait for developments, Burnside personally leads a cavalry division and troops from Gen. Edward FERRERO’s infantry division to assist Carter.
Battles of Blue Springs Fighting on the Same Ground Twice Inscription. On the morning of October 10, 1863, Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s campaign suddenly arrived at Blue Springs (present-day Mosheim) when Union cavalry attacked Confederate Gen. John S. Williams’s troops. By noon, the Confederate lines were stretched to the breaking point. At 5 P.M., Union infantrymen broke through the forward line of rifle pits, but heavy cannon and musket fire from the main Confederate positions drove them back. Three more assaults on the main Confederate line failed when Confederate Infantry and artillery fire shot them to pieces. After dark, the Confederates withdrew. The Federals pursued them in the morning, and later that day they met again in Rheatown. The tired Confederates escaped toward Jonesborough. Union Gen. Alvan C. Gillem’s cavalry force marching from Bulls Gap met a small Confederate force on the same battlefield on August 23, 1864. The Federals engaged Confederate Col. Henry L. Giltner’s 4th Kentucky Cavalry pickets and drove them back two miles toward the ridge south of Greeneville Road, where they encountered more Confederate troops. Giltner’s men repulsed repeated Union attacks. Then William Brown, a local boy, pointed out a “by road” to Union Col. John K. Miller who used it to reposition his 13th Tennessee Cavalry. His next attack turned the Confederate left flank. A frontal assault then broke the Confederate line and resulted in “a running fight, which was closed by night two miles beyond Greeneville, the enemy halting and endeavoring several times to reform.” Gillem reported Union control of Greene County was again assured, for the time being. (captions) Lloyd’s Official Map of the State of Tennessee, 1863 Courtesy Library of Congress Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside Courtesy Library of Congress Gen. Alvan C. Gillem Courtesy Library of Congress Gen John S. Williams Courtesy Library of Congress Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. W. Marker is in Mosheim, Tennessee, in Greene County. At or near 6766 West Andrew Johnson Highway, Mosheim TN 37818. https://www.hmdb.org/Photos2/258/Photo258230o.jpg
3 OCTOBER 1863 CSA Gen. John WILLIAMS and his cavalry set out to disrupt Union communications, hoping to take t he town of Bull’s Gap on the East Tennessee & Virginia [ET&VA] Railroad. On 3 October, Williams encounters USA Gen. Samuel P. Carter’s Union Cavalry at Blue Springs, Greene County, Northeast Tennessee—about nine miles from Bull’s Gap. Gen. Carter, unsure of the size of Williams’ force, withdraws.
4 OCTOBER 1863 Burnside’s troops at Knoxville travel by cars on the ET&VA Railroad to Bulls Gap, 56 miles away. It will take a few days to move that many men.
10 OCTOBER 1863:Battle of Blue Springs 10 o’clock a.m. Burnside’s Union force—the 9th Army Corps with part of the XXIII Army Corps—meet the enemy at BLUE SPRINGS. They launch an attack at the Confederate center at 10 a.m., while cavalry under Col. John W. FOSTER [of Blountville fame] sweeps around Williams’ right flank. Capt. Orlando POE, the Chief Engineer, performs a reconnaissance to find the best place for an infantry attack.
5 o’clock p.m. Burnside sends in Ferrero and his infantry at 5:00 p.m., breaking into the Confederate line, causing heavy casualties. The Federals order a charge and completely rout the Rebels.
The Confederates withdraw after dark.
The Federals take up the pursuit in the morning.
10 OCTOBER 1863:New York Times article OPERATIONS IN EAST TENNESSEE OFFICIAL DISPATCH FROM GEN. BURNSIDE A Brilliant Action at Bull’s Gap COMPLETE DEFEAT OF THE REBELS Knoxville, Tenn., Oct. 10, 1863 Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck. General-in-Chief, Washington: On the 8th [of October] inst. The enemy held down as far as Blue Springs, and a cavalry brigade of ours held Bull’s Gap, supported by a small body of infantry at Morristown. I, accordingly, dispatched a brigade of cavalry around by Rogersville to intercept the enemy’s retreat, and with a considerable body of infantry and artillery moved to Bull’s Gap. On Saturday, the 10th inst., I advanced a cavalry brigade to Blue Springs, where they found the enemy strongly posted and offering a stubborn resistance. Skirmishing continued until about 5 o’clock, … when I sent in a division of infantry, who charged and cleared the woods, gallantly driving the enemy in confusion until dark.
During the night the enemy retreated precipitately, leaving their dead on the field and most of their wounded in our hands. We pursued in the morning with infantry and cavalry. The intercepting force met them at Henderson’s but owing to some misunderstanding, withdrew and allowed them to pass with only a slight check. The pursuit was continued until evening, when I withdrew most of my infantry and returned to this place. Gen. [James] Shackelford with his cavalry and a brigade of infantry continued the pursuit, the enemy making a stand at every important position; but he had driven them completely from the State, captured the fort at Zollicoffer, and burned the long railroad bridge at that place and five other bridges, and destroyed the locomotives and about thirty-five cars. His advance is now ten miles beyond Bristol. Our loss at Blue Springs and in the pursuit was about 100 killed and wounded. The enemy’s loss was considerably greater. About 100 prisoners were taken. A. E. Burnside, Major-General Published October 17, 1863
UNION REPORTS ABOUT THE BATTLE OF BLUE SPRINGS
10 OCTOBER 1863: Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s description of the Battle of Blue Springs I left Knoxville on the morning of the 9th [of October] and overtook our forces on the same day at Bull’s Gap. On the following morning the advance was ordered and at Blue Springs, midway between Bull’s Gap and Greeneville, the enemy were found, posted in heavy force and a strong position, between the wagon road and railroad to Greeneville. Our cavalry occupied him with skirmishing until late in the afternoon.
Colonel Foster’s brigade was sent around to the rear of the enemy, with instructions to establish himself on the line over which he would be obliged to retreat, at a point near Rheatown. It was not desirable to press he enemy until Colonel Foster had time to reach this point. I directed Captain Poe (my chief engineer) to make a reconnaissance of the enemy’s position, with a view to making the attack at the proper time.
The ground was selected upon which the attacking force was to be formed, and at half past 3 o’clock, believing sufficient time had been given to Colonel Foster to reach the desired point, I ordered General Potter to move up his command and endeavor to break through the center of the enemy’s line. By 5 p.m. he had formed General Ferrero’s division for the attack.
When the order to advance was given, this division moved forward in the most dashing manner, driving the enemy from his first line. During the night he retreated and we pursued early in the morning, driving him again beyond the Watauga River, beyond which point our cavalry was directed to hold him. Col. Foster’s brigade, which had been sent to cut off his retreat, met with serious difficulties in way of rough roads, so that he did not reach the point on the enemy’s line of retreat in time to make the necessary preparations to check him until our pursuing forces came up. … A. E. BURNSIDE, Late Major-General.
10 OCTOBER 1863: Action at Blue Springs On the morning of the 10th, an advance was made toward Greeneville. The enemy was encountered, posted on the high ground east of Blue Springs, and between the Greeneville road and the ET&VA Railroad, and offered a stubborn resistance to our cavalry, holding them in check for some hours. …
The attack was gallantly made and was eminently successful, the enemy being driven entirely from his position in advance to that occupied by his reserves. It was now quite dark, and everything was prepared to dislodge him from the latter early in the morning, by which time Col. [John W.] Foster was expected to be in the main road east of Greeneville and directly in the enemy’s rear, a position he did reach before daybreak.
The enemy, having had information of this movement, retreated long before daylight from our front, and attacking Foster, succeeded in pushing him from their line of retreat and in making good their escape. ORLANDO M. POE, Capt., U. S. Engrs. Chief Engineer, Army of the Ohio.
CONFEDERATE REPORTS ABOUT THE BATTLE OF BLUE SPRINGS
10 OCTOBER 1863: The fight at Blue Springs GREENEVILLE, 10 October 1863. Gen. SAM. JONES, Jonesborough: We have had a very hard fight to-day, beginning at 10 a. m., and ceasing at dark. The line of skirmishers was 2 miles long, which so extended my lines that the enemy at 5 o’clock, with 2,000 infantry, broke my center and attacked the batteries. They were repulsed with great slaughter. I have no complete returns, but hope my loss will not exceed 100—several valuable officers. The enemy charged along the entire line from right to left, and only succeeded in center by the use of grape and canister. We hold our position. The enemy rests on his. The force is greater than I telegraphed on 8th. Jno. S. WILLIAMS, Brig.-Gen. [Jno. was a popular way of spelling ‘John.’ Who knows why?]
J. S. WILLIAMS, Greeneville: I congratulate you on to-day’s fight. Have you any doubt of your ability to hold your position? Was the fight at Greeneville, or beyond that point? Has Col. Witcher joined you with his command? SAM. JONES, Maj.-Gen.
10 OCTOBER 1863: Battle of Blue Springs Excerpt from the diary of Edward O. Guerrant. The anticipated advance of the Enemy upon our position was made this morning about 10 O’C[lock]. From 10 A. M. until 5 P. M. the battle continued without any material advantage to either party, our object being only to hold our position against superior numbers & operate a diversion for Genl. [Robert] RANSOM, or rather now to save ourselves, now 75 miles from any base or support.
About 11 A. M. [John] Witcher (immortal Witcher) with his 34th Batt’n. (125 in no.) which came up on us this morning with their old, torn battle flag, fresh from the fields of Maryland & Pennsylvania, made a charge & drove the Enemy. Col. Carter commanded the right wing (1st. Tenn, 16th Ga. Peters Regt & Witcher’s Batt’n about 800 in number) & Col. H. L. GILTNER commanded our left wing (4th Ky. 10th. Ky. & Mays Regt-about 900 in no) along the ridge we had two howitzers in one battery, two parrot guns in another and Schoolfield’s four little guns in another. During the day the artillery fought several duels. Sometimes shelled the woods. Shells from the Enemy’s guns struck in front of our battery & ricocheted immediately over it. Other struck the trees by it. (I allude to Loyd’s guns where the General & staff took position.) I have a Minnie ball that struck in [front] of me-another passed between Capt. Jenkins (who heard our cannon at Rheatown 18 miles [away] & camp up about 4 P. M. ) & me.
About 5 P. M. furious assault by 1000 or 1500 infantry, with artillery throwing canister was made upon Mays Regt. commanded by Lt. Col. Ed. TRIMBLE which consisted of not more than 150 or 200 men. After a most gallant resistance, in which fell several of our brave Kentucky boys, this gallant handful of men were compelled to give way, but only to fall back by the flank upon Col. Giltner Regt. about 200 yards. Mays Regt constituted our centre – being on Col. Giltner’s right. They were driven from the heavily timbered woods where we had out Head Quarters a few days ago. Thus the Enemy had broken our line & separated Col. Carter & Col. Giltner. But both wings held their position, their rear being protected by a farm of open fields commanded by our artillery. But the enemy emboldened by his success in driving back a handful of men had the temerity to attempt a flank movement upon Col. Carter by advancing through these open fields. The column consisted of some 1000 or 1500 Infantry (some of the Michiganders) and advanced from the woods in splendid style into the open fields and were opened upon by our artillery which sent them heeling it back in style neither so imposing nor splendid. They heeled it to the cover of the woods, & did not attempt another such movement. The fight continued from this until night without any other marked change in our position, the Enemy holding the timber in our centre but unable to use it to advantage. During the day they attempted a flank movement upon both of our flanks, but were checkmated.
Thus ended the Battle of Blue Springs fought on Saturday 10th. Oct. 1863 in Greene County, 2 1/2 miles from Blue Springs & 7 1/2 miles from Greenville. Federal forces, estimated at 5000 commanded by Maj. Genl. Burnside. Confederate forces 1700, commanded by Brig. Genl. Jno. S. Williams. ~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant, a Confederate staff officer.
UNION REPORT ABOUT THE SKIRMISH AT HENDERSON’S MILL
11 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Henderson’s Mill Report of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, U. S. Army, commanding Department of the Ohio. KNOXVILLE, TENN., October 17, 1863-10 p. m. On Saturday, the 10th, advanced a cavalry brigade to Blue Springs, where they found the enemy strongly posted and offering a stubborn resistance. Skirmishing continued till the arrival of the infantry, about 5 p. m., when I sent in a division of infantry, who charged and cleared the woods gallantly, and drove the enemy in confusion till dark. During the night the enemy retreated precipitately, leaving their dead on the field and most of their wounded in our hands. We pursued in the morning with infantry with infantry and cavalry. The intercepting force met them at Henderson’s [Mill] but, owing to some misunderstanding, withdrew and allowed them to pass with only a slight check. The pursuit was continued until evening … A. E. BURNSIDE, Maj.-Gen.
CONFEDERATE REPORT ABOUT THE SKIRMISH AT HENDERSON’S MILL
11 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Henderson’s Mill A Confederate staff officer’s account of the skirmish at Henderson’s Mill When several miles beyond Greenville on the road to Jonesboro’ Gen. Alfred E. JACKSON’s advance (Genl. Jackson Brigade of 500) constituted our advance Guard, was fired upon just at daylight. It was within two miles of Henderson’s mill-where we were going to Camp, and I was going to the front by order of Genl. Williams to halt the column there. The beautiful morning star, harbinger of coming day, was shining like a diadem on the brow of night – & we were peacefully, tho’ regretfully pursuing our way – when all at once a volley of musketry into the head of the column woke up to the feast of death.
One of Genl. Jackson’s Staff was captured & perhaps a few of his men killed. It was too dark to see more than 100 yards in the heavy timber in which the Enemy were concealed. I had just reached Genl. Jackson who was again advancing his column of infantry to drive them from the woods – supposing they were East Tennessee Bushwhackers – when a furious volley was again poured into us from behind the trees not 75 yards in front. To prevent being shot from my horse, as Yankees generally shoot too high, I dismounted in an instant, but soon found myself left alone in the road under a heavy fire, all the others having sought the generous protection of the neighboring trees. My horse was wild with excitement – so that I could not mount him until Rufus Todd held him for me.
As soon as our men got shelter, they opened briskly upon the Enemy, & soon our artillery came up & shelled the woods. It was not yet good light. Genl. Williams immediately coming up ordered Jackson forward with Thomas’ Legion (Infantry) and Carter to charge with his brigade of Cavalry. The boys went in with a shout charging gallantly, driving the Yankees from one position to another. The General was in the front cheering the men onward – as he appreciated the critical position in which we were placed.
The Enemy confidently expecting us to remain at Blue Springs, had thrown a heavy cavalry force under Col [James E.] Carter (4 reg’ts of 2500 men – the same who went to Bristol and burnt Blountville,) in our rear to hold us in check until the forces on the other side could come up; therefore we must fight out or be captured: “horse, foot & dragoon,” artillery & transportation, & all.
Our men I say went in gallantly drove the Enemy back, & only once gave up any ground & then a batt’n of Mounted men were driven from the woods, but were soon rallied – (the Genl. assisting) & returned to the fight. The Enemy used their artillery at first, but when we once got them started, they never got time to unlimber again. The fight lasted until about 71/2 [7:30] A.M. & ended by the flight of the Enemy before the impetuous charges of our boys, who never stopped but kept on, never giving the Yankees time to rally & form.
We drove them some three miles when they left the main road at double quick taking a road to the left towards Kingsport, leaving our way open to pursue our falling back. So we were delivered from a Yankee trap.
Thank God for the gallantry of our troops! The losses we sustained I cannot determine. … Our boys were very much elated with their success, & the way the Yankees “skedaddled.” Thus ended the battle of Henderson’s Mill – fought between Greenville & Rheatown, Tenn. On the morning of Sunday the 11th. ~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant.
UNION REPORT ABOUT THE SKIRMISH AT RHEATOWN
11 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Rheatown Report of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, U. S. Army, commanding Department of the Ohio. KNOXVILLE, TENN., October 17, 1863 10 p. m. On the following morning the advance was ordered and at Blue Springs, midway between Bull’s Gap and Greeneville the enemy were found, posted in heavy force and a strong position, between the wagon road and railroad to Greeneville. Our cavalry occupied him with skirmishing until late in the afternoon. Col. [John W.] Foster’s brigade was sent around to the rear of the enemy, with instructions to establish himself on the line over which he would be obliged to retreat, at a point near Rheatown. It was not desirable to press the enemy until Col. Foster had time to reach this point. I directed Capt. Poe (my chief engineer) to make a reconnaissance of the enemy’s position, with a view to making the attack at the proper time. The ground was selected upon which the attacking force was to be formed, and at half past 3 o’clock, believing sufficient time had been given to Col. Foster to reach the desired point, I ordered Gen. Potter to move up his command and endeavor to break through the center of the enemy’s line. By 5 p. m. he had formed Gen. Ferrero’s division for the attack. When the order to advance was given, this division moved forward in the most dashing manner, driving the enemy from his first line. A. E. BURNSIDE, Maj.-Gen.
CONFEDERATE REPORTS ABOUT THE SKIRMISH AT RHEATOWN
11 OCTOBER 1863: Battle of Rheatown Excerpt from the Report of Brigadier-General John S. Williams. C. S. Army, commanding Cavalry Brigade. Relating to the skirmish at Rheatown. We moved on to Rheatown, where, by some misunderstanding of orders, the artillery took the wrong road, and some time was consumed in getting it back. While waiting for its return the enemy again made his appearance, which, in the absence of our artillery, produced considerable confusion; but order was soon restored and the enemy checked. The artillery was brought back as soon as possible, and from a good position 2 miles east of Rheatown we again gave the enemy battle, which lasted for more than 3 hours, when gradually fell back to Jonesborough. Agreeably to your instructions, I moved Gen. Jackson’s infantry along the line of the railroad and the cavalry toward Blountville. Brigadier-General John S. Williams.
11 OCTOBER 1863: A Confederate staff officer’s account of the Skirmish at Rheatown. Col. Giltner had gone into Camp-Gen’l Jackson had diverged from the main column & was a mile off on the R. R. Col. Carter’s Brig – were sitting on their horses in the road above town. The Enemy had made another flank movement & came upon our left, and had placed their artillery in a gap of the ridge just opposite R-town, & commenced shelling our column. Witcher who was in the rear was cut off & came around South of the town & rejoined his Command.
Our artillery was by a misunderstanding all ordered down to the Rail Road with Genl. Jackson & accidentally escaped capture by the Enemy – and before it could be brought up the Enemy had advanced their sharp shooters within rifle shot of our mounted men & opened upon the columns standing in the road. A portion of Col. Carter’s brigade considering rather their safety than their honor-broke to the rear &caused the terrible military phenomenon of a panic resulting in a stampede. They rushed madly forward, dashing through fences, & passed right through our Head Quarters camp, where I was lying down to get a little rest.
Have rode my gray horse until his back was very sore, I was bridling Capt. Jenkins SORRELL – but had only time to put the bridle on – & mounted him bareback & joined Col Carter & some of his officers in trying to rally his men—& after appealing to their sense of patriotism & pride, & their baser sense of fear of being shot for stampeding, about 300 were stopped, dismounted & sent back to a position to hold the Enemy in check until our other troops could get in position & our wagons move[d] out of the way. I gave my grey horse (Charley) to ‘boy’ Arthur to lead, but the stampeders so frightened him that he jerked away & rushed headlong with the crowd.
Col Giltner’s men were soon put in position on the left, & Jimmie SCHOOLFIELD’s Battery of four little William Guns served by 25 as gallant boys as ever lived;- but Col Carter’s men being compelled to give way on the right compelled the withdrawal of our line to another position more defensible where we could check the advance of the Enemy until our trains could move out of the way. A heavy force of the Enemy’s cavalry upon our left flank also rendered a change of position necessary.
Great numbers of the men straggled to the rear, afflicted with all the “ills that flesh is heir to”-and a great deal more than its honest inheritance. We could muster about 1600 men, one fourth of whom or 400 were horse holders, leaving 1200 for action, not more than 800 or 1000 of whom could at any time be brought into battle. We had assurances that we were fighting from 3000 to 5000 mounted men.
From our position near Rheatown, we withdrew about 11/2 or 2 miles to a commanding eminence called Pugh’s Hill – where we fought another engagement we will call by that name. The third time we have delivered battle today – and this is Sunday. Nobody knew it. It’s sweet & once peaceful features were so disfigured in blood, and its heavenly rest & quiet was broken with the roar of cannon & musketry. Alas! how changed!
It was a beautiful & pleasant day, as well I remember: though we had no time to make observations on the weather. Every soul. With all its energies was bent on blood & battle, & saving ourselves, our artillery & transpiration from the enemy. Our position at Pugh’s Hill was a good one, commanding all approached on the centre but liable to be flanked on the right: and this flanking way off fighting is peculiarly in favor with the Yankees. Our dismounted cavalry—withdrew from their former position to this new one in splendid style, and before the Enemy made their appearance, we had our dispositions made to meet them. Genl. Jackson was cut off from us & it was difficult & dangerous to communicate with him at all.
In this engagement the artillery was well handled upon both sides-one of their shells killing and wounding several of our artillerists & artillery horses; and our fire driving back in confusion both their cavalry & Infantry. After quite a severe engagement, in which bombshells & Minnie balls played quite a serious part, Col Giltner comdg. (the Genl. was sick ) ordered the men to fall back to their horses, which were held in the rear of the position.
The enemy pressed so closely on the rear that the “double quick” movement became the popular one, which very soon ended in a disgraceful stampede – one of the most fearful things I ever witnessed. Hundreds & hundreds of men & horses came rushing past, and no effort of officers could stay the impetuous tide. Officer & men of every corps & company, all mingled & crowded together came a headlong speed down the road, through the fields, over fences, across hills & everywhere. Horses riderless and riders horseless all came in the swelling, seething tornado of human flesh and human fear.
At one time I gave up all for lost – and with Capt. Stanton & Capt. Jenkins made arrangement to save ourselves from capture, if possible, or being ridden down by the tornado of stampeders. The Gen’l, all his officer of the line, & staff officers used every exertion in human power to stop the men, but in vain. The horse holders ran away & left our men to their fate who were on foot. Giltner’s fine regiment was in danger of being sacrificed.
The Enemy were pressing closely upon them in superior numbers & many of their horses had been run off by the stampeders. I suppose there were 500 men rushing headlong towards the rear perfectly panic stricken & demoralized. I am satisfied that if the Yankees had charged our brigade with 200 good cavalry they would have routed it, & almost destroyed it, & taken artillery & all. But fortunately they did not have the pluck or the sagacity to take advantage of our disorganized state, & so by luck we were saved. They did endeavor a charge upon our dismounted men as they were falling back to their horses, but a volley sent them charging back.
Col Giltner’s reg’t being on the extreme right, & furthest away from the horses, experienced the greatest difficulty in getting out, & indeed three of his Captains and 40 or 50 of his men did not succeed in getting to their horses at all, but were cut off from the Enemy, & those not captured were dispersed in the woods. The Col. ordered his horse holder to stand by their charge until his men came up, or the Yankees captured them. He would not leave his men on foot to be rode down or captured by the enemy.
Jim Schoolfield’s battery unlimbered on the roadside & sent a broadside into the Yankee column which checked their advance, & saved many a brave, footsore fellow from capture. The battery & its gallant boys deserve immortal honor. At intervals of every half mile guards were placed to stop all men going to the front, & with drawn pistols threatened to shoot any man who dared to pass. By this means the pace of the fugitives was reduced to a moderate travelling gate, from the ‘240’ style at which they had started, & in this way we pursued our march on through Leesburg to Jonesboro. I came forward to Leesburg to find my horse, that had gotten away, and overtook Arthur leading him just at Leesburg. Since yesterday our men & horses have gone without food or rest night & day & fought four times.
Our losses in this last fight a Pugh’s hill were more serious than at any time today. Giltner alone lost about 50 killed, wounded & missing out of his reg’t – most of whom it is hoped will come up. Three of his captains … were lost. The loss of the Enemy must have been severe, as our men fired deliberately, & sometimes at 50 paces. We learned from a prisoner that they lost 60 this morning at Henderson’s mill. They must have lost more [of] both at Rheatown & Pugh’s Hill. So, without food or rest, we marched 35 miles and fought four times since yesterday morning. I never was so exhausted … ~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant
14 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Blountville Confederate forces evacuate Zollicoffer [Bluff City] The enemy advanced & endeavored to force our position at Blountville, but did not succeed, & turned our right flank, (as usual.) The movements of the enemy forced Gen’l. Williams to concentrate his forces at Zollicoffer & fall back to Abingdon [VA]. It was supposed the Enemy would gain Bristol before us, The cars at Zollicoffer were loaded with store[s], sick, & wounded, & hastened past Bristol, to prevent capture. The Gen’l & all the troops evacuated Zollicoffer about 10 P. M. ~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant, October 14, 1863.
Within days, Williams and his men have retired to Virginia.
Burnside’s troops return by cars to Knoxville on 15 October 1863.
In August 1863, USA Gen. Ambrose Burnside organizes his 15,000 troops in Kentucky and marches into Northeast Tennessee. On 3 September 1863, with most of the Confederate troops absent defending Chattanooga, Burnside easily occupies Knoxville, and is received by cheers from the city’s Unionist civilians. Confederate forces have successfully controlled Northeast Tennessee since 26 July 1861.
Major General Ambrose Burnside USA
Protecting the Railroad The railroad running through Northeast Tennessee—the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad—is the chief means of communication, travel, and shipment of supplies. The bridges, telegraph lines, and tracks of the ET&VAhave been in possession of the Confederate forces since July 1861—except for a short period in November 1861 when gangs of Unionists burned two of the railroad bridges on the ET&VA.
Col. John W. Foster USA
Soon after his arrival in Northeast Tennessee in September 1863, Gen. Burnside maps out an aggressive campaign to gain control of the ET&VA railroad. Hoping to also rid the area of Rebels, Burnside sends Union troops to push through to the Virginia border, running off the Southern military along the way. This is the initial step in the Union attempt to force CSA Gen. Samuel Jones and his command to leave Northeast Tennessee.
In mid-September, USA Col. John W. Foster marches his force toward the town of Zollicoffer (now Bluff City) in Northeast Tennessee to engage the troops stationed there under CSA Col. James E. Carter. These troops skirmish for several days along [ET&VA] Railroad between Carter’s Depot [now the town of Watauga] and Zollicoffer [present-day Bluff City]—vying for control of the railroad.
September 20, 1863 Confederate Repulse of Union demonstration in force near Zollicoffer [now Bluff City] ZOLLICOFFER, September 20. Gen. S. COOPER: The enemy made a demonstration in force on us here to-day, and were repulsed. My cavalry followed them to Blountville, 6 miles from here. Their force engaged to-day are believed to have been not less than 2,000, all mounted, and six pieces of artillery. Five other regiments are reported between Jonesborough and Watauga Bridge, but they had not engaged my force at the latter place late this afternoon. SAMUEL JONES, Maj.-Gen. [CSA] NOTE Zollicoffer is a station on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, 11 miles from Bristol. Jonesborough is 32 miles from Bristol. The distance from Bristol to Knoxville is 130 miles.
21 September 1863 On 21 September 1863 near Shipley’s Ferry crossing on the Watauga River, Union forces receive reinforcements and turn north toward the town of Blountville in Sullivan County.
Unlike most counties in Northeast Tennessee, in June 1861 Sullivan County vote strongly for separation from the Union—1,586 voting for and 627 against. Many call it ‘The Little Confederacy.’ With most of its residents in and around the county seat, Blountville benefits from a major transportation route and a small but educated group of merchants and professionals.
22 September 1863: Battle of Blountville On the morning of 22 September CSA Col. James E. Carter and his 1st Tennessee Cavalry withdraw from their position on the Watauga River and occupy Blountville.
Battle of Blountville: Confederate Position Inscription. [The marker stands] in the former schoolyard of the Masonic Female Institute, where Confederate troops stood as they defended Blountville on September 22, 1863. Col. James E. Carter’s 1st Tennessee Cavalry withdrew that morning of 1863 from the Watauga River to positions … that had already been prepared to block the Union Col. John W. Foster’s cavalry brigade after it crossed the river. Foster took up a position on Cemetery Hill on the western end of town early in the afternoon, and a destructive artillery duel ensued. After four hours of fighting and shelling, the Confederates withdrew to Carter’s Depot on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad a few miles east of here as Federals charged through the town near dusk. Carter lost a cannon and about fifty men captured in battle. The next day, he evacuated the depot, leaving it in Foster’s hands. (sidebar) White Side Lodge No. 13 constructed the Masonic Female Institute in 1855 “to promote female education.” Jefferson Academy, the boys’ school, which stood near Cemetery Hill, contributed funds for the construction of the girls’ school. The academy was closed about 1900, and the girls’ school then became the Masonic Institute for both girls and boys until 1919. (captions) Blountville, looking east from near the Union position, with the Masonic Female Institute at upper right, ca. 1900 – Courtesy Sullivan Co. Archives Masonic Female Institute, 1907 – Courtesy Hunt Library Marker is on Franklin Drive, 0.1 miles east of Tennessee Route 394, Blountville TN 37617. Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. hmdb.org/Photos2/259/Photo259093o.jpg
USA Col. John W. Foster and his 2500 men occupy the south bank of the Watauga River; he leads his cavalry brigade across the river at 9 a.m. After a short fight he drives the outnumbered Rebel pickets in on the main Confederate body and sets up his artillery on Cemetery Hill on the west side of town.
22 SEPTEMBER 1863 Engagement at and burning of Blountville [artillery duel] BLOUNTSVILLE, TENN., September 22, 1863. GEN.: We met the enemy at Hall’s Ford, on the Watauga, this morning at 9 o’clock, where our passage over both rivers was disputed by a heavy picket force of cavalry. After considerable skirmishing, the enemy was driven back and near to town, where we found the enemy posted in a chosen position with four pieces of artillery. It was with difficulty that we could dislodge them after four hours’ fighting. I at last effected it by a charge of the Sixty-fifth Indiana Mounted Infantry, Fifth Indiana Cavalry, and Eighth Tennessee Cavalry, which was made just before dark. Our loss is not heavy, about 6 killed and 14 wounded, mostly of the Sixty-fifth Indiana Volunteers. We captured about 50 prisoners and 1 piece of artillery. The shells of the enemy set fire to the town, and a great portion of it was consumed. Lieut. Miller, of my staff, will communicate all further desired information of my position and the enemy’s movements, and what is deemed necessary by me. Very respectfully, JOHN W. FOSTER
Battle of Blountville: Federal Guns on Cemetery Hill Inscription. This is where Union forces stood as they attacked Blountville on September 22, 1863, during a campaign to control the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. On the day of the attack, the Confederates occupied Blountville while the Federal forces held the south bank of the Watauga River. Union Colonel John W. Foster led his cavalry brigade across the river at 9 A.M., drove off pickets from Confederate Col. James E. Carter’s 1st Tennessee Cavalry, and then occupied Cemetery Hill. Foster shelled Carter’s positions in Blountville … then ordered a charge about sundown that pushed Carter’s regiment from the town. Foster reported that he suffered six killed and fourteen wounded. The next day, he occupied Carter’s Depot as the Confederates withdrew. (sidebar) The cemetery here was created before 1824 on land that later belonged to the adjacent Blountville Presbyterian Church. Although churches typically had their own burying grounds, the local Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist churches, which stood near here, all shared this cemetery. (captions) Blountville from Cemetery Hill — Copyright Anita B. Long (2002) Blountville Presbyterian Church, which burned during the war. It was rebuilt later (shown with a red roof in the painting). Photograph ca. 1900 Courtesy Sullivan Co. Archives The marker is located in Blountville Cemetery, Blountville TN 37617V [lower right] Battle of Blountville Heritage Trial. Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. hmdb.org/Photos2/258/Photo258690o.jpg
Col. Foster attacks at noon, continuously shelling the town. The two sides fight an artillery duel for four hours. Col. James E. Carter and his men stand defiantly in Foster’s way.
Battle of Blountville: “…the best portion of the town was destroyed” Inscription. This is the Sullivan County Courthouse. Its interior was burned during the Union attack on Blountville on September 22, 1863, as Confederate and Federal forces vied for control of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, located a few miles east of here. Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside needed the railroad for a supply line to Knoxville; the Confederates wanted it for a supply line to Virginia. After several days of skirmishing at Blountville and along the railroad at Carter’s Depot and Zollicoffer, the Confederates occupied Blountville while Federal forces held the south bank of the Watauga River. Union Col. John W. Foster led his cavalry brigade across the river at 9 A.M. on September 22. Confederate Col. James E. Carter’s 1st Tennessee Cavalry defended Blountville. For four hours in the afternoon, as Foster occupied Cemetery Hill, the two sides fought an artillery duel until Foster ordered a charge that drove Carter’s men out of town. During the fight, exploding shells set fire to the courthouse and other buildings. Foster reported that “the shells of the enemy set fire to the town, and a great portion of it was consumed.” Mrs. Walter E. Allen, however, later wrote that “a shell from the Federal guns entered the courthouse, setting it on fire, and soon all the best portion of the town was destroyed.” (captions) Sullivan County Courthouse, constructed 1854, ca. 1900 photo Courtesy Hunt Library Sullivan County commissioners, ca. 1900 Courtesy Hunt Library Marker is at or near this postal address: 3425 Tennessee 126, Blountville TN 37617. Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. https://www.hmdb.org/Photos2/258/Photo258728o.jpg
Sullivan County Court House The Court House in Blountville is gutted by a fire that breaks out during the shelling. [It is rebuilt in 1866.] Several other dwellings and buildings are destroyed during the Battle of Blountville. Most reports state that Union shells struck the courthouse, burning its interior contents completely and leaving only the brick exterior walls intact.
The Cannonball House: Narrowly Missed Destruction Inscription. [This marker stands] in front of the Miller-Haynes house, known as the Cannonball House because of structural damage it sustained from Union cannon fire during the Battle of Blountville on September 22, 1863. During the artillery exchanges, Confederate forces were largely behind and east of the house, while Col. John W. Foster’s Union forces were positioned west of here at Blountville Cemetery. Several cannonballs struck the house’s western side. It was fortunate that artillery fire did not destroy the house completely. Kentucky Confederate Edward O. Guerrant wrote in his diary on September 25: “Twelve dwellings, the Court House, Jail & both hotels were burned by the enemy’s shells. About the half (& better half) of the little town was destroyed.” Foster, in contrast, reported on the day of the battle that “the shells of the enemy set fire to the town, and a great portion of it was consumed.” In 1849, Elbert S. Miller had purchased the house and lot from J. Irwin’s heirs; Miller later sold the home to Matthew T. Haynes, who lived there during the Civil War with his wife Kate Snapp Haynes and other members of the Snapp family. Haynes held the Confederate office of state receiver and was responsible for acquiring the confiscated property of Union sympathizers. Haynes’s brother, Landon Carter Haynes, was one of the region’s most vocal Confederates and represented Tennessee at the Confederate Senate in Richmond. (caption) These photographs show shell damage to exterior clapboard in the rear of the house, now protected by plexiglass, and to an interior door. Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. hmdb.org/Photos2/259/Photo259086o.jpg
The Cannonball House with its marker in the foreground. During the Battle of Blountville, this house stood between the lines as fighting swirled around it, but it survived.
Mr. Wm James of Blountville came by with his family & plunder this evening – all in one little two horse wagon. His house was burned & he saved only his wife & children from the flames. Enough for happiness if he be strong and faithful. Twelve dwellings, the Court House, Jail & both hotels were burned by the enemy’s shells. About the half (& better half) of the little town was destroyed. Mr. James says we had about 1000 troops there & the Enemy 5000 (five to one,) but that the best of the fight was with us. It was principally an artillery duel. After fighting for several hours & until it was almost night, Col. Carter’s (comd’g) ammunition was exhausted & he withdrew in good order. ~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant, September 22, 1863
Old Deery Inn: Refuge from the Storm In September 1863, Confederate Gen. Samuel Jones’s command and Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s forces contested control of the [Virginia and Tennessee] East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad a few miles east. On September 22, Union Col. John W. Foster’s brigade engaged the forces of Confederate Col. James E. Carter at Blountville. When the firing began, the women and children gathered the sick and elderly and sought refuge in the cellars of the most solid buildings; the St. John residence and the Old Deery Inn. “In the thick of the fight and more dangerously exposed than the soldiers of either side were the fleeing women,” historian Oliver Taylor wrote in 1909. “In the confusion of such a hasty departure distracted mothers became separated from their children; cavalrymen dashed across their path, while bullets and bombs whistled above them. They went through Brown’s meadow and finally found a safe retreat beyond the hills.” Exploding shells set much of the town on fire. William Deery constructed this trading post and tavern, later known as the Old Derry Inn, early in the 1800s. As Deery prospered, he added to the building, including a three-story hewn stone structure in the rear. After his death about 1845, his widow lived here until the Cate family purchased it after the Civil War. Although Deery’s children had left Sullivan County years before, they did not escape the war’s effects. Eldest daughter Martha married Col. William Churchwell, who died at Cumberland Gap in 1862. Seraphina, the youngest daughter, married Col. Randal McGavock, a colonel in the 10th Tennessee Infantry Regiment (CSA) who was killed at the Battle of Raymond. (captions) Old Deery Inn, 1927 — Courtesy Hunt Library The dining room in the stone section of the inn where town residents took refuge during the Battle of Blountville. (lower right) Battle of Blountville / Heritage Trail map. Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. https://www.hmdb.org/Photos1/166/Photo166780o.jpg
Present-day Old Deery Inn in Blountville, Tennessee Many women and children who lived in the nearby fled to the historic Deery Inn for safety during the Battle of Blountville.
23 SEPTEMBER 1863
Major-General Burnside’s situation report to President Abraham Lincoln CARTER’S STATION, TENN., September 23, 1863. His Excellency A. LINCOLN, President United States: Your dispatch of the 21st is received, and the order shall be obeyed at once. Every available man shall be concentrated at the point you direct, and with as little delay as possible. We hold this road effectually to this point, and have driven the enemy within a few miles of Virginia and probably into Virginia. I am now waiting for reports from the front so that I can definitely report to you the position of our advance. One of our cavalry brigades had a sharp fight yesterday at Blountville, in which the enemy were beaten and dispersed. I will telegraph the particulars this evening or to-morrow. The main body of the troops are now moving in the direction your order indicates. The bridge at this place is burned, and I suppose the one over the Holston at Union Station [Zollicoffer] is also burned. That is the extreme point that I was ordered by Gen. Halleck to hold. I leave for Knoxville very soon, and will try to telegraph you from there early tomorrow morning. Nearly 40 miles of the distance has to be made on horseback, owing to the burning of some small bridges between Greeneville and Jonesborough, which I hope to have repaired very soon. I shall leave force enough in this neighborhood to, in all probability, hold this section until the citizens can be armed. The entire country is Union up to the line of the Watauga River. Sevier County is entirely rebellious. … Our cavalry, under Gen. [James M.] Shackelford, has been continually in contact with the enemy, driving them all the time. Col. Carter’s brigade has been moving along line of railroad, and Col. Foster has been on the flank. He whipped the enemy very handsomely, both at Blountville and Bristol. We have thus far captured but four pieces of artillery and but few prisoners. I hope direct telegraph communication will be opened with you to-morrow. A. E. BURNSIDE, Maj.-Gen., Comdg.
The accounting After delaying the Union advance for more than four hours, Col. Carter and his Confederates withdraw to Carter’s Depot on the ET&VA Railroad, a few miles away. Col. Foster loses 27 Union soldiers during the battle. Carter suffers 165 casualties, fifty of his men are taken prisoner, and he loses one artillery piece. The next day, he evacuates the depot, leaving it in Foster’s hands. Though it is considered a minor battle in the overall history of the American Civil War, the battle left a permanent mark on the town and its people.
24 September 1863 Union troops drag out the occupation of Blountville for two days. On 24 September 1863, Union forces move on toward Zollicoffer and the reinforced Confederates who await them. The Confederates attack the advancing Union troops from Hamilton Hill. After several hours of fighting, the Yankees are driven back to Blountville. After a few hours, they head out through Carter’s Depot on their way back to Knoxville.
“Battle of Blountville: Confederate Position,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 1 October 2021, hmdb.org/m.asp?m=69806
“Battle of Blountville: Federal Guns on Cemetery Hill,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 1 October 2021, hmdb.org/m.asp?m=69699
“Battle of Blountville: …the best portion of the town was destroyed,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 1 October 2021, hmdb.org/m.asp?m=69708
“The Cannonball House: Narrowly Missed Destruction,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 10 October 2021, hmdb.org/m.asp?m=69805
“Old Deery Inn: Refuge from the Storm,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 10 October 2021, hmdb.org/m.asp?m=69712
“Old Deery Inn,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 10 October 2021, hmdb.org/m.asp?m=82955
Backstory Margaret Barton Crozier is born in Knoxville TN 18 September 1802 to John and Hannah Crozier. She marries J.G.M. [James Gettys McGready] Ramsey on 1 March 1821.
This description of their early married life from Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey: Autobiography and Letters is somewhat different from other sources. The house referred to is Mecklenburg: On the first of March 1821, I was married to the present Mrs. Ramsey, Peggy Barton Crozier, eldest daughter of Captain John and Hannah Crozier then living at Fruit Hill near Knoxville. After a bridal tour of several weeks we returned and prepared for house-keeping. We lived in Knoxville till January 7, 1823, when we removed to a [building] house I had erected on one of my father’s farms around Gilliam’s Station immediately in the fork of Holston and French Broad Rivers.
Between 1821 and 1848, Margaret gives birth to eleven children: Henrietta Rutledge Ramsey Breck 1821–1864 Margaret Jane Crozier Ramsey Dickson 1822–1895 Hannah Elizabeth Alexander Ramsey 1823–1911 John Crozier Ramsey 1824–1868 William Wilberforce Alexander Ramsey 1826-1850 Francis Alexander Ramsey 1829–1925 Robert McGready Ramsey 1832–1890 J.G. [James Gettys] McKnitt Ramsey 1835–1900 CharlotteBarton Ramsey 1838–1863 Susan Ann Amelia Ramsey Alexander 1843–1890 ArthurCrozier Ramsey 1848–1864 In 1860 nine of their children still lived at home or nearby.
J.G.M. RAMSEY Margaret’s husband, Dr. J.G.M. [James Gettys McGready] Ramsey, is a prominent physician in Knoxville; he is also active in politics, banking, and railroads. As a very vocal states’ rights Democrat, he supports secession and serves as a treasury agent and field surgeon for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War.
Description of Mecklenburg I could find no image of Mecklenburg, Margaret’s home until it was burned to the ground by the Union military on 1 September 1863. So I have brought you a physical description of Mecklenburg by a correspondent of the Mobile Advertiser, which was republished in the Knoxville Register of 6 April 1862.:
1862: A Visit to Mecklenburg by S. G. Heiskell I enjoyed a most delightful visit, a few evenings ago, in company with the talented and witty editor of the Knoxville Register, Col. J. A. Sperry, at the house of the celebrated historian of Tenn., Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey, who resides at the junction of the Holston and French Broad Rivers, about four miles northeast of Knoxville. The road to the Doctor’s house is a most delightful one, presenting some charming views of mountain and valley scenery. At the junction of the rivers, the Holston winds around a beautiful, undulating country, forming a picturesque, indented shore running from the north to the south; while some hundred yards above, it falls over a rocky bed making a pleasant murmuring sound and reminds one of the dark-rolling waters of the Danube. On the right is presented the mouth of the French Broad, running from east to west, with its high, rocky cliffs on the north side, jutting over some sixty-five feet. About three hundred yards from the mouth, under the cliff, gushes a clear, cool spring, which is approached by a small boat, the scene by moonlight is very exquisite. Crossing the Holston, you ascend a graded bank, and near a high Indian mound stands an ancient looking building, once called Gilliam’s Station built in 1790, and now the residence of the venerable historian, surrounded by primitive forest trees. Near the main building is a small cottage, over which is still to be seen the Doctor’s original “shingle,” on a plain board about four feet long and one wide, which was once painted white, but now faded, with black letters still plainly visible, ‘Doctor Ramsey.’ This was once the doctor’s office and laboratory, and is still in its primitive state, while in an adjoining room is his library and museum. … S. G. Heiskell,” A Visit to Mecklenburg, “Andrew Jackson and Early Tennessee History, vol. 2, pp. 117-118, accessed 30 August 2021, knoxcotn.org/old_site/history/mecklenburg.html
JUNE 1863 J.G.M. Ramsey flees to Abingdon, Virginia, when a Union force moves toward Knoxville in June 1863. He returns two months later, just in time to flee again after a larger invasion.
LATE AUGUST 1863 When Union troops advance on East Tennessee again in August 1863, J.G.M. Ramsey flees, this time under an armed guard, just ahead of the Federal occupation. USA Gen. Ambrose Burnside and his Army of the Ohio take possession of Knoxville without a fight and decide to stay awhile.
1 SEPTEMBER 1863 On 1 September 1863, a Michigan private asks for directions to Dr. Ramsey’s house. Soon afterward, the beautiful old family mansion is ablaze. This is not a popular action among Northern soldiers. After “indignation was publicly expressed upon the streets and in more private circles,” the soldier is identified, drummed out of service, and sent back to Michigan.
J.G.M. Ramsey learns of the event while in exile in Marietta, Georgia and writes: Everyone who witnessed the infliction of this idle military ceremonial laugh at the inadequacy of the punishment to the enormity of the crime. … The burning of a Southern patriot’s house and making a gentleman’s family homeless and houseless is rewarded by allowing the convict quietly to retire in private life with all his laurels fresh upon his brow. I thought little of the loss of property. But the apprehension that my library, my manuscripts, my unpublished second volume of the History of Tennessee … also taken or burned did give me a bitter pang—none could be more bitter. Property I could replace or live without. But this loss was irreparable.
Margaret Ramsey writes in her diary:
The old mansion where we dispensed hospitality with a liberal hand is in ashes … the shade trees where our children played so happily, now stand all black and charred, not by thunder bolts, but by the ruthless hands of men. [Scenes of] … our beautiful home all come up before me – the large and stately trees, the grand rivers, the deep and quiet French Broad River … and the grand old bluff so lofty, the green fields with growing grain … All these I was once the mistress of … Now I am the poor governess.
Margaret points out that secession in Knoxville predominates among the upper class. In her diary, she remarks that her family is of considerable stature and that Northeast Tennessee’s lower classes are Unionists:
… those who visited us so often, ate at our table, flattered and fawned the most were the first to injure—together with the still lower class that had been … fed and clothed by our bounty. O for the grace to forgive them.
After fleeing Knoxville in 1863, J.G.M. Ramsey spends the rest of the war in various cities, continuously fleeing the Union Army’s advance. As the war rages on, the family fortunes collapse.
The Ramsey House in East Knoxville To generate some income, the family are forced to sell the Ramsey House, where J.G.M. Ramsey grew up. The stone house Ramsey’s father built in the year of his birth still stands on Thorngrove Pike in East Knoxville. It is currently a museum. Images of the interior follow.
Images from the Ramsey House in East Knoxville, Northeast Tennessee
JULY 1864 Margaret Crozier Ramsey finally goes into exile at the request of her husband, who recognizes that his positions of leadership in the Confederacy pose a danger to his family. She is reluctant to leave but understands the gravity of the situation. When she flees Knoxville, Margaret is separated from some of her family members and mourns leaving Knoxville, fearing she “should never return.”
Margaret Crozier Ramsey’s Diary 2 JULY 1864
The second day of July 1864, I left Knoxville, Tenn. where I [had] remained ten months under Federal rule or tyranny. … A letter received from Alex, before leaving Knoxville, informed us he was a prisoner, Arthur wounded. Robert was in the fight, that he never saw him after the fight commenced, of course I had cause for anxiety.
8 JULY 1864: Mrs. Ramsey arrives at Bristol The little town of Bristol is split right down the middle, half in Tennessee, half in Virginia. In this entry she writes about her children, especially her sons in the Confederate Army.
Arrived at Bristol Friday the 8th, found none of our family but Crozier [son John Crozier Ramsey] who has also fled Knoxville.
On Sunday McK.[son J.G. McKnitt Ramsey]returned from a scout; Robert[McGready Ramsey]fighting in the Valley of VA; Alex [Francis Alexander Ramsey]in prison; Arthur gone to his long home [still alive]; Sue in Liberty VA with her Uncle J.H.C’s family, [John Hervey Crozier, Margaret’s brother]. Dr. [J.G.M.] Ramsay in the South.
We received the order two days before. E.A.B. [daughter Elizabeth Alexander Ramsey Breck] and myself left on Saturday morning. Many came to see us off and accompanied us to the depot. … It was sad times, I was anxious to leave, had heard that dear Arthur was wounded and wished to get to him. We were leaving our native home [not] knowing that we should ever return and where we were going or what sorrowful news we should hear after arriving in the Confederacy. Some friends thought it best for us to remain in Tennessee, but anxiety was so wearing I could bear it no longer. So long had I been separated from my family especially after Sue [daughter Susan was banished from Knoxville in 1864] and Arthur [youngest son joined the Confederate Army that year] left me. I was so restless and anxious. …
At Strawberry Plains, only 15 miles from Knoxville, our trunks were again searched and we all taken to the home of Mr. McBee. Our persons searched by two women was bad, been brought there for that purpose. Maj. Smith, the Yankee officer, in whose charge we were, called them ladies, but they were far from what we considered ladies, so we afterwards told him. … True to his promise the Maj. came the next day with an ambulance, baggage wagon and 25 armed soldiers carrying a white flag. We met with some relatives. … they wished us to stay with them. But I was so anxious to go on, could not think of it.
In the afternoon before we left Mossy Creek, a company of Confederates came, going to New Market under a flag of truce to meet the Federals on some business. Among them were some acquaintances, there I saw Mr. James White of Knoxville, who told me that my poor son Arthur’s foot was taken off, but that he was doing very well. That distressed me, but I hoped I should get to him. He also told me Robert had come through the fight safe. … This escort took us to Greeneville, TN. We were received by Mrs. [Catherine] Williams at her hospitable and elegant mansion [now called the Dickson-Williams House] after a fatiguing journey over rough roads, dust and the hot sun, the kindness of our hostess, her cool rooms, pleasant walks through the vineyard and garden were truly refreshing. …
4 SEPTEMBER 1864 Two months later, in the same vineyard Margaret Crozier Ramsey strolled through, CSA Cavalry Gen. John Hunt Morgan will be killed by a Union officer on horseback in the early morning hours of 4 September 1864. Someone has ridden hard to the Union encampment several miles away to report that Morgan is spending the night at Mrs. William’s mansion in Greeneville. This scene is part of my novel, Amanda’s Civil War.
CSA Gen. John Hunt Morgan
Dickson-Williams Mansion in Greeneville, Northeast Tennessee
Margaret Crozier Ramsey continues her journey through Northeast Tennessee … After partaking of a good breakfast, Mrs. C. [Catherine Williams] gave us cheese, pickles, bread, etc. for lunch on the way, and kindly gave me a cheese to take to my poor Arthur, … Arrived at Jonesborough TN in the afternoon, found an ambulance waiting for us, here Mrs. J stopped at her father’s. We were urged to stay all night by several kind ladies. Mrs. Akers said she had prepared for us.
Col. Brazelton asked what I wished to do – told him I wished to go on if it would not put others to inconvenience as I wished to get to my son as soon as possible; he said nothing, for he knew I should never see him again. It was known by all in Jonesborough but no one would tell me. …
We came on ten miles, I believe, to Mr. Devaults – … we crossed the river by moonlight – it was wide but shallow – spent the night at Mr. Devaults. In the morning after we had breakfast and were ready to start, I saw Capt. Carnes coming and ran to the door to meet him – asked the news from Bristol, he then told me the sad and to me, distressing news of poor Arthur’s death. … I returned to the room, threw myself on the bed and cried out in agony. O, that is too hard, too much, more than I can bear.
When dear C. died [daughter Charlotte died of typhus fever in 1863 at the age of 24], it was a very sore trial and I did nothing but weep, for months after; and then dear Ettie* but, I did not feel like replying against God. But this was such a shock I wish for death. The ladies stood around me and my kind hostess said, “I wish I could do something for you.”
*During a raid by Federal cavalry called Sanders’ Raid on 19 June 1863, Henrietta ‘Ettie’ Ramsey Lenoir’s husband, Dr. Benjamin Lenoir, is arrested. He is later released; but their children are very ill, and he has not been available to care for them. Two of their sons die on the same night. Henrietta does not recover from that loss: James Ramsey Lenoir born 26 August 1859; dies 9 October 1863 at age 4. Charlie Barton Lenoir born 9 November 1861; dies 9 October 1863 at age 1. In spring 1864, Henrietta Lenoir bears another son but remains deeply depressed. She dies 25 May 1864 at age 30.
Capt. Carnes told the ladies he disliked very much to tell me [about Arthur’s death] but [her son] Crozier told him before he left Bristol to do so. I suppose Crozier did not want to tell me himself.
… We crossed the Watauga [River] by moonlight, could see as well as in daylight, everything was so serene and beautiful, could have enjoyed it so much under other circumstances. I cannot write of these things without my eyes filling with tears, and often when the thought of these three lovely ones comes across my mind, I am obliged to throw it off and force my thoughts to some other subjects.
At Bristol we met with kindness from many of the ladies. Stayed at the Lancaster House eleven days where we were kindly treated by Mr. Lancaster and family. … It was hard living at Bristol, and as they [are] liable at any time to have [a] raid from the enemy, we thought best to leave the border and go into the interior of the Confederacy, especially as Crozier and McK. expected to leave that place [Bristol].
Poor Crozier delayed too long, he was caught with many others and taken to Knoxville and put into prison, were treated very badly. [Crozier, with] Mr. Wm. Sperry and Fox put in irons and marched through the streets of Knoxville, were taken from the Rebel Prison and put in with Yankee deserters and horse thieves – robbed of everything and expected to be murdered.
A Yankee officer came into the prison at night, made a speech to these lawless fellows, said these three Rebels were very bad men, he could do nothing, his hands were tied, but they could do with them as they pleased, and no injury should be made, that if he had his way they should soon be put out of the way.
The three lay back and heard all that he said. It was Christmas and the fellow had been drinking. After he left, Crozier got up, sat down by the fire, talked with the men and found them in good humor. They said we are not going to hurt you; we would rather kill that fellow; he had been having a jolly time while we are shut up and half starved.
Mr. Sperry came to NC and told us all about their capture and how they were treated at Knoxville. He said he was always so mad he could not talk to their enemies, and Mr. Fox was so scared [he could] say nothing, but Crozier always talked to them and amused them, so that they became his friends. …
OCTOBER 1864 We left Bristol in October 1864, arrived in July before. Went on to Charlotte, NC, the cars were in bad condition, very rough traveling, left Bristol 12 o’clock at night. There was very little light, no fire and it was very cold going through the mountains. When we got to B—-keville in Va. met the train from Richmond with many sick and wounded soldiers. They filled the car we were in, the gentlemen with us had to stand. It was distressing to hear the groans of the poor soldiers, all night and very dark … could be very kind to them, but had a poor chance to do anything for them, the car was so crowded. It was very unpleasant and dangerous trip; the road was not safe and the cars very shackling. That fearful high bridge in VA, was terrible and we went so slow, seemed as if we would never get to the end. But Providence took care of us and we went over that dangerous way without any accident.
6 MARCH 1865 Arrived here at Mr. Cannon’s this evening. My son J.G.M. Ramsay came with me. This is a pleasant place, kind and hospitable people. After dark, my nephew John Crozier came, we were very glad to see him. The last time was at our own home almost two years ago, then my dear son Arthur was with us, my heart yearned to this young boy whose presence brought up many sad recollections, and I wished I could do something for him. It is little I can do, now, for the soldiers. He was riding without a saddle, had no overcoat, was cheerful.
7 MARCH 1865 This morning the two young soldiers left to go to their command. McK. [name she calls her son James Gettys McKnitt Ramsey, probably to a void confusion with similar names in the family] to Wytheville, [nephew] John to Raleigh to [CSA cavalryman Gen. Joseph] Wheeler. When shall I see them again? God only knows and I pray to Him to protect them, it is always sad to part with soldiers. I commenced teaching the children, two little boys and one little girl, very pleasant children.
9 MARCH 1865 Four soldiers came here to stay all night, going to Raleigh, … they were wet and cold, had been raining all day. The family did everything for their comfort. They were S. Carolinians and told us of the desolations and cruelty of the enemy in that downtrodden state.
10 MARCH 1865 A bright day after the stormy weather yesterday. Went to church, this is the day of fasting and prayer, for our Confederacy.
12 MARCH 1865 Heard yesterday from my son Alexander [Francis Alexander ‘Alex’ Ramsey] who is a prisoner, had not heard from him in six months. I was greatly relieved, had been extremely anxious …
20 MARCH 1865 Dr. Ramsey returns to Charlotte.
23 MARCH 1865 Letter from my son McK. Stayed one night at Liberty [VA] with our relations … saw his two cousins I. and O. Deaderick, just returned from prison, they had heard from Alex. McK. also saw an acquaintance of Alex from Camp Morton [Union prisoner-of-war camp in Indianapolis IN], who had seen A. [Alex], said he would be sent off soon. Heard too from poor Crozier [John Crozier Ramsey in Knoxville jail], the chains had been taken off and he is now treated better; his friends are now allowed to visit him, which was at first refused.
25 MARCH 1865 This is Dr. Ramsay’s birthday, no family union, no social cluster around the fireside now, no gathering around the beautiful table, our household scattered. Our home [in] ashes, three beloved ones taken from us, to a better home we trust, dear Crozier and Alexander, prisoners. Robert and McK. at the front, the rest of us scattered in NC, seldom more than two together.
27 MARCH 1865 Pleasant. All hands farming and gardening.
29 March 1865 My poor son Crozier very sick in hospital.
6 APRIL 1865 Letter from Dr. R. [Ramsey] says R. [Robert] and McK. in danger, would like to know when any of our poor boys were not in danger. Richmond given up; the armies falling back from VA and TN.
8 APRIL 1865 Dr. R. came to-day, seems hopeful, is not ready to give up our cause yet. A. not yet come.
This cruel war is over After the American Civil War ends, the Ramseys are left homeless and penniless, with a “joint fortune of forty-two dollars of available money on which to start in the world again.” Margaret and her husband, both in their sixties, and three of their children [Elizabeth, Susan, and Robert]remain in western North Carolina, moving between Charlotte, Hopewell, and Salisbury. Dr. Ramsey returns to medical practice and begins writing short newspaper articles.
Despite receiving a presidential pardon from Andrew Johnson on 10 November 1865 and taking the amnesty oath, Dr. Ramsey remains in exile, fearing retribution and uncertain of what property he might be able to reclaim. Moreover, arch enemy Parson Brownlow has been appointed the U.S. Treasury agent in charge of abandoned property in the area.
Born in Fort Payne, Alabama, Josephine Hooke moves to Chattanooga TN with her family while still a child. In 1863 her father, Judge Robert McGinley Hooke, is a prominent member of the Confederate establishment in Chattanooga TN; he serves as a Confederate enlistment supervisor in Chattanooga and sends three of his sons to war. Hooke is also a wanted man; because he and Jefferson Davis are friends, the Union has put a price on his head.
The city of Chattanooga in 1864
21 AUGUST 1863 When the Union Army begins bombarding Chattanooga on 21 August 1863, Judge Hooke is in a hurry to leave town. As an investor in the East Tennessee railroads, he has connections. He obtains a railroad boxcar, removes the seats, and moves his family in. Josephine and her family flee from Chattanooga on the railroad car. Twenty-two-year-old Josephine Hooke keeps a diary in which she details her experiences on the train and in the cities they visit. She writes about her day-to-day life. Early in the war, Josephine’s diary entries show that she believes the war will end soon and her life will return to normal. As time passes, those hopes are dashed; and she concentrates on making the best of the situation. As she attempts to focus on her daily life, Josephine is unable to distract herself from her greater concerns about her family. The Hooke family spend months on the train, traveling from place to place to stay ahead of the Union Army, stopping first in Dalton, GA—where her brother Robert is a clerk in the Confederate Army—and then moving farther south. They have to adjust to their frequent movement and life on the railroad. They do their best to continue doing domestic chores. Josephine notes in her journal that she is sewing, and in late 1863 she records having to make alterations to their clothing. Though her thoughts frequently turn to her family’s plight, she records the events and her feelings about their situation.
… and where O where are they all gone—fled for refuge from the vile merciless invaders of our homes. How long, O how long will God permit this cruel war to rage? Are we not humbled? Why do we not forsake our sins and be saved.
Josephine Hooke and her family also continue to receive visitors. Even as they travel by boxcar, rarely knowing where they would go next, friends come to share news and enjoy their company. Family friend Captain Clark comes to spend time with the family and brings a Confederate newspaper to them. During a particularly hot spell that September, Hooke remarks:
We receive all our company under the trees, night or day, ladies or gentlemen.
She reports in her diary that the Union troops at Chattanooga are defeated and flee the city. The next day, however, she receives a visitor who declares the rumor is untrue and assures her that federal soldiers still control the city. This misinformation about the Civil War continues throughout their travels, even when they are within a few miles of a battle. September 1863 As fall comes, colder weather is a hardship those on the trains had to endure. In her diary entry for September 18, 1863, Josephine laments:
Never have we felt the loss of home so much as tonight. We have no stove in our cars and to feel the bleak weather coming on makes us think of the dear old home we have left and all the comforts with which we were surrounded. None but those who have been exiles, wanderers in a strange land, can sympathize.
Brother enlists in the Confederate Army Two more of her brothers also enlist in the army at some point.
Ma is very sad all day today Brother Bob [Robert Hooke] left us last night to go to Maj. Bransford. … We are done with seeing our brothers or having them with us while the war continues.
Hooke later reunites with her brothers, but her spirits fall when she discovers that:
“Orders [have] come for the boys to go to the front.”
Josephine is unable to attend church while her family lives on the road. She is clearly distraught and longs:
… to be at home … to attend church, hear Cousin Tom preach, [and] sit in the choir.
She worries about their situation and often wonders when the war will end and where her family will be forced to go next. Concerned with the fate of her home in Chattanooga, Josephine Hooke does her best to monitor the Yankee occupation and Rebel attempts to reclaim the city. She calls the federal occupiers of Chattanooga, “merciless invaders.” When she hears of the capture of a Tennessean known as a traitor to the Confederacy, she expresses hope that he will be “executed as a spy.”
When Josephine hears about the destruction of Chattanooga, she writes:
… and where O where are they all gone—fled for refuge from the vile merciless invaders of our homes. How long, O how long will God permit this cruel war to rage? Are we not humbled? Why do we not forsake our sins and be saved.
Hooke often turns to God to plead for an end to the war and her family’s troubles. She begs God to intervene, passionately crying:
How long, 0′ how long will God permit this cruel war to rage. Are we not humbled? Why do we not forsake our sins and be saved?
25 November 1863 As the train travels on, Hooke writes in her diary about hearing news of the terrible Battle on Missionary Ridge:
O, that we were nearer the scene of conflict that we might assist in taking care of the wounded. To be able to relieve in some degree the suffering of any soldier who bleeds in defense of our homes should be esteemed an honor and a privilege by Southern women.
12 December 1863 Josephine Hooke takes time to note in her diary, what a “‘dreary, rainy” Saturday. Her thoughts might have been with her brothers in the Confederate Army, and she does not know if they are alive or dead. The family begin to lose hope:
I think now our chance of getting … home is poor, in fact our hope is almost gone.
17 April 1865 Letter from brother Robert Hooke:
In Dockie’s [another brother?] letter he said he was having a real good time visiting the young ladies &c., and oh how homesick I got on reading it. … I would give anything on earth to be there.
In this letter, dated just over a week after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox [9 April 1865], Hooke also mentions his regiment’s plans of “going either down near Florida or west;” but he did not mention surrendering. The Hookes do eventually return to Chattanooga, though I cannot find the details of their later lives. Josephine Hooke never marries and lives out her life in the company of her sister Lilyan. By the time she would have been considering marriage prospects, the Civil War has already taken its toll on the young male population of the South, changing the marriage outlook for many women in Hooke’s age group and social class.
The diary Josephine Hooke kept exchanges hands a few times and eventually ends up in the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, TN. The diary ends up in the hands of a relative who later becomes a historical archivist in Tennessee for the Federal Writer’s Project, a government jobs program FDR starts during the Great Depression. Through her, Josephine’s diary is now housed in the Tennessee State library.
LETTERS TO JOSEPHINE HOOKE FROM CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS
19 JULY 1862 Letter from R. C. Bransford [CSA] To Miss Josephine H. Hooke Relative to loneliness and news from East Tennessee in the wake of Forrest’s raid. Chattanooga July 19/62 Miss Josephine: I received your letter of the 9th Inst. but I had so much to do when I arrived at this place that I hardly knew at what point to begin. I now realize the difficulty of one person trying to do or discharge the duties of more than one officer, it was ever my luck to fall heir to the duties of the acting Secty. & Tr., which I regard as an unenviable position. … I feel that the day is not far distant when I shall be allowed to once more visit my home, the dearest place to me on earth, and that the Northern Vandals will be driven from the soil of our beloved Tennessee. I learned this morning that Gen. [Don Carlos] Buell USA has fallen back from Bridgeport & Battle Creek to Tullahoma TN, where I think they will make a stand for a short time to enable his army to make a successful retreat from Tennessee. I think Buell will attempt to make a final stand at Bowling Green, KY, if our army makes an advance movement into Middle Tennessee, which they will be sure to do if the enemy will fall back as we advance until they get into KY. I presume you have heard of the capture of Murfreesboro TN by Gen. [Nathan Bedford] Forrest CSA, the fight commenced at 4 o’clock A. M. and lasted until 2 P. M., he took 1200 prisoners, killed 200, one Battery, one Major, and one Brigadier Genl. was captured. He destroyed and captured though 1/2 Million Dollars worth of army stores [and] the N.&C.R.R. Depot was burned. It contained over two hundred thousand dollars worth of Commissary Stores. It is said to be one of the most brilliant feats performed since the war commenced. … It is said that Middle Tennessee is at present all in a blaze, the enthusiasm of our friends is beyond conceptions they hope soon to be set free from the hand of the oppressor, “so mite it be.” I am sorry you are so lonely in your adopted home. I can appreciate and sympathize deeply with you to leave home & go so far away in the midst of strangers is not a pleasant task. Do you know that I look upon you as being one of the best friends I ever had in my life and that I could entrust you with the most sacred secrets of my heart. It is true, and I hope you regard me in the same light. I could tell many amusing anecdotes in regard to one person, that I have heard since I saw you last, but will defer telling you until I see you, which I hope will be soon. I regret that I was deprived of the honor of being one of the party who gave you such a nice serenade. How I envy those fellows. I hope they have repeated their visit. It is most cheering to one so far away from the scenes of early life. hope you will not give up your Tennessee sweetheart and take a young knight of Georgia. The young gent who asked after you on my first visit to this place is at present in the City, having just returned from Lynchburg. I do not believe he is any sweetheart of yours. It was J. T. W. who is he that can claim as your sweetheart, you say he makes Chattanooga his headquarters. You had better not tell me, I might have a spider put in his dumpling. I know you would then grieve yourself to death. I am very much pleased with the sweetheart you gave me. She is very pretty and will make a good wife, but it would be presumption in me to think that she cared a straw for one so unworthy of her as myself. How do you know but what she loves someone else, and you do not know but I may love some one else better than I do her, if that be so, what course will you pursue in that case? I have not seen Will Ward, the young man I gave you, since I left Marietta. I understand that he has returned to his home in Carthage TN. I have not seen Miss Ellen’s paragon; I hope the Yankees have caught him. Chattanooga is as dull as a meat axe. … When do you expect to move up? Gordon has rented another house. I hope your Paw will move soon. Mr. Anderson wishes to be remembered to your family. Please present my regards to Miss Nellie, Miss Ellen, Miss Georgia, yourself, your Ma, and all the children. Please write soon, and believe me, as ever Your devoted friend R. C. Bransford P.S. Since closing this, a gentleman informs me that Gen. Buell is not falling back as reported … Bob
Almost a year later Miss Hooke receives this letter from R. C. Bransford’s brother John. I am sure there were many other letters in the interim, but these are the only ones I found.
15 JUNE 1863 A plea for fresh vegetables Letter from Major John S. Bransford [CSA] To Miss Josephine Hooke, a plea for fresh vegetables (Hamilton County) Chattanooga, Tenn. June 15/63 Miss Hooke: My friend and fellow Quartermaster, Capt. Wickham, who has been confined to his room for several weeks with a broken ankle, and who has had nothing good to eat during all this time, has excited my sympathy. Will you not therefore, be so kind as to place a few vegetables on a plate and sent them today, to the Captain by my servant boy Allen? I would not ask such a favor scarcely of any one else, but knowing how generous the impulses of your nature are, induces me to call those divine attributes into exercise. Besides, I have a pride in desiring to show Capt. W. how well I am living, and how truly fortunate I am in being permitted to live in your agreeable and elegant Family. Capt. W., being unwell, has little or no appetite and I wish you to send only what a sick man could eat. I mean in quantity. Everything from Mrs. Hooke’s table is excellent in quality. The reception of a few vegetables will prove, I am sure, an agreeable surprise to my afflicted fellow officer. I do not have to eat [as] well as some men, but it really affords me genuine pleasure to boat abroad of what we daily have at “My House.” To hear me speak you would imagine I owned the establishment, and I never pretend to say that I am boarding here. In fact, I am living at Home—and about turning me off, as your good mother talks about, I wonder if she seriously contemplates turning a poor fellow out into the starving world. I am not surprised that a lady of Mrs. Whiteside’s good taste and good sense should quit her own home for a happy sojourn in the Household that is a home for us all. But I have said more that I intended—but nothing more than I feel is true. Yesterday while I was at Mr. Warner’s I could not let the opportunity to pass, when Mr. McIver’s name was mentioned, to tell the young ladies how very fortunate Van had made in securing a seat at your pleasant table. Feeling sure that no one could surpass in times like these the well deserved dinner of yesterday, I was compelled to give them a list of what we had for dinner, or an every day meal. But it is not what I get that attracts me so strongly to the family. Like it is the agreeable society with which you surround us that delights me most. Capt. W. dines at 3 o’clock, and Allen can start after one o’clock and reach him in time. With much esteem, I remain Your friend, John S. Bransford.
Lucy Virginia Smith is born 26 March 1825 into an affluent family in Accomack County, Virginia. After her mother’s untimely death, Lucy and her sister Lide attend Mrs. Hannah’s School, a private academy in Washington, PA, where Lucy graduates with high honors. While they are away at school, their father remarries, and the girls are not happy with the situation at home. They move to Memphis in 1845, where they both found jobs as tutors for the children of prominent families there. Lucy and Lide work to pay for their education, which their father did not pay.
I know she hated to be called Lucy, but I think L. Virginia is worse, and LVF is no better. So I am calling her Lucy.
While living in Memphis, Lucy publishes some of her first writings in newspapers and magazines and published poetry for the Louisville Journal under the pseudonym L’Inconnue, the unknown. In 1852 Lucy is hired as associate editor of the Southern Ladies’ Book in New Orleans. Neither of the girls marry until they have reimbursed Mrs. Hannah’s School for their education. While reading her poem “One or Two,” a wealthy landowner and horse breeder from McMinnville, Tennessee falls in love with Lucy. He travels to Memphis and asks her to marry him. On 12 January 1853 Lucy Virginia Smith marries John Hopkins French and moves with him to his estate, Forest Home, in the mountains near McMinnville, in Warren County—a few counties west of East Tennessee. The Frenches have three children, a son and two daughters: Walter Scott French in 1854, nicknamed Bouse; Jessie Virginia in 1855; and May Lide in 1857, nicknamed Ting.
Lucy Virginia French continues to write and publish her poetry after the wedding. John French wholeheartedly supports his wife’s profession, often tending to the children to give her time to work. From 1856 to 1879 Lucy serves as literary editor of various newspapers and magazines, among them the Southern Homestead in Nashville, the Rural Sun, the Sunny South, the Crusader, and the Ladies’ Home, all in Atlanta; and the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond.
Though McMinnville is somewhat remote, Lucy does quite well there. The larger community also support her work. Friends write newspaper articles to southern papers introducing her work to larger audiences. On average she earns $400-500 per year for her work [$16,445.96 today], quite a feat for a woman of her time.
From the 1850s through the late 1870s, Mrs. French publishes her first book of poetry, Wind Whispers (1856), financed by her husband; a series of legends in verse; Istalilxo, the Lady of Tula, a five-act tragedy of Mexico before Cortez (1856); Legends of the South (1867), a book of poems; My Roses (1872), a novel; and Darlingtonia (1879), a novel.
In 1860, Lucy Virginia French organized a Ladies Petition against Secession, and invited her personal and intellectual friends from both the North and the South to sign it. In that document, she argues that the United States Constitution offers the best protection to women and children, obviously concerned about the issues then facing the country. Tennessee becomes one of the Confederate States on 8 June 1861. Lucy supports the Confederacy once the war begins, and her diary reflects that.
As the Civil War begins, Lucy John French are living at Forest Home with their three children in McMinnville, Warren County—a few counties west of East Tennessee. They own slaves and are loyal to the Confederacy. Her home and her family are always her first priority; she writes because she loves it, just as she loves painting, playing the piano, embroidery, and working in her garden. In the 1860 U.S. Census of McMinnville, Warren County, Tennessee, the Frenches list three children ages six and under, one boy and two girls. Lucy’s profession is listed as “Poetess, Author.“
In 1862 Lucy begins keeping a diary, mostly about the Civil War, but she also writes lengthy comments about politics and society from the perspective of an affluent, educated woman. Her journal entries are written at her family’s homes in McMinnville and Beersheba Springs, Tennessee. She does not write daily entries, but summaries of the previous week’s events. The author becomes well-known, and during the Civil War, soldiers from both armies stop at her home to meet Mrs. French and get her opinion of their own work. During her lifetime, she also works tirelessly for equal education for women.
In addition to urging his wife to take time for her writing, in 1856 John French financed the publication of her first book of poetry, Wind Whispers, a series of legends in verse. amazon.com/Wind-Whispers-Collection-Poems-Classic-Reprint/dp/1332847765
Lucy Virginia French’s Civil War Diary Sunday 16 February 1862 Two weeks have passed since I have written upon these pages. During the first week the weather was either rainy or cold! I [staid] stayed at home sewing & we had but few visitors. The war news was not inspiriting to us, Fort Henry being taken, and the Federal gunboats making a reconnaissance as they call it, up Tennessee river. … The second week I spent mostly in company. On Sunday went to Church; Monday evening took tea at Mrs. Read’s. Tuesday spent the day with Mrs. Campbell, & took tea with a family party at Lou Spurlocks; Wednesday had company to tea myself; … Mr. Cap Spurlocks [Lucy’s friend] being home on a brief furlough seems to be the cause of all this suppering. … Thursday was a lovely day. News came in the evening that they were fighting hard at Fort Donelson, and that our troops were evacuating Bowling Green & falling back to the Tennessee line. Tennessee is now invaded, and every man will be called out to defend her soil. … Saturday we intended to make calls but were prevented by weather being so cold. Quite a fall of snow occurred on Friday (Valentine’s) night, the second we have had this winter. It was about 2 inches deep and is melting some to-day. The last night’s news is that we have whipped the Federals badly at Fort Donelson notwithstanding their invulnerable gun-boats & overwhelming numbers. Bouse [her son] is looking very finely—he is a handsome boy, with a manly spirit. He asked me last night to explain to him about the gun-boats of the Yankees. We were all amused at Ting [daughter May] yesterday—she was reading us the ‘nuse’ as she calls it in the paper. Seeing the Eagle on the Banner’s heading she pointed to it with such roguishness … “See here, Cousin Mollie, this is the thing the Yankees are bringing to peck us!” Her readings about “our men” and the Yankees kept us in a roar of laughter. … Dear little children! They are so full of fun and frolic as ever – they know nothing of this Yankee war! And God be praised they do not – they are all the sunshine we have in our darkened homes now!”
22 February 1862: Opinion of a Warren county Confederate woman on Fort Donelson Saturday. I cannot remember that I have ever experienced a more gloomy week than that which is just past. On Sunday evening last [16th] when we were all confident of victory at Fort Donelson, the news came that at last we were completely overpowered—that hundreds were killed and thousands made prisoners—that Nashville had surrendered unconditionally—the Federals have taken possession and that our Bowling Green army had fallen back to Murfreesboro! A deeper shock I never felt; I gave up the Confederacy as lost. All this week we have been in a state of the utmost anxiety and suspense—not a mail has reached us from any point, and we are dependent altogether on rumors, of which there are a thousand and all conflicting. Today it seems that we met with disastrous defeat in the end at Donelson by the enemy’s overpowering numbers surrounding our men, who fought bravely and well. Gens. Floyd and Pillow escaped with some of the troops, but Buckner is a prisoner. It is now contradicted that Nashville surrendered, and sent a boat of truce with a flag on it down the Cumberland to meet the enemy and give up the city (!) as it was at first reported—but it is certain that our troops from Bowling Green have fallen back to Murfreesboro, and they have burnt the bridges, steamboats, etc. at Nashville and not a Yankee near them! Oh! it is disgraceful! Gov. [Isham] Harris who rode around town alarming the city by saying, “Every man must take care of himself; I am going to take care of myself.” … but seeing his mistake has now it is said returned, saying he is going ‘”to fight to the death” and that he only ran off to carry away the archives of the State. Well, any excuse I suppose is better than none—but, the fact is that he and Gen. A. S. [Albert Sidney] Johnston have disgraced themselves and Tennessee by their inefficiency and cowardice. A rumor has been heard that our army would fall back to Chattanooga! I think they had better if Johnston is to command them, fall down into Mexico at once, and be done with it. … This is the anniversary of the birth of our Great Washington and set apart for the inauguration of Jefferson Davis whom some style the “second Washington.” Will he prove himself such? That remains to be seen. If this day is to be ominous of our political future, it will be gloomy indeed. I have been sick all day with one of my dreadful headaches which added to other dark clouds around me to make me desponding. Still, I confess I have much to be thankful for, my children are well—my husband is still with us—may God preserve us thus in peace at home.
2 March 1862 Another week of suspense, gloom & oppression has passed over us. The weather has been mostly spring-like, and the birds are beginning to be singing everywhere. I should have gone to church to-day notwithstanding the high wind, but Mrs. Spurlock has our buggy (she went down to Murfreesboro to see her husband who is in the army & sick), and I did not feel well enough to walk. During the past week the Federals have taken possession of Nashville. Gen. [Don Carlos] Buell USA it is said made a speech to the citizens, in which he told them to go on with all their accustomed business, that he was there, not to molest, but to protect them! etc. etc. We shall [see] how this will be. Our forces are falling back from Murfreesboro. Harris has called out the militia, & every man is obliged to go. While I was instructing the children in their Sundays lesson this morning, a messenger came for cousin John to come to town to attend to some meeting of the men. In this meeting it was resolved that no organization could go on here, now, as we are all under Lincoln rule, and his army is so near us. It is quite uncertain what will be done. We were all very much surprised this evening at cousin Jimmies arrival. He is not well & does not look well, but has raised a cavalry company for the war. I don’t think he will be able to remain long in the army. Wednesday. Mollie [Lucy’s cousin] and Jimmie left this morning on the train for Mississippi. I was sorry to see Mollie go and yet I was glad or rather I was satisfied, for it is better for her. She will not feel the privations & hardships of these trying times half so much there as here. I received a letter from Lide [her sister] night before last; all was in status quo with them. Mollie & Jimmie will stay a day with her as they go down.
9 March 1862 We have had no war news of interest during the past week. We are now in Yankee Land, as Grandma Lyon mentioned today. Why dear she said, I haven’t shaken hands with you since we all got into Lincolndom! Things seem to be quiet here, how long they will continue so, we cannot tell. Report says that goods, salt, coffee etc. which are so scarce & dear here, are plenty in Nashville as they have opened the blockade and have connection with Louisville and Cincinnati. How true it is we do not know. … may we be enabled now to trust in God & hold out to the end!
23 MARCH 1862: One Warren County woman’s opinion of Isham Harris A good story is told of one Tenn. girl and Gov. Harris. When the Gov. got up his Hegira [a journey to escape from an undesirable situation] he had a special train to carry his high mightiness—a young lady the daughter of a clergyman residing some 25 miles from Nashville was going home and came on the Gov’s train not knowing that it was sacred and “special.” The gallant Gov. ordered her to be put off instantly. “Sir,” said she, “six men such as you are could not put me off this train. I’m going home.” and so she did. Oh! Isham-gallant, chivalrous, courageous and swift … Some of the John Spurlocks asked last night, “Where is Harris now, anyhow!” Brown said. “We hadn’t yet been able to get a train swift enough to catch up with him and find out where he was.”
30 March 1862: We knew they were Yankees On Sunday last our mail stopped—the train being taken off to prevent its falling into the hands of the Yankees. I was sitting in the parlor with Mrs. Armstrong when I saw an armed force coming up the road. We knew they were Yankees, but all went out on the portico to look at them. I think only of my domestic affairs— my children, flowers, and chickens.
2 April 1862: 138 of them—cavalry. Yesterday as I sat sewing by the front window I looked up & saw the road thronged with soldiers—Yankees. They looked down at the house so much that I feared some of them would call upon us, but it not being feeding-time they went on. There were 138 of them—cavalry. They did not tarry long in town, going on in the same direction the others went. We are blockaded now most effectually; we can get out no way but by going over the mountains to Chattanooga. No mails ever reach us, & we don’t know anything of what the outside world is doing.
20 April 1862: This is a rainy day & I cannot go to church. I stay at home reading Carlyle. This week has passed quietly enough. On Monday night a nephew of Mr. Hy. Smiths staid with us; he brought papers containing an account of the battle at Corinth, or rather Pittsburg Landing, but they are all Federal papers. Andy [Senator Andrew] Johnson will allow nothing favorable to the South to be published in Nashville. The Patriot office has been confiscated because its editors would not give in to Andy’s despotism. On Tuesday the Col. took Mr. Smith to Altamont, he staid all night with Mr. Armfield & came home on Wednesday. On the way he met Mrs. Armfield, returning from Nashville; she said that reports came in favorable to our side in regards to the Pittsburg fight, but all such news was suppressed. The Federals claim a great victory—the Confederates do also—so we don’t know how it is. On Friday I had a letter from Lide [her sister] written on the 7th, the day of the battle. She had not heard of it but said all Memphis was holding its breath with expectations. I sent on Friday a letter to the dear old folks [?], sent it open to Nashville so that the Federal pickets might read it if they felt so disposed, and Eddy Campbell is to mail it at Nashville. I also wrote to Lide by Brown Spurlock who is going to Chattanooga. The Federals are in possession of Huntsville & the R. R. as far as Stevenson. Savages Regiment has gone to Corinth.
27 April 1862 This has been a most lovely day; we went to Church, taking little Jessie with us. The past week has been very quiet; we have had a few visitors. I have finished all the children’s summer sewing, and my yard is nearly all arranged for the season. I attend diligently to the children’s lessons, speeches, music, etc. and have time also to play with them, read them stories, take walks after flowers, go fishing, etc. with them. They are all in fine health, for which I am truly grateful. This week has been so quiet that its record must necessarily be short. The woods and mountains look charming; they are quite green; and everything seems fresh & full of life and beauty.
A young Lucy French en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Virginia_French#/media/File:LucyVirginiaFrench.png
Sunday, 4 May 1862 The past week has been almost as quiet as the one preceding it. No news of any reliability has reached us except that the Federal gun-boats were before N. Orleans, but their bombardment of the city was protested against by the English & French ministers. I never could have imagined it possible for one to live in the midst of a revolution & know so little of the real manner in which it is conducted; we feel the effects of war; yet we see but little of its modus operandi. Last week I had my house cleaned from top to bottom, the yard also is all cleaned & arranged for the summer, & everything looks delightfully fresh and smiling. On Thursday (May Day) evening we took a second boat ride on the river with some young friends; it was exceedingly pleasant. Today we went to Church; I took Ting [daughter May]; the little thing grew very weary before meeting was over, and says she had rather go to Grandma Cain’s than to church any more. On Tuesday Grandma Cain, Mrs. Armstrong, Mrs. Reed, & Mrs. Campbell spent the day with me. They took me quite by surprise, but we had a pleasant day nevertheless.
11 May 1862 There is news this week of a great & bloody battle being fought at Corinth; which side gained the victory we have not heard. There is also a rumor that the Confederates have evacuated Yorktown, & fallen back within 12 miles of Richmond. [Gen. John Hunt] Morgan & his men were surprised at Lebanon a few days ago by a Federal force from Nashville and dispersed Morgan himself & most of the men escaped, & we learn are rallying again. On Tuesday evening last I took my first horseback ride this spring; we went to Mrs. Cain’s. On Wednesday evening we had a party of young ladies & gentlemen to tea & then we all went boating on the river, by moonlight. It was very delightful. Thursday evening I rode out again. Friday I was unwell & in bed all day. Mary Armstrong was here & spent the day and Mrs. Spurlock, Julia & Florena, came down in the evening and went boating with the Col. [her husband]. Saturday I was in bed most of the day, & today I am not at Church. Walter went with his Pa; it being his day to go. When he was ready to go, I thought him the finest looking boy I ever saw.
18 May 1862: Wartime Anxieties as Expressed by Lucy Virginia French in McMinnville Monday of this past week the 12th was little Walters birthday; he was 8 years old. When he was six months old I laid aside a book as the commencement of a little library for him to be given him on the day he completed the 8th year. That day has come and passed, but I did not present him the books. The times are such I could make no party, or little fete for him, and I shall postpone giving him the library until he is 10, perhaps 12. How little, when I made the resolution to collect the books for him did I imagine the state of our whole country would be in when he came to be eight years of age. But so it is, and I may perhaps never see the day he is 12, or he may never see it. During the past week I have had the children with me all the time, deciding that they must not on any account make associates of the Negros. I put Martha to working out. I teach them constantly–something—devoting myself to them exclusively. It is hard work—very confining—sometimes making me exceedingly nervous, but it is my duty, and that is sufficient.” It must be done, if I wear out with the constant friction. A few days since I was gladdened by a good letter from dear Auntie in reply to mine. They were all well, and going on as usual. How I love them, and then not to have heard a word from them for nearly a year! I wrote last night to Lide endorsing Aunties letter, and I wrote to Mollie also having an opportunity to send the letters to Chattanooga for mailing. On Monday evening of last week I went to see Mrs. Richardson who has just returned from Texas, taking the children with me. That was the only visit I paid, the only time I went out during the week. I have been sewing, reading, and teaching all the time. The Federal army continues to encroach upon the Confederate limits. Norfolk is taken, the famous Merrimac or Virginia blown up by the Confederates. Lincoln I am told has opened the blockade by proclamation, but I have not seen the document. He considers the rebellion crushed. Beauregard has ordered the destruction of cotton, sugar, & molasses, etc.; it is being done. A convention met at Nashville on the 12th, resolving on the restoration of Tenn. to the U.S. John Morgan with 200 men made a raid into Ky. on the 11th destroying cars, trains, etc. & securing some 8 or 10 thousand dollars in money!
26 May 1862: Federal forces visit McMinnville The Federals visited this place again on Friday last [23rd]; came, I presume, to look up resigned officers and disbanded men, but they found none. Contented themselves with stealing horses, watches, etc., and paying for forage etc. in counterfeit money. They did not molest us, however. There are informers among us who keep them thoroughly “posted—as it is quite plain for us to see from their actions and inquiries every time they come …
6-8 June 1862: Movement of Confederate and Federal cavalry through McMinnville On Friday [6th] the Yankee cavalry rode into town—took some horses and two prisoners from [Col. James] Starnes CSA cavalry now camping at Martin’s. They only remained an hour or two in town—passing back again at a rapid pace. About an hour and half later, about 180 of Starnes cavalry came thundering in pursuit. On Saturday [7th] they came back, brining back all the Yankees but three who escaped and 7 whom they killed. They overtook them on Saturday morning below Woodbury—getting their breakfast at Jetton’s, Barton’s, and Major Talley’s. Two were shot in Mrs. Barton’s parlor, it is said. They shot at our men from the parlor windows. Some were killed in Maj. Talley’s rye-field. On yesterday-Sunday-the Yankees passed down the road again on foot—being released on parole by Col. Starnes. We may look for new forces up here soon—to harass us as they are doing the people about Jasper. Mrs. Read brings shocking news of their outrages over in the Sequatchie Valley.
Civil War Marker Occupation of McMinnville: Conflict on the Home Front Inscription. Early in 1861, when the state first voted on secession, Warren County residents, like many Tennesseans, opposed it. When balloting next occurred in June 1861, however, sentiment overwhelmingly favored secession, and county residents voted nearly 100 to 1 to leave the Union. Young men flocked to Confederate enlisting offices, quickly forming the 16th Tennessee Infantry under John Houston Savage. Benjamin J. Hill organized the 5th Tennessee Infantry, later renumbered the 35th; it trained just south of town at nearby Camp Smartt. The county’s resources and the Manchester and McMinnville Railroad made McMinnville a strategic location that attracted raids by Confederate Gens. Joseph Wheeler, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Braxton Bragg. Gen. John Hunt Morgan spent his honeymoon here and planned his Kentucky and Ohio raids from the home of kinsman Dr. John Barkley Armstrong. McMinnville changed hands at least five times. After April 1863, it frequently served as a Federal base; fourteen forts and blockhouses eventually were constructed to guard against Confederate attack. Union Col. Henry C. Gilbert’s 19th Michigan Infantry was among the first Federal units to occupy the town. Federal occupation meant some safety from Confederate guerilla bands, but, nonetheless, county residents felt the hand of war when houses, warehouses, factories, and bridges were burned. Local Confederates especially disliked Gen. William “Bull” Nelson, who ransacked the Cumberland Female College here. Partisan bands harassed the Union garrisons with occasional raids. Local poet Lucy Virginia French chronicled the war in diaries detailing the conflicts between Confederate and Unionist families. The last Federal troops departed in September 1865. Image, lower left Col. John H. Savage Image, upper middle East Main Street, McMinnville ca. 1861 Image, upper right Cumberland Female College, ca. 1855 Image, lower right Warren County Court House Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. The marker is located on the grounds of the Warren County Courthouse. At the intersection of West Court Square and East Main Street (Tennessee Route 380). hmdb.org/m.asp?m=83055
9 June 1862: Effects of the war upon a Southern aristocratic woman’s emotions and her children in Warren County Yesterday I was not well enough to write. I was quite unwell on Thursday—and have been so ever since until this morning—I now feel somewhat better. In addition to my headache and its concomitants, I have been troubled with a diarrhea similar to that I suffered so much from last fall—arising I suppose from the cold, I have taken in some way. I am not worth a picayune—everything upsets me. I have managed to keep up however, and have not missed the children’s lessons. Puss [a slave?] is “ailing” too, and has been for three months—I think if we both were sent to Beersheba [Beersheba Springs, a nearby resort] for a month or two, we would be benefited. I have done but little during the past week, but read, when I could do so for my head. Thursday was dear little Tingie’s birthday—5 years old. The comical little creature knows her letters-and that is all she knows in the book line. But how funny and “cunnin” and knowing she is in a hundred other things. And she asked so many outlandish questions. The other day she asked “Mamma if Pap was to go away to the war and get shoot—what would you do? Would you get you some other husband to take care wid you?” Just now her “ruling passion” is a kitten given her by Mrs. Lou Spurlock—without which, sleeping or waking, she is never seen. I keep the children under my own eye now all the time, and I must confess that having charge of them always [is] in no way [a] very easy task. But it is better for them, and it must be done.
15 June 1862: Federal forces move through McMinnville On Thursday the 12th, a force of between 4 and 5 thousand Federals passed us going into McMinnville. The first I knew of their approach Martha [a slave] came running up stairs where I was hearing the children’s lessons exclaiming, “The Yankees are coming up the road!” I looked out & saw four or five horsemen at the gate, in a moment they were up to the house. I ran down stairs, and saw that they were taking our favorite horse, Black Cloud. Darlin [John] was in town, what could I do? I did nothing. I said not a word. They were the roughest kind of men, and I did not know how to address them. I was angry and excited & feared I should not say the right thing. So I forced myself to silence. I was the more enraged too because of the lamenting & crying of the children & servants over the loss of the horse. I knew however that Darlin was in town that everybody knew his fine horses, and that he could not fail to see the animal, & would get him back if he could. Throughout the day the troops came to get something to eat—they were very respectful to me when they saw me. … but a squad of them who sent a stolen negro down after dinner for them sent word to send their dinner, or they would come & take it. I sent a quantity of bread, meat & vegetables which they took & sent the boy back a second time saying that was not half enough. I forwarded or at least told the servants to send them a second supply. Two of those who came to the house offered to pay but I would not receive it. I would not allow the Negros who brought them the victuals to receive it either. While they were eating however I generally gave them a piece of my mind. They did not seem to get angry acknowledged that I was telling them the truth and thanked me for their dinners!! Oh! how angry and embittered I felt that day to see what trouble this vile thing Secession has brought upon us! One of the men told me that, “the South had brought this army with all its consequent troubles upon herself.” I said, “If you know anything at all—you know very well that Tennessee never brought this upon us. She stood firm for the Union that she loved until Lincoln’s war proclamation drove her into exile, and rebellion—and now here you are with your armies to drive her back again, I suppose.” He sighed—for he seemed very weary, and said he wished to heaven it could be ended—he wanted to go home. He looked worn, as there was homesickness in his voice as he said it, and I did pity him. I knew that he was the enemy of the South—that he stood before me, an enemy, but I felt sorry for him and it did me good to see him drink the cool milk with an evident relish. In the evening more cavalry came—rode around the stables, etc. hunting horses, they found none, and went away without molesting anything but the chickens. Late in the evening (as soon as he could get out of town) Darlin’ [pet name for her husband] came home—he was as calm as a summer evening—I really wondered at him. … Next morning [Saturday] the troops left town, going in the direction of Pikesville, a squad of 8 or 10 returning to Murfreesboro. … Next day those gentlemen got the Negros they came to reclaim [not Lucy’s], and Darlin got his horse—it was taken by Pennsylvanians 7th Reg. The children had a perfect jubilee when their Pa returned with the horse, & Cooper showed his ivory to admiration.
Another image of young Lucy Virginia French en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Virginia_French#/media/File:Lucy_Virginia_French.png
22 June 1862: A reconnaissance in force The reconnaissance in force which we had thought were moving on to Chattanooga went only 38 miles across in the direction of Pikeville, & then returned. I presume they were in reality hunting Starnes; it is said they heard he was up here in the mountains somewhere fortifying, and they came to dislodge him. They pressed everybody’s horses, mules, wagons etc. to carry them on, some of which were returned to the owners, others were not. They tore up everything at Mr. Betty’s, broke all the furniture, ruined the garden & even tore to pieces Mrs. B’s clothing. They searched our neighbor Spurlock’s house 3 times__ took all their meat, and Mrs. S’s jewelry. They broke into the groceries & literally rifled them. … On Tuesday evening the long train passed again going back to Murfreesboro, & Shelbyville. Some of them came for corn on Monday night, & while Darlin was giving them the corn, they stole a bridle & Cooper curry-comb & horse brush. On Wednesday morning Willie French came down to tell us they took Bob Halton about midnight the night previous. Darlin was advised by his friends to go on after the horse & he left for Woodbury about 11 o’clock. … This week with its excitements has broken in considerably on the children’s lessons. I do not intend that it shall be so again, if I can possibly avoid it. Everything goes on as usual now, the Negros work on in their common way, and I think this inroad of the Yankees has done good in one respect at least, it has shown the Negros very plainly that the war has not been made on purpose to free them. They have found too from those who have tried Yankee masters & life in the army, that such a life is not exactly the state of perfect beatitude which it has been represented to be. Darlin arrived at home about 10 o’clock last night, very tired. He had been to Woodbury, Murfreesboro, & Wartrace. … He says he was very courteously treated by the Federal officers. I was so glad to have him at home again … This is a lovely day but warm. Everything is very dry, for we have had no rain for 3 weeks past, and my flowers and the garden begin to show the effects of it. This morning I went up on the hill with the children after blackberries, the first of the season. The road was dusty & as Jessie walked through it she asked, Ma did God make us all out of this kind of dust? On Friday I happened to ask Puss what day of the week it was? Why mamma said Jessie, as if in great surprise ain’t you a big enough girl to know what day it is? She evidently thought that knowledge a question of age & inches only. I have not been to church for several Sabbaths, thinking it best for us to remain at home in these unsettled times.
29 June 1862: A week of complete quiet The past week has been one of complete quiet. Our isolated position is assailed by rumors of battles near Richmond, reports that that city has succumbed, or the reverse, and tales are rife of the invasion of E. Tenn. … I have been sewing & reading this week, and have attended rigorously to the children’s lessons. I have been out but once & that was on yesterday evening when I rode in to see Mrs. Armstrong for a little while. The times are so very feverish, & community so split to pieces that home seems to me the best place for a quiet woman.
6 July 1862: The dear old folks are well Today I am in bed, quite unwell. During the past week I have as usual been reading, sewing & teaching the children, who improve every day. Darlin and myself have been taking very pleasant moonlight rides also. We rode last evening. On Friday we had a letter from Mollie, the second received since her absence. She is well & extremely Southern. Jimmy [Mollie’s husband] is at Vicksburg with his regiment; they seem determined to hold that point. This week we have had good news from Ark. Carolina, and Va. The Federal army under McClellan has met with defeat before Richmond; the fight commenced on Thursday week when the Yankees were driven from their entrenchments & thousands were made prisoners. Our latest news reports that they were still fighting, the Yankees endeavoring to reach their transports & our men pursuing them through the swamp. This is all very well so far, but Ill bet they gain in the end. They will be reinforced, and then fresh troops will do the work. So it was at Donelson; so it was at Shiloh. They are legion and I greatly fear the result will not be a complete victory on our part at last. God help us if it is not. We understand that there is a large cavalry force (Forrest’s) at Altamont coming across to march on Nashville. Gen. [CSA William J.] Hardee is said to be marching on that city with 40,000 men. We know not how true is the rumor; one hears anything & everything in these times. Darlin brings the news this evening that McClellan’s army is totally defeated cut off from reinforcements & from their gunboats, and fifty thousand of them killed and prisoners, also that France and England have recognized our independence. I trust this is so; yet I cannot but doubt it. Time will show. I greatly fear that this pleasing prospect will prove a delusion fading away, as others have so often done before. It seems to me quite too good to be true. I received this evening also a letter from our dear Auntie Martha, kind and cordial as ever. She tells us she heard … that Lide has a baby nearly two months old; it does seem so strange that we should hear this from Auntie first. The dear old folks are well thanks be to the Good Giver of good for their welfare and peace.
13 July 1862: A large cavalry force passed here Sunday 13th July. At breakfast this morning the servants reported cannonading in the direction of Murfreesboro [approx 50 miles northwest], and sure enough it was so, we all heard it very distinctly; it continued I should think from an hour to an hour & a half. A large cavalry force passed here yesterday about 4 o’clock in the evening, destined I suppose for Murfreesboro. They would I presume reach there this morning & we surmise that an engagement took place as soon as they reached that place. If the men who passed here were the only troops sent to take Murfreesboro our men are whipped sure, but if other forces rendezvoused there, (as the servants report the soldiers to have said they were going to do.) then it may be well for our cause. …
17 July 1862: A McMinnville woman’s account of the raid on Murfreesboro It is all over, and a glorious victory remains with the South! All day Sunday we were fearfully anxious as to the result—in the afternoon I became very uneasy indeed. I expected every moment to see flying fugitives come panting in jaded horses—and I watched the road narrowly. … About dark I saw two men ride past—then two more—then a squad of some 15 or 20 looking very tired as I thought—”Ah” I said to myself, here they come, I feared it would be so! Presently I heard a great “Fuss” up on the road and told Cooper to run up to the “white gate” and ask the news. He bolted off, but soon returned saying that the men said we had a victory, taken lots of prisoners and these mules. I was incredulous it seemed to me I could not believe our good fortune. But Cooper said they had the mules sure enough, so I began to give way to hope—a little … in a short time 13 wagons filled with the “blue bellies” [Union soldiers] (as the boys call them) came along. … When Darlin’ came home from town, at a late hour, he confirmed the joyful intelligence—a complete victory had been gained! … Scores of the men stopped … for water—the poor fellows were wearied down as well as their horses. They had gone since Saturday without food or sleep. Many of them if they had to stop and wait awhile for anything—threw themselves off their horses on the ground, and in a moment were asleep. It was 12 o’clock when we got home after the [wagon] train had passed. By the moonlight we saw it all pretty well, except the first column of prisoners who passed before the moon rose out of her eastern clouds. They had about 1300 prisoners—4 cannons and caissons—large lots of mules and horses—and a great many fine wagons filled with arms, prisoners and so forth. One of the [Texan] Rangers showed us a flag he had taken. We took it into the parlor where a wounded soldier was sleeping and examined it. It was a beautiful banner, elegantly made of the finest silk, and embroidered—belonged to the 9th Michigan Infantry, presented to the commander Col. Wm. Duffield, by the ladies of Detroit. I shall never forget the scene which passed before upon this evening. Did I ever think to see the “stars and stripes,” a captive banner and not weep over it? I felt so badly to see it thus I confess, it was the old flag I had loved so long. But was I sorry to see the men who had treated us all so badly a few weeks before, brought up again as prisoners, no, you may be sure I didn’t weep over that! Well here were they, and here were the conquerors. … Next morning D. Hardeman and one of his comrades came out to see us and get some breakfast. They told me all about the fight [at Murfreesboro]. It was a complete surprise—they took the pickets dashed into town and charged the camp before the Yankees knew they were there. The ladies were perfectly wild with excitement—cheering on the men, and showering “God bless you’—and they could not be kept out of the streets—the bullets were flying in every direction. The boys said it had a bad effect on them—the ladies excited them so much that they didn’t know what they were doing, and fired at random. They charged the Yankee camp however and took it, burning all the tents etc. The cannonading which we heard was the Yankees shelling their own camp, to drive our men out of it. … The Provost-marshal whom they made prisoner wanted the soldiers to shoot him then and there, and show him no mercy whatever. The soldiers however were very kind to the prisoners, they would not even eat provisions which our citizens had provided for them, until the prisoners were served. On Tuesday night about bed-time 1,300 of the prisoners being paroled, passed here on their return to Murfreesboro. They seemed very jolly—chattering and singing as they passed. There was a fine band among them, belonging to a Minnesota Regiment. Their instruments and all arms which they claimed as private property our men returned to them. Indeed, our gallant fellows behave all through this like true knights—they were so gentlemanly and quiet too among the citizens—showing such a marked difference between themselves and the Yankees, who visited us only a short time previous. … I cannot but smile at times when I see how people’s opinions vacillate in times like these. I used to think “Vox Populi Vox Dui” [The voice of the people is the voice of God] was a great truth. I smile now and remember I ever thought so. The popular voice is the wind’s voice. …
25 July 1862: The Yankees are gone! I have drawn a long breath for the first time in 3 weeks, a long deep sigh of satisfaction and relief, the Yankees are gone! Thank God! And may He in His goodness & mercy grant that they may never visit us again! The depredations they have committed are almost incredible. The town I am told looks desolated; completely torn to pieces. They never had any wood hauled, but burned fencing palings, gates etc.; the Fair Ground is ruined. In going about our place here they never crossed over a fence, but threw it down, passed, & left it so. On the day Gen. [Jacob] Ammen USA came in, he & his staff took shelter under the sheds at the new stable, from a shower of rain; they did not come to the house. I see citizens riding into town in groups this morning, a welcome sight & one not seen for the past three weeks. … I keep repeating to myself, “They’re gone!” The wretches are gone! and I cannot but amuse myself by imagining the countenances of those very honorable Union men who were getting up that pretty little scheme for having the Col. compelled to take the oath! It tickles me no little the craven-hearted cowards!__ Oh! full, how full of thankfulness and grateful joy were my prayers last night! And this morning I keep saying in my heart, Thank god! Thank God! Everything is very, very dry; we need rain badly, not having had any since the Monday night after the Yankees came in. We should make some corn yet, notwithstanding the vandals have destroyed so much, if we could now have favorable weather. Our people will have to bestir themselves now to get enough together to keep us through the winter__ if we are harassed no more by these villains we may be able to get along. The Col. has found some of his hogs in town; they had wandered off after the foraging wagons. I wonder they were not all killed. Perhaps we can yet get up sufficient for our winters meat. I hope so. Bacon is 37 cents per pound, south of us it is 50 cents.
10 August 1862: They dug up everybody’s potatoes They [Federal soldiers] went nearly to Sparta—and returned on Wednesday [6th] to town [McMinnville]. A regiment or two had been left here meanwhile, and large foraging parties sent out in all directions. They savaged the town and vicinity from one end to the other—broke into every store except Mr. Henderson’s (which he had guarded,) took out everything they wanted; went into everybody’s garden, poultry, dairy, etc. and helped themselves. Mrs. Rowan went out to expostulate with them about her garden, when they turned in to cursing her so that she left them and went into the house. … They dug up everybody’s potatoes, took their green corn, tomatoes, etc. They have got all ours—drank the milk in the spring house, stole nearly all our chickens—and you can’t look out any time scarcely that you don’t see some of them prowling round after something. They got into our apples and peaches, though not yet ripe, in a positively piggish manner. I abominate the very sight of the miserable wretches—they are so brutal looking—so impertinent—and so insufferable in every way. … Three days ago [7th] 8 or 10 came here and waited dinner. The Col. had gone to town, and just such going on I never saw. They pulled off their shoes on the porch and ran thro’ the house in their bare feet—went down into the orchard while their dinner was preparing and brought up hats full of green fruit which they crunched, meanwhile spitting tobacco about the porch, whistling and singing, making out to catch the chickens, etc. I was sitting in my room reading—one came to the door and stood staring at me and taking an inventory of everything in the house for about 15 minutes:—I never “let on” that I saw him at all—but seemed intent upon my reading all the while. They went in every place they dared. … I let them eat in the kitchen for their elegant manners—some of them seemed quite dissatisfied with the arrangement … One of the two who ate supper here on Saturday evening [9th] who gives his name as Sulser, his residence as Cincinnati and his business a lithographist, had paid us two visits since. He seems far more gentlemanly than any others I have seen, and is the only one who had ever knocked at the door before entering, or touched his hat when speaking with your Great Caesar! what a difference between their manners and those of the Confederates who were here only 10 days ago. One report reached us that Gen. [Braxton] Bragg CSA was crossing Walden’s Ridge with 100,000 men, but I do not believe it. To think that these insufferable Yankees will be driven from here is too good news for us. Here they will remain, harassing the citizens, stealing and gasconading until they eat the whole country up, and God knows how much longer. We heard today that the Confederates are fortifying at Chattanooga—if so, God help us! for we are powerless here. Where our bread is to come from I do not know—as good luck would have it we got in two barrels of flour and two of [corn]meal, just before they came in. … In fact the last barrel, with one of salt, (for which the Col. paid 35 dollars,) was rolled in after they came. …
Civil War Marker Railroad Town: A Series of Occupations. Inscription. McMinnville’s location at the end of the Manchester and McMinnville Railroad shaped the town’s Civil War experiences. Strategically important industries here included pork and mule breeding, fruit and apple brandy production, a textile mill, and saltpeter works at nearby caves. During the war, the opposing sides occupied McMinnville, which changed hands at least five times. Confederate Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest bivouacked at the Rock Martin farm about seven miles northeast of town and passed through here during his July 13, 1862, attack on Murfreesboro. Union Gen. William Nelson’s troops occupiedMcMinnville on August 3, 1862, but then withdrew near the year’s end to take part in the Battle of Stone’s River. Returning in April 1863, the Federals built fourteen forts and blockhouses and set up a hospital in the Cumberland Female College. Foragers requisitioned supplies from unwilling townspeople and restricted their freedom of movement. Confederate raiders retaliated by burning the railroad depot, cotton mills on the Barren Fork River, and almost every railroad bridge and station between McMinnville and Tullahoma. Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan stayed at Dr. John B. Armstrong’s McMinnville home during a lapse in the Union occupation before his 1863 Kentucky and Ohio raids. On October 3,1863, Gen Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry attacked McMinnville and forced the small Federal garrison to surrender. The Federals reoccupied the town from November 1863 to September 1865. Until the end of the war, Union commanders here tried and failed repeatedly to capture such guerrilla leaders as Champ Ferguson and Dick McCann. Quote, lower left “I found the town in a most deplorable condition. The rebels robbed the citizens of pretty much all they had. And after they left the First East Tennessee Cavalry were sent here, and from what I learn were a nuisance hardly inferior to the rebels.” ~ Col. Henry C. Gilbert, 19thMichigan Infantry, October 28, 1863. Quote, upper right “Every day—nay—every hour these graceless tramps of Yankees are stealing and prowling about the place—and corn, fruit, vegetables, and chickens disappear with marvelous celerity. ~ Lucy Virginia French diary, August 17, 1862 Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. 35° 40.436′ N, 85° 46.641′ W. Marker is in McMinnville, Tennessee, in Warren County. Marker can be reached from Old Morrison Road west of South Chancery Street (Tennessee Highway 55), on the right when traveling west. Marker is located in Pepper Branch Park. Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/26897917@N02/26875938682
17 August 1862: Union-occupied McMinnville What I have written as occurring in our midst during last week—had continued the whole of the past week … Every day—nay—every hour these graceless tramps of Yankees are stealing and prowling about the place—and corn, fruit, vegetables, and chickens disappear with marvelous celerity. One month ago this place was as Mammy says “J’s linaded” with poultry—about 500 chickens—now there is not 50 to be found and they are going fast. We have been “pitching in” to them very freely ourselves also, during the past two weeks—thinking we would eat all we could to save them from the “blue devils.” … They even take the setting hens and their eggs —much good may they do them! We had 44 head of hogs—now scarcely one can be seen anywhere. The goats will go this week I suppose, of course. They dig up the potatoes with their bayonets and have taken … up the cows and [are] milking them. Of peaches we have scarcely had any. I never go out side in the yard—and Nancy [a slave] tells me she will not go out into the garden for to milking without taking some of the children with her to watch for the Yankees. … Let the Col. holler at them when they are on a chicken chase, and they sink away out of sight, like a sheep-stealing dog. … Two cordons of picket guards are placed around the town and camps—and so thickly are they set that it is impossible to pass them. All along the road above us they are posted—upon and around the bluff and along the river on both sides. … I was quite surprised this morning, as I sat at my window to see Dr. Armstrong [a Unionist] riding up to the gate. [They had been unable to get medical help.] I met him very cordially for I was glad to see him on account of Puss [a slave or one of the children?]. He went to see her and pronounced her case not a serious one—says she needs strengthening treatment and ought by all means to have chalybeates water. I do wish I could take her to Beersheba, a chalybeates spring nearby; she is not willing to go unless I go with her. Then Dr. spent a long time with us—took dinner, etc. I cannot see thro’ him exactly. I thought he was maneuvering to get the Col. to take the oath, if required. I studied him well as he talked and though he was maneuvering—so did the Col.—as he has since told me. How abominable it is to appear frank, cordial, and friendly to a person whom you all the time distrust—whose sentences you are weighing every moment—whose drapery so speak you scan keenly with an eye “that seeing all seems naught to spy”—to catch if possible the chance sheen of a hidden danger. The Dr. may be a true friend—if he is I trust God will forgive my suspicions—if they are unjust no one would soon ask pardon than myself. But when he said that “some men” talked like the Col. ought to be brought in and made to take the oath—and argued that if he were the Col., and were taken, he would take it rather than be sent to prison and depart from his family, I thought he was maneuvering to get the Col. to say “Yes—so would he,” and he would have done it in order to paralyze his farther influence with the southern soldiery. I do not see why he should do this however, because it was only Darlin’s influence with these soldiers that saved his [the doctor’s] property, and his own life too when he was in the hands of the Confederates. He told the Col. he would get him a pass to come to town to look after his hogs—and urged him to come to town as that would quash the little conspiracy hatching against him by men who thought he was staying out for fear, when he was only staying because he could not get a pass to go in. Now this looked as if he really had no wish to have the Col. made to take the oath, but on the contrary desired to have him passed over and put to no inconvenience. I cannot see the bottom of it yet—but time will show. … The Yankees arrested Mrs. Lawson Hill, and brought her to town—as a hostage for her husband. They sent him word that if he did not come in, in two days they would cut down every tree in his orchard. He has immense orchards and a distillery for the fruit. Dr. Reid was arrested but subsequently released, whether or not he was made, to take the oath, I do not know. Mr. Jesse Martin was arrested and put in prison. The troops tore up things dreadfully at his house, I am told. They broke open a trunk and took thence 1000 dollars in gold before his wife’s face—they accused him of assisting Brewster [a local partisan leader.] and his men to capture several Yankee wagons, teams, soldiers, etc., who went out in that direction on a foraging expedition. Martin has since been released—he was made to take the oath, of course. I wish there could be some hope of this force leaving, but I see no gleam of hope. They have brought in large supplies of provisions from Murfreesboro by wagons, and hauled in immense quantities of forage from everywhere around us. They are positively eating the country up— destroying great quantities which they take—cutting down corn in the fields, etc. In town I am told, everybody’s garden is laid wasted, fencing burned up—and general desolation will reign supreme when they leave—if they ever do. They are working on the [Rail]Road [Manchester and McMinnville Railroad]. If that should be repaired and put in operation, perhaps, we might stand some chance for the winter—how it will be Heaven only knows. [Gen. William “Bull”] Nelson USA has left and another officer Gen. [Jacob] Ammen has taken his place. Nelson’s reputation is dreadful—he is cross, crabbed, crusty and full to the brim with curses. In short, it would seem from report[s] that he ate, drank, and slept, damning everything as he went. His troops seem to be like him for you can hear from the road the “God damns” in a perfect stream. It is execrable indeed. The troops here number 15,000—there are smaller forces at Manchester, Tullahoma, Murfreesboro, and between this and Alexandria. … A report has reached us also that there are 160,000 Confederates at Chattanooga—if so why don’t they move on up this way and clean out these wretches from here? … This week and last, on account of distress of the family, Puss’s illness and my increased cares consequent thereon, my own illness this week, and the warm weather all combined. I have allowed the children to go with[out] any lessons whatever, except to have Jessie practice … and indeed I had but little heart for that. …
25 August 1862: Long deep sigh of relief I have drawn a long breath for the first time in 3 weeks—a long deep sigh of satisfaction and relief—the Yankees are gone! … Thank God! Thank God! And may He in His goodness and mercy grant that they never visit us again!
26 August 1862: The iron clamps are down on us again How true it is now that “we know not what a day may bring forth.” I am saddened by looking over my record of yesterday. Then I was rejoicing that we could again have an opportunity to “catch our breath”—now the iron clamps are down on us again. This day is a type of the strain of suspense we are in all the time. This morning we heard early that the “Southerners were coming in upon every road,” and the news made our heats beat with hope and exultation. The Col. went to town—in an hour or two I saw some 15 men flying out the road in groups, some of whom I thought were Federals. “Ah!” thought I, “the Southerners are coming.” I did see some Federal flying I am positively certain. But about 11 o’clock the Col. came back saying that the Yankees were coming in and looking at the road that runs along the base of the mountain, I saw great clouds of dust—made by the returning marauders. Soon after a small body of the “blue” cavalry passed out in the direction of Murfreesboro. Some citizens came into town shortly afterwards reporting that these same cavalry were badly scared,—and it is thought they saw Southerners on the mountain and retired. These men said also that Nashville is taken by the Confederates—Nashville, Clarksville, and Gallatin. But how can we know? Just such a state of turmoil, and such a hey-day for Rumor, I have never seen.
31 August 1862: How we are to live this winter God only knows Sadder than ever, and not well beside, I take up my old pen: again to record the doings and sufferings of the past few days. The threat of last Sunday was … made in good faith by the Yankees and intended to be permanent. This I am convinced of from the fact of the men saying they had learned that 70 thousand of the Secesh [Southerners] were advancing upon them. Also their burning up some stores, wagons, etc. which they could not get away. And also because I have learned that they say since their return that they were leaving, but meeting with Thomas division some 15 or 20 miles out, they returned. … That train, with its escort, the Yankees say was captured somewhere about Woodbury, by CSA Gens. [John Hunt] Morgan & [Nathan Bedford] Forrest, how true it is we cannot tell. Consequently these men are without tents and almost without provisions. What they lack however, they make up off the citizens—whatever they want, we are the sufferers. Never shall I forget the scenes that occurred here on Wednesday morning. The pickets were out in very heavy force. … Soon after day light the whole place was crowded with them, racing to & fro, everywhere in search of food. … Some had the cows up in the corner milking them. Endless crowds beset the kitchen and smoke-house, begging, cussing and threatening, so that Nancy [a slave] had to just give over cooking breakfast. … Other endless crowds were racing about the orchards, shaking down and crunching the half-ripe fruit with the fierceness of famine and the voracity of wild animals, while others in bodies of 15 to 30 were running down our fat hogs and killing them with rocks. … I saw them hem in and stone one poor fellow [a hog] to death myself out in the grove. Two others they killed in the same way at the limestone spring. How far it would have gone I know not. Had not the Col. went up to the Spurlock house where there was a Major quartered & entered protest. This officer ordered a guard out immediately and the wholesale destruction was cooled down for the time. … On Wednesday evening when that brigade left, the dust was so thick you could not distinguish the men & horses, and it rolled in clouds down through the grove, filling the yard full, and extending in great waves to the river. On Friday evening some men came to the kitchen who acted worse than any had yet done—cussing, & spitting everywhere, going into everything in the cup-board & stove, inciting the Negros to run away, and upon finding out that they were better satisfied at home cursing them for fools, and trying to insult and aggravate them in every possible manner. Last night they [the Yankees] expected to be attacked from the direction of Woodbury, and the men were drawn up in line of battle all along the road above us, … On the low flat just across from the house, I saw them stand in a solid body across the road, with their guns ready, and so I suppose they stood all night. … before I went to bed I looked out my window. The moonlight swept sweetly all over the grove and all was so still and hushed, you could not have conjectured there was an armed man in a thousand miles of the place; yet the shadows were full of them, … When I awoke this morning, no fight had occurred, nor do I imagine there will be one here. In the mean time they have scoured the country in every direction, taking … everything that can be eaten. How we are to live this winter God only knows. … They took one man prisoner about 14 miles from here, for selling cattle to the Confederates. His wife was nearly distracted, & his only child, a little boy of some 7 or 8 years followed the party who were taking off the prisoners for a mile and a half, screaming and crying for his father. The father wept. They tried every way to get the child to return, but he would not. At last one of the men took him upon his horse and rode back with him as hard as he could go. I have seen nothing of [Dr.] Armstrong this week, consequently heard nothing more of the Union conspiracy which was to make the Col. take the oath. … I have despaired of the Southern army doing anything for us here. Our prospects for this year are beyond repair, if we can keep from starving it will be as much. I am told that … James Spurlock, & all the farmers in that direction are ruined, for this year at least, and that a body of cavalry went one night to Mrs. Spurlock (the white family being all in town.) and drove the Negros all off the place into the woods. This was done just for pure meanness. … Levi came out yesterday evening. I asked him the news. “Lord, Miss Ginnie,” said he, “there ain’t no news. There’s nothin but Yankees! We are just in the cordon of picket ports; sometimes we can’t get to either white gate. The one next [to] town they have taken off the hinges … “
Yet another image of young Lucy, while living in Memphis digital.mtsu.edu/digital/collection/shades/id/124/
3 September 1862: … so they could break into the house This morning one week ago was the one upon which we were so overrun with Yankees that I felt as one feels in some horrible dream when fancy pictures hundreds of wild beasts all around you, and you almost at their mercy. On yesterday we were dreadfully annoyed with them about killing the hogs, and in the morning Nancy could not cook breakfast for them. The nasty, lousy things filled the kitchen, boiling their coffee & cooking their meat, our own pigs which they had killed, and then brought to the house to have cooked! The Col. told them he would certainly report them. They did not say much to him, but when he left the kitchen they talked all manner of impudence and threatening to the Negros. Nancy said she was so outdone she did not know what she was doing. They said, “This man [John French] makes a mighty row about a hog or two, we ain’t going to leave him anything at all when we leave here. He’s a Secesh. These women over at the branch told us so. Just let him go & tell the officer, and [we] will not leave a stick standing on his place,” etc. And in the afternoon they were running the hogs again. They ran them down, or cornered them and killed them with their bayonets. These men were of the 21st Kentucky. The Col. went down to the stable and spoke to them again. They cursed him and told him he was a Secesh that the Secesh has all cooked grand suppers when they left that Thursday and they (the said Secesh,) thought the Confederates were coming in and he was the one who had done it! This is a specimen of the lies they make up to justify (!) their excesses. They have pumped every Negro on the place dry a hundred times, to get something out of them so that they could break into the house. But the Negros have all acted with great prudence and discretion, … Night before last a large body of men & an immense train came in from the direction of Murfreesboro. One of the Cols. & a squad of cavalry rode down to the steps. Darlin was sitting there. It was nearly twilight. The horsemen dismounted, & the officer said he was going to encamp two regiments in the grove. Darlin told him there was not water sufficient, pointed him to the Spring below the new stable, and directed him to the next hill. (below [the] Richardsons) where camps have frequently been made. He rode off not saying whether he would go on or not. But after a short while we saw the column move on to my inexpressible relief. … While Darlin was eating his breakfast some cavalry came dashing up to the stables hunting horses. Darlin ran out and carried Black to the lime-stone spring. The cavalry men not finding anything at the stables, went off, and Darlin came back & finished his breakfast. All this time and until 9 or 10 o’clock the mass of men, horses, wagons, ambulances, cattle, sheep, etc. surged along the road in front of us, & now, at nearly noon, the road & grove and everywhere, seems as quiet as if an army had never existed. … But alas our place shows what it is to be near the track of an army. Fences, gates, etc. are no more, cornfields, bare or trodden under foot, livestock all, or nearly all disappeared; gardens & flowers, withered & gone.
5 September 1862:The Southern Confederacy has too much brain for us Yesterday was quite a busy day with me. Early in the morning Darlin wanted me to go in town to see Mrs. Rowan. I went out and gathered a beautiful bouquet for her, & put up in a box three nice pair of baby-socks for Mrs. Marbury’s babe. Then the Col. got on Black & I on the Gray Filly, & we set off. Just as we got up to the outer gate—or rather where it used to be—we met some of Forrest’s men, and I exclaimed, “God bless these old gray coats & brown jeans, how glad I am to see them once more!” We stopped and talked with them a little and then rode on. Below Richardsons where the Yankees had encamped, the place was a sight. In the house opposite the gate, there is not a pane of glass left, & some of the windows are gone, sash and all: the guttering torn down, door broken, etc. Everywhere gleamed the gaunt eyes of desolation. Just as we rode into Mrs. Rowans yard we met Mr. & Mrs. Marbury on horseback. They had heard that some of the Yankees were returning and were getting out of town as soon as possible. We had not seen any Yankees so we stopped on our horses and talked a little while. I gave Mrs. Marbury the box. She said the Yankees had behaved scandalously at their place. Three of them had located their bounty land there and had quarreled over it out at Dr. Warders until they almost came to blows! We staid a short while at Mrs. Rowans. She looks dreadfully worn down and harassed. The Major being off hiding in the bush all the while the Yankees were here, & she having all to bear alone. She lost two Negro men; in all she says they damaged her about three thousand dollars worth. Thinking that we would ride down to the Fair Ground to see the desolation there we started on, stopping at old Uncle George Purvis however, for all the family were at the door and Sam Pennebaker of Brewster’s company also. … Pennebaker grew excited as he spoke of the way in which things had been carried on at his house during his absence, (it was there they found the arms, & I learned that the place was literally ruined & the house so guarded that they would not allow even Armstrong to pass in to see Buttons sick child,) P. said he would have blood for their treatment of his family. … This week we have had splendid rains & everything looks refreshed; the debris of the Yankees are I trust washed away. We have some few peaches left, and the place looks better since the rains. I learned yesterday that Gen. Ammen said to Dr. Armstrong, “The Southern Confederacy has too much brain for us; they out manage us. This was an admission for a Federal Gen. to make! Captain Spurlock [Captain Drury Spurlock of the 16th Tennessee] is at home; what a flutter there will be among the young ladies! The children have attended to their lessons regularly this week, though Bouse [son Walter] was a little unwell yesterday. Puss [one of her daughters, I assume] seems to be improving somewhat, but very slowly. I wish the Col. would take her to Beersheba [a nearby spa] this week, and leave her there for a month. I have talked of going all summer, but first one thing and then another has postponed it, & I have not gone yet.
21 September 1862: A day of thanksgiving & prayer This week has been a quiet, yet a busy one to me. The weather has been fine, & I have been engaged all the week in putting up peaches—what the Yankees left. We have quite a quantity of very late fruit which, as it was green as grass & hard as the nether millstone, when they were here, they condescended to leave. On yesterday we actually did have a mail from Chattanooga; it contained for us 3 letters from dear Mollie, all written previously to the one which was sent us by Cap Spurlock, … Last Thursday was appointed by President Davis, as a day of thanksgiving & prayer for the victories in Ky. at Richmond, and on the old battlefield of Manassas. I was so sorry I did not learn anything of the proclamation until after the day had passed; however I suppose it made no very essential difference for I’m sure I thanked God with my whole soul—not only one day, but every day since we heard the glorious news. … I have heard of the death of Mr. Rankin, Mrs. Reads father__ how hard it will go with poor little Maggie! Mr. R. was so harassed & tormented by the Yankees when Buell’s army was over in the valley, that his disease (fever,) was consequent upon these persecutions. His family may lay his death to the charge of these miscreants, as truly as if they had killed him with their bayonets.
28 September 1862: Mollie is coming I have been in bed all day today, about the middle of the night awaking very unwell. I can write but little, and indeed have but very little to write. Things go on quietly with us at present & I am busy arranging the children’s clothing for winter, as well as I can. The weather is fine & genial, quite warm for the season. I received a letter from Mollie this week; dated the 15th in which she says she will be home the last of this month or the first of next. I shall soon begin to look for her & Jimmie. Jimmie has resigned his position as a cavalry officer, and gone into the ordnance department with the same rank & pay as formerly… His health was so delicate & uncertain that he found it impossible to remain in the cavalry. …
1 October 1862 I did not post up my journal on Sunday, being engaged in reading, etc. all day. This morning the servants heard heavy firing very early, in the direction of Nashville. I am all impatience to hear where & what it portends; what if it were Price & Breckenridge attacking Nashville? The townsfolk say the firing was heard there two hours before daylight. I trust we shall hear ere long, what it means. On Saturday (4th.) I went to see Mary Stubblefield & carried her a fuchsia in bloom, called then on Mrs. Crutcher, then on Mrs. Murry & Ann, then as I came home stopped at Mrs. Reads (Richardsons) and got some rose-slips, which I planted in boxes the same evening. Mrs. Crutcher, & indeed everybody had a good deal to say concerning the Yankees. … One of them said to Mrs. C, They tell me you are the strongest kind of a Southern woman; of course she replies did you not expect to find Southern women in the South? An officer asked her if there were many Union people in McMinnville. She told him there used to be quite a number, but the Federal army had converted them; they were mostly good Secesh now. The Yankees said they intended to burn up this end of town because it was illuminated when Forrest brought the prisoners up from Murfreesboro. The illumination was that Gen. Forrest sent on a courier requesting the citizens to have water set out all along at their doors for the prisoners & the citizens had done so, setting out pails & tubs of water with lights near them so that they might see to get it! … The weather now is very dry indeed; my roses would be blooming nicely notwithstanding the Yankees and the pigs, if it were not so dry. It is very warm too for the season, as warm as September or August. I have filled all my cans with peaches; October peaches which were so green when the Yankees were here that they could not use them. I instruct the children every day. Bouse is engaged on the first lessons in drawing & he writes quite well. To-day he first commenced using a pen to write, & joining his letters together. He is now in his third copy-book. Jessie is still writing with a pencil; she sings & plays 8 songs very sweetly, they are Nelly Gray, Busy Bee, Hark! My Mother, Lazy Sheep, Ellen Bayne, Blue Juniata, Prairie Flower, & Maggie by my Side. Both the children read & spell quite well. … Oh! that we could conquer a peace before hard weather sets in! I fear so for our soldiery. I am afraid they are not well provided for, and I see no general & well organized efforts to make them comfortable. I am ready & willing to cut up all my carpets to make covers or blankets for them if necessary. I have not now a spare blanket or comforter to send. They are all gone long ago to the camp, & the hospital. We can scarcely get clothes for our children & servants [they are slaves, Mrs. French] …
Skips from page 98 to 109 in the original transcript
19 October 1862: The ladies rushed out to meet the soldiers The Secesh women were frantic with joy when [Gen. Edmund] Kirby Smith’s army arrived [in Lexington KY]—they even went to the absurd length of hugging and kissing the horses of the soldiers. … At Columbia the ladies rushed out to meet the soldiers, and told them to destroy the town if necessary rather than yield it to the Yankees. At Nashville, when the Lavergne prisoners were taken in, beautiful women rushed from their houses and caught the hands of the poor fellows, blessing them and pouring out words of commendation and comfort. Some even embraced them as brothers.
26 October 1862: The days are indeed dark and gloomy. Politics seem to be running high at the North—the Democrats are taking up the cudgels against the Republicans, and if one knew how to count on Yankee demonstrations we might infer … that Lincoln would be shortly deposed, and sent home in disgrace. … McClellan has forbidden the discussion of politics in his army! The whole North is said to be groaning under the reign of terror inaugurated by the Radicals.
Skips from page 113 to 119 in original transcript
7 December 1862: I was inexpressibly wretched. This is a clear bright day, but this morning was the coldest of the season. We had quite a snow on Friday last, & this morning the thermometer stood at 18 [degrees] out of doors. I think from present appearances that we are to have a very hard winter & sorry enough I am for it. I do dread cold weather so much. The Southern army is at Murfreesboro, Shelbyville & the Yankees at Nashville. [CSA Gen.] Joseph E. Johnston has taken command of our forces. [Gens. Nathan Bedford] Forrest & [John Hunt] Morgan are skirmishing but that seems to be all of a forward movement anywhere. Poor little Bouse [son Walter] who has been barefoot all this fall, got his shoes last night. … Mrs. Chasteen has promised him a shirt of jeans at 3 dollars per yd, but it is not woven yet. I would dress Bouse in it if I could get the cloth, of course I would prefer gray, but that is not to be had here. … I am as good as barefoot & have been so for three weeks, yet I cannot get my shoes, which have been promised for a month or more. Every species of clothing is very dear … The Negro boys have plenty of clothes, Yankee of course. … I would willingly give five dollars per yd. for such gray mixed cloth as used to sell for 75 cents, if I could get it. The bareness to which we are reduced would have seemed to me two years ago as incredible. We live on wheat coffee, pork, or goat meat, bread, (both corn & wheat,) & we have a few potatoes & turnips, & one cow. Butter is 1.00 per lb., eggs 1.50 per dozen. No sugar, no molasses, a little dried fruit, & some in cans, but nothing to sweeten it with. During the past week I have been busy sewing, knitting, etc. it being my wish to get all such work of that kind off my hands by the New Year, when, if we have any luck, I would like to commence my study & book writing. Small advantages have I for this it is true & it will be as hard a task as Charlotte Bronte ever undertook, yet I want to make the effort. I may fail, or the book may fail, (which is more than probable.) yet I must try for two reasons. 1st Darlin will never be satisfied unless I do try, and as our circumstances may be poor indeed by the time this infernal war is over, I could not have any easy conscience unless I at least tried to do whatever was in my power to mend them. We have no pleasures to look forward to now, but only duties; henceforth we are not to enjoy, but to labor, & endure. We shall belong to that class of the worlds drudges who work that they may eat & eat that they may be enabled to work. It is a cold & gloomy future, how different from that my imagination pictured two years ago! Yet it must be met, & met with stout hearts too, or we shall fail & fall by the wayside. May Heaven help us, & our children! … All day Monday I lay in bed, my head wrapped in a shawl, the victim of the most demoniac neuralgia & morbid melancholy. Late in the evening there was a rap at the front door. The Col. went out; a young rebel officer desired to see Mrs. French. There were two of them, they were invited in, and one of them proved to be Brooks Trezevant, my good boy & especial favorite of former days. His companion was Lieut. Partee of Miss[issippi]. … I was so ill, I feared I could not see him, but next morning the Col. insisted on it, and I went for him to my darkened room. How surprised I was to see the little boy of 8 years grown into a gallant young gentleman of 19! Brooks is not handsome but he is good looking, intelligent, graceful & sensible. I don’t know when I have enjoyed anything more than my talks with this fresh young nature, full of hope and kindly feeling about old times, when Lide & myself were as the older sisters of Mrs. Lou’s children. We recalled a thousand incidents of home life at old Conquest Hall (now in the hands of strangers.) and Brooks enjoyed it just as much as I. He seems to have an exceedingly tender & sensitive nature. … How well I remember him a little black-eyed scamp of some 5 or 6 summers! The above I wrote in the day time on Sunday while all were gone to church. I passed a sleepless night. I was inexpressibly wretched. I had a distracting pain in my head; my mind was as full of pain as my body, my eyes burned & I ached with their fierce rushes of tears. In the morning I was limp & weak as a rag.
7 December 1862 The bareness to which we are reduced [would] have seemed to me two years ago as incredible. We live on wheat, coffee, pork or goat meat, bread (both corn and wheat,) and we have a few potatoes and turnips, and one cow. . . . Butter is 1.00 per lb. and eggs 1.50 per dozen. No sugar, no molasses, a little dried fruit, and some in cans, but nothing to sweeten it with.
Skips from page 122 to page 128 in original transcript
28 December 1862: News from Murfreesboro On Monday last I was quite sick all day. On Tuesday evening Brooks Trezevant came to spend Christmas with us. He brought me as a Christmas gift 25 lbs. of nice sugar, than which nothing could be more acceptable. On Wednesday having made a rise of a few dozen eggs (butter I could not get.) some turkeys etc., I set to work cooking Christmas goodies, and succeeded totally well, in fact considering the scarcity now prevailing; I succeeded beyond my most Sanguine expectations. We had to be Santa Claus ourselves this season, for cakes, apples, a little candy, & some picture books were all that could be procured for the children. We had to tell them Santa Claus couldn’t get thru the pickets, Jessie [younger daughter, nicknamed Bee] wanted to know why the old fellow couldn’t go to his Quartermaster & get him a pass? They seemed to enjoy their Christmas quite as well as usual however, notwithstanding that Santa Claus was black headed, indeed I often feel rebuked by the way the children take what is set before them never complaining or repining that it is not better, or that they must now do without this, that, and the other to which they have been accustomed. [Cousin] Mollie gave me a beautiful silver waiter for a Christmas gift. I got her a handsome pair of pins & cousin John a set of shirt buttons, gold & enamel. Mollies pins were gold & turquoise. I got Bouse 2 sets linen collar & sleeves; Ting & Bee , white dresses; the Col some new socks & Brooks 6 pair of the same. To each one of the servants I gave something, & so did Mollie, with the exception of Martha who got no Christmas on account of bad conduct [she took 20 dollars out of Mollie’s portmanteau]. This unpleasantness was the only one that happened during the holidays to mar our enjoyment. The Col. made Martha return the money immediately, but the occurrence annoyed us exceedingly; we lost all confidence in Martha’s honesty. Last night the news came from Murfreesboro that there had been fighting all day Friday & Saturday on our front near Lavergne. All the troops here were ordered down immediately, & the news this morning is that a general engagement will take place to-day. Oh! how I wish it were over, & how I pray that the God of battles may give us the victory! Our all depends upon this issue; even the question are we to remain at home, or fly as refugees is to be decided by the result of this pending battle. I fear greatly that our army will fall back to the Tenn. river after this fight, & if so, we are lost. We cannot remain here. Gen. [John] Buford USA left this morning for Murfreesboro with his cavalry, & the N. Carolinians leave tomorrow. Every one that I hear speak of it seems loath to leave McMinnville; they all say they have been treated so kindly here.
29 December 1862: Prelude to Stones River On Monday morning Brooks [Trezevant] left in company with Capt. Burke, (the telegraph operator here) for Readyville, where Gen. [John P.] McCown force is stationed. On that day we heard that the continued cannonading which had been heard was only heavy skirmishing in front, & that a general engagement was expected soon to take place__ say in a day or two. We heard also that Gen. McCown’s command had been ordered forward to Murfreesboro.
31 December 1862: Battle of Stones River / Second Battle of Murfreesboro This has been a most eventful day. At daylight this morning very heavy cannonading was heard in the direction of Murfreesboro. It was a clear cold morning, with a brisk breeze setting from the North. I suppose there was 50 men left town for the scene of conflict, and everything in the shape of a soldier went. I commenced writing my book in the morning, (my story was to commence on this day 2 years ago.) and the sound of the firing came rolling into the quiet of my chamber every few seconds. Every now and then I would pause in my occupation to utter the fervent prayer, God protect those gallant men who stand between us & the foe! My nerves were tensioned all day to an extreme pitch. I felt keenly how much depended on the issue of this battle. Not only the fate of our own noble State, but possibly that of the Confederacy, and assumedly our fate as a private family. This battle was to decide whether or not we were still to have a home, or be sent forth as refugees to find a sojourning place in a land of strangers. Darlin went into town and came home about 11 o’clock with glorious news. … [Our troops] had whipped the enemy—loss heavy on both sides. … I could scarcely keep from crying for joy when Darlin’ told me the news. … I could not sleep for thinking of the poor fellows who were lying on the battlefield—some cold in death—others shivering with cold and writhing in pain…. [But] who was there with a warm glance to cheer their last agonizing hours?… The surgeons are busy tonight—the little city of Murfreesboro is full of the wounded. God help them!
2 January 1863: Summary of the Battle of Stones River The Battle of Stones River was fought from 31 December 1862 to 2 January 1863, in Middle Tennessee. Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland marched from Nashville on 26 December 1862 to challenge CSA Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro. On 31 December 1862 each army commander planned to attack his opponent’s right flank, but Bragg struck first. A massive Confederate assault overran one of the Union wings. A stout defense by the division in the right center of the Union line prevented a total collapse, and the Federals assumed a tight defensive position backing up to the Nashville Turnpike. Repeated Confederate attacks were repulsed from this concentrated line. Fighting resumed on 2 January 1863, when Bragg ordered an assault on the well-fortified Union position on a hill to the east of the Stones River. Faced with overwhelming artillery, the Confederates were repulsed with heavy losses. Falsely believing that Rosecrans was receiving reinforcements, Bragg chose to withdraw his army on 3 January 1863 to Tullahoma; and lost the confidence of the Army of Tennessee. The battle was inconclusive, but the Union Army’s repulse of two Confederate attacks and the Southern army’s subsequent withdrawal were a boost to Union morale; and it ended Confederate desires for control of Middle Tennessee.
4 January 1863: Cap Spurlock is killed The news of a great victory at Murfreesboro gladdened our hearts & we counted over the spoils as follows: 6000 prisoners, 3000 mules, 40 cannon, quantities of ordnance & ammunition, a good deal of coffee etc. for our sick, burnt six hundred wagons and killed Yankees in some places 10 to 1. Our loss in killed & wounded 5000. Alas! how was this triumph sullied with blood. After supper we were all sitting in the back room when Cooper [a slave] came to the door & said, “Mr. John Spurlock has just come from Murfreesboro and he wants you to come up there.” Mr. Cap Spurlock is killed & they are bringing his body up now. Great God! I felt as if stunned by a thunder-bolt. Cap Spurlock killed! I could not realize it. I could not believe it. Alas! Alas! it was too true. We all three, Mollie, Darlin & myself went up immediately. The corpse had arrived. Oh! how very wretched it made me feel and how I wept and sobbed. He was in the hottest part of the fight; his company was stationed on both sides of the R.R. just where it crossed the pike. He had sprang on in advance of his men, cheering them on, when he was struck down. He fell & I suppose died instantly. The ball entered just below the left nostril & passed through his head, stopping just under the skin, This however, no one knew as the struggle was so fierce and the firing so furious that they fought over him from 2 o’clock until night, and it was 11 o’clock at night before his body was recovered. His father was there; he had gone down with a wagon to carry the boys’ Christmas things; & he brought back the body of his son! We went into the parlor to see poor Cap as soon as he was laid out. His uniform was very bloody & had to be cut off him; they had dressed him in a fine suit of black cloth such as he used to wear before the war began. How noble and handsome he looked, & how natural! You could not notice the small place where the ball entered, it was concealed by his moustache, and his face was oh! so serene & calm & his mouth had a faint sweet smile upon it; he was paler than usual, but otherwise looked just like himself in a calm, sweet slumber. But oh! how wretched I felt to know that he was dead! About 10 o’clock they took him down to town to his mother. Darlin went with the corpse, and remained all night, John Lucas Thompson came with us. It was moonlight and there was a large and brilliant halo round the moon. … Oh! little did I think when on Wednesday night last I lay down in bed, and was thinking about the dead & wounded that then were lying out in the cold that our dear Cap was among them! … On Friday afternoon we attended his funeral. I made a beautiful wreath of geranium leaves & Daphne. … In his coffin, still & pale, he looked the Christian hero that he was. A garland of geranium & evergreen was laid all around his head & shoulders; my wreath, emblematic of the completeness of his life, lay upon his heart. Few looked on him without tears; his family and friends were overwhelmed with grief. The frantic exclamations of his mother … & the still, silent agony of the aged father, were terrible to me. About dark we came home in John’s carriage; I had cried so much & been so excited I was sick all night and all next day. It rained all day Saturday, & rained & blew furiously last night. … About 8 o’clock last night Henderson came to the door & said Mr. John the telegraph operator says for you to come in there he’s got a dispatch for you. Boisterous and stormy as it was Darlin jumped on his horse & rode in. I was confident Brooks Trezevant was killed or wounded. Mollie & I sat here in the greatest suspense until Darlin returned. What is it? we asked breathlessly. “Go South immediately,” he replied! Our army was then retreating! Brooks Trezevant was safe, and I thanked God for that. … What is to become of us, God only knows. I wish we could go to Georgia; yet how to get something to eat there, that is the question, And if the Yankees come in here, as they assumedly will, how are we to live here? I feel as though it was no use to try to save anything for we are ruined; let us go or stay. We may as well give it up. …
6 January 1863: A tribute to the memory of Cap & Cicero Spurlock I wrote today a tribute to the memory of Cap & Cicero Spurlock* & will try to send it to Henry Watterson of the Chattanooga Rebel for publication. I wanted to go to Church today but it was so muddy & windy I could not. Darlin seems to have some idea of leaving here and moving to town. I look for the Yankees here very soon, sooner than we are ready for them. I expect nothing else but that they will come in and find us right here. … 8 October 1862: Cicero Spurlockkilled at Perryville Cicero was born in 1840, in Warren County, Tennessee. In 1860 he was living in McMinnville. He was killed 8 October 1862 at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky at the age of 22. 31 December 1862: Cap [Drury] Spurlockkilled at Murfreesboro Report of Colonel John H. Savage, Sixteenth Tennessee Infantry: The following report of the conduct of the Sixteenth Tennessee Regiment in the battle before Murfreesboro, December 31, 1862, is respectfully submitted: When the advance was ordered … I was directed by General Donelson to move along the railroad, but two companies to its right and eight on its left, taking the guide to the right. The advance was made under a heavy cannonade, and the line of battle and direction maintained, although serious obstructions impeded the march. The eight left companies advanced between the railroad and the turnpike in front of the Cowan house without the slightest protection, engaging a battery and the enemy’s infantry in the woods at a distance of less than 150 yards. The right companies advanced through a stalk-field to the edge of a cotton-patch. Here the enemy opened a heavy fire at short range from a line extending to the right as far as I could see. This killed Captain Spurlock, who fell while leading his men in the most gallant manner. … The men maintained the fight against superior numbers with great spirit and obstinacy. The left companies, being very near and without any protection, sustained a heavy loss. Thirty men were left dead upon the spot where they halted, dressed in perfect line of battle.
19 January 1863: 12th anniversary of our wedding day Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of our wedding day. Ten years married & the first time I have failed to have a fine dinner on the anniversary. But in the midst of such scarcity how could I get up a fine dinner? A pound cake was all I could make for the occasion. I regretted it more because it was the tenth anniversary when I wished to have something extra. We have had rain the most of last week which turned to snow and the weather was piercingly cold on Friday & Saturday—thermometer standing at 28 and 29 in the hall. Yesterday it moderated a little but to-day is cold & grey with a bleak thin wind. Morgan and a portion of his troops have been here all the past week, I had a sick soldier, one of Morgan’s men, & a comrade who attended him. The name of the sick one was Rice; he was 15 years of age. I did the best I could for him & next morning he was able to go on his way. Another staid all night Friday night, but we have been obliged to send off a great many because we really do not have provisions to feed them. We have bread & meat, wheat coffee & sassafras tea, a little milk & a very little butter. Oh! it is so hard for me to send those fellows off when they are polite and gentlemanly. When they are not I don’t care. Our situation here is one of [great] anxiety and uncertainty. The Yankees we hear [have] advanced as far as Readyville. I don’t suppose their cavalry will come this way while Morgan is here, but there is no telling. Maj. Rowan has a dispatch from Harris yesterday which did not encourage us any. It was to the effect that we were not now safe, that the Yankees might come to McMinnville attempting to flank Bragg & if so Bragg unless re-enforced would be compelled to fall back to Chattanooga. Last week Mollie commenced with the children and I commenced thinking & reading & writing preparatory to going on with my book again. I arranged all my old letters, getting out those received at the commencement of the war, for really my feelings since then have undergone such a change that I have forgotten how I felt when I defended the old Union with all my heart and soul. I was sincere then & I am sincere still, but oh! how changed in sentiment! I am glad I was a Unionist then, though glad I am not now; though I am not a secessionist now, nor ever will be.
15 February 1863: I have never passed so uncomfortable a season Rain, rain, rain! It poured all last night & this morning is gloomy indeed. Cold indigo blue hills, wrapped in mists, raining at intervals, and everything dull, dripping & dreary to the last degree. … The middle of the month is here today, or rather yesterday which was St. Valentines, & I do sincerely trust that ere long will have some promise of good weather. In 14 days the winter will be over_ shall we have Spring then? I doubt it much. I have never passed so uncomfortable a season. Hard fare, and a house in confusion seem to strip life of half its attractions then the constant strain of suspense, apprehension of Yankee advances, etc. Oh! it is all very, very wearisome.
11 March 1863: Lincoln is a dictator On Thursday, though it was a chilly day, it was bright & Darlin & I went to see Mrs. Scott & Mrs. Armfield. The roads were awful, & we had to go a round about way crossing the river on the old bridge. We found all well and much delighted to see us, if appearances go for anything. … Mrs. A. had made some nice little presents for the children which I brought home to them, together with some nice apples which she had reserved for them. I came home almost frozen. … There is no freedom now at the North. Lincoln is a dictator. Our independence depends now upon our steady front to the foe. If God would in His goodness grant us a triumph at Vicksburg, & at Tullahoma, we should have peace ere long.
McMinnville and the Civil War McMinnville changed hands at least five times. After April 1863, it often served as a Federal base; fourteen forts and blockhouses eventually were constructed to guard against Confederate attack. Partisan bands harassed the Union garrisons with occasional raids. Warren County residents held slaves, but there were no large plantations and cotton was not a significant crop. McMinnville’s location placed the community at risk during the years 1862-1865. Often caught between armies, the town experienced frequent periods of internal strife. The last Federal troops did not leave until September 1865.
17 March 1863: A dinner party for Gen. & Mrs. John Hunt Morgan On this date the Frenches host a dinner party for Gen. & Mrs. John Hunt Morgan. Lucy Virginia French remembers the evening in her journal: I had the richest, clearest, and hottest coffee, light bread, biscuit, and waffles, potato cakes, stewed peaches and apples, Cole slaw, chicken salad, pickles sweet and sour, golden butter, a splendidly done turkey, and fine boiled ham, and to crown the repast a very large ‘snow cake’ that would just melt in your mouth, and a stand of the most elegant custard in silver cups. How everybody seemed to enjoy that supper! We had a charming time and everything passed off completely to my satisfaction. … Mrs. Morgan [Mattie Ready of Murfreesboro] was dressed in crimson silk with a black figure in it—point lace and pearls. I wore blue silk; Betty Reid had on a gray and Miss Sophie light blue silk.
May 1863: To Beersheba Springs to rest and write In the spring of 1863, at the urging of her husband, Lucy accepts an invitation from Colonel and Mrs. John Armfield to come to Beersheba Springs, a popular resort community in the Cumberland Mountains south of McMinnville. In 1833 Beersheba Porter Cain, for whom it was named, discovered a large natural chalybeate spring and suggested that the water, with its high content of iron salts, contained medicinal properties. In the 1850s, the Armfields had bought out several landowners, sold lots to prosperous Southerners, and built a new luxurious hotel, which, along with the cabins and grounds, accommodated up to four hundred guests. At Beersheba, Lucy could try to regain her health while McMinnville braced itself for the summer heat. In theory that would move Lucy away from household concerns and the most immediate military activities and allow her to live in relative peace where she could work uninterrupted on her writing projects. In addition to urging his wife to take time for herself, John French also financed the publication of her first book of poetry, Wind Whispers.
11 MAY 1863: First entry in the Beersheba diary I am here on the misty mountain top—at kind, good Mrs. Armfield’s. Everything around me is congenial, and conducive to health. Everybody is extremely kind and attentive, and I think if I do not write here, it is clear that I cannot write at all. Last Wednesday we came up—it was a chill half rainy day, and the ride was melancholy to me. I had “inner reasons” for sadness—it seems to me I will never be understood, or have justice done me. Justice is all I ask, but it is the hardest thing for man to give woman. They will be lenient, affectionate, generous—anything and everything but just. I see this all around me … I have written twice to my darling children—heard from Mollie and the Col. twice … Today I commence in earnest on my writing—it seems so slow … I have never been so favorably situated for writing since I had children, and I feel the responsibility—deeply. I must made good use of my time, or be committing a grievous wrong.
Life at Beersheba Springs After a few weeks of peace, the Frenches bring their three children, cousin Mollie Smith, and two [servants] slaves to Beersheba for the summer. The family crowded into one wing of the main house while the slaves lived with the Armfields’ slaves. The idea of Lucy having a break from the war and disturbing incidents on the home front was a good one, but there is no respite from the outside world and the breakdown of society.
10 JUNE 1863: We have been expecting an attack from robbers A perfect storm this morning with lightning and thunder. It has stopped now (9 o’clock.) but the east wind is blowing strongly & clouds hang along the mountains. For the past two days we have had no news, and the mountain people report that they heard cannonading in the direction of Murfreesboro all day on Monday. The weather is cool; we have fires always in the morning. For two nights past we have been expecting an attack from robbers. It is a band of lawless depredators who … stop men on the high[way] in day-time & rob them. A few nights since they went to the house of an old citizen near Altamont and telling him if he stirred out of his tracks they would kill him; took everything they wanted, but did not get his money, which was concealed by his wife. Those same thieves have been threatening Beersheba & Mr. Armfield. For two nights, seven gentlemen have slept here, all armed with double-barreled shot-guns & revolvers. A sentinel stands guard each night in front of the house, which is the only approach to it almost. The tramp, tramp of the men at night on the galleries, and their warlike preparations of defense remind me of stories I have read of old Border feuds, or tales of Spanish romance.
Yankees and Bushwhackers Residents at Beersheba lived under constant threat of harassment from Yankees one day and bushwhackers the next. Nothing is safe; personal property that could not be buried was sacrificed. Finally, in an effort to achieve some kind of protection from these gangs, Armfield and John French traveled to McMinnville and took the oath of allegiance to the Union. Tennessee was already lost to the Confederacy.
26 July 1863: The Beersheba Raid Scenes enacted here beggar description. Early in the morning the sack [pillage and plunder] of the place began. But a few of the bushwhackers were in—the mountain people came in crowds and with vehicles of all sorts and carried off everything they could from both hotel and cottages. … They were emptying Mrs. [Cockrill’s] house as we went to the school house, and two rough fellows were in our room playing the melodeon [a small accordion]. … [The] scenes we witnessed are indescribable. Gaunt, ill-looking men and slatternly, rough, barefooted women stalking & racing to and fro, eager as famished wolves for prey, hauling out furniture—tearing up matting and carpets. [The Union soldiers] amused themselves by pulling down the chandeliers in the dining room, throwing ink bottles against the wall in the office—setting up bottles of wine upon the long Piazza and rolling nine-pin balls at them—using bottles for pins, (the Piazza floor was crimsoned with claret,) cutting the green cloth from the elegant billiard tables, one of which they broke to pieces, and divers other capers of like caliber such as distinguish Yankees wherever they may go. It has been a memorable day this 26th July 1863—when ‘the master’ [Armfield] went down … to town ‘to take the oath’ and become in Lincolnite parlance a ‘subjugated rebel’—and Beersheba was sacked in his absence by a wild onset from the very people [mountaineers] he has been building up for years!
29 July 1863 I felt pretty well this morning and learning that Mrs. Cain—the lady who discovered Beersheba Springs—was going to leave in an hour or two for McMinnville, I went up with Darlin to tell her good-bye. … We found Mrs. Cain up and ready for her journey, but was not able to get off this morning on account of a wagon tire being broken. She will leave as soon as it can be repaired. I found that Mrs. Hill—[Mary Vesta Hill, wife of Brig. Gen. Benjamin J. Hill] had left on the night at 12 o’clock. …
In her diary Lucy French reveals that she and her friends have begun calling the bushwhackers, ‘the Gentlemen.’ Bushwhackers are irregulars, crude & primitive, who hide in the woods, attack the opposition, and loot the locals.
5 August 1863: Gentlemen and irregulars On Monday I was excited all day. The place was full of people, the bushwhackers in force and very bold. … They seemed to have a passion (a sudden one) for roaming about the cliffs below the house and garden and I set the girls (daughters Jessie and May) to stand picket on ‘the rock’ because a great many of my valuables were out in the bushes on the hanging cliffs below us. Fortunately they did not find [any] of them. … Mr. Madden came up from McMinnville last evening. … His report is that the Yanks are very quiet in McMinnville—afraid to stir about much for fear of Forrest [cavalryman Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest CSA] … The Yanks are fortifying McMinnville … They are pressing all the Negro men to work on the fortifications. … I was better in health and spirits last summer at this time, at home and bound down among the Yankees than I am at present. … I feel actually worn out with constant worry which I have lived in for three years. ‘The constant drop will wear the stone’ …
12 August 1863: Bushwhackers! On Sunday last when I wrote in my journal I was … so low down as to persuade myself I didn’t care one jot for the Confederacy or anybody in it—which was a dreadful pass for me to come to. About dark I was walking on the gallery—we were all out there … when three horsemen dashed by at full speed—we caught our breath, and ‘Bushwhackers!’ was echoed from lip to lip.
2 September 1863: A group of lawless thieves “That doomed hotel,” writes Lucy Virginia French in her diary on 2 September 1863. That day a group of lawless thieves broke into the apartment of Tom Ryan, the Irish overseer of the closed inn, took what they wanted, and set fire to papers, straw carpets, and clothes. … Just then a maid of the French family was passing by and ran to tell her mistress that Ryan’s rooms were on fire. Lucy’s son Bouse, age nine, ran to the hotel cistern with an earthen crock. He made many trips as he dashed water on the flames and saved the property from total destruction.
12 October 1863: Lawless men roam at large We are environed by dangers on every side and live as it were on the brink of a precipice. Robberies take place every day or two, and we know not when our turn may come. Lawless men roam at large, all about, belonging to neither, or both armies, but whose only object is rapine [the violent seizure of someone’s property] and plunder. I see that the Abolition Nashville Union exalts in the fact that Warren county has been desolated.
30 March 1864 Yesterday’s news was that France has certainly recognized the South; Charleston has really been abandoned by the Federals in despair, Grant has been ordered to [supersede] Meade in Va., to try his hand against the greatest man of the times—Gen. Robert E. Lee.
18 September 1864 Today is the day appointed by [Gov.] Andy [Andrew] Johnson, as the day of thanks-giving and rejoicing over … success of the Federal arms—and the military are to be made to give thanks and rejoice at the point of a bayonet! How worthy of the famous, (or rather in-famous) Andy! McClellan accepts the nomination of the Chicago Convention, but in his letter of acceptance clearly ‘shows his teeth’ in favor of war, viz. unless the South consents to return to the Union [What?]. …
20 November 1864 I have written nothing since election day…. I suppose [the gloomy weather] is prophetic of the second term of Abraham, assisted by the Tailor of Tennessee [Andrew Johnson].
27 November 1864 Peace is a thing no longer to be even dreamed of. It is like a beautiful mirage—a nothingness—a myth of the by-gone time with which we poor war-ridden wretches have nothing else to do, I have laid aside all thought—all hope— all prayer for peace—and shall only strive now to accept our fate as courageously calmly and patiently as I can.
25 December 1864 Christmas 1864. Tonight I have but one thought—the cause of the South has gone down. … For my part I freely acknowledge that I can see no brightness now for the Confederacy. … Oh! I felt very, very sad this morning— our Christmas times are no longer [a] holiday—as of years [before]. How dark and darker they grow! I am [ready] tonight to cry. Oh! God give us peace, peace on any terms!
1 January 1865 [Still] we are under the clouds—as dull and gloomy as ever—perhaps even more so. There seems but little to live for—yet we live on. … Life to us is devoid of pleasures—and is made up of endurances. … To look back is most saddening— to look forward, even more disheartening for it seems we have nothing for which to hope. … I feel discouraged in every way—our cause seems to be sinking day by day…. [As] a family we merely get along, as agents for any good anywhere—we are powerless.
8 January 1865 The sentiment among officers and men caused them to say, “There will yet be a Confederacy!” … I do not see that the prospect is very brilliant at present. … I do want to improve myself during all these years we are compelled to live under the cloud of war. … But yet I almost despair of being able to accomplish anything.
24 January 1865 There is a contraband camp [near McMinnville] where … poor wretches literally freeze to death by dozens during this severe weather—they have no clothes scarcely—bedding, shelter, and food the same, while their friends the Yankees curse and abuse them for everything low and vile and no account. Of course, who expected anything else? The papers at present are full of Peace rumors. I think the Yanks are becoming quite as weary of the war as Rebs are reported to be…. A more important rumor is the old one revived—Intervention of England and France. It is stated that they will … recognize Mr. Lincoln as President only of the States which elected him—thus recognizing the Confederacy.
22 FEBRUARY 1865 Last Wednesday was the 22nd Feb.—the day appointed by the Johnson and Brownlow Convention for the people of Tenn. to vote the State back into the Union as a free State! … A sadder day and sadder faces I think I never saw. It was an understood thing … that everybody should vote ‘Ratification.’ Federal bayonets were on hand—the motive power—and men marched doggedly into [McMinnville] voted, and immediately slunk home again—as if saddened, perhaps ashamed.
30 March 1865 The Yankees look upon the Rebellion as having all its legs now broken all to pieces—its backbone which has been cut in two—’chawed up’ [chewed up] and otherwise demolished … is not annihilated, & the whole Confederacy like an over-ripe pear, falling to pieces of its own inherent weakness is about to precipitate itself piece-meal into the victorious arms of Sherman and Grant.
9 April 1865: General Lee surrenders. In her diary Lucy Virginia French expresses a weariness she has never felt and frequent headaches. Her house, Forest Home, once her haven, is now in need of extensive repairs. She is certain their wealth is gone.
Lucy Virginia Smith French Marker Inscription. Poet and author, born 1825 in Accomac County, Va. Moved to Memphis ca. 1845, where she taught school and published poetry under the pseudonym “L’Inconnue”. Editor of several Southern literary magazines; married John French in 1853; moved to his McMinnville residence, “Forest Home”. Published several volumes of prose and poetry including, Wind Whispers, 1856; Legends of the South, 1867; and Darlingtonia, 1879. Died 1881, buried Riverside Cemetery. Erected by Tennessee Historical Commission. Location. 35° 41.26′ N, 85° 47.591′ W. McMinnville, Warren County, Tennessee. On West Main Street (Tennessee Route 380) west of Bradford Road. hmdb.org/m.asp?m=60405
23 April 1865: Rumors fly faster than truths A great tragedy has been enacted … in the assassination of Lincoln and Seward. … I was out in the front yard clipping some cedars when the Col. [her husband] came to the door … and he said very quietly, ‘Well, Lincoln is dead.’ I had not the smallest idea it was true. … The story [we read was] that Lincoln and [Andrew] Johnson had been at the theatre together—a man had rushed up and stabbed both—killing Lincoln and mortally wounding Johnson, and the assassin had himself been killed on the instant. … Next day, in addition, comes the report that Seward had had his throat cut also; then I didn’t believe any of the story. Thursday, however, a courier came from Tullahoma & Mollie came from Woodbury. The story then ran that Lincoln & Mrs. L went to the theater. Mr. L. was shot in the head in his box by Wilkes Booth son of Booth, the actor, & that he escaped on a fleet horse. The same evening Seward’s room was entered; his two sons were murdered & he himself had his throat cut from ear to ear. … Andy was inaugurated next day. … We are told also that about 30 citizens in Nashville were arrested because they implicated Andy in the assassination of Honest Abe. Some persons in Murfreesboro took the crepe from their doors, which had been placed there by military order. The houses were entered & the furniture destroyed or carried off. … In town, soldiers exerted themselves to draw citizens into some expression of joy over the tragedy so that they would have a pretext for ill-using them. I feel that it is dreadful—a tragedy solemn even to awfulness.
10 May 1865: Mollie was carried away to Tullahoma Lucy’s cousin Mollie Smith is arrested for expressing joy at the news of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. As the Frenches prepare to defend her, Dr. Armstrong organizes a petition among the community’s Unionists on her behalf. And Union Lt. Colonel W. J. Clift, a long-time citizen of McMinnville, advises her how to answer the questions she would be asked. Mollie is released without charges.
14 May 1865: They sleep among strangers in unknown graves But little has passed since I last wrote, and nothing has yet transpired as to the final settlement of our affairs. We understand that trade restrictions are being removed and the Federal army is being reduced, by resignations of officers, mustering out of men, cutting down Quartermasters Departments etc. None of our Boys have yet returned from their regiments, some of Lee’s paroled soldiers who live up in the counties north of us have passed, but none of those belonging to this town or vicinity have as yet come in. Probably they will be in the 22nd of this month, which was the day they all started out in 1861. Poor fellows, four long years of service, hardship & suffering, & all for what? … Some are sleeping here in our crowded graveyard and many will never even be so near even in death—they sleep among strangers in unknown graves, on dreary battlefields. … It is perfect folly for us to sit down here and let circumstances grind on—unless we make new conditions with fortune, we will find ourselves ground exceeding[ly] small before many years. … There is no use in waiting for things to turn up now; we ought to put our shoulders to the wheel & turn them up. I do not suppose I will ever learn to be patient. … I don’t see how I can well afford to be so. Our time here will be short; what we do we ought now to be doing with our might, but I suppose we will sit here [until] our time [is] out & drop into the grave like thousands around us, having done no more or being no better than they. I begin sometimes to feel quite charitable towards the North but the moment I catch sight of these blue things I am full of resistance & rebellion. How I do hate them! And how I want to let ’em know it to the full! Sunday May I have just been looking over the above writing & smiling at it a little; it is so impatient. Well, I try to be patient Heaven knows, but I do not succeed in being so at all times. I got very angry once this week, insomuch that the Col. lectured me a little about it & told me I looked exceedingly ugly in that condition! Well, I was angry & as I conceive not altogether without cause.
29 May 1865: Pres. Johnson issues his Amnesty Proclamation Johnson’s Reconstruction strategy disenfranchises large land-owners (anyone with taxable property over $20,000) and former Confederate military leaders until their individual petitions for amnesty are approved; the federal government also now requires all states to ratify the 13th Amendment; only 10% of the voting population of any Southern state must take a loyalty oath in order for the state to be readmitted to the Union.
26 June 1865: I want to sell out & leave here. A very lovely day—cloudy in the morning with much appearance of rain, but cleared off about 10 o’clock with a pleasant breeze. Cleaned house up all over after breakfast, dressed, went down to see Mammy [old slave is sick], came back & heard all the lessons, had dinner, cut out a pair of linen pants for the Col. & now sit down to write a few lines. On last Thursday I sent a political letter (private) to the Eds. Cincinnati Enquirer, … I am so sick of the present Press of strong Unionism & feeble intellect! It is too much for my patience. … [Lucy’s new chores; most of their slaves ran away] I milk, and set table, make beds, clean & sometimes assist Puss in ironing. … On last Thursday I sent a political letter (private) to the Eds. Cincinnati Enquirer, … I am so sick of the present Press of strong Unionism & feeble intellect! It is too much for my patience. … [Lucy’s new chores; most of their slaves ran away] I milk, and set table, make beds, clean & sometimes assist Puss in ironing. … I want to sell out & leave here, and go to Huntsville, Ala. I am weary of this stupid place. I want to get where there is some progress and some civilization. There is no life here; no vitality in anything. I don’t intend to buy anything I can possibly do without until the hard times loosen themselves in some manner. Oh! I must stop writing; sitting down in this way makes me so sleepy & dull. I must stop & go off & do something.
20 August 1865: I have tried to do my duty Very many bitter thoughts came over me—I have tried to do my duty—but those whom we know have been mean and inconsistent, nay even wrong, but have been successful in life and we have lost—lost until there is little left now to lose. I do feel discouraged—so weary—so worn out with hoping and working and all to no purpose. I have tried so hard, and still seemed to go back all the time … I now feel pleasantly ready to sit down by the wayside and never strike another lick. … What a wretched, savage mood I am in today. It wears me so. I wish I had a live book to read to take me out of myself. I will try Shakespeare then for my amusement.
Thus ends the diary Lucy Virginia French kept from February 1862 to August 1865.
My Roses, a novel (1872)
31 March 1881: Lucy Virginia French passes on Lucy Virginia Smith French dies at Forest Home after a long illness, and is buried in the little cemetery there.
“Lucy Virginia Smith French,” Shades of Gray and Blue, website co-sponsored by Vanderbilt University Libraries, Middle Tennessee State University Walker Library, and the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation, with generous support from the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, accessed 14 December 2020, civilwarshades.org/holding-fast-to-beauty/lucy-virginia-smith-french/
“War Journal of Lucy Virginia French,” Civil War Sourcebook, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Civil War Resources, Tennessee Historical Commission, accessed 27 August 2021, tnsos.net/TSLA/cwsourcebook/
ANDERSON COUNTY BACKSTORY Anderson County was originally a part of Knox County, which once extended all the way to the Kentucky border. By 1801 there were enough people in the region to establish a new county, which they named Anderson for Judge Joseph Anderson. A county seat was also created that year near a popular spring on the Clinch River. It was named Clinton for Thomas Jefferson’s vice president, George Clinton. The county grew slowly for the next sixty years. As in most of East Tennessee, the mountainous terrain was not conducive to the large farms and sprawling plantations that developed in the other two divisions of the state—Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. On the eve of Civil War in 1860, Anderson Countians loyalties were deeply divided. On 8 June 1861, they voted against seceding from the Union, 1,278 to 97. No major Civil War battles were fought in Anderson County, but, as in most Northeast Tennessee counties, there were Union and Confederate sympathizers. Divided loyalties often erupted into violence. Guerillas on both sides raided farms and tormented their enemies. Bushwhackers attacked by surprise from hidden locations. The County suffered greatly during the Civil War years, but change came rapidly in the decades following the War. Farming resumed and the county prospered.
ANDERSON COUNTY CIVIL WAR MARKER
Violent Clashes: “Flying … in the wildest disorder” Inscription. With the threat of war looming, Anderson County residents voted overwhelmingly against secession in 1861. When Confederate forces occupied East Tennessee and established a conscription center at nearby Clinton, Unionists slipped into Kentucky to evade the draft and join the Union army. Many used nearby “Eli’s Cabin”, built by county resident Eli Ward, as a safe house. Although fortunate to escape the state’s most devastating battles, soldiers clashed at nearby Wallace’s Crossroads on 15 July 1862. Union Gen. George W. Morgan wrote of the fight, “On Tuesday noon [Union] Gen. [James G.] Spears, with a party of infantry, attacked 500 of the enemy’s cavalry at Wallace’s Cross Roads, near Clinton. A citizen reports that at 2 p.m. of that day he net about 300 of the enemy flying toward Knoxville in the wildest disorder; some were on horses, but without coats or arms; others were bare-headed and no arms. It was a complete panic, and they had gone at full run for the distance of 9 miles and were still flying.” As the war progressed, loyalties remained divided. Guerilla violence increased as unionists and Confederate sympathizers clashed. Years of deprivation and violence took a toll on local residents. After the war, the county gradually recovered, aided by the construction of the Knoxville and Ohio Railroad in 1867. Bottom box In 1942, the Army Corps of Engineers began acquiring land around Oak Ridge for the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. Many communities that had survived the Civil War, such as Wheat, Scarboro, and Robertsville, were moved or demolished. A small slave cemetery in the Wheat community, (believed to be part of the Gallaher-Stone Plantation) remains nearby and contains 90 marked graves with no inscriptions. Location. 36° 0.746′ N, 84° 15.461′ W. Marker is in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in Anderson County. Marker is on South Tulane Avenue, on the right when traveling south. Marker is located in front of the Oak Ridge Public Safety building. Images on marker. Left image Gen. George W. MorganUSA Center image Gen. James G. Spears USA Upper right image Map of Kentucky and Tennessee 1862 Bottom right image Formation of guerrilla bands Marker erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. hmdb.org/Photos4/410/Photo410429o.jpg
Sarah Taylor: Daughter of the Regiment Sarah Taylor (1841–1886) was a schoolteacher before the Civil War, a reasonably peaceful lifestyle for a young lady of the period. However, she must have had a strong sense of adventure as well. In September 1861, twenty-year-old Sarah left her home in Anderson County, Tennessee and traveled to Camp Dick Robinson, Kentucky—some 150 miles away. Sarah’s stepfather, James A. Doughty, a Knoxville native, had recently been appointed captain of Company K of the 1st Regiment Tennessee Volunteer Infantry in the Union army at Camp Dick Robinson. It was the habit of some regiments on both sides of the war to select one of the men’s daughters to be the daughter of the regiment. In this case, the soldiers of Company K chose the stepdaughter of their captain. The title of the daughter of the regiment was pretty much symbolic and a morale-booster for the soldiers, but these daughters also worked as nurses and served food and drink to soldiers in the field.
These young women often created their own uniforms, which was some form of short skirt over long pants. Long, flowing dresses with crinolines would not have worked on the battlefield. When the 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment marched away from Camp Dick Robinson toward a battle at Camp Wildcat in southeastern Kentucky, Sarah went with them. A reporter from the Cincinnati Times described Sarah’s uniform as: She has donned a neat blue chapeau, beneath which her long hair is fantastically arranged; bearing at her side a highly-finished regulation sword and silver-mounted pistols in her belt, all of which gives her a very neat appearance. … She wore a blue blouse and was armed with pistols, sword, and rifle. Although she was well-armed to defend herself, young Sarah was captured by the Confederates but was later paroled, probably after she promised to go home. The tale of her troubles appeared in an article in the Memphis Daily Appeal on 18 July 1863: Sallie [nickname for girls named Sarah] Taylor, “La Fille du Regiment” (French for daughter of the regiment). This notorious (beautiful, though she was) woman was arrested, as our readers will remember, some months ago and discharged upon her parole, has kept herself quiet recently, when, as we are informed, she so far captivated, if not captured, a private in Cobb’s battery stationed at Clinton, as to induce him to steal the horse of one of the lieutenants of his company and to escape with her into Kentucky, where she may resume in propria persona her nom de plume of “Daughter of the 1st (Bird’s) Tennessee regiment.
ANDERSON COUNTY CIVIL WAR MARKER
Civil War in Anderson County: Skulking bushwhackers Inscription. Divided loyalties in Anderson County, as elsewhere in East Tennessee, often erupted in violence. It was commonplace for guerillas on both sides to raid farms and capture opposing sympathizers. In the county seat of Clinton, Confederates established a conscription center to draft men into military service. Many Unionists, trying to avoid conscription, stole across the border into Kentucky to join the Federal army. They used ‘Eli’s Cabin,’ built by county resident Eli Lovejoy Ward, as a safe house to rest and eat before heading over the mountains. A small engagement occurred in the county on July 25, 1862, when a Federal foraging party fired on Confederate cavalry pickets at Clinton Ferry. Confederate forces moved quickly to establish control of the area. An East Tennessee correspondent for the Atlanta Intelligencer reported, “The number of [Confederate] troops gathering here renders this a place of some interest … situated on the Clinch river, twenty miles north of Knoxville. … Cooking utensils, baggage and tents, have been given up, and large supplies of ammunition are being collected. There are no armed enemies near us, except the skulking bushwhackers, and they are getting extremely cautious in their movements.” Even after the war ended, resentments lingered. Lower right box. Norris Dam State Park, built in 1933 as the first Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project, features 4,000 acres along the Norris Reservoir, which furnished electricity and controlled flooding in the Tennessee Valley. A corn and wheat mill, constructed in Union County by James Rice in 1798, was dismantled in 1935 and reassembled on Clear Creek. The building has served as a sawmill, cotton gin, and source of power for the Rice homestead. The nearby Old Emery Road, “cut and cleared” in 1787, was the first authorized road connecting Kingston to Knoxville and Nashville. Travelers stayed in the David Hall Cabin, a tavern built in 1799. Confederate soldiers occupied it during the war. Images on Marker. Left image Union refugees Courtesy Library of Congress Middle image Mountain Region of North Carolina and Tennessee, 1864 Courtesy Library of Congress Upper right image Guerillas meeting with scouts Tennessee State Library & Archives Lower right image Old Rice Mill, Norris Dam Tennessee State Library & Archives Marker erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. 36° 12.728′ N, 84° 4.378′ W. Marker is in Norris, Tennessee, in Anderson County. Marker is on Norris Freeway (U.S. 441) 0.1 miles south of Clear Creek Road, on the left when traveling south. Marker is in the parking lot of the Lenoir Museum. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2121 Norris Freeway, Norris TN 37828. hmdb.org/Photos4/431/Photo431532o.jpg
TINY BIOS OF ANDERSON COUNTY MEN WHO SERVED IN THE CIVIL WAR—NORTH AND SOUTH Samuel Black Samuel was born 29 March 1840, was raised on a farm, and was educated near Clinton [Anderson County seat] and in its own schools. He worked on the farm until August 1861, when he enlisted in Company H, of the First (Federal) Tennessee Infantry, in which he served until the organization of the Third Infantry, when he was promoted lieutenant of Company C and served as such for three years. Black was discharged 28 February 1865, at Nashville, and began farming again, and has continued with decided success up to the present. He now owns 300 acres on Clinch River and is one of the prosperous and well-to-do farmers of his district.
Henry Clear, Jr. Henry was born in Anderson County, 8 January 1846 and educated in its schools. In October 1863 he left home and went to Knoxville where he enlisted in the Ninth (Federal) Tennessee Cavalry, serving throughout the war. He was twice wounded, the first time in the right arm at Greeneville, Tenn., and next in the left side at Bull’s Gap, Tenn. He was mustered out 11 September 1865 at Knoxville and returned home. On 31 December 1865, Henry married Martha E. Wallace, with whom he had eight children.
H. C. Coward H. C. was born 13 March 1846. He enlisted in the Confederate Army in June 1863 joining first the Seventeenth regiment, Tennessee Infantry, Bushrod Johnson’s brigade and in August joining the Fourth Regiment, Tennessee Cavalry (Confederate) commanded by Paul Anderson. He was captured on 8 March 1864 near Ringgold, Ga., and on being taken before the provost-marshal and given his choice of imprisonment or taking the oath of allegiance to the Federal Government, he wisely chose the latter and went to Nashville where on 9 March 1864 he joined the Federal Army under the assurance that the war was about over and he would have little or no fighting to do. Contrary to his expectations he was at once sent to the front with the Fourth Regiment, Tennessee Federal Cavalry and in Heard County, Ga. was captured by the Confederates, 3 August 1864 and sent to Andersonville prison, remaining about thirty-two days and was then removed to Charleston and finally to Florence, S. C., and in 1865 was paroled after seven month’s imprisonment. He remained at home a year after the war, and then traveled from State to State until 1872, and in 1882 purchased the McBath Mills on Bull Run Creek which he has operated up to the present. On 4 June 1871, he married M. F. Vaughn. They had seven children.
Henry P. Farmer Henry was born in Anderson County, Tenn., 20 July 1844 and is the son of Nathan A. and Filena J. (Hoskins) Farmer. The father was born in Anderson County, in Dutch Valley, 11 April 1803 and was the son of Henry Farmer a native of Halifax County, Va. He was one of the first settlers of Anderson County he clearing a farm in Dutch Valley at a time when there were but few white men in the county and Indians were numerous. Henry was reared on the farm and acquired his education in the neighboring schools and Clinton. He worked on the farm until 28 May 1863 when he enlisted in Company C of the Eleventh (Federal) Regiment of Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry and in Company I of the Ninth Regiment after the consolidation of the Eleventh and Ninth Regiments. He was captured at Wyman Mill, Lee County, Va., 22 February 1864 and was imprisoned at Belle Isle [Virginia]. After a month’s confinement he was paroled 22 March 1864 and sent to City Point and thence to Annapolis, Md., then to Camp Chase, Ohio, then to Nashville, and in June of the same year rejoined his command at Cumberland Gap. He was mustered out of service at Knoxville 11 September 1865 and returned to the farm and has since followed farming.
William R. Hicks William was born in Knox County, Tenn., 16 December 1842, the son of Richard N. Hicks, who settled in the Sequatchie Valley at an early date. William was reared on the farm and attended the neighborhood schools. On 7 August 1861, he enlisted in the Second (Federal) Regiment Tennessee Infantry. He was captured at Rogersville, Tenn., 6 November 1863 and confined in Confederate prisons at Belle Isle, Libby and Andersonville and 9 September 1864 was removed to Charleston, SC, and finally discharged in the following December. While en route to Charleston he escaped from the [railroad] cars at Augusta, Ga., but after walking sixty miles was picked up by Confederate patrols and carried to prison again. He was mustered out of service at Knoxville in February 1865 and returned to his home in Anderson County. For a year following the war he farmed and then decided to improve his education and entered school at Bushy Fork. For a year he attended school at different places and then began teaching. On 19 March 1868 (his wedding day) he borrowed a copy of Blackstone and began to read law. He was admitted to the bar in 1872 and at once began practicing in Clinton [the county seat] and continued until August 1886 when he was elected judge of the Second Judicial Circuit. He is also one of the leading lawyers of Anderson County.
Elijah Jennings Elijah was born in Anderson County 18 November 1825. He was the son of Daniel Jennings, a native of England who immigrated to Virginia and came to Tennessee, one of the pioneers of Anderson County. Elijah was reared on the farm and attended the schools of the neighborhood. He has followed farming as a vocation, making a success of the same and now owns a good farm of over 300 acres. In the fall of 1862 he enlisted in the Confederate Army, joining the body-guard of Maj. Gen. McCown [McCowan]. Elijah served until the spring of 1863 when he was discharged for disabilities and sent to the hospital. After the war he returned home and has been engaged in farming up to the present time.
Clinton, Tennessee County Seat of Anderson County This 1938 view of Clinton shows the topography of the area. By Tennessee Valley Authority, The National Archives, Archival Research Catalog, ARC identifier: 280439, Public Domain, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9089048
<BURNING BRIDGES BACKSTORY> 1850s: East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad The East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Company is established on 27 January 1848. The construction of the railroad is financed by the residents of Northeast Tennessee, who purchase stocks and bonds in the Company. The company builds 130.7 miles of 5 foot gauge railroad. It runs from Bristol down to Knoxville and through these Northeast Tennessee counties: Carter, Greene, Grainger, Jefferson, Sullivan, and Washington.
After its completion in 1858, the ET&VA Railroad becomes the main transportation line going through this region. It also connects with the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad, which runs from Knoxville down to Chattanooga. After the American Civil War begins, the ET&VA becomes the main railroad of the Confederacy, operating through a largely Unionist territory.
1860: The Northeast is not much changed One would think that farmers in Northeast Tennessee would grow the southern cash crops of cotton and tobacco in larger quantities—now that the railroad provides a much larger market. However, the New York Times Opinionator Pages begs to differ:
“Few East Tennesseans, however, live close enough to the railroad … to capitalize on the growing market connections to the rest of the South. For the most part, the region remained defined by small farms and communities, with few connections to, or sympathy with, the slaveholding economy of the Coastal and Lower South.”
1860-1861: Secession crisis in Northeast Tennessee During the secession crisis of 1860-1861, two elections are put before the citizens of Tennessee to vote yea or nay, for or against, seceding from the United States of America—one in February and one in June. On 9 February 1861, East Tennessee votes a resounding no to calling a secession convention, and the statewide vote is also nay, but not by a very wide margin. Between the two votes, Presbyterian minister and Unionist William Blount Carter (1820-1902), a native of Elizabethton, Carter County, Northeast Tennessee, becomes an active Union leader. He campaigns tirelessly to drum up support for the United States; travels throughout the area, giving speeches; and serves as a delegate to the East Tennessee Conventions held at Knoxville in May and at Greeneville in June. At the 8 June 1861 secession vote, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee heavily favor joining the Confederate States of America. W.B. Carter and his fellow Unionists suffer the heartbreak of losing their beloved state to their arch enemy. Plus, the Greeneville Petition to allow East Tennessee to become a separate Union state is summarily dismissed by Governor Isham Harris, a secessionist from West Tennessee, and the General Assembly. And Tennessee secedes.
8 JUNE 1861: Tennessee Ordinance of Secession Adopted 6 May 1861 without the consent of the voters Ratified 8 June 1861 by a vote of 104,471 to 47,183 First. We, the people of the State of Tennessee, waiving any expression of opinion as to the abstract doctrine of secession, but asserting the right, as a free and independent people, to alter, reform, or abolish our form of government in such manner as we think proper, do ordain and declare that all the laws and ordinances by which the State of Tennessee became a member of the Federal Union of the United States of America are hereby abrogated and annulled, and that all the rights, functions, and powers which by any of said laws and ordinances were conveyed to the Government of the United States, and to absolve ourselves from all the obligations, restraints, and duties incurred thereto; and do hereby henceforth become a free, sovereign, and independent State. Second. We furthermore declare and ordain that article 10, sections 1 and 2, of the constitution of the State of Tennessee, which requires members of the General Assembly and all officers, civil and military, to take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States be, and the same are hereby, abrogated and annulled, and all parts of the constitution of the State of Tennessee making citizenship of the United States a qualification for office and recognizing the Constitution of the United States as the supreme law of this State are in like manner abrogated and annulled. Third. We furthermore ordain and declare that all rights acquired and vested under the Constitution of the United States, or under any act of Congress passed in pursuance thereof, or under any laws of this State, and not incompatible with this ordinance, shall remain in force and have the same effect as if this ordinance had not been passed.
SUMMER 1861: Carter to the rescue Soon after the General Assembly rejected the Greeneville Petition, Reverend William Blount Carter, [W.B. Carter I will call him; I will introduce you to his brothers later] wants to help his fellow Unionists who are suffering harassment, arrests, and violence from Confederate troops. He leaves East Tennessee, heading North, hoping to find some relief for his countrymen and women. Carter soon comes up with a plan to cripple the Confederacy by burning the main railroad bridges of the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad from Bristol to Knoxville.
28 JUNE 1861: Rumors causing much consternation about East Tennessee CSA Senator Robert Toombs received a letter from his friend Sam Tate: I came through East Tennessee yesterday. Saw some of our friends, but many more of our enemies. There is truly great disaffection with those people. It is currently reported and believed that [Senator Andrew] Johnson has made an arrangement at Cincinnati to send 10,000 guns into East Tennessee, and that they have actually been shipped through Kentucky to Nicholasville, and are to be hauled from there to near the Kentucky line and … to be conveyed to Union men in Tennessee. They openly proclaim that if the Legislature refuses to let them secede they will resist to the death and call upon Lincoln for aid. Nelson, Brownlow, and Maynard are the leaders. 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.
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.
<AUTUMN 1861: UNDERMINING CONFEDERATE AUTHORITY> 15 SEPTEMBER 1861: General Thomas takes command In August 1861, George H. Thomas was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. On 15 September he assumes command at Camp Dick Robinson, a Union recruiting camp in southeastern Kentucky. Thousands of Northeast Tennessee Unionists have made the arduous trip across the mountains to enlist in the Union Army at that camp; thousands more will follow.
30 SEPTEMBER 1861: Carter reveals his plan to liberate his countrymen On 30 September, William Blount Carter travels to Camp Dick Robinson and meets with USA Generals Thomas and William Tecumseh Sherman. Carter reveals a comprehensive plan to burn the main bridges of the East Tennessee and Virginia [ET&VA] Railroad. Carter’s proposal calls for several groups of East Tennessee Unionists to burn nine railroad bridges, on the same night, at the same time. He believes this will cripple the Confederacy; it certainly will keep them from sending more troops into the area by rail. General Thomas likes the plan, and although General Sherman is initially skeptical, he soon endorses the project as well.
Four of nine bridges targeted in Northeast Tennessee are over these rivers: The Holston River at Zollicoffer, sometimes called Union, now Bluff City The Watauga River at Carter’s Depot, now the town of Watauga Lick Creek, near the town of Mosheim in Greene County The Holston River at Strawberry Plains, northeast of Knoxville
<OCTOBER 1861> OCTOBER 1861: A trip to Washington DC WM. BLOUNT CARTER carries this message from General Thomas to General George B. McClellan in Washington DC: HEADQUARTERS, Camp Dick Robinson Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN Commanding Department of the Potomac GENERAL: I have just had a conversation with Mr. W.B. Carter of Tennessee on the subject of the destruction of the grand trunk railroad* through that State. He assures me that he can have it done if the Government will entrust him with a small sum of money to give confidence to the persons to be employed to do it. It would be one of the most important services that could be done for the country, and I most earnestly hope you will use your influence with the authorities in furtherance of his plans which he will submit to you together with the reasons for doing the work. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, GEO. H. THOMAS, Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding. *The ET&VA Railroad was known as the Grand Trunk Railroad because it linked the lower southern states to the North. Soldiers, supplies, and other materiel passed through Northeast Tennessee.
OCTOBER 1861: Meeting with President Abraham Lincoln In a meeting with President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William Seward, and General McClellan, W.B. Carter presents his plan. Federal officials wholeheartedly approve the proposal. The Secretary of State gives Carter $2,500 to cover whatever expenses he might have. Carter also proposes that, after they destroy the bridges, the Union army will swoop down from Kentucky, liberate the Unionists, and run the Confederate forces out of their homeland. General McClellan promises to aid in the movement by sending an army into East Tennessee as soon as they burn the bridges.
MID-OCTOBER 1861: W.B. Carter returns to East Tennessee Carter returns to his home in Elizabethton, Carter County, Northeast Tennessee in mid-October to organize the Unionists who will destroy the railway bridges. He is accompanied by two Union officers who have been assigned to help execute the plan—Captains William Cross from Scott County and David Fry of nearby Greene County. Carter sets up a command post in Kingston, Tennessee, southwest of Knoxville.
22 OCTOBER 1861: : Sherman directs Thomas to proceed In a consultation between Generals Sherman and Thomas, Sherman directs Thomas to proceed with his expedition into East Tennessee. Thomas leaves Camp Dick Robinson with his little army on or about 22 October 1861.
22 OCTOBER 1861: You need not fear to trust these people. NEAR MONTGOMERY, MORGAN CO., TENN., BRIGADIER-GENERAL THOMAS. SIR: I reached here at 2 P. M. to-day. I am within six miles of a company of rebel cavalry. I find our Union people in this part of the State firm and unwavering in their devotion to the Government and anxious to have an opportunity to assist in saving it. The rebels continue to arrest and imprison our people. You will please furnish the bearers with as much lead, rifle powder. and as many caps as they can bring for Scott and Morgan counties. You need not fear to trust these people. They will open the war for you by routing these small bodies of marauding cavalry. I am obliged to send this note unsealed. In haste, very respectfully, Your obedient servant, WM. BLOUNT CARTER.
26 OCTOBER 1861: Letter about unlawful arrests in East Tennessee MEMPHIS, October 26, 1861. ROBERT JOSSELYN, Esq. DEAR SIR: More than 100 persons have been arrested in East Tennessee without warrants in some cases, marched great distances and carried into court on no other charge than that they were Union men. In one case an old man named Duggan, a Methodist preacher, was arrested, carried fifty miles on foot (he a large, fleshy men), refused the privilege of riding his own horse, and all they had against him was that in February last he prayed for the Union. … I have spent much time this summer and fall in trying to conciliate the people of East Tennessee. I thought I had succeeded. Just as the people were quieting down, getting reconciled, raising volunteers, &c., they commenced these arrests which have gone far to poison the minds of the people against the [CSA] Government, and if tolerated and persisted in the people of that end of the State at a critical moment will rise up enemies instead of friends. You ask me who makes these arrests. As far as I can learn they are instigated by a few malicious, troublesome men in and about Knoxville. I always hear the names of W. G. Swan, William M. Churchwell, John H. Crozier, [John] Crozier Ramsey and the postmaster at Knoxville mixed up with these matters. It is these men [who] have private griefs and malice to gratify and they aim to bring down the avenging arm of the Government to satiate their passions. Crozier Ramsey is the [Confederate] attorney-general [for Knox County]. It is said he in most cases causes the arrests and makes the affidavit. Just think of this—an attorney degrading himself by turning [into] an affidavit man. You may inquire what is the remedy? I answer turn out Ramsey; put some man in Middle or West Tennessee in his place who has dignity and character; turn out the postmaster at Knoxville. If the President [Davis] will then make it known to all officials that he discountenances all frivolous arrests, things will quiet down. If, however, he refuses to do this, retains Ramsey, then we may look for great trouble in that end of the State. If the President will write Landon C. Haynes, Senator-elect, and any other respectable man in East Tennessee he will be at no loss what course to pursue. I address this to you to be certain the President will get it and receive attention. Very respectfully ROBERTSON TOPP. [An attorney in Memphis, Tennessee and member of the CSA General Assembly.] RESPONSE: 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. J. D[AVIS.]
27 OCTOBER 1861: Men and women weep for joy … NEAR KINGSTON, ROANE CO., TENN., October 27, 1861. (Received November 4.) [Shows how slowly messages can travel in the mountains] GEN. THOMAS. SIR: I am now within a few miles of our railroad, but I have not yet had time to obtain all the information I must have before I decide on the course best for me to adopt. If I can get half a dozen brave men to ” take the bull by the horns,” we can whip them completely and save the railroad. If I cannot get such leaders, we will make a desperate attempt to destroy all the bridges, and I firmly believe I will be successful. There are 1,400 rebel troops at Knoxville, some poorly armed, some not armed, and many of them sick. There are 160 at the Loudon Bridge. I know of no other troops in East Tennessee except the 300 about whom I wrote to you from Montgomery. They have gone to Wolf River. Zollicoffer has 6,000 men all told; 1,000 of these are sick; 600 or 800 are not armed ; 1,600 of the 6,000 are at Cumberland Gap; the balance beyond the gap. Our enemies here are very uneasy for the safety of Zollicoffer, and have been calling on [Confederate President] Davis for help; but, as I am informed, Davis says he is so pressed on the Potomac that he can spare none of the Virginia troops. I can gain no reliable information from Kentucky by way of Nashville. I hear of no troops passing over our railroad. We hear, by way of Knoxville, that [General Kenner] Garrard has driven Zollicoffer back 6 miles. I suppose it is true, as secessionists tell it. This whole country is in a wretched condition; a perfect despotism reigns here. The Union men of East Tennessee are longing and praying for the hour when they can break their fetters. The loyalty of our people increases with the oppressions they have to bear. Men and women weep for joy when I merely hint to them that the day of our deliverance is at hand. I have not seen a secession flag since I entered the State. I beg you to hasten on to our help, as we are about to create a great diversion in General McClellan’s favor. It seems to me, if you would ask it, he would spare you at once 5,000 or 10,000 well-drilled troops. Will you not ask for more help? I know you will excuse a civilian for making suggestions to a military man, when you remember that I am risking my life and that I am about to ask my people to do the same. I find more deficiency in arms in this part of East Tennessee than I expected. You must bring some small-arms with you. I am satisfied that you will have to take the road by Monticello and Jamestown, unless you come by Cumberland Gap. I can assure you that whoever is the leader of a successful expedition into East Tennessee will receive from these people a crown of glory of which any one might well be proud, and I know of no one on whom I would more cheerfully bestow that crown than on yourself. I regret that I can give you no more information, but I will communicate with you as circumstances may require. Perhaps it would be well for you to let General McClellan know that I have reached East Tennessee, as I know he is very anxious for my success. I write in great haste, but believe you may rely on all I have written. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, WM. BLOUNT CARTER.
28 OCTOBER 1861: To advance into East Tennessee … Brig. Gen. W. T. Sherman, Commanding Department of Cumberland, Louisville, Ky. General : I have just returned from the Rockcastle Hills [KY]. Our troops have a decided victory, repulsing the enemy upon very nearly equal terms, and feel very much elated and are anxious for an advance. We are informed that [CSA General Felix] Zollicoffer has retired to his old position behind the Cumberland [Mountains], and intends to make a stand there. I am very sorry that we are not in a condition to march upon him at once, as I believe he could be easily driven out of Kentucky; but the men have no clothing, and we are scarce of forage. … To advance into Tennessee, I ought to have four more regiments from some other State than Kentucky to follow after us as a reserve, and money in the hands of the quartermaster and commissary to defray necessary expenses. By taking in a train along with the army, two months’ supply of sugar, coffee, and other small stores, I think we can get on without any very serious difficulties. If you approve of my advance, let me know as soon as possible. I shall move in a day or two to Crab Orchard. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, GEO. H. THOMAS
29 OCTOBER 1861: Imminent danger to the railroads of East Tennessee To: Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris From: C. WALLACE, President, East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad Wallace advises Harris of the imminent danger to the railroads of East Tennessee from pro-Union elements:
31 OCTOBER 1861: Thomas is 40 miles from the Tennessee border General George H. Thomas arrives at Crab Orchard, a supply depot in Southeast Kentucky, 40 miles from Cumberland Gap on the Tennessee border.
<NOVEMBER 1861> 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. Yours, W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier- General, Commanding.
1 NOVEMBER 1861: Our Camp Calvert Correspondence New York Times article covers the time period when General Thomas was marching his army toward Northeast Tennessee. CAMP CALVERT, Friday, Nov. 1, 1861. After the plucky little fight at [the Battle of] Wild Cat [southeast KY, 21 OCTOBER 1861], “Your Own” concluded that things in the mountains were beginning to warm up, and that he had better be in to see the sport. Accordingly he started and reached Nicholasville [KY], the terminus of the Covington and Lexington Railroad without let or hindrance. But once there his troubles began, nor do they seem disposed to come to an end. Mounted on the back of an old gray horse whose early education had been sadly neglected in the matter of gaits—the only step he learned being a cross-eyed trot, half pace and half canter, that sent “yours truly” bounding Heavenward like Sancho Panza in the blanket, he started in pursuit of the advancing army. At Camp Dick Robinson he found one regiment guarding stores that should have been forty miles on the advance. Twenty miles further on is Crab Orchard or Camp Frey, where two more regiments were rusticating in the comforts of good quarters, and enjoying themselves hugely on Uncle Samuel’s beef and crackers. But from Crab Orchard to Wild Cat, twenty-four mortal miles, is the roughest country upon which the sun shines. It is up hill and down dale, over rocks and through bogs. Now muddy as Egypt after the Nile has overflowed, and then sandy as the Jersey Pines. It must have been the creation of some of nature’s journeymen, for surely the mother of all good things never made such an abortion. I stood in the battle-field of Wild Cat, and looked from the brow of Hoosier Hill, where the gallant Thirty-third Indiana so nobly repulsed the hordes of [CSA General Felix] ZOLLICOFFER, with amazement. Up its steep and rugged sides the foes of our land essayed to climb, and well nigh did they succeed, for had not the Fourteenth Ohio and its battery arrived on a double quick, after a forced march of thirty-five miles, there would have been no Thirty-third Indiana and no Third Kentucky Regiments to-day. They would have been slaughtered beyond salvation, and have poured out their blood a rich libation to the demon of procrastination’ who has so long presided in the councils of our nation. Beyond Wild Cat the country improves; though still rugged and mountainous, it is no longer sterile and inhospitable. Though $5 per acre would buy the best farm in the land, and thousand of square acres can be bought for a silver quarter each, still the country is self-supporting, and might even supply our army with much of its stores, if we had the ready money to pay for them. Gen. SCHOEPF, the commander of the army in the Cumberland Mountains, (I said commander, which I believe is untrue, for he dares not to move a peg until he has the sign manual of Gen. THOMAS, who stays back at Crab Orchard or Dick Robinson,) is a Hungarian, well qualified, so far as I can judge after a week’s acquaintance, for the command. But he is stopped, checkmated, fretted, worried, tormented and annoyed every hour by the necessity of asking the consent of Gen. THOMAS to do this, that or the other thing. He hardly dares to post a picket or send out a scout without the permission of the Crab Orchard General first had and obtained. Then again, the Quartermaster sends up his stores by the mouthful. At no one time since the army advanced have we had three days provisions in camp. If Gen. SCHOEPF is worth a row of pins, he surely is worthy of being trusted with some discretion, and ought not to be compelled to keep an army of 5,000 men doing police duty while the golden moments in which the conquest of East Tennessee and Kentucky ought to be completed, are slipping unmarked and unnoticed like the sand in the glass. We have with us the Thirty-fifth Indiana, the Fourteenth and Seventeenth Ohio, the Third Kentucky, half a brigade of Tennessee Volunteers, two batteries, and two hundred cavalry, commanded by Major HELVERTIA, a fine officer. The enemy has, perhaps, a few more men, say 6,000, at Cumberland Ford, 40 miles distant, strongly intrenched, but unequipped, ununiformed, poorly armed and badly demoralized. We have a road by which we can advance, pass to his rear and cut off his communication. If this brigade were permitted to move and properly supplied with money to purchase stores, we would be in Knoxville, the home of Parson BROWNLOW, in less than a week. But we must possess our souls in patience while red tape and sealing-wax are blundering along. A messenger came in yesterday from Gen. THOMAS saying that the rebels were advancing against Somerset, a town 37 miles west of us. Camp Calvert is at London, the county seat and about 14 miles beyond Wild Cat. They were represented as being 3,300 strong, while Col. HOSKINS has but 600 Kentuckians at Somerset. One regiment and a company of cavalry were started from Crab Orchard to reinforce him, and we sent out a courier, who has not yet returned. I think this movement means a reinforcement from [CSA GENERAL SIMON BOLIVAR] BUCKNER to ZOLLICOFFER. We ought to be on the march to intercept them. When the history of the Kentucky campaign comes to be written there will be a sad day of reckoning for somebody. From its first inception to the present moment it has been a progressive series of blunders, or something; worse. Camp Dick Robinson ought never to have been established, nor would it have been under any ordinary pressure. The history of its creation is this: DICK ROBINSON, a clever gentleman residing in Kentucky, ten miles from Nicholasville, sold $22,000 worth of mules to the South on time, mortgaging his estate to pay for them. The South repudiated, property depreciated, his creditors knew they could not make their money out of the land, so they, with their friends and his to the number of thirty-eight, procured the establishment of the camp. DICK ROBINSON has made from the rent of his land, his bar, and other incidental sources, the neat sum of $33,000. The location of this camp is on the middle of a turnpike, where teams must be unloaded and their burdens divided between four wagons, so that they can traverse the wild-cat country, while they might as well retain their original loads till they reach Crab Orchard, twenty miles beyond. Besides this, the Government owns a barracks, with plenty of land and buildings, at Harrodsburg, only 3 miles further from Nicholasville. Verily, there is something rotten in Denmark. There will certainly be a movement of some kind in a few days. LODOR. “The Campaign in Kentucky; Our Camp Calvert correspondence. A visit to the Battlefield of Wild Cat. The army in the Cumberland Mountains; How it is hampered. Movements of the Rebels,” The New York Times, reported 1 November 1861, published 9 November 1861, accessed 26 July 2021, nytimes.com/1861/11/09/archives/the-campaign-in-kentucky-our-camp-calvert-correspondence-a-visit-to.html
4 NOVEMBER 1861:A mistake to suppose East Tennesseans are submissive … Knoxville, Tenn., November 4, 1861. CSA General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General Sir: The dispatches from General Zollicoffer state that he has reason to believe that the enemy with a force of 9,000 is approaching by Jacksborough or Jamestown [Tennessee towns]. Information from Assistant Adjutant-General Mackall says that there are about 10,000 men between Camp Dick Robinson and Cincinnati. This information has been received by the Union men in East Tennessee, and they are openly preparing for rebellion. Men are arriving here daily from the adjoining counties, bringing information that the Unionists are talking exultingly of the approach of the Lincoln Army and their intention to join it. The state of the country here is evidently worse at this time than at any previous period. General Zollicoffer bas taken all the troops from here, except about 1OO infantry and one company of cavalry, and most of the latter are absent on special duty. The necessity for a larger force at this point is urgent. Our commissary and quartermaster’s stores are liable to be seized at any moment, as also the railroad. The state of the country here is evidently worse at this time than at any previous period. General Zollicoffer has taken all the troops from here, except about 1OO infantry and one company of cavalry, and most of the latter are absent on special duty. The necessity for a larger force at this point is urgent. Our commissary and quartermaster’s stores are liable to be seized at any moment, as also the railroad. The state of the country here is evidently worse at this time than at any previous period. General Zollicoffer has taken all tbe troops from here, except about 1OO infantry and one company of cavalry, and most of tbe latter are absent on special duty. The necessity for a larger force at this point is urgent. Our commissary and quartermaster’s stores are liable to be seized at any moment, as also the railroad. It is a great mistake to suppose that the people of East Tennessee are submissive or willing to acquiesce. They have only been held quiet by the force which was at Knoxville, and now that it is gone, they are evidently preparing for a general uprising if the Lincoln Army should make any advance into Tennessee. I need at least a regiment at this place to give protection to the stores of the Government and preserve quiet. There are three companies of infantry here under the late call of the governor for 30,000, but they have no arms. I communicate directly to the Department, because I think the exigency admits of no delay, and have no doubt it will meet with the approval of General Zollicoffer, to whom I send a copy. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, W. B. WOOD, Colonel, Commanding Post.
5 NOVEMBER 1861: Four regiments of disciplined men … HEADQUARTERS, CRAB ORCHARD, KY. BRIG.-GEN. W. T. SHERMAN. GENERAL: I inclose copies of two communications from Mr. William B. Carter. If we could possibly get the arms and the four regiments of disciplined and reliable men we could seize the railroad yet. Cannot Gen. McClellan be induced to send me the regiments? Very respectfully, your ob’dt servant, GEO. H. THOMAS, Brig.-Gen. U. S. V., Commanding.
5 NOVEMBER 1861: Thomas must be on the border … W.B. Carter’s East Tennessee bridge-burning plan calls for General Thomas to be on the Tennessee / Kentucky border by 8 November, the day Carter has set for the bridges to be burned. After that part of the operation is complete, Thomas is to make a quick march to Knoxville, seize control of the railroads, and protect the bridge burners from Confederate retaliation.
5 NOVEMBER 1861: Sherman cancels the invasion … Withhis little army of only a few regiments, General Thomasison 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. Carterlaunches 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 … HEADQUARTERS, Crab Orchard, November 7, 1861. Senator ANDREW JOHNSON, London, Ky. DEAR SIR: I have done all in my power to get troops and transportation and means to advance into Tennessee. I believe General Sherman has done the same. Up to this time we have been unsuccessful. If the Tennesseans are not content and must go, then the risk of disaster will remain with them. Some of our troops are not yet clothed and it seems impossible to get clothing. Very respectfully and truly yours, GEO. H. THOMAS, Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers.
7 NOVEMBER 1861: I sympathize most deeply with the Tennesseans Headquarters, Crab Orchard, Ky., November 7, 1861. Brigadier-General [Albin Francisco] Schoepf, Commanding, Camp Calvert, London, Ky. General: It is time that discontented persons should be silenced both in and out of the service. I sympathize most deeply with the Tennesseans on account of their natural anxiety to relieve their friends and families from the terrible oppression which they are now suffering; but to make the attempt to rescue them when we are not half prepared is culpable, especially when our enemies are as anxious that we should make the move as the Tennesseans themselves; for it is well known by our commanding general that [CSA General Simon Bolivar] Buckner has an overwhelming force within striking distance whenever he can get us at a disadvantage. I hope you will therefore see the necessity of dealing decidedly with such people, and you have my authority and orders for doing so. We must learn to abide our time, or we shall never be successful. Respectfully, your obedient servant, GEO. H. THOMAS Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers. [General Schoepf is a Polish military officer, trained in Europe, is fighting for the Union in the American Civil War.]
8 NOVEMBER 1861: Haynes letter to President Davis Landon Carter Haynes was a lawyer and politician who served as a Confederate States Senator from 1862 to 1865. In the early 1840s, Landon Carter Haynes works as editor of the Jonesborough-based newspaper, Tennessee Sentinel. He became famous for his frequent clashes with Parson Brownlow, editor of the Knoxville Whig. Haynes must have had a crystal ball when he sent this message to Jefferson Davis—on the very day the railroad bridges are burned. His Excellency President DAVIS. DEAR SIR: Many friends here have urged me to address your excellency this note. What I have to say is in regard to Gen. Zollicoffer’s perilous position at Cumberland Gap and the danger of invasion by the Lincoln forces of East Tennessee by way of Jamestown, Fentress County. It is thought here, by all who are acquainted with things in East Tennessee, that re-enforcements, if practicable, ought to be sent forthwith. It is I fear a grand mistake to suppose the Union party in East Tennessee has lost its hostility to the Confederacy. At the election day before yesterday [election of state officials] with perfect unanimity that party refused to cast a vote for men who had been its late leaders because they were running for seats in the Confederate Congress; and if a force shall be thrown into East Tennessee or on the line which now seems probable and which General Zollicoffer is unable to defeat the flames of rebellion will flash throughout East Tennessee; the railroad will be destroyed, the bridges burned and other calamities not necessary to mention will follow. I regard the state of affairs from all the information I possess as perilous. Respectfully, your obedient servant, LANDON C. HAYNES
<8—9 NOVEMBER 1861: TWO NORTHEAST TENNESSEE RAILROAD BRIDGES BURNED> All occurring on the night of the 8th or the morning of the 9th of November.
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Captain David Fry When Tennessee seceded from the Union, David Fry left his wife and children in Greeneville, Northeast Tennessee and joined the Union Army in Kentucky. He was subsequently elected Captain of Company F of the 2nd Tennessee Infantry. Fry and a group of Greene County men burn the Lick Creek railroad bridge at two o’clock in the morning of 9 November 1861. As soon as the destruction of the bridge is well under way, Fry allows the Confederate guards at the bridge to go free and orders his men to return to their nearby homes and act as if nothing has happened. Fry himself heads North, hoping to make his way back to Kentucky. He was told that a Union army invasion would begin immediately after the bridges were destroyed and would protect the men who burned the bridge and their families. That promise is broken, and the Unionist civilians are left to suffer the Confederate backlash alone.
Engraving in Barton’s A Hero In Homespun depicting the burning of a railroad bridge in East Tennessee on the night of November 8, 1861. Public domain.
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Burning the Lick Creek Bridge Captain David Fry, a Greene County farmer, led the group of Lick Creek bridge burners in the darkness of the early morning hours of 9 November 1861. Many of these Unionist men could hardly wait to do their part, to make life under Confederate control easier. They had no worries—General George H. Thomas and his little army were going to swoop down from Kentucky as soon as the bridges were destroyed. Their colleagues and their families would be protected. They could not have known that their plans would backfire so horribly. The families of these brave men were taught to be ashamed of their actions; their story was not told for many decades. The modern railroad bridge over Lick Creek stands on the original limestone pillars. When the creek’s water level drops, the remains of the blackened wooden posts of the Civil War Lick Creek Bridge become visible just above the water’s surface.
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Lick Creek Bridge Burners in The New York Times Captain David Fry reached Greene County two days before the burning of Lick Creek Bridge and spent some time with his wife before recruiting several Greene County men to assist him in destroying the bridge. Excerpts from the New York Times:
9 NOVEMBER 1861: The conspiracy went awry almost immediately The two vulnerable railroads converging on Knoxville – the East Tennessee & Virginia and the East Tennessee & Georgia – served as the only reliable and efficient transportation and communication link between Richmond and the Deep South. … The [bridge burning] conspiracy went awry almost immediately. At Lick Creek, the conspirators let the captured guards go free after they took the oath of allegiance to the Union. It was a fatefully naïve move; the guards immediately notified Confederate authorities. Even worse, during the attack on the bridge one of the guerrillas had casually mentioned “Jacob Harmon’s gun” in front of the guards; he dutifully passed that piece of intelligence along. A few days later Confederate investigators went to the home of the ringleaders and arrested many of the participants (though some escaped to Kentucky). But the real failure came with a last-minute decision by General William T. Sherman to call off the federal invasion from Kentucky … too late to get word to the conspirators. Aaron Astor, “The Conspiracy at Lick Creek,” The New York Times, 14 November 2011, accessed 11 August 2021, https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/the-conspiracy-at-lick-creek/
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Disaster at Strawberry Plains Bridge The attempt at burning the bridge at Strawberry Plains fails. Spanning the Holston River 15 miles northeast of Knoxville—perhaps the most important railroad bridge in Northeast Tennessee—the 1600-foot-long Strawberry Plains Bridge is crucial to railroad transportation during the Civil War. W.B. Carter assigned former Sevier County sheriff William Pickens to handle this important task. The lone guard at the bridge, James Keelan, fights off a group of men; he and some of the arsonists are severely wounded in the scuffle. When Pickens is shot, he drops their only box of matches, and it falls down below the bridge. With no chance of recovering the matches and being unwilling to ask for help from nearby houses for fear of being caught, the Sevier County would-be bridge-burners gathered their wounded and dispersed.
<CONFEDERATE REACTION TO BRIDGE BURNING AND UNIONIST UPRISING> 9 NOVEMBER 1861: Bridges burned on ET&VA Railroad KNOXVILLE, November 9, 1861. Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN: Two large bridges on my road were burned last night about 12 o’clock; also one bridge on the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad at the same time, and an effort made to burn the largest bridge on my road. There is great excitement along the whole line of road, and evidence that the Union party are organizing and preparing to destroy or take possession of the whole line from Bristol and Chattanooga, and unless the Government is very prompt in giving us the necessary military aid, I much fear the result. The only hope for protection must be from the Government. Unless the Government gives us the necessary aid and protection at once, transportation over my road of army supplies will be an utter impossibility. It cannot be done. We have arrested four of the individuals engaged in burning one bridge, and know who burned another, but for want of the necessary military force fear we cannot arrest them. JOHN R. BRANNER, President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.
9 NOVEMBER 1861:A worse state of feeling never prevailed in East Tennessee KNOXVILLE, November 9, 1861. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War DEAR SIR: I have just time to say that … the bridge at Charleston over Hiawassee River, on East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad, was burned last night by the Lincolnites, and that the bridge at Strawberry Plains, on East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, over the Holston, was set on fire and the guard badly, if not mortally, wounded. It shows that there is a concerted movement among them to destroy the railroad bridges and cut off communication from one portion of the Southern Confederacy with the other. A worse state of feeling never prevailed in East Tennessee than at the present moment. The belief that the enemy are about to enter our borders has emboldened them to such an extent that there is no telling what damage they may do. I believe it important that you should have this information at once. On this account I have thus hastily given you such information as I have obtained. Very respectfully, R. G. FAIN, Brigade Commissary.
9 NOVEMBER 1861: Watauga bridge threatened by Union guerrillas BRISTOL, November 9, 1861. Hon. JOHN LETCHER. DEAR SIR: Upon the oath of J. H. Rudd, conductor of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Company, and news received from A. M. Millard, the representative of Sullivan County, Tenn., by note whose handwriting was testified to by George Pile and Jos. R. Anderson. I do hereby inform you that the bridge across the Holston was burned last night by about fifty Union men and that a Union force is now assembling near Watauga bridge [Carter’s Depot] reported to number about 500 for the purpose of attacking Capt. McClellan’s troops now stationed at the bridge and burning the bridge, and ask aid as we are unable to form any idea of the result of this; and furthermore state that all communication between this place and Nashville by railroad and telegraph is cut off and ask that you appeal to President Davis to call out the militia of East Tennessee to suppress rebellion. WM. F. MOORE, Justice of the peace, Washington County, Va.
Burning Bridges: Cycle of Destruction Inscription: On the night of Friday, November 8, 1861, the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad bridge that stood on the piers in front of you erupted in flames. A group of Union sympathizers, who had been plotting secretly for weeks, burned this and four other bridges that night to disrupt the rail lines that the Confederacy needed to transport men and supplies. The ringleader, the Rev. William Blount Carter, a Presbyterian minister, devised the plan and took it to Union generals George H. Thomas and William T. Sherman, and S.P. Carter, his brother. They sent the Rev. Carter with a letter of support to Washington, DC, where he met with President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward, as well as Gen. George B. McClellan. Lincoln approved the project and provided $2,500 for supplies. Carter placed Col. Daniel Stover, the son-in-law of future President Andrew Johnson, in charge of burning the Holston River bridge. At the last minute, however, Sherman called off the attack because he had decided it was impractical. The word did not reach Carter and his volunteers, who proceeded to burn this bridge and four others, out of the nine bridges targeted for destruction. Sherman’s meant that no Union forces were in position to capture Bluff City [Zollicoffer], called Middletown in that era. The Federals did not move into northeastern Tennessee until more than two years later. The bridges were soon repaired, although some were burned again later. The Middletown bridge was later replaced. Sidebar: In some mysterious way, one Saturday [sic] night about eleven o’clock, five bridges … were set fire to, and were in ashes by daylight. … This put the very devil in the Secessionists, although he had been in their midst all the while. ~ William G. ‘Parson’ Brownlow, 1862
MINI BIO: W.B. Wood CSA Early in the Civil War, the fair grounds two miles west of Knoxville, were converted into a Confederate enlistment camp. On 26 July 1861, General Felix Zollicoffer arrived and assumed command of the Confederate forces in East Tennessee. Zollicoffer remained in Knoxville until September 1861, when he was ordered to march his troops to Cumberland Gap, leaving Col. W.B. Wood in charge of the camp at the fair grounds. This really is a mini bio, because there is little information about Col. Wood, but pay close attention to the following letters he sent and received during the bridge burnings and the Unionist uprising of November 1861. Some of his correspondence with CSA Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin is chilling.
10 NOVEMBER 1861: Five of the Lick Creek incendiaries arrested Dispatch from Confederate COLONEL W. B. WOOD in Knoxville to General Zollicoffer: Five of the incendiaries who burned the Lick Creek Bridge have been arrested. I have sent up for them. Regretting as much as anyone this calamity, I feel that I did all that I could to prevent it and am glad that it is no worse. I had a company at Lick Creek, but the incendiaries deceived them, and getting possession of their guns, took them prisoners and accomplished their ends.
General Albert Sidney Johnston Considered by Confederate States President Jefferson Davis to be the finest general officer in the Confederacy, Albert Sidney Johnston was appointed to the rank of full general on August 31, 1861. He was killed at the Battle of Shiloh on 6 April 1862. Davis believed the loss of General Johnston “was the turning point of our fate.”thoughtco.com/general-albert-sidney-johnston-2360588
10 NOVEMBER 1861: Col. Danville Leadbetter RICHMOND, November 10, 1861. Herewith you will receive an order to report to Tennessee, to keep up the line of communication by rail between Bristol and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Upon arriving in Tennessee you are authorized to call upon the railroad companies, and also upon communities in vicinity of railroad, for aid and material, employing both where necessary, giving certificates usual in such cases. While reconstructing bridges and repairing the roads you will give due care to the telegraph communication, re-establishing it where interfered with, exercising in this the authority granted with regard to the road. To enable you to carry out these instructions Stovall’s battalion, with a light battery, will be ordered to report to you at Bristol, and a regiment ordered from General Bragg at Chattanooga, to be so disposed of as may best secure successful accomplishment of your orders. You will report to General Albert Sidney [A. S.] Johnston by letter your arrival in Tennessee, the nature of your instructions, also advising General Zollicoffer to the same effect. Full and frequent reports are desired of your operations, respecting condition of the [rail]road, and disposition of the population adjacent thereto. I am, sir, respectfully, &c. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector General.
10 NOVEMBER 1861: Leadbetter will leave in the morning Dispatch addressed to R. L. Owen, President Railroad, Lynchburg: Colonel Leadbetter of Engineer Corps will leave in the morning with a battalion and battery of field pieces He is charged with the duty of restoring and guarding the communications. … Your earnest cooperation with him is relied on by the President. J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War.
11 NOVEMBER 1861: SPECIAL ORDERS, Number 216. Richmond, Va., November 11, 1861. Colonel Danville Leadbetter, Provisional Army, is hereby assigned to the command of the troops to be stationed for the protection of the railroads between Bristol and Chattanooga, Tenn. He will reconstruct bridges, repair and keep open the line of communication between those points and will call upon railroad companies for such aid as he may require to carry out this order. By command of the Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin JNO WITHERS, Assistant Adjutant-General.
11 NOVEMBER 1861: A general uprising in all the counties KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861. Adjutant-Gen. [SAMUEL] COOPER: Three bridges burned between Bristol and Chattanooga, two on Georgia road. Five hundred Union men now threatening Strawberry Plains; fifteen hundred assembling in Hamilton County; and a general uprising in all the counties. I have about 1,000 men under my command. W. B. WOOD, Col.
11 NOVEMBER 1861: The whole country is now in a state of rebellion KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861. Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen. SIR: My fears expressed to you by letters and dispatches of 4th and 5th instant have been realized by the destruction of no less than five railroad bridges—two on the East Tennessee and Virginia road. … The indications were apparent to me but I was powerless to avert it. The whole country is now in a state of rebellion. A thousand men are within six miles of Strawberry Plains bridge and an attack is contemplated to-morrow. I have sent Col. Powel there with 200 infantry, one company cavalry and about 100 citizens armed with shotguns and country rifles. Five hundred Unionists left Hamilton County today we suppose to attack Loudon bridge. I have Major Campbell there with 200 infantry and one company cavalry. I have about the same force at this point and a cavalry company at Watauga bridge. An attack was made on Watauga yesterday. Our men succeeded in beating them off, but they are gathering in larger force and may renew it in a day or two. They are not yet fully organized and have no subsistence to enable them to hold out long. A few regiments and vigorous means would have a powerful effect in putting it down. A mild or conciliating policy will do no good; they must be punished; and some of the leaders ought to be punished to the extent of the law. Nothing short of this will give quiet, to the country. Gen. Zollicoffer at great inconvenience to himself has sent me Col. Powell’s regiment numbering about 600 effective men which I have disposed of as above stated. I have arrested six of the men who were engaged in burning the Lick Creek bridge and I desire to have instruction from you as to the proper disposition of them. The slow course of civil law in punishing such incendiaries it seems to me will not have the salutary effect which is desirable. I learn from two gentlemen just arrived that another camp is being formed about ten miles from here in Sevier County and already 300 are in camp. They are being re-enforced from Blount, Roane, Johnson, Greene, Carter and other counties. I need not say that great alarm is felt by the few Southern men. They are finding places of safety for their families and would gladly enlist if we had arms to furnish them. … W. B. WOOD, Col., Commanding Post.
11 NOVEMBER 1861: I felt it to be my duty to place this City under martial law KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861. Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen. SIR: I have had all the arms in this City seized and authorized Maj. Campbell to impress all he can find in the hands of Union men who ought now to be regarded as avowed enemies for the use of the new companies. I felt it to be my duty to place this City under martial law as there was a large majority of the people sympathizing with the enemy and communicating with them by the unfrequented mountain paths, and to prevent surprise and the destruction of the commissary and quartermaster’s stores. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, W. B. WOOD, Col., Commanding Post.
11 NOVEMBER 1861: They threaten to burn Watauga Bridge to-night BRISTOL, November 11, 1861. Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War| I have just returned from the burned bridge. We have at the next bridge, 10 miles beyond, about 250 men, under Capt. McClellan. They have two cannon, which they found on the cars … The camp of the enemy is at N. G. Taylor’s, 5 miles distant, with about 400 men. Another camp, at Elizabethtown, 2 miles farther, is said to contain 500 men. The two may be confounded. There is no doubt but that re-enforcements are every moment reaching them from Watauga County, North Carolina, and Johnson, Carter, and Washington Counties, Tennessee. These counties can furnish about 2,000 Lincolnites, and each fresh occasion emboldens them. They threaten to burn Watauga Bridge to-night. Should they be successful, it will bring forward hundreds now quiet. It is all important they should be disposed of before they unite their different forces, now ranging from 50 to 500. A fight occurred last night [10th] between 22 of our scouts and the main camp of the enemy. We captured 2, killed 9, and lost none. I have given orders for all trains to give way to the troop trains now coming forward. They will reach here to-morrow morning. Can I do anything for you? RO. L. OWEN, President Virginia and Tennessee [V&T] Railroad [The V&T extends westward from Lynchburg, Virginia to Bristol, Tennessee, a total distance of 204 miles.]
12 NOVEMBER 1861: FROM THE REBEL STATES, The New York Times Movements in East Tennessee. The Destruction of the Rebel Communications. GREAT ALARM IN RICHMOND. THE BRIDGE-BURNING IN TENNESSEE. THE STRUCTURES DESTROYED. [Parts of this article were first published in the Knoxville Register and Memphis Appeal, both Pro-Confederate newspapers, which explains the Confederate slant.] The Lick Creek bridge was guarded by several soldiers attached to Capt. MCLINN’s company, encamped near Midway. They were approached by a gang of ruffians, who first engaged them in friendly conversation and then suddenly overpowered them, and executed their hellish incendiarism. They carried the captured sentinels, we are told, to a house at some distance, and after forcing them to take an oath to support the LINCOLN Government, released them. They hurried to their camp and gave such information as led to the immediate arrest of six of the incendiaries, who were yesterday brought to this city [Knoxville] and safely lodged in jail. We learn that they have made confessions which will probably lead to the capture of all engaged in this extensive conspiracy. This diabolical plot does not seem to have been participated in by the great body of the East Tennessee Union men, but seems to have been confined to a number of desperate and reckless traitors, who confidently believed that before they could be brought to justice, the Lincoln forces from Kentucky would have forced their way through the mountains to their rescue, They have again experienced how little dependence is to be placed upon the boasts and promises of MAYNARD and JOHNSON [JOHNSTON]. The cowards who were reported to be approaching Jamestown and Big Creek Gap, have retreated back into Kentucky, to escape from HARDEE and his brave forces, leaving their duped and misguided co-laborers here to their fate. There is no earthly probability that any of LINCOLN’s troops will ever be able to force their way into East Tennessee, and all such attempts as the late incendiary one, must only result in bringing a terrible retribution upon the heads of the foolish depredators. … It is rumored that large numbers of Union men are arming and mustering in Blount and Sevier Counties; for the purpose of protecting the incendiaries who attempted to fire the Strawberry Plains bridge, all of whom, numbering some sixteen, were from Sevier County. … AMOUNT OF DAMAGE DONE. The damage to the railroads in East Tennessee by the incendiarism of last week, is estimated at $50,000. OTHER INSURRECTIONARY DEMONSTRATIONS. In an extra issued on Nov. 15, the Memphis Avalanche says: “A most reliable gentleman from East Tennessee arrived here this morning, and reports that Chickamauga Creek, the Charleston, Lick Creek, and Upper Holston [Zollicoffer] bridges were burned at precisely 1 o’clock on Friday night. Other bridges were fired at the same time, but were extinguished. The telegraphic wires were destroyed at the same time. A thorough organization exists among the Unionists in East Tennessee. … “ From the Memphis Appeal. Great excitement prevails along the route. The people were thoroughly aroused, and flocking into every Station, determined to exterminate the traitors between Bristol and Chattanooga, where the principal damage was done. Bristol and Chattanooga are situated at the extremes of the Railroad system of East Tennessee, 241 miles apart. Gen. CLARKE of Mississippi was at Bristol, among the detained passengers; and being advised that there was a force of 500 Unionists at Uniontown [Zollicoffer], where the bridge had been burned, he mustered a force of about forty, principally returning soldiers, and marched against them. A conflict took place at night, but the traitors fled early … leaving indications that some of them are hurt. … NOTHING SERIOUS APPREHENDED. From the Memphis Appeal, Nov. 16. We apprehend nothing serious from the recent outbreak in East Tennessee, but regard it, on the contrary, at least in point of time, as one of the most fortunate incidents of the crisis. It was evidently one act in a carefully arranged program of the enemy, all of whose parts were to have been executed simultaneously, but which has eventuated in a miserable abortion. We have long been aware that there was a deeply disaffected element in this section of the State, and have repeatedly pressed upon our authorities—State and Federal—the necessity of exercising a proper espionage over their movements. … It was a stroke of policy merely that induced the abandonment of the Greeneville Convention and the ostensible acknowledgment of the Confederate Government by the arch conspirators who were encouraging this scheme. In fact, it was a most dangerous part of their conspiracy, inasmuch as it disarmed our authorities, and the adherents of our cause in that section, of all vigilance. They thought that the refractory spirit of the rebellion that at first showed its head had been permanently quelled, and looked for no further manifestation of it. This insurrection, however, … gives evidence of a deep-laid plot among a few of the most reckless traitors of that region to resist the sovereign voice of the people of the State by force of arms, so soon as they have hope of assistance from the Lincoln despotism. It is fortunate that it has occurred at the present time, when we are fully able to put a lasting quietus upon it, from which no appliances of future Federal aid will ever be able to resuscitate it. We now have an open foe to conquer, who is rendered impotent by the very disclosure of his hostility—and not less so by his isolation. … “FROM THE REBEL STATES, “The New York Times, accessed 20 March 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/1861/11/23/archives/from-the-rebel-states-movements-in-eastern-tennesseethe-destruction.html
Another view of a bridge very similar to the Lick Creek Bridge.
12 NOVEMBER 1861: S.P. Carter’s East Tennessee Brigade HEADQUARTERS EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE, Camp Calvert, November 12, 1861. Brigadier General GEORGE H. THOMAS, U. S. Army. DEAR GENERAL: Yesterday I sent forty-five pounds rifle powder, fifty pounds lead and twenty boxes rifle caps into East Tennessee for the Union men. I borrowed the whole from Colonel Garrard. Will you have the kindness to have rifle powder forwarded to me not only to return that borrowed but also for further distribution among the mountain men? The ammunition sent yesterday was to be delivered to the men mentioned by my brother in his letter to you. Lead and caps are also needed. We thank you, general, for your assurance that as soon as you can you will move toward East Tennessee. Our men and officers have entire confidence in you and shall be most happy to see you in our midst. If the reports made to me to-day are true—and they seem to be reliable—we might get possession of the mountain passes without loss or even opposition. Do you not think so? I am persuaded you will do what is right and proper. With respect, S. P. CARTER, Acting Brigadier-General. comdg. East Tennessee Brigade. NOTE Because the Confederates are still occupying Northeast Tennessee, S. P. Carter chooses Camp Calvert in Laurel County, southeast Kentucky as his recruitment camp. Since his enlistees are mostly refugees from Northeast Tennessee, he calls his unit the East Tennessee Brigade.
12 NOVEMBER 1861: 500 Tories threaten movement on Strawberry Plains JACKSBOROUGH, November 12, 1861. Gen. S. Cooper: Col. Wood, Knoxville, writes that 500 tories threaten movement on Strawberry Plains, and 1,500 from Hamilton County moving towards Loudon Bridge. Col. Churchwell, Cumberland Gap, has information indicating a strong force along from 6 miles beyond Barboursville to Rockcastle Camp, fortifying as they advance. I will have the pass blocked in two days. Gen. Carroll has one armed regiment, but has not forwarded it. Please cause Churchwell’s requisition of 22d October for ammunition and implements for three 8-inch howitzers to be filled and expressed to him. F. K. ZOLLICOFFER, Brig.-Gen.
12 NOVEMBER 1861: Governor Harris requests aid from His Excellency NASHVILLE, November 12, 1861. His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS: The burning of railroad bridges in East Tennessee shows a deep-seated spirit of rebellion in that section. Union men are organizing. This rebellion must be crushed out instantly, the leaders arrested, and summarily punished. I shall send immediately about 10,000 men to that section; cannot arm larger force at present. If you can possibly send from Western Virginia a number of Tennessee regiments to East Tennessee, we can at once repair the bridges and crush out the rebellion. I hope to be able very soon to collect a large number of sporting guns in the State to arm our volunteers, and will co-operate with the Government to the fullest extent of my ability in all respects. If a part only of the Tennessee troops in Western Virginia shall be sent, I would prefer Anderson’s brigade. ISHAM G. HARRIS.
13 NOVEMBER 1861: The Lincolnites are encamping at Elizabethton JONESBOROUGH, TENN., November 13, 1861. J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War: The Lincolnites are forming an encampment at Elizabethton [Carter County]; now have from 1,000 to 1,300 men, and more coming, within 6 miles of our railroad, at Watauga Bridge. They also have from 600 to 1,000 men near Strawberry Plains Bridge, the most important and expensive bridge on our road, and still collecting in greater numbers, and threatening to take and burn the bridge and take possession of the [rail]road. If these two bridges are burned our road stops. The demonstrations are such in East Tennessee that a much larger force is necessary. They are cutting the telegraph wires as fast as we put them up. JOHN R. BRANNER, President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.
13 NOVEMBER 1861: Troops moving to crush the traitors JOHN R. BRANNER, President R. R. Co., 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.
13 NOVEMBER 1861: A force of Unionists some 1,000 strong BRISTOL, TENN., November 13, 1861. Gen. A. S. JOHNSTON, C. S. Army, Bowling Green, Ky. SIR: Agreeable to instructions from the Adjutant-Gen.’s Office, I have the honor to report that I have been assigned by the War Department (Special Orders, No. 216) to the command of troops to be stationed for the protection of the railroad from this point to Chattanooga, rebuilding bridges, and keeping open the communication. Stovall’s battalion Georgia Volunteers is hourly expected from Richmond, and a regiment from Gen. Bragg’s command is ordered to report at Chattanooga as the force for this service. The country traversed by the [rail]road is represented as being in a very disturbed condition. Two bridges have been burned between this and Knoxville … The telegraph wire is down. It is currently reported that Andrew Johnson was expected at Greeneville, his place of residence, on Sunday, the 10th, and that his country friends assembled to greet him. They were disappointed. A force of Unionists, some 1,000 strong, is known to be assembled at Elizabethton, on the Watauga [River], about twenty-five miles from this place, and I propose to move against them at the earliest possible moment. Another force is known to be encamped at Strawberry Plains, well on toward Knoxville. Passengers continue to traverse the road, the only difficulty being detention from the destruction of bridges at the points named. Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant, D. LEADBETTER, Col., Provisional Army C. S.
14 NOVEMBER 1861: I have sent 4,500 rifles RICHMOND, November 14, 1861. Gen. L. P. WALKER, Huntsville, Ala.: I have sent to Gen. A. S. Johnston 4,500 rifles, being half of all that we have received. J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War.
14 NOVEMBER 1861: Disarm Union men and seize leaders BRIGADE HEADUQARTERS, Jacksborough, (Via Knoxville 15th.) General COOPER, Adjutant-General: I have ordered all posts and detachments to disarm Union men and seize leaders. Have made dispositions to cut off and crush tories of Rhea, Hamilton and Sevier [Counties]. Blockade here nearly complete. One regiment marches for Wartburg to-day. F. K. ZOLLICOFFER, Brigadier-General.
16 NOVEMBER 1861: W.B. Carter returns to Kentucky HDQRS. EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE, Camp Calvert Brig. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS, U. S. Army, Cmdg., &c., Crab Orchard, Ky. GEN.: My brother William has just arrived from East Tennessee and the news he brings I think of so much importance that I will dispatch a special messenger to convey it to you. My brother left Roane County near Kingston on Monday night last. He reports that on Friday night, 8th instant, of last week he succeeded in having burned at least six and perhaps eight bridges on the railroad, viz.,: Union bridge in Sullivan County, near the Virginia line; Lick Creek bridge in Greene County; Strawberry Plains in Jefferson County, fifteen miles east of Knoxville, partially destroyed; … The consternation among the secessionists of East Tennessee is very great. The Union men are waiting with longing and anxiety for the appearance of Federal forces on the Cumberland Mountains and are all ready to rise up in defense of the Federal Government. … Gen., if it be possible do urge the commanding general to give us some additional force and let us advance into East Tennessee; now is the time, and such a people as are those who live in East Tennessee deserve and should be relieved and protected. You know the importance of this move and will I hope use all your influence to effect it. Our men will go forward with a shout to relieve their native land. The brigade commissary has not yet handed in his report of the amount of provisions on hand; but I think we have already nearly if not quite a month’s supply on hand. With much respect, I am, dear general, yours, very truly, S. P. CARTER, Acting Brig.-Gen., Cmdg. East Tennessee Brigade.
MINI BIO: Samuel Powhatan Carter USA Samuel Carter was a member of the prestigious Carter family of Carter County, Northeast Tennessee, and brother of W.B. Carter and James P.T. Carter. On 10 October 1861, Lieutenant Samuel P. Carter, U. S. Navy, was assigned as acting brigadier general to the 1st and 2nd East Tennessee Regiments. He was ordered to enlist Unionists for the Union Army within his native Northeast Tennessee. The Confederates had occupied the region in July 1861, so Carter raised a brigade of infantry at Camp Dick Robinson, Kentucky, from among the hundreds of his neighbors who were fleeing to Kentucky. When corresponding with Unionists who remained behind Confederate lines, he adopted the code name Powhatan. On 6 December 1861, Carter’s Brigade was designated as the 12th Brigade of General George H. Thomas’ 1st Division. The brigade served at London, Kentucky, in front of Cumberland Gap, and along the Kentucky-Tennessee border. In April 1862, the regiment was assigned to Brigadier General S. P. Carter’s 24th Brigade of General George W. Morgan’s 7th Division of the Army of the Ohio. CARTER’S RAID The New York Times described Carter’s Raid: It appears that Gen. CARTER, with a thousand cavalrymen, left … Richmond, Ky., on the 21st of December; that he marched through Southeastern Kentucky and through the southwest corner of Virginia into East Tennessee, and fell upon the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad where it crosses the Holston River [Zollicoffer] … and burned the wooden trestle … bridge there, and also that over the Watauga River [Carter’s Depot]; that he fought two brisk skirmishes, and killed, wounded and captured over 500 rebels, beside capturing 700 stand of arms and a large amount of rebel stores; and that, after thus doing his work, and chastising the rebels, he returned to Kentucky [on 2 January 1863] with a loss of but ten men. The distance traversed by these bold riders, from the point of starting in Kentucky to the point of action in Tennessee, was over two hundred miles, through a mountainous country, affording few passable roads and only the most scanty supplies. Plans to follow the raid with an invasion and occupation of East Tennessee were canceled when S.P. Carter reported the route impracticable for a large force. In July 1863, Carter was placed in command of the XXIII Corps cavalry division and continued campaigning across Tennessee throughout the year. FINALLY, AN INVASION On August 6, 1863, in a reorganization of the XXIII Corps, the 1st and 2nd Tennessee Regiments were separated, and the 1st Tennessee placed in the 1st Brigade of Brigadier General S. P. Carter’s 4th Division (Cavalry). The regiment, now described as the 1st East Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Infantry, was ordered to concentrate at Stanford, Kentucky. On 3 September 1863, the Union finally invaded East Tennessee with a large force commanded by General Ambrose Burnside. Carter’s brigade participated in Burnside’s East Tennessee Campaign during the balance of the year. While Carter was serving in the Union Army, the U.S. Navy promoted him to lieutenant commander in 1863, then to commander in 1865. “1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment,” Tennessee & the Civil War, accessed 28 July 2021, tngenweb.org/civilwar/1st-tennessee-volunteer-infantry-regiment/ “Carter’s Raid and its Results,” The New York Times, 8 January 1863, accessed 29 July 2021, nytimes.com/1863/01/08/archives/carters-raid-and-its-results.html
General Samuel Powhatan Carter USA Commander of the East Tennessee Brigade Camp Calvert, Laurel County, Kentucky Library of Congress loc.gov/item/2016652118/
17 NOVEMBER 1861: Affairs are not so bad as reported BRIGADE HEADQUARTERS, Chattanooga, Tenn. SIR: In obedience to orders two regiments moved to this point. Affairs are not so bad as reported. Suppose that Col. S. A. M. Wood has reported to the War Department a full account of his expedition against Clift and the breaking up of his camp. Five prisoners taken with arms. To-night I send a reconnoitering force to North Chickamauga Creek where the citizens are mostly disloyal and a good many in open rebellion. As soon as sufficient information can be obtained a larger force will be sent to capture Clift and his troops. So soon as they return I will move to join Gen. Zollicoffer at Jacksborough. I inclose you a copy of oath and bond I have taken from Union prisoners taken before my arrival. Very respectfully, W. H. CARROLL, Brig.-Gen.
OATH We,___and___, acknowledge ourselves indebted to the Confederate States of America jointly and severally in the sum of $10,000, but to be void if—shall faithfully and honestly support the Constitution and laws of the Confederate States of America and if he shall faithfully and honestly render true allegiance to said Confederate States in all things; and if he shall not directly or indirectly by writing, talking or otherwise seditiously or rebelliously attempt to excite prejudice in the mind of any person or persons against the existence, perpetuity or prosperity of said Confederate States; and if he shall not in any manner directly or indirectly aid, assist, encourage or advise the United States or any officer, agent or adherent thereof in the present war against the Confederate States. Witness our hands and seals this___November, 1861.
BOND I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and honestly support the Constitution and laws of the Confederate States of America and I will faithfully and honestly render true allegiance to said Confederate States in all things and in every particular; and I further swear that I will not directly or indirectly by talking, writing or otherwise seditiously or rebelliously attempt to excite prejudice in the mind of any person or persons against the existence, perpetuity or prosperity of said Confederate States; nor will I in any manner directly or indirectly aid, assist, encourage or advise the United States or any officer, agent or adherent thereof in the present war against the Confederate States. Witness our hands and seals this___November, 1861.
19 NOVEMBER 1861: Leadbetter asks Benjamin what to do with prisoners he took at Doe River Cove JOHNSON STATION (Via Jonesborough.) Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN: Yesterday we dispersed the insurgents, 300 strong, at Doe River [Daniel Stover and his men]. Took thirty prisoners in the neighborhood; none very prominent. What shall be done with them? Are those not known as criminals to be released on their oath of allegiance? Those known to have been insurgents I recommend be sent to Richmond and kept there. Please telegraph to Jonesborough, Tenn. D. LEADBETTER.
20 NOVEMBER 1861: A high degree of Confederate anxiety This letter from Madison T. Peoples from Union County, Northeast Tennessee, indicates a high degree of anxiety in regard to the Unionist rebellion. OKOLONA, TENN., November 20, 1861. Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va. SIR: In my judgment there is not a Union man in Carter County who was not involved to some extent in the rebellion. Many of them were drawn into it by wicked leaders and some have heartily repented but many others will seek the first favorable opportunity to repeat the experiment. Under these circumstances what can be done to hold them in check in the future? If a northern army invades the State at any future day a majority of our population will undoubtedly tear up the railroad, burn the bridges and destroy the lives and property of Southern men. If the military commander at this point could have a discretionary power which would enable him to inquire into the character of the rebels and give certain ones the option to join the Confederate service during the war or be sent on for trial for treason I have no doubt the ends of justice would be attained and much annoyance to the Government avoided. This perhaps would be rather a highhanded movement, but the disease is a desperate one and requires severe and energetic treatment. Every Union man in the county either took up arms or was fully advised of the intention of his party to do so, so they are all principals or accessories before the fact. If they are all prosecuted every citizen of East Tennessee must be arraigned before the court or brought up as witnesses. Nearly every rebel in my county could be convicted if all the Southern-rights citizens were brought up as witnesses; but this perhaps would look too much like political prosecutions. Martial law ought to be enforced in every county in East Tennessee to hold these bad men in proper restraint but our President is very averse to such a policy. But be assured if the Northern despotism succeeds in throwing a strong military force in here we shall have much worse than martial law. Even now our most quiet and law-abiding citizens have been shot down in cold blood from behind coverts by the tories and the proof can be made that Unionists have been tampering with the slaves. The mass of the Union party religiously believed that a Northern army of at least 100,000 men was in East Tennessee before they began this rebellious demonstration. The Southern men have all been disarmed and the tories have apparently disbanded in most of the counties but really gone home to await the approach of an invading army. If we are invaded, every Southern man will be taken a prisoner or else murdered in the night time. Our very existence depends on Mr. Lincoln’s ability to invade the state. Asking your pardon for my boldness and the hasty manner of writing this letter, I am, very respectfully, MADISON T. PEOPLES.
20 NOVEMBER 1861: Recruits are arriving almost every day CAMP CALVERT, EAST TENN. BRIGADE General GEORGE H. THOMAS, Commanding, Crab Orchard. GENERAL: Recruits are arriving almost every day from East Tennessee. We have no arms to put into their hands. The Union men coming to us represent the people in East Tennessee as waiting with the utmost anxiety the arrival of the Federal forces. They are all ready to join them and do their part toward the deliverance of their native land. Union camps are already forming in some of the counties and unless help soon reaches them as they have but little ammunition they will be scattered or destroyed. With the hope of soon seeing you here, respectfully, your obedient servant, S. P. CARTER, Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding.
20 NOVEMBER 1861: I respectfully request that instructions be forwarded HEADQUARTERS, Knoxville, Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War. SIR: The rebellion in East Tennessee has been put down in some of the counties and will be effectually suppressed in less than two weeks in all the counties. Their camps in Sevier and Hamilton Counties have been broken up and a large number of them made prisoners. Some are confined in jail at this place and others sent to Nashville. In a former communication I inquired of the Department what I should do with them. It is a mere farce to arrest them and turn them over to the courts. Instead of having the effect to intimidate it really gives encouragement and emboldens them in their traitorous conduct. We have now in custody some of their leaders—Judge [David T. ] Patterson, the son-in-law of Andrew Johnson; Col. [Samuel] Pickens, the senator in the legislature from Sevier and other counties, and several members of the legislature, besides others of influence and some distinction in their counties. These men have encouraged this rebellion but have so managed as not to be found in arms. Nevertheless all their actions and words have been unfriendly to the Government of the Confederate States. The influence of their wealth, position and connections has been exerted in favor of the Lincoln Government and they are the parties most to blame for the troubles in East Tennessee. They really deserve the gallows and if consistent with the laws ought speedily to receive their deserts; but there is such a gentle spirit of conciliation in the South and especially here that I have no idea that one of them will receive such a sentence at the hands of any jury impaneled to try them. I have been here at this station for three months, half the time in command of the post, and I have had a good opportunity of learning the feeling pervading this country. It is hostile to the Confederate Government. They will take the oath of allegiance with no intention to observe it. They are the followers and slaves of Johnson and Maynard and never intend to be otherwise. When arrested they suddenly become very submissive and declare they are for peace and not supporters of the Lincoln Government but yet they claim to be Union men. At one time whilst our forces were at Knoxville they gave it out that great changes were taking place in East Tennessee and the people were becoming reconciled and loyal. At the withdrawal of the army from here to the Gap and the first intimation that the Lincoln army was like to penetrate the State they were in arms, and scarcely a man with only a few honorable exceptions but what was ready to join them and make war upon us. The prisoners we have tell us that they had every assurance that the army was already in the State and would join them in a very few days; that the property of Southern men was to be confiscated and divided amongst those who would take up arms for Lincoln. I have to request at least that the prisoners I have taken be held if not as traitors as prisoners of war. To release them is ruinous; to convict them before a court at this time next to an impossibility; but if they are kept in prison for six months it will have a good effect. The bridge-burners and spies ought to be tried at once and I respectfully request that instructions be forwarded at as early a day as practicable as it needs prompt action to dispose of these cases. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, W. B. WOOD, Col., Cmdg. Post.
20 NOVEMBER 1861: I sent a few men to arrest Andrew Johnson’s sons and son-in-law BRIGADE HEADQUARTERS, Wartburg, One Mile from Montgomery, November 20, 1861. Lieutenant- Colonel MACKALL, Assistant Adjutant-General, Bowling Green, Ky. SIR: I sent a few men up to Greeneville to arrest [U.S. Senator] Andrew Johnson’s sons and son-in-law. Have no late news from Carter and Johnson Counies. By this time I presume General Carroll is at Knoxville in command and instructed to make proper dispositions to guard the railroads and crush the tory combinations. The recent burning of the bridges brought a crisis which I think demonstrates that but comparatively a small proportion of the population will now give countenance to hostile acts against the Confederate Government and that those who are still hostile are only running upon their own destruction. They should now be dealt very severely with. Leniency and forbearance have gradually won a many thousands over wh would have been driven to the enemy had our policy been severe two month ago but those that are yet hostile can only be cured of their folly by severity. They should be made to feel in their persons and their property that their hostile attitude promises to them nothing but destruction. Very respectfully, F. K. ZOLLICOFFER, Brigadier-General.
21 NOVEMBER 1861: … to drive the rebels from their country HEADQUARTERS EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE, Camp Calvert, near London, Ky., November 21, 1861. Honorable HORACE MAYNARD. DEAR SIR: The copy of Evening Star received this evening assures me you have not forgotten me. Our men are most anxious to return to East Tennessee, not so much to see their families as to drive the rebels from their country. We are all inclined to think that help will be deferred until it is too late to save our people. This ought not to be so. Two or three batteries and 10,000 men provided even with powder and lead for the people could save East Tennessee at this time. Will help never come? Can you not get those in power to give us a few more men and permission to make at least an effort to save our people? do try. They are even now in arms and must be crushed unless assistance soon reaches them. With respect, yours, truly. S. P. CARTER.
MINI BIO: Horace Maynard Horace Maynard (1814–1882) was an American attorney, politician, and ardent Union supporter in the Civil War era. He was elected to the House of Representatives from Tennessee on 4 March 1857. He spent much of his first two terms in Congress fighting to preserve the Union. Along with fellow Unionists Andrew Johnson, T. A. R. Nelson, and William G. Brownlow, Maynard worked feverishly to keep Tennessee in the Union during the secession crisis of 1860 and 1861. In the weeks leading up to the state’s referendum on secession on 8 June 1861, Maynard travelled across East Tennessee and made dozens of pro-Union speeches. After Tennessee seceded from the Union, Maynard headed for Washington, D.C. to take his seat in the U.S. Congress. When Confederate forces occupied East Tennessee on 26 July 1861, Maynard pleaded with President Abraham Lincoln to send troops to free the region, warning that East Tennesseans’ “tears and blood will be a blot on your administration that time can never efface.” With the help of Senator Andrew Johnson, Congressman Maynard kept the pressure on President Lincoln to rescue the Unionists, but it was more than two years before Union troops entered Knoxville. Congressman Maynard won a third term in 1861 on the Unionist Party ticket, becoming one of the few Southern congressmen to maintain his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives during the Civil War. In December 1861, he blasted Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas for balking at an invasion of East Tennessee after Unionists burned railroad bridges there, calling his efforts ‘disgraceful.’ Maynard was obviously unaware that General Sherman had called off the invasion and ordered Thomas to return to camp. In 1863 Andrew Johnson, military governor of Tennessee, appointed Horace Maynard attorney general of the state. Like many other Unionists, Horace Maynard’s property had been confiscated by the Confederates, and he was unable to return to his home in Knoxville after the war. However, he was again elected to Congress and represented Tennessee’s Second District until 1875.
Tennessee Congressman Horace Maynard Public domain
24 NOVEMBER 1861: We have arrivals every day from East Tennessee HEADQUARTERS EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE, Camp Calvert, November 24, 1861. Brigadier General GEORGE H. THOMAS, Commanding, Danville, Ky. GENERAL: We have arrivals every day from East Tennessee. The condition of affairs there is sad beyond description and if the loyal people who love and cling to the Government are not soon relieved they will be lost. Respectfully, your obedient servant, S. P. CARTER, Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Instructions relative to the fate of East Tennessee Unionist prisoners WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A., Richmond Col. W. B. WOOD, Knoxville, Tenn. First. All such as can be identified as having been engaged in bridge-burning are to be tried summarily by drum-head court-martial and if found guilty executed on the spot by hanging. It would be well to leave their bodies hanging in the vicinity of the burned bridges. Second. All such as have not been so engaged are to be treated as prisoners of war and sent with an armed guard to Tuscaloosa, Ala., there to be kept imprisoned at the depot selected by the Government for prisoners of war. Wherever you can discover that arms are concealed by these traitors you will send out detachments, search for and seize the arms. In no case is one of the men known to have been up in arms against the Government to be released on any pledge or oath of allegiance. The time for such measures is past. They are all to be held as prisoners of war and held in jail till the end of the war. Such as come in voluntarily, take the oath of allegiance and surrender their arms are alone to be treated with leniency. Your vigilant execution of these orders is earnestly urged by the Government. Your obedient servant, J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War. P.S. Judge [David T.] Patterson, Colonel [SAMUEL] Pickens and other ringleaders of the same class must be sent at once to Tuscaloosa to jail as prisoners of war. NOTE A drumhead court-martial is held in the field to hear urgent charges of offenses committed in action. The term comes from previous times of war when the regimental drum was used as a writing surface.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Those who voluntarily surrender themselves and their arms Captain DAVID McCLELLAN, Elizabethton, Tenn. DEAR SIR: On the first page I had you copy an order from the War Department and call your especial attention to it. You will send all prisoners under the first and second clause [Benjamin’s letter above], except such as surrender voluntarily themselves and arms to me to be sent to headquarters at Greeneville with the necessary witnesses to establish the charges against them. Those who voluntarily surrender themselves and their arms and have had no complicity with bridge-burning nor have been in arms you will please follow the order from the War Department. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, A. J. WHITE, Captain.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: A general court-martial is hereby appointed HEADQUARTERS, Knoxville A general court-martial is hereby appointed to meet at Knoxville on the 28th of November or as soon thereafter as practicable for the trial of such prisoners as may be brought before it.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Trial by court-martial KNOXVILLE, TENN., November 25, 1861. Hon J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War: The military authorities in command at this post have determined to try the bridge-burners and other men charged with treason by a court-martial. What shall I do? Answer. J. C. RAMSEY, CSA District Attorney.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Benjamin hopes they hang every bridge-burner RICHMOND, November 25, 1861. J. C. RAMSEY, District Attorney, Knoxville: I am very glad to hear of the action of the military authorities, and hope to hear they have hanged every bridge-burner at the end of the burned bridge. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Re-establish the Government of the Union HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, ADJT. GENERAL’S OFFICE, Washington, D. C., November 25, 1861. Brigadier General D. C. BUELL, Commanding Department of the Ohio. GENERAL: I am still convinced that political and strategical considerations render a prompt movement in force on East Tennessee imperative. The object to be gained is to cut the communication between the Mississippi Valley and Eastern Virginia; to protect our Union friends in Tennessee and re-establish the Government of the Union in the eastern portion of that State. Of course Louisville must be defended but I think you will be able to do that while you move into Eastern Tennessee. If there are causes which render this course impossible we must submit to the necessity but I still feel sure that a movement on Knoxville is absolutely necessary if it is possible to effect it. Please write to me very fully. Very truly yours, GEO. B. McCLELLAN, Major-General.
25 NOVEMBER 1861: Many of them have been lying out in the woods HEADQUARTERS EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE, Camp Calvert, November 25, 1861. Brigadier General GEORGE H. THOMAS, U. S. Army, Commanding, Danville, Ky. GENERAL: The rebel force at Cumberland Gap is from the best information I can obtain so small that I think we will meet with but little opposition in case it is determined to advance by that pass. Our desires are to get to East Tennessee as soon as possible in order that our loyal friends there may be relieved. Many of them have been lying out in the woods to escape their enemies but as the season advances they will be driven to their houses and be forced into the rebel ranks or carried to prison. Let us up and help them now when it will require so little to accomplish this desirable and necessary end. I am, general, respectfully and truly, yours, S. P. CARTER, Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding.
27 NOVEMBER 1861: Fulfill the commitment made to the bridge burners Brigadier General D. C. BUELL. GENERAL: What is the reason for concentration of troops at Louisville? I urge movement at once on East Tennessee unless it is impossible. No letter from you for several days. Reply. I still trust to your judgment though urging my own views. GEO. B. McCLELLAN, Major-General, Commanding.
MINI BIO: General Don Carlos Buell USA West Point graduate General Don Carlos Buell succeeded General William Tecumseh Sherman at Louisville, Kentucky, as the commander of the Army of the Ohio on 15 November 1861. Although the Lincoln administration immediately began pressuring him to occupy East Tennessee, Buell dragged his feet. His excuse was that the bridges of the ET&VA railroad were still being rebuilt, and he would have to rely on wagons for supplies that would surely be attacked by Confederate cavalry. Buell led Union armies in two great Civil War battles—Shiloh and Perryville—and did not perform particularly well at either. The military and the Union citizenry greatly criticized him for his failure to pursue and defeat a much smaller Confederate force after the Battle of Perryville [8 October 1862]. His failure to invade and stabilize East Tennessee did not win him any laurels, either. Prior to leaving Louisville on 1 October 1862, Buell had received orders from Washington relieving him of command, to be replaced by General George H. Thomas, his second in command. However, Thomas refused to accept the position while the army was in the middle of a campaign, and Buell remained in charge. After the battle ended, President Lincoln urged an immediate pursuit of the Confederates. Buell told him that the route south of Perryville would entail traveling through East Tennessee where the rough, wooded country with few roads would be too difficult to maneuver through. Again refusing the President’s direct request to enter East Tennessee. On 24 October 1862, Buell was relieved from command of the Army of the Ohio and replaced by Maj. Gen William Rosecrans. A military committee investigated Buell’s conduct during and after Perryville, but came to no conclusions, and Buell considered his reputation vindicated. He was ordered to Indianapolis to await future assignments, but none came. When General Ulysses S. Grant was appointed general-in-chief of the army in March 1864, he offered Buell a possible assignment but Buell refused to serve under either Sherman or George H. Thomas because he outranked both of them.
28 NOVEMBER 1861: At present they seem indisposed to fight … HDQRS., Greeneville, East Tenn., November 28, 1861. Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen., Richmond. SIR: I think that we have effected something—have done some good; but whenever a foreign force enters this country be it soon or late three-fourths of this people will rise in arms to join them. At present they seem indisposed to fight and the great difficulty is to reach them. Scattering in the mountain paths they can scarcely be caught; and as their arms are hidden when not in use, it is almost impossible to disarm the Cavalry, though a bad force for fighting them in case they would fight is yet the only force which can reach them. It is adequate too to disperse and capture them in their present state of morale. I am confident that a mounted regiment with two very light guns would do more to quiet this tier of counties than five times the number on foot. Twenty-two prisoners have been sent to Nashville from Carter County and we have now in confinement some five or six known to have been in arms and who will be sent to Tuscaloosa under the order of the War Department dated the 25th instant. Very respectfully, general, your obedient servant, D. LEADBETTER, Col., Provisional Army, C. S., Cmdg.
29 NOVEMBER 1861: Those who do not support the Government should remove from its limits GEN. ORDERS, No. 4. HDQRS., Knoxville. The Government of the Confederate States has not nor will it interfere with individuals on account of their political opinions. The President of the Confederate States issued a proclamation, stating that all those who did not fully recognize their allegiance to the Government should dispose of or remove from its limits, with their effects, before October 1861. Those persons who remained tacitly recognized the Government and are amenable to the laws. The commanding general at this post will endeavor to fully carry out the policy of the Government. While he will afford ample protection to all citizens who peaceably pursue their ordinary occupations, he will order the arrest of all who may take up arms against the Government or who in any manner may aid or abet its enemies or incite rebellion, in order that they may be tried by military law. By order of Brig. Gen. W. H. Carroll, commanding post
The danger of punishment by Confederate authorities lasted for nearly two years.
29 NOVEMBER 1861: Keep up the hearts of the Tennesseans WASHINGTON, Monday night. Brigadier General D. C. BUELL, Louisville. MY DEAR BUELL: Keep up the hearts of the Tennesseans. Make them feel that far from any intention of deserting them all will be done to sustain them. Be sure to maintain their ardor for it will avail you much in the future. I am not as a general rule at all disposed to scatter troops. I believe in attacks by concentrated masses but it seems to me with the little local knowledge I possess that you might attempt two movements—one on Eastern Tennessee say with 15,000 men, and a strong attack on Nashville as you propose with say 50,000 men. I think we owe it to our Union friends in Eastern Tennessee to protect them at all hazards. First secure that; then if you possess the means carry Nashville. In haste, truly, yours, GEO. B. McCLELLAN, Major-General.
29 NOVEMBER 1861: I permitted to take the oath of allegiance HEADQUARTERS, Knoxville, November 29, 1861. Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond. SIR: I am just in receipt of yours of 25th. Your instructions shall be strictly obeyed. I have not heretofore released any against whom there was proof that they had been engaged in any rebellious movements. It was only those who were arrested upon mere suspicion that I permitted to take the oath of allegiance. I telegraphed you to-day that Judge Humphreys had issued writs of habeas corpus in the cases of several prisoners who are beyond doubt guilty of burning the railroad bridges predicated as I understand upon the affidavits of Baxter and other lawyers. Your instructions are fully understood and I shall not allow any interference in their execution. I have the honor to be, your obedient servant, WM. H. CARROLL, Brigadier-General.
29 NOVEMBER 1861: Arrest all who may take up arms against the Government GENERAL ORDERS, HEADQUARTERS, Number 4 Knoxville, November 29, 1861. The Government of the Confederate States has not nor will it interfere with individuals on account of their political opinions. The President of the Confederate States issued a proclamation stating that all those who did not fully recognize their allegiance to the Government should dispose of or remove from its limits with their effects before October 1861. Those persons who remained tacitly recognized the Government and are amenable to the laws. The commanding general at this post will endeavor to fully carry out the policy of the Government. While he will afford ample protection to all citizens who peaceably pursue their ordinary occupations, he will order the arrest of all who may take up arms against the Government or who in any manner may aid or abet its enemies or incite rebellion in order that they may be tried by military law. By order of Brig. General W. H. Carroll, commanding post G. H. MONSARRAT, Acting Assistant Adjutant- General.
29 NOVEMBER 1861: Tories recently captured with arms in their hands against the Government KNOXVILLE, November 29, 1861. Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War: General W. H. Carroll, commanding this post, has ordered a general court-martial for the trial by the military authorities of persons charged with burning the bridges in East Tennessee and of the tories who have been recently captured with arms in their hands against the Government. The question as to the jurisdiction of courts-martial in such cases has been raised in the court and it is insisted that the civil authorities have some jurisdiction of the persons in such offenses. Please instruct what course to pursue. A court martial will be much more effective in ferreting out the offenders. Please answer at as early a moment as possible as it is very desirable to put these matters through rapidly. Writs of habeas corpus have been and will be issued. R. F. LOONEY, Colonel and President of Court.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: Let not one of these treacherous murderers escape. RICHMOND, November 30, 1861. Colonel R. F. LOONEY, Knoxville: Courts of justice have no power to take prisoners of war out of the hands of the military nor to interfere with the disposal of such prisoners by the military. An answer to a writ of habeas corpus that the prisoner was captured in arms against the Government and is held as a prisoner of war is a good and complete answer to the writ. Send this dispatch to General Carroll and let him send at once all the prisoners to jail at Tuscaloosa as prisoners of war except those found guilty of bridge burning and murdering the guards placed at the bridges. Let not one of these treacherous murderers escape. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: The importance of dealing justly and generously with the Union element EXCHANGE HOTEL, Richmond, Va. Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va. MY DEAR SIR: The object of the interview which I sought on yesterday and which was so readily accorded to me by the President [Jefferson Davis] and yourself in reference to affairs in East Tennessee was to impress your minds with the importance of dealing justly and generously with the Union element of that section as the best means of securing their affections and loyalty to this [Confederate] Government. The causes which have induced such obstinate adhesion to the Federal Government on the part of so many were frankly stated in our conversation. Until they are made to feel that they will be recognized as citizens entitled to the same consideration and protection vouchsafed to those entertaining opposite views they will not yield a willing allegiance or active and efficient support to the Confederate Government. Whilst the Government therefore with a steady purpose inflicts just punishment on actual offenders by due course of law it is essential that the Union men should be made to feel that they in common with the adherents of this Government are the object of solicitude on the part of this Government and that they will be protected against arrests for opinion merely and against lawless exactions and unauthorized impressment of their private property by the soldiery stationed among them. This can be most successfully done by placing the civil and military power of that department in the hands of discreet men with enlarged, liberal and just views who are capable of rising above the influence and demands of local combinations and cliques, with instructions to proceed at once and discharge such prisoners as are now held without sufficient cause (for in my opinion there are quite a number of this character) and to redress the wrongs of citizens whose property has been seized or improperly taken from them by the soldiery. This policy will tend to repress violence and conciliate favor. By degrees their strong and deeply-seated hostility to this Government can be overcome. Followed by proper efforts they can be induced to volunteer for active service and so strongly committed and identified with the South as to render them useful and effective in achieving our independence and preventing the possibility of civil war in the event a Federal force should be able to force its way into East Tennessee. If there is no good reason of public policy to the contrary I would be pleased to carry back a passport for Brownlow to leave the country as well as a copy of the instructions under which the military and civil authorities are required to act, because it is believed that if the spirit of the Government as manifested by its executive officer was better understood by the people of East Tennessee it would exert a salutary influence and remove some of the apprehensions which are now driving them to desperation and to violence. It is my purpose to leave in the morning and with your permission I will call at 2 o’clock to learn your pleasure in the premises. Respectfully, JNO. [JOHN] BAXTER. NOTE John Baxter is an attorney in Knoxville and a delegate to the East Tennessee Convention. He takes the Oath of Allegiance to the Confederacy in order to provide legal defense for Unionists who have been charged in Confederate courts. The letter above shows his loyalty to the Confederacy. Baxter defended several members of the bridge-burning conspiracy. By mid-1862, he once again supports the Union.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: Confederate Proclamation to the people of East Tennessee PROCLAMATION. HDQRS., Greeneville, East Tenn. TO THE CITIZENS OF EAST TENNESSEE: So long as the question of Union or disunion was debatable so long as you did well to debate it and vote on it, you had a clear right to vote for the Union but when secession was established by the voice of the people you did ill to distract the country by angry words and insurrectionary tumult. In doing this you commit the highest crime known to the laws. Out of the Southern Confederacy no people possess such elements of prosperity and happiness as those of East Tennessee. The Southern market which you have hitherto enjoyed only in competition with a host of eager Northern rivals will now be shared with a few States of the Confederacy equally fortunate politically and geographically. Every product of your agriculture and workshops will now find a prompt sale at high prices and so long as cotton grows on Confederate soil so long will the money which it brings flow from the South through all your channels of trade. At this moment you might be at war with the United States or any foreign nation and yet not suffer a tenth part of the evils which pursue you in this domestic strife. No man’s life or property is safe, no woman or child can sleep in quiet. You are deluded by selfish demagogues who take care for their own personal safety. You are citizens of Tennessee and your State one of the Confederate States. So long as you are up in arms against these States can you look for anything but the invasion of your homes and the wasting of your substance. This condition of things must be ended. The Government commands the peace and sends troops to enforce the order. I proclaim that every man who comes in promptly and delivers up his arms will be pardoned on taking the oath of allegiance. All men taken in arms against the Government will be transported to the military prison at Tuscaloosa and be confined there during the war. Bridge-burners and destroyers of railroad tracks are excepted from among those pardonable. D. LEADBETTER, Col., Cmdg.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: East Tennessee men take the oath Twenty-one of the prisoners lately brought here—Nashville—from East Tennessee, yesterday appeared in the Confederate Court, acknowledged the error of their ways, took the oath of loyalty to the Southern Confederacy, and attached themselves to a company being raised in Nashville. ~ Nashville Daily Gazette
<EXECUTIONS OF NORTHEAST TENNESSEE BRIDGE BURNERS> 30 NOVEMBER 1861: Executed the same day by hanging [Written 8 December 1861] HDQRS., Greenville, Tenn. Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen. SIR: At the date of my last letter [30 NOVEMBER 1861] a part of the force under my command was engaged in the pursuit of a party of insurgents moving from their camp, in the northern part of Greene, towards Cocke County. As usual, their force was dispersed and only some stragglers could be picked up. Among these prisoners were three who had been of the party that burned the Lick Creek Bridge. They were Henry Fry, Jacob M. Hinshaw, and Hugh A. Self. All confessed their own and testified to the others’ guilt, and also gave, as correctly as they could remember, the names of the whole party engaged in that crime. Fry and Hinshaw were tried by drumhead court-martial on the 30th ultimo and executed the same day by hanging. I have thought it my duty to ask of the Department that the punishment of Hugh A. Self be commuted to imprisonment. He is only sixteen years old, not very intelligent, and was led away on that occasion by his father and elder brother, both of whom I learn have now been captured by Gen. Carroll’s troops. … At the farm houses along the more open valleys no men were to be seen, and it is believed that nearly the whole male population of the country were lurking in the hills on account of disaffection of fear. The women in some cases were greatly alarmed, throwing themselves on the ground and wailing like savages. Indeed, the population is savage. … The whole country is given to understand that this course will be pursued until quiet shall be restored to these distracted counties, and they can rely upon it that no prisoner will be pardoned so long as any Union men shall remain in arms. … It is believed that we are making progress towards pacification. The Union men are taking the oath in pretty large numbers and arms are beginning to be brought in. Capt. McClellan, of the Tennessee cavalry, stationed by me at Elizabethton, reports that Carter County is becoming very quiet, and that, with the aid of a company of infantry, he will enter Johnson County and disarm the people there. I shall send the company without delay. The execution of the bridge burners is producing the happiest effect. This, coupled with great kindness towards the inhabitants generally, inclines them to quietude. Insurgents will continue for yet a while in the mountains, but I trust that we have secured the outward obedience of the people. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, D. LEADBETTER, Col., Cmdg.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: Hanging of Fry and Hinshaw Henry Fry and Jacob Madison Hinshaw are hanged from a tree near the railroad station at Greeneville on 30 November 1861 for the role they played in the burning of the Lick Creek Bridge. Fry’s 17-year-old son watches the execution. According to family lore, Henry Fry was told at the hanging that he would be spared if he would pledge allegiance to the Confederacy. His last words are said to have been: “When there ceases to be fleas in a hog pen and rebels in hell is when I will pledge allegiance to the Confederacy.” NOTE Henry Fry left his wife and five children, and Jacob Madison Hinshaw left a wife and a young son less than two years old.
30 NOVEMBER 1861: Henry Fry and Jacob Madison Hinshaw A correspondent of the Richmond Examiner writes from Greeneville, Tenn., the particulars of the hanging of two of the bridge-burners of East Tennessee by the Confederates: The two culprits were not aware of their doom until a few moments before the hour, (4 o’clock p.m.) and, short as the time was, they busied themselves in speaking, on oath, their full confession of guilt before the court-martial. FRY confessed that he poured the turpentine on the bridge, and afterwards set fire to this combustible material; carried the sentinel off some half mile, and made him swear never to reveal the names of the offenders. They came in sight of the gallows—a temporary affair erected on the hill-side, in full view of the town—and a large oak limb was substituted as the cross-beam for this novel engine of death, and a shudder passed over them which was perceptible to all. They then knew that in a few moments they must die the death of a felon. The whole battalion under arms was drawn up around the ground, and the ropes were adjusted by Corporal MCVAY, of our company. The caps were drawn over their pale faces, the ladder was taken from the tree; the stillness of death pervaded the whole throng; the minute-hand was within a few seconds of 4 o’clock; the watch still went tick, tick; their knees shook visibly; the whole frame was ready to give way to nature’s spirit. Hark, it is 4 o’clock! The trigger is touched, and lo! dangling at the rope’s end, between heaven and earth, are seen two strangling human beings! The struggles of one were short; the other seemed a little loath to give up the spirit from his tenement of clay, but in a few short moments they were both dead.
Fry and Hinshaw were hanged near the Greeneville Railroad Depot, seen here. Dave Ross Photography
<DECEMBER 1861> 2 DECEMBER 1861: Crittenden arrives at Knoxville to command in East Tennessee
MINI BIO: George B. Crittenden George Crittenden’s father was a U.S. Senator from Kentucky. George attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1832 in the middle of his class. His father and brother sided with the North, but George’s loyalty lay with the South. During the secession crisis of early 1861, George accepted a commission as colonel in the Confederate States Army. Confederate officials commissioned him as a brigadier general in the Provisional Confederate Army on August 15, 1861. Crittenden accepted a promotion to major general on 9 November 1861 when he replaced Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer as commander of the District of East Tennessee, headquartered in Knoxville. Maj. Gen. George Crittenden arrived at Knoxville on 2 December 1861 to take command of the Confederate forces in East Tennessee and Southern Kentucky. On 19 January 1862, USA Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas defeated Confederate forces under Crittenden and Zollicoffer at the Battle of Mill Springs, breaking the Confederate hold on eastern Kentucky. Zollicoffer was killed in action in that battle. Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee had Crittenden arrested on 1 April 1862 on charges of drunkenness; he was restored to command on 18 April 1862. General Braxton Bragg ordered a court of inquiry in July, and busted Crittenden down to the rank of colonel in October 1862. To his credit, Crittenden served the Confederacy in the Trans-Allegheny Department during the next two years.
2 DECEMBER 1861: President of ET&VA protests disruption of his railroad’s schedule MORRISTOWN, December 2, 1861. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War: I must inform you that in several instances the military authorities who are in command of troops and volunteers along the line of our [rail]road have taken possession of our road and trains and forced our engines and cars out of the face of regular schedules. This I will not submit to. I have been doing all any man can do to promote the interests of the Government and favor the speedy transportation of troops and army stores along our line. If this course is persisted in by the military authorities any more, I shall on my part stop all of our engines and cars immediately, and then if the Government wishes to take possession of our road and control it, I shall not object in any way whatever. I think it is my duty to inform you of the facts. If we are permitted to manage and control our road, I think I can do so better than any other parties. Please answer. JOHN R. BRANNER, President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.
3 DECEMBER 1861: I must still urge the occupation of East Tennessee WASHINGTON, December 3, 1861. Brigadier General D. C. BUELL, Louisville. MY DEAR BUELL: Please send then with the least possible delay troops enough to protect these men. I still feel sure that the best strategical move in this case will be that dictated by the simple feelings of humanity. We must preserve these noble fellows from harm; everything urges us to do that—faith, interest and loyalty. For the sake of these East Tennesseans who have taken part with us I would gladly sacrifice mere military advantages; they deserve our protection and at all hazards they must have it. I know that your nature is noble enough to forget any slurs they may cast upon you. Protect the true men and you have everything to look forward to. In no event allow them to be crushed out. You may fully rely on my full support in the movement I have so much at heart—the liberation of East Tennessee. Write to me often fully and confidentially. If you gain and retain possession of East Tennessee you will have won brighter laurels than any I hope to gain. With the utmost confidence and firmest friendship, I am, truly, yours, GEO. B. McCLELLAN, Major-General, Commanding U. S. Army.
4 DECEMBER 1861: Lick Creek bridge repair The Lick Creek bridge is so far repaired that it can be crossed by the cars to-morrow or Monday. The repairs have been made of a temporary trestle-work, which will answer every purpose. The upper Holston bridge is in progress of repair, but will not be ready for five or six weeks, we presume. ~ Richmond Dispatch.
Modern-day view of Lick Creek Bridge
4 DECEMBER 1861: Railroad officials threaten to cease railroad traffic in East Tennessee KNOXVILLE, EAST TENN., Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN Secretary of War, Richmond DEAR SIR: With great respect for you individually, and an earnest desire to serve the Confederate States to the extent of our ability with our lives and our property, we notify you that unless certain unbearable evils are at once corrected we shall cease to run any trains on the roads of which we are the presidents on and after the 15th instant. We are forced to this position from considerations entirely unavoidable on our part. The military, influenced by no more patriotism than ourselves, have for days past, and without the least necessity for so doing taken possession of the running of our trains, ordering them out in the face of incoming trains, thereby endangering the lives of all on board and hazarding the property of individuals and the company. Moreover, the Quartermaster-Gen. has assumed to dictate tariffs for Government freights at such ruinous rates as will in a short time break down every railroad company in the south. Without boring you with a detail of the multitude of good and sufficient reasons for the course we adopt, we will just say that while we are held responsible for the lives and property in our charge in the management of these roads, the movements of the trains and the control of the finances of the company are ordered by men incompetent, irresponsible, and reckless-maybe very good military men, but certainly very bad railroad managers. We are unwilling longer to assume such responsibilities or to sacrifice whatever reputation we may have by continuing identified with roads so controlled. For eight months now we have labored night and day (with the halter of the Lincolnites around our necks and our lives and property in jeopardy) as good, true, and loyal citizens for the Confederate States, and do not consider that we are any the less loyal now in placing these responsibilities in your hands. The burnt bridges are in a very forward state of rebuilding, and will give others you may send here to take our places but little trouble to complete. We also advise you to send here good engine runners and machinists. Our men cannot be kept here much longer in present condition of things, feeling that their lives are constantly in the hands of an inconsiderate and reckless soldiery. Respectfully yours, C. WALLACE, President East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad Company. JNO. [JOHN] R. BRANNER, President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Company.
4 DECEMBER 1861: Scott County Confederate prisoners-of-war CAMP CALVERT, KY., December 4, 1861. Brig. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS, Cmdg., &c., Lebanon, Ky. GEN.: We have some rebels in camp from Scott County, East Tenn. They were brought in yesterday by some Tennesseans and Kentuckians. They have been noted for the bitterness of their enmity to the union cause and the unrelenting manner in which they have persecuted loyal men. Four of them are said to be members of a rebel company of rangers one of whom is a sergeant. What shall be done with them? Respectfully, your obedient servant, S. P. CARTER, Acting Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
5 DECEMBER 1861: Tories have made a stand. KNOXVILLE, December 5, 1861. Hon. SECRETARY OF WAR: The following dispatch received this morning dated from Bird’s Point: Capt. Cocke just in with two bridge burners and other prisoners. Have no news from Col. Leadbetter. Col. Powel reports by special messenger that he has seen no gathering. Will hold his position. Will throw my forces over the river in the morning and report. Dispatch from Morristown says courier in from [Capt.] Monsarrat. Cannonading and musketry at 8 o’clock. Tories have made a stand. WM. H. Carroll, Brig.-Gen., C. S. Army.
7 DECEMBER 1861: Captured thirty ringleaders KNOXVILLE, December 7, 1861. Hon. SECRETARY OF WAR: Capt. Monsarrat has dispersed the Tories in Cocke County and captured thirty of the ringleaders. WM. H. Carroll, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
7 DECEMBER 1861: Our people are pursued as beasts of the forest WASHINGTON, December 7, 1861. General D. C. BUELL: We have just had interviews with the President and General McClellan and find they concur fully with us in respect to the East Tennessee expedition. Our people are oppressed and pursued as beasts of the forest. The Government must come to their relief. We are looking to you with anxious solicitude to move in that direction. ANDREW JOHNSON. HORACE MAYNARD.
8 DECEMBER 1861: Rescuing our loyal friends Honorable Mr. MAYNARD and Governor JOHNSON of Tennessee: I have received your dispatch. I assure you I recognize no more imperative duty and crave no higher honor than that of rescuing our loyal friends in Tennessee whose sufferings and heroism I think I can appreciate. I have seen Colonel Carter and hope he is satisfied of this. D. C. BUELL, Brigadier-General, Commanding. NOTE I hope you aren’t getting too sick of reading these messages to General Don Carlos Buell. I find it hard to believe the assurances he gave to his superiors and others—while he sat on his behind in Louisville.
8 DECEMBER 1861: I should be ashamed to look them in the face WASHINGTON, December 8, 1861. General GEORGE H. THOMAS. GENERAL: You are still farther from East Tennessee than when I left you nearly six weeks ago. There is shameful wrong somewhere; I have not yet satisfied myself where. That movement so far has been disgraceful to the country and to all concerned. I feel a sense of personal degradation from my own connection with it greater than from any other part of my public actions. My heart bleeds for these Tennessee troops. I learn they have not yet been paid and are left without either cavalry or artillery at London [Kentucky] and not permitted to do what is their daily longing—go to the relief of their friends at home. With Nelson and the measles and blue grass and nakedness and hunger and poverty and home-sickness the poor fellows have had a bitter experience since they left their homes to serve a Government which as yet has hardly given them a word of kindly recognition. The soldiers of all the other States have a home government to look after them. These have not and but for Carter who has been like a father to them they would have suffered still more severely. That they at times get discouraged and out of heart I do not wonder. My assurances to them have failed so often that I should be ashamed to look them in the face. With renewed assurance of confidence and sympathy, I am very respectfully, your obedient servant, HORACE MAYNARD.
Pottertown Bridge Burners: Unionists Pay the Ultimate Price Inscription. When Tennessee left the Union in June 1861, Greene County was a hotbed of divided loyalties. Several Unionists, who crafted multi-colored earthenware pottery which is still highly valued, were among the occupants of the nearby community named “Pottertown.” That autumn, celebrated antebellum potter Christopher Alexander Haun conspired with other residents to cripple the Confederate-controlled rail system by burning railroad bridges. The Rev. William Blount Carter, a local minister and Unionist, devised the plan. President Abraham Lincoln approved and promised Federal forces would protect the bridge burners’ families. Capt. David Fry, Co. F, 2nd Tennessee Infantry (U.S.) came from Kentucky with orders to burn the bridges. With his help, Carter finalized the plan to burn all major railroad bridges in East Tennessee in one night. On November 8, 1861, local Unionists arrived at the home of Jacob Harmon, Jr, another local potter, and were sworn into Fry’s command. About sixty men then went to the Lick Creek railroad bridge, where they captured Confederate pickets. After burning the bridge, they released the Confederates, a decision they soon regretted. Although the president had promised military protection, Confederates later captured several men associated with the bridge burning and hanged Haun, Henry Fry, Jacob Harmon Jr., Henry Harmon and Matt Hinshaw. Confederate President Jefferson Davis commuted Harrison Self’s sentence. The Harmons are buried here in the family cemetery. Haun’s pottery kiln stood a few hundred feet up Pottertown Road to the right, and the Bridge-Burner Memorial marker and flagpole are on the left. “I am very glad to hear of the action of the military authorities and hope to hear they have hung every bridge-burner at the end of the burned bridge.” —Confederated Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin (captions) Jar made by Christopher A. Haun —Courtesy Donahue Bible Collection, Mohawk, Tenn. Capt. David Fry (left) and Sgt. John McCoy —Courtesy Donahue Bible Collection, Mohawk, Tenn. “Execution of Jacob Harmon and His Son, Henry,” from Parson Brownlow’s Book (1862) Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. Marker is in Mosheim, Tennessee, in Greene County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Pottertown Road and Gravel Woods Road. hmdb.org/Photos2/258/Photo258222o.jpg
10 DECEMBER 1861: I have no fear of their being crushed LOUISVILLE, KY., December 10, 1861 Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, Commanding U. S. Army. MY DEAR FRIEND: As I informed you by telegraph I received your letters of the 3rd and 5th. I have by no means been unmindful of your wishes in regard to East Tennessee and I think I can both appreciate and unite in your sympathy for a people who have shown so much constancy. That constancy will still sustain them until the hour of deliverance. I have no fear of their being crushed. The allegiance of such people to hated rulers even if it could be enforced for the moment will only make them the more determined and ready to resist when the hour of rescue comes. The organization of the division at Lebanon has been with special reference to the object which you have so much at heart though fortunately it is one which suits any contingencies that can arise. I shall hasten its preparation with all the energy and industry I can bring to bear. The plans which I have in view embrace that fully. Truly yours, D. C. BUELL.
Captain David Fry, on the left
10 DECEMBER 1861: Hang every bridge burner you can catch RICHMOND, December 10, 1861. General W. H. CARROLL, Knoxville: Execute the sentence of your court-martial on the bridge burners. The law does not require any approval by the President, but he entirely approves my order to hang every bridge-burner you can catch and convict. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War
10 DECEMBER 1861: Alex Haun condemned to death in Knoxville KNOXVILLE, December 10, 1861 Hon. SECRETARY OF WAR J. P. BENJAMIN: The court-martial has sentenced C. A. [Christopher Alexander] Alex Haun, bridge-burner, to be hanged. Sentence approved. Ordered to be executed at 12 o’clock to-morrow. WM. H. CARROLL, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
11 DECEMBER 1861: Execution of a bridge burner in Knoxville Bridge Burner [Alex Haun] to be Hanged. One of the bridge-burners, convicted by the Court Marshal, now in session here, will be hanged today near Camp Sneed, on the railroad, just west of the Marble Works. Considerable curiosity was manifested by the public yesterday at the sight of the gallows which was being erected. A number of people visited the place in the afternoon, under the impression that the execution would take place yesterday. ~ Knoxville Register
11 DECEMBER 1861: Alex Haun executed by hanging HDQRS. RIFLE BRIGADE, Knoxville. Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va. SIR: In pursuance of your instructions by telegraph of yesterday, the sentence of death pronounced by court-martial upon C. A. Haun, the bridge-burner, was executed by hanging at 12 o’clock to-day. The court-martial is still in session engaged in the trial of a number of others charged with complicity in the same crime. … The traitorous conspiracy recently so extensive and formidable in East Tennessee is I think well nigh broken up as there is at present but little or no indication of another outbreak. I have small detachments of my force out in every direction suppressing any rebellious spirit that may be manifested and arresting those who are known to have been in arms against the Government. I am daily receiving the most encouraging evidences that the people are beginning to return to a sense of duty and patriotism as many of those who were heretofore unfriendly toward us are coming forward and giving every assurance of future fealty. I have the honor to be, yours respectfully, WM. H. CARROLL, Brig.-Gen.
11 DECEMBER 1861: Carroll declares martial law PROCLAMATION. HDQRS. RIFLE BRIGADE, Knoxville, Tenn., December 11, 1861. The exigencies of the time requiring as is believed the adoption of the sternest measures of military policy the commanding general feels called upon to suspend for a time the functions of the civil tribunals. … Now therefore be it known that I, William H. Carroll, brigadier-general in the Confederate Army and commander of the post at Knoxville, do hereby proclaim martial law to exist in the city of Knoxville and the surrounding country to the distance of one mile from the corporate limits of said city. By order of Brig. Gen. William H. Carroll: H. C. YOUNG, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.
11 DECEMBER 1861: No honest man can endorse what these East Tennessee fools have done Letter from John F. Hays to Mrs. Benj. Cleveland, Tenn., Dec. 11, 1861 Dear Mrs. Benj: My family are all well and getting along in the same old way. … Elizabeth sends her love to you and says she would like to see you very much. Since the [Confederate] Military Authority have taken charge of East Tennessee they have arrested a great many men, and from appearances are not near done yet. Day before yesterday about twenty left for Tuscaloosa, Ala., to be held as prisoners of war until peace is made … They had no trial, but were arrested as prisoners of war and taken off. They are liable to be exchanged for Southern prisoners in the North, but we can’t think such will be the [case]. I have been told several times that I do not believe I am to be arrested, because as I understand, nobody but such as burned the bridges, took up arms or encouraged the taking up of arms against the Confederate States are to be arrested, and make some false statement against me to the military commanders I shall not be lugged into this thing. I am innocent to any charges against me concerning this bridge burning rebellion. I have been a Union man, but not such as that, and no honest man can endorse what these East Tennessee fools have done. I am sorry for the ignorant who have been duped into it. Give my respect to the Judge and all his family, John F. Hayes [I don’t know either of these people, but the letter is priceless.]
13 DECEMBER 1861: Predatory bands in Northeast Tennessee counties BRIGADE HEADQUARTERS, Knoxville, Tenn., December 13, 1861. Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va. SIR: Your order to me of the 10th instant to join General Zollicoffer immediately with all my armed force reached me last night. I immediately set about making the necessary arrangements to carry the same into effect as indeed I had been doing for some days previous under instructions from General Zollicoffer himself. A portion if not all of my command would now have been on the march for General Zollicoffer’s present position but for the unsettled condition of affairs in East Tennessee … The indications of an extensive outbreak in East Tennessee at that time were so alarming that I deemed it unsafe to move my command through that country wholly unarmed. I therefore made application in every direction for guns of any description to serve me until my own should be ready for use. … When I reached here I found a general feeling of alarm and uneasiness prevailing throughout the surrounding country. Information every day reached me from all points that recreant [cowardly] Tennesseans with a few miscreants [villains] from other States were organizing themselves into predatory bands in the counties of Blount, Sevier, Cocke, Hancock, Scott, Campbell and other counties bordering on the North Carolina and Kentucky line. I immediately sent out scouting parties of cavalry together with such small detachments of infantry as I could arm to protect and assist the loyal citizens of these counties in driving these base ingrates from their midst. These various parties have succeeded in arresting many of the rebellious and disaffected and bringing them to this place for trial. Out of the number thus arrested I have sent and will send about 100 as prisoners of war to Tuscaloosa. I have for some days past been receiving information from sources entitled to much credit that a considerable force of the enemy were threatening a descent from the Kentucky border upon the counties of Campbell and Scott by way of a small pass in the mountains above Cumberland Gap. I have the honor to be, yours, respectfully, WM. H. CARROLL, Brigadier-General.
15 DECEMBER 1861: A Change of Sentiment in East Tennessee A correspondent of the Knoxville Register, writing from Bradley County under date of the 11th inst. informs that paper that since the Message of Lincoln [?] has reached that county, Scarcely a Union man can be found—all declare themselves for the South. One or two hundred of them have joined the Southern army in the last forty eight hours. There is a much better feeling than has ever prevailed in the community before. The people say they have been misled by their leaders in regard to the policy of the Northern government. … Bradley county is going to furnish a regiment for the Confederate army. Dr. Thompson will go into the regiment, and many more prominent Union men … have declared themselves strongly for the South. Wm. Hancock, formerly a Union man, is now raising a company for the Bradley Regiment. The other companies in progress are Capt. W. H. Camp’s (a Southern Rights man.) Capt. Frank Triplett’s (late Union,) and Joe Perrine’s (late Union). Our correspondent’s account of the good work says the Register that is going on in Bradley will carry joy to every true Southern heart in the State. May we not hope to hear similar accounts from every county in East Tennessee. God grant that we may yet be a band of brothers in defense of rights against the encroachments of Northern despotism and abolition fanaticism. ~ Nashville Daily Gazette
17 DECEMBER 1861: Testimony of the Confederate Guards at Lick Creek Bridge Burning ISAAC N. HACKER, corporal in Captain M. Live’s company cavalry, C. S. Army, aged about twenty-four years, a witness in behalf of the Confederate States was sworn and testified as follows: On the night the Lick Creek bridge of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad was burned in the early part of November 1861, I with six others was detailed from Captain M. Live’s company as guard at said bridge. Between 2 and 3 o’clock whilst five of us were in a tent near the bridge we were surrounded by a band of from forty to sixty men armed the most part of them with guns who, we in the tents being almost wholly unarmed, took us prisoners. The band was led by a man who called himself [Colonel] Captain Fry. After taking us prisoners they placed a guard around us in the tent and all but the guard went to the bridge and in less than five minutes the bridge was in flames. After the bridge was burned the band or a large part of them came to the tent, gave us of the guard our choice either to take an oath not to take up arms against the Government or to die right then and there, to be killed immediately. We took the oath. They took the names of the guards down. During the time Fry cursed and abused us of the guard; he said, “That night three months ago you men or men of your sentiments ran me from Greene County, but now I have you under my thumb and will do with you as I please.” He also said he had within the past week been all over the railroad from Chattanooga to Bristol, and that all the bridges between these places would be burned that night; that Jeff Davis and South Carolina had had possession of it long enough; that they were now going to take it and use it themselves. They represented that they had a whole regiment besides cavalry near at hand. Some one of the crowd said the damned wire was done telling on them now. A telegraph wire runs along the line of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. Some one of attacking party asked, “Where is Henry Harmon’s gun.” Some one else of the party replied, “I’ve got it.” JOHN W. McDANIELS, witness on behalf of the Confederate States, aged nineteen years, sworn and testified as follows: On the evening preceding the night on which the Lick Creek bridge was burned I was pulling corn in a field. Jacob Harmon and Jonathan Morgan came to the side of the field next to the public road when Harmon said he wanted us to come to his house that night and bring our arms. I told him I had no arms. He said he wanted me to come anyhow. Said he had seen Colonel Fry from Kentucky and that they were to burn the bridge that night. I went to Jacob Harmon’s house that night in company with James McDaniels, Hugh A. Self, Andrew Self, Cannon Hann and Harrison McDaniels, all of whom are young men unmarried but Cannon Hann. We got to Harmon’s at about 9 o’clock, the time appointed by Harmon. I saw there on that night (in addition to those who went there with me as above stated), viz, Henderson Lady, John Lady, William Housewright, Jacob Myers, Jonathan Morgan, Harrison Self(the present defendant), Alex [Hann] Haun, Arthur Hann, Henry Wampler, Matt. Hincher, William Hincher (drinking), Thomas Harmon, Henry Harmon and Jacob Harmon. David Fry he was there when I got there. Defendant came there after I got there. There were several present whose names I did not know. We staid till about 12 at night. David Fry administered an oath. I think he administered it to nearly all who were there. Oath was taken by putting hand on a U. S. flag; swore to support the Stars and Stripes and not to reveal anything of what was done that night and to do anything pressed upon us that night to do. Harrison Self, I think, was in the room when some of them took the oath. I think he himself took the oath. After the oath was administered to the party the party went to Lick Creek bridge, took the guard in tents prisoners and then they burned the bridge. Crowd then dispersed. Harrison Self went with the party from Harmon’s to the bridge. I saw him between the bridge and Harmon’s after the bridge was burned. Harmon I first referred to when I was in the field passed up toward the house of the defendant. I think Harrison Self’s gun was there that night. Do not remember to have seen it in his house.” THOMAS HARMON [son of Jacob Harmon also testified], witness on behalf of the Confederate States, sworn and testified as follows: On the day preceding the night on which the Lick Creek bridge was burned Daniel Smith came to my father’s house. My father was not present. Smith said that he had particular business with my father, Jacob Harmon. Said that Fry was to be there that night at my father’s and he was going to tear up the railroad. Said Fry wanted father to come over to his (Daniel Smith’s) house; the [rail]road was to be torn up that night. Father came back and I told him what Smith had said. Father went in the direction of Smith’s. Said he was going there. I was slightly acquainted with Daniel Smith; have seen him since in the jail in Knoxville. That night at about 8 o’clock a crowd commenced assembling at my father’s house. There came the following persons, to wit, John McDaniels, Harrison Self (the defendant)—he came in late—Andrew Self, Hugh Self, James McDaniels, Cannon Hann, Arthur Hann, Matt. Hincher, Henry Fry, Jacob Myers, William Willoughby, Granville Willoughby, Lazarus Rednens, another Rednens whose Christian name I do not know, James Guthrie, Elijah Willoughby and several others who were strangers to me. Jonathan Morgan was there; my father was there. ALEXANDER LOWE, first witness for defense, private in Captain Fry’s company, C. S. Army, who being first sworn testified as follows: I resided on the defendant’s farm at the time the Lick Creek bridge was burned in Greene County, Tenn. Before the burning of the bridge on the evening previous to its being burned defendant said it was a bad thing to burn the bridge. On the evening before the burning of the bridge Jacob Harmon came by the field where I was pulling corn with John McDaniels and told us to come down to his house that night; that the bridge was to be burned that night. In the evening in question I went past the house of the defendant. Saw him; asked him if anything had been said to him about the bridge-burning; told him what had been told me. Defendant said he had heard about the same thing. Defendant said it was a bad thing. I asked defendant if he was going. Said he did not know whether he was going down to Harmon’s or not. He did not as I recollect say to me for me to stay at home and that he would go down to Harmon’s and prevent it. Something was said about my wife being sick but nothing about his going down for the purpose of preventing it that I now recollect. Defendant lives about three or four miles from the bridge. He said he thought it was a bad thing. Don’t know that he said it ought or ought not to be done. I was not at his house. I passed on by. Saw him at the hog-pen. Went on home. Saw him about dark. Defendant has been strong Union man. Not been a fool about it. Never acted harshly or made any threats to my knowledge. Not hostile to soldiers of Confederate States. Sold them supplies once-some salt. Never heard of his refusing to sell supplies. He lives a little over one mile from Jacob Harmon’s. He said it was a bad thing. Those are the only words of condemnation of the bridge-burning that I recollect of his using. I was not giving the conversation particular attention. I did not think the thing would be done at all. NOTE I have taken this testimony of the Confederate soldiers who guarded the Lick Creek Bridge from the court-martial of Harrison Self on 16 December 1861. It gives us a general idea of what happened that night.
17 DECEMBER 1861: Court-martial and execution of Jacob and Henry Harmon In the autumn of 1861 Jacob Harmon Jr. and his son Henry joined their Unionist neighbors in a daring plan to stop the flow of Confederate soldiers and supplies through East Tennessee. They would accomplish this by burning the wooden trestles that held up the railroad bridges on the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad. On 7 November, Jacob Harmon visited neighbors who were Union supporters and asked for their assistance. On the evening of 8 November 1861, dozens of men gathered at Harmon’s house, where they took an oath of secrecy. After midnight, they traveled to the edge of Harmon’s farm where the railroad bridge crossed Lick Creek. There they found several Confederate guards camping under the bridge and arrested them. After destroying the bridge, the Unionists released the guards. The burning of the railway bridge caused great alarm among Confederate authorities; they sent more troops into East Tennessee to guard the railroad bridges. Hundreds of Unionists were arrested for the crime of treason for bridge burning or taking up arms against the Confederate government. Col. W.B. Wood, in command at Knoxville, received these orders from CSA Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin: “All such as can be identified as having been engaged in bridge burning are to be tried summarily by drumhead court-martial and executed on the spot by hanging. All such as have not been so engaged are to be treated as prisoners of war and sent with an armed guard to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and held in jail there until the end of the war. Such as come in voluntarily, take the oath of allegiance, and surrender their arms, are alone to be treated with leniency.” NOTE War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Civil War has no entries for the trial of Jacob and Henry Harmon. We only know that they were tried, sentenced, and hanged on the same day, 17 December 1861. Jacob Harmon’s son Thomas died later in the Knoxville jail.
Execution of Jacob Harmon and his son Henry.
19 DECEMBER 1861: Description of the situation in East Tennessee in the autumn of 1861 [Wow!] HDQRS. CARROLL’S BRIGADE, Knoxville, Tenn., December 19, 1861. Hon. D. M. CURRIN, Richmond, Va. [David Maney Currin, Sr.(1817-1864) was a Tennessee attorney and politician who served in the Confederate States Congress during the American Civil War.] DEAR SIR: I regret to trouble you with this communication, but feel myself called upon to do so by a sense of duty both to the Confederate Government and to the people of East Tennessee. It might, perhaps, have been more properly done by some one higher in authority than myself. At the [instance] insistence, however, of a number of leading citizens, together with many officers of the Army, I have concluded to undertake the task of laying truthfully before some one connected with the administration of the Government a fair and truthful statement of the present unhappy condition of affairs in this portion of the State, believing as I do that when laid properly before the heads of the Government it will induce a thorough and most salutary change in the policy now being pursued in reference to that deluded portion of our people who have heretofore been unfriendly to the present revolution. There are some very important facts connected with the recent political history of East Tennessee which apparently have not yet come to the knowledge of the Government or have been entirely overlooked, while others of less importance have been greatly exaggerated. To these I beg to call your attention. In the beginning of the present contest between the North and South the attitude assumed by East Tennessee was a very doubtful one, and it was deemed best by those fully acquainted with the temper and sentiment of the people to pursue a conciliatory policy towards them. Mr. Davis himself, I believe, adopted this view of the case, and for a time pursued the mild course thus indicated. The result was a very great change in the public mind … In September  Maj.-Gen. Polk sent Gen. W. H. Carroll here for to endeavor to bring the people over to the support of the Confederate Government and to enlist one or more regiments for the Army. Gen. Carroll succeeded beyond his expectations, raising and organizing in a very short time a full regiment … now we have in all nearly 10,000 effective soldiers in the field that in June were almost unanimous in opposition to us. This gratifying result I am satisfied is attributable almost entirely to the liberal and conciliatory policy … There were still left a few leading miscreants [villains] and a handful of ignorant and deluded followers, who were wicked enough for the commission of any crime, however detestable. By these, and these alone, were the bridges burned, … while the mass of the people were entirely ignorant of their designs … The numbers engaged in these outrages have been greatly overestimated, as facts have been developed in the investigations that have been made by the court-martial now in session at this place [Knoxville], which satisfy me that there were not, at the time the bridges were burned, 500 men in all East Tennessee who knew anything of it. … After the bridge burnings, Col. Leadbetter and Vance CSA moved their commands into that portion of the State bordering on the Virginia and Kentucky line, while Gen. Carroll and Col. Wood moved from the west in the direction of Chattanooga and Knoxville. Scouting parties were sent out in every direction, who arrested hundreds suspected of disloyalty, and incarcerated them in prison, until almost every jail in the eastern end of the State was filled with poor, ignorant, and for the most part harmless men, who have been guilty of no crime save that of lending a too credulous ear to the corrupt demagogues [Unionist leaders] whose counsels have led them astray. Among those thus captured were a number of bridge-burners. These latter were tried and promptly executed. The rigorous measures adopted by CSA military commanders here struck still greater terror into those who had before been Union men, and to avoid arrest and subsequent punishment, concealed themselves, thus giving the semblance of guilt to actions innocent in fact, and entirely natural under the circumstances which surrounded them. About 400 of the poor victims of designing leaders have been sent to Tuscaloosa as prisoners of war, leaving their families in a helpless and destitute condition. The greatest distress prevails throughout the entire country [East Tennessee] in consequence of the various arrests that have been made, together with the facts that the horses and the other property of the parties that have been arrested have been seized by the soldiers, and in many cases appropriated to personal uses or wantonly destroyed. Old political animosities and private grudges have been revived, and bad men among our friends are availing themselves of the opportunity afforded them by bringing Southern men to hunt down with the ferocity of bloodhounds all those against whom they entertain any feeling of dislike. The officers in command here have used every effort to restrain the soldiery from all acts of lawless violence. … My position in the Army enables me to speak advisedly of these things, and I venture to say that if assurances of safety were given to those persons who have fled from their homes under apprehensions of danger they would return and be good and loyal citizens. The wretched condition of these unfortunate people appeals to the sympathy and commiseration of every humane man. … Those best acquainted with affairs here are fully impressed with the belief that if the proper course were pursued all East Tennessee could be united in support of the Confederate Government. Strong appeals have been made from all sections to Gen. Carroll to release those now in prison here and the return of those sent to Tuscaloosa; but, under the instructions from the Secretary of War, by which he is governed, he does not feel at liberty to do so. Col. H. R. Austin visits Richmond for the purpose of impressing these views upon the President. Col. Landon C. Haynes will follow in a few days for the same purpose. I beg you to give them every assistance you can in bringing this important matter before the President and Secretary of War. Respectfully, your friend, H. C. YOUNG. CSA Assistant Adjutant-General on the staff of General W. H. Carroll in Knoxville. [I have heavily edited this document for length and readability.]
23 DECEMBER 1861: I fear that he has been captured by the rebels HEADQUARTERS TWELFTH BRIGADE, Somerset, December 23, 1861 Brigadier General GORGE H. THOMAS, Commanding First Division, Lebanon, Ky. GENERAL: Captain [David] Fry, Company F, 2nd Regiment East Tennessee Volunteers, was detailed for special service in October last by your orders and left for Tennessee in company with my brother, Rev. W.B. Carter. I fear that he has been captured by the rebels, and if not that he is so environed by them as to leave but little hope of his being able to return to his regiment. … Respectfully, your obedient servant, S. P. CARTER, Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding Twelfth Brigade.
26 DECEMBER 1861: East Tennessee prisoners not considered safe in Tuscaloosa RICHMOND, December 26, 1861. General WITHERS, Mobile: Have you the means of receiving and guarding in Mobile about 100 or 150 prisoners taken among the traitors of East Tennessee? They are not considered safe in Tuscaloosa. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War.
28 DECEMBER 1861: Bring back to their families all innocent men President DAVIS: SIR: At the request of many of our most reliable friends in East Tennessee I have come to Richmond to lay before you a faithful account of East Tennessee matters. It is the opinion of the best informed and most reliable men in East Tennessee that all the Confederate troops now employed in guarding the railroads and suppressing rebellion in East Tennessee except … might be safely sent to other points where troops are really needed, and that if proper measures were immediately adopted to bring back to their families all innocent men who have been carried or frightened away from their homes it would restore peace and a sense of security to the people and put an end to all appearances of disloyalty to the Confederate Government in East Tennessee; and I believe that the wrongs they have suffered if properly explained and promptly relieved will afford an occasion for a striking display of the justice, wisdom and power of the Confederate Government which will do more to insure the fidelity of the people of East Tennessee than all the severity of punishment advised by the violent partisans of that section who have provoked the prejudices of the people against themselves and consequently against the Government of which they were supposed to be the true exponents. Respectfully, H. R. AUSTIN.
29 DECEMBER 1861: Advisable to get arms and troops into East Tennessee at a very early day HEADQUARTERS, Washington, D. C., December 29, 1861 Brigadier General D. C. BUELL, Louisville: Johnson, Maynard, &c, are again becoming frantic and have President Lincoln’s sympathy excited. Political considerations would make it advisable to get the arms and troops into East Tennessee at a very early day; you are, however, the best judge. Can you tell me about when and in what force you will be in East Tennessee? Is Schoepf competent? Do you wish any promotions made from your colonels? Better get the East Tennessee arms and clothing into position for distribution as soon as possible. I will write you fully as soon as I am well enough. Please answer by telegraph. GEO. B. McCLELLAN, Major-General, U. S. Army.
31 DECEMBER 1861: Mr. President, you are murdering your country by inches On the last day of 1861, the president [Lincoln] held a meeting with his Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Ohio senator Benjamin Wade was blunt: “Mr. President, you are murdering your country by inches in consequence of the inactivity of the military and the want of a distinct policy in regard to slavery.” That night, Attorney General Edward Bates wrote in his diary: “The Prest. is an excellent man, and in the main, wise; but he lacks will and purpose, and I greatly fear he has not the power to command.” David Zax, “Frozen in Place: December 1861,” Smithsonian Magazine, published December 2011, accessed 14 July 2021, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/frozen-in-place-december-1861-49441/
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
8 FEBRUARY 1861: “TENNESSEANS, DECIDE FOR TENNESSEE” 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
9 FEBRUARY 1861: “THE CONVENTION.” 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