CHAPTER VII.

 

Bridge Burning.—Official Correspondence in Regard to It. The Plans, How Carried Out.—W. B. Carter, Gen. S. P. Carter and Gen. Thomas.—Col. Dan. Stover.—Names of Men Who Burned the Bridge at Zollicoffer and Particulars of the Brave Deed.

 
 
Whatever else may be said about the burning of the bridges of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad in November, 1861, there can be no doubt whatever that the plan was conceived by the Rev. William B. Carter, of Elizabethton, Tenn., and it was through his influence that Mr. Lincoln and the War Department sanctioned it and pledged the co-operation of the Government in the execution of his plans. We have been informed that Mr. Carter, who died at the home of his son, W. E. Carter, at Earhart, Sullivan County, Tenn., July 21, 1902, at the advanced age of 82 years, felt bound by an obligation taken at that time not to divulge the names of those engaged in the bridge burning, or the particulars of his plans, but the facts have been made known by others, so that there can be now no need of concealment. There was certainly no dishonor attached to it, viewing it from the standpoint of loyalty to the Government of the United States, but it should be rather a matter of pride to the bridge burners themselves and to their descendants that they had the courage to engage in so hazardous an enterprise for what they deemed the best interests of their country. We think their names should be preserved and honored for the heroic deed just as the soldier who risks his life in battle for his country deserves the highest honor and praise.

It was through Mr. Carter's courage and energy that the plan was carried out as far as it was, but it was not his fault that the War Department failed to carry out its part of the compact to send an army into East Tennessee to hold the country and protect the brave men who risked their lives in this hazardous undertaking, and afterwards underwent such suffering on account of it. It is evident Mr. Carter would never have risked his own life and endangered those of his best friends had he not had the utmost confidence that the Government would perform its part of the contract. In proof that it was the intention of the Government to occupy East Tennessee in 1861, and that the Union leaders had reason to expect aid from that source, we append a copy of a letter addressed to General Scott, Lieutenant-General of the Army of the United States, written by Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War:

WAR DEPARTMENT,
WASHINGTON, D. C., June 27th, MI.
(GENERAL SCOTT :)

It being the fixed purpose of the Government to protect all loyal citizens in their constitutional rights; and to defend the States against domestic violence, invasion, insurrection or rebellion, you are hereby directed to send an officer to Tennessee to muster into the service of the United States10,000 men, to receive pay when called into active service by this Department. Each regiment formed therefrom to be commanded by field and company officers of their .own selection.

The Ordnance Bureau will forward to Cincinnati, 0., 10,000 stand of arms and accoutrements, and ample supplies of ammunition to be carried thence through Kentucky to East Tennessee by the officer designated by you for mustering the men into service.

You will also direct an officer to muster into service at the same time, in Southeast Kentucky four regiments to be commanded and officered in the same manner as provided for the Tennessee regiments. All tile regiments aforesaid will be raised for service in East Tennessee and in adjacent counties in East Kentucky; and in addition thereto there shall be received and mustered one regiment to be raised in Western Tennessee.
You will send an officer with sufficient command on the Kentucky trace to stop all supplies passing on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.

You will authorize the officers designated by you for mustering into service as aforesaid to receive into the service of the United States such additional loyal citizens (to furnish their own arms) as may offer their services on the terms aforesaid.

The State of Tennessee is added to the Military Division of Kentucky, under Gen. Anderson's command.

Very Respectfully,

Your O'b't Servant,

SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.

Indorsement:

A. LINCOLN.
June 29th, 1861.

This letter of instruction of Mr. Cameron's affords ample proof that it was the intention of the War Department, as early as the date of this letter, June 27, 1861. to collect a force in Kentucky for the purpose of invading East Tennessee and destroying the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad so as to interfere with the transportation of troops and military supplies into Virginia. The Confederate authorities early saw the danger of such a movement and began to arrange to counteract it.

General Sherman about this time made the prediction that it would take an army of 200,000 men to take and hold East Tennessee, but at that time he was accused of insanity for making such a statement. However, when Mr. Carter went to Washington and made known his plans to Mr. Lincoln in September, 1861, Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Seward and General McClellan at once endorsed them.

At this time General George H. Thomas was in command of the Federal forces in Kentucky, with headquarters at Camp Dick Robinson.

The plans of Mr. Carter were also approved by Andrew Johnson, who entered heartily into them and gave Mr. Carter his assistance and hearty co-operation.

After holding a conference with Mr. Lincoln and receiving his endorsement and instructions, Mb. Carder came to Kentucky and held a conference with General Geo. H. Thomas, receiving instructions to carry out his plans for the burning of the bridges according to his own judgment. The plans of Mr. Carter were to select one or two of the most trusted and daring men in each locality where a bridge was to be burned, and these men were sworn to keep the secret until the day set for burning all the bridges simultaneously. The one or two trusted individuals were on that day to notify as many of the bravest and most discreet men in the vicinity of • each place where a bridge was to be burned after nightfall of that day as was thought to be necessary, and designate a leader. These men were to be sworn into the military service of the United States by a competent officer provided for that purpose.

With these plans in view, Mr. Carter left Camp Dick Robinson on the 18th of October, 1861, accompanied by three army officers detailed to aid him, and began the perilous journey into East Tennessee to mature and carry out his plans for burning all the bridges of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad from Bristol to Chattanooga, and the bridge across the Tennessee river at Bridgeport, Alabama, with the understanding that General Thomas' army would move at once to the borders of East Tennessee and be ready to dash in and succor the Lridge burners as soon as they had accomplished the work assigned them.

We introduce here some letters and extracts taken from the "Official Records of the Conduct of the War," Volume 77, covering the period from September 3oth, 1861, to November 7th, 1861, the time during which Mr. Carter was maturing his plans and making his preparations to burn the bridges.

These letters will throw much light on the subject of the bridge burning and the causes which led to the abandonment of the occupation of East Tennessee by the Federal Army.

They will also reveal the movements of Mr. Carter and show with what zeal he entered into his cherished plan of securing the occupation of East Tennessee by the Federal army and thus relieve the loyal people.

HEADQUARTERS CAMP DICK ROBINSON,
Sept. 3o, 1861.
BRIG.-GEN. W. 1'. SHERMAN.

GENERAL :-I have just had a conversation with Mr. W. B. Carter, of Tennessee, on the subject of the destruction of the grand trunk railroad through that State. Ile assures me that he can have it done if the Government will intrust him with a small sum of money to give confidence to the persons to be employed to do it. It would be one of the most important services that could be done for the country, and I most earnestly hope you will use your influence with the authorities in furtherance of his plans, which he will submit to you together with the reasons for doing the work.

I am, sir, your very obedient servant,

GEO. H. THOMAS
Brig.-Gen. U. S. Vols., Commanding.

___________________


NEAR MONTGOMERY, MORGAN CO., TENN.,
Oct. 22, 1861.

BRIGADIER-GENERAL THOMAS.

SIR :—I reached here at 2 P. M. to-day. I am within six miles of a company of rebel cavalry. I find our Union people in this part of the State firm and unwavering in their devotion to the Government and anxious to have an opportunity to assist in saving it. The rebel' continue to arrest and imprison our people.

You will please furnish the bearers with as much lead, rifle powder. and as many caps as they can bring for Scott and Morgan counties. You need not fear to trust these people. They will open the war for you by routing these small bodies of marauding cavalry. * * * * * * * *

I am obliged to send this note unsealed.

In haste, very respectfully,
     Your obedient servant,

WM. BLOUNT CARTER.

____________________


NEAR KINGSTON, ROAN CO., TENN.,
Oct. 27, 1861.

GEN. THOMAS.

SIR :—I am now within a few miles of our railroad, but not yet had time to obtain all the information I must have before I decide on the course best for me to adopt. If I can get half a dozen brave men to "take the bull by the horns," we can whip them completely and save the railroad. If I cannot get such leaders we will make a desperate attempt to destroy all the bridges, and I firmly believe I will be successful. ****

This whole country is in a wretched condition; perfect despotism reigns here. The Union men of East Tennessee are longing and praying for the hour when they can break their fetters. The loyalty of our people increases with the oppressions they have to bear. Men and women weep for joy when I merely hint to them the day of our deliverance is at hand. I have not seen a secession flag since I entered the State. I beg you to hasten to our help, as we are about to create a diversion in Gen. McClellan's favor. It seems to me if you would ask it he would spare you at once 5,000 or 10,000 well-drilled troops. Will you not ask for more help?

I know you will excuse a civilian for making suggestions to a military man, when you remember that I am risking my life and that I am about to ask my people to do the same. I find more deficiency in arms in this part of East Tennessee than I expected. You must bring some small arms with you. I am satisfied that you will have to take the road by Monticello and Jamestown unless you come by Cumberland Gap. I can assure you that whoever is the leader of a successful expedition into East Tennessee will receive from these people a crown of glory of which any one might well be proud, and I know of no one on whom I would more cheerfully bestow that crown than on yourself.

I regret that I can give you no more information, but I will communicate with you as circumstances may require. Perhaps it would be well for you to let Gen. McClellan know that I have reached East Tennessee, as I know he is very anxious for my success. I write in great haste, but believe you may rely on all I have written.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

WM. BLOUNT CARTER.

_______________



HEADQUARTERS CRAB ORCHARD, KY.,
Nov. 5, 1861.

BRIG.-GEN. W. T. SHERMAN.

GENERAL: * * * * I inclose copies of two communications from Mr. William B. Carter, the brother of Lieutenant Carter, of the U. S. Navy. If we could possibly get the arms and the four regiments of disciplined and reliable men we could seize the railroad yet. Cannot Gen. McClellan be induced to send me the regiments?
* * * * * * * *

Very respectfully, your ob'dt servant,

GEO. H. THOMAS,
Brig.-Gen. U. S. V., Commanding.

_______________



HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 1861.

GENERAL: * * * * * Were the population among which you are to operate wholly or generally hostile it is probable Nashville should be your first and principal objective point. It so happens that a large majority of the inhabitants of East Tennessee are in favor of the Union. It therefore seems proper that you should remain on the defensive on the line from Louisville to Nashville while you throw the mass of your forces by rapid marches by Cumberland Gap or Walker's Gap on Knoxville in order to occupy the railroad at that point and thus enable the loyal citizens of East Tennessee to rise while you at the same time cut off the railroad communication between Eastern Virginia and Mississippi. It will be prudent to fortify the pass before leaving it in your rear.

GEO. B. McCLELLAN.

________________



CRAB ORCHARD, KY., Nov. 7, 1861.

GOVERNOR ANDREW JOHNSON,
                                London, Ky.

DEAR SIR :—Your favor of the 6th inst. is at hand. I have done all in my power to get troops and transportation and means to advance into East Tennessee. I believe General Sherman has done the same. Up to this time we have been unsuccessful. * * * * If the Tennesseeans are not content and must go, then the risk of disaster will remain with them. Some of our troops are not yet clothed and it seems impossible to get clothing.
* * * * * * *

Very Respectfully and truly yours,

GEO. H. THOMAS, Brig.-Gen.
U. S. Vols., Commanding.

_________________

 

While this correspondence was going on, as will be seen from his own letters, Mr. Carter does not seem to have entertained a single doubt that the men who with himself had entered into this bold and dangerous scheme would be protected. He was probably advised of General Thomas' forward move from Camp Dick Robinson, but when that officer was ordered back it was then too late to notify Mr. Carter in time to stop the bridge burning.

Mr. Carter matured his plans and assigned men to the task of burning each of the bridges indicated, and set the time for burning them all at the same hour as far as possible, on the night of November 8, 1861, a night now memorable in the history of East Tennessee. But as a general history of this event has been often written since the war, we will confine our story to the burning of the bridge across the Holston river at Zollicoffer (now Bluff City) which was clone by citizens of Carter and Johnson Counties sworn into the service of the United States.

We are greatly indebted to Capt. S. H. Hendrix, of 'atauga, Tenn., who is a veteran of Col. "Jim" Brown- low's famous First Tennessee Cavalry, to Dr. Abram Jobe, of Elizabethton, and Capt. Dan. Ellis, of Hampton, the famous Union pilot and scout, who was one of the bridge burners himself, for many facts concerning the burning of the bridge across the Holston river, and other incidents at this period.

It has been stated on good authority that there were but four men intrusted with the secret of the bridge burning at Zollicoffer until within twenty-four hours of the time it was burned. These were Daniel Stover, Samuel A. Cunningham, Harrison Hendrix and his son, S. H. Hendrix.

In the latter part of October, 1861, a messenger, Capt. Thomas Tipton, bearing verbal instructions from William B. Carter and Andrew Johnson came to the residence of Harrison Hendrix at Carter's Depot with instructions from them for Hendrix to conduct him to the home of Mr. W. B. Carter at Elizabethton. Hendrixsent his young son, S. H. Hendrix, with Capt. Tipton, both mounted on horses. Arriving at Taylor's Ford in the Watauga river they found the river still very much swollen, it being just after the high tide of 1861, but with the assistance of a colored man, Wm. Taylor, they succeeded in crossing safely and proceeded to Elizabethton. Arriving there young Hendrix concealed Captain Tipton and the horses in some bushes and under the shadow of a tree across the mill race until he went to Carter's house. After ascertaining that the coast was clear he knocked at the door which was opened by Mrs. Evaline Carter, who, after learning his name admitted him, when he told her and Mrs. W. B. Carter he had brought a messenger from Mr. Carter who wanted an interview with them. This created some excitement but Capt. Tipton was brought in. Young Hendrix was then instructed to go to the home of Daniel Stover and tell him a messenger from Mr. Carter and Mr. Johnson (Stover's father-in-law) wanted to see him on important business. Mr. Stover and Hendrix came at once to the Carter residence and there, in the west room Capt. Tipton unfolded the plans for the burning of the bridges at Carter's Depot and Zollicoffer, and commissioned him as leader in the undertaking. Col. Stover accepted the dangerous responsibility.

Between the time Hendrix and Tipton were at Elizabethton in the latter part of October, and the night preceding the bridge burning Mrs. Elizabeth Carter made a trip to Roan county, Tenn., met her husband there and returned with full instructions concerning the time and plans for burning the two bridges across the Watauga and Holston rivers. These instructions were communicated to Col. Stover and the night of Nov. 8 named as the time. He began at once to notify his men, appoint a rendezvous and make other necessary arrangements. The bridge at Carter's Depot was guarded by 125 Confederate soldiers under Capt. David McClellan, all well armed. It would require such a large force of poorly armed citizens to overcome this strong guard that after consultation with his friends it was deemed wise to use strategy instead of force to destroy this bridge. After maturing plans for this they were put in the hands of S. A. Cunningham, son-in-law of Judge Nelson, and a prominent Union man, to execute. S. H. Hendrix, who was a very young man at this time, was sent to Andrew D. Taylor's, who lived one mile west of Carter's Depot, on Thursday night preceding the night set for burning the bridges to notify Taylor that his father, Harrison Hendrix, and Mr. Cunningham wanted to see him on important business, and Mr. Taylor, a staunch and loyal friend of the Union, who was afterward assassinated, went to this conference. Young Hendrix had instructions from Col. Stover to remain at Carter's Depot all day Friday 'and watch Capt. McClellan's movements. On the morning of the 8th Geo. W. Emmert, a reliable Union man residing in Turkey Town, a neighborhood not far from Carter's Depot, was intrusted with the task of ascertaining the strength of the guard at the bridge across the Holston river at Zollicoffer. That place is situated between Carter's Depot and Bristol. Mr. Emmert took the train at the former place the evening before the bridge burning and went to Bristol where he purposely remained over night and until the train going west left, so he could walk back through Zollicoffer and make observations. He learned there from Mr. Hazy Davis, a reliable Union man, that the bridge was guarded by only two men, Stanford Jenkins and William Jones, rebel soldiers.

We will relate an incident now that prevented the burning of the bridge across the Watauga river at Carter's Depot. Dr. Abram Jobe, who was one of the first and ablest friends of the Union in Carter county, was one of the very few men of any prominence who opposed the burning of the bridges, for although as we have seen the greatest efforts had been made to keep everything profoundly secret, and succeeded so far as the real plans and time were concerned, but rumors and talk about it had been common in secret among Union men.

Dr. Jobe had some experience as a soldier in the Indian War and knew that under military law destroying public property or engaging in any way in anything that would obstruct military operations in time of war by citizens would subject them to capital punishment. He also knew the uncertainty of the movements of the army and distrusted the ability of the Federal authorities at that time to protect the people who might engage in it. He was most earnest in his opposition, and contended that if the bridges were burned it should be done by the military and not by citizens. For this reason when the time came Dr. Jobe was not let into the secret. However, on the night before, or within the twenty-four hours of the time in which the work was accomplished, a friend of his, believing it was not right to withhold the secret from one so trustworthy, told him what was to be done. He immediately set about the task of trying to have the scheme abandoned. On the morning of the 8th he arose at daylight and went early to the home of Mrs. Carter, who had just returned from the visit to her husband in Roan county. He plead with her to use her influence to prevent the burning of the bridges, representing to her with all the eloquence and earnestness at his command the dreadful calamity that would result, but she told him it was now too late, and holding her hand above her head in a tragic manner she declared : "The fiat has gone forth and the work must be done."

She told him, however, that Col. Stover was the leader in the matter and it was entirely under his control. Learning that Col. Stover would be in Elizabethton that day, Dr. Jobe awaited his coming with much impatience until about 3 P. M., when he rode into town, alighted from his horse and went into the counting room of one of the business houses, the Doctor following him, locked the door and said to him questioningly : "Mr. Stover, the bridges are to be burned to-night ?" Col. Stover exclaimed : "My God, how did you know this ?" Dr. Jobe replied that this question was not to be discussed now, and went on to set forth the danger attending the burning the bridges, especially the one at Carter's Depot, which was heavily guarded. He portrayed the danger attending it in much the same manner he had done to Mrs. Carter. Col. Stover listened attentively, then admitted the force of the arguments and said to him : "You espoused the Union cause before I did, and are as much entitled to your opinion in this matter as I am, or even as Mr. Lincoln himself. You have taken a great interest in the welfare and integrity of the Government, and if you wish to save the bridge at Carter's Depot you can do so but nothing can dissuade me from attempting to burn the bridge across the Holston river whatever may be the consequences ; but you may go immediately to Carter's Depot and see Mr. Cunningham who has charge of affairs there; say to him what you have said to me and tell him I have consented for you to have your own way about the burning of that bridge, but that I will go with my men and burn the bridge across the Holston river."

Dr. Jobe went at once to Mr. Cunningham and related to him what had passed between himself and Col. Stover. Mr. Cunningham told him he had promised his negro man his freedom to put a torch to the bridge that night, and the negro had agreed to do it, but that now the bridge should not be burned.

On the way returning home Dr. Jobe met a number of Union men going in the direction of the Depot to assist in burning the bridge but on learning it was not to be burned they turned their course towards Zollicoffer to assist in burning the bridge at that place.

For the details of the burning of the bridge at Zollicoffer we are largely indebted to Captain Dan Ellis, who was present and assisted in the work, and John G. Burchfield, also a bridge burner.

Col. Stover having selected about thirty men from among the citizens, the most prudent reliable men that could be found in the vicinity of Elizabethton, and swore them into the military service at Reuben Miller's barn at the head of Indian Creek, for that purpose. These men coming from different directions met near Elizabethton and the nature of the enterprise was explained to them by Col. Stover, and they were informed by him that in addition to the honor attached to doing so great a service for the country they were to be paid by the Federal. Government. He explained to them also that Gen. Thomas with his army was then, as he believed, on the borders of East Tennessee, and immediately upon the burning of the bridges, so that Confederate troops could not be hurried in by rail, the Federal army would advance rapidly into East Tennessee, finish the destruction of the railroad and protect the bridge burners and all other loyal people.

Being provided with turpentine which had been procured by Dr. James M. Cameron, and a supply of rich pine knots which would easily ignite and set fire to the bridge, the company crossed the Watauga river at Drake's Ford, one mile east of Elizabethton, proceeded through Turkey Town and down Indian Creek, being recruited along the way by a number of men who joined them. Reaching a point about one-half mile south of Zollicoffer the men were halted and dismounted near a woods where the horses were concealed and Elijah Simerly, Pleasant M. Williams and Benjamin F. Treadway left to guard them.

Col. Stover said to them : "All who are willing to go with me to the bridge and assist in burning it, fall in line." The following men fell into line : John F. Burrow, John G. Burchfield, Gilson 0. Collins, Watson Collins, Landon Carter, M. L. Cameron, Jackson Carriger, James T. Davenport, Samuel Davenport, Daniel Ellis, John Fondrin, William M. Gourley, Henderson Garland, Wm. F. M. Hyder, J. K. Haun, Jacob Hendrixson, Mark Hendrixson, Jonas H. Keen, George Maston, B. M. G. O'Brien, Berry Pritchard, Henry Slagle, James P. Scott, Daniel Stover, the leader, and James Williams. It is alleged that only twenty-three men went to the bridge, while three others, Simerly, Treadway and Williams did the part assigned them—guarding the horses. The list who fell into line is as nearly correct as we have been able to get it. It is said that two or three names that appear above did not go all the way to the bridge while it is said by others they did.

Col. Stover and G. 0. Collins had masks over their faces which had been prepared by Mrs. Lizzie Carter. The other men were not disguised in any way. When the men signified their willingness to go G. 0. Collins gave the command in an undertone to move towards the bridge which they did, moving quickly and in good order. Arriving at the south end of the bridge they did not find any guard at first. They formed the men, part of them fi cing up the river, and others down the river, while six or eight of them went hastily through the bridge nearly to the north end of it. The two guards, Stanford Jenkins and William Jones, rebel soldiers, were under the bridge, the former at the south end and the latter at the north end. Hearing the men, Jones ran and John F. Burrow raised his gun to shoot him, but was ordered not to fire. As the party returned from the north end of the bridge Jenkins came up from under the bridge and recognizing G. 0. Collins, spoke to him and said : "011ie, here's my gun, don't kill me." G. 0. Collins, M. L. Cameron and J. M. Emmert then hastily placing the pine and pouring the turpentine on the bridge applied matches to it and it was soon in flames. They hastened back to their horses, taking Jenkins with them. Unfortunately he had recognized Collins, Keen, Carter, and others.

The company mounted their horses and proceeded some distance on their return when they halted to consult as to what disposition they would make of their prisoner. Feeling sure that Jenkins had recognized Keen (who had once employed him), Collins, and perhaps others, and that if released he would probably report their names to the Confederate authorities, the situation became very serious. In discussing what should be done with Jenkins, Watson Collins and others advocated shooting him. They said that if he reported them their lives would pay the penalty, and that in time of war no man could be trusted, that "only dead men tell no tales," and that their only safety was in silencing him forever; but through the intercession of Mr. Keen, who was very kind hearted, and shrank from blood-shed, and the appeals of Jenkins himself, who made the most solemn promises that he would not betray them, they swore him to secrecy and turned him loose. The party then made a hasty retreat, separating and returning to their homes as if nothing unusual had happened.

J. G. BURCHFIELD'S ACCOUNT OF THE BRIDGE BURNING.

The Union men had been, for many days, looking for and expecting Gen. George H. Thomas to advance with his forces into East Tennessee, by way of Cumberland Gap. Capt. J. I. R. Boyd having returned, during the month of September, from Louisville, Ky., with instructions to organize the Union men and have them ready for the service when Gen. Thomas should appear.

The order for raising and organizing the loyal men in East Tennessee to destroy the railroad bridges had been given by General McClellan sometime in August, 1861. Rev. W. B. Carter was the agent of the War Department to execute the order. General Thomas gave his order for a detail of three commissioned officers, Capt. David Fry, of Greene county, Capt. Thomas Tipton, of (Blountville,) Sullivan Co., and Lieutenant Myers, of Blount county, to go with Mr. Carter to East Tennessee where the bridges were to be burned on the 8th of November, 1861.

All the bridges were attacked and many burned. The bridge at Zollicoffer, between Bristol and Carter's Depot was burned by the men from Carter county, under the leadership of Colonel Daniel Stover, Jonas H. Keen, William Gourley, W. F. M. Hyder, John Burrows, Benjamin F. Treadway, G. 0. Collins, Lafayette Cameron, J. P. Scott, P. M. Williams, James Williams, Samuel Davenport, Watson Collins, Berry Pritchard, J. G. Burchfield, Landon Carter, George Moody, George Maston and Jacob Hendrixson.

Others among whom were C. C. Wilcox, J. P. Wilson, John K. Miller and Morgan Treadway, were detailed for the purpose of bringing in the Union men from the mountains to be in readiness to defend the bridge burners.

By noon on the gth, there were assembled at Elizabethton fully one thousand men, armed with all kinds of weapons. It was a fine body of men, and would have put up a strong fight if it had been under well-disciplined officers. But here the men were, without any kind of officers. About 3 P. M. they marched to Taylor's Ford. All looked to N. G. Taylor to take command. He rather deferred to Col. Dan Stover, and he, although without any knowledge of military matters, was selected for Colonel and called a conference of the leading men. They met in the residence of N. G. Taylor. Capt. Wm. Gourley suggested that the best armed men be placed under some one and sent down to capture the Confederate company it Carter's Depot.

Capt. Boyd and his associates had done their work well, and by the first day of November, 1861, the Union men of Washington, Carter and Johnson counties were well organized and ready for serious business.

On November 7th, late in the evening, there were gathered at the store of Lafayette Cameron, in Elizabethton, a few of the leading men from Carter county.

I remember that some boys who were playing near the corner, broke up in a boys' fight, and I walked around to the store and went in. I was told by Landon Carter to get out. I saw in the room, William M. Gourley, Pleasant M. Williams, John Burrow and a young man, Berry Pritchard, who was captured and shot by the rebels few weeks later. I also saw the late Major C. C. Wilcox, J. P. Scott, 011ie, and Watson Collins and John Helton. There were others, but I do not recall their names. The next night, William M. Gourley came to the blacksmith-shop of J. J. Edens and told me that he wanted the mare, and would be around about to o'clock, for her. He ate supper with us, and I went to bed early. I was out by half past nine o'clock and had been down to Mrs. J. P. Tipton's, and secured a horse and was ready for whatever might come. I only waited_ a few minutes when W. F. M. Hyder rode up, with some seven, or eight men, and waited for Capt. Gourley, who soon came down by the saw-mill and rode to the head of the little squad, and said : "Boys, we have a dangerous job on hands to-night. It will be death to any of us should we be captured. The others have gone by Drake's Ford; we will meet them at the Narrows."

Then we crossed the Watauga river and quietly rode through the darkness until we reached Mr. Miller's. place. Landon Carter and J. P. Scott came to us and we rode rapidly from this place until we reached a farm house on the hill, south of Union. Some of the men stopped and got bundles of straw. While we were standing here in the road, a man, on foot, came out of the house and spoke to Jonas H. Keen in low, earnest tones. Keen and Gourley rode forward, and then G. 0. Collins came up and ordered all forward.

We all rode to the station, dismounted, and rushed to the bridge. It would be impossible to describe the haste with which each man did his part. A guard was captured at the bridge, and in five minutes from the time we reached it, the flames were driven from the south end to the north end of the bridge. All re-mounted and returned by the way we came. At the head of the Narrows, Gourley, Hyder and Williams, and a few others, left the main force, under Col. Stover, and reached J. J. Eden's place about 4:3o in the morning.

I slept until awakened by Mrs. Edens. I did not speak to any one of what had been done, for the reason that I felt that death would be visited upon any of the men who participated in that night's fearful work. Mr. Gourley and I went down to the shop and started a fire in the forge. J. J. Edens Came in, and said : "What is the trouble? Do you know that the bridge at Zollicoffer has been burned ?"

By noon I was in Elizabethton, with a gun in my hands, and was drilling a squad of the boys of my own age. D. P. Wilcox came to us and asked us if we wanted: to enlist. I said we were already in the army. That evening we elected him Captain of the Town Company, and he led us down to Taylor's Ford, where we received our "Baptism" for the Union, under the fire of rebel lead, and from there to Clark's Spring and then to Elizabethton, and finally to "Hyder's Old Field" in the Doe river cove where the "army" disbanded.

We will place on record here that this man Jenkins. whose life had been spared by these men upon his solemn promises and obligation not to betray them, and through, the intercession of Keen, who had been his friend and neighbor, who had once employed him, and believed he could not be so destitute of honor and all the instincts of humanity as to betray him, upon being released, he immediately reported the names of Keen, and others of the party, whom he recognized, under oath, to the Confederate authorities! But these men, and indeed every loyal citizen was yet to learn that honor, truth and integrity, those great virtues that should exist in every human heart, and some of which are said to exist even among thieves, found no abiding place in the breast of this man, and the same was true of many others of the enemies and oppressors of the Unionists of Carter and Johnson counties.

On the morning after the burning of the bridges, as the news spread, the greatest excitement and consternation prevailed among the rebel sympathizers, and great alarm was felt by the Unionists lest the wrath of the Confederates would be visited upon them, regardless of their guilt or innocence in connection with the bridge burning. But the leaders were yet confident that they would be relieved and protected by the advent of the Federal army.

S. H. Hendrix, of Carter's Depot (now Watauga), then a very young man, but who, as we have seen, was an .active and useful participant in carrying out the plans for burning the bridges was the first man arrested on the morning after the bridge was burned, and the first one to convey the news to Keen and others that Jenkins had betrayed them. In a letter written by Capt. Hendrix in reply to a request from us to furnish such information as he might be in possession of regarding the bridge burning we take the liberty to quote the following :

"On Saturday morning when the excitement was at its highest I was arrested and carried to the headquarters 'of Capt. McClellan and ordered placed in the guard house with six guards over me. I was the first man arrested for bridge burning, but proved such a conclusive alibi by Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Brown (my uncle and aunt) and Miss Bettie Bishop, daughter of James Bishop, that I was sent home under guard, and under promise to remain inside the Confederate lines and report to headquarters twice a day. Through my anxiety to get with the Union forces so as to inform Lafayette Cameron, Jonas H. Ken and Landon Carter that they had been betrayed and reported by Jenkins and were in great danger, I made my escape on Monday and went up the river through the pines and brush to the bend of the river below Buck's Rock (now Watauga Point), crossed the river at what was then called the "Devil's Stairs," and made my way tc Elizabethton and told Cameron, Carter and Keen what I had learned while a prisoner at Carter's Depot."

But few of the "Bridge Burners" are now living. Of those living (1902) now all but a very few, perhaps two or three, joined the Federal army and were pensioned by the Federal Government as soldiers. Pleasant M. Williams, of Gap Creek, Carter county, is still living. There has never been a braver, truer or more patriotic citizen than Mr. Williams, and his old age should have been made happy, long ago, by a liberal pension from the Government.

John F. Burrow, Esq., is also still living and should long ago have been placed on the pension rolls. He was a brave and loyal Union man and took his life in his bands to do a great service for his country.

A few years ago a bill was introduced in Congress to pension these few remaining heroes by Hon. W. C. Anderson. and it was favorably reported by the committee but has never become a law.

In 1898 John F. Burrow requested Capt. S. W. Scott to have the matter brought before the encampment of the G. A. R., Department of Tennessee, which was held in Knoxville on February 22 of that year. Capt. Scott wrote to Capt. S. P. Angel, a resident of Knoxville, on the subject, and the latter introduced a resolution in the encampment which was favorably acted on but we regret to say that as yet Congress has not acted favorably on the bill.

We append a copy of the bill introduced into Congress giving the names of the bridge burners and the action of the Grand Army encampment thereon :

Resolution No. 6, submitted by S. P. Angel.


Resolved, That this Encampment endorse the bill No. 52g8, now pending before Congress, granting pensions to certain East Tennesseeans named in the bill, and that we hereby respectfully request our Senators and Representatives in Congress to vote in favor of the passage of said bit:.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FIFTY-FOURTH
CONGRESS, SECOND SESSION.

Report No. 2776.

PENSIONS TO CERTAIN EAST TENNESSEEANS.

February 3, 1897.—Committed to the Committee of the Whole House and ordered to be printed. Mr. Anderson, from the Committee on Invalid Pensions, submitted the following report.

The Committee on Invalid Pensions, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 5298) granting a pension to certain East Tennesseeans engaged in the secret service of the United States during the War of the Rebellion, having carefully considered the same, respectfully report:

Pleasant M. Williams, John F. Burrow, Benjamin F. Treadway, Samuel Davenport, John G. Burchfield, George Maston, Gilson 0. Collins, Landon Carter, Jeremiah M. Miller, J. K. Haim, and Elijah

Simerley were residents of East Tennessee at the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion in 1861, and most of them possessed of valuable property, and were loyal to the Union cause.

Those named were, on November 8, 1861, enlisted and were sworn into a company in the secret service of the United States, known as the "East Tennessee Bridge Burners," by Capt. Thomas Tipton, together with Capt. Daniel rills, Jacob Hendrickson, M. L. Cameron, Jonas H. Keen, J. D. Carriger, Watson Collins, Henry Slagle, Mark Hendrickson, Berry Pritchard, W. F. M. Hyder, William Gourley, James T. Davenport, James P. Scott, Henderson Garland, B. M. G. U Brien, John Fondrin and James Williams. and under the command of Capt. Daniel Stover, on the night of November 8 1861, surprised the guards and burned the bridge across the Holston River on the East Tennessee. Virginia and Georgia Railroad.

The authority for the organization of the East Tennessee Bridge Burners came through Gen. George H. Thomas, then commanding the Union forces in that locality. through authority obtained from Gen. George B. McClellan, commanding the Arm-- of the Potomac, and was approved by the President of the United States.

Those enlisted for the enterprise were carefully selected because of their known loyalty and they were charged with the destruction of the bridges on the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad, preparatory to the contemplated movement of Gen. Thomas' forces upon Knoxville, Tenn., in November, 1861. The undertaking was a most perilous one, everyone engaged in the same being fully cognizant of the result which would surely follow a canture by the enemy, and it was entered into only upon the promise made by Gen. Thomas that his occupation of East Tennessee would immediately follow upon the destruction of the said bridges, which would afford protection to those engaged in the hazardous work, and even then it was difficult to induce a sufficient number of the citizens of that region to engage in the execution of the dangerous enterprise.

On the night of November 8. 1861, the bridge across Holston River and that over Lick Creek were destroyed; but Gen. Thomas did not come, as was expected, he having proceeded, according to his promise, only a short distance when he was recalled by General Sherman, who commanded the department, for the supposedly more important work.

Thus were the Bridge Burners left to their own fate. Many of them were recognized by the bridge guards, and flight and seclusion became imperative to escape death. They attempted to escape into Kentucky and join the Union forces there, but after several futile attempts abandoned this course as impracticable, and the company was disbanded and each left to shift for himself. Some of them were captured and hung or shot; others sought refuge in the mountains and endeavored to conceal themselves, suffering much exposure and hardship. hunger, cold, and rain. Some made their way, after overcoming many obstacles, and joined and enlisted in the Union armies; others, among whom was Pleasant M. Williams, were captured and imprisoned in rebel prisons, and were confined and starved until the bones of back, hips, and arms protruded through the skin after the flesh had been absorbed by the wasting bodies. Nearly all of those named in the bill—all but two or three, as your committee is informed—are now borne upon the pension roll by reason of subsequent enlistment and service in other organizations, but your committee believe that there should be a public recognition of the service of these men, who, according to the war records of the Rebellion, spread consternation and dismay among the secessionists of East Tennessee and among the officers of the Confederate Government, who appealed for more troops to guard the railroads and prevent disruption of communication between the troops in Virginia and those in the cotton States co-operating with them. These men were heroes, and tneir names should be emblazoned on a roll of honor.

Your committee therefore recommend the passage of the bill.

The report of the committee was concurred in.

 
 

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