Sunday, February 16, 2014

2/16/2014 Tennessee Civil War Notes

16, "Nashville was a panic stricken city. The Union men alone seemed to have their wits about them." An entry from Dr. John Berrien Lindsley

Sunday – Johnston's army passing by the University from 10 A.M. until after dark – camped out near Mill Creek. Light of campfires very bright at night. The army was in rapid retreat – the men disliked bitterly giving up Nashville without a struggle. The Southern army however was too small to make a stand against the overwhelmingly superior numbers of Union troops. About 12 M. a doctor in uniform rode up & gave me to read an order addressed to all the Surgeons of hospitals in Nashville – to wit: imperative directions to assemble all the men who were able to walk, place them under charge of a Surgeon or Sargeant [sic], with orders to report at the camp o­n the Murfreesboro pike. This order was executed and by 2 P.M., we had but little more than one hundred. (In the forenoon Capt. Cottles had reported to me that his encampment for convalescents at the fair grounds was ready; and had carried off with him at least 200 men; getting a promise from me to send them dinner. I went out to the fair grounds with the Capt. on the way heard of the fall of Fort Donelson.) About 3 P.M. after dining all my men and starting off the last to the camp, went to work getting dinner for the men who went to the Fair Grounds in the forenoon – while doing so an officer came with an urgent request from the men not to forget my promise. Gartlan pressed a wagon & took out two loads to them. He kept the wagon for getting commissary stores – it turned out to be Stokes of Triune –4 P.M. Buildings now looked vacated – so all hands were set to cleaning up the buildings for the reception of the wounded from Fort Donelson who might arrive at any moment. Drs. Peake & Hober, with Saunders & ten or 12 men and boys, pretty well fixed up the lower floor of Stone College, with bedsteads &c. purchased from the Faculty by permission of Sehon given the Friday previous. They were kept hard at it until 2 A.M. of Monday; then until daylight doing same for barracks. During all Sunday from about 10 A.M., when the news of the fall of Fort Donelson reached here, the wildest excitement prevailed in the city. Very many persons left the city in vehicles – many on the cars – the Gov. & Legislature decamped.

Nashville was a panic stricken city. The Union men alone seemed to have their wits about them. About 9 P.M., with Stokes wagon & six of my patients as guards went to the commissary; got bacon & six sacks of coffee. Made a second trip after midnight: found the stores closed except to the moving army. In all my Commissariat affairs Lieut. John King McCall was very kind and useful to me.

Dr. John Berrien Lindsley's Journal, February 16, 1862TSLA, ed. Kathy Lauder



        16, Fall of Fort Donelson

Because the Fall of Fort Donelson falls into the category of a large battle it will not be covered here in any great documentary detail. There are secondary works enough to provide analysis and narration for this event, and to do so here would not only be presumptuous and would add but little to understanding the event.

However, the following letter from Jefferson C. Davis, apparently to General A.S. Johnston, seems to find the Confederate President trying to distance himself from the defeat at Fort Donelson and the occupation of Nashville.

RICHMOND, VA., March 12, 1862.


MY DEAR GEN.:...I avail myself to write you an unofficial letter. We have suffered great anxiety because of recent events in Kentucky and Tennessee, and I have been not a little disturbed by the repetition of reflection upon yourself. I expected you to have made a full report of events precedent and consequent to the fall of Fort Donelson.

* * * *

In the mean time...You have been held responsible for the fall of Donelson and the capture of Nashville. 'Tis charged that no effort made to save the stores at Nashville and that the panic of the people was caused by the army. Such representations, with the sad foreboding naturally belonging to them, have been painful to me and injurious to us both; but, worse than this, they have undermined public confidence and damaged our cause.

A full development of the truth is necessary for future success. I respect the generosity which has kept you silent, but would impress upon you that the subject is not personal but public in its nature; that you I might be content to suffer, but neither of us can willingly permit detriment to the country.

As soon as circumstances will permit it is my purpose to visit the field of your present operations; not that I should expect to give you any aid in the discharge of your duties as a commander, but with the hope that my position would enable me to effect something in bringing men to your standard.

With a sufficient force, the audacity which the enemy exhibits would no doubt give you the opportunity to cut some of his lines of communication, to break up his plan of campaign, and, defeating some of his columns, to drive him from the soil as well of Tennessee as of Kentucky. We are deficient in arms, wanting in discipline, and inferior in numbers. Private arms must supply the first want; time and the presence of an enemy, with diligence on the part commanders, will remove the second, and public confidence will overcome the third. Gen. Bragg brings you disciplined troops. I suppose the Tennessee or Mississippi River will be the object of the enemy's next campaign, and I trust you will be able to concentrate a force which will defeat either attempt.

The fleet which you will soon have on the Mississippi River, if the enemy's gunboats ascend the Tennessee, may enable you to strike an effective blow at Cairo; but to one so well informed and vigilant I will not assume to offer suggestions as to when and how the ends you seek may be obtained.

With the confidence and regard of many years, I am, very truly, your friend,


OR, Ser. I, Vol. 7, p. 258.



16, Report of the ad hoc Committee of the General Assembly to ascertain the wishes of Governor Harris relative to the advance of Federal forces and changing the venue of the state Confederate government

It was the intention of the Governor to convene the Genl. Assembly in the City of Memphis on the 20th instant. When on motion the House adjourned to meet upon the call of the Governor.

House Journal, p.p. 422-423.[1]



        16, Governor Harris' proclamation to the members of the General Assembly of Tennessee relative to the advance of Federal forces and changing venue of state Confederate government

EXECUTIVE DEPARATMENT, Nashville, Tenn., February 16, 1862

The Members of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee will assemble at Memphis, Tennessee, on Thursday next, the 20th instant, for the dispatch and transaction of such business as may be submitted to them.

House Journal, p. 423.[2]



16, Annie M. Sehon's letter to her sister, relative to the invasion of Nashville

Nashville Feb 16th/62

My own precious sister,

I have but a few moments to write, and as this may be the last opportunity I will ever have to write to you I will tell you of our wretched situation. You need not expect to hear again from me as I suppose in a few hours we will be entirely cut off from all communication with our beloved, oppressed & almost crushed South. We are in hourly expectation of hearing the approach of the Northern Army. Mr. Sehon, Capt Wright and all our Government officers fly to night for their lives with Gen Johnston's immense army which is here from Bowling Green and is retreating as fast as possible Southward. O my sister I cannot tell you how my heart is almost breaking to part from my precious Husband who is far more than life to me. Without him I would pray, pray for death, pray that God would take me from this prison world to my husband in Heaven for I know he will be there if he falls, he is so good so pure so noble. But oh God defend us spare us and avert the calamities we so much dread. Mr. Sehon will take this with him & mail it. I dare not say where they are going to, but it is where I can follow him and no power on earth could keep me from going to night with my darling husband but the fact that he must fly for his life on horseback and I being with him would retard his progress. I might be the means of his being taken. We received the news this morning and I expected to be able to go with him until a few hours ago when Mr. Sehon told me he would have to go on horseback. My dear sister I hope that I am not asking too much of you when I make this request. Keep posted as to the whereabouts of Gen Johnston's Army and if anything should happen to Mr. Sehon and you can hear of it, do all in your power for him. I will be cut off from all communication from him and I dread that I may be allowed to pass to him. If you will do this my dear sister I can never repay you for your kindness, will thank you Bettie to my dying hour and bless you for any kindness to my precious darling. O God to think of our situation! But I still hope for & trust in God and I believe he will animate our brave defenders with a superhuman power and we will yet drive from our soil the hated invaders whose tread [illegible] profanation, but this is an hour to try men's souls--Fort Donelson has been taken by the enemy. Frank was there and covered himself with honor but his bravery cost him a wound; he was wounded in the leg slightly--a flesh wound only, you must not be uneasy. We can hear nothing from our forces there but I suppose he is a prisoner. You must not be unhappy about him. His wound is slight, only a flesh wound. I wish I had time to tell you of his noble conduct but I can not now. I pray I may soon be able to follow my husband when I can write you fully. Will is at Cumberland Gap, was not with Gen Zollicoffer. I will try dear Bettie to take care of all the little things we value so much, the portraits your bonnet box with its contents and those things for which no money could repay us. Goodbye my darling sister, probably the last goodbye but may God protect us and if we never meet on earth may we meet at last in Heaven where all is happiness, strife & turmoil never come, no breaking bleeding hearts are there. May God bless you. Your husband and your precious little children is the prayers of your loving sister

Annie M. Sehon

Kimberly Family, Correspondence. [3]



16, Bragg issues General Orders, No. 38, relative to depredations committed by Army of Tennessee cavalry commands

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 38. HDQRS. ARMY OF TENNESSEE, Tullahoma, February 16, 1863.

The great number of men who have joined cavalry commands, and avail themselves of that peculiar service to roam over the country as marauders, avoiding all duty, renders it necessary that cavalry commanders should use vigorous means to search out such characters, and have them transferred to infantry regiments, where they can be more easily watched and compelled to perform their duties.

Cavalry commanders will immediately make out and forward through the proper channels, to these headquarters, full and complete descriptive lists of all such officers and men in their commands, in order that they may be transferred to infantry. This will include those who frequently fail to be with their commands on active duty, whether from loitering about camp from being without serviceable horses, from a deficiency in health on the part of the soldier himself, or from any other of the various causes by which bad soldiers seek to avoid the hardships and dangers of the service. Under the head of "remarks," will be stated the reasons for recommending the transfer.

Hereafter any cavalry soldier who is found absent from his command without written authority from his brigade commander or other competent authority, will be immediately dismounted, and sent on foot, under guard, to the nearest guard-house, with a written statement of the facts concerning his arrest, in order that he may be sent to his corps commander, and be assigned to the infantry. Their horses and equipments will be sent to the chief quartermaster of cavalry. Commanders of cavalry companies will state upon their muster and pay rolls, under the head of "remarks," the number of days each soldier has been without a serviceable horse, and the paymasters will not pay the soldier for use and risk of horse, except for the number of days his horse has been fit for duty.

All cavalry horses not fit for duty, and not susceptible of speedy restoration, will, under the direction of the commanding general of cavalry, be immediately turned over to the chief quartermaster of this army for future disposition.

By command of Gen. Bragg:

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 23, pt. II, pp. 636-637.



16, Letter from Lieutenant-General Leonidas Polk, in Shelbyville, to his wife, Frances, at Ashwood in Maury county

Shelbyville, Tennessee,

February 16, 1863

My beloved wife,

I have received your letters since my return and am glad to know you have received mine. Fanny's last informs me of your pleasure at getting mine. Tell her I thank her for her letters. I was quite anxious to know whether the negroes [sic] had been clothed and shod and hired out, all which she gave me information of. The snow much have fallen quite heavily and the cold-the thermoter [sic] at 10-must have caused you all to shrivel up.

I was glad to hear you had so good a supply of wood. You will receive this day my Meck [sic] (Dr. W. M. Polk) [sic] who I send to see you on a furlough of twenty days. He will give you all the news and he will also tell you that I have relieved him from his situation as 1st Lieut. of his battery and made him assistant to the Chief of Artillery. I found that he was seriously embarrassed by the weight of responsibility and care that was attached to his affairs. His Captains [sic] health was bad and as he was second in command he had to bear up the whole weight of taking care of the battery and fighting it in battle. I perceived this was weighing upon him and making him prematurely grave and I may say old, and though pride and vanity on my part at his advancement and prospects-so much ahead of his years, might have prompted me to keep him where he was, especially as he had the prospect of advancement to the office of Captain might have induced me to continue him where he was, yet my duty to him as a father forbid this and I ordered him to be relieved and put into a position of equal honour and of great usefulness, and where his attainment in his particular branch would be available for the government. He is entirely satisfied with it and indeed had the good sense to desire it,-I think it will be much better for him every way, as it is certainly a great relief to him. I hope his visit will be a great pleasure to you and his sister.

He takes with him a present from me to you. It is a dress pattern. I think it very pretty, and as it is all cotton and spun and woven in Tennessee-home spun-I hope you will value it and am sure you will wear it. The pattern I send you is with the broad stripe and I think will "make up" very prettily. I send also enough of the same style and figure and of other figures for dresses for all the girls, and also for Emily and for Kate, and for Emily's children and for Kate's children. Kate's will have to be kept for her until she comes up in the summer. You can distribute the patterns in any way you please. You will all be very fine in your new cotton dresses, and I hope very comfortable also. The goods cost 50 [cents] per yard at the mill. The mill is on [the] Duck River and turned by water power about two miles below this town. The mill is owned I believe chiefly by the old gentlemen with whom we are living.

The Yankees have not moved as yet, though I think they will do so not many days hence. Their preparations are all pretty well completed and they will no doubt move in the next ten days. Our force has been very much increased by accessions and if they have had additions, so have we;[4] I think our increase has lessened the disparity between their numbers and ours since the battle of Murfreesborough, and General Vandorn [sic] comes to us this week with six thousand cavalry, we shall find ourselves in a better condition to encounter them than at the last battles. We shall certainly make a stand this side of the mountains[5] and I see no reason why we should not give a good account of ourselves. Our trust is in the living God, to whom we look for wisdom to guide us and courage to sustain us; and may He be with us ever more!

I have completed and sent off the reports of the battles of Shiloh and Perryville and am very well satisfied with them both. They are clear and precise and I think will prove satisfactory and creditable to my command. The [report for the] battle of Murfreesborough I will complete so soon as I can get hold of the reports of my subordinate commanders. They are coming in now. I shall immediately write up all I can in advance of the coming in of the reports.

I am very well and quite comfortably situated in every respect. Meck will tell you of my general condition and surroundings.

Mr. (W. D.) Gale is with me and makes himself very useful. I like him very much. As he sleeps in the room with me I have seen a good deal of him, and find him a very estimable gentleman of high principle and much more than ordinary application and intelligence. Harry Yeatman is also with me and is likewise a very clever fellow and very useful. Richmond has gone to the capitol of Virginia [sic] to see after my affairs.[6] He will not be back for some days.

Willy Huger writes me he is doing very well, is on his crutches and is getting on as well as can be desired.

I think the general prospects of peace are increasing though we must have some battles yet before it is effected. I do not think it probable the war will last beyond the summer, perhaps not beyond spring.

Give my love to all the dear girls and to Hamilton, his wife and the little fellows, and tell Frank that General Rabbit[7] send his love to him.

Ever dear wife affectionately yours,

L. Polk

W. P. A. Civil War Records, Vol. 3, pp. 38-39.



16, "Fires"

An alarm was given about 10 o'clock Sunday night [14th], which proved to be a false one. About 12 o'clock another alarm rang forth, and this time the blaze indicated a fearful conflagration in South Nashville, and which proved to be the burning of the stable and feed crib, together with a large amount of fodder, belonging to W.H. Wilkinson, Esq., all of which were totally consumed, and the rear part of his dwelling slightly injured. By turning out in Georgia summer costume, the Squire succeeded in saving his two horses and cow, and bringing to his aid Deluge No. 3, whose members speedily quenched the flames, enabling the Squire and his family to enjoy the luxury of their own bed the remainder of the night. There seems to be little doubt that the fire was the work of an incendiary.

Nashville Dispatch, February 16, 1864.



        16, Courts Martial[8] of Brigadier General James G. Spears[9]

Civil War Union Court-Martial Case Files[10]

Although the vast majority of courts-martial relate to enlisted men, there are several cases that pertain to general officers. One such case involves James G. Spears, who helped organize the First Tennessee (Union) Infantry in 1861 and became its lieutenant colonel Spears was later placed in command of a brigade in the Army of the Ohio and attained the rank of brigadier general. He was a slave-owning Unionist from Tennessee and believed the Emancipation Proclamation was illegal and unconstitutional and that only states could change slave laws. In February of 1864, General Spears was brought to trial in Knoxville, Tennessee, on charges including "using disloyal language."[11]

Several officers testified about conversations with General Spears concerning the administration in Washington and the topic of slavery. One Union officer testified that General Spears expressed the view that the President of the United States had the right to use slaves for military purposes but could not affect the institution of slavery itself for it was governed by state laws. Another officer testified that while discussing the war and slavery with the accused, General Spears felt "that there had not been a time since the rebellion began that the war could have been closed in sixty days; that he believed it was the policy of those in power to continue the war as a pretext or excuse to interfere with the institution of slavery, and when he found this to be the case, the Government might go to hell and he would be found fighting in the field against it."

Spears was found guilty of "using disloyal language" and "conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline" and sentenced to be dismissed from the service of the United States. The findings and sentence were disapproved by Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, commanding the Department of the Ohio, because "using disloyal language is an offense not specified in the rules and articles of war and hence one over which a general court martial has no jurisdiction." Although Schofield acknowledged the lack of jurisdiction in the case, he recommended that the accused be dismissed anyway. This recommendation was forwarded for action to the President of the United States. President Lincoln concurred with Schofield's suggestion and on August 17, 1864, penned "summarily dismissed" on the case file, thus ending the military career of Brig. Gen. James G. Spears.

Civil War Union Court-Martial Case Files.[12]



16, Domestic fuel supply in Nashville

Wood and Coal. - The Nashville Wood Company have on hand a large supply of wood and coal, which they are selling at very moderate prices, and can furnish in any reasonable quantity. They furnish full measure, according to the standard, a full cord of wood can be bought, already sawed and split, as easily and as accurately measured as if prepared in the usual size and four feet long. A great saving is thus effected to the purchaser, as well of trouble as of money. A single call upon Col. Bemen, the Agent of the Company, will insure a faithful fulfillment of an order, and the purchaser will be so well pleased that he will aver after patronize this company.

Nashville Dispatch, February 16, 1864



16, Attack on the Federal garrison at Athens

FEBRUARY 16, 1865.-Attacks upon the garrisons of Athens and Sweet Water, Tenn.


No. 1.-Gen. Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army commanding Army of Northern Virginia.

No. 2.-Brig. Gen. John C. Vaughn, C. S. Army.

No. 1.

Report of Gen. Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army, commanding Army of Northern Virginia.


Gen. Echols reports that detachments of Vaughn's cavalry struck the railroad beyond Knoxville at Sweet Water and Athens, capturing the garrison at both places. Sixty men of Second Ohio Regiment, with horses and equipments, were taken.

R. E. LEE.

No. 2.

Reports of Brig. Gen. John C. Vaughn, C. S. Army.

BRISTOL, February 20, 1865.

A small force from my command struck the railroad at Athens, west of Knoxville, capturing the garrison, which has caused two regiments to be sent below from this force above Knoxville.

J. C. VAUGHN, Brig.-Gen.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 49, pt. I, p. 47.



16, Attack and capture of Federal garrison at Sweet Water

FEBRUARY 16, 1865.-Attacks upon the garrisons of Athens and Sweet Water, Tenn.


No. 1.-Gen. Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army commanding Army of Northern Virginia.

No. 2.-Brig. Gen. John C. Vaughn, C. S. Army.

No. 1.

Report of Gen. Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army, commanding Army of Northern Virginia.


Gen. Echols reports that detachments of Vaughn's cavalry struck the railroad beyond Knoxville at Sweet Water and Athens, capturing the garrison at both places. Sixty men of Second Ohio Regiment, with horses and equipments, were taken.

R. E. LEE.

Hon. J. C. BRECKINRIDGE, Secretary of War.

No. 2.

Reports of Brig. Gen. John C. Vaughn, C. S. Army.

BRISTOL, February 20, 1865.

A small force from my command struck the railroad at Athens, west of Knoxville, capturing the garrison, which has caused two regiments to be sent below from this force above Knoxville.

J. C. VAUGHN, Brig.-Gen.

BRISTOL, February 23, 1865.

Capt. Maston, with seventy-five men from my brigade, captured the garrison at Sweet Water, forty-five miles below Knoxville, sixty mounted men, horses, and equipments of Second Ohio Regt. [sic]

J. C. VAUGHN, Brig.-Gen.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 49, pt. I, p. 47.

 CITY POINT, VA., February 25, 1865.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

The Richmond papers to day report nothing of interest. The following is taken from the Examiner:

Vaughn's Cavalry in East Tennessee.

HDQRS., February 24, 1865.

Hon. J. C. BRECKINRIDGE, Secretary of War:

Gen. Echols reports that detachments of Vaughn's cavalry struck the railroad beyond Knoxville at Sweet Water and Athens, capturing the garrisons at both places. Sixty men of the Second Ohio Regiment, with their horses and equipments, were captured.

R. E. LEE.

U. S. GRANT, Lieut.-Gen.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 49, pt. I, p. 766.


[1] As cited in Robert H. White, Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, 1857-1869, Vol. 5, (Nashville: Tennessee Historical Commission, 1959), p. 364. [Hereinafter cited as: White, Messages of the Governors.]

[2] As cited in Messages of the Governors, Vol. 5, p. 364.

[3] As cited in: [Hereinafter cited as Kimberly Family Correspondence.]

[4] Brigadier-General Gideon J. Pillow, one of Polk's Episcopalian planter neighbors, was in charge of conscription and if this is any indication he was doing a good job of conscripting young boys for the Army of Tennessee.

[5] The Army of Tennessee would not make a stand "this side of the mountains." The Federal army under Major-General Rosecrans would push the Confederates out of Middle Tennessee and early September, 1863.

[6] These men were most likely personal assistants to the Lieutenant-General.

[7] Perhaps a sobriquet for a younger son had for his father

[8] Brigadier General Spears was no stranger to controversy. On September 3, 1863, officers of the Sixth and Third East Tennessee Volunteer Infantry (U. S.) threatened to resign rather than be under his command. Their petition was formulated at McMinnville and sent to Major-General William S. Rosecrans. 

[9] Excerpt from Trevor K. Plante, The Shady Side of the Family Tree, as cited in:

[10] Ed. note – the only reference to this courts martial in the OR is in Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. I, p. 52, indicating Spears was placed under arrest in Knoxville on February 16, 1863.

[11] General Court Martial Orders, No. 267, War Department, August 30, 1864, RG 153, NARA.

[12] File MM1367, entry 15, Court-Martial Case Files, RG 153, NARA. As cited in: Further research in these NARA files was not possible but could most likely have provided a great deal more such information on Federal military justice.

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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