Thursday, March 24, 2016

Notes from Civil War Tennessee, March 24, 1861-1865

Notes from Civil War Tennessee,






24, Rabbi Peres wins in common law court

The Hebrew Trial.—In the case of the Rev. J. J. Peres, who sued in the common law court for salary claimed by him from the congregation of the synagogue in this place, a verdict was given yesterday in favor of Mr. Peres. A trial for libel in which Mr. Peres is plaintiff is expected to take place next week. It will be very interesting, many points respecting the present religious standing of the Jews in this country and their observances, will come up. The clergy and religious portion of the city will find much to interest them.

Memphis Daily Appeal, March 24, 1861[1]





          24, General Mitchel reprimands Mrs. Polk

The Nashville correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette tells these incidents:

"The following interesting scrap of news is told by an eye-witness to the scene: One day last week General Buell and the Brigadiers of the Department, who were present, went in a body to call upon Mrs. James K. Polk and her niece, daughter of Ex.-Rev. Gen. Leonidas. Mrs. Polk seemed determined that no doubt should be entertained as to her sentiments in regard to our unhappy difficulties. The gentlemen present, as they were severally addressed, simply bowed in silence, until Gen. [Ormsby MacKnight] Mitchel who was standing somewhat away from the party, was singled out. To him Mrs. P. remarked: "General, I trust this war will speedily terminate by the acknowledgment of Southern Independence." The remark was the signal for a lull in the conversation, and all eyes were turned upon the General to hear his reply.

He stood with his lips firmly compressed, and his eyes looking fully into those of Mrs. Polk, as long as she spoke. He then said: Madam, the man whose name you bear was once the President of the United States; he was an honest man and a true patriot, he administered the laws of this Government with equal justice to all. We know no independence of one section of our country which does not belong to all others, and judging by the past, of the mute lips of the honored dead, who lies so near us, could speak, they would express the hope that this war may never cease if that cessation was purchased by the dissolution of the Union of States over which he once presided." Needless to say that remark was, in a calm dignified tone, apt with that earnestness for which the General is noted, no offence could be taken.

Southern independence was not mention again during the interview.

New York Times, March 24, 1862.

          24, The Forty-fifth Illinois Ordered to Save the Bacon at Nichols' Landing

HDQRS. DISTRICT OF WEST TENNESSEE, Savannah, March 24, 1862.

Maj. M. SMITH, Forty-fifth Illinois Volunteers, Cmdg. Expedition:

You will proceed with the force under your command to Nichols' Landing, 2 miles back of which it is understood that a large quantity of Government (Southern Confederacy) bacon is stored. You will get it and return.

Nichols' Landing is 10 miles below Clifton. Mr. H. Gibbs, of Clifton, will accompany you to that place, and furnish a guide there, who will show you where the bacon is. You will avoid all delay, but remain until your expedition has completed the object for which it is sent. Private property is on no account to be molested nor citizens annoyed. The troops under your command should be impressed with the idea that the neighborhood where they are going is almost entirely Union. It was a citizen of the country, or rather a delegation of citizens, who gave the information of the bacon being where it is and of its ownership.

No large bodies of troops are supposed to be near where you are going, but small bodies of cavalry are known to be there. You will therefore keep your men from straggling, and at all times keep a guard at the boat to prevent accident there.

You are to be particularly cautious against engaging an enemy of your own or superior numbers. You are not going to fight the enemy, but for a different object, where nothing could be gained by a small victory, which would cost us a single man. Should the enemy therefore appear in sufficient force to make a stand, return, and a large number of men will be sent.

U. S. GRANT, Maj.-Gen.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. II, pp. 63-64.






          24, "The Dirty Street Theory;" the pre-germ-theory debate on public health in occupied Memphis

On Friday[2] we gave a synopsis of the arguments used by Dr. Merrill, in the City Council on the previous evening, at a meeting to consider the propriety of increasing the force now at work on the streets in accordance with the directions of Gen. Veatch. Ald. Merrill, while a physician of considerable experience, and who spoke from a professional point of view, was absolutely confident that, now the temperature has become warm, the consequence of removing the immense mass of filth with which our streets and alley are filled, will be disease and death. These effects arise, in his opinion, from the exposure of putrefying and fermenting matter, which sends off poisonous effluvia into the air, from whence it is received in o [sic] and acts upon the human system; whereas, if it were suffered to lie at least in the streets and gutters, a comparatively small surface of the objectionable material being exposed to view, and that portion being comparatively purified by rains and the solidification of the superficial larger, [?] this pernicious result would be at their minimum [sic] or smallest amount. It is well known that new lands, which were perfectly healthy as long as the surface remained undisturbed, become sickly, and abound in horrible chills and fatal fevers, as soon as the hand of improvement exposes to the air portions of soil, by plumbing or other ways. It is on this principle that Dr. Merrill objects to a wholesale cleansing of our streets at the present time. During the cold of winter the frosts would neutralize the pernicious influence of the effluvia, but now the moisture left by the winter rains is acted upon by the head of a temperature not less for the most part of the day than seventy five degrees in the shade, the subsoil of our filthy streets is in the very worse condition it can possibly be for removal; its powerful evil is now at its height. We believe we have now given a fair representation of Dr. Merrill's theory, and shall proceed to give it, as the importunate of the subject demands, a brief examination

Constantinople, Smyrna, and other cities of the East, have long been the abodes of the plague; they are dirty cities to a proverbial London, the city in which the plague used to play havoc in the most fearful degree, has not been subject to that visitation since it underwent the purification of the great fire of 1666. Since modern science has paid attention to the great questions of ventilation and purification epidemics have decreased and the average duration of human life has been increased. These facts are pertinent [sic] to every student of sanitary science. We place ventilation and purification in the same category, for both are injurious by poisoning the atmosphere, though in different ways. That as a general principal, cleanliness is favorable to health, and uncleanliness the reverse, is agreed on all hands, and therefore Dr. Merrill's theory, if true, is so, not as a part of the general law, but as an exception to it. The question then, narrows itself down to this -- is the street theory an exception to the general rue of cleanliness? It must be remembered the streets, alleys and gutters at the right time, but that he contends that the present season is not the right time. Is he correct in this? Is it better to let the city remain in its present filthy condition during the summer, or at once remove the poisonous and putrefying material from the streets?

It appears to us that the filth in the streets cannot but be injurious to public health. All who have been able sufficiently to bear the stench, to notice the material that has been carted off from the city during the past week, will have noticed that when the dried surface is removed, there is very commonly found herewith a mass of moist garbage and filth that is fermenting and rotting. However, invisible on the surface of the dirty street, this decaying process is every moment proceeding actively beneath and every moment noxious gasses, which are positive poison, are becoming disengaged parting into the atmosphere, and obtaining entrance into human lungs. If we suppose that this process is discontinued in time, by the heat of the sun, causing the moisture contained in the filth to evaporate, we must remember that thin moisture mounts into the air charged with deleterious particles, and is of course, as actively poisonous as the effluvium itself. When the filth becomes dry, the surface of it is continually undergoing abrasion by passing feet and vehicles and disintegrated by atmospheric influences. The portion thus pulverized becomes dust, is raised in clouds by every wind, and every passing foot and carriage, and is taken as directly into the human stomach as the medicinal powder that is administered by the physician. But succeeding rains at intervals supply new moisture; the process of decomposition is again renewed; new masses of effluvia are ejected; the drying process is repeated is recreated, and other beds of dust are sent whirling in the air. These facts make it evident that to allow the filth in the streets to remain there, is by no means a [sic] stoppage of the pernicious effects arising from it; it is not in a state of quiet immortality, but is an active injurious agent.

Ald. Merrill relies much on the predictions he claims to have made in 1855 of the coming disaster which predictions were followed by the ravages of the yellow fever. The parallel which he supposes to exist between cleaning in March 1863, and the work that was done in the street of Memphis in June 1855, has no existence in fact. At the former date the city authorities caused several streets in the southern portion of the city to be graded, and large masses of earth were dug up in elevations, and deposited elsewhere on raised depressions [sic], so as to level the streets thus improved. The turning up of new soil was, in Dr. Merrill's opinion calculated to produce the same results on public health, as those which follow in districts where new lands are cleared and broken up. In the latter cases, it is evident, an entire new surface of soil is exposed to the atmosphere, exhaling into it is ominously believed, miasmatic influences. In removing the superincumbent soil from the streets of a city no new surface is in the manner laid bare; the same process is that of removing from the original surface foreign garbage and filth, which has been deposited on it. There is no exposure of a new yielding pernicious exhalations but a removal from the old surface of refuse matter in which such pernicious influences are engendered. The argument in favor of dirty streets is a fallacy, and the fallacy consists in the case parallel just pointed out. We know that the Doctor making an error of fact asserts that the soil which General Veatch insists on having removed is merely sand and clay, coming from the gravel on some streets, and the unpaved natural surface of others. An inspection of the wood pavement on Jefferson street, between Front and Main streets; of the gas tar pavement on Monroe Street, between Main and Second streets; or, still better, if he can bear the stench sufficiently to make the inspection-of the soil itself as it is thrown into the carts will convince him of his error as to the nature of the filth which illness the gutters and clogs up the alleys. On the North River, in New York, and at the Battery, there are acres of new grounds, made on nothing, but soil deposited on and removed from well paved streets.

We remark in passing, that the opinion of Dr. Merrill as to the cause of the advent of the yellow fever into this city in 1855 is by no means universally received by physicians, nor was it at the time. The H. R. W. Hill arrived here with persons from New Orleans on board who were suffering from yellow fever. The proper precautions were not used to prevent persons going on board, and some of the sick were taken into the city. These things many believe to be the originating cause of the fever here, and that the cutting of the streets was a mere coincidence in point of time. Such persons regarded the coincidence as being like that where there was exceeding good wine produced in a certain year on which a comet was visible, and the common people of the time believed the comet to be the cause of the superiority of the wine of that particular vintage. It cannot fail to strike the observer that there is a great difference between the hard clay of this bluff and the rich mold of decaying vegetable substances, which is popularly believed to give rise to chills and fevers when new ground is broken up.

Dr. Merrill's argument, however, though, owing to his laudable desire for the public welfare, [is] loaded [?] with more than its premises will bear, is not without an amount of truth. When the streets after having been, we almost in jest say criminally left for a long period uncleaned, and covered with pestilential filth, much noxious effluvia must be set free when the cleaning is at length commenced, and it is therefore desirable and necessary, that the process, when once begun, should be quickly completed. We hope therefore, that the attention on Dr. Merrill has called to this subject will have at least, the effect of preventing any more filthy soil being thrown from the gutters and for leveling uneven places; also that strict care will be taken that as soon as the mass of filth is heaped up by the laborers in the streets it shall be removed, and that on no account shall that shoveled up one day be allowed to remain until the next day. Let each day's work be entirely complete, as far as it goes. It is also desirable that the soil should be placed where its offensive and pestilence breeding explanations can do no injury. In this connection, we call attention to the fact that at the upper part of the landing, the river has made a breach which threatens destruction to the entire bank there. If the streets will be emptied into the water at this spot, and permanently closed up the chasm, a great good will be affected. If it is washed away the soil will be where no harm can come from its effluvium.

In conclusion we hope that Gen Veatch's requirements will be fully, but carefully carried out, and after being well washed by the heavy rains, we may yet look for, Memphis will for once, rejoice in the luxury of clean gutters, alleys and streets.

Memphis Bulletin, March 24, 1863.



          24, Capture of Union City[3]

Report of Capt. John W. Beatty, Seventh Tennessee Cavalry, of the capture of Union City.

CAIRO, ILL., April 12, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to report to you that I have made my escape from the enemy after being surrendered, together with 16 officers and about 500 enlisted men, by Col. Isaac R. Hawkins, at Union City, Tenn., on the 24th of March, after fighting six hours and repulsing the enemy four times.

The enemy drove in our pickets at 4 a. m., 24th March, and skirmishing commenced soon after, and by sunrise our camps were entirely surrounded. Their force numbered about 1,500 commanded by Col.'s Faulkner, Bell, Duckworth, Faris [?], Freeman, Tansil and Russell. They first made a charge, mounted, and finding that they were losing a great many men and horses, dismounted and made three unsuccessful charges with heavy loss in killed and wounded. Finding it impossible to rout our forces from their works, fell back great confusion, taking shelter behind fallen timber, stumps, &c., their sharpshooters keeping up a continuous fire until fifteen minutes to 11 o'clock when they cease firing and sent in a flag of truce, demanding an unconditional surrender of our force, &c., giving Col. Hawkins fifteen minutes to make up his mind, stating that they would take the camp by storm as they had re-enforcements close at hand.

Col. Hawkins called together the officers and asked them what they were in favor of doing. I remarked if they had artillery they could whip us; if not they never could get inside our works. All the officers said fight except Maj. Thomas A. Smith. Just at that time the telegraph operator said that they had two pieces of artillery; that he had seen them. Col. Hawkins said that it would save a great many lives if we would surrender, and that if we renewed the fight they would kill every one that might fall into their hands. We the officers, then agreed, to surrender on condition that they would parole the officers and men and allow the men to keep their private property and the officers their side arms; otherwise we would fight as long as there was a man left.

Col. Hawkins then went out and met Duckworth at 11 o'clock, and ten minutes after 11 o'clock, the rebels came in, and Col. Hawkins ordered that all commanders of companies and detachments march their men outside of the fort, or works, and require them to lay down their arms. Afterward we found that Col. Hawkins had made an unconditional surrender. The officers and men cried like a whipped child. They also cursed Col. Hawkins and said he was a traitor, and that they would never serve under him again.

At 12 o'clock the rebels burned our barracks and marched us via Jacksonville to Gardner's Station, on the Nashville and Northeestern Railroad, a distance of 16 miles, where we camped for the night. Lieut.'s Hawkins and Helmer during their night made their escape.

On the next morning, March 25, at sunrise, we were marched 15 miles toward Trenton, Tenn., where we encamped for the night. The rebels gave our men about 1 ounce meat each, and no bread; this was the first that they at since the evening of 23d.

March 26, we started at sunrise and marched to Trenton, Tenn., where the citizens sold our men biscuits at $5 per dozen and baked chickens at $5 each.

March 27, we remained at Trenton during the day. The rebels drew our men up in line and marched them into court-house and searched each man as he went, in robbing them of their money, blankets, &c. Lieut.'s Neely, Bradford, and Morgan made their escape at Trenton. Col. Hawkins said that he would have any officer dismissed from the service that would leave the rebels. They offered to parole Col. Hawkins at Trenton, but he refused to accept it. The rebel officers told me that they knew they would get our regiment when they were 400 miles south of Union City, Tenn. They also said they were willing to parole Colonel Hawkins and let him get some more horses and arms and then they would come and get them.

March 28, we marched to Humboldt, a distance of 15 miles, where Capt. P. K. Parsons and myself made our escape.

JOHN W. BEATTY, Capt. Company K, Seventh Tenn. Vol. Cavalry.

OR, Ser. I. Vol. 32, pt. I, pp. 542-544.


Cairo, March 25 – The rebels being reported in force near Union City, Tenn., yesterday forenoon, Gen Buyman, with a force of 2000 men and a battery of artillery, proceeded by railroad to within six miles of Union City, where they learned that Col. Hawkins, with 400 of the 7th Tenn. Cavalry, had surrendered at 11 a.m., after repulsing the rebels (who numbered about 2000) three times. The men were all armed and equipped, and had recently been paid for over a year's service. The enemy burned what was combustible about the fortifications, and marched off with their prisoners. Gen. Buyman proposes to abandon the outposts of Hickman and Union City, as they are of no use to us or the enemy.

New Hampshire Statesman (Concord NH) April 1, 1864.[4]

          24, "Military Police Regulations;" the continuing struggle to improve public health in Nashville

Brig. Gen. R. S. Granger has just issued an order, appointing Capt. M. D. Chamberlain, twenty-ninth Massachusetts infantry, as Chief of the Military Police of this city, and authorizing him, in the discharge of his duties to search all premises, alley, out-houses or yards, and to give any orders or directions concerning the cleaning, or keeping of the same, and any orders or directions go given, will be considered as coming from the Headquarters of the Post Commander. The order further provides that no obstruction of any kind will be allowed to remain on the pavements, but must be taken in as soon as delivered. It also provides for the disposition of dirt and rubbish of all kinds, and imposes a fine of $5 for any violation of the orders. As a compensation for faithful compliance with the Police regulations, we are promised clean streets, which will be sprinkled daily at the expense of the Government, and a fair prospect of a healthy city the ensuing summer.

Nashville Dispatch, March 24, 1864.





24, Capture of Confederate navy officers attempting commando attacks upon Tennessee River shipping

HDQRS. DISTRICT OF EAST TENNESSEE AND FOURTH DIVISION, TWENTY-THIRD ARMY CORPS, Knoxville, Tenn., February 25, 1865--7.15 p. m. [Received 27th.]

Maj. S. HOFFMAN, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Department of the Cumberland, Nashville:

Two officers in the uniform of and claiming to belong to the Confederate navy were captured yesterday near Loudon. They state they were of a party sent from Richmond to destroy the bridges and steamboats on the Tennessee River. The balance of the party made their escape and are still at large.

DAVIS TILLSON, Brig.-Gen., U. S. Volunteers, Cmdg. District and Division.


Maj. Gen. JAMES B. STEEDMAN, Chattanooga:

Two officers in the uniform of and claiming to belong to the Confederate navy were captured yesterday near Loudon. They state they were of a party sent to capture and destroy the steam-boats on the river. The remainder of the party made their escape and are still at large; they may attempt to carry out their plan. I respectfully suggest that guards on the boats be increased and cautioned to exercise unusual vigilance.

DAVIS TILLSON, Brig.-Gen., U. S. Volunteers, Cmdg. District and Division.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 49, pt. I, p. 769.

          24, "Frame Houses."

The law prohibiting the erection of frame houses in the city without the consent of the City Council was yesterday repealed by that body. It was contended on one hand that this action would tend to create nuisances, endanger valuable property and increase the rates of insurance, while on the other it was maintained that it gave the poor people the advantage of building a home, and encourage immigration into our city. It is a debatable question.

Nashville Dispatch, March 24, 1865.

          24, "Uniformed Police."

The bill passed by the City Council yesterday to uniform the policemen of the city is another step towards progression [sic]. In all cities of any pretension, the police are uniformed, and it has proved of great advantage. The suit prescribed is pretty and appropriate, and cannot fail to lend an air of authority and dignity to our guardians of the city. The will be in the literal sense of the term "clothed" with authority. Strangers visiting us will be impressed with the "greatness of our institutions" and conduct themselves accordingly.

Nashville Dispatch, March 24, 1865





[1] March 22, 1861. Continuation of Rabbi Peres vs. Congregation of the Memphis Synagogue

Common Law Court.—At this court yesterday the case of the Rev. J. T. Peres, who sues the congregation of Israel for the balance of his salary, for the remainder of the year on which his services were dispensed with, on the alleged ground of a desecration of the Sabbath—was continued. The present Rabbi of the Memphis Synagogue, the learned and Rev. Simeon Tuska, who had been examined the day before, was recalled. The testimony of this gentleman was most interesting, throwing much light on the religious position of the Isralites [sic] in this country and in Europe. In accordance with the requirements of the prosecution, Mr. Tuska produced in court that venerable record of Rabbinical wisdom, the Talmud; the authoritative exposition of Moses and the prophets. The book was in twenty volumes, the text in the ordinary Hebrew character, but without points, but the commentary is in the Rabbinical character. We hope the members of the bar who would not accept the statements of the reverend gentleman as authoritative, as those of a professionalist, or an expert, are satisfied now they have dived into the profundities of the Talmud. They should next investigate the mysteries of the Massorah, and try their hands at reconciling the Samaritan with the Hebrew Pentateuch. Some of the Israelites in court declared their belief that the lawyers were Goyim.

Memphis Daily Appeal, March 22, 1861

[2] March 20, 1863, The Public Debate on Sanitation in Memphis

City Sanitary Measures.

In consequence of a mandate from Gen. Veatch requiring a larger force to be put to work cleaning the streets than at present employed, a meeting of the city council has held yesterday.

Ald. Mulholland, who had been very active in having the district committed to his case well cleaned, was of the opinion that a full force should be set to work, to have every alley and street thoroughly cleansed.

Alderman Merrill addressed the board at length, repeating his experience gained in the city of Natchez and in this city during the yellow fever period of 1855. He was of the settled opinion that the process of removing the filth lying in the alleys and gutters, at a time when the warm weather was just coming upon us, is one of the most fearful danger. Observations made in New Orleans with the microscope had shown that such street filth was filled with myriads of animalcule. These little creatures were devouring the filth among which they subsist, but when the filth was removed and thrown out so as to expose it to the sun and air, those creatures die and become a mass of putrifying [sic] corruption loading the air with poisonous exhalations. The cleansing process now proceeding should have been performed during the winter. To expose the filth to the air at this period, the speaker declared as a medical man, replete with disease and deaths. [sic] He hoped the board would not underrate [?] the dreadful responsibility of uninviting death to hold horrid carnival in our city- desolating households, sweeping away every away families, bring death and weeping into every house. For his own part he would not, he could not be a sharer in a responsibility as awful. To avoid it he would if necessary, after giving as solemn a warning as was in his power to do, resign his place at the Board, lose his personal liberty, and meet death itself. He spoke what he knew, what experience in this and other southern cities had taught him. The opinions of northern physicians, totally unacquainted with the peculiarities of the Southern climate were on weight in the case. He had, not only in conversation, but in repeated communications in the newspapers in 1855, before the yellow fever broke out, predicted what was coming. The soil was then turned up, and miasmatic affluvia [sic] filled the air, and disease and death was the consequence. Alderman Mulholland was of opinion that a committee should be appointed to wait upon General Veatch and call his attention to the facts he had adverted to, and consult with him generally upon the subject, which was agreed to.

Alderman Drew wished to have an ordinance passed forbidding citizens to throw slops or refuse from their houses into the streets.

Alderman Merrill warned the Board against taking measures that would lead to such articles having poured down in the yards and cellars of private premises. Whatever objection there might be thought to exist against depositing such substances in the open air in the streets, there were innumerable and most important objections against placing them in holes and corners where they would become hotbeds of disease. The official report of the Council, which we publish,[2] explains what steps were taken by that body. We may tomorrow have some remarks to make on Dr. Merrill's theory of street cleaning.

Memphis Bulletin, March 21, 1863


[3] The capture of Union City by forces led by Nathan Bedford Forrest with assistance from was said to be one of the most disgraceful and apparently cowardly acts of any Union commander in Tennessee during the Civil War.



James B. Jones, Jr.

Public Historian

Editor, The Courier

Tennessee Historical Commission

2941 Lebanon Road

Nashville, TN  37214


(615)-532-1549  FAX


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