Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, Historical Sites, History

Battle of Stones River Remembered

The picturesque Stones River winds its way through Rutherford County, Tennessee, on its way to Percy Priest Lake and eventually to the Cumberland River. Along its shores the Stones River National Battlefield spans a small parcel of the land where Confederate and Union forces fought December 31, 1862, through January 2, 1863. Caught amid the urban sprawl of modern-day Murfreesboro, the site marks one of many battles, in what was then considered the “west,” that allowed the Union forces to split the Confederacy.

Visitor Center
Visitor Center

On a recent trip to Tennessee, our son took us to the Stones River National Battlefield.  I’ve visited many Civil War battlefields over the years but this was my first time at Stones River.  At the visitors center we learned about the battle and then we took a driving tour. My husband and I are both history buffs and we have a particular affinity for the Civil War. Both of us have ancestors who fought for the Confederacy and we both grew up with the many Civil War sites nearby.  Seeing the terrain and hearing the story of the Battle of Stones River gave us an understanding of what the men who fought here went through one hundred and fifty years ago.

Stones River
Stones River

At the beginning of the war, Tennessee seceded while Kentucky did not. This drew the initial lines in the “west.”  By mid-1862 most of the Mississippi was lost and Union ships blockaded the southern and eastern ports. Union strategists planned to cut a wedge through Tennessee and Georgia to divide the Confederacy. Although widespread, the road network of the day would not sustain transport of supplies, munitions and men. Railroads and riverboats provided the fastest and easiest means of transport. So the Union generals were ordered to capture the railroads and take control of the rivers.

Fences on Battlefield
Fences on Battlefield

The spring of 1862 saw the fall of Fort Donelson and Nashville, both on the Cumberland River. On the night of December 30th General William Rosecrans left Nashville and marched his men southeast along the Nashville Pike, which paralleled the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. They camped just outside Murfreesboro where the enemy waited. Anticipating the coming fight, Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg attacked on the freezing-cold morning of December 31st. From the south they pushed  the Union troops back toward Nashville Pike, the railroad and the Stones River.  The battle raged across cotton fields, through stoney outcroppings and cedar thickets for three long days. Thousands on both sides were killed, wounded or captured.  (13,249 Union, 10,266 Confederate)

Terrain near river, scene of last day of battle
Terrain near river, scene of last day of battle

Approximate area of river crossing

On January 2, 1862, after having pushed the northern troops off a hill and across the Stones River, Union artillery on the far side of the small river fired on pursuing Confederates, killing or wounding nearly 1,800 in mere minutes. The southerners retreated as the Yankees recrossed the river and retook the high ground.  The following day General Bragg withdrew his men from the battlefield and from Murfreesboro.

Cannons fired across the fields.
Cannons fired across the fields.

In the months following the battle, General Rosecrans built a large fort at Murfreesboro called “Fortress Rosecrans.” This 200 acre, earthen-works fort became the supply depot for the later campaigns against the rail center  in Chattanooga and eventually Atlanta.

In 1863, not long after the battle, Colonel William Hazen’s men built a monument to commemorate the Union soldiers lost in the battle. It is the oldest intact Civil War memorial.

Hazen Brigade Monument
Hazen Brigade Monument

In 1866, over 6,100 Union soldiers were reburied in the Stones River National Cemetery.  In 1867 remains of Confederate soldiers were moved to a cemetery south of Murfreesboro. Later, in the 1890’s, about 2,000 southerners were moved again to Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro. As at many other battlefields, the U.S. government established cemeteries for the Union soldiers who died, but private citizens provided for the interment of the Confederate dead.

Across the fields to the Stones River Cemetery
Across the fields to the Stones River Cemetery

The Stones River battlefield became a tourist attraction bringing people and needed money to the area. Situated along the railroad, the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway provided excursions for those who wanted to see the cemetery, memorials and the battlefield  itself. The railway published a book called “Southern Battlefields” in 1890 to serve as a guidebook for those touring the many battlefields. Later, in 1906, the railroad built the artillery monument, a 34-ft-tall obelisk marking the hill where the last attack took place so that the passengers could see it from their train.

Hazen Brigade Monument - inside the wall
Hazen Brigade Monument – inside the wall

Modern day tourists can explore the preserved portion of the battlefield and the surrounding area. With the help of maps and information provided at the visitor center, tourists can maneuver through homes and business areas to find the Hazen Brigade Memorial, the remnants of “Fortress Rosecrans” and to explore the Stones River.

Marker along driving tour
Marker along driving tour

When we returned home, I did a little research to determine if any of our ancestors fought at Stones River. It turns out that the Tennessee Sharpshooters (also called Maney’s Sharpshooters, 24th Tennessee Sharpshooter Battalion, Maney’s Battalion) under Captain Frank Maney are listed in the order of battle for the Army of the Tennessee at Stones River.  George Wade Knight, my great, great-grandfather, served in the 24 Battalion Tennessee Sharpshooters as did his brother-in-law, Perry L. Brown and his wife’s brother-in-law Philander Rushing.  All were from Humphreys County and probably joined up together.

Leaving Hazen Brigade Monument
Leaving Hazen Brigade Monument
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Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, Historical Sites, History

Malvern Hill or Gettysburg?

Was my ancestor wounded at Malvern Hill or Gettysburg? Accounts differ, but they provide fascinating information about the battles and his unit’s participation in those battles.

E. D. Boone
E. D. Boone

Etheldred D. Boone enlisted in Company B 14th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, CSA. The regiment was organized near Clarksville, Tennessee, in June, 1861.  Along with the 1st Tennessee and the 7th Tennessee Infantry Regiments, the 14th completed the three regiments that made up the Tennesse Brigade assigned to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Company B, organized in Palmyra, consisted of members primarily from Montgomery County. E. D. Boone lived in what was then Stewart County near the town of Erin, which later became the county seat of Houston County. In 1861 Palmyra was a thriving community a few miles and a short train ride from Erin. The train ran through Erin to Cumberland City then along the Cumberland River to Palmyra and on to Clarksville.

As part of Lee’s campaign to save the Confederate capital, Malvern Hill was the last of the Seven Days Battle for Richmond which began at the Battle of Oak Grove on June 25, 1862, and ended at Malvern Hill on July 1st.

In a letter written in 1909 by a surviving member of Company B to E. D. Boone’s son, Samuel B. Powers stated that E. D. Boone was wounded at Malvern Hill. See the full text of the letter from Samuel B. Powers at the end of this post.

In 1862 the Tennessee Brigade, commanded by James J. Archer, was attached to A. P. Hill’s division of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. On June 26th Hill’s division engaged the Union forces at Beaver Dam Creek and again at Gaines Mill on June 27th. The division fought at Glendale on June 30. But, on July 1st,  A. P. Hill’s division, exhausted from the previous days fighting, was held in reserve during the Battle of Malvern Hill.

So could my ancestor have been wounded at Malvern Hill? With all the fighting over a seven-day period, it is possible that he was wounded during this campaign. The battle at Glendale took place on the approach to Malvern Hill where the Union forces had retreated to the high ground. A large number of Union troops had dug in on the hill, with artillery in place, prepared to make their stand when the Confederates attacked on July 1st. At the time the names of the various battles were not as distinct as they are today. Historians have given names to the various actions based on specific locations and dates, yet the soldiers on the field may have referred to them differently. If he was wounded at Malvern Hill, as the letter states, he was probably wounded on June 30 in what is now called the Battle of Glendale.

But then there is the other account – that E. D. Boone was wounded at Gettysburg. In my grandmother’s library a book titled “A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans” (1913) contained biographies and histories of prominent Tennesseans. My grandfather’s write-up told of his father’s service in the Confederate Army. “…serving therewith until the battle of Gettysburg, when he was seriously wounded during Pickett’s charge. He was carried back with the army into Virginia, and remained in the hospital at Richmond until the close of the war, and for some time thereafter was compelled to use crutches.” The source of this information is unknown.

The Tennessee Brigade, including the 14th Tennessee Regiment, did participate in the battle of Gettysburg as part of Henry Heth’s Division in A. P. Hill’s Third Corp. Their commander, James J. Archer, was captured on the first day, July 1, 1863. Command passed to Birkett D. Fry who led the Tennessee Brigade at the forefront of Pickett’s famous charge on July 3, 1863. Elements of the 14th reached the Union lines but lost their battle flag to the Yankees within their battle works.

One hundred men, of the original one thousand, reformed the 14th Tennessee Regiment on the day after Gettysburg. By the surrender at Appomattox Court House the following year only 40 men remained.  Regardless of when he was wounded, E. D. Boone served with honor, was wounded and his widow received a widow’s pension.

Due to his untimely death in 1873 of cholera, E. D. Boone never had the opportunity to tell his son about his military experiences. Perhaps by requesting copies of E. D. Boone’s military record and his widow’s pension application from the Tennessee State Archives, I will be able to obtain more information about his service.

Letter written to W. R. Boone by Samuel B. Powers regarding E.D. Boone’s service in the Confederate Army.

RFD # 1
Palmyra, Tenn.
Feb 12th, 1909
 
Mr. W. R. Boone
Erin, Tenn.

I received a note from Capt. W. G. Russell a few days ago with a letter from you enclosed making inquiry about E. D. Boone who was a member of Co. B 14th Tenn. Regt. in Confederate Army. Being a member of the same company I was very intimate with him. I waited on him through a spell of fever while in the Army. From your letter I think you want to know in what Battle he was wounded. It seems that the old boys of other companies do not agree about the battle he was wounded in. I have talked with your father since the war. He told me he was wounded at Malvern Hill, the last of the seven days fight before Richmond VA. If you will see a history of that fight you will see it commenced the 26th of June & ended the 1st day  July 1862.

Respectfully Yours,

Saml. B. Powers

Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, History

Obituary of Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore

Sometimes when we research our ancestors we find some interesting characters on our family tree – such as my Great-Aunt Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore. Aunt Sallie married my Great-great-grandfather’s brother, Rufus Hicks Sizemore, in 1856, when he was 24 and she was 22. Years ago my mother showed me the faded newspaper which carried Aunt Sallie’s obituary and asked me to make photo-copies. More recently I typed it up before it faded into oblivion. The obituary reads like a tribute to a woman who was both prominent in the community and loved by all who knew her. She’s one of my ancestors I wish I knew more about. I hope everyone enjoys reading her obituary from almost one hundred years ago.

Obituary of Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore published in the Dickson County Herald

April 19, 1912

In Memoriam

Mrs. Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore was born in Dickson County, Tennessee, and died at the home of her son Claude H. Sizemore, in Dickson, Tenn. April 1, 1912, aged 78 years.

Mrs. Sizemore was a great-niece of the sainted Samuel McAdoo, one of the pioneers in establishing the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in this country. She became a member of the Cumberland Church when just a child and was a faithful and loyal Christian all her life. She was married to Dr. R. H. Sizemore and was a faithful and devoted wife for him to his death.  He died at Erin, Tenn., July 14, 1879.

Three sons blessed the united life of Mrs. Sizemore, vis.: Eugene A., who died in infancy; Clarence R., now living in St. Louis, Mo., and Claude H., a resident of Dickson, Tenn. The deceased has also left one brother and one sister to mourn their loss.  Mrs. Sizemore had every attention in her last sickness that loving hands and tender hearts could render. It was not until the inevitable came upon her that she would allow special attention.

She was a woman of great willpower and never wanted anyone to attend to her so long as she could wait on herself.  She was cheerful and hopeful in all her sickness up to only a short time before the end came. Her faith in God was fixed to the end. Almost with her latest breath she whispered, “It is well.” She knew no fear of any thing, or any body. She fully believed her life was safe anywhere. Day or night, if she felt duty called, she did not hesitate, but, at once, would go out in the darkness of the night that she might be a help somewhere. Her husband was a surgeon in the army during the war between the States, and this good woman soon felt that loyalty to her husband demanded her presence with him in his delicate work, and she went to him and for two years, or longer, she was right by his side assisting him in his work.  Many of the old soldiers yet living say she was God’s angel among the wounded and dying.  At her funeral veterans of the gray were her pall-bearers. Many of them as they looked upon her cold form for the last time could not refrain from weeping. It was by their hands her body was consigned to its last resting place.

Her patriotism is no less spoken of than that of many of the illustrious dead who fell in line of battle. Many of her courageous and daring deeds are recalled by those who were with her and knew her army record. I only mention a few here. At one time she passed between the Union and Confederate lines while under fire with a looking-glass under her arm, playing the citizen of the neighborhood. At another time, on hearing of the hunger of an almost starving rebel, she determined to get some potatoes nearby, and though the army on both sides were in battle array she passed somehow the pickets, got the potatoes and returned and was reprimanded by her husband for taking such risks. Her simple reply was, “I got the potatoes.” Another time, at the point of a pistol she forced a horse thief to put back her horse in the stable, warning him that to carry out his orders would result in his death. She was taken to Atlanta while the city was being shelled, but made her escape in a meat car. In a difficulty between a Federal officer and her husband she threw herself between them to save her husband from the drawn sword in the officer’s hand. She defied the officer and called him a coward. She often went among the sick and dying administering medicine and giving such other help as she knew how to give in their troubles. She assisted her husband in dissecting, often standing in heaps of limbs all around her, she holding the tallow candle, the only light available, while her husband was amputating and otherwise attending the soldiers.

Mrs. Sizemore was indeed a remarkable woman and her long life of heroism and Christian labor is an inheritance for her grown sons that they will ever enjoy. The older people feel the loss of a comrade. The younger ones feel the loss of a loving and congenial mother, who was ever ready with a rich story to rehearse that would thrill and make them love her memory. She sleeps the sleep of the good and brave. Some sweet day we shall meet her again.

Her funeral was conducted from the M. E. Church, South, in Dickson,Tenn., before a large audience of sorrowing friends, April 3, 1912.

Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, History

Gold Coin – 160 Years Old

With gold at record high prices, like many others, I started looking at my jewelry to see if there were any odds & ends I could sell. Broken chains, single earrings, and other such pieces. This got me to thinking about what I have, where they came from and what the items mean to me. Some pieces hold such sentimental value that I would never sell them.

One of my treasures is the gold coin necklace my mother gave me years ago. Along with the gift came the story, the family history tied to the coins. This piece of family lore makes the coin necklace a treasure beyond price.

My great-grandmother, Theodosia, was born in Mississippi in 1858. According to family stories she received my coin, a 2 1/2 dollar gold piece dated 1851, as a birthday gift. Dosia lived most of her life in Tennessee where she died at the age of 82. She gave two coins, mine and another dated 1850, to my grandmother who in turn passed them on to my mother. After having the coins set in bezels so they could be worn as necklaces, my mother gave them to my sister and me.

That explains how I came to own the coin, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. I can only speculate on the origin of the coins. Did they come from Dosia’s father or, perhaps, her grand-father? Was it a family custom to give the children gold coins on their birthdays? Did her mother put the coins away so that Dosia and her siblings would have them when they grew older?  Whatever the plans for the coins, the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 changed everything.

Dosia’s father, R. B. Sizemore, enlisted in the 26th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A. Her mother, Elvira, remained behind to tend the farm and their four children. Late in 1864 R. B. Sizemore died a result of some unknown disease, rather from battle wounds. From the history of the 26th, the date he enlisted and his death, we can surmise that he participated in the Battle of Ft. Donelson  (Feb. 1862) where he was taken prisoner and exchanged six months later at Vicksburg. During the following year the regiment defended Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama against Grant and Sherman. Then in May, 1864, they journeyed east to Virginia where they fought in the Wilderness Campaign, the Seven-Days battles around Richmond and finally to Petersburg. There is no way for us to know when R.B. became ill. We only know he died in Mississippi in December, 1864.

Sometime during the war, either before or after R.B.’s death, Elvira hid the gold coins in a stump for safekeeping. She probably stashed more than the two coins, but we will never know what treasures she hid away so that they would not be stolen in those uncertain times.

My great-great-grandmother remained on the farm in Mississippi until 1867 when she took her children north to her mother-in-law’s home in Tennessee. Theodosia was nine years old.

After her mother remarried in 1870, to her father’s brother, Dosia went to live with another of her father’s brothers, R. H. Sizemore. This uncle was a doctor who had served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army with his wife, Sallie, by his side as his nurse.

During the time Dosia lived with her aunt and uncle, she must have met her future husband, John Uffleman. He was the oldest son of German immigrants who came to America in 1850 and settled in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. John’s family did not participate in the Civil War. In 1867 his entire family left Pennsylvania, came down the Ohio River, then up the Cumberland River. They bought enough cheap land in western middle Tennessee along Wells Creek to divide into separate farms for each son.

Dosia and John married in 1879. My grandmother, Elvira, born in 1893, was the fourth of five children to survive to adulthood. The family lived on the farm on Wells Creek until John became unable to work. Sometime around 1905 they sold the farm and moved to McKenzie, Tennessee, where they ran a boarding house near Bethel College. My grandmother told me that they left the farm when she was 12 so I’ve calculated the date based on that.  During their time in McKenzie, my grandmother attended Bethel College. After their oldest daughter, Lois, died in 1911, John, Dosia and their two younger daughters returned to Houston County, near their former home, to help raise the grandchildren.

Theodosia Sizemore Uffleman led a fascinating life spanning the years from before the Civil War until the beginning of World War II. That’s a big chunk of American history. The coin pendant gives me a tangible connection to the places she lived, to the events of her personal life and to the historical events of the time.  When I pass it on to one of my grandchildren, I also hope to pass along the story of Dosia’s coins.

Posted in Civil War, Historical Sites, History

A Civil War Sniper – Jack Hinson

Jack Hinson's One-Man War by Tom McKenney: Book Cover

Not everyone who fought against the Union did so because they believed in the Confederate cause. For some the motivation was revenge. This was the case for Jack Hinson. Living near Dover, Tennessee, Hinson tried to stay neutral. During the battle at Fort Donelson he made it known he would not take sides. His only concern was for his family. During the battle he traversed the lines as a neutral and after the battle General Ulysses S. Grant visited the Hinson farm near Dover as a guest.

So why did Jack Hinson become a sniper who killed numerous Union officers? In his book, “Jack Hinson’s One Man War – A Civil War Sniper”  Tom C. McKenney tells the compelling story.

Although one of Jack’s grown sons joined the Confederate army, Jack opposed secession and intended to remain neutral. At the beginning of the war Jack Hinson owned a large farm, called Bubbling Springs, where his wife, eight of his ten children and his slaves lived and worked. Yes, Jack Hinson owned slaves who worked in his home and on the farm. McKenney says they were treated as extended family and some of their descendents still live in the area. Nevertheless, Jack Hinson did not support the Confederate cause until Union troops attacked his family.

One day when his two teenaged sons were out hunting, a Union patrol stopped them and accused them of being bushwhackers. Without benefit of trial, they took the boys to Dover and executed them. As if this injustice were not enough, the officer in charge ordered the boys beheaded and their heads delivered to the Hinson farm where they were placed on the gate posts.

If you think these types of horrific events did not happen during the Civil War, then you’ve only heard the cleansed version of history. I grew up in this area of Tennessee, just 30 miles from Dover. Many families passed down stories of atrocities that the official versions want to forget. Why did these atrocities happen? Once Tennessee became occupied territory, the better Union officers and troops moved on to the more active battle fronts. That left the less capable officers and less disciplined soldiers as occupational forces. Combine that with disgruntled Confederate sympathizers who carried on a guerilla-type warfare and you can better understand what happened to the Hinson boys.

Jack Hinson was a God-fearing man who believed in vengeance. He quietly commissioned a special sniper rifle and began using it on the Union patrols. He targeted only the officers because he believed that they were responsible rather than the soldiers who merely carried out orders. When a friend warned him that the Union troops were going to arrest him, he bundled up his wife and younger children and sent them to safety with relatives in West Tennessee. In a winter snowstorm Jack Hinson entrusted his family’s safety to his slaves who got them through the snow and across the Tennessee River. Hinson stayed behind to continue his sniping. When the Union troops arrived at the farm to arrest Hinson, they were met by defiant slaves. The Union soldiers burned the farm.

Hinson lived in a cave on a bluff high above the Tennessee River. At that time the rivers were the superhighways that transported troops and supplies to the Union army. From his vantage point overlooking the river, he shot Union officers and river pilots on the riverboats that passed below him. Hinson managed to disrupt traffic on the river and terrorize the crews and passengers on the riverboats.

Jack moved from time to time and carefully protected the local citizens who helped him. When he ventured across the river to visit his family, he learned that two of his younger children, who were sick with measles at the time of their escape, had died. To Hinson, the Union had caused their deaths. He continued his one-man campaign against the Union. Later his son in the Confederate Army died in battle and his other grown son died in a guerrilla raid.

Jack Hinson never officially joined the Confederate Army, but he did aid them. Before the Battle of Johnsonville, Jack acted as scout and guide for General Nathan B. Forrest, and he was with the Confederate troops during the battle.

Although hunted as an outlaw, Jack Hinson was never captured. After the war he settled what was left of his family (only five of his ten children survived) on White Oak Creek. The scarcely populated area provided a safe haven where Jack lived his remaining years.

For a thorough and well researched account of the life of Jack Hinson, read “Jack Hinson’s One Man War – A Civil War Sniper” by Tom C. McKenney. He skillfully weaves Jack Hinson’s life into the events of the day. The former Marine uses his military background to help the reader understand the weapons, tactics and terrain. His extensive research included scouring military records and personal accounts, visiting the sites and conducting extensive interviews. McKenney’s fascinating, descriptive accounts make the reader feel he is actually there. I especially appreciated his description of the land “Between the Rivers” since I grew up in this area bounded by the Tennessee River on the west and the Cumberland River to the East and North. McKenney’s explanation of the lead up to the war and his detailed accounts of the battles at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson are excellent and confirm the stories I heard growing up. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Civil War history.

Posted in Civil War, Historical Sites

Point Park in Chattanooga

From high atop Lookout Mountain the Tennessee River looks like a ribbon winding its way through the valley below. Today the city of Chattanooga sprawls along the river and up the surrounding mountainsides. But in 1863 Chattanooga was a small town nestled along the riverbank. Its importance lay in the railroads that intersected in the mountain valley leading to Nashville, Knoxville, and Atlanta. The iron and coke works supplying the Confederacy added to its value.

After the Battle of Chicamauga in September 1863, the defeated Union Army retreated to Chattanooga. Surrounded by the Confederates for more than a month, the Union soldiers were almost out of supplies when reinforcements arrived. Still the southern forces held the high ground on Lookout Mountain with a commanding view of the valley, river and town.

Point Park Cannon

Standing on the rocks in Point Park and looking down at the shear drop off the mountain, it is hard to imagine the Union soldiers attacking – but they did. On Nov. 24, 1863, they came up the rocks and cliffs in an attempt to take the summit. Confederate cannon had been mounted to fire at the river and town below. When they tried to adjust their fire toward the attacking soldiers, the cannon balls would roll out of the barrel before they could be fired. Without benefit of cannon, the southern troops defended the mountain with rifles and hand-to-hand fighting.  It is said that Confederate soldiers who ran out of ammunition hurled rocks at the attacking Yankees. Imagine the terror of combat in such a place where a soldier could fall to his death if he stumbled and lost his footing.

Cliffs on Lookout Mountain

Because a heavy mist hung over the mountain making it difficult for either side to see more than a few feet, the battle was referred to as the Battle above the Clouds. By the end of the day the Union was victorious and the Confederates retreated to Missionary Ridge where the next day they were defeated again.

During the Battle of Missionary Ridge a young soldier picked up the fallen colors and led the charge up the ridge. Arthur MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action that day. In later years he became a Lieutenant General and the father of Douglas MacArthur who achieved the five-star rank of  General of the Army in World War II. These two men are the only father and son recipients of the Medal of Honor.

My husband and I recently visited Point Park atop Lookout Mountain accompanied by our son, daughter-in-law and grandson. The park preserves the site of the civil war battlefield. The famous Incline Railway took us up the mountain and we walked the three blocks to the park. Beautiful old houses sit atop the mountain. Those on the edge have gorgeous views and back yards that go straight down. It is definitley worth a visit. Chattanooga has many interesting and historic sites for anyone seeking a getaway.

Posted in Civil War, Historical Sites

Introduction

Welcome to my website! Join me as I journey through history doing research for my novels, visiting historic sites and digging into my family genealogy. To introduce myself, I will begin with where I grew up – because I am one of those southern women whose identity is strongly tied to place and ancestry.

I was raised in middle Tennessee between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers in the small town of Erin. The story goes that Erin was named by the Irish railroad workers in the mid-1800’s because the green valley nestled between steep hills reminded them of Ireland. But the area was occupied much earlier.

American Indians, including the Cherokee, the Creeks and the Choctaw, shared middle Tennessee as a hunting ground. Evidence of human occupation has been dated back to pre-historic times. The Wells Creek Basin is the site of an ancient meteorite crater. Indians traded flint from Wells Creek as arrow heads and spear heads throughout North America. On a trip to Yellowstone in the 1970’s I visited the Buffalo Bill Historic Center in Cody, Wyoming, where I was surprised to find a collection of arrowheads from Wells Creek, Tennessee, on display.

My grandfather Boone was an amateur geologist/archeologist. He collected rocks, including dolomite and shatter cone from the Wells Creek Basin and various Indian artifacts from the area. Although he died when my mother was four, my grandfather’s collections remained on display in my grandmother’s house, like a private museum. The stories fascinated me and his collection inspired the “rock hound” in me to start my own collection.

The first influx of settlers came to the area where I was raised after the Revolution when Continental soldiers received land grants as payment for their service. Some soldiers sold their land to settlers and speculators, but many brought their families west to what was then the frontier. The McMillan’s, my fraternal grandmother’s family, settled on their land grant in what became my hometown. The McMillan family cemetery is situated on a hillside in western end of the valley overlooking the middle school (old high school), the nursing home, and much of the community known as Arlington. These early settlers were primarily of Scotch or Scotch-Irish descent who brought with them an independent spirit and strong religious faith.

Several regiments were raised in the area during the Civil War. My maternal great-grandfather served in the 14th Tennessee and fought in the eastern theatre. My fraternal great-great-grandfather served in the 24th Tennessee Sharpshooters and Maney’s Battery along with his two brothers and one brother-in-law. His other brother-in-law served in the 50th Tennessee. My maternal great-great-grandfather served in the 26thMississippi Infantry.  All these soldiers reflect the strong support for the Confederacy within my family, yet none represent the “traditional” image of the south filled with wealthy plantation owners. They were all small farmers or local merchants.

After the war, people from the north came south in search of cheap land. Among these were my maternal great-great-grandparents, who emigrated from Germany in 1850 and settled in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. In 1867, they came down the Ohio and up the Cumberland to Wells Creek and purchased farmland. These are my German ancestors and the most recent of my ancestors to come to America.

In 1871 portions of Stewart, Montgomery, Humphreys and Dickson Counties were combined to create Houston County, named for Sam Houston, former Governor of the State of Tennessee. Sam Houston is one of the many historical figures from Tennessee. Unfortunately, I can claim no kinship to the Tennessean turned Texan.

In 1886, Goodspeed published a history of Tennessee which includes a History of Houston County.  The account provides fertile ground for the imagination. So many individual stories, so many lives to explore. These are the people who make up the fabric of our country. Real history, about real people, helps us understand who we are and where we came from. It’s why I love history. It inspires me to write, to transform bits and pieces of real lives into fictional characters and stories.

Over time I will share some of the history that inspires my historical romantic fiction and my women’s fiction stories.