1861 Confederates Arrest Northeast Tennessee Unionists

8 JUNE 1861
Tennessee joins the Confederacy.

14 JUNE 1861
The Memphis Appeal publishes a list of the Tennessee counties that voted to remain in the Union, all in East Tennessee: Anderson, Bradley, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Knox, Marion, Monroe, Roane, Sevier, Sullivan, Union, and Washington. The paper also reports that a state warrant has been issued for the arrest of Andrew Johnson for treason to Tennessee.

Lots to do and see in Johnson City, Northeast Tennessee

1 JULY 1861
Orders issued to raise Union troops in Kentucky and Tennessee.

26 JULY 1861
Gen. Felix Zollicoffer and his Confederate troops occupy Northeast Tennessee, and Northeast Tennessee Unionists begin to think of ways to undermine Confederate authority.

Unionists challenge Confederate commanders
For the next two-plus years, Gens. Felix Zollicoffer, E. Kirby Smith, and SAM. JONES seesaw between harsh treatment to control the Unionists and kind gestures to gain their support, but had little success whether they arrest hundreds of Unionist leaders or allow Union men to escape the Confederate draft. 

In the election of August 1861,Tennessee Governor Isham Harris repeatedly urges East Tennesseans to vote for Confederate candidates, but they elect several U. S. congressmen. This angers Harris, and the Confederate government begins to suppress Union sentiment by arresting leaders and demanding loyalty oaths. 

RICHMOND, August 1, 1861.
Brigadier General F. K. ZOLLICOFFER:
Retain at Bristol under your orders such of the Tennessee regiments now there or that may arrive there until further advised. You are assigned to the command of the District of East Tennessee.
S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector General.

10 AUGUST 1861
KNOXVILLE, August 10, 1861.
Adjutant-General COOPER [CSA]:
News received that John Baxter is arrested at Lynchburg. This is unfortunate. He is a Unionist, but has my permission to go to [Thomas A. R.] Nelson and counsel with him as a lawyer and friend. He gave me assurance of conciliatory influence there, and here his arrest embarrasses my plans of conciliation.

MINI BIO: John Baxter
John Baxter, a Knoxville attorney, opposes secession at first. But after Confederate troops win the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, Baxter gradually abandons his stance for the Union and begins to lean toward the Confederate government. In September 1861, he takes the Oath of Allegiance to the Confederacy, partly because he wants to provide legal support to the Northeast Tennessee Unionists who have been arrested. He believes the North cannot defeat the South in a war. …
Baxter suggests to CSA Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin that if he would be more lenient toward the Unionists, they might be receptive to Confederate rule. Benjamin states that those who are guilty of crimes will be punished. Great numbers of people are arrested and thrown into the Knoxville jail.
In September 1861, Baxter runs for his district’s seat in the Confederate Congress, but is defeated by a very wide margin. He spends late 1861 and early 1862 defending Unionists who have been charged with various crimes by Confederate authorities.
After the East Tennessee bridge-burnings in November 1861, Baxter defends many of the accused conspirators. In February 1862, Baxter launches a newspaper, the East Tennessean, in an attempt to bring the Unionists and the Confederates closer together.
He delivers a speech in which he states there is no hope for the Confederacy, which upsets CSA Gen. E. Kirby Smith. At Smith’s request, Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston arrests Baxter while he is in Memphis. He is released after a few days, but uses this as an excuse to return to his pro-Union stance, blaming Governor Isham Harris for his arrest.
When Union forces occupy Knoxville in September 1863, Baxter is recognized as a friend of the Union and is appointed to the East Tennessee Relief Association, which provides aid to Unionists who have been mistreated by Confederate authorities.
Baxter is nominated by President Rutherford B. Hayes on 6 December 1877 as a judge on the United States Circuit Courts for the Sixth Circuit. He is confirmed by the U. S. Senate on 13 December 1877 and receives his commission the same day. He serves in that position until his death on 2 April 1886.

10 AUGUST 1861
KNOXVILLE, August 10, 1861.
Adjutant-General COOPER [CSA]:
News received that John Baxter is arrested at Lynchburg. This is unfortunate. He is a Unionist, but has my permission to go to [Thomas A. R.] Nelson and counsel with him as a lawyer and friend. He gave me assurance of conciliatory influence there, and here his arrest embarrasses my plans of conciliation.
Brigadier- General.

14 AUGUST 1861
President Davis issues a proclamation warning that Union sympathizers should leave the Confederate States.

15 AUGUST 1861
The States of Kentucky and Tennessee constitute the Department of the Cumberland, under command of Gen. Robert Anderson USA.

16 AUGUST 1861
Nashville, August 16, 1861.
Honorable L. P. WALKER [CSA], War Department, Richmond.
SIR: I am satisfied from the movements of the Union men of East Tennessee that more troops should be stationed in that division of the State.
If you can order a sufficient number of troops from States south of us to that point, the adoption of a decided and energetic policy (which I am resolved upon so soon as I have a sufficient fore to sustain it), m the arrest and indictment for treason of the ringleaders, will give perfect peace and quiet to that division of our State in the course of two months. If the suggestion with regard to East Tennessee is to be acted upon at all it should be done at once as every moment’s delay but increases the danger of an outbreak there.
Very respectfully,

A quick note about [William G.] ‘Parson’ Brownlow, author of the article that follows. He is a former clergyman, which explains his nickname, and a strong supporter of the Union. A very excitable man, in his newspaper, the Knoxville Whig, he attacks anyone who has views other than his own, especially Confederate authorities and civilians. I am posting this unedited to allow you to fully appreciate the articles Mr. Brownlow publishes in his paper. I apologize for the large glob of text.

Northeast Tennessee Civil War Map

From Brownlow’s Whig, Saturday, Aug. 10, 1861
Published by the New York Times Aug. 18, 1861
In the First Congressional District, Mr. NELSON has been reelected to Congress by a majority of five or six thousand votes. In the Second District, Mr. MAYNARD has been elected by a majority of about six thousand votes. And in the Third District, Mr. BRIDGES has been elected by a majority of from one to two thousand votes.

Messrs. BRIDGES and MAYNARD, it is said, have both crossed the mountains into Kentucky, and have gone to Washington. No matter what may be said as to the propriety of these gentlemen going to Washington to take their seats, it is due them to say they became candidates for the Congress of the United States and were elected to go there, their constituents desiring to be represented in the Federal Congress, and not in the Congress of the Southern Confederacy. They were so announced in this paper, as candidates before the people. Their competitors so stated to the people, and no one was deceived in their running the race for Congress.

Mr. NELSON, who announced himself a candidate for the United States Congress, was elected by an overwhelming vote, and by a constituency who desired to be represented at Washington. In crossing from Rogersville to Kentucky, on Saturday last, he was arrested in the corner of Lee County, Va., by an armed military force of thirty men and taken as a prisoner to Abingdon, from which point it is said he will be taken to Richmond, to be incarcerated until he can be tried for treason against the Southern Confederacy, by secession judges, before secession jurors, and upon the testimony of secession witnesses.

That he will be convicted, no sensible man can doubt for a moment. His son DAVID, and some two or three other gentlemen were with him, and all were arrested, and the presumption is they are all together in Richmond as prisoners. The exploit was one of a daring and grand military character — thirty armed mounted men taking four or five civilian prisoners, who were armed with pocket pistols! Those who led in the charge ought [to] be promoted in the Confederate Army!

The treason of Mr. NELSON consists in his having advocated the cause of the Union, and the Stars and Stripes of his country, in opposition to the heresy of secession. To this grievous offence, he has added the unpardonable sin of permitting his fellow-citizens to elect him to Congress. To be consistent, and to carry out their principles, they ought now to arrest, and send on to Richmond, every man in the District who voted for NELSON.

We have but little to say, now, respecting this arrest, and the hot haste with which the gallant and patriotic NELSON has been hurried off to Richmond. We shall await the action of the authorities there, with some degree of interest, as will the thousands of Union men in East Tennessee. Before dismissing the subject, however, we will take occasion to congratulate the people of Richmond in this, that when they cast into their filthy city prison THOMAS A.R. NELSON, they will have more bruins, patriotism, honor and chivalry in their prison, than can be found in the Rump Congress!

Col. BAXTER, of this city, has gone to Richmond, or such other point as they may choose to stop and try NELSON, to act as his friend and counsel. He goes as a volunteer, having no intercourse with NELSON since his arrest. We doubt whether he will be allowed a showing.

For weeks past, with our large list of subscribers, our weekly expenses have exceeded our income, and hence our paper has been carried on at a pecuniary sacrifice. Our exchange papers are kept back and not allowed to come to Knoxville. Our letters are broken open and robbed in all directions and our newspaper packages are laid aside or destroyed, so as to keep them out of the hands of our subscribers. At Cumberland Gap, or the office near there, we are informed, upon reliable authority, there is a large pile of letters, to say nothing of papers, addressed to us, which Secessionists will not allow to come forward. These letters no doubt — mostly from Kentucky — contain several hundred dollars for subscriptions.

At Bristol, we are informed our paper is thrown aside, and not allowed to go further East. One contemptible puppy, who fills the dignified position of route agent on the railroad, boasted in this city that he intended to destroy the papers sent out by him because they were incendiary sheets. Similar acts of perfidy are committed all over the country by a set of unprincipled villains, who handle mail matter, and whose only title to public favor and confidence is that they have the honor to wear around their necks a collar having upon it this inscription: “I AM JEFF. DAVIS’ DOG; WHOSE DOG ARE YOU?”

In addition to all this, the fact has come to our knowledge, and from different reliable sources, that the Confederate authorities at Richmond have ordered that our Knoxville Whig must no longer be published or transmitted through the mails to subscribers. The order has not yet been given, but we are in daily expectation of it, unless it, he rescinded, and it of course closes us out in business. We presume that those who are destroying our mails, and our packages sent off, are acting under this order.

Is this the boasted freedom of the Press, of speech, and of conscience we hear of in the new Southern Confederacy? And does this freedom, guaranteed by: the Constitution of Tennessee, unrepealed as yet, enter into this war for Southern Rights and Independence? If so, may God deliver us and our Union countrymen from such freedom, and from the enjoyment of such rights!

The Usurper and Tyrant LINCOLN, so much abused for invading the soil, and personal rights, of others, tolerates the publication of journals in Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, New-York, Connecticut and New-Hampshire, which oppose him in all his measures, and advocate this Southern rebellion. But the only Union paper in the entire Southern Confederacy, having any circulation among the honest people, must be crushed out by the liberty-loving and tyrant-hating authorities of the Southern Confederacy at Richmond!

We have been told that the Confederacy, conscious of uprightness of purpose, and knowing that her cause is just, feared no discussion, but threw open wide her doors and invited the light of heaven to shine in upon her men and measures! We supposed that with her hundreds of journals, able and strong, stretching from the District of Columbia to the Western frontiers of Texas, she could combat the errors of one Union paper among the mountains of East Tennessee. But no, this boasted Confederacy finds it necessary to frown down investigation, to check the progress of free inquiry, and for what? Why, for-sooth, lest her deeds should be reproved.

It is an old proverb, but as true now as centuries ago, “that none ever feared that the truth should be heard, but those that the truth would indict” — none, ever feared to come to the light but those whose deeds are evil. And when we find men loving darkness, and wishing to keep others in darkness, either in regard to their Government, or other transactions, we have reason to believe all is not right.

Leading men of the Union party, of unblemished character, must be rudely seized by an armed band of men, to gratify the malice of leading Secessionists in Knoxville, torn from their families, and rushed off, upon the cars to Richmond, and there thrown into a loathsome prison! The only press they have must be muzzled, its batteries silenced, and its readers and friends required to take the false statements of secession papers for the news of the day! Large bodies of armed men must be thrown into our country, and put in possession of all the principal towns and thorough-fares of the country, but no wrongs are to be inflicted upon the people of East Tennessee, nor are they to be deprived of any of their rights.

Can all this mean anything less than a declaration of war against East Tennessee? Is it not opening the ball, and inviting bloodshed in East Tennessee? What the effect of all this will be, we are wholly unable to say. It will either depress the Union forces of this end of the State, and cause them to cower like dogs, or it will make them frantic in defence of their gallant leaders down-trodden because of their principles, and arouse a thirst for vengeance and brave deeds! What Union leader, after all this, can any Longer meet his friends, and urge them to peace and moderation, as we know they have been doing?

So far as we are concerned, we can suspend our publication, in obedience to the dictates of tyranny and intolerance — we will yield to the demands of an armed mob — turn over to them our office and what little property we have — deprive ourselves and a helpless family of small children of the necessary means of support — and beg our bread from door to door among Union men who are able to give — but we shall refuse, most obstinately refuse, to the day of our death to think or speak favorably of such a Confederacy as this, or to agree that honor, patriotism, or love of country have influenced the men at its head, who have plunged the country into this revolution!

And whether our humble voice is hushed in death-whether our press is muzzled by the spirit of intolerance at Richmond, making this our last issue of a journal we have edited for almost a quarter of a century, we beg all who may come after us and our paper, to credit no secession falsehood that may represent us as having changed our principles from those of an exalted devotion to the old AMERICAN UNION, and of undying hostility to those who perpetrate its dissolution.
Editor of the Knoxville Whig.
AUG. 10, 1861.

26 AUGUST 1861
Knoxville, Tenn., August 26, 1861.
Colonel W. E. BALDWIN, Russellville, Tenn.

SIR: I have ordered you to move with your command and encamp at Fish Springs near the Johnson County line, because of the great disaffection as reported to me among the inhabitants of that county and of Carter adjoining, and in order that any efforts at rebellion against the authorities of the State or Confederacy may be quelled at once. I have information from various sources that a number of loyal citizens from those counties apprehending danger at the hands of the Federalists among them … who seem to … have fled for safety to Virginia and North Carolina.

I also learned to-day that two men were killed and others wounded recently by these Lincolnites. You will try and ascertain the facts in the case and report to me. You will report to headquarters as often as convenient or as circumstances may require the condition of affairs in those counties.

I desire you as much as possible to be conciliatory toward these people, adhering strictly to the policy indicated in my proclamation and in General Orders, Numbers 3. You will enjoin upon your men a scrupulous observance of the rights of persons and of property and all peaceable and law-abiding citizens. You will disarm and disperse all bodies of men in open hostility to the authorities of the State and of the Confederate States; capture and hold their leaders, and if resistance is offered and it becomes necessary, destroy them.

The following are the names of some of the Lincoln leaders in Johnson County, viz: Lewis Venable, of Laurel Creek; Northington, hotel-keeper at Taylorsville; R. R. Butler, Taylorsville, representative of the county; John G. Johnson and J. W. Merick, captains of Lincoln companies. Joseph P. Edoms, of Elizabethton, Carter County, and A. Evans, of Washington County, are also among the ringleaders of them.

If you obtain satisfactory evidence that these or other leaders are in open hostility to the authorities of the State or the Confederacy or stirring up rebellion against the same, you will arrest and detain them in custody. I will forward to your aid for scouting purposes a cavalry company so soon as I can arm them if you think their services are required.
By order of Brigadier G en. F. K. Zollicoffer:
P. B. LEE,
Assistant Adjutant-General.


Kentucky remains in the Union
As long as Kentucky is neutral, and allows no troops from either side to pass into her state, the northern border of Tennessee is protected. On this day Kentucky chose the Union and her neutrality ceased, and the entire northern boundary of Tennessee is exposed to possible invasion. Gen. Zollicoffer promptly advances his forces to Cumberland Gap. 

President Abraham Lincoln begins urging his generals to advance toward Cumberland Gap and East Tennessee, not only to aid the Unionists there but also to take possession of the strategic ET&VA Railroad. Moving an army into Northeast Tennessee appears to be extremely difficult; the terrain is rough, the roads poor, and the problems associated with supplying an advancing army seems almost insurmountable.

22 OCTOBER 1861
Wm. Blount Carter enters East Tennessee to initiate bridge burning.
Brig.-Gen. 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 our Government and anxious to have an opportunity to assist in saving it. The rebels continue to arrest and imprison our people.

26 OCTOBER 1861
Letter about unlawful arrests in East Tennessee
MEMPHIS, October 26, 1861.
DEAR SIR: More than 100 persons have been arrested in East Tennessee without warrants in some cases, marched great distances and carried into court on no other charge than that they were Union men. In one case an old man named Duggan, a Methodist preacher, was arrested, carried fifty miles on foot (he a large, fleshy men), refused the privilege of riding his own horse, and all they had against him was that in February last he prayed for the Union. …

I have spent much time this summer and fall in trying to conciliate the people of East Tennessee. I thought I had succeeded. Just as the people were quieting down, getting reconciled, raising volunteers, &c., they commenced these arrests which have gone far to poison the minds of the people against the [CSA] Government, and if tolerated and persisted in the people of that end of the State at a critical moment will rise up enemies instead of friends.

You ask me who makes these arrests. As far as I can learn they are instigated by a few malicious, troublesome men in and about Knoxville. I always hear the names of W. G. Swan, William M. Churchwell, John H. Crozier, [John] Crozier Ramsey and the postmaster at Knoxville mixed up with these matters. It is these men [who] have private griefs and malice to gratify and they aim to bring down the avenging arm of the Government to satiate their passions.

Crozier Ramsey is the [Confederate] attorney-general [for Knox County]. It is said he in most cases causes the arrests and makes the affidavit. Just think of this—an attorney degrading himself by turning [into] an affidavit man. You may inquire what is the remedy? I answer turn out Ramsey; put some man in Middle or West Tennessee in his place who has dignity and character; turn out the postmaster at Knoxville.

If the President [Davis] will then make it known to all officials that he discountenances all frivolous arrests, things will quiet down. If, however, he refuses to do this, retains Ramsey, then we may look for great trouble in that end of the State. If the President will write Landon C. Haynes, Senator-elect, and any other respectable man in East Tennessee he will be at no loss what course to pursue. I address this to you to be certain the President will get it and receive attention.
Very respectfully
[Memphis attorney and member of the CSA General Assembly.]
Referred to the Secretary of War [Judah P. Benjamin], that such inquiry may be made and action taken as will prevent as far as we may such proceedings as are herein described.

28 OCTOBER 1861
HEADUQARTERS, Knoxville, October 28, 1861.
Brigadier General F. K. ZOLLICOFFER.
GENERAL: The news of your falling back to Cumberland Ford has had the effect of developing a feeling that has only been kept under by the presence of troops. It was plainly visible that the Union men were so elated that they could scarcely repress an open expression of their joy. This afternoon it assumed an open character and some eight or ten of the bullies and leaders made an attack on some of my men near the Lamar House and seriously wounded several.

Gentlemen who witnessed the whole affair say that my men gave no offense and were not at all to blame. The affair became pretty general and couriers were sent to me at my camp of its existence. I immediately marched Captain White’s cavalry and 100 of my men into the town to arrest the assailants but they made their escape. The Southerners here are considerably alarmed, believing that there is a preconcerted movement amongst the Union men if by any means the enemy should get into Tennessee.

J. Swan told me to-night that he heard one say this evening as Captain White’s cavalry rode through town that “they could do so now but in less than ten days the Union forces would be here and run them off.” I cannot well tell you the many evidences of disaffection which are manifested every day and the increased boldness that it is assuming. I deem it, however, of sufficient importance to be on the alert and as there are no other forces here now but a part of my regiment and Captains Gillespie’s and White’s cavalry, I think I had better keep my men there until others arrive.

The town is quiet this morning. The men who committed the assault on my men yesterday have left town, I am informed. The cannon and ammunition start this morning with orders to push on as rapidly as possible.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Post.

30 OCTOBER 1861
CAMP BUCKNER, October 30, 1861.
Colonel W. B. WOOD,
Sixteenth Alabama Regiment, Knoxville, Tenn.
SIR: If they attempt an invasion of East Tennessee it is rather probable they will move by way of the passes near Jacksborough or Jamestown. While our scouts are observing this road, they might be advancing by one of the other roads. I have therefore taken steps to have four cavalry companies employed in scouting from Jacksborough to Williamsburg.

Watch the movements of the Lincoln men in East Tennessee. Restrain our ultra friends from acts of indiscretion. Promptly meet and put down any attempted open hostility. But I have observed heretofore that a few of our friends about Knoxville are unnecessarily nervous; give their expressions of apprehension only their due weight.
Very respectfully,

Revolt of Unionists in Northeast Tennessee.

8 – 9 NOVEMBER 1861
Lick Creek railroad bridge burned on ET&VA Railroad in Northeast Tennessee.

Unionists swear their allegiance to the U. S. flag before burning Lick Creek Bridge.

KNOXVILLE, November 9, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN:
Two large bridges [at Zollicoffer in Sullivan County and at Lick Creek in Greene County] on my [rail]road were burned last night about 12 o’clock … and an effort made to burn the largest bridge on my [rail]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 form Bristol to 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 another 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.
President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.

10 NOVEMBER 1861
Five of the men who burned Lick Creek Bridge are arrested
KNOXVILLE, November 10, 1861.
SIR: Information has been received that Mr. Hodgson, a member of the legislature, has been making a treasonable speech over in Sevier County. He is also suspected as having a knowledge, if not an instigator, of the burning of the bridges. He was here yesterday morning, and we would have arrested him, but he made his escape, and may probably try to get through your lines somewhere. He ought to be arrested. Five of the incendiaries who burned the Lick Creek Bridge have been arrested. …

Regretting as much as any one this calamity, I feel that I did all that I could to prevent it, and I 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. … What shall I do with the prisoners?
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Col. W. B. WOOD.

11 NOVEMBER 1861
Unionist uprising in Northeast Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861.
General S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector General.
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 tomorrow. I have sent Colonel Powell there with 200 infantry, one company cavalry and about 100 citizens armed with shotguns and country rifles. …

An attack was made on Watauga [Carter’s Depot bridge] 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.

… 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. … 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. I have had all the arms in this city seized and authorized Major Campbell to impress all he can find in the hands of union men who ought now to be regarded as avowed enemies …
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Post.

12 NOVEMBER 1861
Confederate reaction to Union rebellion
Governor Harris sends another 10,000 troops into Northeast Tennessee to disperse Union gatherings, disarm civilians, and arrest Unionist leaders.

20 NOVEMBER 1861
I sent a few men to arrest Andrew Johnson’s sons.
BRIGADE HEADQUARTERS, November 20, 1861.
Lieutenant- Colonel MACKALL,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Bowling Green, Ky.
SIR: I sent a few men up to Greeneville to arrest Andrew Johnson’s sons and son-in-law. … By this time I presume General [W. H.]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 … but a small proportion of the population will now give countenance to hostile acts against the Confederate Government, and 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 many thousands over who would have been driven to the enemy had our policy been severe two months 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,

20 NOVEMBER 1861
Col. William B. Wood announces to CSA Secretary of War, Judah P. Benjamin, the East Tennessee rebellion has been suppressed.

25 NOVEMBER 1861
CSA Secretary of War orders the captured bridge burners to be tried by drumhead court-martial, and hanged if found guilty.

30 NOVEMBER 1861
Lick Creek Bridge burners executed.
Henry Fry and Jacob Matthew Hinshaw are tried and found guilty of burning the Lick Creek Bridge. They are hanged the same day from a tree near the Greeneville Railroad Depot.

Bridge burners still being arrested
KNOXVILLE, December 5, 1861.
The following dispatch received this morning dated from Bird’s Point:
Captain Cocke just in with two bridge-burners and other prisoners. Have no news from Colonel Leadbetter. Colonel 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. …
Cannonading and musketry at 8 o’clock. Tories [Unionists] have made a stand.
Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.

KNOXVILLE, December 7, 1861.
Captain Monsarrat has dispersed the tories in Cocke County and captured thirty of the ringleaders.
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Cocke County, Northeast Tennessee

Expedition into Northeast Tennessee
HEADQUARTERS, Greenville, Tenn.
General S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector General.
SIR: Hearing that the insurgents had gathered in force at or near the bend of Chucky River and thence to the neighborhood of Parrottsville and of Newport on the French Broad in Cocke County I moved the Twenty-ninth North Carolina … in that direction on the 3rd instant. Hearing that General Carroll had troops on the line of railroad at Morristown I arranged with them by telegraph to move into the enemy’s county at the same time and from opposite directions.

That country consists of a tumultuous mass of steep hills wooded to the top with execrable roads winding through the ravines and often occupying the beds of the water-courses. A few of the insurgent scouts were seen, pursued and fired on. One was desperately wounded and left at a cabin near by.

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 or fear. The women in some cases were greatly alarmed throwing themselves on the ground and wailing like savages. … The expedition lasted four days, and in the course of it we met Colonel Powel’s command deep in the mountains and our guns were responded to at no great distance by a force under Captain Monsarrat [USA].

These people cannot be caught in that manner. As likely to be more effective I have detached three companies of Colonel Vance’s regiment to Parrottsville with instructions to impress horses from Union men and be active in seizing troublesome men in all directions. They will impress provisions giving certificates therefor, with assurance that the amounts will be paid if the future loyalty of the sufferer shall justify the clemency of the Government. 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 toward pacification. The Union men are taking the oath in pretty large numbers and arms are beginning to be brought in. Captain McClellan of the Tennessee cavalry 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 toward 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, &c, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding.

10 DECEMBER 1861
KNOXVILLE, December 10, 1861.
The court-martial has sentenced A. C. Haun, bridge-burner, to be hung. … Ordered to be
executed at 12 o’clock to-morrow. …”WM. H. CARROLL,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

11 DECEMBER 1861
Bridge burner Alex Haun is hanged at a hastily-built gallows north of Knoxville.

13 DECEMBER 1861
Major-General CRITTENDEN, Richmond, Va.
SIR: In accordance with the verbal instructions communicated to you by the President you will proceed to Kentucky and assume command of all the forces now commanded by General Zollicoffer, including Carroll’s brigade and the different posts established by General Zollicoffer at Cumberland Gap and other mountain passes. You will report directly to General A. S. [Albert Sidney] Johnston by letter.

Unless otherwise ordered by General Johnston your command will not include Eastern Tennessee, Colonel Leadbetter having been specially assigned by the President [Jefferson Davis] to the duty of maintaining the communications through that district of country and ordered to assume the command of the troops necessary for guarding the line and dispersing the insurrectionists and bridge-burners; …

If by chance you shall, however, be thrown into command in any part of East Tennessee you will understand the policy of the Government to be to show no further clemency to rebels in arms. All actually engaged in bridge-burning should be tried summarily and executed if convicted by military authority. All others captured with arms or proven to have taken up arms against the Government are to be sent to Tuscaloosa [Alabama] as prisoners of war.

All such inhabitants as are known to have been in league with the traitors may be pardoned if they promptly deliver up their arms and take the oath of allegiance to this Government. In such event they are to be protected in their persons and property; otherwise they should be arrested wherever found and treated as prisoners of war, and especially should care be taken to allow none of them to remain armed. These are the instructions substantially that have been given to Colonel Leadbetter under which he has been acting.
Your obedient servant,
Secretary of War.

17 DECEMBER 1861
Jacob Harmon and his son Henry are hanged at Knoxville.

19 DECEMBER 1861
Description of the situation in East Tennessee in the autumn of 1861
Knoxville, Tenn., December 19, 1861.
Honorable 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.]
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. … 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 [1861] Major-General Polk sent General W. H. Carroll here for the purpose of endeavoring to bring the people over to the support of the Confederate Government and to enlist one or more regiments for the Army. General Carroll succeeded beyond his expectations, raising and organizing in a very short time a full regiment-coming mostly from those counties where in June the heaviest vote had been polled against the separation of Tennessee from the Federal Government.

This gratifying result I am satisfied is attributable almost entirely to the liberal and conciliatory policy of which I have spoken; but notwithstanding there were still left a few leading miscreants 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 and other depredations committed while the mass of the people were entirely ignorant of their designs and utterly opposed to any such wickedness and folly.

The numbers engaged in these outrages have I know been greatly over-estimated as facts have been developed in the investigations that have been made by the court-martial now in session at this place which satisfy me beyond doubt that there were not at the time the bridges were burned 500 men in all East Tennessee who knew anything of it or who contemplated any organized opposition to the Government.

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 had been guilty of no crime save that of lending a too credulous ear to the corrupt demagogues whose counsels have led them astray. Among those thus captured were a number of bridge-burners. These latter were tried and promptly executed.

About 400 or the poor victims of designing leaders have been sent to Tuscaloosa as prisoners of war leaving in many instances their families in a helpless and destitute condition. The greatest distress prevails throughout the entire country 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 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 General 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 [Benjamin] by which he is governed he does not feel at liberty to do so. …
Respectfully, your friend,
CSA Assistant Adjutant-General
Staff of General W. H. Carroll in Knoxville.

Thomas A. R. Nelson

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: 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


6 AUGUST 1861: Arrest of prominent East Tennessee Unionist Thomas A. R. Nelson
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.

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,

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.,

President of the Confederate States of America 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 …
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.”
Knoxville, Tenn., October 4, 1862.
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,
Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.

4 OCTOBER 1862: Meet CSA Gen. SAM. JONES
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,

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.

17 OCTOBER 1862: Confederate authorities deny incarcerating T. A. R. Nelson’s son to force Nelson’s “Address To The People of 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:   
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
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,

26 DECEMBER 1863: Gen. Carter requests aid for Unionists
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.


“Confederate Policy of Repression in East Tennessee,” War of the Rebellion, Serial 114 Page 0823, Official Records of the Civil War, accessed 21 February 2021, ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/114/0823

“Union Rebellion in East Tennessee,” War of the Rebellion, 1861, Serial 114 Page 0825, Official Records of the Civil War, accessed 21 February 2021, ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/114/0825

“Prisoners of War, etc.,” War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0826, accessed 21 February 2021, ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/114/0826

A Tennessee Unionist Arrested,” New York Times, 31 August 1861, accessed 27 February 2021,nytimes.com/1861/08/13/archives/a-tennessee-unionist-arrested.html