Thursday, March 20, 2014

3/20/2014 Tennessee Civil War Notes First Day of Spring

20, Secessionist rationalization of anti-secession results of February 9, 1861 vote in Tennessee

SAVANNAH, March 20, 1861.


I herewith report to you the result of my mission to the State of Tennessee:

In discharging the duties imposed upon me by the commission, I visited Nashville, the capital, on the 9th of February last, having been detained a week on the pay by injuries to the railroad, and found that the Legislature, which had been convened by the Executive in extra session, had adjourned on the 4th.

The act of the Legislature calling the convention provided that the question of "convention" or "no convention" should be submitted to the popular vote at the ballot box. The result of that vote was a majority of 10,000 against having a convention. The only means, therefore, of official communication with the people of Tennessee left me was with the Governor, to whom I presented the ordinance of secession and the resolution inviting the co-operation of Tennessee, together with the other border slave States, with the seceding States in the formation of a Southern confederacy.

I was kindly received by His Excellency Governor Harris, who deeply deplored the result of the election in Tennessee, and warmly indorsed the action of Georgia in dissolving her connection with the Federal Government. He expressed the opinion that the withdrawal of Tennessee from the Government of the United States and its union with the Confederate States of America was only a question of time, and in this opinion other distinguished citizens, and among them Governor Henry S. Foote, who boldly vindicates the cause of the South, concurred. The election was not regarded as indicating anything more than the desire which was felt and the hope that was cherished by the Union party that the Border State Convention, then in session at Washington, would adopt some plan of adjustment of the pending difficulty, not only satisfactory to the Border States but to the entire South, for the opinion was entertained by many that the Southern States had seceded with the view of reconstructing the Government and the obtainment [sic] of the constitutional rights and guaranties upon which they insisted in such reconstruction. I corrected this mistake as far as circumstances enabled me to do so, and announced that the separation was final and irrevocable, and that whatever line of policy Tennessee might adopt in the future this fact is to be regarded as settled. I announced also that the people of Georgia were a unit in maintaining the action of this convention in the adoption of the ordinance of secession. I assured those with whom I communicated that it was a great mistake to suppose that the action of Georgia was the result of a reckless popular impulse, but that it was the high resolve of patriots determined to die freemen rather than live slaves. These assurances, together with the fact that the Southern States have repudiated the reopening of the African slave-trade, and indicated the policy of raising revenue by duties on imposts, and not by direct taxation, gave our friends great confidence in the success of the movement and had a conciliatory influence upon those hostile to it.

The opinion prevailed almost universally at the time I left Nashville that the action of Tennessee would be determined by the action of the Border State Convention and of the convention of Virginia. My own opinion is that Tennessee will be governed by Virginia upon this subject, and that perhaps all the border slave States will be controlled by the same influence. Some, however, of our more sanguine friends entertain the opinion that the next election, which will take place in August next, will settle the question in Tennessee in favor of the South. Upon the whole, my judgment is that when the people of that State realize fully the fact that they are reduced to the alternative of taking the chances of subjection to the domination of relentless Republicanism or the enjoyment of equality and independence with a great people with whom they are identified in interest, institution, and destiny they will not hesitate to pursue that course dictated alike by honor and patriotism, and determine to unite their fortunes and destiny with those of the Confederate States.


OR, Ser. IV, Vol. 1, pp. 179-181.



20, Food for soldiers' families

Free Market.[1]—This market is supplying a large number of soldier's families with meat, potatoes, flour, sugar, bacon and other necessaries. Its present expenses are about $1200 a week, and the number of applicants are increasing. We call attention to the fact that while the "Soldier's Families Aid Association" is keeping up the free market; the county has authorized an allowance to soldier's families. Unless some concert of action is agreed upon between the two the same parties will receive sufficient food for their living from the one, and money from the other, and the means of both will be expended disadvantageously. It appears that an understanding might be come to, in which both could work together with good benefit. If the county would appropriate a portion of its funds to the free market, it might give an allowance in money to each proper applicant for the payment of necessary expenses, and the remainder of the allowance might be granted in the form of orders on the free market for provisions, and perhaps other necessaries, such as wood, might be included in the articles dispensed at the free market. We beg leave to call the attention of country friends who have potatoes, turnips, or any other vegetables or supplies to dispense to the support of the families of men who are enduring the fatigues and dangers of the field, to the free market, where their aid will be gladly welcomed. The market is at No. 10, Shelby street, between Union and Gayoso streets.

Memphis Daily Appeal, March 20, 1862.



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

On Friday 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[2] 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 rule 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 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.



20, "Those men are not soldiers but a band of robbers and murderers. They don't mind whether a man is a Union man or a Confederate,- if he has money they will take it. " First Lieutenant Robert Cruikshank, 123rd New York Infantry Regiment, letter home to his wife Mary, camp life near the Elk River

Camp 123rd Regt. [sic], N. Y. S. V.

Elk River, Tenn.,

March 20, 1864.

Dear Mary,-

I have just returned from hearing a sermon preached by the Rev. Mr. Small, formerly of Jackson, N.Y. He was on his way home from Chattanooga where he has been on a visit for some weeks and having some relative in this Regiment he came here today and preached to us. We often have preaching now furnished by the Christian Commission.

I am kept busy week days but the labor is not hard. I have not been on picket since I returned from Boons Hill. I go on duty as Officer of the Day once in about eight days. All the night work I have to do is to visit the guard once after twelve o'clock, midnight. We have been in this department almost six months. It does not seem so long. Our time is over half in, as the men say we are on the home stretch on our time of enlistment. Soldiering is like everything else; we have our bright days and dark days; we have the bitter and the sweet.

The Colonel has been absent some days attending the court-martial in which those guerrillas that were taken at Boons Hill are being tried. I understand that some have been convicted of murder and are to be hung. Those men are not soldiers but a band of robbers and murderers. They don't mind whether a man is a Union man or a Confederate,- if he has money they will take it. They commit crime on the Confederate people and then the Union soldiers are charged with it. I do not intend ever to fall into their hands.

With love to all,

R. Cruikshank.

Robert Cruikshank Letters.



21, Anti-guerrilla expedition ordered, Athens environs, for the duration


Knoxville, Tenn., March 21, 1865.


SIR: You will proceed with all the effective armed force of your regiment from Athens, Tenn., and distribute it at the several passes through the mountains east of that place. All enlisted men not armed will be left at Athens under charge of a commissioned officer, who will report to Capt. W. H. H. Crowell, Second Ohio Heavy Artillery, commanding post at Athens. With your effective force you will take measures to guard the mountain passes mentioned, and to prevent the incursions of guerrilla bands, and will be held responsible for any failure to do so. You must enforce strict discipline in your command, and under no circumstances permit the men to leave their companies, or to straggle in the march or from their camps, and all depredations and all cases of absence without authority of the major-general commanding the department must be severely and summarily punished. Your command will subsist upon the country, but all supplies taken must be receipted for on the proper blank forms used by quartermaster's and subsistence departments, whether obtained from loyal and disloyal persons. You will appoint a discreet officer to perform the duties of regimental quartermaster and commissary, who will alone have authority to provide the necessary supplies for your command, and you will be held responsible that his duty is faithfully and strictly performed. You will procure a full supply of ammunition before starting from Athens, and see that your men have at all times forty rounds of ammunition ready for use, and also that their arms are always kept clean and free from rust. You will send your tri-monthly report promptly, in time to have it reach these headquarters by the 10th, 20th, and last days of each month. You will also forward your monthly report promptly on the last day of each month, and be very careful that all returns and reports are correct before they are sent. You will provide yourself with the necessary blanks before starting.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. G. GIBSON, Col. Second Ohio Heavy Artillery, Cmdg. Brigade.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 49, pt. II, pp. 46-47.


[1] This "free market" was not the  "capitalist free market" we think of today. It was a market in which free food and necessities were given to indigent soldiers' families

[2] Otherwise known as "miasmas."

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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