Henderson County, Tennessee

Lost Tranquility: 1861-1865

Governor Isham Harris called the Legislature to session on January 7, 1861, to pass a resolution asking citizens to vote on February 9 for or against a convention to consider the secession of Tennessee from the Union. The people voted against the proposition by a majority of nearly four to one. After the Union surrender at Fort Sumpter in April of 1861, Governor Harris called for another election to be held on June 8 with the results in favor of secession.

The vote in Henderson County was 801 for secession, 1013 against secession. Charges and countercharges of election corruption were leveled. James Hanna, who lived in the south part of the county, made an affidavit stating that the votes at his home box were reversed. The vote had been 72 against and only five for secession, but when the "Harris-controlled men who had charge of the election sent in the returns, they gave 75 for secession and five against." R. H. White recalled the event as follows:

Unquestionably terrific pressure was put upon the voters, as is characteristic of most hard-fought political contests; charges and countercharges of coercion and downright fraud were launched by partisans on each side. The lopsided vote in certain counties seems to indicate that chicanery may have been present and voting. Shelby County, including Memphis, out of a total vote of more than 7000 yielded only fives votes for "no separation." Its nearby neighbor, Lauderdale, reported only seven votes for Unionism. Only five West Tennessee counties, Carroll, Decatur, Hardin, Henderson, and Weakley, returned majorities for the Union. West Tennessee was for separation by a ratio of more than four to one. Middle Tennessee was strong for "separation," the ratio being seven to one. Three counties in this area reported not a solitary vote for Unionism, namely, Franklin. Lincoln, and Humphreys. In East Tennessee it was altogether a different story, for Unionism triumphed by a more than two -to-one ratio. Taking the state as a whole, the vote for alignment with the Southern Confederacy was impressive and decisive, the majority vote being in the neighborhood of 55,000.

Although Tennessee voted to secede and immediately join the Confederacy it was not until July 31, 1861, that Harris officially joined the state’s military forces with those of the Confederate government.

Despite secession, Henderson County Court had a proUnion majority membership. As clearly stated at the opening of the 1861 term:

Be it remembered that a county court was begun and held for said county of Henderson at the court house in the town of Lexington on the first Monday of August, it being the 5th day of said month in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty one, and of American Independence the 86th year.

The Legislature authorized all counties to raise, organize, and equip a provisional force. The county court complied with a motion to that effect, but no provisional company was ever raised. The Following court action concerning this matter was recorded:

A motion was made and seconded to appoint a home guard of minute men for the several Districts of said County in pursuance of the 16 Section of said act and the year being taken thereon the following Justices voted for the same to wit B. J. Teague, I L. Phillip and John H. Sherond and the following Justices voted against said motion to wit Esqrs. Henry, Kizer, D. M. McCallum, Stewart , J. P. Thomas, Brown, Fry, Masurgie, M. Thomas, Garner, McAdams, John Teague, Peeler, Pearson, Wilson, Clark, Howard, Pinkston, John R. Teague, Pennyman, Alfred McCallum, Garor , John M. Smith, E. D. Smith, Ab. McCallum, Dyer, Nelson Moore, MacKey, Walker, Rhodes, Davis, Anderson, Fuller, and Evans.

Immediately after Tennessee seceded, Lincoln attempted to hold as many people loyal to the Union as possible. One Sunday afternoon in September of 1861, a man named Harve Roach appeared at the home of Asa "Black Hawk" Hays, perhaps the county’s most colorful war leader. At the age of 15, Hays ran away from home to join the army and to fight in the Black Hawk Indian War. While in Illinois, he met a company of soldiers commanded by a Captain Abraham Lincoln, who quickly became attached to Hays. Twenty-six years later, President Lincoln sent Roach as an emissary to seek Hays’ assistance in bolstering Union support and to disrupt Confederate efforts in the county. Hays agreed to help his former commander and rode with Roach throughout most of Henderson and Decatur counties.

On one occasion Roach was captured by Confederate sympathizers who planned to take him to Columbia for court-martial as a Union spy. While riding enroute to Columbia, Roach managed to maneuver an escape that resulted in his being shot in the back. Eventually, he made his way to the home of an Austin family near Scotts Hill who were Union sympathizers, where he was nursed back to health. After almost a month, Roach traveled by night to the home of Hays who succeeded in leading Roach to the Kentucky border. Roach eventually made his way to Paducab, where he successfully crossed the Ohio River into Illinois and to safety.

Both armies campaigned to enlist men for military service. Local leaders who solicited for the Confederacy were C. H. Williams, Jr., and Jesse Taylor. Williams was a son of the former congressman and leader of the Whig party from Lexington. Taylor was a popular politician and former county court clerk. Despite the standing of these men, volunteers were slow to join Hays and others had been more successful.

Union sympathizers were handicapped by the lack of a recruiting station; men had to leave the state, the majority of the volunteers traveling as far as Illinois to join the Union army. Hays reportedly sent at least 150 residents of Henderson and Decatur counties to fight against the rebel cause. Among these soldiers were William Essary, father of E. W. Essary; Thomas W. Goff, father of G. W. Goff; and Bill, Jesse, and Steve Goff. Thomas Goff died at Mounds, Illinois, in 1863.

One Saturday during August or early September of 1861, a speaker and a brass band appeared at Lexington to "drum up volunteers to help put down and stop the invasion of the Lincoln Black Republicans." A Confederate flag was raised near the speaker’s stand on the southwest side of court square. The speaker, from Jackson, was introduced by young Williams. Black Hawk 1-lays and his "Brown Creekers"—men from the east part of the county—gathered at the square in anticipation of a ruckus. As the speaker began his condemnation of the North, Hays and his followers, including Jacob Pike of Center Point Community. The Thomas brothers from the headwaters of Piney Creek, Bill a and John Stewart from Reagan, J. R. Stewart from Palestine, and others, crossed Main Street to obtain from a saloon an American flag which they proceeded to raise. This action resulted in an unabashed free-for-all. The 40 or 50 Confederate soldiers present made no attempts to prevent the fighting but did stop any shooting and knifing. ‘The majority of the Confederate soldiers were local men who had recently volunteered and were personal friends of the Union supporters. The fighting resulted in the speaker and band’s being escorted quickly out of town.

Henderson and Countians served in the Confederate Army with distinction. Although scattered among many outfits, the majority served in the 21st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment (Wilson’s) and the 16th’ Tennessee Cavalry Regiment; Company C under the command of Captain J. J. Rice; Company F commanded by Captain James Stinnett; the 19th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment (Biffle’s): and Company K, under General Nathan Bedford Forrest, consisting of men also from Gibson and Wayne counties.

However, it was the 27th Tennessee Regiment that saw more active service than any other Confederate outfit. Activated at Trenton in the summer of 1861, it consisted of four companies from Henderson County. C. H. "Kit" Williams was captain of the company known as "Felix Rebels." B. H. Brown commanded a company known as "the Sharpshooters." Richard Barham and S. A. Sayle were he commanders of the two other companies.

When the regiment was reorganized. Williams was made colonel; Brown, lieutenant colonel; Samuel Love, major; Robert Wilkerson, sergeant major; D. A. McKamey, surgeon; and J. Wingo, assistant surgeon. W. P. Timberlake was elected captain of the company formerly commanded by Williams, and John M. Taylor became captain of the company formerly commanded by Brown. These four companies contained approximately 1000 men.

This outfit fought its first battle at Belmont, then moved into Kentucky at Bowling Green, and on to Nashville. The regiment was part of the main western army of the Confederacy, and at Nashville it became a part of the army commanded by General Albert Sidney Johnson. At Murfreesboro in December of 1861, it took part in the furious charges which swept the right wing of the Federals back several miles; at Chickamauga, it fought with superb courage, forcing the enemy back at every point; at Missionary Ridge, it held ground against overwhelming numbers; and at Jonesboro and Lovejoy, it fought with courage and was a part of the doomed campaign that saw the last hope of the Confederacy in Tennessee vanish. It fought its last battle at Bentonville and surrendered in April of 1865. Less than half of the men who left the county returned.

An estimated 150 Henderson Countians served in the 52nd Tennessee Regiment, with Colonel B. J. Lea as its commanding officer. In early 1862, it was stationed to guard the Henderson railroad station, then moved to Corinth, and later took part in the Battle of Shiloh, unfavorably. The 52nd Regiment redeemed itself after many bloody battles at such places as Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, the Georgia Campaign, the Battle of Franklin, and later at Nashville. The regiment surrendered at North Carolina in April of 1865.

The majority of Henderson Countians supporting the Union cause served in the Seventh Union Regiment of Tennessee Cavalry, U.S.A. Three full companies were raised in the county: one commanded by Major T. A. Smith, with A. T. Hart and Frank Reed as lieutenants; one raised by Captain Hays; and one commanded by J. W. Beatty, with J. J. Wallace and a man named Helme as lieutenants. Captain Derryberry raised a part of a company consisting of 29 men, with Isaac N. Hawkins of Huntingdon as lieutenant colonel commanding. The entire regiment consisted of 650 men, about one-half of whom were from the county.

The Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Parker’s Crossroads were the two battles that took place in the county. On October 11, 1862, Confederate cavalry leader General Forrest crossed the Tennessee River at Clifton, and six days later attacked Colonel Robert Ingersol’s Union brigade at Lexington. Ingersol, defeated, surrendered his entire army. Some county members of the brigade who knew the terrain escaped. Forrest captured two Rodman steel cannons in addition to other supplies and 150 men.

Following the Lexington engagement, Forrest moved on to Trenton, Union City, and Kentucky destroying railroads vital to the support of General Grant in Mississippi. On his way back to the river crossing at Clifton, he was attacked on December 31, 1862, at Parker’s Crossroads by Union forces under Colonels Dunham and Fuller and General Sullivan. At first it appeared another victory for Forrest in the defeat of Dunham’s forces, until Fuller and I Sullivan brought their armies into the fight. The unequal number of men resulted in a Union victory, but Forrest and most of his men who had horses escaped.

The government of the county remained intact during this period since all county officials continued to serve in their respective positions, and the county post offices never were taken over officially by the Confederate government. John Samuel Fielder, who had been appointed postmaster at Lexington under the administration of President James Buchanan, continued his service through the Civil War. A. H. Rhodes was county court clerk and continued to serve until 1876; W. H. Shelby was sheriff; J. A. Henry was register; J. W. G. Jones was clerk and master of chancery court; and E. J. Timberlake was circuit court clerk during the war. Circuit Court Judge John Reed resigned in 1861, and court was held by special judges during the war.

The county court at its October of 1861 meeting levied a tax of ten cents on each $100 worth of merchandise offered for sale ten cents on each $100 of spiritan union or fermented liquors and $5 on an; kind of show. These taxes were for the support 01 the families of Confederate volunteers. There was much opposition to the taxes and many refused to pay them, especially Union sympathizers. No record was found to indicate if the taxes were collected.

The Legislature did not meet during the war due to Union occupation. Emerson Etheridge of Dresden was the county’s representative e in the U.S. House of Representatives when the war began, an d he continued to represent the district under the Confederacy Andrew Johnson continued as a U.S. senator until President Lincoln appointed him as the state’s military governor in 1863. John son had tried to restore civil government throughout the state by ordering an election of new county officials under the jurisdiction of the Federal Army, but the scheme failed because citizens, including those in Henderson County, refused to participate.

In a gesture of peace to the South, Lincoln chose Johnson to run as his vice-president. In September of 1864, a Union convention met in Nashville to select Lincoln and Johnson electors. The Lincoln ticket received all votes cast in the November election. In Henderson County, only five boxes, all of which gave a majority vote to Lincoln and Johnson, were used. Since so few people voted and due to confusion concerning the votes, the county’s participation in the election was never reported.

In May of 1863 the county courthouse burned. According to the Goods peed history, the fire had been accidentally started by members of the Third Michigan Cavalry who were quartered there. The fire upset many local people, including Union sympathizers, who thought the destruction of the building had been deliberate since the conduct of the Michigan soldiers had not been always exemplary. Only a few records were saved, including the one-volume minutes of the county court for years 1860-1863 and the volume from the register’s office that contained deeds and slave transactions. After the fire, the county court met upstairs at William Brooks’ storehouse located on the southwest corner of the public square in Lexington. Later, the court met in the law office of T. C. Muse and in the Masonic Lodge. No effort was made to replace the courthouse until after the war.

The county court met on Monday, January 7, 1864, to authorize Ambroso Hart, superintendent of the county poor farm, to be paid $28.70 for services occurring in part of the preceding quarter and to elect John G. Carsus, Thomas N. Hart, and Samuel Howard as commissioners of the farm for the next 12 months. Another action shown in the minutes of that meeting was cited as follows:

This day the court proceeded to open and hold an election for a commissioner to examine all applicants to teach free schools in Henderson County for the ensuing twelve months and upon counting out the votes it appeared to the court that Dr. T. J. Kalpatrick was duly elected commissioner for the purpose afore said.

Kalpatrick began medical practice at Mifflin in 1858. A well-educated man, he also taught school in connection with his practice.

At the state constitutional Convention held in Nashville, one of the several adopted amendments abolished slavery. All amendments were submitted to a vote in the special election held on February 22, 1865. By an overwhelming majority, voters ratified all amendments, Tennessee, therefore, actually freed slaves ten months before the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted on December 18, 1865. Under the provisions of the amended state constitution, William Gannaway Brownlow of Knoxville was elected governor with near-dictatorial powers. An ordained Methodist minister, Brownlow was uncompromising in his loyalty to the Union.


Road to Recovery: 1866—1890

The years that immediately followed the Civil War were those of hardship, strife, and gloom.

an exerpt taken from "Tennessee County History Series"

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