8-18, Revolt of East Tennessee Unionists
The revolt of the Unionists in East Tennessee was a serious threat to Confederate authorities and citizens in that region. The following indicates the breadth of their concern as well as their heightened sense of awareness and even paranoia:
KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861. Adjutant-Gen. 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.
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, one on the East Tennessee and Georgia road an two on the Western and Atlantic 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 to-day we suppose to attack London 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. Powel'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 fro 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. 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.
OR, Ser. II, Vol. 1, pp. 840-841.
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 [sic], 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?
R O. L. OWEN,
President Virginia and Tennessee Railroad.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. I, Vol. 4, pp. 235-236.
JACKSBOROUGH, November 12, 1861.
Gen. S. Cooper:
Col. Wood, Knoxville, writes that 500 tories [sic] threaten movement on Strawberry Plains, and 1,500 from Hamilton County moving towards Loudon Bridge. Col. Churchwell, Cumberland Gap, has information indicating a strong force along from 6 miles beyond Barboursville to Rockcastle Camp, fortifying as they advance. I will have the pass blocked in two days. Gen. Carroll has one armed regiment, but has not forwarded it. Please cause Churchwell's requisition of 22d October for ammunition and implements for three 8-inch howitzers to be filled and expressed to him.
F. K. ZOLLICOFFER, Brig.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 4, p. 241.