Wednesday, May 1, 2013

5/1/2013 TCWN

1, The Ascendancy of Fear and Apprehension in Memphis, Jackson and West Tennessee

A Reign of Terror on the Mississippi.

The Cairo correspondent of the Chicago Post furnishes some late news from the Southern Mississippi:

"During my sojourn here, I have taken taken [sic] much pains to ascertain as nearly as possible the true state of affairs along the river between here and Memphis.-It is a reign of terror, scarcely equaled by anything in history. Union men are no longer safe there, and are fleeing the North for their lives. Every boat that arrives or passes here brings more or less of these fugitives from anarchy. I have just returned from an interview with a lady who arrived from Jackson, Tennessee, this morning. Being suspected of loyalty to the government, her husband was waited upon by the 'vigilance committee' and warned of the necessity of his enlisting in the motley army of Jeff. Davis. He resolved to fly, and with all diligence put his family on board the train for Columbus, KY. The mob heard of it, and with knives and revolvers pursued him, searching through the cars to kill him. By the aid of the baggage master he succeeded in escaping to the woods and made his way on foot through swamps and bayous to Columbus where he rejoined his wife. The lady herself narrowly escaped violence at the hands of the ruffians, who threatened to take out of the cars and hold her as hostage for the reappearance of her husband. The officers of the road did all in their power to protect her. In Jackson, this lady says, there are a large number of loyal citizens, but they are overawed by the drunken rabble, and dare not utter their real sentiments. The best citizens of the place held a meeting and protested the unlawful and outrageous proceedings of the 'vigilance committee,' but their voices were powerless against men inflamed with bad passion and bad liquor.

A very intelligent and respectable gentleman-one of a considerable number who have recently fled from Memphis-is also here, waiting intelligence from his friend, who has gone to Chicago to see if it will be safe for southern men there, and also if there is a chance to do anything. Though gentlemen in good circumstances, they have fled, leaving everything. The gentleman I mention succeeded in getting away  the greater part of his furniture, a horse, and about $500 of his library. Said he, "when I arrived here and saw the flag waving, I felt like shouting-I felt that I was again in a land of liberty!"

It is the impression at Memphis, and all along the river below this point, that the troops concentrated here are to march southward. A few days since a committee of citizens from Memphis, representing themselves as Union men in sentiment came up here to inquire of the commanding officer if it would be available for them to remove their families from that city to a point of safety from attack. Of course they obtained no information of the intentions of the government, but were advised to go home and attend to their business like good and loyal citizens.

Throughout Western Tennessee and Kentucky, and on the river border of southern Missouri, the excitement is beyond description. But it is the excitement, the very desperation of despair.-There is much braggadocio on the part of many leaders, some of whom talk of coming up to Cairo, cutting the troops here and feeding them to the cat-fish! They have very few arms and still less ammunition; as for artillery, they have none any account. Union men from Memphis assure me that the N. Y. Seventh Regiment alone might start from Cairo and march straight to the city of New Orleans without difficulty from any opposition that would at present be brought against them. Throughout Tennessee they are comparatively destitute of arms of every kind. Memphis has borrowed 3000 carbines from the State of Louisiana, which were delivered by the Aleck Scott day before yesterday, and which are about all the arms they have. Men are mustering into the service to defend that city against the anticipated attack from 1,500 soldiers here. Seven miles above Memphis, Gen. Pillow is erecting a battery from the same purpose. All between the ages of 16 and 65 are eligible for service, and every man suspected of loyalty to the Union is notified to enlist, in default of which he is hunted down by the drunken ruffians and bands of "vigilance committees." Business is wholly suspended and the shops are mostly closed.-And to complete the picture of this reign of terror, low mutterings are heard among the slaves, sending fear and trembling to the stoutest hearts. The rural districts around Memphis, the women are organizing and drilling in military science, to protect their homes and little ones from the terrible doom which threatens from these "hordes of black barbarians."[1]

Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, May l, 1861.




1, Purloined pistols; juvenile larceny in Memphis

Juvenile Villainy.—In consequence of information received at the Station House last night, officers Brannan and O'Ryan, entered on a search for a quantity of army pistols which had been stolen from the landing, in the north part of the city, hidden away in trunks under beds and other hiding places in various houses. Yesterday, a pistol, sabre, knapsack, belt and cartridge box, were found in another part of the city, there is yet more of similar articles not yet found. These had all been stolen by little fellows, some of them not more than four or five years of age. A little girl was likewise arrested who was concerned in the robberies. These little thieves lie down by any box, trunk, sack or cask in which they find a hole; this they enlarge, if necessary, and then steal as much as they can to escape undetected. We have no means of dealing with these young thieves, who will grow up to be a curse to the community which has suffered their minds to remain uncultivated, and their morals to be depraved. There is a manifest defect in our practical judicial system, by which the parent and guardians of such, who are the real criminals, pass unpunished.

Memphis Daily Appeal, May 1 1862.




1, A Wisconsin soldier's description of Murfreesboro

Murfreesboro Tenn.

May 1st 1863

Dear friend,

You wished me to give you a brief description of Murfreesboro. From its present dilapidated appearance it is rather hard to say what it looked like in times of peace. But so far as I can judge it was quite a pleasant town of probably two thousand inhabitants. I can see no evidence of its having been much of a business place, as the only machinery in town is that pertaining to a cheap grist mill. It seems to have been quite a place for schools, and a healthy pleasant place to live. It being the county-seat of Rutherford County, added something to its importance. I think its people regarded themselves as belonging to the very elect-that is they were very aristocratic, and the fact that the most of them fled to the southward upon our arrival, leads me to conclude that their sympathies were strongly in that direction. But now the town is torn from center to circumference. Fences have entirely disappeared and many houses have been torn down. Fine shade trees have been laid low, and the once beautiful lawns have been trodden into quagmire. Thus we see the havoc of war.

J. M. Randall

The James M. Randall Diary[2]




1, 1864, 'Those girls never had been able to get into respectable society, and they imagined they could now make an entrée with an armed force…." Social gossip in McMinnville

….The 19th Michigan left….The streets of Mc [sic] are said to have presented a sorry sight the morning they left. The Union feminine element which had so frantically thrown itself entirely away into Abraham's bosom, was dissolved, melted, and steeped in briny tears,-and while it took its long-lingering farewell of the shoulder straps, the darkey [sic] feminine element in the streets hung like clouds about the necks and brows of "uncle sam's boys" [sic] in the ranks and made the melodious with their lamentations. The hard-beat of rebellion looked on unmoved by all this panorama of despair. The feminine "secesh" element was centred [sic] upon finding out how the "union element" conducted itself at Bersheba [sic]. The Col. would say but little – indeed there was but little need since they, themselves had trumpeted their own doings as soon as they returned. It seems they were much "cut" [sic] by not being invited to Mrs. A's [sic] and made a good deal of "to-do" over it – tho' [sic] some did aver that they cared nothing for the attentions of Mrs. A. or Miss Franklin' they only wanted the use of their parlor and piano, to entertain their beaux! One of the rebel sisters remarked that "Those girls never had been able to get into respectable society, and they imagined they could not make an entrée with an armed force, but they were mistaken." It seems that the Yankee beaux tried first to get the rebel ladies to accompany them but when they politely declined – the Union feminine were taken as a "dernier resort!" [sic] Funny doings. It is funny to see the "loyalty" neglected when there is a ghost of a chance to catch a "rebel" smile – but so it is, and all natural enough I suppose too. Yankee officers are men (in a measure,) and men in whatever degree that they may exist will always run themselves to death to obtain "whatsoever they can't git [sic]…."

War Journal of Lucy Virginia French.



1, Joint Resolution Number XXXIV, placing a $5,000 reward for Ex-Governor Isham G. Harris

Whereas, Treason is the highest crime known to the laws of the land, and no one man is presumed to understand the true meaning of the term better than Governors of States, and certainly no one should be held to more strict accounts for the commission of the crime of treason; and whereas, the State of Tennessee before the rebellion enjoyed a high social, moral and political position and bore the well-earned reputation of the Volunteer State; and whereas, by the treason of one Isham G. Harris, Ex-Governor of Tennessee, the State has lost millions of dollars and thousands of her young men, who have been killed in battle and died of diseases, while thousands of middle aged and old men have been murdered or imprisoned, and defenseless women and children driven from the State, heartbroken and penniless; and, whereas, the voters of Tennessee did, in the month of February, 1861, by a majority of sixty thousand, repudiate treason and rebellion, but the aforesaid Isham G. Harris, well knowing the true sentiment of the people on treason and rebellion, and entirely disregarding the overwhelming expression of popular sentiment, did use his position as Governor of the State to precipitate it in rebellion and hostility to the government of the United States; and, whereas, by such acts he is guilty of treason, perjury and theft, and is responsible to a great extent for the misery and death of thousands of the citizens of the State, and the devastation of the same from east to west, and from north to south-the cries of the wounded an dying, the wail of the widow, and weeping of the orphan, are wafted on every breeze, imploring a just retribution on the instigators of this rebellion; be it therefore

Resolved, By the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, that the Governor of the State is hereby authorized and instructed to offer a reward of five thousand dollars for the apprehension and delivery of the said Isham G. Harris, to the civil authorities of the State. He shall fully describe said fugitive from justice....

Signed, WGB, May 1, 1865

Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, Vol. 5, p. 439.[3]




[1] The dichotomy about slaves indicates the presence of cognitive dissonance on the part of Southerners who insisted slaves were child-like, happy and content on one hand, and on the other a menace waiting to explode forth and rape all white women and slaughter all whites. Nat Turner's revolt (1831) and the Haitian Revolution of the 1790s were no doubt the examples they feared.

[3] See also: Brownlow's Whig and Independent Journal and Rebel Ventilator, May 10, 1865.

James B. Jones, Jr.

Public Historian

Tennessee Historical Commission

2941 Lebanon Road

Nashville, TN  37214

(615)-532-1550  x115

(615)-532-1549  FAX


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