1846 The family buys an inn, known as the Inman Inn. While Myra is still a child, her father dies without leaving a will. Mrs. Inman—Ann Jarnagin Inman—sells all of their property to survive. She then moves her family to a new home, which is used as a boarding house.
1859 Thirteen-year-old Myra Adelaide Inman writes the first entry in her diary on New Year’s Day, 1859. She records her activities and those of her friends and family, as well as the events of her hometown of 250 people—Cleveland, an Appalachian community in Southeast Tennessee. Myra often writes about visiting friends and attending balls, parties, and teas. Her experiences appear to be similar to those of rural inhabitants across the South.
MAP OF SOUTHEAST TENNESSEE
MYRA INMAN’S CONFEDERATE DIARY
1 JANUARY 1859 Cousin John Lea was here this morning. Mother, Sister, Jimmie and Annie spent the day at Dr. Brown’s. … A beautiful day but very muddy. I did not get any New Year’s presents.
12 APRIL Fort Sumter Fighting at 4 o’clock this morning at Charleston, continues until the 13th. Honor and Shame from no condition rise. Act well your part, there all the honor lies.
18 APRIL 1861 A pleasant day. Perry Gaut and Dr. Carson here this morning to get us to assist making a Union Flag. Mother would not let us.
23 APRIL 1861 Sallie Shields presented the Unionists with a flag today.
8 MAY 1861 Saying goodbye to Confederate soldiers at Cleveland Depot. We all went over to the depot … I gave a soldier a bouquet, got acquainted with several of them, gave a great many of them bouquets.
13 MAY 1861 Rumors of slave rebellion. Last night the Negroes were to have an insurrection—so it was reported.
31 MAY 1861 Learning to shoot. We all went down to the spring and learned to shoot. Mr. Montgomery joined us there. I shot twelve times, loaded the gun three times. Enjoyed myself finely.
1 JUNE 1861 Confederate troops in train accident. After the rain Venie, Rhoda, Sister, Mary E., Mrs. Garrison and I went down to Mrs. Stuart’s to see the troops. They did not come, met with an accident down at Glass’s Station, and did not get here until night.
7 JUNE 1861 Secession speeches in Cleveland. I went to hear Hon. John Bell and Col. Campbell deliver the secession address this evening in the courthouse yard.
8 JUNE 1861 The state of Tennessee voted out of the Union today …
CIVIL WAR MARKER Masonic Female Institute: Sadly abused Inscription. Masonic Lodge No. 134 and the town of Cleveland established the Masonic Female Institute in 1848 and opened the school in 1856. At the beginning of the war, student and diarist Myra Inman wrote of a disruption in the school’s leadership: “Mr. Blunt [the school’s principal] was not coming back.” Principal Ainsworth E. Blunt fled the county with other young men, in fear of being forced into Confederate service. The school operated until the fall of 1863 when the Union army arrived. During the Battle of Missionary Ridge on 27 NOVEMBER 1863, Ohio cavalrymen raided the rear of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s army, destroying 12 miles of railroad and burning the copper-rolling mill in Cleveland. In anticipation of a counterattack the troopers camped in and around Cleveland. The 1st Ohio Cavalry guarded the north end of town at the schoolyard. The next morning, the Confederates attacked from nearby Charleston and forced the Federals’ retreat to Chattanooga. The Confederate defeat at Missionary Ridge enabled the Union army to take possession of Cleveland, where it used the school building during 1864. The school reopened in the fall of 1864 with the return of the school’s former principal, then Capt. Blunt, after his service in the Union 1st East Tennessee Cavalry. He found that the army’s occupation had reduced the building to a “sadly abused condition.” The school operated until the 1890s when the building was donated to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. The church later sold it, and the building was converted to apartments in 1915. Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. Marker is in Cleveland, Tennessee, Bradley County, on North Ocoee Street. hmdb.org/m.asp?m=153687 hmdb.org/Photos5/532/Photo532433o.jpg
Secession and Coercion in Bradley County Bradley County votes 1,382 to 507 to remain in the Union. Union men are coerced into enlisting in the Confederate Army. Those who refuse are imprisoned in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In an attempt to escape Confederate enlistment some Union men hide in manmade caves. Food and supplies are brought to these refugees by Union-sympathizing women.
American Civil War As the War approaches, pro-Confederate Myra Inman witnesses the divisions within her community. Through her eyes, we gain insight into the life of a young woman in a middle-class Confederate family. She writes of Confederate meetings and rallies and civic and military organizations. Myra is fond of reading, needlework, and weaving – but after the Civil War begins, much of the family’s spare time is focused on making things for the soldiers.
JULY 1861 Rebels confiscate guns from Unionists. The private arms of Bradley County Union men are forcibly taken by Rebels. Rebel soldiers take other property from Bradley Unionists, often paying them in Confederate currency.
7 JULY 1861 Fear of a Unionist insurrection near Cleveland. There were about five hundred “union men” collected together five miles from here to attack some troops they heard were going to Jimtown [Jamestown, Fentress County, East Tennessee] or Cumberland Gap.
21 JULY 1861 First Battle of the Civil War. At Bull Run near Manassas Junction VA.
25 DECEMBER 1861 Confederate Christmas in Cleveland Pretty day. Christmas day. Mother, R., Lizzie and I went down to Judge Gaut’s to see Mary Gaut present a flag to Capt. Dunn’s Company. They left for Knoxville today. Mother and R. went to the depot [to see them off]. Their name is ‘Rough and Ready Rifles.’ Their motto, “We come to share the victory.”
23 JANUARY 1862 News of Zollicoffer’s death reaches Cleveland. Heard this evening that Gen. [Felix] Zollicoffer’s forces were defeated and he killed in KY. The fight took place last Sunday, 19th. Mr. Bradshaw came down after dark to hear the news. The battle of Fishing Creek or Mill Spring was a complete rout of the Southern Army.
27 JANUARY 1862 Effects of war in Cleveland. Pretty day. Emeline [a slave] went out to get some lard. I helped Aunt Phoebe [a slave] wash, had only two meals. Aunt E., Mary Edwards and Mrs. Bradshaw [were] here this morning. Rhoda and Adelia took a ride this evening, went out to the “Poor-House.” Julius Jarnagin came down tonight and brought an invitation to attend Cousin Ellen’s wedding tomorrow eve at 3:30 o’clock. Bob Grant [a Confederate soldier] came home sick today. Cousin John came home this eve on furlough … was in the battle of Mill Springs. Monttomerie was in the battle of Mill Springs, January 19th, Cousin John Lea brought him home from exposure.
1 MARCH 1862 Resistance to the Confederate military service. I hear a drum beating for the noble young men of our state to defend us. I am sorry to say that there are some few who will have to be dragged out in the militia (if not drafted) before they will deprive themselves of their pleasant homes to meet the invader.
2 MARCH 1862 Treatment of Unionists in Bradley County During Rebel Occupation. What impudence the North has to think we will be under one of their tyrants. Has also called for 50,000 volunteers. Never will he get one of my kinsmen to respond to his call.
JULY 1862 Confederate hospitals. Anticipating battle casualties from the front in Virginia, Confederate hospitals are established in Cleveland, Chattanooga, and nearby places in northern Georgia.
HOSPITAL SCENE, 1864, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
12 JULY 1862 Wounded soldiers to Cleveland hospitals. Doctor Edward’s daughter came over and told mother that she had seen a dispatch stating there would be 300 wounded soldiers from the Richmond battle sent down.
13 JULY 1862 Went over to the train this eve, but 20 came down.
14 JULY 1862 We all went over to see the wounded soldiers, 300 came today.
15 JULY 1862 125 wounded on the train.
5 NOVEMBER 1862 Railroad accident near Cleveland. A gloom was spread over our town this morn. caused by a sad accident which occurred 16 miles from here. The cable of a car broke, which caused 18 men to lose their lives, while 70 were wounded. They were brought to the hospitals.
25 NOVEMBER 1862 A gloomy night for us all. I know. Hear the cars coming that is to bear Mr. Carter* off to the “seat of war.” He joined the army and is going to start to Mobile tonight. Will we ever see him again? What will our condition as a nation and a family [be] this time next year? Will he be alive and at home, or have a resting place in a soldier’s grave far away from home? Mother went over to the depot to see Mr. Carter’s regiment off, but [it] did not get there until just now. *In 1853 Myra’s sister Darthula married John Carter, a salesman with businesses as far away as Charleston, SC.
4 FEBRUARY 1863 Love, marriage, and daydreams. A sad and cloudy eve. Aunt Adeline is no better. Finished reading My Sister Minnie this eve. Rhoda was called on this eve to reject another of her not very numerous suitors, Mr. Smith. I do not know why it is that he fancied her among so many girls in Cleveland. She is not so pretty as others, but I love her none the less for that. She is the sweetest sister I have. Oh! how utterly desolate he looked as he turned and bade her good-bye. I do not envy him his feelings as he returns to his home this gloomy eve, neither his lonely ride which he has to take in order to break that hearthstone which will seem so dreary to him until he finds another that is worthy of that love he placed on the shrine of my coldhearted sister. Wonder if R. will ever marry, as yet she has never reciprocated anyone’s [affection], neither told any they might dare to hope that has knelt to her. This world is nothing and yet we cling to it and its maddening pleasures as if they, when gained, could be retained forever in our unworthy grasp. How many hundred “castles in the air” have I built, and they all vanish, but the workman is too frail and her buildings are swept away by the first rude hand of adversity.
21 FEBRUARY 1863 A very rainy morn. Got up this morn, made up my bed, dressed, ate breakfast, worked on Sister’s chemise band, ate dinner, posted my journal, helped with supper, ate supper, washed and went to bed. This is the manner in which I usually spend my Saturdays. Wonder if I will live to see the war ended and if it will be over this time next year.
19 JULY 1863 Cleveland prepares for reception of sick soldiers. The town is full of soldiers getting the hospitals ready for the sick.
18 AUGUST 1863 Changes in lifestyle brought about by the war. We have not servants [slaves] … here. The first time [this has] occurred since I can remember. It seems so strange we have to do our own work. Susan washes & milks. Sister & Mother cook. Aunt Adeline & Lizzie iron. Rhoda & I clean up the house.
21 AUGUST 1863 Conditions in Confederate Cleveland, expecting the Yankees. A pretty day. Fast Day. I did not eat any breakfast, had a headache and ate an apple. Mr. Carter came and informed us that Gen. [Braxton] Bragg CSA was making a move into Middle Tennessee. We are expecting a battle there soon. I await the event with mingled hope and fear for our safety. All the town is in confusion, the hospitals are being broken up and the sick are leaving as fast as possible. They are expecting the Yankees in here very soon. They are attempting to cross the Tennessee at Harrison, Blythe’s Ferry, and Chattanooga. They have been shelling Chattanooga all day. The casualties on our side at the last account were 7 men killed, one woman and a child’s leg shot off, it has since died. Mrs. Stout [was] here after tea, she was very much excited (as we all are). Mr. Carter, Rhoda, and I went up to Cousin M. Jarnagin’s to see if we could hear any news from Chattanooga. Bragg arrived from Cherokee Springs yesterday eve; they were completely surprised at Chattanooga. We all sat up until after eleven o’clock last night, hiding things. Waited until after the Negroes went to bed.
CIVIL WAR SUPPLY WAGONS
22 AUGUST 1863 Rumble of supply wagons. The wagons are lumbering towards Chattanooga, they keep up a noise nearly all day. I am going to make pockets in my chemises, if the Yankees come I can hide some things from them. If this war was only over. I am so tired of the suspense we are always in, but I fear our scourge is just commencing.
LATE AUGUST – EARLY SEPTEMBER 1863 Union General Ambrose Burnside arrives. Burnside and his army invade East Tennessee, making their headquarters in Knoxville, 80 miles northeast of Cleveland.
SEPTEMBER 1863 Anxieties about the war in Cleveland. The house is in such a confusion I cannot sleep, we are looking for the Yanks. The Cavalry is passing through continuously en route for Chattanooga.
Federal soldiers arrive in Cleveland. When will we see another Southern soldier, we are now in the federal government, and I detest it. I took a good cry this eve at our fate.
Union soldiers strip Cleveland of its supplies. Myra writes about Union soldiers taking her family’s corn, potatoes, and chickens – and other Confederate families being robbed. She is warned by another citizen that she must be careful visiting Southern families lest the secret police arrest her.
8 SEPTEMBER 1863 Anxieties about the war and the future in Cleveland. All of the southern soldiers have left today. Oh, I feel so sad to think the southern army has left and left us to our fate. We are looking for the Yankees in soon. … We are very busy baking biscuits for some soldiers, the last we will cook for them in a long time, I am afraid. When will we see peace again? I never wish to pass such a week as the last has been, such confusion and noise I never witnessed. Cousin John Lea came and told us good-bye about 2 o’clock. He went down to Dalton [Georgia]. I am very lonesome this eve. The soldiers have all left and everything is quiet, looking for the Yankees [to come] in every minute. When will we see another southern soldier, we are now in the federal government, how I detest it. I do wish we could whip them. We are cut off from all of our friends and relatives. The town looks deserted. I took a good cry this eve about our fate. …
8 SEPTEMBER 1863 Sad days for secessionists … We all got up with sad hearts, longing for the return of our army. Everything is so still, no cars and very few persons passing about. We look for them (the Yankees) every day and wonder what will be our fate. Numbers of southern families have left. … Oh, it is so lonesome. We have no life about us, no encouragement to work. Do not know how long we will get to keep what we have even. We are needing rain very badly, everything is perfectly parched up. … I never felt so bad in my life, we hear nothing of our army, do not know what it is doing. We are cut off from all news. … The Yankees’ cavalry came in a while after dark tonight. …
12 SEPTEMBER 1863 Union cavalry in Cleveland. The Yankees cavalry rode in (about two hundred) from the fair ground where they bivouacked last night, the “stars and stripes” floating above their heads. I could not realize they were our enemies and had come to deal death missals amongst us. … The Federals left town this morning.
15 SEPTEMBER 1863 Confederate cavalry dashes in. Scott’s cavalry … made a dash in here with the intention of finding some Yankees but only shot at some renegades. The men ran in every Direction. I was much excited … I am afraid we will have a battle here in Cleveland one of these days.
17 SEPTEMBER 1863 Federals arrest newspaper editor in Cleveland. A pretty day. Mother and I went out to Uncle Caswell’s this morn. Mary Elizabeth came out and told us they were looking for 10,000 rebels, she and I stayed out there all day … Mr. McNelley [editor of the Cleveland Democratic] came home this eve. Mother and Sister went there after tea, they arrested him whilst they were there. Dr. Hughes here tonight to tell Sister and Mother that they are to be arrested tomorrow morn for being at Mr. McNelley’s.
18 SEPTEMBER 1863 A cloudy, raw day. This morn the Confederates had a skirmish with the Yankees’ cavalry here. Commenced about 5 o’clock, killed 3, wounded some, took some prisoners, and ran the rest towards Charleston. … We all went down in the cellar during the fight. … The Yankees and Lincolnites left for Athens in a hurry this morn.
19 SEPTEMBER 1863 We heard cannons (in the direction of Ringgold) from 10 to 12 o’clock without ceasing this morn. We are very anxious to know the result. The town looks gloomy and deserted. [We] see just a few men standing on the corners of the streets. The southern men and Lincolnites have all run.
AUTUMN 1863 The first engagements between Confederate and Union troops in Bradley County occurred in the autumn of 1863 as part of the struggle for Chattanooga.
22 SEPTEMBER 1863 Federal forces are en route … We rec’d news that the Yankees were coming. Our forces fell below town. We got up from the table at dinner and went over to Mrs. Miller’s each with a sack. Mr. Carter went down to Mr. McCameys. We came back about 2 o’clock, finished our dinner and packed our clothes in sacks and all (16 of us), went out and stayed all night at Mr. Reeder’s. Sister, Johnnie, Annie and I rode in the buggy. We had some apprehensions of them shelling the town.
29 SEPTEMBER 1863 Nathan Bedford Forrest’s command in Cleveland. Gen. Forrest is here now, two regiments of his cavalry are encamped at the fair grounds. Four took tea here, we cooked a great many of their rations. Had to turn off [turn away] quite a number.
13 OCTOBER 1863 Confederate depredations* in Cleveland. The mails have commenced coming. The soldiers are dealing very badly, taking corn, leaving down fences, stealing horses, chickens, hogs and everything else they see. We turned off several that wanted dinner … Mother commenced putting corn in the little front room this eve. Pillage and Plunder* Both pillage and plunder refer to the taking of goods by force. Pillage is the act of stripping a people of valuables. Plunder is the roving of soldiers through recently conquered territory in search of money and goods.
18 OCTOBER 1863 On to the Field of Glory. Forrest’s cavalry violate the Sabbath in Cleveland … [They] left this morn for Loudon. The brass band played “Dixie” and “On to the Field of Glory” as if it was not Sunday. How can we gain our independence when our soldiers regard not the Sabbath?
26 OCTOBER 1863 Reaping the harvests. Our folks are very busy hauling in our corn. We will have plenty of corn, potatoes, tallow, pumpkins, and nearly enough meat to do us another year if we can only keep it from the soldiers. How thankful we should be for our blessings. The soldiers are ruining Uncle Caswell, taking his corn, burning his rails and killing his hogs.
29 OCTOBER 1863 First Union occupation. The Yanks came into town this evening about 3 O’clock. General Sherman’s Company camped all around us tonight, robbing us of our corn, potatoes, and taking all of our chickens… We sit in the house with bowed-downed heads while the victorious army passes along with waving banners, and offer up a silent prayer for our country whilst we hear nothing but exultant shouts of our enemy.
The Inman House Myra Inman’s widowed mother continues to operate the boarding house, which becomes a favorite stopping place for travelers, including both Confederate and Union soldiers.
Confederate Hospitals Anticipating battle casualties in the area, Confederate hospitals are established in Cleveland, Chattanooga, and several locations in North Georgia.
24 NOVEMBER 1863 Col. Eli Long arrives. Union Col. Long rides into Cleveland with 1,500 Union cavalrymen. Long demolishes the railroad in Bradley County and burns down the Cleveland Copper Rolling Mill, filling it with confiscated ‘rebel torpedoes.’ The following onslaught of explosions lasted for thirty minutes.
18-year-old Myra writes: A raid of Yankees came in this eve. They took two hogsheads of our corn, and are all over in everything else. We go to bed with sad hearts. We have heard cannonading all day.
26 NOVEMBER 1863 The Yankees are taking our corn, potatoes, pork, salt, and never pay a cent, and besides talk very insulting to us. [I]t is so hard to see it done and can’t help our selves. They burnt Mr. Raht’s wagon and the railroad and some cars. … Oh, how I wish I had power.
Col. Long’s official report lists seized public property: In Cleveland I found a considerable lot of rockets and shells, large quantities of corn, and several bales of new grain sacks, all belonging to the rebel Government. Long added that he “burned several railroad cars found here; also the large copper rolling mill – the only one of its kind in the Confederacy.
BURNING OF THE COPPER ROLLING MILL IN CLEVELAND Copper was essential for the production of bronze cannon and other material for the Confederacy, but it was most critical for use in rifle and pistol percussion caps.
29 NOVEMBER 1863 Federal army descends on Cleveland. The Yanks came in town this evening about 3 o’clock. Gen. [William Tecumseh] Sherman’s Co. camped all around us tonight, robbing us of our corn, potatoes, and taking all our chickens. Left only two. A brigade surgeon, Dr. Abbot, took tea and stayed all night. A very cold night and we have very little wood. The soldiers are in Uncle Ned’s house and in the kitchen stealing and taking everything they can get. Took Aunt’s quilt off her bed. The Yanks took George’s and our two best mules, but let George’s loose. We sit in the house with bowed-down heads while the victorious army passes along with raving banners, and offer up a silent prayer for our country while we hear nothing but the exultant shouts of our enemy. They came in town playing “Yankee Doodle.” We go to bed with sad hearts but still hoping God has better days for us.
CIVIL WAR MARKER Cleveland During the Civil War. Struggle for Control. Inscription. When the Civil War began, Cleveland was a divided community with most residents being sympathetic to the Union. Confederate troops occupied the area in 1861 to control the East Tennessee and Georgia [ET&GA] Railroad and to protect the vitally important Hiwassee River bridge. President Abraham Lincoln worried about the future of the railroad junction at Cleveland, but the town remained under Confederate occupation until 1863. The first engagements between Confederate and Union troops in Bradley County occurred in the autumn of 1863 as part of the struggle for Chattanooga. The most destructive took place on 24-26 November, when Union Col. Eli Long’s brigade cut communications and transportation lines to Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s position at Missionary Ridge. Long also severed railroad lines connecting Chattanooga to Knoxville and Dalton, destroyed the only copper-rolling mill in the South at Cleveland, and forced the Confederates to withdraw from the town. Long’s troops camped at the Cleveland Masonic Female Institute until they were attacked and withdrew to Chattanooga. The Union victory at the Battle of Missionary Ridge on 25 November 1863, resulted in Federal troops controlling Bradley County for the rest of the war. From May to October 1864, a Union artillery unit was stationed in downtown Cleveland, with the officers establishing headquarters at the Raht house overlooking the railroad depot and the town. Union troops built Fort McPherson and Fort Sedgwick on the highest points here and successfully repelled Confederate Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s 17 August 1864 raid. The fortifications were located at Hilcrest Memorial Gardens on South Ocoee Street and Ft. Hill Cemetery on Worth Street. “To take and hold the railroad at or east of Cleveland, Tennessee, I think is as fully as important as the taking and holding of Richmond.” ~ Abraham Lincoln, 30 June 1862. (captions) Civil War Atlas, 1891 Col. Eli Long Gen. James B. McPherson (1828-1864) Gen. John Sedgwick (1813-1864) Images courtesy Library of Congress Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. Marker is in Cleveland, Tennessee, in Bradley County, at the intersection of Inman Street East (U.S. 64) and Parker Street Northeast. hmdb.org/m.asp?m=69342 hmdb.org/Photos2/257/Photo257381o.jpg
SOUTHEAST TENNESSEE RAILROAD MAP
30 NOVEMBER 1863 Federal army leaves Cleveland. The enemy left early this morn, en route for Knoxville in order to capture Longstreet’s Army. It is said about 2 corps are to go up. The wagons are passing through under whips and lash whilst the infantry are double-quicking it.
1 DECEMBER 1863 Conduct of Federal soldiers in Cleveland. Wilder’s Yankee Cavalry camped on our lot from sundown until 12 o’clock, took corn, potatoes and straw and burnt a great number of our rails. The Major’s headquarters were near the pig pen. He appointed a Mr. Brown to guard us. Two soldiers came in and talked to us until late.
2 DECEMBER 1863 Return of hogs. I feel so sad this eve about our condition. I often wonder what will be the end of all of this. If we retreat I would be willing to live any way , I think … I went to see cousin Mary Jarnagin, she came home with me to get George [a slave] to kill her hogs she got from the Yanks this morn.
24 DECEMBER 1863 Christmas Eve in Cleveland. We went over to see Mr. Walcott (the wounded soldier), he is worse this eve. It looks so gloomy and cheerless over there, I have felt so sad ever since I was there. Oh, if he would only get well. … What a gloomy Xmas eve this, how unlike other Xmases I have passed. Will I ever enjoy myself as well again? Rhoda came in from Aunt’ E’s this eve to enjoy, no not enjoy, but pass Xmas. She is now reading our hero “Stonewall Jackson’s Life” to Mother. R. and I fixed up a few ground nuts, walnut and hickory nuts for Stepney’s stocking. Oh, so sad is our like at this time. If I could only see into the future, but it does no good to record sad thoughts and gloomy scenes, so I will close my journal. … The Yanks have reinforced, are looking for the “Rebs ” tomorrow.
28 DECEMBER 1863 Skirmish at Cleveland. The Rebels fired at the Yanks about 4 o’clock this morn. About daylight the Rebels came in town and fought a while. The Yanks repulsed them.
4 JANUARY 1864 Myra Adelaide Inman’s views on the war. A cloudy and rainy day. … About 100 more Yanks came in this eve. One here for milk and another for butter. How I long for peace or even to see our army back here again. This is the darkest hour our Confederacy has ever seen. About two thirds of Georgia has given it up, they are putting every man from the age of 15 to 65 in the army. A great many of our soldiers are deserting, how disgraceful. Wonder if the yoke of bondage will be on our necks this time next year. I feel so impatient to see the end of all this strife and bloodshed. If I could only see into the future 6 months, but I presume I will be … anticipating yet never realizing my wishes.
10 FEBRUARY 1864 The Federals hoisted their flag this morning. It now floats over Cleveland. Sad emblem of what once was. Once happy and beloved United States, never will liberty and freedom be perched on the banner as it was when thousands of patriots poured out their life’s blood under the sacred folds.
CIVIL WAR NO MAN’S LAND After battles at Chattanooga in November 1863, and before the Atlanta Campaign the following May, southern Bradley County lay between Union and Confederate lines at Cleveland, Tennessee, and Dalton, Georgia. Both armies scouted the area. Soldiers and guerrillas looted farms and businesses. Here in February 1864 elderly Unionist Joseph Lusk II fought off rebels trying to steal his mules. One rebel was killed. Lusk’s home was burned in retaliation. Erected 2015 by Tennessee Historical Commission. Location. Marker is on Dalton Pike 0.4 miles south of Old Weatherly Switch Road S hmdb.org/m.asp?m=115884
MARCH 1864 How I sigh for independence; my spirits feel crushed. In vain I sigh for peace and find none.
3 MARCH 1864 Confederate and Yankee suitors in Cleveland. Miss Callie and I went over to see Mr. Walcott [a recuperating Confederate soldier]. I took him a paper and some pie, we enjoyed the jaunt, it is so refreshing to see a rebel and talk our sentiments freely. Lieut. Simmons [Federal soldier] called and brought me two papers this morn. I am better pleased with him than any so far, but there is something repulsive in a Yankee’s look, not like the bold candor, handsome and brave heart of southern heroes. If we can only gain our independence, it is all I ask. I would willingly sacrifice everything.
27 MARCH 1864 A lovely day. The sun arose in resplendent glory this morn, auguring a beautiful Sabbath, but … we heard not the clear chimes of the [church] bell peel forth, but in its place we are greeted by the oaths & curses of our fellow men. Sad degeneracy of human nature, caused by war! Two East Tennessee renegades here this morn. If this war was only over. Why are we scourged so bitterly? My conscience answers for our sins. … What will be another year hence? I am in hopes the wheel of time will in its revolution bring peace, but my hopes are very shallow. It seems hardly possible.
CIVIL WAR MARKER Union IV Corps at Blue Springs: The Calm Before the Storm Inscription. After Union victories at Chattanooga in November 1863, the Union Army IV Corps’ First Division, led by Gen. David S. Stanley, camped in this valley and made preparations for the Atlanta Campaign. By April 1864, more than 9,000 men were present, confronting Confederate lines at nearby Dalton, Georgia. Col. William Grose wrote that the site was “a good camping ground, [with] good water and plenty of wood.” Stanley reported, “Our position was one of risk, but I made our fortified hill so strong that it was a veritable place d’armes [military parade ground]. Many officers sent for their wives and we had a very domestic time. … The evening meetings were rich in fun, joke and song, helping to while away the dreary winter of 1863-1864.” Religious services also were held here. Chaplain Father Peter Cooney wrote of a harsh winter and a 10-inch snowfall late in March. On February 10, 1864, Col. Grose and Col. Louis Waters, both based at Blue Springs, delivered patriotic speeches in Cleveland to more than 2,000 people who gathered to cheer the raising of the Stars and Stripes. The Federals here also guarded against Confederate raids into Tennessee and tested enemy defenses. On February 22-27, a demonstration against the Confederates near Dalton resulted in heavy fighting that left hundreds dead, wounded, and captured on both sides. The Atlanta Campaign began when the camps emptied in early May 1864. Captions. Bottom left: IV Corps wagons near Blue Springs, 1864 ~ Courtesy U.S. Army Military History Institute. Top right: Easter Sunday 1864 services, Blue Springs, conducted by Father Peter Cooney, chaplain, 35th Indiana (First Irish) Infantry – Courtesy Library of Congress. Bottom right: 36th Indiana Infantry posing in battle formation, Blue Springs – Courtesy U.S. Army Military History Institute. Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. Marker is near Cleveland, Tennessee, in Bradley County. Marker is on Old Blue Springs Road west of Blue Springs Road Southeast, on the left when traveling west. Marker located at entrance to Blue Spring Park. hmdb.org/m.asp?m=153744 hmdb.org/Photos5/532/Photo532589o.jpg
2 MAY 1864 Lieut. Simmons [a Federal soldier] called on me this eve. He loves me, I dislike him, he is a Yank, he filled my heart with dolt as regards Gen. Johns[t]on’s success. I sewed a button on his coat for him. He bade me goodbye.
3 MAY 1864 A lovely day. Will I ever, can I ever, forget this day? Never, never. Our hearts all bowed down in grief. I am sitting at the parlor window. I hear the drums beating, the bands and fifes playing and ever and anon I let my eyes wander over the once beautiful country, I behold the foes marching and their guns and bayonets glistening in their onward march to desolate our country and rout our high spirited but downtrodden friends. I have (ye, we all have) mingled many a tear with our fervent prayers to God for our success. Fifteen thousand, they say, are to march from here. Whilst thousands are going from this vicinity, and thousands are to flank our poor boys; God have mercy on their souls. … Watch over and guard and protect our friends in this coming struggle. Save the souls of those whose lot is to fall on the impending battle. Sherman is marching on Gen. Johnston with an army of one hundred and fifty thousand strong. Such an army has never been mustered in these United States. We wish and tremble at the result. A few weeks will decide it. Sgt. Douglass [one of Myra’s Union suitors] came and told us good-bye. Thousands of cavalry have passed this morn, going on, on to kill our beloved friends. … Uncle Caswell has no hope for our success. …
4 MAY 1864 SPECIAL ORDERS, HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE OHIO, No. 125. The One Hundred and Twelfth Illinois Infantry will move by rail to-morrow morning to Cleveland, Tenn., where the regiment will leave the cars, and after having been supplied with the necessary transportation will march without delay to Red Clay and report for duty to Brigadier General J. D. Cox, commanding Third Division, Twenty-third Army Corps. By command of Major-General Schofield: R. MORROW, Assistant Adjutant-General.
11—12 MAY 1864 A sad, gloomy and cloudy day. It is disagreeably cold this eve. They have been fighting ever since Saturday. It is still undecided. Oh! Our poor soldiers, how many are suffering. … Capt. Hending and his clerk dined here. Capt. took breakfast and remained all night last night. We head this eve that yesterday [10th] the Federals drove our forces back a great deal from them and Gen Johnston drove their left wing back four miles. But with our suffering soldiers … raise up your friends and relatives to alleviate their pains and administer to their wants. If I could only be there to wait on them. I feel unusually sad this eve, and you, old journal, are the friend that I will confide in. Rather cold this morn. The woods are green and beautiful; our roses are in bloom. I feel so sad when I think probably they will fade and none of our Confederates see them. I would be so happy if I could only see them or if I even thought I would have the pleasure of presenting my sweetheart with a bouquet. … Report says that a raid of our Confederates is coming. Welcome brave heroes, to the land of your nativity! Thrice welcome stalwart sons of freedom!
9 JULY 1864 Confederate sympathizers arrested in Cleveland. Mollie G. & Julia Grant came this morn, they are in a great deal of trouble in consequence of being notified to report at Chattanooga. … The order was read to us by a sergeant in the dining room, just as tea was ready, stating that all rebel sympathizers had to report at Chattanooga Monday [11 July]. Through the assistance of Chaplain Spence [a Federal soldier] we have been released [from reporting]. How sad I feel to think even if we are permitted to stay our friend will go … we cannot even bid them farewell or else we will be accused of sympathizing with them & plotting against the government & be sent off without a thing in the world.
20 JULY 1864 It is reported that several thousand cavalry is to be encamped here, coming from the front. … The brass band belonging to the 2nd Ohio Heavy Artillery plays every evening at the Raught (Raht) House on the hill. I like to hear it, yet it makes me very, very sad. I hear it now playing in the distance. After Rhoda and I go to bed in our snug little domicile, we hear them beat the tattoo, after that dies way the sound of the bugle pierces our ears, when the last blast [is] heard all is still for the night … we sink to rest with a heavy heart amid fortifications and cannon ready to deal deadly missiles among our hearts’ idols who are banished and exiled from their homes.
22 JULY 1864 Mandatory passes in Cleveland. Persons are required to have street passes. We were advised by some friends not to visit southern families, that we are watched by secret policemen.
RAHT HOUSE In 1861 Thomas Callaway constructed this house, fronting the Southern Railroad, east of the track and depot. J. E. Raht bought it the same year. It served as his home and office while he directed the operations of the Ducktown Copper Company. Legend has it that during the Civil War a tunnel was dug from this house, west to the railroad station, which was used to hide Confederate soldiers and supplies.
16 AUGUST 1864 We were awakened last night at 1 o’clock from our slumbers, by the hurrying to & fro of army wagons, horses, men, etc., caused by an alarm given that the Confederates were coming. Rhoda arose, dressed. We all packed some few clothes to take in case we were ordered out of town. About 4 o’clock we all dressed, put on our bonnets & ate a little cold breakfast & were ready to start to the country when the first gun was fired.
17 AUGUST 1864 At noon the alarm was given that, “The Rebels were coming.” We were eating when the first cannon fired. We all fled to the cellar leaving the table just as it was. We then concluded that it was not safe even there & we then left … and went to Mr. Reeder’s, hundreds of persons joined us, (with bundles, etc.), in our march for the country. We went to Mr. Reeder’s & stayed all night. In due time Mother and the rest joined us there. I will always remember the night between 40 and 50 persons were there & nearly as many Negroes. The children and grown people laying stretched on the bare floor. I was ensconced in a large feather bed where I nearly suffocated from heat. … Silence reigned in the direction of our lonely & deserted homes. Not more than half a dozen families remained at home. Occasionally we could hear the booming of cannon firing from the fort at the Confederates, who were peering saucily at them from the woods beyond the fair ground. They tore up all the Rail Road & left about dark. I felt considerably disappointed, was in hopes they were going to pay us a visit of two or three days & we could get to see all our friends.
17 SEPTEMBER 1864 I have been sick all day. Took too much laudanum. Have sat up very little.
23 SEPTEMBER 1864 Gently & softly the sad news came of Gen. [John Hunt] Morgan’s death, tempered from a thunder bolt to a mournful regret that our southern Marion had fallen. Killed in Mrs. Williams’ garden at Greeneville, Tenn. A woman by the name of Mary Henderson rode 13 miles in the night and reported where he was.
14 OCTOBER 1864 Federals leave Cleveland. A great confusion in town, the Yankees have evacuated this place. The town is perfectly quiet this eve, all the Union men have left.
15 OCTOBER 1864 Sister, Cousin M. Jarnagin, Mrs. Rumple, Lizzie Rhoda, Jimmie & I went up to view the fortifications & deserted Yankee encampment this morn. I have the headache this eve & laid down to take a nap. I will be so disappointed if the Rebels do not come. I still look for them a little.
31 OCTOBER 1864 Mrs. W. told Mr. D. Saturday that the Rebels were gentlemen by the side of the Yankees. … Sherman’s men took from her 21 bed quilts, 4 head of horses, 8 milk cows, 18 hogs, 100 chickens & turkies , every knife & fork, broke the locks on all the doors, 1 bag of salt, flour, all, meal, all, took all of [her] jewelry, watch, all of Cleo’s gloves, handkerchiefs, stockings and some of her underclothing, and knocked Mrs. W. down because she tried to get her shawl from him. Kicked her bureau and sewing machine to pieces. Injured her $5000.00 worth. Lovely day.
5 APRIL 1865 Mysterious it is to me why God permitted such a sad calamity to befall our South. … Many a bitter tear and sad regret has the termination of this unhappy ending caused me. Like dominoes, the armies of the Confederacy began surrendering across the South. General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his force of 90,000, the Army of Tennessee.
16 APRIL 1865 Reaction to the murder of Abraham Lincoln. Pretty day. Easter Sunday. Mr. Guthrie came over from town this morn, informed us that Lincoln was shot Friday night at the theatre, died at 7:30 o’clock Saturday morn. Secretary Seward was stabbed whilst in bed, was not killed. Wilkes Booth was the perpetrator of the deed, assisted by others whose names as yet are not known. Cannons were fired every half hour at Chattanooga all day.
8 MAY 1865 These days are so sad and lonely to me. Not until my friends returned did I fully realize that my long cherished schemes were thwarted, my brightest, fondest, dearest hopes and wishes blasted forever – the independence of the South. … It seems to me as if a wild infatuation possessed the minds of the people of the Southland and rendered their reasoning facilities dormant, which caused us to boast and dream vain dreams of our independence until our last weapon was wrested from our hand and our great leader, Gen. Robert E. Lee, rendered powerless. Jefferson Davis has eluded the vigilance of his enemies and retired beyond the limits of the United States, where I trust he may breathe out his life in a peaceful asylum, for I still love and revere him as I did when we looked to him for guidance and protection. … It is so hard for me to relinquish my dreams of our Confederacy without a sigh and I often repeat, as if in amelioration, these lines from [Sir Thomas] Moore:
Let Fate do her worst, there are relics of joy, Bright dreams of the Past, which she cannot destroy; Which come in the night time of sorrow and care, And bring back the features that joy used to wear.
Long, long be my heart with such memories filled! Like a vase in which roses have once been distilled, You may break, you may shatter the vase if you will, But the scent of the roses will hang ’round it still.
So it is with our Confederacy. … But gradually I hope this night will wear away and stay even more brilliant for our Confederacy than we had anticipated, and will illuminate our lives and cause us to feel … that it was not as we would have had it.
9 MAY 1865 President Andrew Johnson announces the end of the war. Cleveland’s citizens are forced to reconcile their political differences.
This description of the Ramsey’s 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.
Dr. 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
The Ramsey children: Elizabeth Alexander Ramsey Breck John Crozier Ramsey William Wilberforce Alexander Ramsey Margaret Jane Crozier Ramsey Dickson Francis Alexander Ramsey Robert McGready Ramsey Henrietta Rutledge Ramsey Lenoir J.G. [James Gettys] McKnitt Ramsey Charlotte Barton Ramsey Susan Ann Amelia Ramsey Alexander Arthur Crozier Ramsey
In 1860 nine of their eleven children still lived at home or nearby.
When the American Civil War begins in 1861, Margaret’s eldest son, John Crozier Ramsey [his family calls him ‘Crozier’] is an attorney in Knoxville. He is appointed Confederate States District Attorney for East Tennessee; he aggressively files charges against the city’s pro-Unionists.
JUNE 1863 J.G.M. Ramsey flees to Abingdon, Virginia, when a Union force moves toward Knoxville in June 1863—that would be Sanders’ Raid. He returns two months later, just in time to flee again after a larger invasion—Burnside’s invasion of East Tennessee.
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.
From Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey’s Autobiography and Letters My wife and daughters occupied Mecklenburg the old mansion for a few days only after I left them. Threats were made that the house would be burned as belonging to a confirmed rebel and a high officer in the rebel government. … My family therefore thought it prudent to leave the old place and did remove to Knoxville, taking with them little more than their wearing apparel.
Everything else—including my museum, … my private papers, my correspondent’s letters, my three libraries (historical, medical, and miscellaneous), the second volume of the History of Tennessee (from 1800 to the close of the American war) [which he wrote] all ready for the press – not to mention the crops on several farms, my large stock of every kind, furniture etc.
After a few days spent in a rented house in town my ladies received the expected information that the whole [estate] was stolen, confiscated or burnt. I and my sons were with the army in Georgia and Virginia. I, as a [Confederate] financial agent by day and a surgeon after business hours in the field, camps, or hospitals, doing all I could for the wounded Rebels falling back before the victorious enemy.
I made in all eight remarkable … escapes but was never captured and did not lose a dollar belonging to … the Confederate treasury. [Lee’s] surrender found me at Charlotte in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina … [So also were my wife and daughters in Tennessee.
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 ‘Peggy’ 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.
16 SEPTEMBER 1863 Martial punishment for burning the house of Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey Military Punishment. Our city last evening witnessed a scene seldom offered by war, and never afforded by the troops of the rebel oligarchy. Before the Union army entered the State, the commander issued the most stringent orders against pillaging and marauding, and prescribing the most extreme penalties for its violation. We are happy in saying that the order had its effect, and that instances of disobedience have been surprisingly few. Some, however, have transgressed, and upon them the full rigor of the law has fallen. Yesterday evening just before dark the troops in this vicinity were paraded on Main street under Gen. Shackelford, and one Anderson, of the 11th Kentucky, who had been convicted by a court-martial of having burnt and pillaged, in connection with others, the house of Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey in this vicinity, was driven through the files of soldiers to the tune of the “Rogue’s March,” with his head shaved and a placard of disgrace upon his breast. Thus publicly, in the presence of his comrades, was this man stripped of the insignia of honor and driven out from their ranks as unworthy to bear arms for the Union. What evidence stronger than this do our citizens want that the army of the Union is the army way of protection to life and property; that the government of the United States is determined to re-establish law and order in the land. Dr. Ramsey has been from the commencement of the war an ardent, active rebel; but the government, although it will undoubtedly hold him to the penalty of his crime, will not under any circumstances whatever, allow him or any one else to be the victim of lawless violence or indiscriminate plundering. The law may come in and strip all these men, not only of property, but of life itself, but the law alone is clothed with this terrible power, and the General commanding seems determined that his troops shall know and respect this principle. The great body of them do appreciate it now, and have from the beginning not from any fear of punishment, but from an innate respect to law. Those few exceptions among them who consider the bayonet a credential to plunder, we hope profited by the lesson given them last evening, and will spare us the pain of such spectacles in the future. Knoxville Daily Bulletin, 16 September 1863.
The Ramsey House in East Knoxville [not Mecklenburg] 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
After fleeing Knoxville in late August 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.
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.] Ramsey 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.”
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. Ramsey 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.
Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry capturing a supply train near Jasper, Tennessee
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.
Mecklenburg County Court House, Charlotte, North Carolina
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. Ramsey’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.
9 APRIL 1865 General Lee surrenders.
Robert E. Lee surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia.
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 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.
16 APRIL 1865 This day two years ago our dear Charlotte died. Never a day passes but I think of her, of that sad time of distressing days and nights spent at our lovely home; then dear Arthur was with us and all the family except dear Crozier who was at Vicksburg. Now the household scattered; no two together. C. [Crozier] and A. [Alex] prisoners, R. [Robert] and McK [J.G. McKnitt] in the army, Sue in Charlotte, … And their father, I know not where …
I realize this can be a little tedious to read, but it really is worth your time.
18 APRIL 1865 Many soldiers from Gen. Lee’s army are returning, he has certainly surrendered. All who could are escaping. The lawless band at Concord still continue to annoy the citizens, are here every day. …
This evening we arose from supper, saw some one riding down the road. Mr. C. said there comes another and seemed perplexed. I went to the door, soon as he came though the gate, I exclaimed, “It is Robert.” All fears vanished, and I was so rejoiced for I had nearly given up hope of receiving any of our dear ones again.
Got to cousin Abbey’s last night after all had retired where E. was. Robert says he heard recently from Crozier, that he is well and treated kindly by many friends and was quite a favorite with the Yankees surgeon, who permitted C. to remain in the hospital. R. had also heard from A. saw some prisoners from C. Morton, said he was well and would get off soon. Of course I felt much better than for some days past. Mr. C. looks bright now, he is much relieved by R. being here.
Alum Cave Trail ascending towards Mount LeConte, Great Smoky Mountains
19 APRIL 1865 Dear Robert left this afternoon to go towards Charlotte to hear from Gen. [John C.] Vaughn. It distressed me to see him start off again. … I don’t want him to go but don’t know what advice to give, hope to see him again before he leaves, said McK would be here today perhaps. Sue or E. [Elizabeth] would come with him.
MINI BIO: Gen. John C. Vaughn Vaughn organized a regiment on 6 June 1861, the Third Tennessee Infantry Regiment, which was captured at the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863. However, Vaughn and his men were soon exchanged and sent to guard the Tennessee-Virginia border. In June 1864, USA General William Tecumseh Sherman had Vaughn’s family deported to Indiana, where they were to remain for the duration of the war for “corresponding with the enemy.” When cavalryman Gen. John Hunt Morgan was killed on 4 September 1864, Vaughn took command of Confederate troops in East Tennessee. After participating in Gen. James Longstreet’s attempt to occupy Knoxville in December 1863, Vaughn retreated to Northeast Tennessee. Soon after, Vaughn was given permission to mount his brigade. Remembered as the last Confederate general, Vaughn finally surrendered in Georgia on 10 May 1865, after separating from Confederate president Jefferson Davis’ entourage. Davis was captured later that day.
20 APRIL 1865 Several soldiers from Gen. Lee’s army report Gen. Lee was treated with great respect. Gen. Grant refused his sword; the Yankees told our men they were brave soldiers, that if Gen. Lee had as many men as they had we never could be conquered. Have an Armistice for 60 days for to make terms of peace.
22 APRIL 1865 McK. came. News of the death of Lincoln and Seward confirmed.
23 APRIL 1865 The Army being disbanded, the country is filled with soldiers stealing horses, mules and every one has to keep watch.
27 APRIL 1865 Beautiful weather; sad times, all confusion now.
1 MAY 1865 Wheeler’s Cavalry encamped 2 miles from here, many of the Tennesseans called to see me, all nice, genteel young men. [The soldiers from other states are annoying the citizens, wanting everything and stealing horses, mules, etc.] Soldiers left this morning.
7 MAY 1865 Dr. Ramsey came this morning, went to Augusta, had a fatiguing trip, was too feeble to attend church. Everything in confusion. Don’t know what we are to do.
14 MAY 1865 Went to church; met dear McK there, came home with us to dinner, it is so pleasant for us. McK. returned to meet now … we are all separated so much.
22 MAY 1865 Sue left this evening for Mecklenburg Co. [County]. Dr. Ramsey also. I am again left alone, but we must do something for our living. Now at 62 years of age I am teaching for my board. I often feel weary, sad, and lonely.
29 MAY 1865 A sad and lonely feeling came over me to-day, took a walk to a place which reminds me of home. Sat down on a stump and gave vent to my feelings. Our beautiful home all came up before me, the large and stately trees, the grand rivers, the deep and quiet French Broad, the more rapid Holston, the roaring of the shoals and the grand old bluff, so lofty, the green fields with growing grain etc. All these I was once mistress of. Now all occupied by the vandals who desolated our beautiful country.
Now 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 hand of man.
Often when at our old home, Dr. Ramsey in playfulness, called me the duchess of Mecklenburg and dear C. the princess Charlotte. Now I am the poor governess.
2 JUNE 1865 Dr. Ramsey came this evening. He and our children had been in great distress, had heard dear Crozier had died in a northern prison. After three days of distressing suspense, heard it was another man. I find that it was during this time that I felt so lonely and depressed. We are powerless …
15 JUNE 1865 Another sad anniversary – dear Arthur my youngest son, the pet of the household, died this day one year ago, near Stanton Va. I hope to meet my lovely children in a better world, where there is no sin nor sorrow. Where the wicked cease from trembling and the weary are at rest. Arthur was a pleasant youth, every person loved him, his teachers always said he was the best boy in school. His captain and others of the Co. told me the same. Capt G. said he was so brave and stood fire like a man.
26 JUNE 1865 A letter from Sue, she heard Alex was to be at Rock Hill, the day before – the first news we have had of him for months, feared we should never see him more.
8 JULY 1865 R. brought two letters from Mr. Deaderick, one from Gen. Vaughn, containing much news from Tenn. O! Tennessee how art thou fallen; the best citizens driven off; when they return the soldiers shot [them] down at their homes.
14 JULY 1865 Alex and his Pa came this evening, almost two years since we three were together. Alex suffered greatly, prisoners at Camp Morton treated very badly – many died of ill treatment. [Camp Morton is a Union prisoner-of-war camp in Indianapolis, Indiana.]
21 JULY 1865 Dr. Ramsey came to see Col. B. A. who is here very sick, brought a letter from Crozier and one from M.J. I was so thankful to hear from them and to know C. [Crozier] has been released and with his friends at Nashville, who are very kind to him, has been advised not to return to Knoxville as this is dangerous. …
A view of Nashville, Tennessee during the American Civil War
4 AUGUST 1865 Letter from J.C. Ramsey in Nashville, TN To sister Elizabeth Ramsey Breck in Charlotte, NC My Dear Sister I was pleased to receive your very kind letter by to-days mail and was very glad to hear that Papa and Ma are well and that they stand our defeat and their loss of property with Christian fortitude, that is as it should be, but few persons of their age could have stood the troubles and trials they have had with such fortitude. …
I have commenced the practice of my profession [lawyer] and have had some business. … I am boarding with Uncle William [father’s brother, William B.A. Ramsey], they are all very kind to me, my health has improved though I am still weak, the walk however in the morning and evening I think will be of service to me soon. …
I am at a great [loss?] to know how to advise you all. I am like you; I have a great distaste for East TN but I don’t think that there would be any impropriety in you and Mack [husband?] returning to Knoxville on a visit and see if you can’t get your property back and then rent or sell it. I suppose you could get transportation. …
It will not be safe for Robert to come to Tennessee at present. I will let [him] know when to come if he wants to return. There are some cases pending in the State and Federal Courts at Knoxville against me; expect I will be compelled to be there in October or November to attend to them. I will however try to have them arranged without having to go there.
I have much appreciation for Pardon and my papers are in charge of Judge Patterson (President Andrew Johnson’s] son-in-law and M.S. Senator from TN). He is a particular friend of mine and visited me while [I was] imprisoned at Knoxville … he also agreed to take charge of Papa’s case; he seems to think that we will have no difficulty in getting them through. I expect to hear from him in a week or two about our applications and will let Papa know the result of his application. …
I frequently hear from Knoxville and see every day or two some one from the place; the sentiment is still bad and outrages are still committed upon Southern men. No prominent Southern men have returned and what are there are making arrangements to leave.
I get letters from M.J. [sister Margaret Jane] most every week, she is well, as to her marriage I presume she is satisfied with it and of course I am. I hope … Mr. McKnitt will make her a kind and an affectionate husband. She has had a hard time of it; few women could have gone through what she has. She was very devoted to me while I was in prison there and was of great service to me. She writes me some very good letters (one of the very best I ever received) I am saving it to show it to you all. She is a Christian and a noble woman. What a great pleasure it would be to us all if we were all living near each other.
I don’t know how Pap would like to live in East TN again but I have no doubt but what he could live in comfort and with more care on Margaret Jane’s place than any other. I have no doubt but what it would be perfectly safe for him there (after a while).No one would do him any personal harm; the class of man that are committing these outrages are worthless, and the moral men of the country are doing all they can to put a stop to it. Public sentiment will soon correct the outlaws. I doubt the propriety of a man of his age moving to a new country among strangers unless he had means. These are questions for future considerations; you are all quaintly situated, and it is best to wait patiently until the country becomes settled and peace entirely returned; and then we can better judge as to what will be the best.
What a great contrast between this peace place [Nashville] and East TN. Here there is no distinction between Union and Southern men, that is as it should be. I often think of you all with the kindest of feelings and would be pleased to be with you all once more, and I hope to may be able to do so some time. Remember me kindly and affectionately to all. Will be pleased to hear from you all often. Yours truly J.C. Ramsey Letter, J. Crozier Ramsey in Nashville, Tenn., to Mrs. E.A.R. Breck in Charlotte, N.C. 1865 Aug. 4
11 AUGUST 1865 Letter from J.C. Ramsey, Nashville TN. To his mother, M.B.C. [Margaret Barton Crozier] Ramsey, Charlotte NC. My Dear Ma, I received yours and Papas letters yesterday and was glad to hear that you were all well. I read all your letters with great interest and my Uncle and his family, who read them with great pleasure. My Uncle [William B.A. Ramsey] and all of them are very kind to me; he is very comfortably situated and his two married daughters live near him; they also have a Church near him and I go to church every Sunday. Mr. Trimble (their pastor) is a good preacher. I think … about your situation and troubles.
I have taken great interest about the state of feelings in East TN and there is scarcely a day but what I see either a Union or Southern man from there and I always make it my business to enquire as to the condition of things with a view as to advise you all as to the propriety of returning. I have no doubt but the reports you hear from there are exaggerated.
My own opinion based upon what I hear is that you could all return with perfect safety (except Robert) without … fears of having any personal harm done …neither would you be subject to any insults of any kind.
I met with Capt. John McNutt (of the Fork and formerly of the Federal army) a few days ago. I spent most of the day with him and took him out and spent the night with us at my Uncle’s; he has the kindest feeling for you all and from him I learned the particulars as to the feeling about you all; he says that all your old neighbors, such men as Sam Bowman and others, are very anxious for you to return and instead of having any thing against you they have great sympathy for you but would [do] any thing in their power to serve you all.
John thinks you should all return at once. … you would be better satisfied if you move near your grandchildren where you could take care of the poor motherless children, although you could live comfortably where you are, yet your anxiety for them would always make you uneasy and still you would not be satisfied where you are. Secondly by returning home the moral effect would be good in getting back your property. …
Aside from this I believe that you could live cheaper and more comfortably and contented than where you are. You could live at Margaret Jane’s place in town or at Lenoir’s in case. Another reason when you return if you should conclude not to remain there you would be in a better condition to select under the advice of your friends a future home. I would therefore make Knoxville home (at least) for future operations. I would feel much more contented, happy and less solicitous about you all if you move back at your old home than for you all still to remain exiles—that gives me more pain than my own condition …unless you have made up your minds never to return …
I would advise you that when the weather gets cool and more pleasant for traveling (say the last of Sept or early in October) I would start for East TN … by that time Papa will I hope receive his pardon. I believe all will turn out well and that you will all be glad that you have returned. … Aunt Hannah and Aunt Mary had returned. Uncle Frank Keller was also at home. … Frank Ramsey (Uncle John’s son) had also returned and was living at home undisturbed. … Remember me kindly and affectionately to all. Will be pleased to hear from you all at any time. Yours truly, J.C. Ramsey
Son John (1824–1868) goes by many variations of his name: John Crozier Ramsey John C. Ramsey J. Crozier Ramsey J.C. Ramsey
31 AUGUST 1865 Letter from J.C. Ramsey in Nashville TN To his father J.G.M. Ramsey in Charlotte NC I wrote Ma a letter about two weeks ago – and supposed that I would have got a letter from some of you before this time. For fear you may have heard of my arrest and be alarmed about it – I thought I would write you. When I was released at Louisville in June and returned to this place, I knew of the indictments pending against me at Knoxville both in the State and Federal Court – but I know that if I remained in the U.S. I would have to meet the case some time or another. I then made up my mind to stand my ground and meet the cases and have them disposed of at court.
I then met the Sheriff of this county and the Marshal and had an interview with them and told them that I expected I would be sent to them from Knoxville for my arrest and that I did not intend to avoid them—but that I desired before entering into business to make an arrangement with them not to arrest me until court and then I would go with them – they agreed to it – and then I commenced business.
After remaining here some six weeks a different set of circumstances arose and the Sheriff felt it his duty to arrest me and take me to Knoxville where I was bailed upon a writ of Habeas Corpus and returned to this place [Nashville] and have again resumed business. I do not reflect upon the Sheriff for making the arrest.
So you see that I am not yet through with all my troubles and trials – but do not allow them to trouble you or give you any uneasiness about them. I will come out of them all right – but it will put me to some trouble and expense. So you fully may understand the case, I send you an article taken from the Nashville Gazette which gives a correct version of the facts of the case and the legal principles that ought to control the case.
I was imprisoned at Knoxville (which was a week). I met with several of my friends and frequently with my dear Sister … her devotion to me which in all my troubles is unequaled and she was of great service to me and I can never forget her kindness and attachment tome (not only on this occasion but in all my troubles.
The sentiment is still bad there [Knoxville] – when I was released on bail I remained in prison until the [railroad] cars started and then I was accompanied with a guard to the Depot. … I have to return the third Monday in Oct. I think things will be better by that time, I at least don’t apprehend any difficulty.
I read yesterday your letter to my Uncle – Glad to hear you are all well and that you have got a place for the next year – perhaps it is best for you to stay there for another year – though I still think as I wrote to Ma that you could all return (except Robert) with safety. … All our friends and relatives at Knoxville are well and all are well here. Love to all and will be pleased to hear from all of you often … Yours truly, J.C. Ramsey
These arrests and charges stem from J.C. Ramsey’s position as Confederate Attorney General for Knox County during the Civil War.
15 SEPTEMBER 1865 Letter from J. Crozier Ramsey in Nashville TN To sister Elizabeth Ramsey Breck in Charlotte NC My Dear Sister I received your very kind letter and was sorry to hear that Ma and Sue had been sick. I hope however they will soon be restored to their usual health. I am glad that you all have gone to house keeping. I am now satisfied (from what I hear from Knoxville) that you have acted wisely in remaining where you are. The outrageous scenes that are constantly transpiring there is disgraceful to humanity and civilization and is almost beyond description. I however will be compelled to be there the third Monday in Oct. I do not anticipate the trip with pleasure. I have no fears at the result of my case, but the outside feeling is not so good; but you need give yourself no uneasiness about my safety. …
I also received Papa’s letter five days ago, enclosing me a copy of his application for pardon. … I think he need have no fears. I think President Johnson will pardon him and all others soon. … I was highly pleased with his [father’s] speech, he will come out all right as I knew he would, he will be the best friend the South has and it becomes us all cordially to sustain him. …
I will write to Judge Patterson to day and see if he can’t get the President to order the return of your farm without you visiting Knoxville – if so, we can rent it out for you. … My practice as yet is quite limited and it takes all I make to keep up my necessary expenses. Say to Papa that if he has my pocket book containing my notes – and has an opportunity of sending it – to send it to me – perhaps there may be some of them that I can collect or make something out of them. Remember me kindly to all – will be pleased to hear from you all at any time. Yours truly, J.C. Ramsey
8 OCTOBER 1865 Letter from J. Crozier Ramsey in Nashville TN To his father J.G.M. Ramsey in Charlotte NC Dear Sir: I returned from Washington City a day or two ago and was pleased to get your letter on my return and was glad to hear that you were all well and so comfortably situated. I think under the circumstances you all have done very well. I visited Washington for the purpose of attending to some business for a friend – who paid me for my services – and if I should be finally successful – I will get a good fee …
The President received me very cordially, so did his son Robert and my friend Judge Patterson. The Judge assured me that I would get my pardon next week or any how by the time the Federal Court meets at Knoxville.
I then went to the Attorney Generals office to examine your case. I found that your application had passed through his office with his approval and was on the Presidents table for his signature. …
I then called the attention of the Judge to those two cases and he assured me that they would be approved of by the President. Love to all, Yours truly, J.C. Ramsey
12 OCTOBER 1865 Letter from J. Crozier Ramsey in Nashville TN To his father Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey in Charlotte NC Dear Sir: I received this morning a letter from Uncle Deadrick stating that the Attorney General had agreed to have my cases continued until the next Term of the Court waiving my appearance at this Term. … I received a letter from Margaret Jane [sister] a few days ago – she was well and things were more quiet [in Knoxville] – but a large number of citizens were leaving.
As I am released for some time about my cases, I will now turn my attention to the investigation of your property. … I expect to write in a few days to Judge Brown and get him to examine correctly all the principles involved in your cases. … If they think you can recover, suits should be instituted at once. I fear however that they will be long and tedious suits – but still if there is any possibility of a recovery – it is worth a trial. … Yours truly, J.C. Ramsey
22 OCTOBER 1865 Diary entry Received a letter yesterday from dear Crozier[J.C. Ramsey], our anxiety was much relieved on his account as last week was the time he was to be in Knoxville for trial, but his case was continued until the next term in April. As Crozier has been sent twice to Knoxville and put in prison and received such rough treatment, of course we were uneasy. In Sept. while quietly attending to business at Nashville, not expecting to be molested till Oct. the time of his trial, he was suddenly arrested, taken to Knoxville remanded to prison. He was kept only a week, gave bail, but had to remain in jail till night on account of mob, was then guarded to the train and returned to Nashville. …
10 NOVEMBER 1865 Diary entry On 10 November 1865, Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey received a pardon from President Andrew Johnson. It was sent to Crozier in Nashville. On 2 December, Dr. Ramsey informed U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward that he had taken the amnesty oath.
13 NOVEMBER 1865 Letter from J. Crozier Ramsey in Nashville TN To Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey in Charlotte NC Dear Sir I received your letter a few days ago also a letter and my pocketbook by Express. … You can’t imagine how much I am pleased when I receive letters from you all. There is not a day passes but what I frequently think of you all – and how I would rejoice to see you all settled at some quiet and pleasant home in TN. I hope the day is not distant when that time will come.
You ask how my health is and how I am off for money. I have improved in flesh and strength since I was released from prison – but still I wish I had more strength and flesh. I could attend to business with more ease and pleasure. I have been getting some practice but … my expenses are considerable … the greatest thing I miss is my law library – I lost all my books at Knoxville. … I now work out of necessity without any taste for it.
As to the sale of your property, I can hardly advise you what to do – if you are really compelled to have money, my advice would be to sell even at a sacrifice – but if not, I would not. …
I understand that that property has not been sold or confiscated – and consequently when the pardon comes it will be restored to you. … It is very hard for me to get any correct information from them about any of your business there. … I know there are persons that will take the advantage of you and others that have property for sale and try and get it for less than its value – by forcing you to sell … that was the object of a great many in bringing about the condition East TN is now in – in order that they might get your property for little of nothing before I would be forced to sell under those circumstances (unless you need the money.) We will make one more effort and I hope we will be more successful. … Yours truly J.C. Ramsey
19 NOVEMBER 1865 Diary entries Mrs. Ramsey in exile in NC After Col. A.’s death, this property was all advertised for note, we apprehended we should have to move again. Everything has been settled and we remain under the first contract made with Col. A. … There is but little generosity here – the people have no sympathy for refugees and those who have lost all; because they have lost their Negroes, they feel that loss is greater that any and have no time to think of those who have lost houses, lands, etc.
25 DECEMBER 1865 Christmas, no presents now – how different from Christmas of former days. Shall we ever have home again? It can never be as it once was – so many beloved ones will be missing from the fireside.
Christmas Dinner: A Scene on the Outer Picket Line, Library of Congress
31 DECEMBER 1865 The last [day] of 65. How rapidly time flies! Where shall we be the last day of 66? That is a question cannot be answered, everything is so uncertain, we may be in a worse condition than at present. We are comfortable here. On many accounts it is an unpleasant place to live. Rain and gloomy weather for the past two weeks, no sociality, no friendship, no attention to strangers. We have been sick here – McK, Sue, and I … could get no flour or any delicacy for the sick, our cook was a very poor one, we were not able to attend to it ourselves … Dr. Ramsey went to a lady who had some good wine and she gave him some.
1870 J.G.M. Ramsey’s net worth has dropped to only $5,180; he has lost nearly everything during the war.
1871: Home again J.G.M. and Margaret Barton Crozier Ramsey eventually make their way back to Northeast Tennessee, once again stopping at the town of Bristol in Sullivan County where Margaret stayed for awhile on her way to North Carolina in 1864. J.G.M. spends the rest of his life promoting higher education in East Tennessee and serves ten years as president of the Tennessee Historical Society.
Erin Lawrimore, “Let Us Hasten to Redeem the Time that is Lost: J.G.M. Ramsey’s Role in the Preservation and Promotion of Tennessee History,” NC DOCKS at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 31 December 2005, accessed 17 September 2021, core.ac.uk/download/pdf/345078731.pdf
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/
Confederate Diarist of Northeast Tennessee Eliza Rhea Anderson was born 1 August 1816 at Blountville, Northeast Tennessee. Her father died when she was still a toddler. After losing financial support with the death of their husbands, women of the antebellum era moved in with their closest male relative. Mrs. Anderson’s lived with her brother for many years.
Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain’s diary published in 2004, edited by a distant relative, John N. Fain
In 1832, Eliza’s mother marries Nicholas Fain, a merchant, banker, and president of the Rogersville and Jefferson Railroad. On 17 December 1833, sixteen-year-old Eliza marries Nicholas Fain’s son and her step-brother, Richard Gammon Fain. Richard owns a two-hundred-acre farm east of Rogersville, Hawkins County, Northeast Tennessee, where Eliza raises chickens [probably] and thirteen children!
Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain is not the mistress of a large plantation. She is of the wealthy class, but not nearly as rich as a plantation mistress. Her hometown of Rogersville is in the valley of Crockett Creek, a southwest-flowing tributary of the Holston River—not an ideal place for a plantation.
American Civil War As the Civil War approaches, sentiments in Rogersville is divided between the North and the South. Many of its citizens are Unionists who support the twenty-six East Tennessee counties whose leaders tried to secede from the state of Tennessee and remain in the United States of America. The Tennessee General Assembly denied their request.
The Fains strongly support secession and slavery. They own eight slaves when the Civil War begins; four are under the age of twelve. Eliza’s views of slavery are sometimes offensive, and I will not be sharing those entries with you. Some of her religious expressions are also a bit much. However, hers is the only diary I know of that chronicles life in Northeast Tennessee so well.
Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain keeps an excellent diary from the age of 19 until her death at age 75—from shortly after her marriage to Richard Gammon Fain in 1833 until her death in 1892. During the Civil War years, she records her daily activities and the impact the war has on her home and family—as it unfolds in and around Rogersville and the Fain farm two miles away. Confederate troops occupy Rogersville for most of the war, but Union forces occasionally take control as the conflict progresses.
Eliza’s Diary January—May 1861
Monday, 14 January 1861 I have been reading tonight from the New York Observer, the Sentinel of the Country. All as yet seems to be hostile with no concession on the part of the North and no giving way in the South.
Thursday morning, 24 January 1861 Gloomy this morning with a mist falling. Yesterday quite a cold day and sleeting the greater part of the day. I at home so happy with the loved of this precious place. Our political world still wears the aspect of hostility and want of love and patriotism. … We as a people of the South have shown to the North the most unmistakable evidences of love and forbearance. What have we not done to conciliate and now the blow has been struck which forever seals our destiny in the election of a sectional President who takes into his hands the reins of our Federal government. He will appoint a cabinet of his own selection which the South cannot approve of. …
I love my country, I love her constitution. I love everything connected with her whole history, but the disposition I see in one portion of her to usurp entire control. I cannot find it in my heart to say I submit. … Treat us as brethren or let us go so that we may treat each other as brethren of the same parentage.
4 March 1861 Today is the inauguration of President Lincoln. The struggle has come …
16 April 1861 Days are dark in the extreme in the history of our country. All overtures of peace from the South have been rejected. … Fort Sumter was attacked by the Confederate troops under the command of G. Beauregard on Friday morning at 4. Gen. Anderson it is said has surrendered.
18 April 1861 Never before in our country’s history have we been called to witness such dark foreboding hours. … Fort Sumter has been taken without any serious loss of life. … On Friday morning 4 o’clock Ft. Sumter was attacked—surrendered on Saturday at 1. … The horrors of battlefield scenes has been deeply impressed in my mind during the last 10 days. … The South have sued for peace upon all terms; consistent with the maintenance of her dignity of character; as a part of a free self governed people; how has she been treated – with duplicity, intrigues and cunning which her high toned peace loving men were not able to detect. Now what alternative has she left? Nothing but to defend herself …
29 April 1861 Peace is still a stranger in our beautiful land. Of all places of the earth none seems to have been so lavishly decorated as our own fair, yea fairest Republic but I fear the desolating hand of civil war.
12 May 1861 I have bid my sons farewell a few minutes since. I do feel I have given my sons [?] not to make war upon an enemy but to act in self defense to resist the invasion of a foe to civil liberty … The name traitor rebel, and other odious epithets are heaped upon us and for what—because we have dared to resist an oppression threatening the extinction of the whole Southern population. …
Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain’s sons Nicholas “Nick” Fain (1840-1900) Samuel A. “Sam” Fain (1842-1874) and her nephew Samuel “Sam” Rhea Gammon join the 19th Tennessee Infantry Regiment CSA in May 1861. They receive training at Knoxville and serve in a unit called the “Hawkins County Boys.”
18 May 1861 Yesterday morning I bid my beloved husband [Richard Gammon Fain] farewell. How hard to part from those so dear at all times, but how peculiarly trying at this time, when everything in our political world wears an aspect of such gloom and darkness. … My dear loved one has gone to act as Commissary General for Tennessee troops. … I feel much worn down, have been passing through scenes of such excitement for several days … My garden and other domestic cares press heavily. Had my sheep sheared yesterday—today in my garden.
MINI BIO: Richard Gammon Fain Before the American Civil War, Richard Gammon Fain (1811-1878), husband of Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain, was a merchant and bank officer in Rogersville and president of the Rogersville and Jefferson Railroad. He also served in several civic positions, including postmaster of Rogersville for several years in the 1840s.
An 1832 graduate of West Point, Richard accepts the rank of major in the Confederate Army. He serves as Commissary General for the Provisional Army of Tennessee in Knoxville from 14 October 1861 until June 1862. After the Provisional Army of Tennessee is absorbed into the Confederate Army, Fain becomes Assistant Commissary of Subsistence on the staff of General Felix K. Zollicoffer, still in Knoxville.
In June 1862, Fain is assigned to organize the CSA 63rdTennessee Infantry Regiment, with himself as colonel. The Fain boys, who were old enough to serve in the Confederate Army, eventually joined their father’s regiment.
Because of ill health, Richard Fain writes his letter of resignation from the Confederate Army from Missionary Ridge while serving with the Army of Tennessee in the Chattanooga Campaign. The letter, now in the National Archives, includes a statement from an army surgeon about Richard’s health:
“I certify that I have carefully examined Col. R. G. Fain, 63rd Tennessee Regiment, and find him unable to perform the duties of the office because of chronic disease of the liver and peculiar irritability of the system which prostrates him on the least exposure. I therefore recommend his discharge from service.”
As you will see in her diary entries, Eliza is very unhappy with Richard leaving his army post. She does not take his health issues too seriously. She is mortified when he takes the oath of allegiance to the United States and applies for a pardon, which President Andrew Johnson grants in October 1865. Eliza wonders why “a God of truth, of love, should permit such a people to overcome us.”
Richard Gammon Fain dies on 11 September 1878 at Mossy Creek (Jefferson County, Tennessee) and is buried in the cemetery at Rogersville Presbyterian Church.
Eliza’s diary June 1861
2 June 1861, Sabbath Darkness, darkness, all is dark as yet so far as our difficulties with each other are concerned. The troops from the North are still advancing. Troops are moving in from the South to meet and repel this attack … My soul is troubled to its greatest depth. My husband, my sons are gone. The sacredness of the home circle has been invaded—perhaps never again to be as it has been.
On last Friday morning before day I was awakened from my sleep with a feeling of indescribable grief. I rose early, my purpose fixed to write to a friend who was throwing his influence on the side of the North. I sat down and addressed to him a few lines which I do trust may lead him to think …
6 June 1861 Troubles are still thickening around us. This evening received from my loved husband the lengthiest letter I have yet received dated 4 June. I have been thinking all day of the pleasures I should feel in welcoming him home but his letter has rather driven the hope from me. They are expecting orders every day to march to Virginia.
I received this evening a printed letter from the editor of the Mothers Magazine soliciting so earnestly for remittance from his southern patrons saying he has never felt like taking sides against the South, has ever felt they knew better how to manage their affairs than they of the North could do it for us. …
16 June 1861 At home sweet home although so sadly broken up. My helpless little darling daughters lying around me on the floor giving vent to the girlish impulses of t he heart not knowing or comprehending the deep sources of grief which disturbs my peace on this calm, beautiful Sabbath morning. My husband has been permitted to revisit his home. … He came Saturday the 8th and remained until Tuesday morning the 11th a 6:00 o’clock when I set out with him to Knoxville. We arrived at Knoxville around 11 having had a comfortable ride.
Put up at Lamar House and after dinner went out in omnibus to fairgrounds to visit my dear, darling boys [her sons]. Never will I forget the feeling I had when I came in sight of and entered the gates leading to tents. I had often imagined to myself the look of the tented field but never until that day had any realization of its appearance and never, while I live, can I forget the expression of gladness beaming from the sunburnt face of that band of noble volunteers. … I feel there are many connected with nineteenth regiment East Tennessee who are good young men. … My heart rises in gratitude and love to God for giving to Southern homes husbands, sons, and brothers who go forth so cheerfully, so nobly for the maintenance of civil and religious freedom. …
Eliza’s diary July 1861
10 July 1861 Had a letter from Nick [her son, Nicholas Fain] yesterday. He says Capt. Heiskell did not seem displeased with him for staying over his time—spoke jokingly of putting him on extra duty. He went back 1st of July, Monday. They are not encamped on Cumberland Mountain. As they stand sentinel upon the fastness of the mountain may their thoughts be turned by thy Holy Spirit … My dear Sam [son Samuel A. Fain] seems to have forgotten he has ever known a mother’s love or a mother’s care.
Eliza is fortunate that her husband and sons are stationed nearby in Knoxville, which allows all of them to visit back and forth.
11 July 1861 On the 2nd of this month—Tuesday night—I saw for the first time the comet … which appeared during the reign of Charles the fifth and caused the abdication of throne by him. I was so struck by the grandeur and beauty of the sight—was walking through my yard listening for the return of Powell [son George Powell Fain] and Gus [son John Lynn Fain] when my attention was directed towards the heavens and what a beautiful sight struck my view. …
23 July 1861 I have said farewell again this morning to my best, my dearest earthly friend. my loved Richard [her husband Richard Gammon Fain] more precious than any other living being on earth. Heart doubly sad this morning—husband gone—hours of darkness rapidly approaching. The news from Virginia calculated to elate the heart in one point of view but in another to make it feel so sick of the wickedness of man. The news was received yesterday of a great battle [First Bull Run] between the Southern and Northern troops. …
The dark and lowering clouds of civil discord seem to threaten the destruction of our loved East Tennessee. A man came to brother Hiram [Eliza’s brother-in-law, who also kept a Civil War diary] Sunday night saying a difficulty was likely to occur at Sneedville—that the Union men were or had taken H. Roses’s company of volunteers prisoner. …
There are errors in Eliza’s diary, particularly when it comes to news of the war. Not only does information travel slowly through the mountains, but the inaccuracies are often outrageous, causing Eliza to worry over information that is totally false or highly adulterated. News of the First Battle of Bull Run, fought on July 21, didn’t reach her until July 23, and she believed the battle was still being fought on the 23rd. It’s like the game where people whisper a certain message to each other, and by the time it reaches the last person, the entire meaning has changed.
28 July 1861 My Sabbaths are days now of such intense feeling and I cannot keep from asking questions concerning the well being of those who have left all in our Southern homes to go forth for what I feel is civil and religious liberty. This morning brother George got back from Knoxville having gone down on Wednesday to make some arrangements about their company. … on that day he travelled with some who were going back from Virginia who had been spectators of the deadly conflict this day week [a week ago today] (21st) ever memorable to one who was on that train with the remains of a darling son who had fallen to rise no more … I asked George if he thought his father seemed much distressed He said he seemed so much elated at the success of our armies [in the First Battle of Bull Run—a Confederate victory] he did not seem to feel the death of his child much. I have always felt to the truly patriotic heart there is no cause where we could lose our sons which would carry with it an alleviation of sorrow so much as the thought of Liberty, Liberty.
Eliza’s Diary Autumn 1861
Sabbath, 18 August 1861 I do so feel this morning crushed at the thought of the great desecration of my holy day. … O the baneful influences of military life over the soul. It is this I dread more than all things else. I dread that the hearts of my sons will be estranged for all that is good. Sam is home today but cannot remain long in one place … seems to be so reckless.
The scenes of the 21st fighting [First Battle of Bull Run] are vividly impressed upon the minds who now travel upon our trains. Fain has again been down the country, saw on the trains several wounded. One who had both hands taken off. O how many how many poor soldiers have been crippled for life, how deplorable the results of war. … Our Southern people have many of the Northern wounded to care for. …
September 1861 [Account of a trip to Nashville] We got on comfortably to the river in Col. Walker’s hack, crossed the river, were soon seated in our comfortable train. Moved on quite pleasantly to Gap [?], waited a short time when the train which was to bear us from our home to the west came up. What a sorrowful sight I was called to witness as I entered the car. Our noble soldiers returning wounded and sick and maimed for life. My heart was sad indeed at the sight. … We traveled nicely but crowded until we reached the collision which had taken place that morning between a freight and gravel train. … About 2 o’clock on Thursday 5th of Sept., with him [her husband] who is dearer to me than all else, left Knoxville for Nashville. … We travelled over that long and dangerous road [railroad] between Chattanooga and Nashville [the C&N]. … After supper Richard went out into another car to smoke, staid so long I felt uneasy. I did not know what to do. I imagined many things and amongst others felt afraid that someone had knocked him the head but after a while he came and I was relieved. Took breakfast at Murfreesboro and arrived at Nashville about 7 o’clock and in a short time was surrounded by the loved friends of Nashville.
13 October 1861 On Wednesday 25th Sept, Sam [Samuel A. Fain] came home from camp sick. I felt so glad to have him at home. My heart would have been so distressed at the thought of a son sick in camp. He is now well for which I do trust and feel so thankful.
27 October 1861 This day week [a week ago] I was surrounded by the sight of home, husband, sons, friends. … On Tuesday morning Abram Gammon, Nick Fain, Sam Fain and J. K. P. Gammon left us for their Kentucky camp. I felt so sad at parting from them for ought we know it is the last look we may ever have on their loved faces.
10 November 1861 This morning finds heart , soul and body in a state of great excitement from the rumor of burnt bridges and strong apprehensions of a rebellious movement on the part of the Union desperados of East Tennessee. I fear at a late hour men of standing who have aided and abetted that feeling may find themselves as well as the rest of us involved in irretrievable ruin.
14 November 1861 Last Sabbath evening my beloved husband returned having been so strongly solicited by Mr. McFarland and others to come and see what could be furnished for the reconstruction of the burnt bridges from our timbers at the river. He went back on Monday and got to Knoxville at 9 o’clock p.m. When shall my home be home again, when will the loved be restored. On last Tuesday morning about 5 a.m. messengers from town came requiring sons Sam and Ike to go immediately and make preparation for a trip to railroad to succor troops stationed at Watauga Bridge. Before going a great distance they ascertained they had been fired upon whilst out on a scout from Mr. N. Taylor’s barn. Some were slightly wounded but no lives lost I understand. How deplorable is such a state of affairs.
Isaac “Ike” Anderson Fain (1844-1917) The Fains’ fourth son, Isaac “Ike” Anderson Fain was 17 when the Civil War began. Records are unclear as to when he enlisted in the Confederate Army. He joined his father’s regiment, the 63rd, with the rank of sergeant but was demoted to private in December 1862. He then served as an orderly for his father, but in June 1863 he was appointed forage master, a low-level position. He did not accompany the Sixty-Third to Virginia in spring 1864 and was removed from the regimental roll. Ike then joined a local cavalry unit and served near Rogersville for the remainder of the war.
Sabbath, 24 November 1861 Gloom Gloom impenetrable gloom hangs over me this morning. My son Ike left home this morning with gun strapped on his back and his provisions in a bag to go to Bays Mountain where it is said a number of our poor deluded and infatuated Union men have collected for resistance to the law and to work wickedly.
Eliza’s Diary Winter 1861
26 December 1861 Since listing the above, all things have been made to succumb to military rule. The rebellion has been suppressed and many of the members of it have been arrested. Some have paid the high price of life for life. Old Mr. Bird an old man of 60 years was one of the ringleaders … He was shot on a high spur of that mountain region … I have felt troubled when I thought of his death and feel upon the leading Union men of East Tennessee rests the blood of these poor deluded victims. Two more men by the name of Harmon [Jacob and Henry] have been hung in Knoxville; implicated in that atrocious and diabolical deed of bridge burning. … Buck [a slave ?] and Ike made a narrow escape. Ike told me that he never felt so frightened in his life with bullets flying by him and he could see no one. A merciful God preserved the life of my child.
Eliza’s Diary New Year’s morning, 1 January 1862 My sons have left me to go forth to combat the world again—Nick, Samuel Gammon and Ike. Sam and Ike to go to Knoxville and Nick to Cumberland Gap. Samuel Gammon has promised me to drink no more until the war closes but of that I have many doubts and fears.
13 January 1862 Fearful night—poor soldiers how my heart feels for you this dreary night. Sleet is falling until the ground is white and I am alone. Lizzie, Powell, and Fan at their aunt Nancy’s for a supper and dance. My heart is weary of Christmasing. … Life is too precious to be squandered. … Where are my soldier sons this night? My heart is so grieved when I think of our poor soldiers who have to face the storm of rain, wind, and sleet, with but little to protect them from its chilling effects.
19 February 1862 One month today since the Battle of Fishing Creek where our boys were defeated. … I was completely bewildered I scarcely knew what to do with myself. Had it not been for a visit to my husband in Knoxville I would have felt much like giving up …
17 March 1862 My beloved husband left this morning for Knoxville. I always feel so sad when he goes away. How long is this separation to continue?
18 March 1862 How sad I feel this morning. Tears are falling as I write. The thought has been upon me what if in the Providence of God the North shall be successful. We cannot dwell together for the breach is greater than it ever has been. …
21 March 1862 Our days are growing darker—foes within and foes without. … How humiliating to me is the thought of our Capital in the hands of enemies who will I fear destroy it. …
John N. Fain, editor, Sanctified Trial: The Diary of Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain, a Confederate Woman in East Tennessee, Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 2004
28 July 1861 My Sabbaths are days now of such intense feeling and I cannot keep from asking questions concerning the well being of those who have left all in our Southern homes to go forth for what I feel is civil and religious liberty. This morning brother George got back from Knoxville having gone down on Wednesday to make some arrangements about their company. … on that day he travelled with some who were going back from Virginia who had been spectators of the deadly conflict this day week [a week ago today] [First Battle of Bull Run] ever memorable to one who was on that train with the remains of a darling son who had fallen to rise no more … I asked George if he thought his father seemed much distressed. He said he seemed so much elated at the success of our armies [in the First Battle of Bull Run—a Confederate victory] he did not seem to feel the death of his child much. I have always felt to the truly patriotic heart there is no cause where we could lose our sons which would carry with it an alleviation of sorrow so much as the thought of Liberty, Liberty. I feel glad that I am not where these scenes of excitement would be before my eyes; I feel I can hardly bear it when I am just to hear of it.