Battle of Bull’s Gap

Bull’s Gap [now Bulls Gap] is a town in the southeastern corner of Hawkins County, Northeast Tennessee, near a gap of the same name in Bays Mountain—part of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians. These Appalachians form a broad arc between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Plateau and are made up of long ridges with continuous valleys in between. Bays Mountain runs northeast to southwest, from Kingsport to just south of Knoxville. The northern segment has peaks reaching up to 3,000 feet. It is not a single ridge, but a series of ridges. The tallest peak is Chimneytop Mountain (3,117 feet).

Ridge-and-Valley segment near Bristol, Tennessee

Acts of 1806 Chapter 53
SECTION 1.  That so much of the ordinance aforesaid, as respects the line beginning on Nolichucky river, at the place where the ridge which divides the waters of Bent and Lick creek strikes the same; thence with that ridge to Bull’s Gap of Bays Mountain, at the house of William Cross, leaving the same in the county of Greene; thence eastwardly along the main height of Bays Mountain, to the Chimney Top Mountain, be, and the same is hereby declared to be the line between the counties of Greene and Hawkins, so far as leads from William Cross’s in Bull’s Gap, to the top of Chimney Top Mountain.

In 1792 John Bull received a grant for 55 acres near the east-west passage over Bays Mountain. Capitalizing on his location, Bull operated a stage line through the passage that quickly became known as Bull’s Gap.

Because of the vital East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad line through Bays Mountain, Bull’s Gap becomes a strategically important location for both armies during the American Civil War. The Gap is the scene of many small battles as the armies fight for control of this vital artery between Northeast Tennessee and Knoxville. The efforts by the Confederates to capture Bull’s Gap and the Federal efforts to hold it accounts for many of the battles and skirmishes which occurred here from October 1863 until the end of the war in the spring of 1865.

USA Gen. Ambrose Burnside occupies Knoxville and works diligently to rid Northeast Tennessee of Confederate troops.

17 OCTOBER 1863*
A Brilliant Action at Bull’s Gap
New York Times, October 17, 1863.
Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck. General-in-Chief, Washington:
On the 8th inst. the enemy held down as far as Blue Springs, and a cavalry brigade of ours held Bull’s Blue Springs, and a cavalry brigade of ours held Bull’s Gap, supported by a small body of infantry at Morristown. I, accordingly, dispatched a brigade of cavalry around by Rogersville to intercept the enemy’s retreat, and, with a considerable body of infantry and artillery, moved to Bull’s Gap.
On Saturday, the 10th, I advanced a cavalry brigade to Blue Springs, where they found the enemy strongly posted and offering a stubborn resistance. Skirmishing continued until about 5 o’clock in the morning, when I sent in a division of infantry, who charged and cleared the woods, gallantly driving the enemy in confusion until dark.
During the night the enemy retreated precipitately, leaving their dead on the field and most of their wounded in our hands. We pursued in the morning with infantry and cavalry. The intercepting force met them at Henderson’s but owing to some misunderstanding, withdrew and allowed them to pass with only a slight check.
The pursuit was continued until evening, when I withdrew most of my infantry and returned to this place. Gen. Shackelford with his cavalry and a brigade of infantry continued the pursuit, the enemy making a stand at every important position; but he had driven them completely from the State, captured the fort at Zollicoffer, and burned the long railroad bridge at that place and five other bridges, and destroyed the locomotives and about thirty-five cars. His advance is now ten miles beyond Bristol. Our loss at Blue Springs and in the pursuit was about 100 killed and wounded. The enemy’s loss was considerably greater. About 100 prisoners were taken.
A. E. Burnside, Major-General
~ New York Times.

12 NOVEMBER 1863
KNOXVILLE. Federal situation report
We now hold as far east as Bull’s Gap, scouting to Greeneville and to the south of that place. We picket the Tennessee River from Washington to Kingston. The main force is stationed from Kingston to Knoxville. We occupy all the country south of the Holston, scouting the line of the Little Tennessee. The command is in good health and spirits; very short of clothing and on quarter rations of everything but meat and bread. …
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. III, p. 128.

24 DECEMBER 1863
Skirmish at Bull’s Gap.

Bull’s Gap on the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad


16 JANUARY 1864 – 17 JANUARY 1864
Actions at Bull’s Gap.
~ Dyer’s Battle Index for Tennessee

8 MARCH 1864
Reconnaissance from Morristown to Bull’s Gap.

9 MARCH 1864
Federal situation report, New Market, Strawberry Plains, Mossy Creek, Morristown, Bulls’ Gap …
NEW MARKET, March 9, 1864.
Maj.-Gen. SCHOFIELD, Knoxville:
Have just returned from Mossy Creek. Deserters and citizens continue to come in, but their news does not reach beyond Bull’s Gap, where [CSA Gen. Simon Bolivar] Buckner is said to be. Vaughn’s brigade is still at Browerville and does not number over 400 or 500 in all, partly mounted and partly foot. A cavalry outpost at Chucky Bend. One man who came through from Greeneville, on Friday last, reports some troops scattered between Greeneville and Bull’s Gap, but cannot say how many. …
A rebel cavalry party, 30 or 40 strong, is reported at Massengill’s Mill, on north side of Holston, about 8 miles above Strawberry Plains, yesterday. Col. Garrard sends a party across to-day to look after them. A regiment goes to Morristown to support a cavalry reconnaissance toward Bull’s Gap … I have directed every possible means to be used to get immediately some definite information of the condition of affairs beyond Bay’s Mountain.
My own belief is that Longstreet is gone, and that Buckner is left in command of whatever force remains. Upon examination it is found that the small trestle bridge at Mossy Creek was partially cut by the rebels with the intent doubtless to make a trap for our first train. …
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. D. COX, Brig.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32 pt. III, pp. 43-44.

15 MARCH 1864
Skirmish at Bull’s Gap

28 MARCH 1864
Federal scouts from Mossy Creek to Bull’s Gap
MOSSY CREEK, March 28, 1864.
Gen. SCHOFIELD: I have scouts just from Bull’s Gap; they report rebel infantry nearly all gone, and are daily leaving the country. Cavalry at the gap not thought to be many; also squads of cavalry in all the gaps and roads between Bull’s Gap and the bend of the Nola Chucky [Nolichucky River], 1 mile below the mouth of Lick Creek. They say the citizens told them the infantry are moving to Virginia, and in few days the cavalry will go to Kentucky. CSA Gen. [East Tennessean John C.] Vaughn* had pickets stationed 7 miles below Rogersville on Saturday and Sunday; the cars came to Bull’s Gap Friday. The men are said to be deserting by hundreds and going to North Carolina, the roads being so closely guarded they cannot come this way.
R. A. CRAWFORD, Chief of Scouts.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. III, p. 174.

*Not to be confused with CSA Brigadier General Alfred Jefferson Vaughan, Army of Tennessee

31 MARCH 1864
Confederate destruction of railroad trackage and bridges in Lick Creek and Bull’s Gap environs.
KNOXVILLE, March 31, 1864.
Maj.-Gen. SHERMAN: The rebels have all gone from Bull’s Gap, and are now beyond Greeneville. They have destroyed the railroad bridge across Lick Creek and the trestle-work near the gap; they have also broken up the railroad to some extent and carried off the telegraph wire. This is all positive and I take it is conclusive as to [CSA Gen. James] Longstreet’s designs.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. III, p. 199.

Major General J. M. Schofield USA

1 APRIL – 2 APRIL 1864
Federal Reconnaissance and scouts about Bull’s Gap, Strawberry Plains and Morristown.
Gen. Stoneman reached Bull’s Gap, and his cavalry is scouting beyond that place. The enemy have all gone beyond Jonesborough and probably beyond the Watauga. Scouts report that Longstreet’s main force is moving to East Virginia, only about 3,500 men, mostly cavalry, being left to protect the saltworks. I will know the facts in a few days.
Longstreet was with his troops at Bull’s Gap while I was at Morristown last week, he having returned from Virginia. Upon learning we were advancing he also brought back a division of infantry, which was then en route for Virginia. The rebels have destroyed the bridge beyond Bull’s Gap and Greeneville, and have carried off the telegraph wire, but have not injured the track as far as learned.
I will occupy Bull’s Gap with infantry, and scout the country above with cavalry, but will not injure the railroad until I get further instructions from you. I will have all preparations made to carry out your plans.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Maj.-Gen.

2 APRIL 1864
Brig. Gen. T. J. Wood, Commanding Third Division, Fourth Army Corps.
GENERAL: Gen. Stoneman went yesterday with a division on a reconnaissance to Morristown. To-day he is at Bull’s Gap, and possibly beyond. The result of his movement will determine whether any other force may be required to complete what is to be done on that line. No news from below.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. D. COX, Brigadier-Gen., Chief of Staff.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. III, pp. 225-226.

Brigadier General J. D. Cox USA

24 APRIL 1864
Scouts in Bull’s Gap environs.
Maj.-Gen. SCHOFIELD, Knoxville:
[Gen. Mahlon Dickerson] Manson got off promptly at daybreak this morning. The cavalry are ordered to make 30 miles a day, and the infantry 20. All have five days’ rations and forage. The instructions for their guidance in different contingencies I made out fully as you directed. The news brought in by scouts makes me confident of success for the expedition, there being no rebel force sufficient to meet them this side of Holston.
J. D. COX, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, p. 476.

25 APRIL – 27 APRIL 1864
Expedition from Bull’s Gap to Watauga River and skirmish.
Report of Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, U. S. Army,
Commanding Department of the Ohio.
KNOXVILLE, April 27, 1864.
I have intelligence from the Watauga expedition. As was anticipated the rebels destroyed the bridge after being driven across it by our cavalry. The river was too high to be forded. Our loss in the fight was 3 killed and 18 wounded; that of the enemy not yet reported. The troops will reach Lick Creek to-night. They have destroyed all the bridges from Bull’s Gap to the Watauga and about 20 miles of track. Considering the time allowed them think they have done remarkably well and all that could be desired.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. I, p. 686.

25 APRIL – 27 APRIL 1864
Account of CSA Surgeon John W. Lawing
Thomas’ (North Carolina) Legion, C. S. Army, on the expedition from Bull’s Gap to Watauga River.
Carter’s DEPOT, EAST TENNESSEE, April 28, 1864.
I desire through your paper to give a brief account of the engagement recently fought at this place. The enemy, about 2,000 strong, consisting of the Third Indiana, the Tenth Michigan Mounted Infantry, and a battalion with two pieces of artillery under General [Mahlon Dickerson] Manson, United States Army, attacked this place on Monday, April 25. The fight began at 2 o’clock p. m., and with only occasional intervals continued until dark.
The resisting force, which consisted of only a portion of Colonel [William Holland] Thomas’ Legion, North Carolina Troops, and without artillery, under Lieutenant-Colonel James [Robert] Love of North Carolina, met them heroically and repulsed them in a crippled condition. …
Under cover of the night the enemy removed their wounded and dead and resumed the firing early next morning, but after a short skirmish they retired. A few of our cavalry pursued and on their return reported that the enemy had burned a small bridge, torn up a portion of the railroad track, and were still retreating, evidently not intending to renew the attack.
During this engagement our men displayed a heroism worthy of veterans and of the noble cause in which they are engaged. This victory, though comparatively small, is in keeping with the progress of events which makes our Confederate cause ever plainer to our minds and dearer to our hearts.

Bulls Gap Railroad Depot, date unknown

28 JUNE 1864
A Confederate Martial Marriage at Bull’s Gap.
An Alabama soldier … who is uglier than the renowned Suggs—in fact so far diseased with the chronic big ugly as to have failed procuring a furlough from Brig. Gen. [Evander] Law—wooed and won a buxom Tennessee maid of doubtful age. …
The bridegroom stood largely over six honest feet in his socks, was as hairy as Esau, and pale, slim and lank. His jacket and pants represented both of the contending parties at war. His socks were much the worse for wear, and his toes sticking out of the gaping rents thereof, reminded one of the many little heads of pelicans you observe protruding from the nest which forms the coat of arms of Louisiana.
The exact color of his suit could not be given. Where the buttons had been lost off in the wear and tear of war, a unique substitute, in the shape of persimmon seed, was used. The bride had essayed to wash “Alabama’s” clothes, while he modestly concealed his nudity behind a brush heap, awaiting there until they were dried.
The bride was enrobed in a clean but faded dress. Her necklace was composed of a string of chinquapins, her brow was environed by a wreath of faded bonnet flowers, and her wavy hair was tucked up behind in the old-fashioned way. She wore a stout pair of No. 9 brogans, and her stockings and gloves were made of rabbit skins—fur side next to the flesh. … She wore no hoops, for nature had given her such a form as to make crinoline of no use to her.
All being ready, the “Texas Parson” proceeded to his duty with becoming gravity. … Then the following was read aloud:
“By order of our directive General Braxton Bragg, I hereby solemnly pronounce you man and wife, for and during the war, and you shall cleave unto each other until the war is over, and then apply to Governor Watts for a family right of public land in Pike, the former residence of the bridegroom, and you, and each of you, will assist to multiply and replenish the earth.”
The ceremony wound up with a regular bear hug between the happy mortals, and we resumed our hog hunt, all the time “guffawing” at the stoic indifference manifested by the married parties on the picket line at Bull’s Gap. On our falling back from the gap we observed the happy couple perambulating with the column through the mud and snow, wearing an air of perfect indifference to observation or remark from the soldiery. …
Richmond [VA] Whig, 28 June 1864.

Brigadier General Jacob Ammen USA

Report of Brig. Gen. Jacob Ammen, U. S. Army,
Of skirmishes at Rheatown, Jonesborough, the Watauga River, and Carter’s Station.
Knoxville, Tenn., November 6, 1864. CAPT.; September 19, 1864, I received the following telegram:
LOUISVILLE, KY., 19 September 1864.
Brig.-Gen. AMMEN, Knoxville, Maj.-Gen. [Stephen] Burbridge will start to-morrow on his expedition into Southwest Virginia. Gen. [Alvan] Gillem is to co-operate with him. Support them by such force as you can make available, according to understanding we had at Chattanooga.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
The understanding was, that Maj.-Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge would attack the enemy at Abingdon and the salt-works 27 September; that Gen. Gillem, with his force, was to attack the enemy at Jonesborough the same day, and that the troops under my command would hold Bull’s Gap.
Subsequently Gen. Burbridge telegraphed to Gen. Gillem to attack at Jonesborough 29 September, and follow up the enemy the 30th, as Gen. Burbridge could not be at Abingdon before that time. In pursuance of these instructions I went to Bull’s Gap by railroad with 300 of the First Ohio Volunteer Heavy Artillery, Col. Hawley in command 21 September.
Next day 200 more of the same regiment came on the train, and 25 September, 200 of the Tenth Michigan Cavalry mounted and 100 of the same regiment dismounted reached Bull’s Gap. Gen. Williams having united with the force commanded by CSA Gen. Vaughn in East Tennessee, Gen. Gillem requested me to accompany him, as he had not troops enough to meet the enemy in our front.
Gen. Gillem’s command, consisted of the Ninth and Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Sixteenth Kentucky Cavalry, and six pieces of artillery; total, 1,650; my command, First Ohio Heavy Artillery, 500, and 300 of the Tenth Michigan; total, 800. Capt. Kirk with his command and two companies of 100-days’ men were left at Bull’s Gap.
27 September, we left Bull’s Gap with the two commands (2,450); marched to Greeneville without seeing the enemy. 28 September, near Rheatown, the advance met a small party of the enemy, wounded 3, and drove the rest back. September 29, the advance met a small force at Jonesborough drove it from the town; met more, and the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry drove them on the Duvall’s Ferry road and across the Watauga River.
A part of the enemy went on the Carter’s Station road and were pursued by the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry. 30 September, marched to Carter’s Station, attacked the enemy, and drove most of his force across the river to a strong position …
1 October, the artillery was placed advantageously, did good work, and soon after 12 m. the enemy left his works and retreated … At 12 m. started back with the First Ohio Volunteer Heavy Artillery and Tenth Michigan Cavalry and reached Knoxville 5 October 1864. …
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
J. AMMEN, Brig.-Gen., U. S. Volunteers, Cmdg. Division.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. I, pp. 558-559.

Confederate attack repulsed at Bull’s Gap
BULL’S GAP, TENN., September 22, 1864—3.50 p. m.
Gen. BURBRIDGE: The enemy attacked the forces at this place this morning, and were repulsed. They are now visible on our flank. It is Gen. Ammen’s and my opinion that all their available force is here.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. II, p. 440.

Major General Stephen G. Burbridge USA

27 SEPTEMBER  1864
Report of Col. John B. Palmer, Fifty-eighth North Carolina Infantry (C.S.).
Asheville, November 3, 1864.
MAJ.: I have the honor to submit the following report of the recent operations of the force under my command: On 27 September last I notified you that Gen. Vaughn had been ordered back to Saltville, and that I had fallen back to Warm Springs, and that I intended moving to Cocke County, Tenn., in the rear of the enemy, who had followed Gen. Vaughn’s forces to Carter’s Depot.
This movement of mine … seriously alarmed the enemy and caused their precipitate retreat to Bull’s Gap. In according with directions received from Gen. R. E. Lee to co-operate with Gen. Breckinridge when notified by him, I moved from this place on 17 October, and, concentrating my forces at Warm Springs, moved over the Paint Mountain on the 19th with 800 men and three pieces of artillery.
… a small force of cavalry I had stationed in Cocke County, Tenn. … struck the railroad at Mossy Creek and burned the railroad bridge. This caused the enemy to evacuate Bull’s Gap and retire in the direction of Bean’s Station. On 21 October I formed a junction with Gen. Vaughn at Bull’s Gap. During the night of that day I moved to Russellville, and having effectually destroyed the railroad in that vicinity and collected and secured the telegraph wire, I, by Gen. Vaughn’s directions, returned to Bull’s Gap.
On the 27 October I proceeded, by directions of Gen. Breckinridge, to Morristown for the purpose of conferring with Gen. Vaughn, whose forces I found skirmishing with the enemy. That night my mountain howitzer was ordered forward. … Gen. Vaughn requested me to send back to Bull’s Gap and have my command in readiness to move the next morning at 6 a. m. to Russellville, should he so order. This I did.
Early on the morning of the 28th I addressed a note to Gen. Vaughn to know if my command had been ordered up during the night, in order that if it had I might go back and place it in position at Russellville; or if it had not, that I might go to his headquarters and hold a conference with him as directed by Gen. Breckinridge.
I received the following reply from Gen. Vaughn’s assistant adjutant-general:
HDQRS. CAVALRY, &c., Morristown, 28 October 1864.
Col. PALMER, Cmdg.:
The general directs me to say … that your command was ordered to Russellville last night. Enemy are still in our front. Some skirmishing this morning.
Assistant Adjutant-Gen.
I notified Gen. Vaughn that I would place my command in position at Russellville, and immediately returned to that place … I selected a line about one mile in advance of Russellville, on the Morristown road, and was moving my command into position when Gen. Vaughn’s staff officer arrived from the front and requested me to form my line in rear of Russellville, on the Bull’s Gap road.
I faced the column about and was marching it to the new position when Gen. Vaughn’s retreating cavalry swept by my men in the wildest disorder. My men were hastily thrown across the road and an ineffectual attempt made to stop the fleeing cavalry and induce them to form a line. The rear of Gen. Vaughn’s baggage and supply train had just reached my line when the pursuing enemy entered the town on its opposite side.
Skirmishers were immediately thrown out from my command on the left and engaged the enemy, while my artillery opened from a slight elevation in rear of my right, effectually checking the enemy’s advance and enabling Gen. Vaughn to rally from 150 to 200 men in rear of my line. The enemy made no farther advance, but fell back to Morristown, stating that they had encountered at Russellville the whole of Breckinridge’s corps.
I had with me not more than 600 men, the balance having been left at Bull’s Gap by direction of Gen. Vaughn. From this position I was ordered back to Bull’s Gap, and from thence to Greeneville, I protesting against both movements. From Greeneville Gen. Vaughan fell back to Rheatown, and by his directions my command returned to this district. …
It is evident that this district, as I have always urged, affords an admirable base from which to operate against and threaten the enemy in East Tennessee. …
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. PALMER, Col., Cmdg. District. CSA
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. I, pp. 844-857

16 OCTOBER 1864
Skirmish near Bull’s Gap.

18 OCTOBER 1864
The enemy evacuated Bull’s Gap …
HDQRS., In the Field.
MAJ.: Mossy Creek bridge was burned by one of my scouts on night of 16th instant. The enemy evacuated Bull’s Gap very hurriedly about 2 o’clock this morning, retreating in the direction of Knoxville. I am pursuing. Commissaries should look well to the supplies in this department.
Very respectfully,
J. [John] C. VAUGHN, Brig.-Gen.

20 OCTOBER 1864
HDQRS. CAVALRY, Near Bull’s Gap, October 20, 1864.
MAJ.: The enemy moved hurriedly from Bull’s Gap on the night of the 17th instant. They are now encamped at Bean’s Station. The cause of the evacuation was occasioned by a detachment of twenty men, under Capt. Mims, burning the fort used by the enemy at Mossy Creek, and the destruction of the railroad bridge. He also destroyed effectually some two miles of the railroad. He reports great consternation among the citizens at Knoxville and surrounding country. …
Two companies of cavalry at Strawberry Plains. Small force represented to be at Knoxville. I am of the opinion that the enemy will return and give me battle in a day or two. Col. Palmer will probably reach me to-morrow. I shall endeavor to hold as much of the country as possible, but if pressed shall resume my old lines at Rheatown.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN C. VAUGHN, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.

Gen. John Vaughn’s Tennessee Brigade during the Vicksburg Campaign.

23 OCTOBER 1864
MAJ.: My forces pursued the enemy to their fortifications at Strawberry Plains, where they met some re-enforcements; and from the condition of my stock, for want of shoeing and other causes, I think it prudent to fall back to the line at Bull’s Gap. The strength of the enemy that left Bull’s Gap was between 3,000 and 4,000, consisting of cavalry, artillery, and infantry. …
I would suggest … that Gen.’s Cosby’s and Duke’s commands be sent here, and I think we could draw the enemy out of his works, and if so, could very easily defeat him. I hope the general will favor the suggestion. My command is increasing every day and getting some recruits.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN C. VAUGHN, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.

John C. Breckinridge CSA advances from Virginia into Northeast Tennessee.
When Federal cavalry begin roaming up East Tennessee’s Watauga Valley in late 1864, Gen. John C. Breckinridge CSA in southwestern Virginia decides they are too close to Bristol and resolves to push them back. … he moves down the railroad line to Greeneville.
Union troops under Gen. Alvan C. Gillem advance beyond Greeneville, but retire in front of larger Confederate forces moving out of Jonesborough. To protect the rail lines to Knoxville, the Federals fall back to Bulls Gap on the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad.

Major General John C. Breckinridge CSA
Painting by Eliphalet Frazer Andrews

Battle of Bull’s Gap Summary
11 NOVEMBER 1864
Confederate forces attack in the morning, but are repulsed by 11:00 a.m.
Confederates are pushed back within hours of the initial attack.
Artillery fire continues throughout the day.
12 NOVEMBER 1864
Both sides launch morning attacks.
Confederates hit Union forces in a variety of locations but gain little ground.
13 NOVEMBER 1864
Firing occurs throughout most of the day.
Confederates do not assault Union lines.
Union forces are short on everything from ammunition to rations.
They withdraw from Bull’s Gap toward Russellville late in the evening.
The battle of Bull’s Gap ends on the third day.
A minor victory for the Confederate Army.
14 NOVEMBER 1864
Breckinridge attacks the Federals on 14 November and engages them near Russellville, causing a rout.
The Federals fall back to Strawberry Plains (northeast of Knoxville) where Breckinridge again engages his forces.
Federal reinforcements soon arrive and foul weather begins to play havoc with the roads and streams.
Breckinridge, with most of his force, retires back to Virginia.
The Confederate victory at the Battle of Bulls Gap is a setback in the Federal plans to rid East Tennessee of Confederate military presence, though temporary as Breckinridge withdraws to Virginia.

Battle of Bull’s Gap > As the Confederates saw it.
On 11 November 1864, Gen. Basil Duke CSA is in the process of pushing the Federal rear guard out of Lick Creek and chasing them to Bull’s Gap. Union commander Gen. Alvan C. Gillem USA … sorties several times from Bull’s Gap, but Duke keeps pushing him back. When Breckinridge arrives, he decides to attack up the mountain the next morning.
Although Duke thinks the movement is reckless, both he and Breckinridge are in the thick of the fighting on the morning of 12 November. Breckinridge devises a coordinated assault on the Union front, flank, and rear …
The flanking force on the Union left, consisting of dismounted cavalry led by Breckinridge in person, carries a line of trenches in hand-to-hand fighting. …
Exhausted Confederate troops stumble back down the steep mountainside … victims of steep terrain well-defended.

Brigadier General Basil Duke CSA

Henrietta Hunt Morgan Duke
Wife of Gen. Basil Duke
Sister of Gen. John Hunt Morgan

Battle of Bull’s Gap > The Union viewpoint
Report of the Battle of Bull’s Gap by Gen. Alvan Gillem USA
‘Regret to inform you my command has met a terrible reverse.’
On the night of the 9th moved from Greeneville to Bull’s Gap; 11th, the enemy attacked me and was repulsed; 12th, at daylight assault was renewed, Breckinridge leading storming party … On the 13th the enemy renewed attack, but not with such vigor. From our position we could see their infantry arriving … as my command had been living four days without bread, horses starving, and ammunition exhausted …  
I determined to evacuate the gap on the night of the 13th, and was not interfered with until the greater part of my command, artillery, and trains had passed Russellville, when the rear was attacked and men became panic-stricken.
All efforts of myself and their officers to rally them was fruitless. They ran over everything. The enemy, who had not attacked vigorously at first, then charged and broke through our lines, capturing artillery and trains. … I passed over the grounds in the enemy’s rear. Did not see a dead Federal soldier; but, in horses, arms, and equipments, have lost heavily. …
This command has heretofore fought gallantly. Had it not become panic stricken could have easily repulsed the enemy and kept them back. … Will reorganize command and await your orders; and, if you are willing to trust me, try them again.
Had assistance been extended when asked for from the commander at Knoxville this disaster would not have occurred. But my men were allowed to starve while storehouses were full and a railroad running to Russellville.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. I, pp. 885-886.

Major General Alvan C. Gillem USA

New York Times.
Defeat of Gen. Gillem near Bull’s Gap.
Capture of Four Hundred Prisoners by Gen. Breckinridge.
Fighting at Strawberry Plains.
LOUISVILLE, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 19.
Intelligence deemed reliable, the accuracy of which cannot be determined to-night, says:
Very recently the rebel Gen. BRECKINRIDGE, with 10,000 men, attacked Gen. GILLEM near Bull’s Gap, and after a desperate fight, defeated GILLEM, who lost four hundred prisoners. …
From The Richmond Enquirer, Nov. 16.
The following official dispatch was received at the War Department last night:
Hon. James A. Seddon, Secretary of War:
Gen. BRECKINRIDGE reports that on the night of the 13th inst. he turned Bull’s Gap, when the enemy attempted to retreat.
About 1 o’clock on the 14th inst., with VAUGHN’s and DUKE’s commands, he struck their column and routed it. Several hundred prisoners, ten stands of colors, six pieces of artillery, with caissons and horses complete, fifty loaded wagons with teams, and ambulances with medical supplies, &c., captured.
CHATTANOOGA, Saturday, 19 November 1864.
The rebels attacked our forces at Strawberry Plains, eighteen miles above Knoxville, in force yesterday morning, at daylight. The fighting continued at intervals all day. Our forces held their own. The rebels were repulsed in every attack.

Granny Feathers House, Bull’s Gap, Northeast Tennessee
This building, once a hotel, has survived since 1856.

After the American Civil War, Bull’s Gap and the damaged railroad begin to rebuild. The earlier planned Rogersville connection to the ET&VA is completed in 1870 by the Rogersville and Jefferson Railroad, and the town of Bull’s Gap grows and prospers at the junction of the two lines.

The Battles for Cumberland Gap 1861 – 1862

The Geography of Cumberland Gap
The Cumberland Gap is a natural passageway through the Cumberland Plateau of the Cumberland Mountains, which are part of the southeastern Appalachians. The Gap is located near the point where the states of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee meet—between Middlesboro, Kentucky and the town of Cumberland Gap, which is located below the Gap at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains on the northern boundary of Northeast Tennessee.
The Cumberland Gap region includes one county in Virginia, four counties in Kentucky, and five counties in Tennessee—Campbell, Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, and Union—all within a 25-mile radius of the Cumberland Gap. This area spans across mountains, rivers, and lakes.
Several American Civil War engagements occur in and around the Cumberland Gap; they are known collectively as the Battle of Cumberland Gap.

A Foggy morning at Cumberland Gap

Kentucky declared herself neutral on 16 May 1861. The state’s neutrality is broken on 4 September 1861, exposing the entire northern boundary of Tennessee to possible invasion.

First Occupation of Cumberland Gap
CSA Gen. Felix Zollicoffer, commander of the Department of East Tennessee at Knoxville, takes the initiative and marches his forces to Cumberland Gap. He easily overcomes the local Home Guard and occupies the Gap, and builds earthwork fortifications to stave of any Union invasion of Northeast Tennessee. They erect seven forts on the north facing slope, and cleared the mountains of all trees within one mile of each fort.
A soldier wrote, “It is the roughest place in the world, but we are going to stick the mountain full of cannon to prevent the Lincolnites from crossing.”

MINI BIO: CSA Gen. Felix Kirk Zollicoffer
In 1860 newspaperman Felix Zollicoffer urged Tennesseans to remain loyal to the Union. When the state seceded in June 1861, however, he fully supported the decision. Tennessee Governor Isham Harris rewarded Zollicoffer with a commission of brigadier general on 9 July 1861.
On 26 July 1861 Harris sent the new general to Knoxville to command the new Department of East Tennessee. A large majority of that region’s population has continued to support the United States.
Zollicoffer’s orders were to enforce secession in the eastern counties and to control the Unionists, in case they might have any ideas of rebelling against the new Confederate government.
Gen. Felix Zollicoffer attempted to pacify East Tennessee’s pro-Union population with a lenient policy and the stationing of only fifteen companies of troops in the region.
On 8 August 1861 Isham Harris was re-elected governor of Tennessee; on 18 August, he ordered Zollicoffer to arrest and, if necessary, banish Unionist leaders from the state, changing Zollicoffer’s policy from leniency to force.

8 OCTOBER 1861
Excerpt from a letter from Dr. U. G. Owen to his wife
Cumberland Gap Tenn. Oct. 8th 1861.
Mrs. U. G. Owen
We are camped on the mountain at the Gap. It is so cold that I can scarcely write this evening. … We are building forts, breastworks, &c of every sort, going to stick the mountain full of cannons to prevent the Lincolnites from crossing. We have one hundred at work every day, building fortifications.
I have my tent up on the side of the mountain, plenty of straw on the floor, plenty of cover to keep me warm at night. I also have a cot to sleep on – brought from Knoxville – did not cost me anything. It Rained hard all day yesterday and part of Sunday. I have not been here long enough yet to find out anything about the people.
I will have to get me a horse – to [would love to have] our little horse from home but I hardly know how to get him here but I must have horse certain. Your Pa may know of some body coming to Knoxville and to Cumberland Gap who would bring him. They could ride him from Knoxville here.
I hope you are well satisfied at your Aunt’s … Don’t be uneasy about me because I will keep well & do well here or wherever I may go or be sent.
Our Regiment is nearly all well & about, very few sick. We are all camped here around the corner of three States, Tenn, Kentucky & Virginia. My tent is in Virginia, Dr. Compton’s in Ky, several are in Tenn. Battle’s Regiment is 13 miles from here … in Kentucky.
I see some of them [civilians] every day almost bringing salt that they captured from the Lincolnites at the Salt Works in Ky.
I want you to write me everything, tell me if you are satisfied there.
Dr. U. G. Owen to Laura, October 8, 1861.

October 24, 1861
Excerpt from another letter to Mrs. U. G. Owen
Cumberland Gap the 24th 1861
Mrs. U. G. Owen, My beloved Wife
We expect a fight here soon. General Zollicoffer is retreating back this way. They had a little fight at Rock Castle [River] Ky. He sent an order here last night to place our cannon & have them in Readiness. We worked all night at that & building breastworks. Col. Churchwell issued an order last evening for all the women to leave the Regiment, the kind of women you saw there at Camp Sneed – bad kind.
Laura, you want to come here but if you were here a while you would want to get away. Cold & wet, no house to get in, no fire but a little smoky one out of doors. I would not like for you to be here in that condition, and I will tell you that we are alarmed here and may have to retreat in a hurry.
I don’t want you to come here now while there is danger. I can’t tell one day where we will be next. Write me often. At Present I am in a great hurry. I will write again in a few days.
Your devoted husband
Dr. U. G. Owen to Laura, October 24, 1861.

Zollicoffer determines to establish defensive line at Jacksborough to thwart expected Federal invasion of Tennessee from Kentucky.
Twenty-three miles from Montgomery.
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen., Richmond:
… I left the regiments of Cols. Churchwell and Rains at Cumberland Gap, busily engaged in completing the works there. Within a week or ten days I think the defenses there will be very strong. I think the Jacksborough routes can soon be made effectively impassable, and then I hope to move by the Jamestown route and advance.
If you will examine the topography of the country, you will perceive I have passed to this point along a valley at the foot of the mountain. The road is good. To pass from Jacksborough direct to Huntsville or Montgomery or Jamestown direct, I would have to pursue a mountain road, poor and broken, and the mountain is generally 30 or 40 miles wide.
Very respectfully,
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 4, pp. 530-531.


19 JANUARY 1862
Gen. Felix Zollicoffer is killed at the Battle of Mill Springs in Kentucky, but the Gap remains in Confederate control. The defenses are now manned by Col. James Edward Rains and his troops. 

CSA Col. James Edwards Rains.

MINI BIO: Col. James Edwards Rains
James Edwards Rains, a Nashville native, graduates second in the Yale Law School Class of 1854. Before the American Civil War, he works as city attorney and associate editor of the Daily Republican Banner under Felix Zollicoffer. In April 1861 Rains enlists as a private in the Confederate army and spends most of his military service in Northeast Tennessee under his old boss, now Confederate general, Felix Zollicoffer.
After Gen. Zollicoffer is killed at Mill Springs [19 January 1862], Col. James Edwards Rains and his troops man the defenses at the Cumberland Gap, repulsing numerous attempts by Union forces to seize the vital passageway. For his excellent service at the Gap, Col. James Edwards Rains is nominated as a brigadier general on 4 November 1862. The Confederate Senate has not confirmed his nomination when he is killed while leading his brigade at the Battle of Stones River on 31 December 1862. He was 29 years old.

14 FEBRUARY 1862.
Reports of Skirmish near Cumberland Gap.
Report of USA Gen. Samuel. P. Carter, Twelfth Brigade.
Capt. J. B. FRY, Assistant Adjutant-Gen., and Chief of Staff.
CAPT.: A reconnaissance was made to-day by a company of First Battalion Kentucky Cavalry, under the immediate command of Lieut.-Col. Munday [who] reports that he advanced quite close to the Gap; attacked the enemy’s cavalry picket; killed 5, wounded 2, and took 2 prisoners, 8 horses, 7 sabers, and 5 double-barrel shot-guns. No one was injured in the colonel’s command. Our party advanced so near the enemy’s defenses that they got within range of their batteries, which opened on them, when they returned to camp.

Report of CSA Col. James E. Rains.
SIR: I am convinced that the enemy will attack us at this place within a week. An attack to-morrow is probable. Their cavalry drove in our pickets to-day about 3 miles in advance of us. The force, seven regiments, are reported to be at Cumberland Ford, 15 miles in front. The force we have cannot hold the place, being insufficient to man the works.
The strength of the position has been greatly exaggerated. On the Kentucky side it is naturally very weak and difficult to defend. … It will require two regiments, in addition to the two now here, to resist the force menacing us. The position should never be abandoned. Its strategic importance cannot be exaggerated. … If abandoned, it cannot be easily retaken. Can re-enforcements be sent us?
JAMES E. RAINS, Col., Cmdg. Post.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 7, p. 417

18 FEBRUARY 1862
the whole East Tennessee border is much exposed …
SIR: In a dispatch of the 14th instant I acquainted you with the fact that our cavalry pickets had been attacked by the cavalry of the enemy and that an attack on this place was probable.
During the night following the engagement between the pickets there fell a deep snow, which, followed by constant rains up to this time, has placed the roads and streams between us and the enemy in such condition that an immediate attack is improbable.
Several days of fair weather much elapse before the enemy, distant about a day’s march, would attempt to reach us. By a dispatch from Colonel Vance, commanding at Knoxville, I learn that three regiments are on their way to re-enforce us. If these regiments reach us in time the place is safe against any force that can be brought over the roads in our front.
Indeed, it is not probable that thus re-enforced we will be attacked at all. If not re-enforced, an attack is highly probable. I would respectfully suggest that the whole East Tennessee border is much exposed and several important gaps wholly undefended, through any one of which it would not be difficult for the enemy to throw a force.
JAMES E. RAINS, Colonel, Commanding Post.

25 FEBRUARY 1862
CSA Gen. E. Kirby Smith assigned to command the Department of East Tennessee, headquarters at Knoxville.

21 MARCH 1862 – 23 MARCH 1862
Reconnaissance to and skirmish at Cumberland Gap.
Report of Col. Samuel P. Carter, U. S. Army.
HDQRS. TWELFTH BRIGADE, Camp Cumberland Ford.
CAPT.: Late in the afternoon of the 20th instant I was informed by a messenger from Claiborne County, East Tennessee, that four rebel regiments, with six pieces of artillery, under command of Gen. [E. Kirby] Smith left Cumberland Gap on the 19th instant to attack the Second East Tennessee Regt., which was then stationed at Woodson’s Gap, some 3 miles from Fincastle, Campbell County, East Tennessee.

On the morning of the 21st we marched toward Cumberland Gap, with the hope of arriving there before the return of the rebel troops. But when we arrived within 2 miles of the Gap I was overtaken by a messenger (who had been sent to Claiborne County) with information that the rebels had made a forced march, and were by that time within their encampment. As my force was much too small to make an attack on their strong entrenchments, protected by heavy redoubts, I determined to remain in front of their works for a day or two, and make as complete an examination of their works as practicable. We advanced on the enemy’s right and drove in their pickets; moved close to their right line of defense, and bivouacked for the night.

On the morning of the 22nd threw out skirmishers and drove the enemy from the woods to the abatis, which covers the whole mountainside, inside the line of fallen timber. The rebel sharpshooters were well protected by rifle pits. … The rebels opened on our skirmishers with shrapnel from two 12-pounders, but without doing any damage. I moved the two Parrott guns and their regiments to a ridge in the front of the Gap, where the former were placed in position and soon opened on the rebel works, and continued cannonading them until the afternoon.

Our fire was returned warmly from seven different works … They threw 24-pounder solid shot, 12-pounder shell (spherical), 6-pounder solid, and 8-inch shell. … They were several times driven from their guns, but as they had hill and deep trenches close at hand where they seemed to be securely covered, I doubt if they suffered much. … Although the rebel force was more than double ours, all of our efforts to draw them from their works were unsuccessful.

This command bivouacked again just in front of the Gap, and as I had completed successfully the reconnaissance, I left in the forenoon of yesterday, and arrived in this place last evening. Some of the officers and men had narrow escapes, but not one was injured or lost. …

Although we had snow-storms and sleet during both the nights we bivouacked in the mountains, as well as yesterday, I heard no word of complaint from either officer or man. The ammunition of Parrott guns, both fused and percussion, seemed to be defective, as very many of our shells were not seen to explode. I have ordered it to be carefully examined.

This examination of Cumberland Gap confirms the opinion given in a former letter that the place is very strong if attacked from the north side, and can only be carried by a large force with a heavy loss of life, but it can be readily reduced by having a good force attack simultaneously on the south side, or, better still, by an investment, which would soon starve them out. …
Respectfully, &c., S. P. CARTER,
Acting Brig.-Gen., Twelfth Brigade.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, pp. 42-45.

22 MARCH 1862
Report of Col. James E. Rains, C. S. Army.
HDQRS., Cumberland Gap, March 22, 1862.
SIR: On yesterday evening, about dark, a party of infantry scouts which I sent out drove in the enemy’s pickets 3 miles out on Harlan road. At daylight skirmishing parties of the enemy opened fire upon our right from the adjacent hills. The firing is now going on and the Minie balls are falling within our works. I have seen no artillery. The snow is falling thickly and the morning is dark. Our men are in the trenches. The fire is a very thin one, and we have not returned it. One man is wounded.
JAMES E. RAINS, Col., Cmdg. Post.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, pp. 42-45.

28 MARCH 1862
USA General George W. Morgan is assigned to command of Seventh Division, Army of the Ohio, and is ordered to operate against Cumberland Gap. By April 1862, Morgan is moving against the Gap with the remaining three brigades of his division.

30 MARCH 1862
Knoxville, Tenn., March 30, 1862.
GENERAL: Colonel J. E. Rains, commanding the post at Cumberland Gap, reports that on the evening of the 21st instant the enemy drove in the pickets and on the morning following appeared in his front. Having succeeded in placing two pieces of artillery in position on a neighboring ridge, they opened fire, which was kept up during the day (the 22nd) with considerable vigor, as well as from small-arms at long range, but with little effect. The loss of the enemy is not known, but during the night they withdrew, apparently in great consternation. A body of cavalry to protect their rear were the only troops of the Federal forces seen the next morning, and which it was impossible to cut off.
Information which had reached the enemy of an expedition toward Jacksborough led them to believe that the garrison had been weakened to a great extent, and induced this demonstration. After feeling and ascertaining that it was in force, they retired. Their force was no other than Carter’s brigade, estimated at about 4,000 to 6,000.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH, Major-General, Commanding.

USA Gen. Samuel P. Carter

11 APRIL 1862
Battles and Leaders of the Civil War
ON the 11th of April 1862, with the Seventh Division of the Army of the Ohio under my command, I arrived at Cumberland Ford with orders from General Buell to take Cumberland Gap, fourteen miles to the southward, and occupy East Tennessee, if possible; if not, then to prevent the Confederates from advancing from that direction. … The division under my command consisted of four brigades, commanded by Genls. Samuel P. Carter and James G. Spears, Colonel John F. De Courcy, 16th Ohio regiment, and Colonel John Coburn, 33rd Indiana regiment.
During the preceding winter [1861—1862], Carter had occupied a position near the ford and threatening the Gap. The condition of Carter’s brigade was deplorable. The winter’s storms … had practically cut him off from his base of supplies, and … his troops were half-famished and were suffering from scurvy. Of the 900 men of the 49th Indiana regiment, only 200 were fit for duty.
Reconnaissances at once satisfied me that the … Gap could not be taken by a direct attack, nor without immense loss. I determined to try to force the enemy to abandon his stronghold by strategy.
The position of the Confederate commander in East Tennessee, Major-General E. Kirby Smith, was a difficult one. A large majority of the people of East Tennessee were devoted to the Union, and the war there had become a vendetta. The Union men regarded the Confederates as criminals and were in turn denounced by the Confederates as insurgents. Kirby Smith recommended the arrest and incarceration in Southern prisons of leading citizens … as a means of converting the majority to the Southern cause.
On our side, acts not less vigorous were resorted to. A few days after our occupation of Cumberland Gap, June 18th, General Spears, without authority, sent out in the night, captured and wanted to hang a number of Confederate citizens, whose offense was that they had arrested T. A. R. Nelson, while on his way to take his seat in the United States Congress, and had sent him to Richmond. Their lives were saved by my interposition, and they were sent as prisoners to Indianapolis.
For a distance of eighteen miles north of Big Creek Gap, a pass south-west of Cumberland Gap, the Confederates had heavily blockaded the narrow and abrupt defiles [passes] along that route. The work of clearing the blockades was thoroughly done. But while Spears was thus engaged Kirby Smith advanced with a large force of infantry through a bridle-path called Woodson’s Gap, to cut him off.
The attempt might not have succeeded but for the heroic act of Mrs. Edwards, a noble woman, whose heart was wholly in the Union cause, although she had a son in each of the opposing armies. Well mounted, she passed the mountains by another path, and, by incredible efforts, reached my headquarters in time to enable me to send couriers at full speed with orders for Spears to fall back toward Barboursville [KY], until his scouts should report that Smith had recrossed the mountains.
In order to succeed in the task committed to me it was necessary to compel Kirby Smith, who was at this time concentrating his whole army in my immediate front, to divide his forces. To this end I urged General [Don Carlos] Buell to direct General O. M. Mitchel to threaten Chattanooga and thus draw the main force of the Confederates in that direction.
About four miles south of Cumberland Ford is a narrow defile [pass] formed by an abrupt mountain on one side, and the Cumberland River on the other, through which passes the State Road to Cumberland Gap, and on the edge of the defile was an abandoned cabin, known as “The Moss House” … at the junction of the State Road and a pathway leading to Lambdin’s [?] on the main road to Big Creek Gap.
On the morning of May 22nd I sent forward the brigade of De Courcy, with a battery, with orders to occupy the defile, and, as a stratagem intended to puzzle Smith, to construct a fort at the junction of the pathway and road. I threw forward a strong party of pioneers to widen the path leading to Lambdin’s, so as to enable my artillery and train to move forward.
The mountain was steep and rugged, and skill and toil were necessary to the accomplishment of the work. Twenty-two guns—two of them 30-pounder and two 20-pounder Parrott’s—had to be dragged over the Pine and Cumberland mountains, at times by means of block and tackle, at others by putting in as many horses as could be used, and again by men—200 at a single piece—hauling with drag-ropes.
On the 6th and 7th of June Buell caused diversions to be made by an advance of part of Mitchel’s command to the river opposite Chattanooga, and Smith, with two brigades, hastened to its rescue. The brigade of De Courcy had gone forward; Baird occupied the defile at the Moss House, and Carter was assigned to hold the defile till the last moment, and then bring up the rear of the column.
On the 9th of June General Buell telegraphed me from Booneville, Mississippi: “The force now in Tennessee is so small that no offensive operation against East Tennessee can be attempted, and you must therefore depend mainly on your own resources.”
And on the 10th: “Considering your force and that opposed to you, it will probably not be safe for you to undertake any offensive operations. Other operations will soon have an influence on your designs, and it is better for you to run no risk at present.”
It was, however, next to impossible to change my plans at this moment, and move back on a road such as described. We therefore continued to toil forward over the almost impassable mountains.
Thinking that the series of feints against Chattanooga that were being made at my request indicated an advance in force. Kirby Smith now concentrated for defense at that point, after evacuating Cumberland Gap and removing the stores.
This was just what I wanted. On the evening of the 17th of June, General Carter L. Stevenson of the Confederate forces sent Colonel J. E. Rains to cover the evacuation of Cumberland Gap, which had been commenced on the afternoon of that day; Rains withdrew in the night and marched toward Morristown.
Unaware of that fact, at 1 o’clock on the morning of June 18th we advanced in two parallel columns, of two brigades each, to attack the enemy; but while the troops were at breakfast, I learned from a Union man who had come along the valley road that Rains had withdrawn and that the gap was being evacuated.
The advance was at once sounded, and four hours after the evacuation by the Confederates the flag of the Union floated from the loftiest pinnacle of the Cumberland Range. The enemy had carried away his field-guns, but had left seven of his heavy cannon in position, dismantling the rest.
At the request of Carter, his brigade was sent forward in pursuit of the enemy as far as Tazewell, but the enemy had fallen back south-eastward to the Clinch Mountains. Cumberland Gap was ours without the loss of a single life. Secretary Stanton telegraphed the thanks of the President, and General Buell published a general order in honor of this achievement of the Seventh Division.
Lieutenant (now Colonel) William P. Craighill, of the Corps of Engineers, a soldier of distinguished merit and ability, was sent by Secretary Stanton to strengthen the fortifications at the Gap, and he soon rendered them impregnable against attack.
My hope and ambition now was to advance against Knoxville and arouse the Union men of East Tennessee to arms. I urgently asked for two additional brigades of infantry, a battery, and two regiments of cavalry, and, thus reinforced, pledged myself to sweep East Tennessee of the Confederates.
My guns were increased from 22 to 28, and a battery of East Tennessee artillery was organized, commanded by Lieutenant Daniel Webster, of Forster’s 1st Wisconsin battery.
Four thousand stand of arms, destined for East Tennessee, but left at Nicholasville and Crab Orchard during the winter on account of the impassable state of the roads, were now sent forward to Cumberland Gap with a large supply of ammunition, and magazines and an arsenal were got ready for them.
A vast store-house, capable of containing supplies for 20,000 men for 6 months, was also built by Captain W. F. Patterson. The nerves and muscles of every man were stretched to the utmost tension, and the Gap became a vast workshop. Captain S. B. Brown, assistant quartermaster and acting commissary of subsistence, a man of fine intelligence and great energy, put on the road in small trains over four hundred wagons, and by this means the various munitions of war were dragged from the bluegrass region through the wilderness to Cumberland Gap.
*The Confederate forces covering the mountain and river passes north of Knoxville at this time were under General C. L. Stevenson, First Division, Department of East Tennessee. – EDITORS.
Colonel De Courcy and Captain Joseph Edgar … were detailed as instructors of tactics for the officers of the new regiments of East Tennessee troops, who were brave, ambitions men and anxious to learn. Forage was collected with difficulty by armed parties.
About the middle of August Stevenson went into position in my immediate front.
On the morning of the 17th I received intelligence … that Stevenson would attempt to carry the Gap that night.
At 2:30 A. M. on the 18th reveille was sounded, and the lines were manned, but the enemy did not attack. It was evident that he intended a siege.


26 APRIL 1862
E. Kirby Smith’s situation report for East Tennessee
Maj. T. A. WASHINGTON, Assistant Adjutant-Gen., C. S. Army
MAJ.: … The line of the Cumberland is best defended by a force mobilized at some central point. The enemy with superior forces threatening Chattanooga and Cumberland Gap from without and a disloyal people within requiring large detachments to guard the line of the railroad, leaves a very inadequate command for defending the department. …
My reports from Cumberland Gap, and through other sources, indicate a large force on the Cumberland River, opposite the Gap. Their number is greatly exaggerated; but have a formidable column has been collected and that a forward movement may soon be expected from Kentucky is undoubted.
The force originally under Gen. [S.P.] Carter has been re-enforced by three regiments and a battery of artillery from Louisville, Ky. At least 7,000 Unionists from East Tennessee have joined his command within the last three weeks, and the Federal troops which were operating against Pound Gap are reported to have been ordered to the same point.
By information received from Lexington, Ky., a large amount of transportation destined for Cumberland Gap had arrived there on the 11th instant, and the belief was prevalent among our friends that East Tennessee would be invaded from that point by a large force. Re-enforcements should be sent to the department and arms for the unarmed regiments forwarded without delay. …
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. II, pp. 453-454.

29 APRIL 1862
Repulse of Federals at Cumberland Gap
Reports of Maj.-Gen. E. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army, including orders for movement of troops.
Knoxville, Tenn., April 30, 1862.
The enemy attacked Cumberland Gap yesterday in force. I go to-day to re-enforce Gen. [Carter] Stevenson with all my available troops. Yesterday the enemy attacked Gen. Leadbetter’s command at Bridgeport. It was necessary to retreat, and the bridge there was burned by Gen. Leadbetter.
E. KIRBY SMITH, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.

30 APRIL 1862
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjt. and Insp. Gen., Richmond, Va.
KNOXVILLE, TENN., April 30, 1862.
GEN.: The enemy has attacked at Cumberland Gap. Move with all your disposable force toward Jacksborough. I will overtake you to-night or tomorrow morning. You will withdraw all the cavalry, except one company at Clinton and Cobb’s Ferry, respectively. Those remaining will be directed to keep up communication with this point, and also to communicate to you across the country any important intelligence. You will take with you, if practicable, six- or seven-days’ rations, but be careful to have the wagons in condition to travel lightly. The troops should be without impediments and in fighting order. If the steamboat is at Clinton, you will keep it there.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.

3 MAY 1862
HDQRS., Fincastle, Tenn.
MAJ.: Since their repulse at Cumberland Gap, on the 29th ultimo, the enemy have made no demonstration at that point. My intelligence is that they are removing the obstructions in the Big Creek Gap road west of Fincastle. With my effective force here (1,500) I shall operate through the mountain on their rear, which is beyond support from the main body at Cumberland Ford.
Small as my command at this point is, it is all the disposable force in the department, and was collected from every direction … The Georgia regiments ordered to this department … have since been so reduced by measles, mumps, and typhoid fever that they do not average an effective strength of 300. … The troops lately raised in Tennessee are in the same condition. … Whilst the people of East Tennessee believe my force to be large and effective, to the department alone have I exposed its weakness and inefficiency.
I shall resist the enemy’s entrance into East Tennessee with all the means at my disposal, but with the people in my midst enlisted against me, and with a force of at least four to one, more efficient and better equipped, it will be alone assistance from on High that enables us to maintain possession of the department. …
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg. OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. 1, pp. 75-77.

26 MAY 1862
Operations about Cumberland Gap.
Part of the March 28-June 18, 1862 Cumberland Gap Campaign.
Report of Brig. Gen. James G. Spears, U. S. Army,
Camp Pine Knot, May 26, 1862.
… Reliable information shows the enemy’s strength now on Big Creek Gap to be 8,000 strong, with at least four pieces of artillery, and they positively declare their intention to invade Kentucky at this point. They are greatly exasperated; our pickets having killed one of theirs on yesterday. They are said to have 1,500 cavalry coming from toward Knoxville and down from Cumberland Gap.
I have waited patiently here a good while, with an enemy threatening me in front of three times at least of those under my command. They have artillery; I have none. I do think the time has come that some action must be taken, and now is the time to move. You have the artillery and men, and at this point there is no mistake. If reliable information can be relied on, they (the enemy) intend to make the fight. I trust something will be done speedily. The enemy is now in the exact position he was when the former contemplated move was put on foot. Why not now advance?
Such move would prevent them from re-enforcing the gap, and we could attack them in detail successfully; after which being done, if deemed advisable, we could move our whole force on Cumberland Gap and fortify out of reach of their cannon, and compel them to fight us from under their cover, or starve them out and compel them to surrender. I have been directed by you to be ready to advance or retreat at a moment’s warning.
I am sorry to have to say it is an impossibility to comply with the instructions, as we have to subsist and forage ourselves. The transportation is very weak indeed. Much of our forage and subsistence we have to haul twenty miles, and the transportation is frequently gone for two days at a time on foraging and subsistence purposes, so that often if called on to advance or retreat we would have no means of transportation, and the result would be our ammunition, tents, and camp equipage and all would be left, and perhaps lost and fall into the hands of the enemy.
I earnestly call your attention to my condition in this respect that such action may be taken as will prevent any great injury resulting on any move that may be made under instructions yet in force relative to my command.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES G. SPEARS, Brig.-Gen. OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 14-15.

USA Gen. James Spears

JUNE 1862
The Confederate commander of the Department of East Tennessee at Knoxville, Gen. E. Kirby Smith, faces a difficult choice when the U.S. Army threatens both ends of his department—Chattanooga and Cumberland Gap. He chooses Chattanooga and rushes all available troops to Chattanooga to protect his Georgia supply lines. Confederate units hurry south, burning bridges over the Clinch River as they march to the railroad depot at Morristown to catch a ride to Chattanooga.

10 JUNE 1862 – 15 JUNE 1862
Operations in East Tennessee
Report of Brig. Gen. James G. Spears, U. S. Army.
ARMY OF THE OHIO, Cumberland Gap.
CAPT.: In obedience to instructions of June 10, 1862, I proceeded with my command … by way of Big Creek Gap, in order to join Brig. Gen. [George] Morgan at Speedwell. The advance of my command, after having opened and removed a heavy blockade through Pine and Cumberland Mountains, entered the Gap on the evening of the 11th, at which point my pickets were fired on by the pickets of the enemy, which resulted in a pretty heavy skirmish. As we advanced through the Gap the enemy’s pickets, lying in ambush, contested our advance, and fired upon us from rocks and other places of concealment. … we advanced through the Gap, and it being dusk, my men lay upon their arms and rested until next morning.
On the next morning the opening of the blockade was resumed, and the work continued until 12 o’clock that day, during which time the enemy’s cavalry pickets and my advance pickets kept up a heavy skirmish … the whole command and transportation were ordered to renew the march to join Gen. Morgan at Speedwell.
After having passed through the Gap and turned up the valley the advance train was ordered to halt and the rear ordered to close up. While said order was being executed the advance of the trains was charged upon by a considerable force of the enemy’s cavalry, but they were gallantly repulsed … and made to retreat in confusion.
On the morning of the 15th my pickets were attacked, but they were unable to draw the enemy after them. … I ordered Col. Houk, Col. Cooper, and Col. Shelley to proceed into the valley and advance across the same and attack the enemy on the ridge, at which place they seemed to be assembled in force.
They did so, and succeeded in routing them, driving them across Clinch River and alarming them so much they filled boats with rails, set them on fire, and turned them loose down the river, and retreated toward Knoxville. … in the evening, on our return to the valley, I received a dispatch informing me … that I was ordered to join Gen. Morgan at Speedwell at the earliest practicable moment, in order that our forces on this side might be concentrated for the purpose of attacking Cumberland Gap. It then being dark, or about it, I threw out picket-guards and remained at the Gap during that night.
On the following morning, having been joined by the Twenty-fourth Brigade, commanded by Gen. [S. P.] Carter, in obedience to said order, at 4 o’clock I took up the line of march, and on same evening arrived at Rogers’ Gap. …
As we passed along we were frequently greeted by groups of citizens along the road, both ladies and gentleman, who had heretofore acted with the secession party, who expressed their great joy and satisfaction on the arrival of our army, and who stated that they had been deceived, but that they were glad our army had come to relieve them from the oppression and thralldom which had borne them down, and invited the officers to visit their houses and families and partake of such refreshments as they had, which … was generously given and thankfully received.
… on the 15th, after resting one day … I, with my command, together with commands of Gen.’s De Courcy, Baird, and Carter, took up the line of march at 1 o’clock for the purpose of attacking the enemy … The place assigned me in the order of march was forty-five minutes in rear of Gen. Carter’s brigade… But before arriving at said place it was ascertained that the enemy had abandoned it under great confusion, and made their way, some said, toward Cumberland Gap, some toward Knoxville, and others toward Morristown.
After resting a while … we were ordered to take up the line of march toward Cumberland Gap, in order to attack the enemy there, but before arriving at that point it was ascertained that the enemy had abandoned it and fled toward the railroad in utter confusion …
Gen. De Courcy having first arrived with his brigade on that evening, after having marched some twenty miles, proceeded to the top of the mountain, raised the glorious old flag of our country, and fired a salute from Capt. Foster’s battery in honor of the brilliant success achieved by the valor, energy, and patriotism of our officers and soldiers. … The officers and men and all under my command with promptness, energy, and zeal executed at all times every order and command given to them by me, and my warmest thanks are accorded to them, one and all.
I am, captain, very respectfully,
your obedient servant,
JAMES G. SPEARS, Brig. Gen., Comdg.
Twenty-fifth Brigade, Army of the Ohio.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, pp. 69-72.


13 JUNE 1862
Bowman, East Tennessee.
Colonel J. B. FRY:
On yesterday I received your telegram giving me authority to operate offensively … At the same moment I received a dispatch from Colonel De Courcy, still at Rogers’ Gap, saying that the enemy evacuated Cumberland Gap … Soon after Mr. Kellinn, who resides within 8 miles of Cumberland Gap, arrived with information that the huts were burned and the tents taken down on the Kentucky front of the Gap.
I have just received a dispatch from Colonel De Courcy saying that the enemy was reported to be in position at Cedar Creek, near Fincastle. General Carter is now en route to Big Creek Gap, and I feel it to be my duty to concentrate my division at the earliest moment practicable. The enemy may not have evacuated Cumberland Gap, but simply resorted to a ruse. …

18 JUNE 1862 – 17 SEPTEMBER 1862
Second Occupation of Cumberland Gap
18 JUNE 1862
Occupation of Cumberland Gap by Union forces.
Excerpt from the Report of Gen. George W. Morgan relative to the Federal occupation of Cumberland Gap.
Well, the Gap is ours, and without the loss of a single life. I have since carefully examined the works, and I believe that the place could have been taken in a ten days’ struggle from the front, but to have done so I should have left the bones of two-thirds of my gallant comrades to bleach upon the mountain-side, and, after all, this fastness, all stained with heroic blood, would only have been what it now is, a fortress of the Union, from whose highest peak floats the Stars and Stripes. The result secured by strategy is less brilliant than a victory obtained amid the storm and hurricane of battle, but humanity has gained all that glory has lost, and I am satisfied.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. p. 61.

18 JUNE 1862
Excerpt from the Report of John F. De Courcy
Col., Cmdg. Twenty-sixth Brigade relative to the occupation of Cumberland Gap, June 18, 1862
On the 18th instant I resumed the march … The enemy being supposed to have taken up a strong position at Thomas’ farm, and my orders being to attack him before Gen. Carter, who was marching on a parallel but longer line than the one I was operating on, could debouch, I moved with the amount of celerity which I deemed would enable me to attain the object in view.
I reached the point indicated, but found the enemy had retreated early in the morning. After reposing the troops I moved on slowly, to enable the cavalry advance guard to examine the woods, which were constantly presenting themselves on my flanks, and from under whose cover I had been informed I might at any moment except an attack from the enemy posted in ambush.
Finally, after a march of nearly 20 miles, I reached Cumberland Gap, which I found the enemy had evacuated during the previous night, its rear guard having left only three hours before the arrival of my advance guard. Before sunset the flags of the Twenty-sixth Brigade flaunted over the fortifications, and Foster’s battery, firing a salute of thirty-four guns, told in loud tones to the persecuted people of East Tennessee that they were free, for once more the Stars and Stripes were near to protect and encourage them in their loyalty. …
In concluding this report it becomes my most pleasing duty to request you to mention to the general commanding that the many difficulties and fatigues of this march were met, endured, and overcome by the officers, noncommissioned officers, and privates under my command with a cheerful spirit and an energy of action which speaks well for their patriotism and soldier-like qualities. The officers of my personal staff displayed great activity, perseverance, and intelligence in seeing my orders carried out …
John F. De Courcy, Col., Cmdg. Twenty-sixth Brigade.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. pp. 72-74.

17-18 JUNE 1862

Brig. Gen. George W. Morgan.

Twenty-fourth Brigade, Brig. Gen. Samuel P. Carter:
49th Ind., Lieut.-Col. James Keigwin;
3rd Ky., Col. T. T. Garrard;
1st Tenn., Col. Robert K. Byrd;
2nd Tenn., Col. James P. T. Carter.

Twenty-fifth Brigade, Brig.-Gen. James G. Spears;
3rd Tenn., Col. Leonidas C. Houk;
4th Tenn., Col. Robert Johnson;
5th Tenn., Col. James T. Shelley;
6th Tenn., Col. Joseph A Cooper.

Twenty-sixth Brigade, Col. John F. De Courcy:
22nd Ky., Col. Daniel W. Lindsey;
16th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. George W. Bailey;
42nd Ohio, Col. Lionel A. Sheldon.

Twenty-seventh Brigade, Brig. Gen. Absalom Baird:
33rd Ind., Col. John Coburn;
14th Ky., Col. John C. Cochran;
19th Ky., Col. William J. Landram.

Artillery, Capt. Jacob T. Foster:
7th Mich., Capt. Charles H. Lanphere;
9th Ohio, Lieut. Leonard P. Barrows;
1st Wis., Lieut. John D. Anderson;
Siege Battery, Lieut. Daniel Webster. Cavalry
Ky. Battalion, Lieut.-Col. Reuben Munday. Ky.
Engineers, Capt. William F. Patterson.

Twenty-seventh Brigade at Cumberland Gap

Their composition is not stated in the “Official Records.”
During the month of July.
Brig. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson, First Division, Department of East Tennessee, was in position confronting Morgan at Cumberland Gap.
The strength of this division was stated by General Kirby Smith on the 24th of the month to be 9000 effectives, “well organized and mobilized, and in good condition for active service.”
The organization on the 3rd of July was as follows:
Second Brigade, Col. James E. Rains:
 4th Tenn., Col. J. A. McMurry;
11th Tenn., Col. J. E. Rains;
42nd Ga., Col. R. J. Henderson;
3rd Ga. Battalion, Lieut.-Col. M. A. Stovall;
29th N. C., Col. R. B. Vance;
Ga. Battery, Capt. J. G. Yeiser.

Third Brigade, Brig. Gen. S. M. Barton;
30th Ala., Col. C. M. Shelley;
31st Ala., Col. D. R. Hundley;
40th Ga., Col. A. Johnson;
52nd Ga., Col. W. Boyd;
9th Ga. Battalion, Maj. J. T. Smith;
Va. Battery, Capt. Joseph W. Anderson.

Fourth Brigade, Col. A. W. Reynolds:
20th Ala., Col. I. W. Garrott;
36th Ga., Col. J. A. Glenn;
39th Ga., Col. J. T. McConnell;
43rd Ga., Col. S. Harris;
39th N. C., Col. D. Coleman;
3rd Md. Battery, Capt. H. B. Latrobe.

Fifth Brigade, Col. T. H. Taylor:
23rd Ala., Col. F. K. Beck;
46th Ala., Col. M. L. Woods;
3rd Tenn., Col. J. C. Vaughn;
31st Tenn., Col. W. M. Bradford;
59th Tenn., Col. J. B. Cooke;
Tenn. (Rhett) Battery, Capt. W. H. Burroughs.


19 JUNE 1862
The enemy evacuated this American Gibraltar …
Cumberland Gap, June 19, 1862.
The enemy evacuated this American Gibraltar this morning at 10 o’clock, and De Courcy’s brigade took possession at 3 this afternoon. The enemy destroyed a considerable amount of his stores, and precipitated several cannon over the cliffs, spiking others, and carried a few away. I believe, however, that seven have been found in position. The tents were left standing, but cut into slits. He had not time to destroy or take a portion of his stores, and they have been taken possession of by the proper officers.
The Stars and Stripes were raised by De Courcy, and a national salute was fired in honor of the capture of this stronghold of treason. Each brigade, in the order of its arrival, will on successive days plant its flag at sunset upon the pinnacle of the mountain, accompanied by a national salute.
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

20 JUNE 1862
Cumberland Gap.
It has been with mortification and regret that the general commanding has learned that outrages have been committed upon private property of citizens, some of whom are loyal to the Union, by a few bad men, who have disgraced their uniforms by their unsoldier-like conduct.
Private citizens and private property must be respected, and the honor of our flag and of the brave men who are ready to die beneath its folds shall not be sullied by a handful of desperadoes who have crept into the ranks of the army, and if any such act is committed after this order has become promulgated and known the perpetrator of the outrage shall suffer the penalty of death, as prescribed by the Rules and Articles of War.
It is directed that this order be at once published at the head of every company in the command and that commanding officers will look to its enforcement.
By command of General Morgan:
Assistant Adjutant-General.

20 JUNE 1862
Confederate depredations in Cumberland Gap environs.
Col. FRY, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.:
I have great need of two regiments of cavalry, and hope that they will be sent me immediately. The rebel cavalry are committing atrocious outrages, and I have not the means to protect the people. With one regiment much could be done, and with two I could give immediate security to the people of this portion of the State.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 43.

21 JUNE 1862
President Lincoln notified about the Confederate evacuation of Cumberland Gap.
The enemy has evacuated Cumberland Gap. Must very soon leave all East Tennessee.
H. W. HALLECK, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 44.

22 JUNE 1862
Telegram from the Secretary of War.
WASHINGTON, June 22, 1862.
Brigadier-General MORGAN:
This Department has been highly gratified with your successful occupation of Cumberland Gap, and commends the gallant conduct and labors of your officers and troops, to whom you will express the thanks of the President and this Department. Cumberland Gap is regarded as a strategic point of great importance, which, unless you have orders from your commanding officer, this Department will consider you well employed in holding and strengthening that position so that the enemy can by no chance recover his position.
I have been striving ever since receiving the intelligence of your success to aid and send you a skillful officer of the Engineer Department to place and construct the necessary works. That has delayed my communication to you. The great demand in this quarter has absorbed the whole engineer force, but tomorrow I hope to send you an officer highly recommended by General Totten for his professional skill. It is out of the power of this Department to supply you at present with any cavalry for offensive operations, and as your force for some time can be advantageously employed defensively in its present position, I trust you will not need it.
With thanks for your diligence and activity,
I remain, yours, truly,
Secretary of War.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, p. 1008.

24 JUNE 1862
Hon. E. M. STANTON, Washington, D. C.
Citizens of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee come in by the dozen to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. A moment ago, 13 Virginians came in, and when I welcomed them back to the old flag every eye was dimmed with tears.
Brigadier-General Volunteers, Commanding.

25 JUNE 1862
Confederate civilians in Cumberland Gap environs take the oath of allegiance.
Cumberland Gap.
Gen. [DON CARLOS] BUELL, and Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War: Secession citizens of Tennessee continue to come in to take the oath of allegiance and ask the protection of the brave old flag.
Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 66.

31 JULY 1862
CSA Gens. E. Kirby Smith and Braxton Bragg develop a plan to drive Union forces out of Tennessee.

2 AUGUST – 4 AUGUST 1862
Operations at Cumberland Gap.
Report of Col. John F. De Courcy, Sixteenth Ohio Infantry, commanding brigade. TAZEWELL, EAST TENN.
CAPTAIN: The foraging has thus far proceeded satisfactorily. Hay, horses, cattle, and sheep were brought in yesterday. No corn has been found as yet. Yesterday [3rd] I made a reconnaissance toward Big Springs. The enemy had there about 100 cavalry, and they held their ground for about an hour and did not leave until I opened fire on them with a 10-pounder.
This day [4th] I proceed with the Sixteenth Regiment and two guns to Little Sycamore … where I shall leave a part of the Forty-second Regiment to protect my line of retreat in case of disaster. From Little Sycamore I shall move toward Big Sycamore, and return to Tazewell from that point …
This expedition is intended to cover a large train which proceeds from here direct to Big Sycamore. I have not sufficient strength to make detachments without at the same time leaving altogether open the position in rear of this town. But by thus calling the enemy’s attention toward Little Sycamore I hope to make them uneasy about their Morristown line of [rail]road.
Two of the enemy’s spies have been arrested whilst in the act of giving their cavalry information of the position of our infantry. It would serve as a good example if these men were punished according to the laws. If an order be sent me to that effect, I will have them publicly shot.
I have the honor to be, yours, respectfully,
Col., Commanding Twenty-sixth Brigade.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 42-43.


2 AUGUST – 6 AUGUST 1862
Operations against and about Cumberland Gap
Report of Brig. Gen. George W. Morgan, U. S. Army.
CUMBERLAND GAP, August 7, 1862.
COL.: To obtain forage and feed and learn the strength of the enemy, De Courcy was ordered to Tazewell on the 2nd instant. He secured 200 wagon loads of forage, all of which safely arrived on the 5th. Some slight picket skirmishing took place, in which we had 2 men wounded, while the enemy had 1 killed and several wounded.
Early in the morning of the 6th instant, not wishing to bring on a general action, I ordered Col. De Courcy to return to this post, but he was attacked at daybreak on that day. Considering enemy’s forces the attack was feeble. Two of his regiments surrounded two companies of the Sixteenth Ohio, detached to protect a section of artillery. The enemy’s movement was well executed …
Although surrounded by a vastly superior force, the two infantry companies … fought heroically, and three-fourths of them succeeded in cutting their way through to their regiments. But we fear that Capt. Edgar, an officer of great merit, was killed and Capt. Taneyhill taken prisoner.
A soldier of the Twenty-second Kentucky was shot through the neck and fell. His gun dropped from his hands; his foe contrived to advance upon him, when the wounded hero grasped his gun, rose to his feet and shot the rebel soldier dead when within five paces of him, when he again fell. …
At 3.30 p. m. a courier arrived from Col. De Courcy and asked for aid. Leaving three regiments to guard the Gap I marched with my remaining force to his assistance, but when within 2 miles of Tazewell I met him on his return. The enemy left the field at 5 o’clock and maintained his position until 7 o’clock p.m. The enemy’s loss is believed to be considerable. I did not pursue, lest with a superior force, he should gain my rear.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, pp. 835-836.

5 AUGUST 1862 – 6 AUGUST 1862*
Foraging, operations against and about Cumberland Gap.
Reconnaissance and skirmishes near Tazewell.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 43-44.

16 AUGUST 1862
Recent operations around Cumberland Gap
We have had the pleasure of an interview with Capt. J. H. Ferry, Quartermaster of General Morgan’s division, who left the Gap at noon on Tuesday last, the twelfth instant, and he gives a full and explicit denial to the rebel reports of our reverses in that vicinity.
Since … the middle of July, there has been no regular engagement near the Gap until last Saturday, when Col. De Courcy went out on a foraging party with his whole brigade, consisting of the Sixteenth and Forth-second Ohio and Twenty-second Kentucky, Col. Lindsey, and the Fourteenth Kentucky, Col. Cochran, of Gen. Baird’s divisions. Col. Cochran was in advance with his regiment, about a mile and a half beyond Tazewell, on picket-duty, when he was attacked by four rebel regiments under Col. Rains, comprising the Eleventh and Forty-second Tennessee, Thirtieth Alabama and Twenty-first Georgia.
Col. Cochran immediately formed his command on each side of the road, each flank supported by a piece of artillery from Foster’s Wisconsin battery … The rebels advanced upon the Fourteenth Kentucky in extended line and their flanking regiments thrown forward, with the evident intention of surrounding and cutting off the whole regiment and artillery.
Col. Cochran, seeing this, retired his regiment in perfect order, as soon as the artillery had placed itself in his rear, and took position where the movement could not be repeated against him. The rebels, then changed their plan of attack, and charged … until when within two hundred and fifty yards, Col. Cochran, who had stood without discharging a gun, poured a terrible fire upon them, which checked their advance and threw them into disorder.
In the mean time, Foster’s entire battery of six guns had been place in position on an eminence in the rear, and opened fire, which turned the rebel disorder into a rout, and no more was seen of them. Rebel officers who came in under a flag of truce, acknowledged a loss of from two hundred to two hundred and fifty, and the Knoxville Register … published the names of one hundred and nine killed. We lost but three killed.
Lieut. Col. Gordon, of the Eleventh rebel Tennessee regiment, was taken prisoner by two men of the Sixteenth Ohio, and though their company was completely surrounded, they undexterously managed to bring him in to Colonel De Courcy.
The rebels offered to exchange all prisoners taken by them for their lieutenant-colonel, but the arrangements had not been completed when Captain Ferry left the Gap. Gen. Morgan issued orders complimenting Cols. Cochran and De Courcy and their men for their bravery, but it is universally conceded that to Col. Cochran belongs all the credit and the splendid repulse of the four rebel regiments.
~ Louisville Journal

The method of determining if a fight was a ‘battle’ or a ‘skirmish,’ an ‘engagement,’ an ‘affair’ or a ‘heavy skirmish’ is very subjective. Thus one man’s ‘skirmish’ could be another man’s ‘battle.’

16 AUGUST – 22 AUGUST 1862
Operations about Cumberland Gap.

16 AUGUST 1862
Confederate Army of Kentucky, under Gen. E. Kirby Smith, crosses the Tennessee Cumberland Mountains into Kentucky.
HUNTSVILLE, ALA., August 16, 1862—10.10 p.m.
Maj.-Gen. HALLECK, Gen.-in-Chief: Kirby Smith is advancing into Kentucky by the gaps west of Cumberland Gap with some 12,000 or 15,000 men, doubtless with the immediate object of getting into Morgan’s rear. Morgan says he can with his present supplies hold his position for five weeks. …
The movements of the enemy and information from various sources leave no room to doubt their intention to make a desperate effort to repossess themselves of this State.
D. C. BUELL, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 344.

16 AUGUST 1862
Morgan to Buell
CUMBERLAND GAP, August 16, 1862—12 m.
Gen. [DON CARLOS] BUELL, Huntsville: I have good reasons to believe that Smith intends to advance through Big Creek and possibly through Rogers Gap … Both gaps are observed. His force will be from five to eight brigades of infantry, with a corresponding force of artillery and cavalry, in all 12,000 or 15,000 men.
I have ordered a small cavalry force to Boston [KY] with directions that upon the first approach of the enemy at Big Creek or Rogers Gap to fall back upon Barboursville [KY] and to destroy all forage and drive before him all cattle along the route. …
I respectfully suggest that I have left one of two plans: to await quietly here until Smith is starved out and forced to fall back or to concentrate eight regiments at London [KY]. … Smith cannot possibly remain three weeks in my rear. I can hold this place five weeks with my present command.
MORGAN, Brig.-Gen. Volunteers, Cmdg.

16 AUGUST 1862
CSA Gen. E. Kirby Smith crosses the Tennessee Cumberland Mountains and invades Kentucky.
As planned, Smith will advance against the Federals at Cumberland Gap. After disposing of this force, Smith is to reunite with [Gen. Braxton] Bragg for the advance into Middle Tennessee …
Unfortunately, Smith has an obsession with Kentucky which will end his agreement to mutually support and cooperate with Bragg. Smith plans to deal with Union Major General George Morgan at Cumberland Gap by striking deep into Kentucky. If he destroys the bridge over the Kentucky River near Lexington, Morgan will be forced to evacuate Cumberland Gap.

16 AUGUST 1862 – 22 AUGUST 1862
Operations about Cumberland Gap Report of Brig. Gen. George W. Morgan,
U. S. Army, commanding Seventh Division, Army of the Ohio.
CUMBERLAND GAP, TENN., August 22, 1862.
GEN.: On the night of the 16th the enemy, said to be 20,000 strong, arrived in our front and drove in our pickets. … During the … [following] morning the enemy’s … artillery opened upon our cavalry. We returned the fire from the pinnacle forts … and compelled the enemy to withdraw his guns. … He now envelops our entire front. … The column which passed Big Creek Gap is said to be 20,000 strong. …
I ordered Col. [Leonidas] Houk to concentrate his regiment and fall back upon Cumberland Gap. It is rumored that Houk was attacked on the 16th instant and his command captured. On the morning of the 16th I sent Capt. Martin via Cumberland Ford to observe Big Creek and Rogers’ Gap. On the 17th instant [at Pine Mountain TN] he [Houk] was attacked by [Henry Marshall] Ashby’s cavalry, 600 strong, and 60 of his men are missing.
This telegram is sent to Gen.’s Halleck and Buell by courier to Lexington.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, p. 860.

Col. Leonidas Campbell Houk, First Tennessee Infantry USA

MINI BIO: Col. Leonidas Campbell Houk
Leonidas C. Houk, congressman and judge, was born near Boyd’s Creek, Sevier County. The death of his father in 1839 left him and his mother impoverished. His formal education consisted of only a few months at a country school; thereafter, he educated himself through diligent reading.
As a youth he earned a living as a cabinetmaker and Methodist preacher while studying law at night. In 1859 he was admitted to the Tennessee bar and opened an office in Clinton.
A Union loyalist at the outbreak of the Civil War and member of the Union convention in East Tennessee in 1861, Houk organized the First Tennessee Infantry USA … He served as a private, lieutenant, and quartermaster; in 1862 he was colonel of the Third Regiment, Tennessee Volunteer Infantry. Poor health forced him to leave military service in 1863, and he spent the next two years following military activities and writing pro-Union articles for the press.

16 AUGUST 1862
Letter from Confederate soldier John Wesley Pitts to his wife in Alabama.
From Confederate camp at Tazewell TN near Cumberland Gap.
My Darling Vin
As it is thought we will commence an advance movement to-day, I have seated myself at the foot of an old oak tree to write you a few lines. We are now cooking up four days rations to go somewhere. It is thought we will go to the gap and from there to Kentucky as it is reported that the Yanks are evacuating the gap to prevent our troops from flanking them.
The whole of East-Tenn is in commotion preparing for a forward movement into Kentucky. The western army has been swarming into this country for the last 10 days. We have 10 or 12,000 men at this place. It is thought that we will attack the gap in front and Gen [E. Kirby] Smith with 20 or 25,000 will cross the Cumberland Mountains at Big Creek Gap – 20 miles below here and attack them in their rear, while Bragg will advance from Chattanooga and Price from the West.
If their plans can be carried out, we will be in possession of the whole of Tenn and a part or the whole of Kentucky in a short time. If we start on that trip, it may be some time before you will hear from me again. … if we get possession of the gap, it might fall to the lot of our Regiment to stay there and guard it.
The health of my company is improving some. I will start 12 more discharged men home in a few days. It looks like I will have to discharge half of my Company. I will try and send you some money by some of them. Say to old man Wallace that it is impossible to get any flour shipped from this country as Gen. Smith has issued an order preventing the shipment of any flour from the state. I will send his money back by the first one passing.
How does the little President [infant son] behave? Have you named him yet? I guess I will have to send him a Pony so that he can attend to the farm when Pa is absent. Did Gus Caldwell hand you the $40.00 I sent? There has nothing new or interesting occurred since my last. Kiss Lula for me.
My Kindest regards to all.
Write to me often. 
Yours as ever,

18 AUGUST 1862
Initiation of Confederate siege of Cumberland Gap; An entry in the diary of Private William E. Sloan
We are now within three miles of Cumberland Gap. We arrived here yesterday morning [17th] and commenced a siege, and we have the Gap invested from mountain to mountain, our line forming a semi-circle around the gap. The enemy has heavy batteries on the mountain with which they shell us continually, but with very little harm to us. Our line is very scattering, owing to our limited numbers, but things are so arranged that should the enemy attack pickets and skirmishers are well advanced. It is reported that Gen. Kirby Smith (whom we have lost sight of for some time) is advancing through Big Creek Gap, with the rest of our division and such other troops as he can collect together, and that his aim is to attack Cumberland Gap in the rear. If this be true, and they invest the rear properly we will compel the enemy to surrender. The Yankees seem to know nothing about the flank movement, and are turning their fire entirely on us. They are said to be commanded by one Gen. Morgan. We are all in fine spirits.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.
~ William E. Sloan’s diary of the Great War for Southern Independence
An account of the daily occurrences of Company C, Third Tennessee Volunteer Infantry from the beginning of the war to August 19, 1862, after [that] of Company D, Fifth Tennessee Cavalry from that date to the end of the war, and of Company D, Fifth Tennessee Cavalry, from that date to the end of the War. Cleveland, Tenn.: E. Wiefering, 1996.

21 AUGUST 1862
Maj. Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of the Mississippi crosses the Tennessee River in preparation for its movement north to Kentucky.

22 AUGUST 1862
Confederate soldier William E. Sloan keeps a diary while in camp at Cumberland Gap.
A skirmish at Cumberland Gap
I have been with a detail on picket duty all night. We were fired on to-day by two regiments of Yankee infantry and driven in. One of our men was killed and one wounded. We fell back in good order to our base and formed line of battle, but the enemy did not advance. They brought with them a battery with which they gave us a few charges of grape, also the heavy batteries on the mountain opened on us with shell, but without damage. They soon retired, and we are now occupying our former picket ground.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

24 AUGUST 1862
Truce and defection at Cumberland Gap
We are still holding our position. Our boys made a truce with the Yankee pickets to-day, and they met and had a conversation between the lines. The result was that one of the Yankees deserted and came over to us.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

25 AUGUST 1862
One Confederate soldier’s prognosis on the siege of Cumberland Gap.
The siege of Cumberland Gap is likely to last much longer than we at first expected. The prisoners that we have captured report that they have several months supply of provisions on hand. We learn that Gen. E. Kirby Smith, who was thought to be in [the] rear of the enemy at Cumberland Ford, has left and gone on further into Kentucky, and that the Yankees in the Gap have received large trains of supplies. This is the report, but whether true or not we do not know. A long train of wagons was seen coming down the mountain this evening, and we suppose they are coming out after forage.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

25 AUGUST 1862
Activities during the Confederate siege of Cumberland Gap
The enemy approached us this morning. They had two regiments of infantry and some artillery with their wagon train. They did not drive our pickets in, but proceeded to load their wagons with oats and green corn which grew just on their picket line, and the infantry and artillery stood in line of battle to protect the men who gathered the corn.
They then planted their battery a little nearer to us and shelled our pickets with great fury for a short time, but as we were under cover of thick woods they did not know where to direct their fire, and therefore did us no harm. They were in good range for sharp-shooters, had our men been provided with suitable guns, but I had the only long-range gun in the company, it being a Sharpe rifle.
I had the pleasure of annoying their gunners very much with my rifle, as I had a splendid position behind a great oak tree, and felt perfectly safe from the shells; in fact I think that I would have been safe without the tree, for the reason that while many shots were evidently aimed at it, no one struck it, but I certainly would not have felt safe without that great friendly tree standing in front of me.
The enemy soon retired. Our men are mostly armed with shot-guns and other muzzle loading arms of old pattern, some of them being flint-locks; all of which are good enough at close range, but are very unsatisfactory in the present service. We also carry sabres, but they are only good in a cavalry charge. A few of us have revolvers.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

25 AUGUST 1862
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT NO. 2, Chattanooga, Tenn.
The troops of this command will be in readiness to move at an hour’s notice. Ample time for the preparation having been allowed and everything necessary having been promptly supplied, the general trusts the movement will be made with that alacrity and regularity which can alone inspire confidence. The enemy is before us, devastating our fair country, imprisoning our old and venerated men, even the ministers of God, insulting our women, and desecrating our altars. It is our proud lot to be assigned the duty of punishing and driving these deluded men, led by desperate adventurers and goaded on by Abolition demagogues and demons. Let us but deserve success and an offended Deity will certainly secure it. Should we be opposed, we must fight at any odds and conquer at any sacrifice. Should the foe retire, we must follow him rapidly to his town territory and make him taste the bitters of invasion. Soldiers! The enemy are before you and your banners are free. It is for you to decide whether our brothers and sisters of Tennessee and Kentucky shall remain bondmen and bondwomen of the Abolition tyrant or be restored to the freedom inherited from our fathers.
By command of Gen. Bragg
Humphreys Marshall marching from Pound Gap by way of Mount Sterling to join Kirby Smith. His force estimated at from 8,000 to 15,000. About 300 rebel troops at Mount Sterling and 100 at Winchester. Kirby Smith’s forces, which were at Lexington and Frankfort, have moved on toward Cynthiana and Covington. Rumored that a portion of his forces are moving toward Louisville. Col. De Courcy, of Gen. Morgan’s command, is at Manchester with his brigade, and is collecting supplies for the army at Cumberland Gap. Gen. Morgan’s entire force numbers about 7,000 effective men. He has thirty pieces of cannon, with a moderate supply of ammunition for them; has plenty of ammunition for small-arms. Provisions will hold out eighty days yet.
Gen. Bragg crossed the Tennessee River on the 25th of August. Gen. Stevenson has from 10,000 to 15,000 men immediately in front of Cumberland Gap. Kirby Smith’s force altogether in Kentucky number from 30,000 to 40,000. Recruits for the rebel army are being raised very rapidly in Kentucky.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, pp. 957-959.

27 AUGUST 1862
Skirmish near Cumberland Gap
Report of Brig. Gen. George W. Morgan, U. S. Army.
CUMBERLAND GAP, August 29, 1862.
GEN.: Nothing of interest on the 28th instant. On the 27th a small detachment from the First and Second Tennessee, commanded by Capt.’s Meyers and Robbins, attacked and surprised a party of the enemy’s cavalry, commanded by Acting Brig.-Gen. Allston, of South Carolina. Allston, his colors, and 3 privates were captured. The enemy left 4 dead men upon the field and had a considerable number wounded. The affair was a complete surprise, and we did not sustain any loss.
Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, p. 892.

28 AUGUST 1862
Letter from John Wesley Pitts to his wife ‘Darling Vin’ 
Camp Near Cumberland Gap 
My Darling Vin
I wrote you day before yesterday, but as Lt Wilder leaves this morning for home, I thought I would drop you a few lines. Lt Wilder has resigned on account of sickness. I am very fearful I will have to do the same as I am reduced to the necessity of wearing a truss and I am afraid if I stay here, I will injure myself for life.
Many a man has gone home from here not half as bad off as I am, but the idea of going home and leaving my company has something about it I don’t like. Besides my health is so good, or rather I look so healthy, if I was to come home the people would say there was nothing the matter with me. So I shall stay as long as I am able to walk.
We are still here in front of the Gap and as I write I can hear the boom of the enemy’s cannon throwing shell at our forces on the other side of the mountain. They have not shelled us but very little today. Their attention seems to be takin up on the other side. I am in hopes they will do something soon as I am getting very tired of laying here in the woods. We may have to stay here in our present position for a month yet.
We cannot find out how much provisions the enemy have left and of course they will not surrender until that is exhausted. They have been coming down after corn, but I understand from a deserter that they have a good deal to go on yet and corn was to make it hold out as long as possible – deserters are coming in all the time. All of the boys that are here are well. Though I have only 18. No other news of interest.
Kiss the babies good bye. 

28 AUGUST 1862
A Confederate cavalryman’s observations on the fortifications at Cumberland Gap.
Cumberland Gap is a very strong hold, being a natural fortification of itself, and the big forts with heavy siege guns mounted in them, and other formidable earth-works makes the place almost impregnable. Our force is about equal in numbers with that of the enemy, with the difference that they have more field artillery than we have, to say nothing of the heavy fort guns that they are using against us; therefore the idea of storming the gap has not been suggested, and would be perfectly insane.
Those forts were built by the Confederates, and they are equally effective on either side of the mountain. We would require a force of 5 to 1 to take the Gap by storm, therefore we must starve them out if we get them. Heavy firing was heard beyond the Gap this morning, but we suppose it was only the Yankees firing of their loaded guns.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

31 AUGUST 1862
Federal artillery bombardment of C. S. A. camps at Cumberland Gap.
The enemy has been shelling at us continuously all day with their big guns, but they do us no harm. The buzzing of shells has become an old song to us; our boys pay no attention to them. Most of the shells pass over our heads, though some fall short of us. It is worthy of note that there has not been a rifle pit, or any sort of breastworks erected over our entire line since this siege began, though most of our regiments have thick woods to camp in. If our enemies had our position they would have the whole country round about dug up into powerful earth-works.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.


Major General J. P. McCown, C. S. Army assumes command of the Department of East Tennessee.

Knoxville, Tenn., September 3, 1862.
Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
SIR: Col. Scott and others in Kentucky have paroled East Tennesseeans in the Federal Army to return to their homes. … Cumberland Gap, on this side, is closely invested, and Gen. Morgan is short of provisions. The north side of the Gap is open, and he can escape in the direction of Manchester or Columbia.
The force at my disposal is only sufficient to invest this side, protect the railroad bridges, and keep the country quiet. Gen. Smith is calling on me for re-enforcements. My position as temporary commander of the department is embarrassing, to say the least. I shall carry out Gen. Smith’s views. The conscript law should be enforced at once. I would prefer having the disaffected element in my front than my rear. I would recommend that [a] warning be given that all those who left would be considered as aliens and their property sequestrated. …
Those who left for the north would only embarrass Gen. Morgan in his critical position. If I had forces sufficient to invest the north of the Gap, I believe that Morgan and his whole force would soon be captured or give battle. A definite policy should be adopted at once, and I ask early instructions. The position and importance of East Tennessee requires prompt action.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. P. McCOWN, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, pp. 794-795.

6 SEPTEMBER 1862 – 10 SEPTEMBER 1862
Expedition from Cumberland Gap to Pine Mountain and skirmishes
Report of Col. Joseph A. Cooper, Sixth Tennessee Infantry.
HDQRS. TWENTY-FIFTH BRIGADE, ARMY OF THE OHIO, Cumberland Gap, September 12, 1862. Brig.-Gen. MORGAN:
DEAR GENERAL: Having received, I herewith transmit to you the report of Col. Cooper of the expedition made in obedience to an order received from your headquarters. It is with no small degree of gratitude and pleasure that I do the same, and take pleasure in stating, in addition to what he reports, that a comment from me upon the facts as stated in his report would nor could not present the gallant commander who planned, and the brave and energetic officers and men who executed, it in any more favorable light before the country than their gallant conduct on the occasion as stated in Col. Cooper’s report. For all which gallantry, patriotism, and energy it is my first duty, as well as my greatest pleasure, to forward, together with this report, to your headquarters for your further consideration, and then to receive from you and the nation such other and further comment as in your judgment said little band of patriots are entitled to. I am, general, your friend and obedient servant, JAMES G. SPEARS, Brig. Gen. Comdg.
Twenty-fifth Brigade, Army of the Ohio.

John Wesley Pitts writes his wife from Cumberland Gap.
Cumberland Gap, 4 o’clock P.M.
My Darling Vin
Since mailing the letter I wrote you this morning our Regiment has received orders to go into camp until tomorrow morning. About dinner time I received yours written at Columbiana on the 13th inst, and I assure its perusal afforded me a great deal of pleasure to know that you were well and everything moving on so smoothly. Separated as we are it is always a great pleasure to hear from you and if I sometimes complain of your not writing as often as I could wish, you must overlook and attribute it to an over anxiety to hear from you & the little ones.
You ask me to come home. I would like very well to do so but for a healthy man like myself to resign and go home it would furnish gossip for years to come, besides my company is so anxious for me to stay that it would look wrong in me to leave them as long as can possibly get along. They say that I will have to give it up and go home but as long as I can without serious injury to myself, they want me to stay.
It makes me proud and mad at the same time to think they should object so strong to my leaving them. If I were a lieutenant or a private, I should not hesitate one minute but apply for a discharge and go home, even if I were forced by the conscript to hire a substitute.
Since I got me a truss I have done pretty well while I was lying around here and not walking much, but as soon as I commenced marching this week, I began to get worse & have [been] getting worse all the time, and yesterday in the march from Baptist Gap 10 miles below this, I gave completely out and had to fall back behind the Regt. If I continue to get worse, I will have to give it up, as I do not care to be left behind the Regt. in such a country as Kentucky.
I am only affected on one side at present but the Dr. says I may get so on the other any day. Dr. Reeves says if I were at home and would take the proper care of myself, I would get over it directly, but that he is afraid I will [not] get over it in the service. I would like exceedingly if some arrangement could be made by which I could get a Company in place of the one at the Bridge, as I would then be stationery – But enough of myself.
I have looking around all day at the sights in this Gap & vicinity and have not yet seen half. If I had time, I could write you ten or fifteen pages. I have stood to-day in three different states at the same time – Kentucky, Tennessee & Virginia. They corner right in the Gap. It is the most magnificent view from the mountain I have ever beheld, but I have not the space to go into detail.
Such destruction of property I never expected to see as we witnessed here – arms, ammunition, Camp & garrison equipage or a large amount of coffee and salt were burnt. Our troops saved a good deal but an immense amount was lost. They destroyed all their tents, baggage, tools, ammunition & everything they had brought here for the purpose of arming the East Tennessee Tory’s [Unionists]. We captured 430 of them before they could get away. They all appear very anxious to get out of the army.
I will write again as soon as I get a chance. Write soon. Continue to direct your letters to Knoxville as we will have a regular mail to follow us as we advance. Good Bye, 

Confederate concern about Federal position at Cumberland Gap
Gen. BRAXTON BRAGG, Chattanooga, Tenn.
GEN: I have just returned from Gen. Carter Stevenson’s headquarters. With Gen. Stevenson I made a careful reconnaissance of the enemy’s position at Cumberland Gap. We cannot storm the place. They are strengthening their works, and can subsist for a considerable time from the country north of the mountain unless the Gap is invested on the north side.
Independent of the command of Gen. Stevenson I have only troops sufficient to guard our depot and the railroad bridges and a few Partisan Rangers, Col. Smith’s Legion. The Legion is now moving to Big Creek Gap to co-operate with Gen. Stevenson to cut off a force blockading Big Creek and Rogers Gaps. I believe the [Cumberland] Gap would soon fall if I had men to invest the north side. I should have done so if I could have collected 3,000 men.
Your calling on me for Smith’s Legion leaves me hardly able to guard the different gaps. I have organized some 1,500 old soldiers (joining their regiments) that I shall forward as soon as armed and Big Creek Gap opened or that I can safely send them by the Jamestown route. Rest assured, general, that I shall do all I can to forward your wishes. The situation of East Tennessee is not satisfactory. I fear trouble.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. S. BRADFORD, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 810.

“The recovery of Cumberland Gap is a necessity …”
Gen. S. COOPER, Richmond, Va.:
GEN.: The Federal forces at Cumberland Gap have taken advantage of the advance of Gen. Smith’s command into Kentucky to blockade the passes through mountains which Gen. Smith entered Kentucky. A detachment of Kentucky cavalry left a few days since without orders to join Gen. Smith and were captured near Pine Mountain.
Gen. Smith is calling on me for re-enforcements. Gen. Bragg has ordered a portion of my small command to join Gen. Smith. I shall obey the order. With the force at my command at present I can only invest the Gap on this side, guard the various mountain passes and the railroad bridges.
I am unpleasantly situated, taking in view the necessity of recovering Cumberland Gap, the key to East Tennessee and the requisitions for re-enforcements for Kentucky. The recovery of Cumberland Gap is a necessity to the peace and quiet of this deluded region. It cannot be recovered unless it can be reinvested on the north side.
I cannot do this and send off the forces to Kentucky called for unless in his confusion Gen. Morgan may abandon it. I am now organizing a force to re-enforce Gen. Smith and escort funds. I shall push it forward as soon as it is of sufficient strength to certainly protect these funds.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. P. McCOWN, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 814.

17 SEPTEMBER 1862 – 3 OCTOBER 1862
Union Army Evacuates Cumberland Gap
March of its garrison to Greenupburg [now Greensburg] KY
Report of Brig. Gen. W. Morgan, U. S. Army.
HDQRS. UNITED STATES FORCES, Greenupburg, Ky., October 3, 1862.
GEN.: On the night of the 17th of September, with the army of Stevenson 3 miles in my front, with Bragg and Marshall on my flanks, and Kirby Smith in my rear, my command marched from Cumberland Gap mid the explosion of mines and magazines and lighted by the blaze of the store-houses of the commissary and quartermaster. The sight was grand.
Stevenson was taken completely by surprise. At 5 o’clock p. m. on the 17th instant I sent him three official letters. The officers of our respective flags remained together in friendly chat for an hour. I have brought away all the guns but four 30- pounders, which were destroyed by knocking off the trunnions. During our march we were constantly enveloped by the enemy’s cavalry, first by the Stevenson and since by the [Gen. John Hunt] Morgan brigade.
Throughout I maintained the offensive, and on one day marched twenty hours and on three successive nights drove Morgan’s men from their supper. Morgan first assailed us in the rear and then passed to our front, blockading the road and destroying subsistence. For three successive days we were limited to the water of stagnant pools and that in small quantities. We expected to meet Humphrey Marshall at this place, but have been disappointed. Unless otherwise ordered I will proceed with my column to Camp Dennison to rest and refit.
With high respect,
Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, p. 990.

The Federals commenced burning their army stores last night at 8 o’clock. They blew up their magazines after midnight, and marched out before day. We advanced this morning and occupied the Gap, and found a great quantity of property destroyed and some not destroyed. The enemy had spiked the guns in the forts on the mountain peaks, and they left a great number of sick in the Gap. We will move on in pursuit of them.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

USA George W. Morgan saves his men from starvation by leading them
north out of Tennessee, through Kentucky to safety on the Ohio River.

The Great March from Cumberland Gap
3 October 1862 ended one of the epic marches in American military history, the evacuation of the Union garrison at Cumberland Gap to the Ohio River. The men, 7,000 under Brigadier General George W. Morgan, endured a test not often found in the annals of the United States Army. What they achieved is on a par with other great movements like Benedict Arnold’s march to Quebec in 1775, Stephen Kearny’s march to California in 1846, and Joseph Stilwell’s walkout from Burma in 1942. Yet it is largely forgotten outside of Kentucky.
Here is that story.
When the Confederates invaded Kentucky in August 1862, a 9,000-strong division under Carter Stevenson diverted to besiege George Morgan’s garrison at Cumberland Gap. Cut off from the outside, the men (many from East Tennessee and Eastern Kentucky) could only watch their rations diminish and wonder at what was happening elsewhere. No word came as August turned into September.
On September 6 the garrison’s bread ran out. Six days later, later the post quartermaster reported that feed for the horses and mules was almost exhausted. If these animals starved to death, the garrison would lose its mobility and would never be able to leave the Gap.
George Morgan now faced a critical decision. On September 14 he met with his staff and senior commanders. After considering the situation carefully, all present agreed that the Gap needed to be evacuated. Having thus decided to leave Cumberland Gap, the next question was where to go. A march on the Old Wilderness Road toward Lexington or Central Kentucky would mean a likely encounter with Confederates, not something George Morgan was willing to risk with his half-starved men. Win or lose, his force might be so crippled by a major fight that it would be unable to get to Union lines.
The only other alternative was to go through the mountains to the Ohio River, 200 miles to the north. But this option meant a major movement into a wild region using narrow roads and defiles that could easily be blocked by an intrepid opponent. George Morgan marked a possible route on a map, and he showed it to some officers who were familiar with Eastern Kentucky’s mountains. Almost to a man they agreed it would be a tough road, with little forage or water to be found. One officer, the former Kentucky State Geologist, said that the Federals could “possibly” get through, but only “by abandoning the artillery and wagons.” Despite the risks, George Morgan decided to try and bring out his whole force through the mountains.
After several days of preparations, George Morgan’s men left Cumberland Gap at 8 P.M. on September 17. They burned everything not movable and blocked the road to delay pursuit. Turning northeast past Manchester, the Federals moved into the mountains while Confederates under John Hunt Morgan and Humphrey Marshall exerted every effort to block their progress, While the wagons moved through defiles, East Tennessee infantry covered from the ridges above.
George Morgan later summarized the hunt in the Eastern Kentucky mountains: “Frequent skirmishes took place, and it several times happened that while the one Morgan was clearing out the obstructions at the entrance to a defile, the other Morgan was blocking the exit from the same defile with enormous rocks and felled trees.
In the work of clearing away these obstructions, one thousand men, wielding axes, saws, picks, spades, and block and tackle, under the general direction of Captain William F. Patterson, commanding his company of engineer-mechanics, and of Captain Sidney S. Lyon, labored with skill and courage. In one instance they were forced to cut a new road through the forest for a distance of four miles in order to turn a blockade of one mile.” 
The Confederates finally broke off pursuit October 1.
On October 3, 1862, George Morgan’s command crossed the Ohio River at Greensburg. After 219 miles and 16 days on the road, they had made it despite limited water, dwindling rations, and Confederate efforts. Federal losses totaled 80 men killed, wounded, and missing/deserted. Despite all odds, George Morgan had brought his men, wagons, and artillery to safety in the Buckeye State.

The Rev. E. K. Pitts and Hon. A. O. P. Nicholson had a series of appointments to address the people of East Tennessee on the subject of the war, extending from Loudon to Bristol, and closing on the 10th inst. The former was authorized by the rebel government to raise a regiment of volunteers. Maj. Gen. John P. McCown succeeded Gen. Kirby Smith in command of the Department of East Tennessee.
Gen. McCown publishes an order in the Knoxville Register of the 7th, revoking authority previously granted to impress or seize property, and thereafter impressments would only be made by a commanding officer or by a special order of the Major General Commanding the Department, the property to be receipted for at proper value in all cases.
The Knoxville Register of the 7th says: “Our latest advices from Cumberland Gap represents matters in status quo and every thing quiet.” What the programme of the rebel troops in relation to the besieged place, the Register says had not yet been developed. …
Nashville Dispatch

21 OCTOBER 1862
Stopping Confederate stragglers from reaching Knoxville.
Special Order No. 49
Headquarters Breckinridge’s Division, Knoxville.
Brig-Genl. Maxey will send a Regiment under one of his most competent officers out on the Tazewell road to Cumberland Gap to stop the stragglers from Gen’l Bragg’s army. He will order the officers in command to use such vigilance as will prevent their getting to the Rail Road Depot or into the town of Knoxville.
By Command of Maj. Gen. [John] Breckinridge.
Military daily log, 1862-1865,
William B. Bate collection.

21 OCTOBER 1862
Bragg’s Army of the Mississippi successfully completes its passage through Cumberland Gap and returns to Tennessee.

The Battles for Cumberland Gap 1863 coming in the near future.

1861 Civil War in Northeast Tennessee Timeline

Between the North Carolina line and the Cumberland Plateau is East Tennessee, which is entirely located within the Appalachians, a region with densely forested mountains and broad river valleys. The Tennessee Valley begins in the upper headwater portions of the Holston River, the Watauga River, and the Doe River in Northeast Tennessee with the headwaters of the French Broad and Pigeon rivers, all of which join where the French Broad and the Holston Rivers meet to form the Tennessee River in Knoxville. 

Northeast Tennessee voters say no to a secession convention.

1 MAY 1861
Pro-Confederate meeting in Greene County
On 1 May 1861, a newspaper ad calls for a pro-Confederate meeting requesting that  “the friends of their homes and their firesides… to come en masse… to attend a meeting that we may unite as one man in Greene county, to resist the coercive war policy of Lincoln.”
The secessionists who wrote the ad call for the pro-Confederate population to band together, illustrating that Northeast Tennessee contains a substantial number of secessionists, arguing that “Tennesseans will never be subjugated! No, never! never!!”
Northeast Tennessee is home to the smallest numbers of secessionists, yet both Sullivan and Washington Counties—in the northernmost tip of the area—have sizeable secessionist populations. In the secessionist referendum, Sullivan County votes more than 70% and Washington County 40% in favor of secession. The Nashville Union and American newspaper writes that the Unionists have caused others in the region to “refuse to assist with their sympathies, their purse and their arms.”

7 MAY 1861
Tennessee forms an alliance with the Confederate States of America.

May 7, 1861
Tensions Between Secessionist and Union Supporters Lead to Knoxville Riot, Shiloh National Military Park, accessed 14 November 2021,

25 MAY 1861
Murder will out
Publication of William G. Brownlow’s editorial in the Knoxville Whig, “Murder will out.”
William G. Brownlow is publisher of the pro-Union newspaper, the Knoxville Whig. He is called ‘Parson Brownlow’ because in previous years he was a circuit-riding preacher. He uses his paper to attack Confederate authorities in Northeast Tennessee. Many of his editorials come straight from his wildly vivid imagination.
In the 25 May edition of the Whig, Brownlow states that he has heard a rumor that he and several other steadfast supporters of the Union—[Andrew] Johnson, Thomas A. R. Nelson, [John] Baxter, [Oliver P.] Temple, [Connally Findlay] Trigg, [Horace] Maynard, George W. Bridges—are to be arrested after the election in June by a military force and taken in irons to Montgomery and either punished for treason or held as hostages to guarantee the quiet surrender of the Union men of East Tennessee. …
The thousands of Union men of East Tennessee devoted to principle and to the rights and liberties of those who fall at the hands of these conspirators will be expected to avenge their wrongs. Let the railroad on which Union citizens of East Tennessee are conveyed to Montgomery in irons be eternally and hopelessly destroyed. …
If we are incarcerated at Montgomery or executed there or even elsewhere all the consolation we want is to know that our partisan friends have visited upon our persecutors, certain secession leaders, a most horrible vengeance. Let it be done, East Tennesseans, though the gates of hell be forced and the heavens be made to fall.
OR, Ser. II, Vol. 1, pp. 911-912.

30 MAY 1861
East Tennesseans are greatly troubled by their state government’s repeated attempts to join the Confederacy. They call for a meeting of delegates representing the twenty-eight counties of East Tennessee, hoping to find a way to keep East Tennessee in the Union. Thomas A. R. Nelson and other Unionist leaders canvass Northeast Tennessee, making speeches and trying to drum up support for the Union.

30 MAY 1861
East Tennessee Convention
On Thursday, 30 May 1861, a large number of delegates representing the people of the various sections of East Tennessee assembled at Knoxville, in pursuance of the following call: EAST TENNESSEE CONVENTION. The undersigned, a portion of the people of East Tennessee, disapproving the hasty and inconsiderate action of our Gen. Assembly, and sincerely desirous to do, in the midst of the troubles which surround us, what will be best for our country and for all classes of our citizens, respectfully appoint a convention to be held in Knoxville on Thursday, the 30th of May, instant; and we urge every county in East Tennessee to send delegates to this convention, that the conservative element of our whole section may be represented and that wise, prudent, and judicious counsels may prevail, looking to peace and harmony among ourselves:
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 148-149

Senator Andrew Johnson delivers a speech against secession on 4 June 1861 at this place, the Scott County Court House in Huntsville, Tennessee.

Rumor had it that [Parson] Brownlow and [Andrew] Johnson were marked for the slaughter, and so seriously was it regarded that the Parson made a special effort to have Johnson warned of his danger. He sent one of his sons to rescue the East Tennessee Senator from a trap, and shortly thereafter … the Union leaders, concluding that Johnson was in danger as long as he remained in Tennessee, spirited him out by way of the Cumberland Gap.
~ Excerpt from William G. Brownlow Fighting Parson of the Southern Highlands
By E. Merton Coulter, The University of Tennessee Press / Knoxville, p. 156

31 MAY 1861
Resolutions of the East Tennessee Unionist Convention in Temperance Hall in Knoxville
1. That the evils which now afflict our beloved country, in our opinion, are the legitimate offspring of the ruinous and heretical doctrine of secession; that the people of East Tennessee have ever been, and we believe still are, opposed to it by a very large majority.

2. That while the country is now upon the very threshold of a most ruinous and desolating civil war, it may with truth be said, and we protect before God, that the people (so far as we can see) have done nothing to produce it.

3. That the people of Tennessee … in February last, decided … that the relations of the State toward the Federal Government should not be changed; thereby expressing their preference for the Union and Constitution under which they had lived prosperously and happily …

4. That in view of so decided an expression of the will of the people … on whose authority all free governments are founded … we have contemplated with peculiar emotions the pertinacity with which those in authority have labored to override the judgment of the people and to bring about the very result which the people themselves had so overwhelmingly condemned.

5. That the Legislative Assembly is but the creature of the constitution of the State and has no power to pass any law … in their recent legislation the Gen. Assembly have … transcended their legitimate powers and we invoke the people … to visit that hastily, inconsiderate, and unconstitutional legislation with a decided rebuke by voting on the 8th day of next month [June] against both the act of secession and of union with the Confederate States.

6. That the Legislature of the State, without having first obtained the consent of the people, had no authority to enter into a military league with the Confederate States …

7. That the forming of such military league … has afforded the pretext for raising, arming, and equipping a large military force, the expense of which must be enormous and will have to be paid by the people; and to do this the taxes … will necessarily have to be very greatly increased and probably to an extent beyond the ability of the people to pay.

8. That the Gen. Assembly, by passing a law authorizing the volunteers [soldiers] to vote wherever they may be on the day of election, whether in or out of the State … have … stretched their authority to an extent not within their constitutional limits …

9. That government being instituted for the common benefit, the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

10. … and in the spirit of freemen, with an anxious desire to avoid the waste of the blood and the treasure of our State, we appeal to the people of Tennessee while it is yet in their power to come up in the majesty of their strength and restore Tennessee to her true position.

11. We shall await with the utmost anxiety the decision of the people of Tennessee on the 8th day of next month …

12. For the promotion of the peace and harmony of the people of East Tennessee it is deemed expedient that this convention should again assemble. …

Resolved, That when this convention adjourns it adjourns to meet again at such time and place as the president, or vice-president in his absence, may determine …

Resolved, That the proceedings of this convention be published in the Knoxville Whig, Jonesborough Express, Kingston Journal, and the Louisville (Kentucky) Journal, and that 5,000 copies of the proceedings be published by the Knoxville Whig for general circulation among the people.

[Previous] Governor [Andrew] Johnson then continued his remarks. He spoke about three hours and commanded the earnest attention of the convention throughout his entire speech.
At the close of his remarks, on motion, the convention adjourned subject to the call of the president.
T. A. R. NELSON, President.
JNO. [John] M. FLEMING, Secretary.
Official Records, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 153-156

8 JUNE 1861
Although nearly two-thirds of East Tennesseans reject secession and remain sympathetic to the Union, the majority of Tennessee voters opt to secede from the Union. Tennessee joins the Confederacy.

Brownlow defends Unionists
In the weeks following Tennessee’s secession on 8 June 1861, Brownlow uses the Whig to defend Unionists accused of treasonous acts by Confederate authorities.

17-20 JUNE 1861
Greeneville session of the East Tennessee Convention
After Tennessee secedes, the East Tennessee Convention delegates convene for a three-day meeting on 17 June 1861 at Greeneville. They create the East Tennessee Petition which requests the Tennessee General Assembly in Nashville to allow East Tennessee to form a separate state and remain in the Union. The legislature rejects their petition.

20 JUNE 1861
East Tennessee Unionist resolutions to secede from Tennessee and remain in the Union
KNOXVILLE, TENN., June 20, 1861.
The undersigned memorialists, in behalf of the people of East Tennessee, beg leave respectfully to show that at a convention of delegates held at Greeneville on the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th days of June …

First. That we do earnestly desire the restoration of peace to our whole country, and most especially that our own section of the State of Tennessee shall not be involved in civil war.”

Second. That the action of the State Legislature in passing the so called ‘declaration of independence’ and in forming the ‘military league’ with the Confederate States and in adopting other acts looking to a separation of Tennessee from the Government of the United States, is unconstitutional and illegal, and therefore not binding upon us as loyal citizens.”

Third. … That in order to avert a conflict with our brethren in other parts of the State … we do therefore constitute and appoint O[liver] P. Temple of Knox [County]; John Netherland of Hawkins, and James P. McDowell of Greene, commissioners, whose duty it shall be to prepare a memorial [the Greeneville Petition] and cause the same to be presented to the Gen. Assembly of Tennessee, now in session, asking its consent that the counties composing East Tennessee … may form and erect a separate State.” …

In that election the people of East Tennessee [8 June 1861], by a majority of nearly 20,000 votes, decided to adhere to the Federal Union … while the rest of the State is reported to have decided by a majority … to leave the Federal Union and to join the body politic recently formed under name of the Confederate States of America. …

It has occurred to the undersigned … that your body should take immediate action in the premises by giving a formal assent to the proposed separation …O[liver] P. TEMPLE.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 178-179.

The 19th Tennessee Infantry and other Confederate troops guard the Tennessee border to deter Unionists from crossing the mountains and joining the Union army at Camp Dick Robinson in southeastern Kentucky.

28 JUNE 1861
From Sam Tate, President of the Memphis to Charleston Railroad
To Robert Toombs, Confederate Secretary of State
June 28, 1861, Chattanooga
Honorable Robert Toombs Richmond:
I came through East Tennessee yesterday. Saw some of our friends but many more of our enemies. There is truly great disaffection with those people. … They openly proclaim that if the Legislature refuses to let them [i.e., East Tennessee] secede [from the state] they will resist to the death and call upon Lincoln for aid. [Thomas A. R.] Nelson, [Parson] Brownlow, and [Horace] Maynard are the leaders. If they were out of the way we would be rid of all trouble. That they will give us trouble I doubt not unless they are promptly dealt with. They rely on aid from Southeastern Kentucky and Lincoln. … Governor Harris has ordered one regiment to the various passes on our northern border, but the people here say they are not sufficient. …
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. II, p. 116

9 JULY 1861
No time to be lost …
Major General Leonidas Polk, C. S . Army, telegraphs to Richmond authorities:
NASHVILLE, July 9, 1861.
President DAVIS:
No time is to be lost in East Tennessee. I examined the case thoroughly. There are 2,000 men of various arms now there. I think at least 10,000 ought to be there and at once. … I would strongly recommend making a department of East Tennessee and … the appointment of General F. K. Zollicoffer, of the Tennessee army, to its command as a brigadier of the Provisional Army. Governor Harris concurs in this earnestly.

26 JULY 1861
Confederate occupation of Northeast Tennessee
On 26 July 1861, Governor Isham HARRIS appoints CSA Gen. Felix ZOLLICOFFER—former Nashville newspaper editor and U.S. Congressman from Tennessee (1853–1859)—to command the District of East Tennessee and to “preserve peace, protect the railroad, and repel invasion.”
Harris orders Zollicoffer and 4,000 raw recruits to Knoxville to be in position to suppress any resistance to secession. The region thus comes under Confederate control from that day until September 1863, more than two years away. 

4 AUGUST 1861 – OCTOBER 17, 1862
Confederates arrest U.S. Congressman Thomas A. R. Nelson

8 AUGUST 1861
Confederate Act Respecting Alien Enemies
On this day, Confederate States Congress passes an ‘Act Respecting Alien Enemies’ which states:
“Immediately after the passage of this act, the President of the Confederate States shall … require all citizens of the United States, being males of fourteen years and upwards, within the Confederate States and adhering to the Government of the United States … to depart from the Confederate States within forty days … and such persons remaining within the Confederate States after that time shall become liable to be treated as alien enemies. … Alien residents within the Confederate States … who shall not be chargeable with actual hostility or other crime against the public safety, shall be allowed the time for the disposition of their effects and for departure.”
“The Daily Dispatch: August 9, 1861,” Perseus Digital Library, accessed 27 February 2021,

In his paper, Parson Brownlow sometimes suggests that the Unionists of Confederate-occupied Northeast Tennessee to resist the enemy. After President Davis’ issues the Confederate Act Respecting Alien Enemies, Brownlow urges Unionists to ignore the order and remain in their homes.

15 AUGUST 1861
Department of the Cumberland
The states of Kentucky and Tennessee are included in the Federal Department of the Cumberland.

7 SEPTEMBER 1861: Kentucky stays with the Union
With Kentucky no longer neutral, the entire northern boundary of Tennessee becomes exposed to possible invasion. CSA Gen. Felix Zollicoffer promptly advances his forces to Cumberland Gap, where Tennessee and Kentucky meet.

First Occupation of Cumberland Gap
In an effort to prevent a Union Army advance into Northeast Tennessee, CSA Gen. Felix Zollicoffer takes the initiative and marches his troops to Cumberland Gap, a vital passage through the mountains where Northeast Tennessee meets southeastern Kentucky. He easily overcomes the local Home Guard, occupies the Gap, and builds fortifications to strengthen his position. The rugged terrain in and around the Gap offers little sustenance. The greatest threat to soldiers manning the various forts on the hills overlooking the Gap is hunger.

Gen. Zollicoffer sends a force through Cumberland Gap along the Wilderness Road to drive the Union Army from Barbourville KY.

Gen. Zollicoffer announces that the safety of Tennessee depends on the occupation of the Cumberland Gap and refuses to leave.

Eight hundred of Zollicoffer’s men under Colonel Joel Battle ambush the Union force of about 150 home guards while they are foraging and pushed them out of Barbourville at the minor Battle of Barbourville KY.

CSA Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston calls upon Tennessee for 30000 men.

Last pro-Union newspaper in the South
By the autumn of 1861, Brownlow’s Whig is the last pro-Union newspaper in the South. He is quoted as saying, “I will fight secessionists until hell freezes over and then fight them on the ice.”

<30 SEPTEMBER 1861 – 9 NOVEMBER 1861 >
Burning railroad bridges in Northeast Tennessee
Before the war, the East Tennessee and Virginia (ET&VA) Railroad was the primary means of transportation in Northeast Tennessee, for passengers and freight. Now the ET&VA is vital to the Confederacy because it connects Virginia with the Deep South without going around the bulk of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Union leaders also recognize the railroad’s importance.

Shortly after the General Assembly rejects the Greeneville Petition, Rev. Wm. Blount Carter of Elizabethton devises a plan to undermine Confederate authority in Northeast Tennessee. On 30 September 1861 he travels to Camp Dick Robinson in southeastern Kentucky. He meets with Gen. George H. Thomas and reveals his plan to burn four wooden railway bridges on the East Tennessee and Virginia [ET&VA] Railroad:

The bridges to be burned from northeast to southwest are:

  • the bridge over the Holston River at the town of Zollicoffer (now Bluff City)
  • the bridge over the Watauga River at Carter’s Depot (now the town of Watauga)
  • the bridge over Lick Creek, near the town of Mosheim in Greene County
  • another bridge over the Holston River at Strawberry Plains, northeast of Knoxville

Wm. Blount Carter travels to Washington DC to meet with President Abraham Lincoln, who is pressured almost daily by Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson and Congressman Horace Maynard to provide aid to East Tennessee’s Unionists. The president agrees with the plan. Carter returns to Camp Dick Robinson to begin setting his plan in motion.

8 OCTOBER 1861
USA Gen. William T Sherman assumes command of the Department of the Cumberland, which includes the state of Tennessee. His headquarters is in Louisville KY.

26 OCTOBER 1861
Last issue of the Knoxville Whig
This issue of the Whig must necessarily be the last for some time to come … The Confederate authorities have determined upon my arrest and I am to be indicted before the grand jury of the Confederate court … in Nashville. … I have the fact of my indictment and consequent arrest having been agreed upon for this week from distinguished citizens, legislators, and lawyers at Nashville of both parties. …

I presume I could go free by taking the oath these authorities are administering to other Union men; but my settled purpose is not to do any such thing. I can doubtless be allowed my personal liberty by entering into bonds to keep the peace and to demean myself toward the leaders of secession in Knoxville who have been seeking to have me assassinated all summer and fall.

I expect to go to jail and I am ready to start upon one moment’s warning. … I am prepared to lie in solitary confinement until I waste away because of imprisonment or die from old age. … The real object of my … imprisonment is to dry up, break down, silence and destroy the last and only Union paper left in the eleven seceded States and thereby to keep from the people of East Tennessee the facts which are daily transpiring in the country. I shall in no degree feel humbled by being cast into prison whenever it is the will and pleasure of this august Government to put me there; but on the contrary I shall feel proud of my confinement. … I am proud of my position and of my principles. …

Exchanging with proud satisfaction the editorial chair and the sweet endearments of home, a cell in the prison, or the lot of an exile,
I have the honor to be,
Editor of the Knoxville Whig.
“Union Rebellion in East Tennessee,” War of the Rebellion, Serial 114, pp. 0912-0914, accessed 25 March 2021, The Ohio State University, accessed 30 November 2021

Bridge Burners selected
Gen. Thomas sends Captain David Fry, whose home is in Greeneville, Northeast Tennessee, to aid Carter with the bridge burning operation; Carter assigns him to burn the Lick Creek bridge. Daniel Stover, son-in-law of Senator Andrew Johnson, is chosen to burn the two bridges in the far northeast corner at Zollicoffer and Carter’s Depot. For the Strawberry Plains bridge, former Sevier County sheriff William C. Pickens is selected. Each of these men then recruit reliable Unionists to assist them in burning the bridges. Since all are sworn to secrecy, the names of many of these operatives are still unknown.

While Carter recruits arsonists, Gen. Thomas’ Union forces at Camp Dick Robinson prepare to march south into Northeast Tennessee. However, Gen. Sherman begins to worry that the supply line to keep Thomas’ troops fed and moving will be stretched too thin.

31 OCTOBER 1861
Gen. Thomas and his Union troops arrive at Crab Orchard, Kentucky, approximately forty miles from Cumberland Gap. While Thomas keeps moving south, Sherman worries as the supply line gets longer.

Brownlow leaves Knoxville
On 4 November 1861, Parson Brownlow decides to skip is arrest and confinement by Confederate authorities. He leaves Knoxville and goes into hiding in the Great Smoky Mountains, where there is a strong pro-Union presence. There he remains for several weeks staying with friends in Wears Valley and Tuckaleechee Cove.

Tuckaleechee Cove
Area where Parson Brownlow hid out in November 1861

Sherman calls off the Union invasion
Gen. Thomas pleads with Sherman to authorize his movement into Northeast Tennessee. Sherman calls off the invasion on 7 November, too late to get word to the bridge burners.

Burning the railroad bridges of Northeast Tennessee
The bridge burners proceed with their plans on the night of 8 November, still believing that the Union Army is coming to protect them.. When Daniel Stover and his helpers reach the bridge over the Watauga River at Carter’s Depot, they discover that it is guarded by a company of Confederate cavalry. The arsonists are no match for trained soldiers on horseback; they abandon that operation and move on to the town of Zollicoffer and burn the bridge there.

Captain David Fry finds that the Lick Creek bridge is guarded by several sentries, but they are easily overpowered. After the bridge is set afire, Fry must decide what to do with the guards. They plead for their lives, and he lets them go.

At the Strawberry Plains bridge, Pickens and his crew encounter a single Confederate guard, James Keelan. When Pickens attempts to fire the bridge, Keelan attacks him. In the ensuing melee, both Keelan and Pickens are badly wounded. Keelan eventually flees, but Pickens has lost the group’s box of matches in the darkness. Unable to light a fire, they abort their mission and return to Sevier County.

Confederate reaction to bridge burnings
News of the bridge burnings shocks Confederate authorities in Northeast Tennessee. The government in Richmond is flooded with exaggerated reports of Unionist activity in the region. CSA Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin issues an order:

All such as can be identified in having been engaged in bridge-burning are to be tried summarily by drumhead court-martial and, if found guilty, executed on the spot by hanging in the vicinity of the burned bridges. All such as have not been engaged are to be treated as prisoners of war and are to be transported and held as such.

Confederates arrest Northeast Tennessee Unionists
Gen. Zollicoffer, who has been somewhat lenient, rounds up and jails dozens of known Unionists, bridge burners or not. So do other commanders in the area. Among the detained Unionists are several Lick Creek bridge burners, who have been identified by the Confederate sentries they allowed  to go free.

Imprisoned at Tuscaloosa
Following Benjamin’s order, Unionists not directly involved in burning the railroad bridges are imprisoned in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Several die there. More than 150 people are arrested and jailed on suspicion of supporting the bridge burnings or inciting other acts of violence.

Southerners suspect Brownlow
Confederate authorities immediately suspect [William] Parson Brownlow of engineering the bridge burnings. In an editorial in his newspaper, he writes, “let the railroad on which Union citizens of East Tennessee are conveyed to Montgomery in irons be eternally and hopelessly destroyed,” and he goes into hiding in Blount County a few days before the bridge burning. 

Northeast Tennessee Unionists rise up!
As dawn breaks, hundreds of Unionists armed with shotguns and rifles gather to seize key positions along the ET&VA while waiting for the arrival of the Union army from Kentucky.

A Union force is now assembling
BRISTOL, November 9, 1861.
Hon. JOHN LETCHER [Governor of Virginia].
DEAR SIR: Upon the oath of J. H. Rudd, conductor of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Company, and news received from A. M. Millard, the representative of Sullivan County, Tenn., by note … I do hereby inform you that the bridge across the Holston [at Zollicoffer] was burned last night by about fifty Union men and that a Union force is now assembling near Watauga bridge [Carter’s Depot] reported to number about 500 for the purpose of attacking Capt. McClellan’s troops now stationed at the bridge … and ask aid as we are unable to form any idea of the result of this; and furthermore state that all communication between this place and Nashville by railroad and telegraph is cut off and ask that you appeal to President Davis to call out the militia of East Tennessee to suppress rebellion.
Justice of the peace,
Washington County, Va.

By nightfall on 9 November, more than 1,500 men have gathered at Nathaniel Taylor’s farm near Elizabethton, Carter County, Northeast Tennessee. The men are anxious to rout Capt. David McClellan’s Rebel Cavalry, who had prevented them from burning the bridge there the previous night.

Sabine Hill
At Nathaniel Taylor’s Farm, where Unionists assemble
Taylor’s father and namesake, Gen. Nathaniel Taylor, built this two-story Federal style house after returning home from the War of 1812. It is now restored and open to the public as part of Sycamore Shoals State Park. 

The Carter County Rebellion

We have received the particulars of the skirmish near Carter’s Station last Sunday night. In consequence of private intelligence received at Bristol of the doings of the Union men in East Tennessee, Capt. MILLER picked up a party of 22 young men, accompanied by Mr. J.R. HOWARD as a volunteer, and started from Bristol by the railroad on Sunday evening [10 November] at 6 o’clock. They sent lanterns ahead of the train and found the track torn up between Watauga and the Union Station [ZOLLICOFFER] bridge, but the damage was soon repaired, and they passed over safely.

Arriving at Carter’s Station, they stopped and threw out pickets, and about midnight the scouting party under Capt. MILLER started to explore the country. They had proceeded some three and a half miles through Carter County, Tennessee, when they were met by a pretty heavy fire from rifles and shot guns, which was promptly returned, and the skirmish was kept up with spirit for half an hour.

The Lincolnites were some three hundred strong, and constituted the advance of a body of eight hundred, stationed in Elizabethton, the mountain stronghold of the traitors. We may state here that these men expected a reinforcement of 500 men from Watauga County, North Carolina — a disaffected region adjoining Johnson County, Tennessee. In the fight the enemy were driven out of the woods, nine killed and five taken prisoners. The remainder retreated, and our scouts returned toward their camp. Capt. .MILLER received a charge of buckshot through his coat, and two of his men were slightly wounded. The prisoners were taken to the cavalry camp at Carter’s Station.

LYNCHBURG, VA, Wednesday, Nov. 13.
The following dispatch was received here this morning from the President of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad:
The Union men have a camp of from a thousand to thirteen hundred men near the North Carolina line, and about 20 miles from Bristol. They also have another of about seven hundred men near Strawberry Plains. Their forces are increasing at both these places, and they threaten to take possession of the railroad and burn all the bridges.

16 NOVEMBER 1861.
Wm. Blount Carter reports to Gen. George H. Thomas USA at Camp Dick Robinson the outcome of his bridge burning operation.

20 NOVEMBER 1861
Col. W. B. Wood informs CSA Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin that the East Tennessee rebellion will soon come to an end.
HEADQUARTERS, Knoxville, November 20, 1861.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War.
SIR: The rebellion in East Tennessee has been put down in some of the counties and will be effectually suppressed in less than two weeks in all the counties. Their camp in Sevier and Hamilton Counties have been broken up and a large number of them made prisoners. Some are confined in jail at this place and others sent to Nashville. …

I have been here at this station for three months, half the time in command of the post, and I have had a good opportunity of learning the feeling pervading this country. It is hostile to the Confederate Government. They will take the oath of allegiance with no intention to observe it. …

The prisoners we have tell us that they had every assurance that the [Union] army was already in the State and would join them in a very few days; that the property of Southern men was to be confiscated and divided amongst those who would take up arms for Lincoln. …
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. B. WOOD, Col., Cmdg. Post.

… to the Union people, it was full of terror, suffering and woe.
This quote from Oliver P. Temple’s East Tennessee and the Civil War tells you about the atmosphere in East Tennessee after the bridge burnings and the Unionist uprising, better than I could ever hope to say:

The excitement and fear continued … At the very time the Confederates were in the wildest state of excitement … the Union men … were hiding, or seeking safety in the hills and mountains, or secretly fleeing to Kentucky. The reported uprising was greatly exaggerated, and in some cases imaginary … There were not one hundred men in all East Tennessee, well armed, nor two thousand even half armed, nor ammunition for a half hour’s fight. It might be easily suspected that the incident of the bridge burning was used as a pretext for arresting, disarming and imprisoning Union men. …

Violent wrath and apprehension seized the Confederate army. Confederate citizens were thrown into a panic. The storm of anger naturally burst on the heads of Union men, and all were suspected. Arrests were made until the prisons overflowed. The poor, frightened Union men fled terror-stricken to such places of safety as they could find. … Strange that those in authority did not see, could not see, that it was better to let these determined, these lion-hearted people alone in their quiet pursuits and secluded homes than to force them into active hostility.

If there were those, at the time the bridges were burned, who thought that their destruction was a good thing for the loyal people of East Tennessee, surely they must have been convinced of its folly during the long, sad, dismal months that followed. With the wild excitement and the blind panic which everywhere filled the minds of the Confederate people, there soon came to the Union people an overwhelming sense of insecurity.

For the first time, they began to realize fully that they were among enemies, who counted the success of the new government above all things else—above kinship, above old friendship, above the most sacred ties hitherto uniting them. This sense of personal insecurity … extended to every Union fireside in East Tennessee. There was not a man so high, nor one so noble, but felt that he was liable to be accused, seized and thrust into prison at any moment.

All of the bridge burners brought to trial are from the group who burned the Lick Creek Bridge in Greene County. Among those captured are:
Hugh Self is only sixteen years old; he is released to his father.
Harrison Self’s daughter sends a telegram to President Davis, begging for her father’s life. Davis sends a last-minute pardon, and Self is not hanged. He will spend the balance of the war in prison.

Five men are sent to trial.
Henry Fry
Jacob ‘Matt’ Hinshaw
C. Alexander ‘Alex’ Haun
Jacob Harmon
Henry Harmon

Pro-Union attorneys John Baxter and Oliver Perry Temple provide legal defense, though they realize the accused stand little chance of acquittal.

30 NOVEMBER 1861
Henry Fry and Matt Hinshaw
Found guilty of bridge burning and sentenced to death.
Hanged near the railroad depot at Greeneville, Northeast Tennessee. 

10 DECEMBER 1861
Alex Haun
Imprisoned in Knoxville.
Condemned to die for the crime of bridge burning.
Hanged at a gallows north of Knoxville.

11 DECEMBER 1861
Martial law declared in Knoxville.
The exigencies of the time requiring, as is believed, the adoption of the sternest measures of military policy, the commanding general feels called upon to suspend for a time the functions of the civil tribunals:
Now, therefore, be it known that I, William H. Carroll, brigadier-general in the Confederate Army, and commander of the post at Knoxville, do hereby proclaim martial law to exist in the City of Knoxville and the surrounding country to the distance of 1 mile from the corporate limits of said City.
By order of Brig. Gen. William H. Carroll.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 7, p. 761.

17 DECEMBER 1861
Jacob Harmon and his son Henry
Convicted and received the death penalty.
Hanged at Knoxville. 

Daniel Stover, who burned the bridge at Zollicoffer, escaped but suffered health problems from hiding out in the Northeast Tennessee mountains in November. He died at a very young age.

For a timeline of all Northeast Tennessee bridges targeted, please read
Northeast Tennessee Railway Bridges Timeline.

17 DECEMBER 1861
‘Incendiarism in Hawkins County.’
A friend at Whitesburg writes us:
Last night Mr. James Headerick’s and Mr. Bernard Headerick’s barns and cabins were both burned by incendiaries. They both live about one mile south of St. Clair, Hawkins County. They are good Southern men and good citizens, and this destruction of their barns and cabins leaves them without one blade of [illegible] to feed their stock. When will we get rid of these treasonable incendiaries?
~ Knoxville Register.

28 DECEMBER 1861
[Received War Department, 28 December 1861.]
President DAVIS:
SIR: At the request of many of our most reliable friends in East Tennessee I have come to Richmond to lay before you a faithful account of East Tennessee matters.
It is the opinion of the best informed and most reliable men in East Tennessee that all the Confederate troops now employed in guarding the railroads and suppressing rebellion in East Tennessee except one regiment might be safely sent to other points where troops are really needed,
and that if proper measures were immediately adopted to bring back to their families all innocent men who have been carried or frightened away from their homes it would restore peace and a sense of security to the people,
and put an end to all appearances of disloyalty to the Confederate Government in East Tennessee; and I believe that the wrongs they have suffered if properly explained and promptly relieved will afford an occasion for a striking display of the justice, wisdom and power of the Confederate Government,
which will do more to insure the fidelity of the people of East Tennessee than all the severity of punishment advised by the violent partisans of that section who have provoked the prejudices of the people against themselves and consequently against the Government of which they were supposed to be the true exponents.
Respectfully, &c.,

Northeast Tennessee Railway Bridges Timeline

1850s: East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad
The East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Company is established on 27 January 1848. The construction of the railroad is financed by the residents of Northeast Tennessee, who purchase stocks and bonds in the Company. The company builds 130.7 miles of 5 foot gauge railroad. It runs from Bristol down to Knoxville and through these Northeast Tennessee counties: Carter, Greene, Grainger, Jefferson, Sullivan, and Washington.

After its completion in 1858, the ET&VA Railroad becomes the main transportation line going through this region. It also connects with the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad, which runs from Knoxville down to Chattanooga. After the American Civil War begins, the ET&VA becomes the main railroad of the Confederacy, operating through a largely Unionist territory.

Northeast Tennessee Railroads in 1860: ET&VA stations

1860: The Northeast is not much changed
One would think that farmers in Northeast Tennessee would grow the southern cash crops of cotton and tobacco in larger quantities—now that the railroad provides a much larger market. However, the New York Times Opinionator Pages begs to differ:

“Few East Tennesseans, however, live close enough to the railroad … to capitalize on the growing market connections to the rest of the South. For the most part, the region remained defined by small farms and communities, with few connections to, or sympathy with, the slaveholding economy of the Coastal and Lower South.”

1860-1861: Secession crisis in Northeast Tennessee
During the secession crisis of 1860-1861, two elections are put before the citizens of Tennessee to vote yea or nay, for or against, seceding from the United States of America—one in February and one in June. On 9 February 1861, East Tennessee votes a resounding no to calling a secession convention, and the statewide vote is also nay, but not by a very wide margin. 
Between the two votes, Presbyterian minister and Unionist William Blount Carter (1820-1902), a native of Elizabethton, Carter County, Northeast Tennessee, becomes an active Union leader. He campaigns tirelessly to drum up support for the United States; travels throughout the area, giving speeches; and serves as a delegate to the East Tennessee Conventions held at Knoxville in May and at Greeneville in June.
At the 8 June 1861 secession vote, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee heavily favor joining the Confederate States of America. W.B. Carter and his fellow Unionists suffer the heartbreak of losing their beloved state to their arch enemy. Plus, the Greeneville Petition to allow East Tennessee to become a separate Union state is summarily dismissed by Governor Isham Harris, a secessionist from West Tennessee, and the General Assembly. And Tennessee secedes.

8 JUNE 1861: Tennessee Ordinance of Secession
Adopted 6 May 1861 without the consent of the voters
Ratified 8 June 1861 by a vote of 104,471 to 47,183
We, the people of the State of Tennessee, waiving any expression of opinion as to the abstract doctrine of secession, but asserting the right, as a free and independent people, to alter, reform, or abolish our form of government in such manner as we think proper, do ordain and declare that all the laws and ordinances by which the State of Tennessee became a member of the Federal Union of the United States of America are hereby abrogated and annulled, and that all the rights, functions, and powers which by any of said laws and ordinances were conveyed to the Government of the United States, and to absolve ourselves from all the obligations, restraints, and duties incurred thereto; and do hereby henceforth become a free, sovereign, and independent State.
Second. We furthermore declare and ordain that article 10, sections 1 and 2, of the constitution of the State of Tennessee, which requires members of the General Assembly and all officers, civil and military, to take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States be, and the same are hereby, abrogated and annulled, and all parts of the constitution of the State of Tennessee making citizenship of the United States a qualification for office and recognizing the Constitution of the United States as the supreme law of this State are in like manner abrogated and annulled.
Third. We furthermore ordain and declare that all rights acquired and vested under the Constitution of the United States, or under any act of Congress passed in pursuance thereof, or under any laws of this State, and not incompatible with this ordinance, shall remain in force and have the same effect as if this ordinance had not been passed.

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

SUMMER 1861: Carter to the rescue
Soon after the General Assembly rejected the Greeneville Petition, Reverend William Blount Carter, [W.B. Carter I will call him; I will introduce you to his brothers later] wants to help his fellow Unionists who are suffering harassment, arrests, and violence from Confederate troops. He leaves East Tennessee, heading North, hoping to find some relief for his countrymen and women. Carter soon comes up with a plan to cripple the Confederacy by burning the main railroad bridges of the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad from Bristol to Knoxville.

28 JUNE 1861: Rumors causing much consternation about East Tennessee
CSA Senator Robert Toombs received a letter from his friend Sam Tate:
I came through East Tennessee yesterday. Saw some of our friends, but many more of our enemies. There is truly great disaffection with those people. It is currently reported and believed that [Senator Andrew] Johnson has made an arrangement at Cincinnati to send 10,000 guns into East Tennessee, and that they have actually been shipped through Kentucky to Nicholasville, and are to be hauled from there to near the Kentucky line and … to be conveyed to Union men in Tennessee. They openly proclaim that if the Legislature refuses to let them secede they will resist to the death and call upon Lincoln for aid. Nelson, Brownlow, and Maynard are the leaders.
Samuel Tate,
President of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad

26 JULY 1861:
CSA Governor Harris sends troops into Northeast Tennessee
After the Unionists hold the East Tennessee Conventions and submit a petition to become a separate state, Confederate officials go a little nuts. Fearing outright rebellion from the Northeast Tennesseans, Governor Isham Harris orders CSA General Felix Zollicoffer and 4,000 soldiers to Knoxville on 26 July 1861. This force will be in position to suppress any resistance to secession.

8 AUGUST 1861
Harris gets another term
Isham Harris is re-elected CSA governor of Tennessee on 8 August 1861, giving him more time to harass the Unionists. On 18 August 1861 he orders General Zollicoffer to arrest and, if necessary, banish pro-Union leaders from East Tennessee.

Tennessee Governor Isham Harris
Photographer: Mathew Brady

A reign of terror
Confederate general Albert Sydney Johnston orders General Felix Zollicoffer to march his troops north to the Cumberland Gap and repel any Union invasion from Kentucky. Secessionists and untrained soldiers unleash what Oliver P. Temple—author of East Tennessee and the Civil War—calls “a reign of terror” against Union sympathizers. They are subjected to interrogation, false arrest, and imprisonment.

“Bridge-burning part one: Union men take action but where is the army?” Kingsport Times News, accessed 7 February 2021,
“Bridge-burning part two: Union men take action but where is the army?” Kingsport Times News, accessed 7 February 2021,
“East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad,” Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, accessed 8 February 2021,
Meredith Anne Grant, “Internal Dissent: East Tennessee’s Civil War, 1849-1865,” 2008,Electronic Theses and Dissertations, East Tennessee State University, accessed 7 February 2021,
Aaron Astor, “The Switzerland of America,” New York Times Opinionator Pages, 7 June 2011, accessed 8 February 2021,
Paul A. Whelan, “Unconventional Warfare in East Tennessee, 1861-1865,” University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Thesis, 1963, accessed 1 April 2021,

General Thomas takes command
In August 1861, George H. Thomas was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. On 15 September he assumes command at Camp Dick Robinson, a Union recruiting camp in southeastern Kentucky. Thousands of Northeast Tennessee Unionists have made the arduous trip across the mountains to enlist in the Union Army at that camp; thousands more will follow.

Carter reveals his plan to liberate his countrymen
On 30 September, William Blount Carter travels to Camp Dick Robinson and meets with USA Generals Thomas and William Tecumseh Sherman. Carter reveals a comprehensive plan to burn the main bridges of the East Tennessee and Virginia [ET&VA] Railroad. Carter’s proposal calls for several groups of East Tennessee Unionists to burn nine railroad bridges, on the same night, at the same time. He believes this will cripple the Confederacy; it certainly will keep them from sending more troops into the area by rail. General Thomas likes the plan, and although General Sherman is initially skeptical, he soon endorses the project as well.

Four of nine bridges targeted in Northeast Tennessee are over these rivers:
The Holston River at Zollicoffer, sometimes called Union, now Bluff City
The Watauga River at Carter’s Depot, now the town of Watauga
Lick Creek, near the town of Mosheim in Greene County
The Holston River at Strawberry Plains, northeast of Knoxville


William Blount Carter

<OCTOBER 1861>

A trip to Washington DC
WM. BLOUNT CARTER carries this message from General Thomas to General George B. McClellan in Washington DC:
HEADQUARTERS, Camp Dick Robinson
Commanding Department of the Potomac
GENERAL: I have just had a conversation with Mr. W.B. Carter of Tennessee on the subject of the destruction of the grand trunk railroad* through that State. He assures me that he can have it done if the Government will entrust him with a small sum of money to give confidence to the persons to be employed to do it. It would be one of the most important services that could be done for the country, and I most earnestly hope you will use your influence with the authorities in furtherance of his plans which he will submit to you together with the reasons for doing the work.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.
*The ET&VA Railroad was known as the Grand Trunk Railroad because it linked the lower southern states to the North. Soldiers, supplies, and other materiel passed through Northeast Tennessee.

Meeting with President Abraham Lincoln
In a meeting with President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William Seward, and General McClellan, W.B. Carter presents his plan. Federal officials wholeheartedly approve the proposal. The Secretary of State gives Carter $2,500 to cover whatever expenses he might have. Carter also proposes that, after they destroy the bridges, the Union army will swoop down from Kentucky, liberate the Unionists, and run the Confederate forces out of their homeland. General McClellan promises to aid in the movement by sending an army into East Tennessee as soon as they burn the bridges.

W.B. Carter returns to East Tennessee
Carter returns to his home in Elizabethton, Carter County, Northeast Tennessee in mid-October to organize the Unionists who will destroy the railway bridges. He is accompanied by two Union officers who have been assigned to help execute the plan—Captains William Cross from Scott County and David Fry of nearby Greene County. Carter sets up a command post in Kingston, Tennessee, southwest of Knoxville.

22 OCTOBER 1861
Sherman directs Thomas to proceed
In a consultation between Generals Sherman and Thomas, Sherman directs Thomas to proceed with his expedition into East Tennessee. Thomas leaves Camp Dick Robinson with his little army on or about 22 October 1861.

22 OCTOBER 1861
You need not fear to trust these people.
SIR: I reached here at 2 P. M. to-day. I am within six miles of a company of rebel cavalry. I find our Union people in this part of the State firm and unwavering in their devotion to the Government and anxious to have an opportunity to assist in saving it. The rebels continue to arrest and imprison our people. You will please furnish the bearers with as much lead, rifle powder. and as many caps as they can bring for Scott and Morgan counties. You need not fear to trust these people. They will open the war for you by routing these small bodies of marauding cavalry.
I am obliged to send this note unsealed.
In haste, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,

General George H. Thomas
Photographer: Mathew Brady

27 OCTOBER 1861
Men and women weep for joy …
October 27, 1861. (Received November 4.)
[Shows how slowly messages can travel in the mountains]
SIR: I am now within a few miles of our railroad, but I have not yet had time to obtain all the information I must have before I decide on the course best for me to adopt. If I can get half a dozen brave men to ” take the bull by the horns,” we can whip them completely and save the railroad. If I cannot get such leaders, we will make a desperate attempt to destroy all the bridges, and I firmly believe I will be successful.
There are 1,400 rebel troops at Knoxville, some poorly armed, some not armed, and many of them sick. There are 160 at the Loudon Bridge. I know of no other troops in East Tennessee except the 300 about whom I wrote to you from Montgomery. They have gone to Wolf River. Zollicoffer has 6,000 men all told; 1,000 of these are sick; 600 or 800 are not armed ; 1,600 of the 6,000 are at Cumberland Gap; the balance beyond the gap.
Our enemies here are very uneasy for the safety of Zollicoffer, and have been calling on [Confederate President] Davis for help; but, as I am informed, Davis says he is so pressed on the Potomac that he can spare none of the Virginia troops. I can gain no reliable information from Kentucky by way of Nashville. I hear of no troops passing over our railroad. We hear, by way of Knoxville, that [General Kenner] Garrard has driven Zollicoffer back 6 miles. I suppose it is true, as secessionists tell it.
This whole country is in a wretched condition; a perfect despotism reigns here. The Union men of East Tennessee are longing and praying for the hour when they can break their fetters. The loyalty of our people increases with the oppressions they have to bear. Men and women weep for joy when I merely hint to them that the day of our deliverance is at hand. I have not seen a secession flag since I entered the State. I beg you to hasten on to our help, as we are about to create a great diversion in General McClellan’s favor. It seems to me, if you would ask it, he would spare you at once 5,000 or 10,000 well-drilled troops. Will you not ask for more help?
I know you will excuse a civilian for making suggestions to a military man, when you remember that I am risking my life and that I am about to ask my people to do the same. I find more deficiency in arms in this part of East Tennessee than I expected. You must bring some small-arms with you. I am satisfied that you will have to take the road by Monticello and Jamestown, unless you come by Cumberland Gap.
I can assure you that whoever is the leader of a successful expedition into East Tennessee will receive from these people a crown of glory of which any one might well be proud, and I know of no one on whom I would more cheerfully bestow that crown than on yourself.
I regret that I can give you no more information, but I will communicate with you as circumstances may require. Perhaps it would be well for you to let General McClellan know that I have reached East Tennessee, as I know he is very anxious for my success.
I write in great haste, but believe you may rely on all I have written.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

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

28 OCTOBER 1861
To advance into East Tennessee …
Brig. Gen. W. T. Sherman, Commanding Department of Cumberland, Louisville, Ky.     General : I have just returned from the Rockcastle Hills [KY]. Our troops have a decided victory, repulsing the enemy upon very nearly equal terms, and feel very much elated and are anxious for an advance. We are informed that [CSA General Felix] Zollicoffer has retired to his old position behind the Cumberland [Mountains], and intends to make a stand there. I am very sorry that we are not in a condition to march upon him at once, as I believe he could be easily driven out of Kentucky; but the men have no clothing, and we are scarce of forage. … 
To advance into Tennessee, I ought to have four more regiments from some other State than Kentucky to follow after us as a reserve, and money in the hands of the quartermaster and commissary to defray necessary expenses. By taking in a train along with the army, two months’ supply of sugar, coffee, and other small stores, I think we can get on without any very serious difficulties.   If you approve of my advance, let me know as soon as possible. I shall move in a day or two to Crab Orchard.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

29 OCTOBER 1861
Imminent danger to the railroads of East Tennessee
To: Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris
From: C. WALLACE, President, East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad
Wallace advises Harris of the imminent danger to the railroads of East Tennessee from pro-Union elements:

I don’t like to meddle in things that are in keeping of men so much more vigilant and wiser than I am but I am constrained by the circumstances around me to believe that Zollicoffer and the railroads of East Tennessee are in a dangerous condition at present. I am well satisfied that there is today a larger Lincoln force well armed in East Tennessee than Zollicoffer has of Southern men under his command; that this force is in such a state of organization that they can and will be concentrated in Zollicoffer’s rear whenever they are advised of a sufficient force in his front.

31 OCTOBER 1861
Thomas is 40 miles from the Tennessee border
General George H. Thomas arrives at Crab Orchard, a supply depot in Southeast Kentucky, 40 miles from Cumberland Gap on the Tennessee border.

Meredith Anne Grant, “Internal Dissent: East Tennessee’s Civil War, 1849-1865,” 2008, Electronic Theses and Dissertations, East Tennessee State University, accessed 7 February 2021,
“Union insurrection in East Tennessee,” War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0889, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021,
“Union insurrection in East Tennessee,” War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0890, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021,


I am fully conscious of the difficulties
Headquarters Department of the Cumberland, Louisville, Ky.,
November 1, 1861. General George H. Thomas, Crab Orchard, Ky.:
Dear Sir: Yours of yesterday is received. I am fully conscious of the difficulties you describe as to the Kentucky regiments. The telegraph is now completed to Nicholasville. Please have some trusty persons there to telegraph me news from yourself and Somerset. There are several regiments at Cincinnati, but I deem it wise to hold them in reserve till the development of the game, whether they go to Nelson, yourself, or McCook. From all I can learn, no large force can come in by the Gap this season, but the case is different towards Somerset and Nashville. I trust you have got clothing for your men, and that you have well secured the bridge over the Kentucky.
W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier- General, Commanding.

General William Tecumseh Sherman
Photographer: Mathew Brady

Our Camp Calvert Correspondence
New York Times article covers the time period when General Thomas was marching his army toward Northeast Tennessee.
CAMP CALVERT, Friday, Nov. 1, 1861.
After the plucky little fight at [the Battle of] Wild Cat [southeast KY, 21 OCTOBER 1861], “Your Own” concluded that things in the mountains were beginning to warm up, and that he had better be in to see the sport. Accordingly he started and reached Nicholasville [KY], the terminus of the Covington and Lexington Railroad without let or hindrance. But once there his troubles began, nor do they seem disposed to come to an end.
Mounted on the back of an old gray horse whose early education had been sadly neglected in the matter of gaits—the only step he learned being a cross-eyed trot, half pace and half canter, that sent “yours truly” bounding Heavenward like Sancho Panza in the blanket, he started in pursuit of the advancing army. At Camp Dick Robinson he found one regiment guarding stores that should have been forty miles on the advance. Twenty miles further on is Crab Orchard or Camp Frey, where two more regiments were rusticating in the comforts of good quarters, and enjoying themselves hugely on Uncle Samuel’s beef and crackers.
But from Crab Orchard to Wild Cat, twenty-four mortal miles, is the roughest country upon which the sun shines. It is up hill and down dale, over rocks and through bogs. Now muddy as Egypt after the Nile has overflowed, and then sandy as the Jersey Pines. It must have been the creation of some of nature’s journeymen, for surely the mother of all good things never made such an abortion.
I stood in the battle-field of Wild Cat, and looked from the brow of Hoosier Hill, where the gallant Thirty-third Indiana so nobly repulsed the hordes of [CSA General Felix] ZOLLICOFFER, with amazement. Up its steep and rugged sides the foes of our land essayed to climb, and well nigh did they succeed, for had not the Fourteenth Ohio and its battery arrived on a double quick, after a forced march of thirty-five miles, there would have been no Thirty-third Indiana and no Third Kentucky Regiments to-day. They would have been slaughtered beyond salvation, and have poured out their blood a rich libation to the demon of procrastination’ who has so long presided in the councils of our nation. Beyond Wild Cat the country improves; though still rugged and mountainous, it is no longer sterile and inhospitable. Though $5 per acre would buy the best farm in the land, and thousand of square acres can be bought for a silver quarter each, still the country is self-supporting, and might even supply our army with much of its stores, if we had the ready money to pay for them.
Gen. SCHOEPF, the commander of the army in the Cumberland Mountains, (I said commander, which I believe is untrue, for he dares not to move a peg until he has the sign manual of Gen. THOMAS, who stays back at Crab Orchard or Dick Robinson,) is a Hungarian, well qualified, so far as I can judge after a week’s acquaintance, for the command. But he is stopped, checkmated, fretted, worried, tormented and annoyed every hour by the necessity of asking the consent of Gen. THOMAS to do this, that or the other thing. He hardly dares to post a picket or send out a scout without the permission of the Crab Orchard General first had and obtained. Then again, the Quartermaster sends up his stores by the mouthful. At no one time since the army advanced have we had three days provisions in camp.
If Gen. SCHOEPF is worth a row of pins, he surely is worthy of being trusted with some discretion, and ought not to be compelled to keep an army of 5,000 men doing police duty while the golden moments in which the conquest of East Tennessee and Kentucky ought to be completed, are slipping unmarked and unnoticed like the sand in the glass. We have with us the Thirty-fifth Indiana, the Fourteenth and Seventeenth Ohio, the Third Kentucky, half a brigade of Tennessee Volunteers, two batteries, and two hundred cavalry, commanded by Major HELVERTIA, a fine officer. The enemy has, perhaps, a few more men, say 6,000, at Cumberland Ford, 40 miles distant, strongly intrenched, but unequipped, ununiformed, poorly armed and badly demoralized. We have a road by which we can advance, pass to his rear and cut off his communication.
If this brigade were permitted to move and properly supplied with money to purchase stores, we would be in Knoxville, the home of Parson BROWNLOW, in less than a week. But we must possess our souls in patience while red tape and sealing-wax are blundering along. A messenger came in yesterday from Gen. THOMAS saying that the rebels were advancing against Somerset, a town 37 miles west of us.
Camp Calvert is at London, the county seat and about 14 miles beyond Wild Cat. They were represented as being 3,300 strong, while Col. HOSKINS has but 600 Kentuckians at Somerset. One regiment and a company of cavalry were started from Crab Orchard to reinforce him, and we sent out a courier, who has not yet returned. I think this movement means a reinforcement from [CSA GENERAL SIMON BOLIVAR] BUCKNER to ZOLLICOFFER.
We ought to be on the march to intercept them. When the history of the Kentucky campaign comes to be written there will be a sad day of reckoning for somebody. From its first inception to the present moment it has been a progressive series of blunders, or something; worse.
Camp Dick Robinson ought never to have been established, nor would it have been under any ordinary pressure. The history of its creation is this: DICK ROBINSON, a clever gentleman residing in Kentucky, ten miles from Nicholasville, sold $22,000 worth of mules to the South on time, mortgaging his estate to pay for them. The South repudiated, property depreciated, his creditors knew they could not make their money out of the land, so they, with their friends and his to the number of thirty-eight, procured the establishment of the camp. DICK ROBINSON has made from the rent of his land, his bar, and other incidental sources, the neat sum of $33,000. The location of this camp is on the middle of a turnpike, where teams must be unloaded and their burdens divided between four wagons, so that they can traverse the wild-cat country, while they might as well retain their original loads till they reach Crab Orchard, twenty miles beyond. Besides this, the Government owns a barracks, with plenty of land and buildings, at Harrodsburg, only 3 miles further from Nicholasville. Verily, there is something rotten in Denmark. There will certainly be a movement of some kind in a few days.
“The Campaign in Kentucky; Our Camp Calvert correspondence. A visit to the Battlefield of Wild Cat. The army in the Cumberland Mountains; How it is hampered. Movements of the Rebels,” The New York Times, reported 1 November 1861, published 9 November 1861, accessed 26 July 2021,

Judah P. Benjamin
Secretary of War CSA

A mistake to suppose East Tennesseans are submissive
Knoxville, Tenn., November 4, 1861.
CSA General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General
Sir: The dispatches from General Zollicoffer state that he has reason to believe that the enemy with a force of 9,000 is approaching by Jacksborough or Jamestown [Tennessee towns]. Information from Assistant Adjutant-General Mackall says that there are about 10,000 men between Camp Dick Robinson and Cincinnati. This information has been received by the Union men in East Tennessee, and they are openly preparing for rebellion. Men are arriving here daily from the adjoining counties, bringing information that the Unionists are talking exultingly of the approach of the Lincoln Army and their intention to join it. The state of the country here is evidently worse at this time than at any previous period. General Zollicoffer bas taken all the troops from here, except about 1OO infantry and one company of cavalry, and most of the latter are absent on special duty. The necessity for a larger force at this point is urgent. Our commissary and quartermaster’s stores are liable to be seized at any moment, as also the railroad.
The state of the country here is evidently worse at this time than at any previous period. General Zollicoffer has taken all the troops from here, except about 1OO infantry and one company of cavalry, and most of the latter are absent on special duty. The necessity for a larger force at this point is urgent. Our commissary and quartermaster’s stores are liable to be seized at any moment, as also the railroad.
The state of the country here is evidently worse at this time than at any previous period. General Zollicoffer has taken all tbe troops from here, except about 1OO infantry and one company of cavalry, and most of tbe latter are absent on special duty. The necessity for a larger force at this point is urgent. Our commissary and quartermaster’s stores are liable to be seized at any moment, as also the railroad.
It is a great mistake to suppose that the people of East Tennessee are submissive or willing to acquiesce. They have only been held quiet by the force which was at Knoxville, and now that it is gone, they are evidently preparing for a general uprising if the Lincoln Army should make any advance into Tennessee. I need at least a regiment at this place to give protection to the stores of the Government and preserve quiet. There are three companies of infantry here under the late call of the governor for 30,000, but they have no arms. I communicate directly to the Department, because I think the exigency admits of no delay, and have no doubt it will meet with the approval of General Zollicoffer, to whom I send a copy.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. B. WOOD, Colonel, Commanding Post.

Four regiments of disciplined men
GENERAL: I inclose copies of two communications from Mr. William B. Carter. If we could possibly get the arms and the four regiments of disciplined and reliable men we could seize the railroad yet. Cannot Gen. McClellan be induced to send me the regiments?
Very respectfully, your ob’dt servant,
Brig.-Gen. U. S. V., Commanding.

Thomas must be on the border
W.B. Carter’s East Tennessee bridge-burning plan calls for General Thomas to be on the Tennessee / Kentucky border by 8 November, the day Carter has set for the bridges to be burned. After that part of the operation is complete, Thomas is to make a quick march to Knoxville, seize control of the railroads, and protect the bridge burners from Confederate retaliation.

Sherman cancels the invasion …
With his little army of only a few regiments, General Thomas is on his way to East Tennessee. His superior, General William Tecumseh Sherman, is worried about the invasion to liberate the Unionists in that region. He comes to believe that sending unseasoned troops through the Cumberland Mountains with Confederate forces occupying Cumberland and Big Creek Gaps can come to no good end. Sherman cancels the invasion.
In a report issued in 1863, Union colonel Samuel Gilbert discusses the logistics required to move a 5,000-man army into East Tennessee, which sheds light on Sherman’s reluctance to continue the invasion. According to Gilbert, the nearest Union supply depot lies at Nicholasville, Kentucky and foragers have already picked the farms clean along the way. The invaders would have to transport food, ammunition, and other supplies via mule train over rough and mountainous roads. Gilbert estimates that they would need 924 wagons and 5,544 mules, traveling in sixteen-day circuits to move the small army to Cumberland Gap. And that is only the beginning.
Sherman might have been right to call off the invasion, but in the process, he creates a disaster for the Unionists who are expecting him to come to their rescue. They will suffer months and years of arrests, imprisonments, executions, and unimaginable hardships on the East Tennessee home front.

W.B. Carter launches the bridge burning operation
Carter selects Senator Andrew Johnson’s son-in-law, Daniel Stover, to burn the two bridges at the very northeast tip of Northeast Tennessee—the bridge across the Holston River at the town of Zollicoffer in Sullivan County and the bridge across the Watauga River at Carter’s Depot in Carter County.
On his way to Kingston [southwest of Knoxville], where he will oversee the entire operation, Carter chooses Union soldier Captain David Fry to burn the Lick Creek bridge in Greene County. Fry recruits father and son, Jacob and Henry Harmon, Matthew Jacob Hinshaw, Alex Haun, Harrison Self, and Hugh Self [no relation] as his assistants.
For the Strawberry Plains bridge, fifteen miles northeast of Knoxville, Carter recruits former Sevier County sheriff William Pickens. Pickens selects several fellow Sevier Countians, among them David Ray, James Montgomery, and Elijah Gamble.
By the time Sherman cancels the invasion, W.B. Carter and the bridge burners are deep in the Northeast Tennessee wilderness, ignorant of the change in plans.

Word spreads among the Unionists of Northeast Tennessee that the smoke from the burning bridges will be the signal for all loyalists to rise up in arms against the Confederate States of America.

I have done all in my power …
Crab Orchard, November 7, 1861.
Senator ANDREW JOHNSON, London, Ky.
DEAR SIR: I have done all in my power to get troops and transportation and means to advance into Tennessee. I believe General Sherman has done the same. Up to this time we have been unsuccessful. If the Tennesseans are not content and must go, then the risk of disaster will remain with them. Some of our troops are not yet clothed and it seems impossible to get clothing.
Very respectfully and truly yours,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers.

7 NOVEMBER 1861:
I sympathize most deeply with the Tennesseans
Headquarters, Crab Orchard, Ky., November 7, 1861.
Brigadier-General [Albin Francisco] Schoepf, Commanding,
Camp Calvert, London, Ky.
General: It is time that discontented persons should be silenced both in and out of the service. I sympathize most deeply with the Tennesseans on account of their natural anxiety to relieve their friends and families from the terrible oppression which they are now suffering; but to make the attempt to rescue them when we are not half prepared is culpable, especially when our enemies are as anxious that we should make the move as the Tennesseans themselves; for it is well known by our commanding general that [CSA General Simon Bolivar] Buckner has an overwhelming force within striking distance whenever he can get us at a disadvantage. I hope you will therefore see the necessity of dealing decidedly with such people, and you have my authority and orders for doing so. We must learn to abide our time, or we shall never be successful.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers.
[General Schoepf is a Polish military officer, trained in Europe, is fighting for the Union in the American Civil War.]

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

Haynes letter to President Davis
Landon Carter Haynes was a lawyer and politician who served as a Confederate States Senator from 1862 to 1865. In the early 1840s, Landon Carter Haynes works as editor of the Jonesborough-based newspaper, Tennessee Sentinel. He became famous for his frequent clashes with Parson Brownlow, editor of the Knoxville Whig. Haynes must have had a crystal ball when he sent this message to Jefferson Davis—on the very day the railroad bridges are burned.
His Excellency President DAVIS.
DEAR SIR: Many friends here have urged me to address your excellency this note. What I have to say is in regard to Gen. Zollicoffer’s perilous position at Cumberland Gap and the danger of invasion by the Lincoln forces of East Tennessee by way of Jamestown, Fentress County.
It is thought here, by all who are acquainted with things in East Tennessee, that re-enforcements, if practicable, ought to be sent forthwith. It is I fear a grand mistake to suppose the Union party in East Tennessee has lost its hostility to the Confederacy. At the election day before yesterday [election of state officials] with perfect unanimity that party refused to cast a vote for men who had been its late leaders because they were running for seats in the Confederate Congress; and if a force shall be thrown into East Tennessee or on the line which now seems probable and which General Zollicoffer is unable to defeat the flames of rebellion will flash throughout East Tennessee; the railroad will be destroyed, the bridges burned and other calamities not necessary to mention will follow. I regard the state of affairs from all the information I possess as perilous. Respectfully, your obedient servant,

All occurring on the night of the 8th or the morning of the 9th of November.

Alex Haun burns Lick Creek bridge
Daniel Stover burns Zollicoffer bridge

Captain David Fry
When Tennessee seceded from the Union, David Fry left his wife and children in Greeneville, Northeast Tennessee and joined the Union Army in Kentucky. He was subsequently elected Captain of Company F of the 2nd Tennessee Infantry. Fry and a group of Greene County men burn the Lick Creek railroad bridge at two o’clock in the morning of 9 November 1861. As soon as the destruction of the bridge is well under way, Fry allows the Confederate guards at the bridge to go free and orders his men to return to their nearby homes and act as if nothing has happened. Fry himself heads North, hoping to make his way back to Kentucky. He was told that a Union army invasion would begin immediately after the bridges were destroyed and would protect the men who burned the bridge and their families. That promise is broken, and the Unionist civilians are left to suffer the Confederate backlash alone.

Engraving in Barton’s A Hero In Homespun depicting the burning of a railroad bridge in East Tennessee on the night of November 8, 1861. Public domain.

Burning the Lick Creek Bridge
Captain David Fry, a Greene County farmer, led the group of Lick Creek bridge burners in the darkness of the early morning hours of 9 November 1861. Many of these Unionist men could hardly wait to do their part, to make life under Confederate control easier. They had no worries—General George H. Thomas and his little army were going to swoop down from Kentucky as soon as the bridges were destroyed. Their colleagues and their families would be protected. They could not have known that their plans would backfire so horribly. The families of these brave men were taught to be ashamed of their actions; their story was not told for many decades. The modern railroad bridge over Lick Creek stands on the original limestone pillars. When the creek’s water level drops, the remains of the blackened wooden posts of the Civil War Lick Creek Bridge become visible just above the water’s surface.

Lick Creek Bridge Burners in The New York Times
Captain David Fry reached Greene County two days before the burning of Lick Creek Bridge and spent some time with his wife before recruiting several Greene County men to assist him in destroying the bridge. Excerpts from the New York Times:

[David] FRY laid his plans before [DANIEL] SMITH, who agreed to act as a messenger from FRY to JACOB HARMON, to communicate to HARMON … that he had come to destroy the railroad, and that he wanted to see HARMON at SMITH’s house that morning. HARMON, who was a leading Union spirit in the neighborhood, repaired to SMITH’s house, where the plans were unfolded, and the plot and program agreed upon. HARMON was to go home, circulate the fact throughout the neighborhood, and gather the Unionists, assembling them at his house on that night, whilst FRY would remain at SMITH’s until nightfall, and then repair to HARMON’s house to consummate the conspiracy.

 The chief of the conspirators [FRY] immediately led the way to the bridge and was followed in eager haste by the willing crowd. The Confederate guard, consisting of five soldiers, watching the bridge, were immediately surrounded by the infuriated mob, and were held in close confinement, whilst FRY, still leading the way, and still followed by the boldest of his clan, hastened to the wooden structure, applied the torch, and the whole was consumed and burned to the ground in an hour. [The bridge over Lick Creek is not very long.] Upon returning to the guarded soldiers, FRY graciously extended to them their lives upon condition that they would take the oath of allegiance to the United States — saying that now “he had them under his thumb, and the d — d telegraph and railroad would tell upon them no longer.” This closed the scene — the party of traitors dispersed to their homes for the night — many of them to be captured on the morrow, and the remainder to flee to the woods and mountains, as outcasts from their homes.

 The foregoing are the leading facts as were developed in the trial of a number of the conspirators, and the leading spirits in the deed of destruction were David Fry, Jacob Harmon, C.A. Haun, Daniel Smith, Henry Harmon, Henry Fry, and twenty or thirty others, whose names it is not prudent to mention.

The New York Times

“The Bridge Burners; Interesting particulars regarding the movements of Unionists,” The New York Times, 2 March 1862, accessed 8/8/21,

The conspiracy went awry almost immediately
The two vulnerable railroads converging on Knoxville – the East Tennessee & Virginia and the East Tennessee & Georgia – served as the only reliable and efficient transportation and communication link between Richmond and the Deep South. … The [bridge burning] conspiracy went awry almost immediately. At Lick Creek, the conspirators let the captured guards go free after they took the oath of allegiance to the Union. It was a fatefully naïve move; the guards immediately notified Confederate authorities. Even worse, during the attack on the bridge one of the guerrillas had casually mentioned “Jacob Harmon’s gun” in front of the guards; he dutifully passed that piece of intelligence along. A few days later Confederate investigators went to the home of the ringleaders and arrested many of the participants (though some escaped to Kentucky). But the real failure came with a last-minute decision by General William T. Sherman to call off the federal invasion from Kentucky … too late to get word to the conspirators.
Aaron Astor, “The Conspiracy at Lick Creek,” The New York Times, 14 November 2011, accessed 11 August 2021,

Disaster at Strawberry Plains Bridge
The attempt at burning the bridge at Strawberry Plains fails. Spanning the Holston River 15 miles northeast of Knoxville—perhaps the most important railroad bridge in Northeast Tennessee—the 1600-foot-long Strawberry Plains Bridge is crucial to railroad transportation during the Civil War. W.B. Carter assigned former Sevier County sheriff William Pickens to handle this important task.
The lone guard at the bridge, James Keelan, fights off a group of men; he and some of the arsonists are severely wounded in the scuffle. When Pickens is shot, he drops their only box of matches, and it falls down below the bridge. With no chance of recovering the matches and being unwilling to ask for help from nearby houses for fear of being caught, the Sevier County would-be bridge-burners gathered their wounded and dispersed.

Confederate correspondence re the bridge burnings
BRISTOL, November 9, 1861
Honorable JOHN LETCHER. [governor of Virginia]
DEAR SIR: … I do hereby inform you that the bridge across the Holston was burned last night by about fifty Union men and that a Union force is now assembling near Watauga bridge reported to number about 500 for the purpose of attacking Captain McClellan’s troops now stationed at the bridge and burning the bridge, an as such we are unable to form any idea of the result of this; and furthermore state that all communication between this place and Nashville by railroad and telegraph is cut off and ask that you appeal to President Davis to call out the militia of East Tennessee to suppress rebellion.
Justice of the Peace, Washington County, Va. OR, Ser. II, Vol. 1, p. 839

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

Steven Bradley Davis, “From Death, Life: An Economic and Demographic History of Civil War Era Knoxville and East Tennessee,” Masters thesis, 2006, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, accessed 20 April 2021, From Death, Life: An Economic and Demographic History of Civil War Era Knoxville and East Tennessee
“Union Rebellion in East Tennessee,” War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0891, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021, War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0891 UNION REBELLION IN EAST TENNESSEE. | eHISTORY (

A worse state of feeling never prevailed in East Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, November 9, 1861. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War
DEAR SIR: I have just time to say that … the bridge at Charleston over Hiawassee River, on East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad, was burned last night by the Lincolnites, and that the bridge at Strawberry Plains, on East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, over the Holston, was set on fire and the guard badly, if not mortally, wounded. It shows that there is a concerted movement among them to destroy the railroad bridges and cut off communication from one portion of the Southern Confederacy with the other. A worse state of feeling never prevailed in East Tennessee than at the present moment. The belief that the enemy are about to enter our borders has emboldened them to such an extent that there is no telling what damage they may do. I believe it important that you should have this information at once. On this account I have thus hastily given you such information as I have obtained.
Very respectfully,
R. G. FAIN, Brigade Commissary.

Burning Bridges: Cycle of Destruction
On the night of Friday, November 8, 1861, the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad bridge that stood on the piers in front of you erupted in flames. A group of Union sympathizers, who had been plotting secretly for weeks, burned this and four other bridges that night to disrupt the rail lines that the Confederacy needed to transport men and supplies.
The ringleader, the Rev. William Blount Carter, a Presbyterian minister, devised the plan and took it to Union generals George H. Thomas and William T. Sherman, and S.P. Carter, his brother. They sent the Rev. Carter with a letter of support to Washington, DC, where he met with President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward, as well as Gen. George B. McClellan. Lincoln approved the project and provided $2,500 for supplies. Carter placed Col. Daniel Stover, the son-in-law of future President Andrew Johnson, in charge of burning the Holston River bridge. At the last minute, however, Sherman called off the attack because he had decided it was impractical. The word did not reach Carter and his volunteers, who proceeded to burn this bridge and four others, out of the nine bridges targeted for destruction. Sherman’s meant that no Union forces were in position to capture Bluff City [Zollicoffer], called Middletown in that era. The Federals did not move into northeastern Tennessee until more than two years later.
The bridges were soon repaired, although some were burned again later. The Middletown bridge was later replaced.
In some mysterious way, one Saturday [sic] night about eleven o’clock, five bridges … were set fire to, and were in ashes by daylight. … This put the very devil in the Secessionists, although he had been in their midst all the while.
~ William G. ‘Parson’ Brownlow, 1862

Early in the Civil War, the fair grounds two miles west of Knoxville, were converted into a Confederate enlistment camp. On 26 July 1861, General Felix Zollicoffer arrived and assumed command of the Confederate forces in East Tennessee. Zollicoffer remained in Knoxville until September 1861, when he was ordered to march his troops to Cumberland Gap, leaving Col. W.B. Wood in charge of the camp at the fair grounds. This really is a mini bio, because there is little information about Col. Wood, but pay close attention to the following letters he sent and received during the bridge burnings and the Unionist uprising of November 1861. Some of his correspondence with CSA Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin is chilling.

10 NOVEMBER 1861
Five of the Lick Creek incendiaries arrested
Dispatch from Confederate COLONEL W. B. WOOD in Knoxville to General Zollicoffer:
Five of the incendiaries who burned the Lick Creek Bridge have been arrested. I have sent up for them. Regretting as much as anyone this calamity, I feel that I did all that I could to prevent it and am glad that it is no worse. I had a company at Lick Creek, but the incendiaries deceived them, and getting possession of their guns, took them prisoners and accomplished their ends.

General Albert Sidney Johnston
Considered by Confederate States President Jefferson Davis to be the finest general officer in the Confederacy, Albert Sidney Johnston was appointed to the rank of full general on August 31, 1861. He was killed at the Battle of Shiloh on 6 April 1862. Davis believed the loss of General Johnston “was the turning point of our fate.”

10 NOVEMBER 1861
Col. Danville Leadbetter
RICHMOND, November 10, 1861.
Herewith you will receive an order to report to Tennessee, to keep up the line of communication by rail between Bristol and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Upon arriving in Tennessee you are authorized to call upon the railroad companies, and also upon communities in vicinity of railroad, for aid and material, employing both where necessary, giving certificates usual in such cases. While reconstructing bridges and repairing the roads you will give due care to the telegraph communication, re-establishing it where interfered with, exercising in this the authority granted with regard to the road. To enable you to carry out these instructions Stovall’s battalion, with a light battery, will be ordered to report to you at Bristol, and a regiment ordered from General Bragg at Chattanooga, to be so disposed of as may best secure successful accomplishment of your orders. You will report to General Albert Sidney [A. S.] Johnston by letter your arrival in Tennessee, the nature of your instructions, also advising General Zollicoffer to the same effect. Full and frequent reports are desired of your operations, respecting condition of the [rail]road, and disposition of the population adjacent thereto.
I am, sir, respectfully, &c.
Adjutant and Inspector General.

10 NOVEMBER 1861
Leadbetter will leave in the morning
Dispatch addressed to R. L. Owen, President Railroad, Lynchburg:
Colonel Leadbetter of Engineer Corps will leave in the morning with a battalion and battery of field pieces He is charged with the duty of restoring and guarding the communications. … Your earnest cooperation with him is relied on by the President.
J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War.

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

11 NOVEMBER 1861: SPECIAL ORDERS, Number 216.
Richmond, Va., November 11, 1861.
Colonel Danville Leadbetter, Provisional Army, is hereby assigned to the command of the troops to be stationed for the protection of the railroads between Bristol and Chattanooga, Tenn. He will reconstruct bridges, repair and keep open the line of communication between those points and will call upon railroad companies for such aid as he may require to carry out this order.
By command of the Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin
Assistant Adjutant-General.

11 NOVEMBER 1861
A general uprising in all the counties
KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861.
Adjutant-Gen. [SAMUEL] COOPER:
Three bridges burned between Bristol and Chattanooga, two on Georgia road. Five hundred Union men now threatening Strawberry Plains; fifteen hundred assembling in Hamilton County; and a general uprising in all the counties.
I have about 1,000 men under my command.
W. B. WOOD, Col.

11 NOVEMBER 1861
The whole country is now in a state of rebellion
KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861.
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen.
SIR: My fears expressed to you by letters and dispatches of 4th and 5th instant have been realized by the destruction of no less than five railroad bridges—two on the East Tennessee and Virginia road. … The indications were apparent to me but I was powerless to avert it. The whole country is now in a state of rebellion. A thousand men are within six miles of Strawberry Plains bridge and an attack is contemplated to-morrow. I have sent Col. Powel there with 200 infantry, one company cavalry and about 100 citizens armed with shotguns and country rifles. Five hundred Unionists left Hamilton County today we suppose to attack Loudon bridge. I have Major Campbell there with 200 infantry and one company cavalry. I have about the same force at this point and a cavalry company at Watauga bridge.
An attack was made on Watauga yesterday. Our men succeeded in beating them off, but they are gathering in larger force and may renew it in a day or two. They are not yet fully organized and have no subsistence to enable them to hold out long. A few regiments and vigorous means would have a powerful effect in putting it down. A mild or conciliating policy will do no good; they must be punished; and some of the leaders ought to be punished to the extent of the law. Nothing short of this will give quiet, to the country. Gen. Zollicoffer at great inconvenience to himself has sent me Col. Powell’s regiment numbering about 600 effective men which I have disposed of as above stated.
I have arrested six of the men who were engaged in burning the Lick Creek bridge and I desire to have instruction from you as to the proper disposition of them. The slow course of civil law in punishing such incendiaries it seems to me will not have the salutary effect which is desirable. I learn from two gentlemen just arrived that another camp is being formed about ten miles from here in Sevier County and already 300 are in camp. They are being re-enforced from Blount, Roane, Johnson, Greene, Carter and other counties. I need not say that great alarm is felt by the few Southern men. They are finding places of safety for their families and would gladly enlist if we had arms to furnish them. …
Col., Commanding Post.
Sixteenth Alabama Regiment.
OR, Ser. II, Vol. 1, pp. 840-841.

11 NOVEMBER 1861
I felt it to be my duty to place this City under martial law
KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861.
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen.
SIR: I have had all the arms in this City seized and authorized Maj. Campbell to impress all he can find in the hands of Union men who ought now to be regarded as avowed enemies for the use of the new companies. I felt it to be my duty to place this City under martial law as there was a large majority of the people sympathizing with the enemy and communicating with them by the unfrequented mountain paths, and to prevent surprise and the destruction of the commissary and quartermaster’s stores.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. B. WOOD, Col., Commanding Post.

11 NOVEMBER 1861
They threaten to burn Watauga Bridge to-night
BRISTOL, November 11, 1861.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War|
I have just returned from the burned bridge. We have at the next bridge, 10 miles beyond, about 250 men, under Capt. McClellan. They have two cannon, which they found on the cars … The camp of the enemy is at N. G. Taylor’s, 5 miles distant, with about 400 men. Another camp, at Elizabethtown, 2 miles farther, is said to contain 500 men. The two may be confounded. There is no doubt but that re-enforcements are every moment reaching them from Watauga County, North Carolina, and Johnson, Carter, and Washington Counties, Tennessee. These counties can furnish about 2,000 Lincolnites, and each fresh occasion emboldens them. They threaten to burn Watauga Bridge to-night. Should they be successful, it will bring forward hundreds now quiet. It is all important they should be disposed of before they unite their different forces, now ranging from 50 to 500. A fight occurred last night [10th] between 22 of our scouts and the main camp of the enemy. We captured 2, killed 9, and lost none. I have given orders for all trains to give way to the troop trains now coming forward. They will reach here to-morrow morning.
Can I do anything for you?
President Virginia and Tennessee [V&T] Railroad
[The V&T extends westward from Lynchburg, Virginia to Bristol, Tennessee, a total distance of 204 miles.]
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 4, pp. 235-236.

Movements in East Tennessee. The Destruction of the Rebel Communications. GREAT ALARM IN RICHMOND. THE BRIDGE-BURNING IN TENNESSEE. THE STRUCTURES DESTROYED.
[Parts of this article were first published in the Knoxville Register and Memphis Appeal, both Pro-Confederate newspapers, which explains the Confederate slant.]
The Lick Creek bridge was guarded by several soldiers attached to Capt. MCLINN’s company, encamped near Midway. They were approached by a gang of ruffians, who first engaged them in friendly conversation and then suddenly overpowered them, and executed their hellish incendiarism.
They carried the captured sentinels, we are told, to a house at some distance, and after forcing them to take an oath to support the LINCOLN Government, released them. They hurried to their camp and gave such information as led to the immediate arrest of six of the incendiaries, who were yesterday brought to this city [Knoxville] and safely lodged in jail. We learn that they have made confessions which will probably lead to the capture of all engaged in this extensive conspiracy.
This diabolical plot does not seem to have been participated in by the great body of the East Tennessee Union men, but seems to have been confined to a number of desperate and reckless traitors, who confidently believed that before they could be brought to justice, the Lincoln forces from Kentucky would have forced their way through the mountains to their rescue, They have again experienced how little dependence is to be placed upon the boasts and promises of MAYNARD and JOHNSON [JOHNSTON].
The cowards who were reported to be approaching Jamestown and Big Creek Gap, have retreated back into Kentucky, to escape from HARDEE and his brave forces, leaving their duped and misguided co-laborers here to their fate. There is no earthly probability that any of LINCOLN’s troops will ever be able to force their way into East Tennessee, and all such attempts as the late incendiary one, must only result in bringing a terrible retribution upon the heads of the foolish depredators. …
It is rumored that large numbers of Union men are arming and mustering in Blount and Sevier Counties; for the purpose of protecting the incendiaries who attempted to fire the Strawberry Plains bridge, all of whom, numbering some sixteen, were from Sevier County. …
The damage to the railroads in East Tennessee by the incendiarism of last week, is estimated at $50,000.
In an extra issued on Nov. 15, the Memphis Avalanche says:
“A most reliable gentleman from East Tennessee arrived here this morning, and reports that Chickamauga Creek, the Charleston, Lick Creek, and Upper Holston [Zollicoffer] bridges were burned at precisely 1 o’clock on Friday night. Other bridges were fired at the same time, but were extinguished. The telegraphic wires were destroyed at the same time. A thorough organization exists among the Unionists in East Tennessee. … “
From the Memphis Appeal.
Great excitement prevails along the route. The people were thoroughly aroused, and flocking into every Station, determined to exterminate the traitors between Bristol and Chattanooga, where the principal damage was done. Bristol and Chattanooga are situated at the extremes of the Railroad system of East Tennessee, 241 miles apart. Gen. CLARKE of Mississippi was at Bristol, among the detained passengers; and being advised that there was a force of 500 Unionists at Uniontown [Zollicoffer], where the bridge had been burned, he mustered a force of about forty, principally returning soldiers, and marched against them. A conflict took place at night, but the traitors fled early … leaving indications that some of them are hurt. …
From the Memphis Appeal, Nov. 16.
We apprehend nothing serious from the recent outbreak in East Tennessee, but regard it, on the contrary, at least in point of time, as one of the most fortunate incidents of the crisis. It was evidently one act in a carefully arranged program of the enemy, all of whose parts were to have been executed simultaneously, but which has eventuated in a miserable abortion. We have long been aware that there was a deeply disaffected element in this section of the State, and have repeatedly pressed upon our authorities—State and Federal—the necessity of exercising a proper espionage over their movements. …
It was a stroke of policy merely that induced the abandonment of the Greeneville Convention and the ostensible acknowledgment of the Confederate Government by the arch conspirators who were encouraging this scheme. In fact, it was a most dangerous part of their conspiracy, inasmuch as it disarmed our authorities, and the adherents of our cause in that section, of all vigilance. They thought that the refractory spirit of the rebellion that at first showed its head had been permanently quelled, and looked for no further manifestation of it.
This insurrection, however, … gives evidence of a deep-laid plot among a few of the most reckless traitors of that region to resist the sovereign voice of the people of the State by force of arms, so soon as they have hope of assistance from the Lincoln despotism. It is fortunate that it has occurred at the present time, when we are fully able to put a lasting quietus upon it, from which no appliances of future Federal aid will ever be able to resuscitate it. We now have an open foe to conquer, who is rendered impotent by the very disclosure of his hostility—and not less so by his isolation. …
“FROM THE REBEL STATES, “The New York Times, accessed 20 March 2021,

Another view of a bridge very similar to the Lick Creek Bridge.

12 NOVEMBER 1861: S.P. Carter’s East Tennessee Brigade
Camp Calvert, November 12, 1861.
Brigadier General GEORGE H. THOMAS, U. S. Army.
DEAR GENERAL: Yesterday I sent forty-five pounds rifle powder, fifty pounds lead and twenty boxes rifle caps into East Tennessee for the Union men. I borrowed the whole from Colonel Garrard. Will you have the kindness to have rifle powder forwarded to me not only to return that borrowed but also for further distribution among the mountain men? The ammunition sent yesterday was to be delivered to the men mentioned by my brother in his letter to you. Lead and caps are also needed.
We thank you, general, for your assurance that as soon as you can you will move toward East Tennessee. Our men and officers have entire confidence in you and shall be most happy to see you in our midst. If the reports made to me to-day are true—and they seem to be reliable—we might get possession of the mountain passes without loss or even opposition. Do you not think so?
I am persuaded you will do what is right and proper.
With respect,
Acting Brigadier-General. comdg.
East Tennessee Brigade.
Because the Confederates are still occupying Northeast Tennessee, S. P. Carter chooses Camp Calvert in Laurel County, southeast Kentucky as his recruitment camp. Since his enlistees are mostly refugees from Northeast Tennessee, he calls his unit the East Tennessee Brigade.

12 NOVEMBER 1861: 500 Tories threaten movement on Strawberry Plains
JACKSBOROUGH, November 12, 1861. Gen. S. Cooper:
Col. Wood, Knoxville, writes that 500 tories threaten movement on Strawberry Plains, and 1,500 from Hamilton County moving towards Loudon Bridge. Col. Churchwell, Cumberland Gap, has information indicating a strong force along from 6 miles beyond Barboursville to Rockcastle Camp, fortifying as they advance. I will have the pass blocked in two days. Gen. Carroll has one armed regiment, but has not forwarded it. Please cause Churchwell’s requisition of 22d October for ammunition and implements for three 8-inch howitzers to be filled and expressed to him.

12 NOVEMBER 1861
JONESBOROUGH, TENN., November 12, 1861.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS, President, &amp;c.
SIR: Civil war has broken out at length in East Tennessee. In the late election scarcely a so-called Union man voted. Neither Mr. [Thomas A. R.] Nelson nor any of the released men who had been sworn to be faithful to the Southern Confederacy voted upon the occasion and there appeared a simultaneous assault upon our line of railroads from Virginia to the Georgia line.
In this county (Washington) the secession strength is about equal to the Union force but our force is much wakened by five volunteer companies now in the service. In Carter and Johnson Counties, northeast of this, the Union strength is not only as formidable but it is as violent as that of any of the Northwestern Virginia counties.
Had they the power not a secessionist would live in this region. The hostile element in those counties and also in Greene is so strong that I give it as my firm conviction that it will neither abate nor be conciliated.
They look confidently for the re-establishment of the Federal authority in the South and I feel quite sure when I assert it that no event or circumstance can change or modify their hopes. In this state of affairs this part and indeed all of East Tennessee will be subjected during the war to apprehensions of internal revolt more or less remote as the tide of war turns in this direction.
The recent bridge-burning in this section was occasioned by the hope that the Federal troops would be here in a few days from Kentucky to second their efforts. We will rush out the rebellion here in a week or ten days but to prevent its recurrence should be a matter of anxious consideration. Upon this subject I have the honor of making the following suggestions to your excellency:

The expatriation requiring alien enemies to dispose of their effects … and leave with their families should be enforced. Should they not do so voluntarily on proof being submitted that they were in arms or hostile to the Government they should be forced to leave on due notice with their families. A man with his family with him in the North will do us no great harm. He will not enlist there for he will have to support his family.
By removing the hostile element from our counties we have peace and the Southern men can then enter the army because they know that their families are safe at home. By leaving this hostile element here we will never have peace but be subject to constant alarm, these men rising up at every turn of events to harass us. I submit this suggestion to your excellency’s careful attention.
There are now camped in and about Elizabethton in Carter County some 1,200 or 1,500 men armed with a motley assortment of guns in open defiance of the Confederate States of America and who are awaiting a movement of the Federal troops from Kentucky to march forward and take possession of the railroad. These men are gathered up from three or five counties in this region and comprise the hostile Union element of this section and never will be appeased, conciliated or quieted in a Southern Confederacy.

I make this assertion positively and you may take it for what it is worth. We can and will in a few days disperse them but when will they break out again! I am satisfied the only hope for our quiet and repose and our cooperation without hindrance in the present revolution is the expatriation voluntarily or by force of this hostile element.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

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

12 NOVEMBER 1861: Governor Harris requests aid from His Excellency
NASHVILLE, November 12, 1861.
The burning of railroad bridges in East Tennessee shows a deep-seated spirit of rebellion in that section. Union men are organizing. This rebellion must be crushed out instantly, the leaders arrested, and summarily punished. I shall send immediately about 10,000 men to that section; cannot arm larger force at present. If you can possibly send from Western Virginia a number of Tennessee regiments to East Tennessee, we can at once repair the bridges and crush out the rebellion. I hope to be able very soon to collect a large number of sporting  guns in the State to arm our volunteers, and will co-operate with the Government to the fullest extent of my ability in all respects. If a part only of the Tennessee troops in Western Virginia shall be sent, I would prefer Anderson’s brigade.

13 NOVEMBER 1861: The Lincolnites are encamping at Elizabethton
JONESBOROUGH, TENN., November 13, 1861.
J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War:
The Lincolnites are forming an encampment at Elizabethton [Carter County]; now have from 1,000 to 1,300 men, and more coming, within 6 miles of our railroad, at Watauga Bridge. They also have from 600 to 1,000 men near Strawberry Plains Bridge, the most important and expensive bridge on our road, and still collecting in greater numbers, and threatening to take and burn the bridge and take possession of the [rail]road. If these two bridges are burned our road stops. The demonstrations are such in East Tennessee that a much larger force is necessary. They are cutting the telegraph wires as fast as we put them up.
President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.

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

Col. Danville Leadbetter CSA

13 NOVEMBER 1861: A force of Unionists some 1,000 strong
BRISTOL, TENN., November 13, 1861.
Gen. A. S. JOHNSTON, C. S. Army, Bowling Green, Ky.
SIR: Agreeable to instructions from the Adjutant-Gen.’s Office, I have the honor to report that I have been assigned by the War Department (Special Orders, No. 216) to the command of troops to be stationed for the protection of the railroad from this point to Chattanooga, rebuilding bridges, and keeping open the communication. Stovall’s battalion Georgia Volunteers is hourly expected from Richmond, and a regiment from Gen. Bragg’s command is ordered to report at Chattanooga as the force for this service.
The country traversed by the [rail]road is represented as being in a very disturbed condition. Two bridges have been burned between this and Knoxville … The telegraph wire is down. It is currently reported that Andrew Johnson was expected at Greeneville, his place of residence, on Sunday, the 10th, and that his country friends assembled to greet him. They were disappointed. A force of Unionists, some 1,000 strong, is known to be assembled at Elizabethton, on the Watauga [River], about twenty-five miles from this place, and I propose to move against them at the earliest possible moment. Another force is known to be encamped at Strawberry Plains, well on toward Knoxville. Passengers continue to traverse the road, the only difficulty being detention from the destruction of bridges at the points named.
Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
D. LEADBETTER, Col., Provisional Army C. S.

14 NOVEMBER 1861: I have sent 4,500 rifles
RICHMOND, November 14, 1861.
Gen. L. P. WALKER, Huntsville, Ala.:
I have sent to Gen. A. S. Johnston 4,500 rifles, being half of all that we have received.
J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War.

14 NOVEMBER 1861: Disarm Union men and seize leaders
Jacksborough, (Via Knoxville 15th.)
General COOPER, Adjutant-General: I have ordered all posts and detachments to disarm Union men and seize leaders. Have made dispositions to cut off and crush tories of Rhea, Hamilton and Sevier [Counties]. Blockade here nearly complete. One regiment marches for Wartburg to-day.

“Civil War in Knox County,” Rootsweb: Knoxville Civil War Roundtable, accessed 24 July 2021,
“FROM THE REBEL STATES,” The New York Times, published 23 November 1861, accessed 20 March 2021,
War of the Rebellion, Serial 114 Page 0841, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 March 2021,
War of the Rebellion, Serial 114, Page 0844, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 March 2021,
War of the Rebellion, Serial 114 Page 0892, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 March 2021,
War of the Rebellion, Serial 114 Page 0892 & 0893, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 March 2021,

16 NOVEMBER 1861: W.B. Carter returns to Kentucky
U. S. Army, Cmdg., &c., Crab Orchard, Ky.
GEN.: My brother William has just arrived from East Tennessee and the news he brings I think of so much importance that I will dispatch a special messenger to convey it to you. My brother left Roane County near Kingston on Monday night last. He reports that on Friday night, 8th instant, of last week he succeeded in having burned at least six and perhaps eight bridges on the railroad, viz.,: Union bridge in Sullivan County, near the Virginia line; Lick Creek bridge in Greene County; Strawberry Plains in Jefferson County, fifteen miles east of Knoxville, partially destroyed; …
The consternation among the secessionists of East Tennessee is very great. The Union men are waiting with longing and anxiety for the appearance of Federal forces on the Cumberland Mountains and are all ready to rise up in defense of the Federal Government. … Gen., if it be possible do urge the commanding general to give us some additional force and let us advance into East Tennessee; now is the time, and such a people as are those who live in East Tennessee deserve and should be relieved and protected. You know the importance of this move and will I hope use all your influence to effect it. Our men will go forward with a shout to relieve their native land. The brigade commissary has not yet handed in his report of the amount of provisions on hand; but I think we have already nearly if not quite a month’s supply on hand.
With much respect, I am, dear general, yours, very truly,
S. P. CARTER, Acting Brig.-Gen.,
Cmdg. East Tennessee Brigade.

MINI BIO: Samuel Powhatan Carter USA
Samuel Carter was a member of the prestigious Carter family of Carter County, Northeast Tennessee, and brother of W.B. Carter and James P.T. Carter. On 10 October 1861, Lieutenant Samuel P. Carter, U. S. Navy, was assigned as acting brigadier general to the 1st and 2nd East Tennessee Regiments. He was ordered to enlist Unionists for the Union Army within his native Northeast Tennessee. The Confederates had occupied the region in July 1861, so Carter raised a brigade of infantry at Camp Dick Robinson, Kentucky, from among the hundreds of his neighbors who were fleeing to Kentucky. When corresponding with Unionists who remained behind Confederate lines, he adopted the code name Powhatan. On 6 December 1861, Carter’s Brigade was designated as the 12th Brigade of General George H. Thomas’ 1st Division. The brigade served at London, Kentucky, in front of Cumberland Gap, and along the Kentucky-Tennessee border. In April 1862, the regiment was assigned to Brigadier General S. P. Carter’s 24th Brigade of General George W. Morgan’s 7th Division of the Army of the Ohio.
The New York Times described Carter’s Raid:
It appears that Gen. CARTER, with a thousand cavalrymen, left … Richmond, Ky., on the 21st of December; that he marched through Southeastern Kentucky and through the southwest corner of Virginia into East Tennessee, and fell upon the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad where it crosses the Holston River [Zollicoffer] … and burned the wooden trestle … bridge there, and also that over the Watauga River [Carter’s Depot]; that he fought two brisk skirmishes, and killed, wounded and captured over 500 rebels, beside capturing 700 stand of arms and a large amount of rebel stores; and that, after thus doing his work, and chastising the rebels, he returned to Kentucky [on 2 January 1863] with a loss of but ten men. The distance traversed by these bold riders, from the point of starting in Kentucky to the point of action in Tennessee, was over two hundred miles, through a mountainous country, affording few passable roads and only the most scanty supplies. 
Plans to follow the raid with an invasion and occupation of East Tennessee were canceled when S.P. Carter reported the route impracticable for a large force. In July 1863, Carter was placed in command of the XXIII Corps cavalry division and continued campaigning across Tennessee throughout the year.
On August 6, 1863, in a reorganization of the XXIII Corps, the 1st and 2nd Tennessee Regiments were separated, and the 1st Tennessee placed in the 1st Brigade of Brigadier General S. P. Carter’s 4th Division (Cavalry). The regiment, now described as the 1st East Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Infantry, was ordered to concentrate at Stanford, Kentucky. On 3 September 1863, the Union finally invaded East Tennessee with a large force commanded by General Ambrose Burnside. Carter’s brigade participated in Burnside’s East Tennessee Campaign during the balance of the year. While Carter was serving in the Union Army, the U.S. Navy promoted him to lieutenant commander in 1863, then to commander in 1865.
“1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment,” Tennessee & the Civil War, accessed 28 July 2021,
“Carter’s Raid and its Results,” The New York Times, 8 January 1863, accessed 29 July 2021,

General Samuel Powhatan Carter USA
Commander of the East Tennessee Brigade
Camp Calvert, Laurel County, Kentucky
Library of Congress

17 NOVEMBER 1861: Thoughts about the war by a Madison County farmer

We cannot tell what a day may bring forth. Providence alone knows the end and what the end will be. Numbers, resources, a powerful navy &c are against the South but under a Just God with a good cause, she is determined to conquer or die. The country may be laid to waste, her cities burned, her people butchered, a merciless [slave] insurrection aroused, & there is no doubt as to arms, is a deplorable state of affairs, but the invader of our soil must be driven back, NO MATTER what comes. To be overcome and reduced to worse than dependents will never do. Affairs are fast approaching a crisis or perhaps a turning point. Winter will soon stop all movements by land & the rebels will be no nearer conquered next spring than last spring.

~ Robert H. Cartmell Diary

17 NOVEMBER 1861: Affairs are not so bad as reported
SIR: In obedience to orders two regiments moved to this point. Affairs are not so bad as reported. Suppose that Col. S. A. M. Wood has reported to the War Department a full account of his expedition against Clift and the breaking up of his camp. Five prisoners taken with arms. To-night I send a reconnoitering force to North Chickamauga Creek where the citizens are mostly disloyal and a good many in open rebellion. As soon as sufficient information can be obtained a larger force will be sent to capture Clift and his troops. So soon as they return I will move to join Gen. Zollicoffer at Jacksborough.
I inclose you a copy of oath and bond I have taken from Union prisoners taken before my arrival.
Very respectfully,
W. H. CARROLL, Brig.-Gen.

We,___and___, acknowledge ourselves indebted to the Confederate States of America jointly and severally in the sum of $10,000, but to be void if—shall faithfully and honestly support the Constitution and laws of the Confederate States of America and if he shall faithfully and honestly render true allegiance to said Confederate States in all things; and if he shall not directly or indirectly by writing, talking or otherwise seditiously or rebelliously attempt to excite prejudice in the mind of any person or persons against the existence, perpetuity or prosperity of said Confederate States; and if he shall not in any manner directly or indirectly aid, assist, encourage or advise the United States or any officer, agent or adherent thereof in the present war against the Confederate States. Witness our hands and seals this___November, 1861.

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and honestly support the Constitution and laws of the Confederate States of America and I will faithfully and honestly render true allegiance to said Confederate States in all things and in every particular; and I further swear that I will not directly or indirectly by talking, writing or otherwise seditiously or rebelliously attempt to excite prejudice in the mind of any person or persons against the existence, perpetuity or prosperity of said Confederate States; nor will I in any manner directly or indirectly aid, assist, encourage or advise the United States or any officer, agent or adherent thereof in the present war against the Confederate States. Witness our hands and seals this___November, 1861.

19 NOVEMBER 1861: Leadbetter asks Benjamin what to do with prisoners he took at Doe River Cove
JOHNSON STATION (Via Jonesborough.)
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN: Yesterday we dispersed the insurgents, 300 strong, at Doe River [Daniel Stover and his men]. Took thirty prisoners in the neighborhood; none very prominent. What shall be done with them? Are those not known as criminals to be released on their oath of allegiance? Those known to have been insurgents I recommend be sent to Richmond and kept there. Please telegraph to Jonesborough, Tenn.

Unionists escaping across Northeast Tennessee mountains
Sketched by A. W. Warren

20 NOVEMBER 1861: A high degree of Confederate anxiety
This letter from Madison T. Peoples from Union County, Northeast Tennessee, indicates a high degree of anxiety in regard to the Unionist rebellion.
OKOLONA, TENN., November 20, 1861.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
SIR: In my judgment there is not a Union man in Carter County who was not involved to some extent in the rebellion. Many of them were drawn into it by wicked leaders and some have heartily repented but many others will seek the first favorable opportunity to repeat the experiment. Under these circumstances what can be done to hold them in check in the future? If a northern army invades the State at any future day a majority of our population will undoubtedly tear up the railroad, burn the bridges and destroy the lives and property of Southern men. If the military commander at this point could have a discretionary power which would enable him to inquire into the character of the rebels and give certain ones the option to join the Confederate service during the war or be sent on for trial for treason I have no doubt the ends of justice would be attained and much annoyance to the Government avoided. This perhaps would be rather a highhanded movement, but the disease is a desperate one and requires severe and energetic treatment.
Every Union man in the county either took up arms or was fully advised of the intention of his party to do so, so they are all principals or accessories before the fact. If they are all prosecuted every citizen of East Tennessee must be arraigned before the court or brought up as witnesses. Nearly every rebel in my county could be convicted if all the Southern-rights citizens were brought up as witnesses; but this perhaps would look too much like political prosecutions.
Martial law ought to be enforced in every county in East Tennessee to hold these bad men in proper restraint but our President is very averse to such a policy. But be assured if the Northern despotism succeeds in throwing a strong military force in here we shall have much worse than martial law. Even now our most quiet and law-abiding citizens have been shot down in cold blood from behind coverts by the tories and the proof can be made that Unionists have been tampering with the slaves.
The mass of the Union party religiously believed that a Northern army of at least 100,000 men was in East Tennessee before they began this rebellious demonstration. The Southern men have all been disarmed and the tories have apparently disbanded in most of the counties but really gone home to await the approach of an invading army. If we are invaded, every Southern man will be taken a prisoner or else murdered in the night time. Our very existence depends on Mr. Lincoln’s ability to invade the state.
Asking your pardon for my boldness and the hasty manner of writing this letter,
I am, very respectfully,

20 NOVEMBER 1861: Recruits are arriving almost every day
Commanding, Crab Orchard.
GENERAL: Recruits are arriving almost every day from East Tennessee. We have no arms to put into their hands. The Union men coming to us represent the people in East Tennessee as waiting with the utmost anxiety the arrival of the Federal forces. They are all ready to join them and do their part toward the deliverance of their native land. Union camps are already forming in some of the counties and unless help soon reaches them as they have but little ammunition they will be scattered or destroyed.
With the hope of soon seeing you here, respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding.

20 NOVEMBER 1861: I respectfully request that instructions be forwarded
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War.
SIR: The rebellion in East Tennessee has been put down in some of the counties and will be effectually suppressed in less than two weeks in all the counties. Their camps in Sevier and Hamilton Counties have been broken up and a large number of them made prisoners. Some are confined in jail at this place and others sent to Nashville.
In a former communication I inquired of the Department what I should do with them. It is a mere farce to arrest them and turn them over to the courts. Instead of having the effect to intimidate it really gives encouragement and emboldens them in their traitorous conduct.
We have now in custody some of their leaders—Judge [David T. ] Patterson, the son-in-law of Andrew Johnson; Col. [Samuel] Pickens, the senator in the legislature from Sevier and other counties, and several members of the legislature, besides others of influence and some distinction in their counties. These men have encouraged this rebellion but have so managed as not to be found in arms. Nevertheless all their actions and words have been unfriendly to the Government of the Confederate States. The influence of their wealth, position and connections has been exerted in favor of the Lincoln Government and they are the parties most to blame for the troubles in East Tennessee. They really deserve the gallows and if consistent with the laws ought speedily to receive their deserts; but there is such a gentle spirit of conciliation in the South and especially here that I have no idea that one of them will receive such a sentence at the hands of any jury impaneled to try them.
I have been here at this station for three months, half the time in command of the post, and I have had a good opportunity of learning the feeling pervading this country. It is hostile to the Confederate Government. They will take the oath of allegiance with no intention to observe it. They are the followers and slaves of Johnson and Maynard and never intend to be otherwise. When arrested they suddenly become very submissive and declare they are for peace and not supporters of the Lincoln Government but yet they claim to be Union men. At one time whilst our forces were at Knoxville they gave it out that great changes were taking place in East Tennessee and the people were becoming reconciled and loyal. At the withdrawal of the army from here to the Gap and the first intimation that the Lincoln army was like to penetrate the State they were in arms, and scarcely a man with only a few honorable exceptions but what was ready to join them and make war upon us.
The prisoners we have tell us that they had every assurance that the army was already in the State and would join them in a very few days; that the property of Southern men was to be confiscated and divided amongst those who would take up arms for Lincoln. I have to request at least that the prisoners I have taken be held if not as traitors as prisoners of war. To release them is ruinous; to convict them before a court at this time next to an impossibility; but if they are kept in prison for six months it will have a good effect. The bridge-burners and spies ought to be tried at once and I respectfully request that instructions be forwarded at as early a day as practicable as it needs prompt action to dispose of these cases.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. B. WOOD, Col., Cmdg. Post.

21 NOVEMBER 1861: … to drive the rebels from their country
Camp Calvert, near London, Ky., November 21, 1861.
DEAR SIR: The copy of Evening Star received this evening assures me you have not forgotten me. Our men are most anxious to return to East Tennessee, not so much to see their families as to drive the rebels from their country. We are all inclined to think that help will be deferred until it is too late to save our people. This ought not to be so. Two or three batteries and 10,000 men provided even with powder and lead for the people could save East Tennessee at this time. Will help never come? Can you not get those in power to give us a few more men and permission to make at least an effort to save our people? do try. They are even now in arms and must be crushed unless assistance soon reaches them.
With respect, yours, truly.

MINI BIO: Horace Maynard
Horace Maynard (1814–1882) was an American attorney, politician, and ardent Union supporter in the Civil War era. He was elected to the House of Representatives from Tennessee on 4 March 1857. He spent much of his first two terms in Congress fighting to preserve the Union. Along with fellow Unionists Andrew Johnson, T. A. R. Nelson, and William G. Brownlow, Maynard worked feverishly to keep Tennessee in the Union during the secession crisis of 1860 and 1861. In the weeks leading up to the state’s referendum on secession on 8 June 1861, Maynard travelled across East Tennessee and made dozens of pro-Union speeches.
After Tennessee seceded from the Union, Maynard headed for Washington, D.C. to take his seat in the U.S. Congress. When Confederate forces occupied East Tennessee on 26 July 1861, Maynard pleaded with President Abraham Lincoln to send troops to free the region, warning that East Tennesseans’ “tears and blood will be a blot on your administration that time can never efface.” With the help of Senator Andrew Johnson, Congressman Maynard kept the pressure on President Lincoln to rescue the Unionists, but it was more than two years before Union troops entered Knoxville. 
Congressman Maynard won a third term in 1861 on the Unionist Party ticket, becoming one of the few Southern congressmen to maintain his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives during the Civil War. In December 1861, he blasted Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas for balking at an invasion of East Tennessee after Unionists burned railroad bridges there, calling his efforts ‘disgraceful.’ Maynard was obviously unaware that General Sherman had called off the invasion and ordered Thomas to return to camp. In 1863 Andrew Johnson, military governor of Tennessee, appointed Horace Maynard attorney general of the state. Like many other Unionists, Horace Maynard’s property had been confiscated by the Confederates, and he was unable to return to his home in Knoxville after the war. However, he was again elected to Congress and represented Tennessee’s Second District until 1875.

Tennessee Congressman Horace Maynard
Public domain

24 NOVEMBER 1861: We have arrivals every day from East Tennessee
Camp Calvert, November 24, 1861.
Brigadier General GEORGE H. THOMAS,
Commanding, Danville, Ky.
GENERAL: We have arrivals every day from East Tennessee. The condition of affairs there is sad beyond description and if the loyal people who love and cling to the Government are not soon relieved they will be lost.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding.

25 NOVEMBER 1861: Instructions relative to the fate of East Tennessee Unionist prisoners
WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A., Richmond
Col. W. B. WOOD, Knoxville, Tenn.
First. All such as can be identified as having been engaged in bridge-burning are to be tried summarily by drum-head court-martial and if found guilty executed on the spot by hanging. It would be well to leave their bodies hanging in the vicinity of the burned bridges.
Second. All such as have not been so engaged are to be treated as prisoners of war and sent with an armed guard to Tuscaloosa, Ala., there to be kept imprisoned at the depot selected by the Government for prisoners of war. Wherever you can discover that arms are concealed by these traitors you will send out detachments, search for and seize the arms. In no case is one of the men known to have been up in arms against the Government to be released on any pledge or oath of allegiance. The time for such measures is past. They are all to be held as prisoners of war and held in jail till the end of the war. Such as come in voluntarily, take the oath of allegiance and surrender their arms are alone to be treated with leniency.
Your vigilant execution of these orders is earnestly urged by the Government.
Your obedient servant,
J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War.
P.S. Judge [David T.] Patterson, Colonel [SAMUEL] Pickens and other ringleaders of the same class must be sent at once to Tuscaloosa to jail as prisoners of war.
A drumhead court-martial is held in the field to hear urgent charges of offenses committed in action. The term comes from previous times of war when the regimental drum was used as a writing surface.

25 NOVEMBER 1861: Those who voluntarily surrender themselves and their arms
Captain DAVID McCLELLAN, Elizabethton, Tenn.
DEAR SIR: On the first page I had you copy an order from the War Department and call your especial attention to it. You will send all prisoners under the first and second clause [Benjamin’s letter above], except such as surrender voluntarily themselves and arms to me to be sent to headquarters at Greeneville with the necessary witnesses to establish the charges against them. Those who voluntarily surrender themselves and their arms and have had no complicity with bridge-burning nor have been in arms you will please follow the order from the War Department.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. J. WHITE, Captain.

25 NOVEMBER 1861: A general court-martial is hereby appointed
A general court-martial is hereby appointed to meet at Knoxville on the 28th of November or as soon thereafter as practicable for the trial of such prisoners as may be brought before it.

25 NOVEMBER 1861: Trial by court-martial
KNOXVILLE, TENN., November 25, 1861.
Hon J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
The military authorities in command at this post have determined to try the bridge-burners and other men charged with treason by a court-martial.
What shall I do?
CSA District Attorney.

25 NOVEMBER 1861: Benjamin hopes they hang every bridge-burner
RICHMOND, November 25, 1861.
J. C. RAMSEY, District Attorney, Knoxville:
I am very glad to hear of the action of the military authorities, and hope to hear they have hanged every bridge-burner at the end of the burned bridge.
J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War

25 NOVEMBER 1861: Re-establish the Government of the Union
Washington, D. C., November 25, 1861.
Brigadier General D. C. BUELL,
Commanding Department of the Ohio.
GENERAL: I am still convinced that political and strategical considerations render a prompt movement in force on East Tennessee imperative. The object to be gained is to cut the communication between the Mississippi Valley and Eastern Virginia; to protect our Union friends in Tennessee and re-establish the Government of the Union in the eastern portion of that State. Of course Louisville must be defended but I think you will be able to do that while you move into Eastern Tennessee. If there are causes which render this course impossible we must submit to the necessity but I still feel sure that a movement on Knoxville is absolutely necessary if it is possible to effect it. Please write to me very fully.
Very truly yours,

25 NOVEMBER 1861: Many of them have been lying out in the woods
Camp Calvert, November 25, 1861.
Brigadier General GEORGE H. THOMAS, U. S. Army,
Commanding, Danville, Ky.
GENERAL: The rebel force at Cumberland Gap is from the best information I can obtain so small that I think we will meet with but little opposition in case it is determined to advance by that pass. Our desires are to get to East Tennessee as soon as possible in order that our loyal friends there may be relieved. Many of them have been lying out in the woods to escape their enemies but as the season advances they will be driven to their houses and be forced into the rebel ranks or carried to prison. Let us up and help them now when it will require so little to accomplish this desirable and necessary end.
I am, general, respectfully and truly, yours,
Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding.

27 NOVEMBER 1861: Fulfill the commitment made to the bridge burners
Brigadier General D. C. BUELL.
GENERAL: What is the reason for concentration of troops at Louisville? I urge movement at once on East Tennessee unless it is impossible. No letter from you for several days. Reply. I still trust to your judgment though urging my own views.
Major-General, Commanding.

MINI BIO: General Don Carlos Buell USA
West Point graduate General Don Carlos Buell succeeded General William Tecumseh Sherman at Louisville, Kentucky, as the commander of the Army of the Ohio on 15 November 1861. Although the Lincoln administration immediately began pressuring him to occupy East Tennessee, Buell dragged his feet. His excuse was that the bridges of the ET&VA railroad were still being rebuilt, and he would have to rely on wagons for supplies that would surely be attacked by Confederate cavalry. 
Buell led Union armies in two great Civil War battles—Shiloh and Perryville—and did not perform particularly well at either. The military and the Union citizenry greatly criticized him for his failure to pursue and defeat a much smaller Confederate force after the Battle of Perryville [8 October 1862]. His failure to invade and stabilize East Tennessee did not win him any laurels, either.
Prior to leaving Louisville on 1 October 1862, Buell had received orders from Washington relieving him of command, to be replaced by General George H. Thomas, his second in command. However, Thomas refused to accept the position while the army was in the middle of a campaign, and Buell remained in charge.
After the battle ended, President Lincoln urged an immediate pursuit of the Confederates. Buell told him that the route south of Perryville would entail traveling through East Tennessee where the rough, wooded country with few roads would be too difficult to maneuver through. Again refusing the President’s direct request to enter East Tennessee.
On 24 October 1862, Buell was relieved from command of the Army of the Ohio and replaced by Maj. Gen William Rosecrans. A military committee investigated Buell’s conduct during and after Perryville, but came to no conclusions, and Buell considered his reputation vindicated. He was ordered to Indianapolis to await future assignments, but none came. When General Ulysses S. Grant was appointed general-in-chief of the army in March 1864, he offered Buell a possible assignment but Buell refused to serve under either Sherman or George H. Thomas because he outranked both of them.

28 NOVEMBER 1861: At present they seem indisposed to fight …
HDQRS., Greeneville, East Tenn., November 28, 1861.
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen., Richmond.
SIR: I think that we have effected something—have done some good; but whenever a foreign force enters this country be it soon or late three-fourths of this people will rise in arms to join them. At present they seem indisposed to fight and the great difficulty is to reach them. Scattering in the mountain paths they can scarcely be caught; and as their arms are hidden when not in use, it is almost impossible to disarm the Cavalry, though a bad force for fighting them in case they would fight is yet the only force which can reach them. It is adequate too to disperse and capture them in their present state of morale. I am confident that a mounted regiment with two very light guns would do more to quiet this tier of counties than five times the number on foot. Twenty-two prisoners have been sent to Nashville from Carter County and we have now in confinement some five or six known to have been in arms and who will be sent to Tuscaloosa under the order of the War Department dated the 25th instant.
Very respectfully, general, your obedient servant,
D. LEADBETTER, Col., Provisional Army, C. S., Cmdg.

29 NOVEMBER 1861: Those who do not support the Government should remove from its limits
GEN. ORDERS, No. 4. HDQRS., Knoxville.
The Government of the Confederate States has not nor will it interfere with individuals on account of their political opinions. The President of the Confederate States issued a proclamation, stating that all those who did not fully recognize their allegiance to the Government should dispose of or remove from its limits, with their effects, before October 1861. Those persons who remained tacitly recognized the Government and are amenable to the laws. The commanding general at this post will endeavor to fully carry out the policy of the Government. While he will afford ample protection to all citizens who peaceably pursue their ordinary occupations, he will order the arrest of all who may take up arms against the Government or who in any manner may aid or abet its enemies or incite rebellion, in order that they may be tried by military law.
By order of Brig. Gen. W. H. Carroll, commanding post

The danger of punishment by Confederate authorities lasted for nearly two years.

29 NOVEMBER 1861: Keep up the hearts of the Tennesseans
WASHINGTON, Monday night.
Brigadier General D. C. BUELL, Louisville.
MY DEAR BUELL: Keep up the hearts of the Tennesseans. Make them feel that far from any intention of deserting them all will be done to sustain them. Be sure to maintain their ardor for it will avail you much in the future. I am not as a general rule at all disposed to scatter troops. I believe in attacks by concentrated masses but it seems to me with the little local knowledge I possess that you might attempt two movements—one on Eastern Tennessee say with 15,000 men, and a strong attack on Nashville as you propose with say 50,000 men.
I think we owe it to our Union friends in Eastern Tennessee to protect them at all hazards. First secure that; then if you possess the means carry Nashville.
In haste, truly, yours,

29 NOVEMBER 1861: I permitted to take the oath of allegiance
Knoxville, November 29, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond.
SIR: I am just in receipt of yours of 25th. Your instructions shall be strictly obeyed. I have not heretofore released any against whom there was proof that they had been engaged in any rebellious movements. It was only those who were arrested upon mere suspicion that I permitted to take the oath of allegiance. I telegraphed you to-day that Judge Humphreys had issued writs of habeas corpus in the cases of several prisoners who are beyond doubt guilty of burning the railroad bridges predicated as I understand upon the affidavits of Baxter and other lawyers. Your instructions are fully understood and I shall not allow any interference in their execution.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

29 NOVEMBER 1861: Arrest all who may take up arms against the Government
Knoxville, November 29, 1861.
The Government of the Confederate States has not nor will it interfere with individuals on account of their political opinions. The President of the Confederate States issued a proclamation stating that all those who did not fully recognize their allegiance to the Government should dispose of or remove from its limits with their effects before October 1861. Those persons who remained tacitly recognized the Government and are amenable to the laws.
The commanding general at this post will endeavor to fully carry out the policy of the Government. While he will afford ample protection to all citizens who peaceably pursue their ordinary occupations, he will order the arrest of all who may take up arms against the Government or who in any manner may aid or abet its enemies or incite rebellion in order that they may be tried by military law.
By order of Brig. General W. H. Carroll, commanding post
Acting Assistant Adjutant- General.

29 NOVEMBER 1861: Tories recently captured with arms in their hands against the Government
KNOXVILLE, November 29, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
General W. H. Carroll, commanding this post, has ordered a general court-martial for the trial by the military authorities of persons charged with burning the bridges in East Tennessee and of the tories who have been recently captured with arms in their hands against the Government. The question as to the jurisdiction of courts-martial in such cases has been raised in the court and it is insisted that the civil authorities have some jurisdiction of the persons in such offenses. Please instruct what course to pursue. A court martial will be much more effective in ferreting out the offenders. Please answer at as early a moment as possible as it is very desirable to put these matters through rapidly. Writs of habeas corpus have been and will be issued.
Colonel and President of Court.

30 NOVEMBER 1861: Let not one of these treacherous murderers escape.
RICHMOND, November 30, 1861.
Colonel R. F. LOONEY, Knoxville:
Courts of justice have no power to take prisoners of war out of the hands of the military nor to interfere with the disposal of such prisoners by the military. An answer to a writ of habeas corpus that the prisoner was captured in arms against the Government and is held as a prisoner of war is a good and complete answer to the writ. Send this dispatch to General Carroll and let him send at once all the prisoners to jail at Tuscaloosa as prisoners of war except those found guilty of bridge burning and murdering the guards placed at the bridges. Let not one of these treacherous murderers escape.
Secretary of War.

30 NOVEMBER 1861: The importance of dealing justly and generously with the Union element
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
MY DEAR SIR: The object of the interview which I sought on yesterday and which was so readily accorded to me by the President [Jefferson Davis] and yourself in reference to affairs in East Tennessee was to impress your minds with the importance of dealing justly and generously with the Union element of that section as the best means of securing their affections and loyalty to this [Confederate] Government. The causes which have induced such obstinate adhesion to the Federal Government on the part of so many were frankly stated in our conversation. Until they are made to feel that they will be recognized as citizens entitled to the same consideration and protection vouchsafed to those entertaining opposite views they will not yield a willing allegiance or active and efficient support to the Confederate Government.
Whilst the Government therefore with a steady purpose inflicts just punishment on actual offenders by due course of law it is essential that the Union men should be made to feel that they in common with the adherents of this Government are the object of solicitude on the part of this Government and that they will be protected against arrests for opinion merely and against lawless exactions and unauthorized impressment of their private property by the soldiery stationed among them. This can be most successfully done by placing the civil and military power of that department in the hands of discreet men with enlarged, liberal and just views who are capable of rising above the influence and demands of local combinations and cliques, with instructions to proceed at once and discharge such prisoners as are now held without sufficient cause (for in my opinion there are quite a number of this character) and to redress the wrongs of citizens whose property has been seized or improperly taken from them by the soldiery.
This policy will tend to repress violence and conciliate favor. By degrees their strong and deeply-seated hostility to this Government can be overcome. Followed by proper efforts they can be induced to volunteer for active service and so strongly committed and identified with the South as to render them useful and effective in achieving our independence and preventing the possibility of civil war in the event a Federal force should be able to force its way into East Tennessee. If there is no good reason of public policy to the contrary I would be pleased to carry back a passport for Brownlow to leave the country as well as a copy of the instructions under which the military and civil authorities are required to act, because it is believed that if the spirit of the Government as manifested by its executive officer was better understood by the people of East Tennessee it would exert a salutary influence and remove some of the apprehensions which are now driving them to desperation and to violence. It is my purpose to leave in the morning and with your permission I will call at 2 o’clock to learn your pleasure in the premises.
John Baxter is an attorney in Knoxville and a delegate to the East Tennessee Convention. He takes the Oath of Allegiance to the Confederacy in order to provide legal defense for Unionists who have been charged in Confederate courts. The letter above shows his loyalty to the Confederacy. Baxter defended several members of the bridge-burning conspiracy. By mid-1862, he once again supports the Union.

30 NOVEMBER 1861: Confederate Proclamation to the people of East Tennessee
HDQRS., Greeneville, East Tenn.
So long as the question of Union or disunion was debatable so long as you did well to debate it and vote on it, you had a clear right to vote for the Union but when secession was established by the voice of the people you did ill to distract the country by angry words and insurrectionary tumult. In doing this you commit the highest crime known to the laws. Out of the Southern Confederacy no people possess such elements of prosperity and happiness as those of East Tennessee. The Southern market which you have hitherto enjoyed only in competition with a host of eager Northern rivals will now be shared with a few States of the Confederacy equally fortunate politically and geographically. Every product of your agriculture and workshops will now find a prompt sale at high prices and so long as cotton grows on Confederate soil so long will the money which it brings flow from the South through all your channels of trade.
At this moment you might be at war with the United States or any foreign nation and yet not suffer a tenth part of the evils which pursue you in this domestic strife. No man’s life or property is safe, no woman or child can sleep in quiet. You are deluded by selfish demagogues who take care for their own personal safety. You are citizens of Tennessee and your State one of the Confederate States.
So long as you are up in arms against these States can you look for anything but the invasion of your homes and the wasting of your substance. This condition of things must be ended. The Government commands the peace and sends troops to enforce the order. I proclaim that every man who comes in promptly and delivers up his arms will be pardoned on taking the oath of allegiance. All men taken in arms against the Government will be transported to the military prison at Tuscaloosa and be confined there during the war.
Bridge-burners and destroyers of railroad tracks are excepted from among those pardonable.
D. LEADBETTER, Col., Cmdg.

30 NOVEMBER 1861: East Tennessee men take the oath
Twenty-one of the prisoners lately brought here—Nashville—from East Tennessee, yesterday appeared in the Confederate Court, acknowledged the error of their ways, took the oath of loyalty to the Southern Confederacy, and attached themselves to a company being raised in Nashville.
~ Nashville Daily Gazette

30 NOVEMBER 1861: Executed the same day by hanging
[Written 8 December 1861]
HDQRS., Greenville, Tenn.
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen.
SIR: At the date of my last letter [30 NOVEMBER 1861] a part of the force under my command was engaged in the pursuit of a party of insurgents moving from their camp, in the northern part of Greene, towards Cocke County. As usual, their force was dispersed and only some stragglers could be picked up. Among these prisoners were three who had been of the party that burned the Lick Creek Bridge.
They were Henry Fry, Jacob M. Hinshaw, and Hugh A. Self. All confessed their own and testified to the others’ guilt, and also gave, as correctly as they could remember, the names of the whole party engaged in that crime. Fry and Hinshaw were tried by drumhead court-martial on the 30th ultimo and executed the same day by hanging. I have thought it my duty to ask of the Department that the punishment of Hugh A. Self be commuted to imprisonment. He is only sixteen years old, not very intelligent, and was led away on that occasion by his father and elder brother, both of whom I learn have now been captured by Gen. Carroll’s troops. …
At the farm houses along the more open valleys no men were to be seen, and it is believed that nearly the whole male population of the country were lurking in the hills on account of disaffection of fear. The women in some cases were greatly alarmed, throwing themselves on the ground and wailing like savages. Indeed, the population is savage. …
The whole country is given to understand that this course will be pursued until quiet shall be restored to these distracted counties, and they can rely upon it that no prisoner will be pardoned so long as any Union men shall remain in arms. … It is believed that we are making progress towards pacification. The Union men are taking the oath in pretty large numbers and arms are beginning to be brought in. Capt. McClellan, of the Tennessee cavalry, stationed by me at Elizabethton, reports that Carter County is becoming very quiet, and that, with the aid of a company of infantry, he will enter Johnson County and disarm the people there. I shall send the company without delay.
The execution of the bridge burners is producing the happiest effect. This, coupled with great kindness towards the inhabitants generally, inclines them to quietude. Insurgents will continue for yet a while in the mountains, but I trust that we have secured the outward obedience of the people.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. LEADBETTER, Col., Cmdg.

Execution of Henry Fry and Jacob Madison Hinshaw
From Parson Brownlow’s book, Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession with a Narrative of Personal Adventures Among the Rebels

30 NOVEMBER 1861: Hanging of Fry and Hinshaw
Henry Fry and Jacob Madison Hinshaw are hanged from a tree near the railroad station at Greeneville on 30 November 1861 for the role they played in the burning of the Lick Creek Bridge. Fry’s 17-year-old son watches the execution. According to family lore, Henry Fry was told at the hanging that he would be spared if he would pledge allegiance to the Confederacy. His last words are said to have been: “When there ceases to be fleas in a hog pen and rebels in hell is when I will pledge allegiance to the Confederacy.”
Henry Fry left his wife and five children, and Jacob Madison Hinshaw left a wife and a young son less than two years old.

30 NOVEMBER 1861: Henry Fry and Jacob Madison Hinshaw
A correspondent of the Richmond Examiner writes from Greeneville, Tenn., the particulars of the hanging of two of the bridge-burners of East Tennessee by the Confederates:
The two culprits were not aware of their doom until a few moments before the hour, (4 o’clock p.m.) and, short as the time was, they busied themselves in speaking, on oath, their full confession of guilt before the court-martial. FRY confessed that he poured the turpentine on the bridge, and afterwards set fire to this combustible material; carried the sentinel off some half mile, and made him swear never to reveal the names of the offenders. They came in sight of the gallows—a temporary affair erected on the hill-side, in full view of the town—and a large oak limb was substituted as the cross-beam for this novel engine of death, and a shudder passed over them which was perceptible to all. They then knew that in a few moments they must die the death of a felon.
The whole battalion under arms was drawn up around the ground, and the ropes were adjusted by Corporal MCVAY, of our company. The caps were drawn over their pale faces, the ladder was taken from the tree; the stillness of death pervaded the whole throng; the minute-hand was within a few seconds of 4 o’clock; the watch still went tick, tick; their knees shook visibly; the whole frame was ready to give way to nature’s spirit. Hark, it is 4 o’clock! The trigger is touched, and lo! dangling at the rope’s end, between heaven and earth, are seen two strangling human beings! The struggles of one were short; the other seemed a little loath to give up the spirit from his tenement of clay, but in a few short moments they were both dead.

Fry and Hinshaw were hanged near the Greeneville Railroad Depot, seen here.
Dave Ross Photography


Henry Fry                      Hanged at Greeneville
Jacob M. Hinshaw        Hanged at Greeneville
C. A. ‘Alex’ Haun           Hanged at Knoxville
Jacob Harmon               Hanged at Knoxville
Henry Harmon              Hanged at Knoxville
Harrison Self                 Pardoned by Jeff. Davis
Hugh A. Self                  16 years old, imprisoned

2 DECEMBER 1861: Crittenden arrives at Knoxville to command in East Tennessee

MINI BIO: George B. Crittenden
George Crittenden’s father was a U.S. Senator from Kentucky. George attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1832 in the middle of his class. His father and brother sided with the North, but George’s loyalty lay with the South. During the secession crisis of early 1861, George accepted a commission as colonel in the Confederate States Army. Confederate officials commissioned him as a brigadier general in the Provisional Confederate Army on August 15, 1861. 
Crittenden accepted a promotion to major general on 9 November 1861 when he replaced Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer as commander of the District of East Tennessee, headquartered in Knoxville. Maj. Gen. George Crittenden arrived at Knoxville on 2 December 1861 to take command of the Confederate forces in East Tennessee and Southern Kentucky.
On 19 January 1862, USA Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas defeated Confederate forces under Crittenden and Zollicoffer at the Battle of Mill Springs, breaking the Confederate hold on eastern Kentucky. Zollicoffer was killed in action in that battle.
Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee had Crittenden arrested on 1 April 1862 on charges of drunkenness; he was restored to command on 18 April 1862. General Braxton Bragg ordered a court of inquiry in July, and busted Crittenden down to the rank of colonel in October 1862. To his credit, Crittenden served the Confederacy in the Trans-Allegheny Department during the next two years.

2 DECEMBER 1861: President of ET&VA protests disruption of his railroad’s schedule
MORRISTOWN, December 2, 1861.
J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
I must inform you that in several instances the military authorities who are in command of troops and volunteers along the line of our [rail]road have taken possession of our road and trains and forced our engines and cars out of the face of regular schedules. This I will not submit to. I have been doing all any man can do to promote the interests of the Government and favor the speedy transportation of troops and army stores along our line. If this course is persisted in by the military authorities any more, I shall on my part stop all of our engines and cars immediately, and then if the Government wishes to take possession of our road and control it, I shall not object in any way whatever. I think it is my duty to inform you of the facts. If we are permitted to manage and control our road, I think I can do so better than any other parties. Please answer.
President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.

3 DECEMBER 1861: I must still urge the occupation of East Tennessee
WASHINGTON, December 3, 1861.
Brigadier General D. C. BUELL, Louisville.
Please send then with the least possible delay troops enough to protect these men. I still feel sure that the best strategical move in this case will be that dictated by the simple feelings of humanity. We must preserve these noble fellows from harm; everything urges us to do that—faith, interest and loyalty. For the sake of these East Tennesseans who have taken part with us I would gladly sacrifice mere military advantages; they deserve our protection and at all hazards they must have it. I know that your nature is noble enough to forget any slurs they may cast upon you. Protect the true men and you have everything to look forward to. In no event allow them to be crushed out. You may fully rely on my full support in the movement I have so much at heart—the liberation of East Tennessee.
Write to me often fully and confidentially. If you gain and retain possession of East Tennessee you will have won brighter laurels than any I hope to gain.
With the utmost confidence and firmest friendship, I am, truly, yours,
Major-General, Commanding U. S. Army.

4 DECEMBER 1861: Lick Creek bridge repair
The Lick Creek bridge is so far repaired that it can be crossed by the cars to-morrow or Monday. The repairs have been made of a temporary trestle-work, which will answer every purpose. The upper Holston bridge is in progress of repair, but will not be ready for five or six weeks, we presume.
~ Richmond Dispatch.

Modern-day view of Lick Creek Bridge

4 DECEMBER 1861: Railroad officials threaten to cease railroad traffic in East Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, EAST TENN., Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN Secretary of War, Richmond
DEAR SIR: With great respect for you individually, and an earnest desire to serve the Confederate States to the extent of our ability with our lives and our property, we notify you that unless certain unbearable evils are at once corrected we shall cease to run any trains on the roads of which we are the presidents on and after the 15th instant. We are forced to this position from considerations entirely unavoidable on our part. The military, influenced by no more patriotism than ourselves, have for days past, and without the least necessity for so doing taken possession of the running of our trains, ordering them out in the face of incoming trains, thereby endangering the lives of all on board and hazarding the property of individuals and the company. Moreover, the Quartermaster-Gen. has assumed to dictate tariffs for Government freights at such ruinous rates as will in a short time break down every railroad company in the south. Without boring you with a detail of the multitude of good and sufficient reasons for the course we adopt, we will just say that while we are held responsible for the lives and property in our charge in the management of these roads, the movements of the trains and the control of the finances of the company are ordered by men incompetent, irresponsible, and reckless-maybe very good military men, but certainly very bad railroad managers. We are unwilling longer to assume such responsibilities or to sacrifice whatever reputation we may have by continuing identified with roads so controlled. For eight months now we have labored night and day (with the halter of the Lincolnites around our necks and our lives and property in jeopardy) as good, true, and loyal citizens for the Confederate States, and do not consider that we are any the less loyal now in placing these responsibilities in your hands. The burnt bridges are in a very forward state of rebuilding, and will give others you may send here to take our places but little trouble to complete. We also advise you to send here good engine runners and machinists. Our men cannot be kept here much longer in present condition of things, feeling that their lives are constantly in the hands of an inconsiderate and reckless soldiery.
Respectfully yours,
C. WALLACE, President East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad Company.
JNO. [JOHN] R. BRANNER, President East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Company.

4 DECEMBER 1861: Scott County Confederate prisoners-of-war
CAMP CALVERT, KY., December 4, 1861.
Brig. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS, Cmdg., &c., Lebanon, Ky.
GEN.: We have some rebels in camp from Scott County, East Tenn. They were brought in yesterday by some Tennesseans and Kentuckians. They have been noted for the bitterness of their enmity to the union cause and the unrelenting manner in which they have persecuted loyal men. Four of them are said to be members of a rebel company of rangers one of whom is a sergeant.
What shall be done with them?
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. P. CARTER, Acting Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.

5 DECEMBER 1861: Tories have made a stand.
KNOXVILLE, December 5, 1861.
The following dispatch received this morning dated from Bird’s Point: Capt. Cocke just in with two bridge burners and other prisoners. Have no news from Col. Leadbetter. Col. Powel reports by special messenger that he has seen no gathering. Will hold his position. Will throw my forces over the river in the morning and report.
Dispatch from Morristown says courier in from [Capt.] Monsarrat.
Cannonading and musketry at 8 o’clock. Tories have made a stand.
WM. H. Carroll,
Brig.-Gen., C. S. Army.

7 DECEMBER 1861: Captured thirty ringleaders
KNOXVILLE, December 7, 1861.
Capt. Monsarrat has dispersed the Tories in Cocke County and captured thirty of the ringleaders.
WM. H. Carroll, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.

7 DECEMBER 1861: Our people are pursued as beasts of the forest
WASHINGTON, December 7, 1861.
General D. C. BUELL:
We have just had interviews with the President and General McClellan and find they concur fully with us in respect to the East Tennessee expedition. Our people are oppressed and pursued as beasts of the forest. The Government must come to their relief. We are looking to you with anxious solicitude to move in that direction.

8 DECEMBER 1861: Rescuing our loyal friends
Honorable Mr. MAYNARD and Governor JOHNSON of Tennessee:
I have received your dispatch. I assure you I recognize no more imperative duty and crave no higher honor than that of rescuing our loyal friends in Tennessee whose sufferings and heroism I think I can appreciate. I have seen Colonel Carter and hope he is satisfied of this.
Brigadier-General, Commanding.
I hope you aren’t getting too sick of reading these messages to General Don Carlos Buell. I find it hard to believe the assurances he gave to his superiors and others—while he sat on his behind in Louisville.

8 DECEMBER 1861: I should be ashamed to look them in the face
WASHINGTON, December 8, 1861.
GENERAL: You are still farther from East Tennessee than when I left you nearly six weeks ago. There is shameful wrong somewhere; I have not yet satisfied myself where. That movement so far has been disgraceful to the country and to all concerned. I feel a sense of personal degradation from my own connection with it greater than from any other part of my public actions. My heart bleeds for these Tennessee troops. I learn they have not yet been paid and are left without either cavalry or artillery at London [Kentucky] and not permitted to do what is their daily longing—go to the relief of their friends at home. With Nelson and the measles and blue grass and nakedness and hunger and poverty and home-sickness the poor fellows have had a bitter experience since they left their homes to serve a Government which as yet has hardly given them a word of kindly recognition. The soldiers of all the other States have a home government to look after them. These have not and but for Carter who has been like a father to them they would have suffered still more severely. That they at times get discouraged and out of heart I do not wonder. My assurances to them have failed so often that I should be ashamed to look them in the face.
With renewed assurance of confidence and sympathy,
I am very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Pottertown Bridge Burners: Unionists Pay the Ultimate Price
When Tennessee left the Union in June 1861, Greene County was a hotbed of divided loyalties. Several Unionists, who crafted multi-colored earthenware pottery which is still highly valued, were among the occupants of the nearby community named “Pottertown.” That autumn, celebrated antebellum potter Christopher Alexander Haun conspired with other residents to cripple the Confederate-controlled rail system by burning railroad bridges. The Rev. William Blount Carter, a local minister and Unionist, devised the plan. President Abraham Lincoln approved and promised Federal forces would protect the bridge burners’ families.
Capt. David Fry, Co. F, 2nd Tennessee Infantry (U.S.) came from Kentucky with orders to burn the bridges. With his help, Carter finalized the plan to burn all major railroad bridges in East Tennessee in one night. On November 8, 1861, local Unionists arrived at the home of Jacob Harmon, Jr, another local potter, and were sworn into Fry’s command.
About sixty men then went to the Lick Creek railroad bridge, where they captured Confederate pickets. After burning the bridge, they released the Confederates, a decision they soon regretted. Although the president had promised military protection, Confederates later captured several men associated with the bridge burning and hanged Haun, Henry Fry, Jacob Harmon Jr., Henry Harmon and Matt Hinshaw. Confederate President Jefferson Davis commuted Harrison Self’s sentence.
The Harmons are buried here in the family cemetery. Haun’s pottery kiln stood a few hundred feet up Pottertown Road to the right, and the Bridge-Burner Memorial marker and flagpole are on the left.
“I am very glad to hear of the action of the military authorities and hope to hear they have hung every bridge-burner at the end of the burned bridge.” —Confederated Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin
Jar made by Christopher A. Haun —Courtesy Donahue Bible Collection, Mohawk, Tenn.
Capt. David Fry (left) and Sgt. John McCoy —Courtesy Donahue Bible Collection, Mohawk, Tenn.
“Execution of Jacob Harmon and His Son, Henry,” from Parson Brownlow’s Book (1862)
 Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
Marker is in Mosheim, Tennessee, in Greene County.
Marker can be reached from the intersection of Pottertown Road and Gravel Woods Road.

10 DECEMBER 1861: I have no fear of their being crushed
LOUISVILLE, KY., December 10, 1861
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,
Commanding U. S. Army.
MY DEAR FRIEND: As I informed you by telegraph I received your letters of the 3rd and 5th. I have by no means been unmindful of your wishes in regard to East Tennessee and I think I can both appreciate and unite in your sympathy for a people who have shown so much constancy. That constancy will still sustain them until the hour of deliverance. I have no fear of their being crushed. The allegiance of such people to hated rulers even if it could be enforced for the moment will only make them the more determined and ready to resist when the hour of rescue comes. The organization of the division at Lebanon has been with special reference to the object which you have so much at heart though fortunately it is one which suits any contingencies that can arise. I shall hasten its preparation with all the energy and industry I can bring to bear. The plans which I have in view embrace that fully.
Truly yours,

Captain David Fry, on the left

10 DECEMBER 1861: Hang every bridge burner you can catch
RICHMOND, December 10, 1861.
General W. H. CARROLL, Knoxville:
Execute the sentence of your court-martial on the bridge burners. The law does not require any approval by the President, but he entirely approves my order to hang every bridge-burner you can catch and convict.
Secretary of War

10 DECEMBER 1861: Alex Haun condemned to death in Knoxville
KNOXVILLE, December 10, 1861
The court-martial has sentenced C. A. [Christopher Alexander] Alex Haun, bridge-burner, to be hanged. Sentence approved. Ordered to be executed at 12 o’clock to-morrow.
WM. H. CARROLL, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.

11 DECEMBER 1861: Execution of a bridge burner in Knoxville
Bridge Burner [Alex Haun] to be Hanged.
One of the bridge-burners, convicted by the Court Marshal, now in session here, will be hanged today near Camp Sneed, on the railroad, just west of the Marble Works. Considerable curiosity was manifested by the public yesterday at the sight of the gallows which was being erected. A number of people visited the place in the afternoon, under the impression that the execution would take place yesterday.
~ Knoxville Register

11 DECEMBER 1861: Alex Haun executed by hanging
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
SIR: In pursuance of your instructions by telegraph of yesterday, the sentence of death pronounced by court-martial upon C. A. Haun, the bridge-burner, was executed by hanging at 12 o’clock to-day. The court-martial is still in session engaged in the trial of a number of others charged with complicity in the same crime. …
The traitorous conspiracy recently so extensive and formidable in East Tennessee is I think well nigh broken up as there is at present but little or no indication of another outbreak. I have small detachments of my force out in every direction suppressing any rebellious spirit that may be manifested and arresting those who are known to have been in arms against the Government. I am daily receiving the most encouraging evidences that the people are beginning to return to a sense of duty and patriotism as many of those who were heretofore unfriendly toward us are coming forward and giving every assurance of future fealty.
I have the honor to be, yours respectfully,
WM. H. CARROLL, Brig.-Gen.

11 DECEMBER 1861: Carroll declares martial law
Knoxville, Tenn., December 11, 1861.
The exigencies of the time requiring as is believed the adoption of the sternest measures of military policy the commanding general feels called upon to suspend for a time the functions of the civil tribunals. … Now therefore be it known that I, William H. Carroll, brigadier-general in the Confederate Army and commander of the post at Knoxville, do hereby proclaim martial law to exist in the city of Knoxville and the surrounding country to the distance of one mile from the corporate limits of said city.
By order of Brig. Gen. William H. Carroll:
H. C. YOUNG, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.

11 DECEMBER 1861: No honest man can endorse what these East Tennessee fools have done
Letter from John F. Hays to Mrs. Benj.
Cleveland, Tenn., Dec. 11, 1861
Dear Mrs. Benj:
My family are all well and getting along in the same old way. … Elizabeth sends her love to you and says she would like to see you very much. Since the [Confederate] Military Authority have taken charge of East Tennessee they have arrested a great many men, and from appearances are not near done yet. Day before yesterday about twenty left for Tuscaloosa, Ala., to be held as prisoners of war until peace is made … They had no trial, but were arrested as prisoners of war and taken off. They are liable to be exchanged for Southern prisoners in the North, but we can’t think such will be the [case].
I have been told several times that I do not believe I am to be arrested, because as I understand, nobody but such as burned the bridges, took up arms or encouraged the taking up of arms against the Confederate States are to be arrested, and make some false statement against me to the military commanders I shall not be lugged into this thing. I am innocent to any charges against me concerning this bridge burning rebellion. I have been a Union man, but not such as that, and no honest man can endorse what these East Tennessee fools have done. I am sorry for the ignorant who have been duped into it.
Give my respect to the Judge and all his family,
John F. Hayes
[I don’t know either of these people, but the letter is priceless.]

13 DECEMBER 1861: Predatory bands in Northeast Tennessee counties
Knoxville, Tenn., December 13, 1861.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
SIR: Your order to me of the 10th instant to join General Zollicoffer immediately with all my armed force reached me last night. I immediately set about making the necessary arrangements to carry the same into effect as indeed I had been doing for some days previous under instructions from General Zollicoffer himself. A portion if not all of my command would now have been on the march for General Zollicoffer’s present position but for the unsettled condition of affairs in East Tennessee … The indications of an extensive outbreak in East Tennessee at that time were so alarming that I deemed it unsafe to move my command through that country wholly unarmed. I therefore made application in every direction for guns of any description to serve me until my own should be ready for use. …
When I reached here I found a general feeling of alarm and uneasiness prevailing throughout the surrounding country. Information every day reached me from all points that recreant [cowardly] Tennesseans with a few miscreants [villains] from other States were organizing themselves into predatory bands in the counties of Blount, Sevier, Cocke, Hancock, Scott, Campbell and other counties bordering on the North Carolina and Kentucky line. I immediately sent out scouting parties of cavalry together with such small detachments of infantry as I could arm to protect and assist the loyal citizens of these counties in driving these base ingrates from their midst.
These various parties have succeeded in arresting many of the rebellious and disaffected and bringing them to this place for trial. Out of the number thus arrested I have sent and will send about 100 as prisoners of war to Tuscaloosa. I have for some days past been receiving information from sources entitled to much credit that a considerable force of the enemy were threatening a descent from the Kentucky border upon the counties of Campbell and Scott by way of a small pass in the mountains above Cumberland Gap.
I have the honor to be, yours, respectfully,

15 DECEMBER 1861: A Change of Sentiment in East Tennessee
A correspondent of the Knoxville Register, writing from Bradley County under date of the 11th inst. informs that paper that since the Message of Lincoln [?] has reached that county, Scarcely a Union man can be found—all declare themselves for the South. One or two hundred of them have joined the Southern army in the last forty eight hours. There is a much better feeling than has ever prevailed in the community before. The people say they have been misled by their leaders in regard to the policy of the Northern government. … Bradley county is going to furnish a regiment for the Confederate army. Dr. Thompson will go into the regiment, and many more prominent Union men … have declared themselves strongly for the South. Wm. Hancock, formerly a Union man, is now raising a company for the Bradley Regiment. The other companies in progress are Capt. W. H. Camp’s (a Southern Rights man.) Capt. Frank Triplett’s (late Union,) and Joe Perrine’s (late Union). Our correspondent’s account of the good work says the Register that is going on in Bradley will carry joy to every true Southern heart in the State. May we not hope to hear similar accounts from every county in East Tennessee. God grant that we may yet be a band of brothers in defense of rights against the encroachments of Northern despotism and abolition fanaticism.
~ Nashville Daily Gazette

17 DECEMBER 1861: Testimony of the Confederate Guards at Lick Creek Bridge Burning
ISAAC N. HACKER, corporal in Captain M. Live’s company cavalry, C. S. Army, aged about twenty-four years, a witness in behalf of the Confederate States was sworn and testified as follows:
On the night the Lick Creek bridge of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad was burned in the early part of November 1861, I with six others was detailed from Captain M. Live’s company as guard at said bridge. Between 2 and 3 o’clock whilst five of us were in a tent near the bridge we were surrounded by a band of from forty to sixty men armed the most part of them with guns who, we in the tents being almost wholly unarmed, took us prisoners. The band was led by a man who called himself [Colonel] Captain Fry.
After taking us prisoners they placed a guard around us in the tent and all but the guard went to the bridge and in less than five minutes the bridge was in flames. After the bridge was burned the band or a large part of them came to the tent, gave us of the guard our choice either to take an oath not to take up arms against the Government or to die right then and there, to be killed immediately. We took the oath. They took the names of the guards down. During the time Fry cursed and abused us of the guard; he said, “That night three months ago you men or men of your sentiments ran me from Greene County, but now I have you under my thumb and will do with you as I please.” He also said he had within the past week been all over the railroad from Chattanooga to Bristol, and that all the bridges between these places would be burned that night; that Jeff Davis and South Carolina had had possession of it long enough; that they were now going to take it and use it themselves.
They represented that they had a whole regiment besides cavalry near at hand. Some one of the crowd said the damned wire was done telling on them now. A telegraph wire runs along the line of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. Some one of attacking party asked, “Where is Henry Harmon’s gun.” Some one else of the party replied, “I’ve got it.”
JOHN W. McDANIELS, witness on behalf of the Confederate States, aged nineteen years, sworn and testified as follows:
On the evening preceding the night on which the Lick Creek bridge was burned I was pulling corn in a field. Jacob Harmon and Jonathan Morgan came to the side of the field next to the public road when Harmon said he wanted us to come to his house that night and bring our arms. I told him I had no arms. He said he wanted me to come anyhow. Said he had seen Colonel Fry from Kentucky and that they were to burn the bridge that night. I went to Jacob Harmon’s house that night in company with James McDaniels, Hugh A. Self, Andrew Self, Cannon Hann and Harrison McDaniels, all of whom are young men unmarried but Cannon Hann. We got to Harmon’s at about 9 o’clock, the time appointed by Harmon. I saw there on that night (in addition to those who went there with me as above stated), viz, Henderson Lady, John Lady, William Housewright, Jacob Myers, Jonathan Morgan, Harrison Self(the present defendant), Alex [Hann] Haun, Arthur Hann, Henry Wampler, Matt. Hincher, William Hincher (drinking), Thomas Harmon, Henry Harmon and Jacob Harmon. David Fry he was there when I got there. Defendant came there after I got there.
There were several present whose names I did not know. We staid till about 12 at night. David Fry administered an oath. I think he administered it to nearly all who were there. Oath was taken by putting hand on a U. S. flag; swore to support the Stars and Stripes and not to reveal anything of what was done that night and to do anything pressed upon us that night to do. Harrison Self, I think, was in the room when some of them took the oath. I think he himself took the oath. After the oath was administered to the party the party went to Lick Creek bridge, took the guard in tents prisoners and then they burned the bridge. Crowd then dispersed. Harrison Self went with the party from Harmon’s to the bridge. I saw him between the bridge and Harmon’s after the bridge was burned. Harmon I first referred to when I was in the field passed up toward the house of the defendant. I think Harrison Self’s gun was there that night. Do not remember to have seen it in his house.”
THOMAS HARMON [son of Jacob Harmon also testified], witness on behalf of the Confederate States, sworn and testified as follows:
On the day preceding the night on which the Lick Creek bridge was burned Daniel Smith came to my father’s house. My father was not present. Smith said that he had particular business with my father, Jacob Harmon. Said that Fry was to be there that night at my father’s and he was going to tear up the railroad. Said Fry wanted father to come over to his (Daniel Smith’s) house; the [rail]road was to be torn up that night. Father came back and I told him what Smith had said. Father went in the direction of Smith’s. Said he was going there. I was slightly acquainted with Daniel Smith; have seen him since in the jail in Knoxville.
That night at about 8 o’clock a crowd commenced assembling at my father’s house. There came the following persons, to wit, John McDaniels, Harrison Self (the defendant)—he came in late—Andrew Self, Hugh Self, James McDaniels, Cannon Hann, Arthur Hann, Matt. Hincher, Henry Fry, Jacob Myers, William Willoughby, Granville Willoughby, Lazarus Rednens, another Rednens whose Christian name I do not know, James Guthrie, Elijah Willoughby and several others who were strangers to me. Jonathan Morgan was there; my father was there.
ALEXANDER LOWE, first witness for defense, private in Captain Fry’s company, C. S. Army, who being first sworn testified as follows:
I resided on the defendant’s farm at the time the Lick Creek bridge was burned in Greene County, Tenn. Before the burning of the bridge on the evening previous to its being burned defendant said it was a bad thing to burn the bridge. On the evening before the burning of the bridge Jacob Harmon came by the field where I was pulling corn with John McDaniels and told us to come down to his house that night; that the bridge was to be burned that night. In the evening in question I went past the house of the defendant. Saw him; asked him if anything had been said to him about the bridge-burning; told him what had been told me. Defendant said he had heard about the same thing. Defendant said it was a bad thing. I asked defendant if he was going. Said he did not know whether he was going down to Harmon’s or not. He did not as I recollect say to me for me to stay at home and that he would go down to Harmon’s and prevent it.
Something was said about my wife being sick but nothing about his going down for the purpose of preventing it that I now recollect. Defendant lives about three or four miles from the bridge. He said he thought it was a bad thing. Don’t know that he said it ought or ought not to be done. I was not at his house. I passed on by. Saw him at the hog-pen. Went on home. Saw him about dark. Defendant has been strong Union man. Not been a fool about it. Never acted harshly or made any threats to my knowledge. Not hostile to soldiers of Confederate States. Sold them supplies once-some salt. Never heard of his refusing to sell supplies. He lives a little over one mile from Jacob Harmon’s. He said it was a bad thing. Those are the only words of condemnation of the bridge-burning that I recollect of his using. I was not giving the conversation particular attention. I did not think the thing would be done at all.
I have taken this testimony of the Confederate soldiers who guarded the Lick Creek Bridge from the court-martial of Harrison Self on 16 December 1861. It gives us a general idea of what happened that night.

17 DECEMBER 1861
Court-martial and execution of Jacob and Henry Harmon
In the autumn of 1861 Jacob Harmon Jr. and his son Henry joined their Unionist neighbors in a daring plan to stop the flow of Confederate soldiers and supplies through East Tennessee. They would accomplish this by burning the wooden trestles that held up the railroad bridges on the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad. On 7 November, Jacob Harmon visited neighbors who were Union supporters and asked for their assistance.
On the evening of 8 November 1861, dozens of men gathered at Harmon’s house, where they took an oath of secrecy. After midnight, they traveled to the edge of Harmon’s farm where the railroad bridge crossed Lick Creek. There they found several Confederate guards camping under the bridge and arrested them. After destroying the bridge, the Unionists released the guards.
The burning of the railway bridge caused great alarm among Confederate authorities; they sent more troops into East Tennessee to guard the railroad bridges. Hundreds of Unionists were arrested for the crime of treason for bridge burning or taking up arms against the Confederate government.
Col. W.B. Wood, in command at Knoxville, received these orders from CSA Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin: All such as can be identified as having been engaged in bridge burning are to be tried summarily by drumhead court-martial and executed on the spot by hanging. All such as have not been so engaged are to be treated as prisoners of war and sent with an armed guard to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and held in jail there until the end of the war. Such as come in voluntarily, take the oath of allegiance, and surrender their arms, are alone to be treated with leniency.”
War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Civil War has no entries for the trial of Jacob and Henry Harmon. We only know that they were tried, sentenced, and hanged on the same day, 17 December 1861. Jacob Harmon’s son Thomas died later in the Knoxville jail.

Execution of Jacob Harmon and his son Henry.

23 DECEMBER 1861: I fear that he has been captured by the rebels
Somerset, December 23, 1861
Brigadier General GORGE H. THOMAS,
Commanding First Division, Lebanon, Ky.
GENERAL: Captain [David] Fry, Company F, 2nd Regiment East Tennessee Volunteers, was detailed for special service in October last by your orders and left for Tennessee in company with my brother, Rev. W.B. Carter. I fear that he has been captured by the rebels, and if not that he is so environed by them as to leave but little hope of his being able to return to his regiment. …
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding Twelfth Brigade.

26 DECEMBER 1861: East Tennessee prisoners not considered safe in Tuscaloosa
RICHMOND, December 26, 1861.
General WITHERS, Mobile:
Have you the means of receiving and guarding in Mobile about 100 or 150 prisoners taken among the traitors of East Tennessee? They are not considered safe in Tuscaloosa.
Secretary of War.

28 DECEMBER 1861: Bring back to their families all innocent men
President DAVIS:
SIR: At the request of many of our most reliable friends in East Tennessee I have come to Richmond to lay before you a faithful account of East Tennessee matters. It is the opinion of the best informed and most reliable men in East Tennessee that all the Confederate troops now employed in guarding the railroads and suppressing rebellion in East Tennessee except … might be safely sent to other points where troops are really needed, and that if proper measures were immediately adopted to bring back to their families all innocent men who have been carried or frightened away from their homes it would restore peace and a sense of security to the people and put an end to all appearances of disloyalty to the Confederate Government in East Tennessee; and I believe that the wrongs they have suffered if properly explained and promptly relieved will afford an occasion for a striking display of the justice, wisdom and power of the Confederate Government which will do more to insure the fidelity of the people of East Tennessee than all the severity of punishment advised by the violent partisans of that section who have provoked the prejudices of the people against themselves and consequently against the Government of which they were supposed to be the true exponents.

29 DECEMBER 1861: Advisable to get arms and troops into East Tennessee at a very early day
Washington, D. C., December 29, 1861
Brigadier General D. C. BUELL, Louisville:
Johnson, Maynard, &c, are again becoming frantic and have President Lincoln’s sympathy excited. Political considerations would make it advisable to get the arms and troops into East Tennessee at a very early day; you are, however, the best judge. Can you tell me about when and in what force you will be in East Tennessee? Is Schoepf competent? Do you wish any promotions made from your colonels? Better get the East Tennessee arms and clothing into position for distribution as soon as possible. I will write you fully as soon as I am well enough. Please answer by telegraph.
Major-General, U. S. Army.

31 DECEMBER 1861: Mr. President, you are murdering your country by inches
On the last day of 1861, the president [Lincoln] held a meeting with his Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Ohio senator Benjamin Wade was blunt: “Mr. President, you are murdering your country by inches in consequence of the inactivity of the military and the want of a distinct policy in regard to slavery.”
That night, Attorney General Edward Bates wrote in his diary: “The Prest. is an excellent man, and in the main, wise; but he lacks will and purpose, and I greatly fear he has not the power to command.”
David Zax, “Frozen in Place: December 1861,” Smithsonian Magazine, published December 2011, accessed 14 July 2021,

“Civil War Harmon Executions,”, accessed 15 August 2021,
Matt Lakin, “Civil War history found in details,” Knox News Archives, posted 25 November 2008, accessed 15 August 2021,
“Execution of Jacob Harmon and His Son Henry,” Shades of Gray and Blue, Middle Tennessee State University Walker Library, accessed 15 August 2021,
“The importance of the Railroads in East Tennessee during the Civil War years of 1861-1862,” accessed 14 May 2021,
“Testimony about the burning of the Lick Creek Bridge,” The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Civil War, Serial 114 Page 0862-0864, accessed 15 August 2021,

Secession Crisis in Northeast Tennessee

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

A view of Knoxville in 1859
Knoxville looking southeast towards the Old Courthouse.
McClung Historical Collection.


20 JANUARY 1860: Is secession the answer?
The Rev. Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge writes an open letter to his relative—Vice President John C. Breckinridge—calling for moderation in resolving the differences between North and South. This is an excerpt:

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

~ Rev. Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge

William Brickly Stokes

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

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

~ William Brickly Stokes

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

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

20 DECEMBER 1860
Why can’t everyone live free?
When Abraham Lincoln, a known opponent of slavery, is elected president in November 1860, the South Carolina legislature call a state convention. On 20 December 1860 the delegates vote 169 to 0 to leave the United States of America. This is the culmination of decades of debate between the North and the South about slavery and extending slavery into new Federal territories.

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

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

~ William L. B. Lawrence Diary


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

Isham Harris, Governor of Tennessee


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

An introduction to Parson Brownlow
Pro-Union newspapers in Tennessee accuse Governor Harris of treason for suggesting a secession convention. William G. ‘Parson’ Brownlow, editor of the Knoxville Whig, attacks Harris almost daily in the pages of his newspaper.
As a minister in a previous life, Brownlow acquired the nickname ‘Parson.’
He became well known in the late 1830s and early 1840s as editor and publisher of the Knoxville Whig and several other short-lived newspapers.
Brownlow believes strongly in his principles and personally attacks his political opponents, sometimes to the point of bodily harm. He also staunchly opposes secession.
By 1861, the Knoxville Whig has 14,000 loyal subscribers, and some secessionists accuse Brownlow of being the root cause of the stubborn Unionist sentiment in East Tennessee.
Knoxville Democrats try to counter Brownlow’s editorials by supporting the Knoxville Register, East Tennessee’s dominant newspaper. Radical secessionist Jacob Austin Sperry edits the Register, but he flees when USA General Ambrose Burnside takes possession of Knoxville in September 1863.

Shall Tennessee submit?
In the House of Representatives yesterday, Mr. [William H.] Wisener of Bedford [County], presented a series of resolutions declaring against the policy of holding a State Convention, as proposed by Governor Harris …
We must confess that we were not prepared to expect such broad indications towards submission, from any member of the Tennessee Legislature. But for charity sake we take it for granted Mr. Wisener has not lately paid much attention to the political events of the day, and is especially ignorant as to what has been lately transpiring in Congress.
For we cannot see how any Southern man, who is at all familiar with the history of the times, can in his capacity as the Representative of a Southern constituency, in a Southern Legislature solemnly declare it inexpedient for the people of his State to hold a convention and determine whether they will resist or submit to the Abolition rule now about to be inaugurated [Abraham Lincoln]. … No event of the future can be put down as more certain than that Tennessee will resist … [Tennessee will resist the actions of the Federal government.]
~ Nashville Daily Gazette

On the 19th of January a bill was passed calling for an election to be held on the 9th of February to determine whether or not the convention should be held and to select the necessary delegates.

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

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

Map of the United States 1859-1860

From a letter written by W.W. Fergusson of Riddleton, Tennessee:
Yes, we are all for fighting. Everybody is willing—even the ladies. … I think there is enough patriotism & bravery in this state to sustain the Southern confederacy against the United States troops and all the Yankees who dare accompany them. … The South will never unite with the North again—never.”
~ January 24, 1861


We can never live in a Southern Confederacy and be made hewers of wood and drawers of water for a set of aristocrats, and over-bearing tyrants. We are candid in urging East Tennessee to withdraw from Middle and West Tennessee, if they shall be so reckless as to consent to go out of the Union.

The people of East Tennessee are with us in this, and will demand it, sooner than be oppressed with direct taxes and forced loans. We have no interests in common with the Cotton States. We are a grain-growing and stock-raising people, and we can conduct a cheap Government …

The vile and wicked leaders who have precipitated the revolution, will do none of the fighting, but will manage to hold civil and military offices, with large salaries, to pay for which, money will be wrung from the masses by a system of direct taxes. And these common people will themselves have to shoulder their knapsacks and muskets, and do the fighting.

~ Parson Brownlow, editor of the Knoxville Whig newspaper


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jefferson Davis inaugurated
Jefferson Davis is inaugurated President of the Southern Confederacy during a ceremony in Montgomery, Alabama. In his address he quotes from the U.S. Constitution and makes many references to armed conflict, primarily in regard to defense of Southern lands.

The U.S. House of Representatives passes a measure supported by President-elect Abraham Lincoln, which prohibits the federal government from interfering with slavery in states where it exists.

MARCH 1861

Lincoln’s inauguration
At his inauguration, the new president says he has no plans to end slavery in those states where it already exists. He also says that secession is illegal and he hopes to resolve the national crisis without warfare.

President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration in Washington DC, 4 March 1861

Confederate States adopt a Constitution
The Confederate States of America—at this time consisting of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas—adopt a Constitution. Most of those states do not submit the acceptance of the Constitution to a popular vote; in every state where secession has been submitted to a popular vote, it has been voted down. The Confederate Congress quickly passes a military bill establishing and organizing its army: 50,000 men will soon be ready to take the field.

Canvassing East Tennessee
Throughout the Spring of 1861, Parson Brownlow and other Unionist leaders—including Oliver Perry Temple, Thomas A. R. Nelson, and Horace Maynard—canvass Northeast Tennessee, giving speeches in support of the Union.

Parson Brownlow giving a speech for the Union.
Sevierville, Tennessee.

Thomas A. R. Nelson meets with President Abraham Lincoln.
U.S. Congressman from East Tennessee, Thomas A. R. Nelson, reports on a meeting with Lincoln: “[I] had it from his own lips … that he was for peace, and would use every exertion in his power to maintain it. … He expressed a strong hope that, after a little time is allowed for reflection, [the Confederate states] will secede from the position they have taken. … [I was] well pleased with the President’s frankness.”

APRIL 1861

Attack on Fort Sumter.
Before President Lincoln sends supplies to Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, he alerts the state of South Carolina, in an attempt to avoid hostilities. However, state authorities think it is a trick. The Confederates ask the commander of the fort, Major Robert Anderson, to surrender immediately.
Anderson offers to surrender, but only after he has exhausted his supplies. His offer is rejected. Just before sunrise on 12 April 1861, a Confederate shell explodes over Fort Sumter, the first shot fired in the American Civil War.

Fort Sumter Bombarded by Confederate artillery.
Lithograph by Currier and Ives.
Library of Congress.

President Lincoln calls for a 75,000-man militia.
Lincoln orders Tennessee Governor Isham Harris and governors of the other Southern states to furnish a total of 75,000 soldiers for the suppression of the rebellion. Lincoln’s declaration reads:

WHEREAS the laws of the United States have been, for some time past, and now are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by law.
Now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed.

Lincoln’s Confederates
After President Abraham Lincoln’s April 15 call for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion in the seceded states, public sentiment turned dramatically against the Union.
Unionists of all descriptions, both those who became Confederates and those who did not, consider the proclamation calling for seventy-five thousand troops disastrous.
Having consulted personally with Lincoln in March, Tennessee Congressman Horace Maynard, the unconditional Unionist, felt assured that the administration would pursue a peaceful policy.
Soon after April 15, a dismayed Maynard reports that the President’s extraordinary proclamation has unleashed a tornado of excitement that seems likely to sweep us all away.
Men who had heretofore been cool, firm and Union loving had become perfectly wild and were aroused to a frenzy of passion.
For what purpose, they asked, could such an army be wanted but to invade, overrun and subjugate the Southern states.
The growing war spirit in the North further convinced southerners that they would have to fight for their hearthstones and the security of home. 
~ Daniel W. Crofts, Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis (1989).

President Abraham Lincoln [His parents did not give him a middle name.]

U. S. Secretary of War Simon Cameron sends this message to the governors of unseceded states:
Sir: … I have the honor to request your Excellency to cause to be immediately detached from the militia of your state, the quota designated in the table below to serve as infantry or riflemen for three months, or sooner …
Your Excellency will please communicate to me the time about which your quota will be expected at its rendezvous, as it will be met as soon as possible by an officer or officers to muster it into the service and pay of the United States; at the same time the oath of fidelity to the United States will be administrated to every officer and man. …
The quota of each state is as follows:
1 regiment each:
Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Arkansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota.
2 regiments each:
Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
4 regiments each:
New Jersey, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri.
6 regiments each:
Illinois and Indiana.
13 regiments:
15 regiments:
17 regiments:
New York.

Governor Harris replies to President Lincoln’s request for Tennessee militia to support the Union:

Sir: Your dispatch of the 15th Inst. informing me that Tennessee is called upon for two Regiments of Militia for immediate service is received. Tennessee will not furnish a single man for purposes of coercion, but 50,000 if necessary for the defense of our rights and those of our southern brothers.
Isham G. Harris,
Governor of Tennessee

Unionists become Rebels
With the situation at Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s request for troops to put down the rebellion, many Northeast Tennessee Unionists change their minds and support the Confederacy. Many of those who had been staunch Unionists in February could not abide the use of force against fellow Southerners.

A letter to a newspaper editor from “Ladies of Memphis” vows:

Though we cannot bear arms, yet our hearts are with you, and our hands are at your service to make clothing, flags, or anything that a patriotic woman can do for the Southern men & Southern independence.


The war has begun. Argument has been exhausted. It is now man to man, and steel to steel. Let no true man talk of neutrality. Either he must support LINCOLN in his usurpation and war upon the South, or he must resist him with arms. The Southern man that declares himself neutral, when LINCOLN is invading the South and desecrating its soil with hostile tread, intends to betray the South, the Black Republican power. He that is not for us is against us. He that declares for neutrality now is our worst foe. In the language of PATRICK HENRY, “we must fight, I repeat it, sir, we must fight.

~ Nashville Union and American

Tennessee pro-secession representative sent to Montgomery, Alabama, to discuss the Volunteer State abandoning the Union.
Hon. L. P. WALKER:
SIR: My friend Hon. W. C. Whitthorne, whom you remember as the speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, visits Montgomery at my instance, for the purpose of conferring with President Davis and yourself. He is fully advised and will make known to you the state of parties in our State, as well as our prospects, hopes, and apprehensions. … and we confidently hope to stand with you under the Confederate flag very soon. …
Very respectfully,
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. II, p. 57.

The Richmond Dispatch reports on the rude treatment of Andrew Johnson by a large crowd in Lynchburg, Virginia, as he passes through on his way from Washington to Tennessee:
A large crowd assembled and groaned him [let out annoying moans at him], and offered every indignity he deserved, including pulling his nose. The conductor and others intervene, and Johnson is eventually able to continue on his way.

Harris addresses another special session of the state legislature.
He states that the Union has been destroyed by the “bloody and tyrannical policies of the Presidential usurper,” and calls for an end to the state’s ties to the United States. 

MAY 1861

Legislature authorizes Governor Harris to appoint commissioners to enter into an alliance with the Confederacy:
Joint Resolution of Tennessee General Assembly
Resolution of Tennessee General Assembly resolve to explore joining the Confederate States in a military league.
JOINT RESOLUTION to appoint commissioners from the State of Tennessee to confer with the authorities of the Confederate States in regard to entering into a military league. Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, That the Governor be, and he is hereby, authorized and requested to appoint three commissioners on the part of Tennessee to enter into a military league with the authorities of the Confederate States and with the authorities of such other slaveholding States as may wish to enter into it, having in view the protection and defense of the entire South against the war that is now being carried on against it.
Adopted May 1, 1861.
Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. II, pp. 83-84.

Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Thoughts on the secession crisis from the diary of Amanda McDowell.
Little though have I had that I should ever live to see civil war in this, our goodly land, but so it is!
The Southerners are so hot they can stand it no longer, and have already made the break.
There will be many a divided family in this once happy Union.
There are thousand who will rush into the fury with blind enthusiasm, never stopping to question whether it be right or wrong, who, if they only understood it properly, would stay at home with their families and let those who started it fight it out. …
But the ignorant mass are so easily excited than an enthusiast who can make mountains out of mole-hills and raise a bussie about nothing can so stir them up and excite that they will run headlong into almost anything that is proposed to them. …
Why Christian men who live here in peace and plenty with nothing to interrupt their happiness should prefer to leave their peaceful home and all the ties which bind them to their families …
and rush into a fight in which they cannot possibly gain anything and in which they may lose their lives, is more than I can see. …
I know they will not go into it until they are convinced that it is their duty, and when they are convinced that it is their duty to fight for their country,
… it becomes me not to interfere with them about it or grieve at their so doing, for I love my country … as well as any who live in it could love it.

Andrew Johnson threatened.
In a speech at Cleveland, TN, Andrew Johnson claims to be ready for a fight. He is threatened by members of the audience after telling them, among other things, that Jefferson Davis ought to be hanged.

The Great Seal of Tennessee

Dissolving relations between the State of Tennessee and the United States of America. 
First. We, the people of the State of Tennessee, waiving any expression of opinion as to the abstract doctrine of secession, but asserting the right, as a free and independent people, to alter, reform, or abolish our form of government in such manner as we think proper, do ordain and declare that all the laws and ordinances by which the State of Tennessee became a member of the Federal Union of the United States of America are hereby abrogated and annulled, and that all the rights, functions, and powers which by any of said laws and ordinances were conveyed to the Government of the United States, and to absolve ourselves from all the obligations, restraints, and duties incurred thereto; and do hereby henceforth become a free, sovereign, and independent State. 
Second. We furthermore declare and ordain that article 10, sections 1 and 2, of the constitution of the State of Tennessee, which requires members of the General Assembly and all officers, civil and military, to take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States be, and the same are hereby, abrogated and annulled, and all parts of the constitution of the State of Tennessee making citizenship of the United States a qualification for office and recognizing the Constitution of the United States as the supreme law of this State are in like manner abrogated and annulled. 
Third. We furthermore ordain and declare that all rights acquired and vested under the Constitution of the United States, or under any act of Congress passed in pursuance thereof, or under any laws of this State, and not incompatible with this ordinance, shall remain in force and have the same effect as if this ordinance had not been passed.
Sent to referendum 6 May 1861 by the legislature. 

Tennessee Commissioners enter into a Military League with the Confederacy, which is ratified by the Tennessee General Assembly.
Thereby, Tennessee becomes a part of the Confederate States of America—without the consent of the voters.

An Ordinance for the Adoption of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.

We, the people of Tennessee, solemnly impressed by the perils which surround us, do hereby adopt and ratify the Constitution of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, ordained and established at Montgomery, Alabama, on the eighth day of February, 1861 …

The governor soon begins recruiting soldiers for the Provisional Army of Tennessee, which will become the Army of Tennessee, CSA.

Tennessee has been taken out of the Union.
No voice of the people could have changed the result.
These events make little impression on the firm stand taken by a large majority of the people of Northeast Tennessee, except to strengthen their devotion to the Union.
Leaders of the Union element have not been idle. 
They are wise enough to see that they will not be able to stem the tide of secession and disloyalty … unless they should receive aid from the Federal Government, which is not probable at this time.
They openly defy what they conceive to be the unlawful procedure of the State Government.
Most prominent Union leaders of Northeast Tennessee:
Andrew Johnson
Thomas A. R. Nelson
William B. Carter
Connally F. Trigg
Nathaniel G. Taylor
Oliver P. Temple
R. R. Butler
William G. Brownlow
John Baxter
Andrew J. Fletcher

Home of R. R. Butler, aka Roderick R. Butler
In Mountain City, Northeast Tennessee
Union leader in Johnson County

East Tennesseans complain that the General Assembly does not represent the will of the people and threatens to secede from the state.

15 MAY
Secession Meeting at Elizabethton
A platform is erected in the southwest corner of the court house yard.
Thousands of people are present from Carter and adjoining counties.
When the speakers arrive they are driven through the town in carriages and welcomed with cheers.
Hon. Joseph B. Heiskell of Rogersville and Hon. William Cocke of Knoxville are billed to speak in support of secession.
A committee is appointed consisting of D. P. Wilcox and Daniel Stover [bridge burner] to ask these men to divide time with two Unionist citizens in the discussion.
They refuse at first, but being informed that no speeches would be allowed unless both sides of the question are represented, they agree.
Rev. Wm. B. Carter and Rev. N. G. Taylor are selected as champions of the Union cause, and accepted, though they had been given very short notice and had no time for preparation.
They meet in the Court House and in arranging the preliminaries one of the secessionists makes some reflection upon Mr. Carter’s color (he is said to have descended from the Indian chief Powhatan), and said he did not care to debate with him.
This insult is promptly resented by Carter in a scathing rebuke.

Carter County Court House, built 1852
Elizabethton, Northeast Tennessee

15 MAY
The Tennessee General Assembly passes a Military law;
which authorizes the Governor to call up 25,000 men into immediate service, with a reserve corps of 30,000, and to issue $5,000,000 in state bonds.
The Nashville Union says:

We understand that the Banks of the State will take all of the bonds … However, if we go into the Southern Confederacy, of which there is no doubt, the Confederate States assume and pay all the indebtedness of the war.

16 MAY
Tennessee is formally admitted into the Confederacy.
To justify their actions, the Tennessee General Assembly calls for another vote by the people on 8 June 1861.

20 MAY
The Memphis Military Board authorizes monthly subsistence payments to the families of volunteer soldiers.
This aid to suffering families will be sporadic and inconsistent.

22 MAY
Mrs. McEwin’s Old Glory
In Nashville, while secession banners wave from every other building, both public and private, one heroic lady (Mrs. McEwin) has placed the National Flag on her house, and says she will shoot whoever attempts to tear down the glorious old Stars and Stripes.
Let her name be engraved on the hearts of all loyal Americans.
~ Louisville Journal, May 22, 1861.

25 MAY
Congressman Thomas A. R. Nelson reports on a meeting with Lincoln:
I had it from his own lips … that he was for peace, and would use every exertion in his power to maintain it …
He expressed a strong hope that, after a little time is allowed for reflection, [the Confederate states] will secede from the position they have taken …
I was well pleased with the President’s frankness.
~ New York Times

27 MAY
Union supporters cheer anti-Confederate speeches.
At an assembly in Elizabethton, Northeast Tennessee, ardent Union supporters enthusiastically cheer anti-Confederate speeches by Senator Andrew Johnson and Congressman Thomas A. R. Nelson.
~ Louisville Journal

Congressman T. A. R. Nelson, President of the East Tennessee Convention.

30 MAY
East Tennessee Convention meets at Knoxville.
A large number of delegates, representing nearly every county in East Tennessee, meet at Temperance Hall in Knoxville and appoint a committee from each county to draft resolutions and report to the convention.
Resolutions of the East Tennessee Unionist Convention.
On May 30th the committee submitted the following report to the convention:
We, therefore, the delegates here assembled, … as we verily believe, the opinions and wishes of a large majority of the people of East Tennessee do resolve and declare:
That the evils which now afflict our beloved country in our opinion is the legitimate result of the ruinous and heretical doctrine of secession; that the people of East Tennessee have ever been, and we believe are still opposed to it by a very large majority.
That while the country is upon the threshold of a most ruinous and desolating civil war, it may with truth be said, and we protest before God that the people (so far as we can see) have done nothing to produce it.
That the people of Tennessee, when the question was submitted to them in February last, decided by an overwhelming majority that the relations of the State toward the Federal Government should not be changed; thereby expressing their preference for the Union and Constitution …
That in view of so decided an expression of the will of the people in whom “all power is inherent and, on whose authority, all free governments are founded,” and in the honest conviction that nothing has transpired since that time which should change that deliberate judgment of the people …
That the Legislative Assembly is but the creature of the constitution of the State and has no power to pass any law … believing as we do that in their recent legislation the Gen. Assembly have disregarded the rights of the people … and we invoke the people throughout the State to visit that … unconstitutional legislation with a decided rebuke by voting on the 8th day of next month against both the act of secession and of union with the Confederate States.
That the Legislature of the State … had no authority to enter into a military league with the Confederate States … and by so doing put the State of Tennessee in hostile array against the government of which it then was, and still is, a member. Such legislation … was an act of usurpation, and should be visited with the severest condemnation of the people.
That the forming of such military league … has afforded the pretext for raising, arming and equipping a large military force, the expense of which must be enormous, and will have to be paid by the people. …
That the General Assembly by passing a law authorizing the volunteers [soldiers] to vote wherever they may be on the day of the election … together with other acts, have exercised powers and stretched their authority to an extent not within their constitutional limits. …
That the government being instituted for the common benefit, the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.
That the position which the people of our sister State of Kentucky have assumed in this momentous crisis commands our highest admiration. Their interests are our interests. Their policy is the true policy, as we believe, of Tennessee and all the border States.
And in the spirit of freemen … we appeal to the people of Tennessee, while it is yet in their power, to come up in the majesty of their strength and restore Tennessee to her true position.
We shall await with the utmost anxiety the decision of the people of Tennessee on the 8th day of June, and sincerely trust that wiser councils will pervade the great fountain of freedom (the people).
For the promotion of the peace and harmony of the people of East Tennessee it is deemed expedient that this convention should again assemble, therefore,
Resolved, That when this convention adjourns, it adjourns to meet again at such time and place as the president … may determine and publish.
T. A. R. NELSON, President.
JNO. M. FLEMING, Secretary.
East Tennessee Convention
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 153-156.

JUNE 1861

Four Slave States Remain in the Union.
Despite their acceptance of slavery, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri did not join the Confederacy.


East Tennessee Secession Vote.
Map showing votes for or against the 1861 Ordinance of Secession in East Tennessee.
Counties shaded in maroon: Scott, Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Blount, Sevier, Carter, Hawkins, and Johnson in Northeast Tennessee—voted against secession by an 80% or greater margin; as did Morgan County.

Counties in red:
Knox, Hancock, Cocke, Jefferson, Greene, Washington, and Grainger counties in Northeast Tennessee—voted against secession by a margin falling between 51% and 79%.
Hamilton, McMinn, Roane, Bledsoe, and Marion Counties—voted against secession by a margin falling between 51% and 79%.
Counties in gray:
Sullivan County in Northeast Tennessee voted for secession; as did
Monroe, Polk, Meigs, Rhea, and Sequatchie Counties.
Counties in white:
Three of the five counties in white—Unicoi, Hamblen, and Loudon—were not established until after the American Civil War.
There is insufficient data to categorize results from two of the five counties in white—Union and Cumberland.
Public domain map courtesy of The General Libraries

The Tennessee Secession Vote
All Tennesseans vote in favor of secession—104,913 to 47,238.
East Tennessee votes against secession—32,923 to 14,780.

Tennessee secedes from the Union
Despite the great efforts of the Unionists, the state secedes, taking East Tennessee with them.

Brownlow aids Unionists
In the following weeks, Parson Brownlow uses his newspaper, the Knoxville Whig, to defend Unionists who are accused of treasonous acts by Confederate authorities.

Scott County secedes from Tennessee
This remote county is located on the Cumberland Plateau, part of the Appalachian Mountains. On 8 June, Scott County votes against secession—521 to 19 (96%). After the state joins the Confederacy, Scott County secedes from Tennessee.

Unionists and Secessionists continue to struggle
Tennessee’s secession does not end the struggle between Unionists and Secessionists.