Goodspeed's History of Stewart County

Published 1896

Part 7: Military History of Stewart County

The military history of Stewart County is at once varied and interesting and at least a portion conspicuous. From the organization of the county in 1804 down to the present time the soldier has ever been present in some shape or form, either as a militiaman, veteran of the wars of 1812, 1836, or 1846, or survivors of the late civil war. With the country was organized the militia, the organization continuing until sometime during the forties and probably later. Among the commanders of militia were the following, given in order of the time of service: Capts. Williams, Greene, Graham, Allen, Elliott, Warden Outlaw, Kendall, Tenney, Rushing, Burton, Gray, Cowan, Ross, Powers, Atkins, Lewis, Cooper, Colsom, Hogan, Teas, Milan, Brinson, Brown, Moore, Wynne, Cherry, Crosswell, Garrison, Taylor, Walker, Bryant, Wyatt, McKinney, Allman, and Martin.

While quite a large number of soldiers went from Stewart County to the war of 1812, most of whom were with Gen. Jackson at the battle of New Orleans, only the following names could be secured: Capt. James Gray, who commanded a company; James Cooper, James Lewis, William Colton, Larry Satterfield, John Davidson, William K. Colson, Andrew Collins, ___ Barfield. When the war beteween the United Steates and Mexico began, in 1846, an effort was made to raise a company of volunteers in Stewart County, but only eighteen men were secured, among whom were Samuel Graham, John Sikes, George Cook, John Gibson, James Andrews, Tom Andrews, Robert Humphreys, Whitmill P. Scarborough, Christopher Brandon, Granville Wells, and James Austin. The gallant little band marched to Nashville, where they were mustered into service in Company D., Capt. Bradford, and joined Col. Cheatham's brigade. A majority of the Stewart County men survived the war and returned to their homes, two of whom, Capt. Sam Graham and John Sikes, are now living.

The call of Gov. Harris, in 1861, for volunteers, found the people of Stewart County in a fever of excitement, and ready for almost any emergency. Three companies were formed during the spring of the same year and reported to Camp Quarles, Montgomery County, were they joined the Fourteenth Tennessee Regiment, then undergoing instructions and making preparations for going to the front in the pending Virginia campaigns. The companies were Company E, Capt. Nathan Brandon, Company D, Capt. Hiram Buckner and Company F, Capt. Wash Lowe. The regiment left Camp Quarles in July, 1861, expecting to participate in the first Manassas fight, but finding itself too late it turned aside and marched into West Virginia.

During 1861 forts Henry and Donelson were built in Stewart County. Fort Henry was situated on the east bank of Tennessee River, twelve miles from Dover, and was of bastioned earthworks, with an armament of seventeen guns, and garrisoned by a force under the command of Gen. Tilghman. Fort Donelson was situated on the south bank of Cumberland River on a platform of elevated ground about 100 feet above the water, and distant from the town of Dover about one mile. The site was naturally a strong position, and the entire works covered not less than 100 acres, while the rifle pits embraced a scope of territory not less than three miles or more in circumference taking in the town of Dover. On the water side or facing the river, the fort was particularly strong and the water batteries commanded the river for three miles down and over a mile up stream. Work was begun on the fort some time in May 1861, and continued almost up to the time of the fight. The Fiftieth Tennessee Regiment was organized at Dover in fall of 1861, five companies being made up from Stewart County citizens as follows: Company B. Capt. George W. Stacker; Company D, Capt. Samuel Graham, Company F, Capt. A. Richards; Company H, Capt. Elbert G. Secton; Company I, Capt. William Martin. Capt Stacker was elected colonel of the regiment, but served as such only a few days and resigned. The regiment was ordered to garrison the fort and at once took up their quarters inside the walls, erecting log huts in which to live. The fort was supplied with upward of ninety pieces of artillery, including the two water batteries, which were manned with two guns each, those of the commanding battery being 164-pound rifled cannon.

The fight at Fort Henry was opened by the Federal gun-boats under command of Adm. Foote at 12 o-clock on February 6, 1862, the land forces under Gen. Grant cooperating. The fort was reduced in an hour's time and the white flag hoisted. The land troops, failing to put in an appearance at the opportune time, the Confederate forces encamped outside the fort made their escape to Fort Donelson. The remains of Fort Henry have almost disappeared, yet the walls and ditches can be traced even at this late day.

The Federals, after capturing Fort Henry, turned their forces toward Fort Donelson, and on February 12, Grant with his army was before the fort. At the time of the attack the garrison and defense of Fort Donelson was not less than 14,000 men, including the following regiments, batteries and companies: The Third, Tenth, Eighteenth, Twenty-sixth, Thirtieth, Thirty-second, Forty-first, Forty-second, Forty-eighth, Forty-ninth, Fiftieth, and Fifty-third Tennessee. Colmer's Battalion of five companies, the First, Third, Fourth, Fourteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-sixth Mississippi, the Second and Eighth Kentucky, Seventh Texas, Fifteenth Arkansas, Twenty- seventh Alabama, Thirty-sixth, Fiftieth, Fifty-first and Fifty-sixth Virginia, Forrest's regiment of cavalry, Gantt's battalion of five companies, Third Kentucky, and Porter's and Maney's Tennessee, Grave's Kentucky, and Jackson's, French's and Lucas' Virginia batteries, all of which were under the command of Gens. Floyd, Pillow and Buckner. The battle was opened by the gun-boats engaging the fort on the 13th, the first gun being fired from the water battery nearest Dover, by Gen. Donelson, the man in whose honor the fort was named. The gun-boats were repulsed and forced to retire. Throughout the entire days of Thursday, Friday and Saturday the battle was waged with varying success on each side, the Federals gaining ground here and being driven back there. The Confederate soldiers fought bravely, and when the sun went down Saturday were elated at their supposed victory, as the enemy had been driven back a distance of four or five miles. Gen. Grant received about 15000 new troops as re-enforcements from the transports Saturday afternoon, which fact convinced those in command of the Confederate forces that a surrender was inevitable. Accordingly a council of war was held in Dover that night, when it was decided to surrender the fort on Sunday morning. For personal reasons Gen. Floyd, the senior commander, transferred the command to Gen. Pillow, who actuated by motives similar to those of his senior, passed the command to Gen. Buckner, and upon that General devolved the unpleasant duty of surrendering the fort, while Gens. Floyd and Pillow escaped on the transports up the river, Floyd taking with him a portion of his command. Gen. Forrest, with his cavalry, also escaped Saturday night. Early Sunday morning, much to the surprise and chagrin of the rank and file of the Confederate forces, a white flag was hoisted and the fort surrendered "unconditionally" to Gen. Grant. The number of troops surrendered is disputed and is not positively known, but was between 10000 and 15000.

The Federals decided to hold Dover, and so erected a new fort about half a mile further up the river, and nearer the town from Fort Donelson and garrisoned the same. The earthworks, ditches, mortar batteries and rifle pits at Fort Donelson remain at the present in a state of preservation, thought the walls are much dilapidated, while on the site of the Federal fort now stands a beautiful national cemetery, in which are buried 650 Federal soldiers, 458 of whom are known, The cemetery was established in November, 1867.

At different times during 1863 the Confederate troops attempted to drive the Federals from Dover, first under Gen. Woodard, and next under Gens. Wheeler and Forrest, but were unsuccessful in each attack. During these two fights the entire town of Dover, with the exception of four houses, was destroyed, those escaping being the Robertson and Hobing hotels, and two buildings, one frame and one brick, near the public square. Throughout the war the county was overrun with guerrillas and jayhawkers, and much loss of life and property was caused thereby. During 1863 James Gray, an aged and well-to-do farmer, was visited by jayhawkers, who supposed he had money secreted about his house, and was taken by them and tortured by placing his feet in the fire, in the hope of getting money from him, but the old farmer had no money on hand. In 1864 George Basswell was shot as a guerrilla by the Federal soldiers near the mouth of Hurricane Creek; also Hub Edmonson on Yellow Creek during the same year, was shot as a guerrilla by the Federals. They also killed Troy McCaskill during the same year. Abraham Phillips, a Union man, was taken to Standing rock Creek by the guerrillas in 1864, and shot, and during the same year on the same creek, Henry Bradley and Dock Fawks shared a similar fate at the hands of the guerrillas. John Mathews was another victim and Thomas Atkinson and John Bell, Union sympathizers, were carried by guerrillas upon Piney River and shot. Garrett Crisp, a farmer, was choked and tortured into giving up about $500 which he had in his possession.

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