5, 1861 - Large Unionist meeting disrupted by weapons' fire from Confederate soldiers at Strawberry Plains
Cowardly and Inhuman Conduct
AN ASSEMBLY OF LADIES AND GENTLEMEN FIRED INTO BY SECESSION TROOPS
We find in the Knoxville (Tenn.) Whig., of Tuesday June 11th], the particulars of a most wanton and unprovoked assault by Southern troops upon a meeting of Unionists at Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. The Whig says:-
We have never witnessed such a scene as we beheld on Wednesday, the 5th instant, at Strawberry Plains, and we hope never to see the like again. The procession of Union men on horseback, about four deep, was half a mile long, variously estimated to contain from eight to twelve hundred men. At the head of each division the Stars and Stripes were floating to the number of six banners. Marching by the Plains, and passing the depot, there was a train of cars having on board some Alabama troops, who, strange to say, remained there with steam up for three hours.
After our procession had passed into the gap of Mr. Meek's enclosure, leading into his grove, where the stand and seats were erected, and where a much larger assemblage, among whom were several hundred ladies and children, were seated awaiting the arrival of the procession at the head of which were Messrs, Maynard, Temple and Fleming, who were to address the meeting, the train started towards us at a very slow rate. Speaking had not yet commenced, though Col. Thornburg was up making some preliminary remarks, as the remnant of the vast crowd were coming in and crowding around the stand. At the suggestion of Mr. Meek, and old man who had served in the war of 1812, and who owned the premises, the few scattering persons still at the gap were urged to come in, and did so, quietly, disturbing no one.
But here we will let Mr. Meek tell the tale just as it happened:-
At the request of Dr. Brownlow and other gentlemen, I walked from the stand down to the railroad, to hurry up our Union men, and urge them not to say or do anything to the train then slowly coming by. One man came within the [line missing from text] closure, quietly, and I was about twenty feet from the fence, inside of my field, the railroad and wagon road passing along close to the fence. There were two men in uniform on the top of one of the cars, each had a revolver in his hand, one of them a stone, which he threw at me with great force and precision, and I barely dodged it. This was followed up by one of them deliberately firing at me. One of them knew me, for he had previously come to the house and asked for water to fill his canteen, which I assisted him in filling, treating him as politely as I know how. This was the commencement of the firing, and it was without provocation whatever. A.K. Meek, Sr.
This was the greatest outrage we have ever witnessed. Why did this train remain for three hours with steam up? And why did the train start as soon as our crowd had assembled around the stand, and move slowly by our meeting, commencing a fire upon us, without any provocation whatever? It looks like a premeditated attack.
The bullets actually whistled over the heads of our crowd around the stand, cutting off leaves and sprigs, to the consternation of the ladies and men. The fire was returned by the Union men, who fired some thirty to forty rifles, besides revolvers, into the cars, but with what effect we have not learned, as the train passed on without halting.
But a wild and terrific scene occurred instantly, by the rush of one thousand men, insulted and infuriated, upon the track, with threats to tear up the track, and to burn the bridge over the Holston. Col. Thornbery, Temple,Dr. Mynatt, Mr. Meek himself, and the editor of this paper, all repaired to the tract, made short appeals to the crowd, and implored them not to disturb the road. With difficulty they were quieted. We are now satisfied that the people can't longer be held off these railroads and bridges.
If they continue to bring men armed and infuriated into the country, stop them in our towns, and along the line of the roads, to fire into crowds of women and children, the people will rise up in their might and demolish the roads. Indeed, we now have but little hope that civil war will be averted. Threats are making as to what will be done with Union leaders after the 8th of June. The people are exasperated, and they will fight to the death, and no leaders we have can restrain them, they ought to do so, which we think is questionable.
The following was presented by Col. Thornburg and adopted without a dissenting voice:-
We, a large portion of the people of the county of Jefferson, Knox and Sevier, (men, women and children,) who have assembled to-day at Strawberry Plains, to the number of from 3000 to 5000, to consult together for our common good, having been wantonly and without provocation, assaulted during our peaceful deliberations, by a missile thrown and a shot fired from the train of cars in very slow motion by certain troops in the service of so-called Confederate States, do hereby unanimously declare to the world, that while we have ever been and still are ready to comply with every Constitutional obligation of the citizen, we can never be driven or coerced into abject and unmanly submission, and we hereby pledge to each other, our lives, our property, and our sacred honor, in the common defence of ourselves, our firesides, our wives, and our children, from any assault, no matter from what quarter it may come.
2d. That we heartily approve the determined spirit manifested by the East Tennessee Union Convention, held at Knoxville, on the 30th and 31st May, 1861, and we hereby pledge ourselves to the Union men of East Tennessee, that we will cooperate with them in whatever policy they may adopt-their course shall be our course, and their destiny our destiny.
Philadelphia Inquirer, June 13, 1861
6, 1862 - "We are completely defenseless. We have not a piece of ordnance. We are without small arms, and destitute of ammunition." Editorial justifying secession in Memphis on the day of its occupation by Federal forces
Memphis—Her Position, Sacrifices and Duty.
The course of the war has probably brought us to a crisis in our fate, so far as the present is concerned; but can the sad events apprehended by us be laid at our own doors, through selfishness or imbecility? Have we not discharged our whole duty to the cause to which we pledged our faith? In response to those self-questionings of every patriotic man, let us review our course, and determine our duty for the present and the future.
Located midway on the great highway of the Central Valley, whose trade met by consent of all regions upon her Levee for mutual exchange and benefit, Memphis knew no North and no South; she was allied by interest and commercial and social relations equally with both sections; she was national, in all her interests and impulses. No community felt a deeper pride in the common legacy of the historical glories of the old Union, or rejoiced so sincerely in the wonderful material prosperity of all sections of the country, of whose prosperous commerce she was a favored and happy foster child. Therefore, when the first threatening mutterings of this terrible political tempest were heard, and she saw portentous and lurid clouds of war gathering, she attempted to allay the fury of the elements. She counsel [sic] ed peace and lifted her voice in February, 1861, loudly and distinctly for the Union. She had faith in the conservatism and loyalty to the Constitution, of the Democratic masses of the North, through whose aid, it was hoped, the mad fanatics in the ascendant for the hour might be arrested and controlled in their career. In this belief she trusted, till the usurper and his reckless counsellors [sic], casting aside all restraints of the Constitution and laws, summoned by an imperial edict all the masses of his Northern partisans, to rally for the conquest and subjugation of the sovereign States of the South. When she saw the Northern Democracy cower before the Republican clamors, and the chief leaders yield to the embraces of the tyrant; perceiving she had been deluded and deceived by her own hopes, our city, rending every tie of interest, and of social and commercial alliances, with one loud, unanimous acclaim, pledged herself to resist to the last the power of the oppressor.
Has she redeemed her pledges?
Making no vainglorious boasts of loyalty and patriotism, she has listened in silence to the upbraidings of enemies and the reproofs of enemies and the reproofs of friends for her apparent indifference and apathy, satisfied that when the records of the sacrifices and labors in the struggle were fully made up, her page in its history will contain not a line to cause her to blush, and not one which her children would, by the clear light of the future, read without exultation and pride.
Notwithstanding the villainous slanders that have been propagated in every form through the Northern press, with apparent special malignity against this city, every resident can testify that no man has suffered here in person or property for his opinions; no mob violence, even for a moment, has disturbed our streets; in all the exciting and exasperating events through which we have passed, the disloyal have been permitted with their effects to remain undisturbed. Happily there is not one act, in all the ebullition of popular feeling, of illegal personal oppression, for us, in calmer moments, to regret, or to excite vengeance in our enemies.
By the census of 1860, Memphis and suburbs had a population of less than 35,000—at the beginning of hostilities her loyal population remaining, was not more than 30,000. She has sent into the field, beside her home legion, seventy-two companies—about 7000 men—comprising the spirit of her youth, the flower of her manhood [sic], the sterling worth of her professional, commercial and industrial character, and imbracing [sic] nearly one fourth of her entire population. She has not only given physical strength, her best blood, and her intellectual power and riches to the cause, but she has poured out her financial means without stint. These seven thousand citizens have been abundantly and liberally fitted for the campaign at their own cost, or by the aid of their fellow-citizens, with little expense to the government. Among them are several corps of cavalry, mounted and equipped at great expense. After equipping the husbands and sons for the field, our citizens have provided abundantly a comfortable support for the family of every soldier in the field. They have had access to a free market, where all their wants have been generously supplied without price. Not only have their past and present wants been supplied, but in prospect of coming events, their necessities for the four approaching months have been provided for.
Beside what Memphis has done for her own soldiers, she has been the rendezvous for the forces from the States west and south of us. In their passage they have been fed, clothed, entertained and nursed here. Our city has been the principal hospital depot of all the Confederate armies operating west of the Alleghanies [sic]. We have had our ardent sympathies kept upon the stretch by daily and hourly witnessing the heroic sufferings and deaths of the martyrs in our cause. The most selfish and heartless people could not withstand such eloquent and heart moving appeals to their generosity and aid. To these hospitals, the most spacious structures in the city have been devoted, almost rent free. They have been sustained in a good degree by the free will contributions of our citizens; and what has been a greater and holier sacrifice than money giving, and what has been far more precious and acceptable to the suffering recipients than all the luxuries money can procure, was the angelic ministering of our noble women to the wounded and sick. They have stood by the couch of the helpless soldiers, by day and night, doing all that mothers and sisters could have done to soothe the spirits and allay the pains of the sick and dying strangers. A character for active benevolence that a few years ago awakened the admiration and plaudits of the world, have been illustrated in hundreds of fair forms moving unpretendingly through our streets to the military abodes of suffering and death. Florence Nightingales have for months past shed the gentle and animating influences of their presence through every ward of our hospitals, imparting blessings as holy and sweet as the whisperings of approving angels to the dying.
We have not only given to the cause the spirit of our youth, the strength of our manhood, and clothed and fitted them for the war, and supported and nursed the sick and dying of a large portion of the army, but we have at last opened our stores, warehouses and workshops, and given up to the government, almost without price or pay, all that it demanded. Without a murmur we have yielded for its use all that we had, not only to supply its present need, but also the future, in food, clothing, medicines, machinery and munitions. It has stripped us of all we possessed that it needed. All has been resigned without complaint.
But now comes the most painful sacrifice of all. Having parted with our last gun, cartridge and shot, without a single weapon of defense, we are in all probability about to be yielded defenseless to the tender dealings of an invading foe. The exigencies of the common cause demand that we be given up for the good of the whole. Bitter and humiliating as the fate may be, let us remember it is still a sacrifice for the common weal—that what we yield here will be reconquered at other points, perhaps ten fold.
If any think Memphis is not patriotic, let them point to the communities, in proportion to number and wealth, that have done more, or borne their sacrifices more cheerfully and uncomplainingly. If all the people of our infant Republic have done as well, the history of this struggle, when written, will present proof of as lofty patriotism and moral heroism as were ever displayed by any people who have drawn the sword for the acquisition or defense of civil and political liberty.
Having done our whole duty and made the last sacrifice in our power to offer, let us await coming events with composure and dignity. We are completely defenseless. We have not a piece of ordnance. We are without small arms, and destitute of ammunition. Any futile attempt to oppose or annoy the invader will but display our utter helplessness, and only incite aggression and insult. Equally unwise will be any popular manifestations of impotent hatred and malice—it will only incite retaliation, and bring down vengeance and abuse, from an unbridled soldiery, upon women and children. If it be our inexorable fate to submit to the desecration of our streets by the foot-prints of the invader, let us bear it as a gallant people who have done all in their power to avert the calamity, endure it as patiently as possible, looking hopefully for a speedy deliverance in the final triumph of our cause. Let such of us as are obliged to remain to witness the fall of our city, and yield to the rule of the invader, keep aloof from him—quietly pursuing such affairs as we may have to attend to—giving him no countenance, and fearlessly maintaining our loyalty to our own government and State. To his offers to renew commercial relations no response should be made, beyond the intercourse that may be necessary to accomplish our own purposes in the procurement of supplies now beyond our reach. They are our enemies, and would profit from what they suppose to be our necessities. But we can be almost entirely independent—we can keep aloof, and by doing so, without giving just cause of complaint to our enemies, we will not be misunderstood. Our brothers, fathers, husbands, sons and friends are still of the Confederate armies, and our friends, although cut off from us, will know as well as our enemies where our hearts are in every battle and struggle that may occur. Though in the power of the enemy we may contrive the means of essential help. We need make no sacrifice of principle, and can remain hopeful for the future. Disappointed but not subdued, let none despair. The right, which is with us, must assuredly triumph in the end!
Memphis Daily Appeal, June 6, 1862.
5, 1865 - A Carroll County resident on emancipation
It is an old adage there is luck in seizure but the reverse comes up, there is danger in delay. Well this is it: I have thought for several years I would like to live in a country where slavery did not exist and I used to talk about moving to a free state. But all the free states lying North [sic], and consumption being hereditary in our family, I thought it best not to move North [sic]. It seems now I am about to get to a free state without moving. I am an emancipationist and have been from boyhood, but I am opposed to the way in which emancipation is now seemingly to be brought about. Several things have operated to cause me to be an emancipationist. First, the cruel treatment I have seen in some sections of country. This had a powerful effect on me when a boy. I was quite a close observer. Second, the bad effect slavery has on the white population of the slaveholding states. Third, I have doubts about the right of holding slaves in any such way as the Negroes have been held. I think the great national wrong has been in not having them taught. There might be volumes written on this subject.
James B. Jones, Jr.
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Road
Nashville, TN 37214