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CHAP. IV. Carter County, some 1200 or 1500 men, armed with a motley assortment of guns, in open defiance of the Confederate States of America, and who are awaiting a movement of the Federal troops from Kentucky to march forward and take possession of the railroad. These men are gathered up from three or five counties in this region, and comprise the Jefferson hostile Union element of this section, and never will be appeased, conciliated, or quieted in a Southern IV., p. 239. Confederacy."
Nov. 12, 1861. W. R. Vol.
To these appeals from persons of local prominence, Governor Harris of Tennessee added his earnest entreaty. "The burning of railroad bridges in East Tennessee shows a deep-seated spirit of rebellion in that section. Union men are organizing. 1861. W. R. This rebellion must be crushed out instantly, the
leaders arrested and summarily punished." The Richmond authorities were not slow to respond. Two regiments from Memphis and another from Pensacola were ordered to East Tennessee in all haste, with such miscellaneous companies and fragments as could be gathered up nearer the scene of disturbance. "Troops are now moving to Branner, to East Tennessee to crush the traitors," tele
Vol. IV., p. 243.
1861. W. R. graphed the rebel Secretary of War; "you shall be amply protected." There is little need to relate the quick and unsparing movements by the Confederate troops against the Union combinations. The uprising seems to have been ill-advised and ill-concerted. Unsupported as it was by Federal forces, the hasty gatherings of the loyalists were quickly dispersed, and many of the participants captured.1
1 The following extract from a letter written by a Confederate,
"at the instance of a number of
The course of the Richmond Government towards CHAP. IV. the East Tennessee "traitors," however, deserves to be remembered. In the eyes of Jefferson Davis "treason" to the Union was a holy duty, while "treason" to their usurpation was deserving of exemplary punishment, which in this instance was ordered with apparent relish. "I am very glad," telegraphed the Confederate Secretary of War, "to hear of the action of the military au- to Ramsay, thorities, and hope to hear they have hung every 1861 W. R. bridge-burner at the end of the burned bridge."
pp. 700, 701.
many officers of the army," to induce the Confederate Government to relax the extreme rigor of its East Tennessee policy, may probably be accepted as fair evidence of the transaction it describes :
"Colonels Leadbetter and Vance moved their commands into that portion of the State bordering on the Virginia and Kentucky line, while General Carroll and Colonel Wood moved from the west in the direction of Chattanooga and Knoxville. Scouting parties were sent out in every direction, who arrested hundreds suspected of disloyalty, and incarcerated them in prison, until almost every jail in the eastern end of the State was filled with poor, ignorant, and, for the most part, harmless men, who had been guilty of no crime, save that of lending a too-credulous ear to the corrupt demagogues whose counsels have led them astray. Among those thus captured were a number of bridgeburners. These latter were tried and promptly executed. The rigorous measures adopted by the military commanders here struck still greater terror into those who
had before been Union men, and
Young to Currin, Dec. 19, 1861. W. R. Vol. VII., pp. 777, 778.
CHAP. IV. To the officer in charge of the prisoners he gave specific instructions: "1st. All such as can be identified as having been engaged in bridge-burning are to be tried summarily by drumhead court martial, and if found guilty executed on the spot by hanging. It would be well to leave their bodies hanging in the vicinity of the burned bridges. 2d. All such as have not been so engaged are to be treated as prisoners of war, and sent with an armed guard to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, there to be kept imprisoned at the depot selected by the Government for prisoners of war. . . . P. S.-Judge Patterson, Colonel Pickens, and other ringleaders of the same class, must be sent at once to Tuscaloosa to jail as prisoners of war." 1
Benjamin 1861. W. R.
to Wood, Nov. 25,
Vol. VII., p. 701.
W. R. Vol. VII., p. 764.
Under these stimulating orders, which were distinctly approved by Jefferson Davis, the military
1 These instructions were re-
"If by chance you shall, how-
such event they are to be pro-
"J. P. BENJAMIN, "Secretary of War." W. R. Vol. VII., p. 754.
commanders executed their task with a zeal which CHAP. IV. seems to have outrun all discretion. A veritable reign of terror ensued. Several bridge-burners were hung with impressive publicity, the jails were filled with accused persons, and car-loads of the more notable "suspects" were shipped to the military prison at Tuscaloosa. When the civil laws and judicial process were invoked to ward off in some measure this wholesale proscription, the commanding officer placed the city of Knoxville under martial law, "until such time as all the prisoners charged with military offenses now in my custody can be tried by a military tribunal." Persecution so ran riot that one of the subordinate Confederate officers at last felt obliged to protest against it: "I have just been appointed commandant of this post [Knoxville] and have already discovered numberless abuses that should be corrected. Marauding bands of armed men go through the country, representing themselves to be the authorized agents of the State or Confederate Government; they 'impress' into 'service' horses and men; they plunder the helpless, and especially the quondam supporters of Johnson, Maynard, and Brownlow; they force men to enlist by the representation that otherwise they will be incarcerated at Tuscaloosa; they force the people to feed and care for themselves and horses without compensation. I would gladly have instructions as to the mode of correcting these abuses — and the character of punishment to be inflicted upon those guilty of such offenses." A feeble response of moderation came from Richmond: "In relation to the abuses mentioned the Secretary expects you to be vigilant and energetic in suppressing them,”
Benjamin, 1861, W. R.
Vol. VII., p. 760.
1861, W. R.
p. 803, 804.
CHAP. IV. Monsarrat,
Jan. 3, 1862.
W. R. Vol.
VII., p. 819.
but the officer was further directed to look for particular instructions to another of his superiors, Whose severity was also notorious.
In the case of the most conspicuous of the Union "ringleaders," the Confederate Government narrowly escaped the odium of what would have been a signal injustice and breach of faith, which its over-zealous partisans were eager to perpetrate. Local rebel vindictiveness centered itself against the editor of the "Knoxville Whig," the well-known "Parson" William G. Brownlow, who had opposed and denounced secession and rebellion in his journal and elsewhere in bitter and unstinted language. When the uprising took place he was naturally suspected of having been its chief instigator; and though he disavowed all knowledge of the bridgeburning, and publicly opposed and condemned local insurrection, his enemies adhered to their belief in his guilt, and on numerous occasions threatened him with personal violence. He appealed for protection to one of the Confederate commanders, and promised to leave the country if he could have safeguard in his exit. Upon assurance that this would be done he surrendered himself to the military authorities, but was immediately arrested for treason on a civil writ. It must be recorded to the credit of Secretary Benjamin that he resisted the importunate clamors for Brownlow's trial and punishment, and kept the honor of the Confederate Government by finally ordering him to be conveyed under military protection within the Union lines.