yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee
History of Henderson Co.

From Auburn Powers, History of Henderson County, Tennessee, 1930. Reproduced with permission for personal use only. No further reproduction can be made without written consent of Andy E. Powers and Sherode B. Powers.


Chapter VI

We must know a little American History before we can properly understand the Civil War and why Henderson County was involved in it.

Long years ago in a continent across the seas lived many tribes of uncivilized people called negroes. They lived happy until white traders began to bring them to America and other places to sell them as slaves. For years they were brought into this country and bought and sold at will. Finally, people began to think it wrong to have slaves. The North wanted to free them, but slaves in the South were very profitable, and the southern people did not wish to give them up. Finally a dispute arose.

All sections of the country became aroused. Many states, both northern and southern, set aside laws of the general government when they chose and refused to obey them. The South even went so far as to threaten to break away from the Union.

In 1861 the southern states declared themselves free and independent states, an act which northern states had threatened to do themselves. Lincoln called for soldiers to bring them back into the Union, thus marking the beginning of a long and bloody war. Slavery was the indirect cause of the Civil War, but the secession of the southern states from the Union was the direct cause. Just who was to blame for the war we cannot say. But both the North and the South felt that they were in the right and prepared to sustain their convictions.

Tennessee, however, preferred to remain neutral in this affair, and refused to break away from the Union when the other southern states broke away. She had nothing to do with bringing on the War. But when she saw that she could no longer remain neutral, she sided with the South. However, each citizen shouldered arms and fought where his convictions led him.

Henderson County was one of the few counties in West Tennessee to cast her lot to remain with the Union when time came for Tennessee to make her final decision as to the part she would play in the Civil War. The vote was held on June 8, 1861, and was as follows; 810 votes for "separation" from the Union, and 1,013 for "no separation" from the Union. But when the final clash of arms came, the County was largely in sympathy with the South.

Nothing has caused so much distress and suffering in Henderson County as did the Civil War. All that were fit for military service, except a few unworthy, disloyal, roguish, murderous, cowardly bushwhackers, joined one or the other army and fought for what they believed to be right. Doctors, lawyers, merchants, mechanics, farmers, and laborers, left their work. Young men and old men left their families and loved ones, to fight for a worthy cause. They carried what guns, pistols, and swords they had and gave their all in support of their convictions.

The Confederates gathered together at Trenton in the summer of 1861 and formed four companies for the Twenty-seventh Tennessee Confederate Regiment. The first company was raised by B. H. Brown and was formed from Henderson County. His company was known as the "sharpshooters". The captains of the four companies raised at Trenton were B.H.. Brown, of the "sharpshooters"; C. H. Williams, whose company was called the "Felix Rebels"; Richard Barham; and S. A. Sayle. On the organization of the regiment, C. H. (Kit) Williams was elected colonel; B. H. Brown, lieutenant·colonel; Samuel Love, major; Smith, adjutant; Robert Wilkerson, Sergeant-major; D. A. McKamey, surgeon; and J. R. Wingo, assistant surgeon. The regiment numbered about 1,000 men and was put in camp at Trenton for a time for discipline, but was soon moved to Henderson Station for sanitary reasons. Here it remained until the battle of Belmont, when it was ordered to Columbus, Kentucky. The next troops composed one company for the Thirty-first Tennessee Confederate Regiment. It was also organized at Trenton in the fall of 1861. A. H. Bradford was elected colonel; C. M. Cason, lieutenant-colonel; and John Smith, Major. Other Confederate soldiers went with friends to different regiments to enlist.

The Seventh Union Regiment of Tennessee Cavalry was raised mainly in Henderson and Carroll Counties. Three full companies were raised in Henderson County. The first of these was raised by T. A. Smith, whose lieutenants were A. T. Hart and Frank Reed. The second company was raised by Captain A. H. Hays, and the third by Captain J. W. Beatty. A part of a company, consisting of twenty-nine men, was raised by Captain Derryberry. The regiment was mustered into service November 14, 1862, and consisted of 650 men. The work of this regiment was confined almost entirely to guard duty along the line of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. In addition to guard duty, it scoured the country, picking up deserters and stragglers, preventing the Confederate Army from recruiting, and fighting guerilla bands. A portion of the regiment was captured by Forrest at Trenton in 1862, and nearly the entire regiment was captured by him at Union City on March 24, 1864.

The men from Henderson County were widely distributed, both in the Union and in the Confederate Armies. They enlisted in the armies in which they preferred to fight. Many Confederates joined Forrest's Cavalry. Not a few Union men enlisted in the Illinois Regiment, in which- Mr. William Essary, who still lives at Chesterfieid, and many others were loyal soldiers.

There were two main battles fought in Henderson County, the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Parkers Cross Roads, the latter being the more important.

Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll of the Hawkins Regiment was given orders to prevent General Forrest from crossing the river at Clifton. Ingersoll attempted to do so, but met Forrest, who had already crossed the river, and returned to Lexington without battle and encamped for the night. Here Forrest charged him. The battle was fought at the junction of the Clifton and Decaturville roads. It was fierce for a short time, but the Federals were outnumbered greatly and were soon crushed. They scattered through the town and fled for safety. Some escaped, but several were captured.

It was reported, doubtless by the Confederates, that Colonel Ingersoll was captured under an old woman's kitchen. It is said that he was discovered because he had crawled under the kitchen head first and had left his feet uncovered. But this was a false report, for Colonel Ingersoll was a brave and courageous man. He was a good fighter and always ready to do his part.

Colonel Ingersoll was captured standing at the back of a house with the author's grand-father, Ira Powers, where he had taken refuge from the Rebels' bullets. Ira Powers, having lost his hat in the fight and seeing another man with two hats, had just requested Ingersoll to make the man give him his hat; and Ingersoll, believing one of the hats to be Powers', bade the man give it up. It was at the end of this little affair that Colonel Ingersoll and his little band of followers were captured. It is untrue that Ingersoll, like the frightened ostrich, hid his face and, forgetting to hide his feet and legs, believed he was safe from all harm and that the Confederates pulled him from under the kitchen by the feet. No such scene ever existed, either with Ingersoll or the ostrich so far as that is concerned.

The losses on both sides at the battle of Lexington were small, the number killed and wounded not exceeding five or ten. The Confederates captured quite a few men and two cannons. But the cannons were recaptured by the Federals a few days later at the Battle of Parkers Cross Roads.

The most important battle in Henderson County was fought at Parkers Cross Roads, eight miles north of Lexington. Early in the morning of January 1, 1863, General Forrest and his men were breakfasting in a wooded lot at the home of W. R. Britt, who was then a small boy. The freshness of the morning and the first meal of the day were invigorating to the Rebel soldiers. They were consuming their well-earned food when, at sunrise, the sentinel fired, at the top of the hill near the home of Mr. Britt, the first shot of a great battle. Breakfasting instantly ceased and Forrest's men hastened into their well-selected line of battle just north of the old Hicks Field. The Federals, under Dunnivan, lined up just south of Mr. Britt's home and towards the Trenton Road north of Dr. Williams'. Before the sun was an hour high, the cannons were shaking the very earth, tearing it to pieces and laying low even human beings who had so short a time before enjoyed the refreshments of a morning meal. The smaller arms cracked and popped making it almost certain death to be seen by an enemy. Forrest seemed to have had a stronger army and the advantage and to have used it. The manslaughter lasted until far into the afternoon. The Federals, being great losers and becoming hard·pressed, fell back into the southeast and into Dr. Parker's fields and the Milan Woods about mid-day. Forrest came into their deserted territory and seemed to have the advantage so much that the Federals stationed at Dr. Parker's woodpile were ordered to stack arms and surrender. They had begun to do so when Sullivan's reinforcements were seen coming at full charge over the Hiram Britt Hill only one-third mile away. The Federals renewed the fight and, with the fresh troops of the reinforcement, totally defeated Forrest and his men. But Forrest, not willing to be captured, ordered his men to take care of themselves, and all fled for safety.

Forrest and his lovers always wished to boast of his never having lost a battle but at Parkers Cross. Roads he was totally beaten. This battle was one that he always hated to think of. Some of his men were captured here, but many escaped. About two hundred, including Gen. Napier, were killed and many wounded. The Federals captured the heavier arms and ammunitions.

The battle of Parkers Cross Roads, fought all day with heavy artillery and other weapons of warfare, has never received the notice it should have received. Forrest, not willing to admit defeat; Gen.Dunnivan, being whipped all day; and Gen. Sullivan, lying out when he should have been in command were all unwilling to give emphasis to the battle.

It was not a little affair of petty officers and small guns, but a great battle. The scene was red with some of the best blood of America. The dead and dying were on every hand. The wails of the wounded were pitiful to hear. General Wellington, who looked upon the field just after the Battle of Waterloo, where he had captured Napoleon, said that a victory was the saddest thing on earth except a sad defeat. The same statement might well have been made here after the fighting ceased and all was calm except the groans of the suffering and dying.

There were also many Henderson County soldiers who took part in the Battle of Shiloh, although it was fought outside the County. The Federals under Grant had taken Fort Henry and Ford Donelson on the Tennessee River and had pushed southward beyond Pittsburg Landing. They encamped near Shiloh Church about two miles from the river and planned to await the arrival of General Buell before pushing farther into the South.

The main body of the Confederates was stationed at Corinth, Mississippi, only about twenty miles from Shiloh. General Albert Sidney Johnson, commanding the Confederates, lay plans to defeat Grant before Buell could reach him and then to defeat Buell. If he could accomplish this he would be able to regain Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.

Early on the Sunday morning of April 6, 1862 the Confederates struck with terrible onslaught upon the Federals at Shiloh, who were unprepared for the attack but who resisted stubbornly. The cannons roared and thundered. The smaller arms belched sudden death. Enemy rushed upon enemy with only the better fighter to survive to attack another. Men who had been friends and neighbors back home met and killed each other on this bloody field of battle. It is said that brother shot brother down and, raising his weapon to strike the final blow, would sometimes discover whom he had killed. Dead were piled upon dead.

The battle raged thus, with the Federals losing heavily for near a day. In the afternoon, when the Confederates had driven most of the Federals to the river to the shelter of the gunboats and victory seemed certain, the Confederates lost their gallant leader, General Albert Sidney Johnson. General Beauregard was placed in command, but, not understanding conditions as he wished to understand them or else wishing to claim all the honor of the victory for himself, ceased fighting for the day and planned to capture the Federals the following morning; but during the night, General Buell arrived with reinforcements to aid Grant. On the following day the Confederates were beaten and forced to retreat to Corinth. The arrival of Buell saved the capture of Grant and his army, it seems. More soldiers were killed in that one battle than were killed in the whole Revolutionary War. And many of them were Henderson Countians.

It would take too much space to give an account of all the battles in which soldiers from this county proved their metal. They did their bit on many occasions.

And while they were bravely shedding their own life's blood in support of the cause that they believed to be the right, conditions were growing from bad to worse back home. Families that lived next door to each other and that had long been friends became enemies and said many hard things against each other. This in turn developed into feuds which involved the worn out soldiers when they returned home after peace had been made. Some of these hard feelings lasted for generations and are hardly forgotten yet.

During these trying days Henderson County was overrun time and again by both armies. Very often an army would run short of provisions and would take the necessities from whoever had them. This made provisions scarce and conditions bad in Henderson County.

But the armies caused little more disturbance and discomfort and aroused little more hatred and strife than did those outlaws, more commonly known as guerillas, who remained behind and were not men enough to fight for any cause, however just or sacred. The armies, both Federal and Confederate, were fighting for the betterment of mankind and for what they considered a sacred duty. But these guerillas had only a selfish purpose. They would go in bands of from two or three to a dozen or more and would pilfer homes and take away all that was worth having while the owners of the homes were on the field of battle. They often pretended to be agents of the Government looking for stolen property and would mistreat women and children and take the last bite that they had to eat away from them. They would hang the old and feeble for their money, and would even grapple and fight between themselves. Ike McCarrol was killed by his own clan because he told who received a fancy shawl taken from a lady by the name of Luiza Mathews.

Jim Scott, who lived a few miles south of Lexington, was one of their pitiful victims. His daughter, who married John Wilson and who died only a few months ago, followed the guerillas as they took him off to hang him. She followed as closely as was safe for her and cut her father down after the dirty curs had left. But she was too late. Mr. Scott died two days later.

Another case was that of Johnnie Powers of near Middleburg. He had accumulated a little wealth by hard work, and a band of these outlaws learned of it. They came to his home and abused him and threatened to hang him if he did not give up his savings. They did hang him, but did not let him die. Later they came again and demanded his money. This time they hanged him until he was almost dead. His wife and children searched the place over for his money, and as he was about gone, found a small amount--enough partially to satisfy the guerillas. They let him down and left. He soon revived, to his family's delight.

Heaped upon this were tragedies even worse. Three of Mr. Powers' sons were then starving to death in Andersonville Prison. The hunger and suffering that they endured before the grip of death closed upon them, words cannot tell.

Ed Holley, a brother of a Union soldier who was at home on a visit, was marched out by a guerilla band and shot in cold blood because he refused to tell where his brother was. This happened near Wake Forest in the south end of the County.

Rev. D. W. Blankinship was asked to preach Ed's funeral at Hurricane Church and planned to do so. But at the appointed hour he was not there. He claimed to have been warned in a dream three times the night before that he would be killed if he went. And sure enough, the guerillas came in full force to take him for preaching a Union soldier's funeral, but he was not there. However, two Union soldiers were there dressed in full uniform. When they saw the guerillas coming they ran off in opposite direction to them and escaped. One of them was "Cul" Parkins, who had come a long way to be at the funeral.

A more-or-less trivial happening at this scene was the ordering of the boys to hide their hats and pocket-knives by Mr. Jim McBride. Mr. McBride, through his haste to help the boys save their hats and knives, forgot to hide his knife and lost it to the first guerilla that searched him. The hats were found also and carried away. Guerillas took all that they found and wanted.

In the vicinity of Sardis the guerillas killed a boy named Billy Hughs. His people were unable to find him for a long time. Finally a dog of Frank Murphy's brought home one of the boy's hands. Billy was then found by watching the dog return to the dead body.

Monroe Ham was with Billy when the guerillas captured him, but he ran away and later reported that it was Jim Kennedy who killed Billy.

Dock Willis, G. W. Brant, and Seth Boswell, all Union sympathizers, mustered arms and went after Kennedy. Their most effective weapon was a shotgun with most of the barrel cut off and loaded with slugs of metal instead of shot. They killed Kennedy and felt that they had done only common duty.

Immediately after the war a number of citizens of the County organized and hunted down a few of the leading guerillas. They surrounded the home of Jourd Brigance, one of the outlawed leaders, and ordered him to come out. But he, seeing the men coming and suspecting their purpose, had hidden under the house. When he refused to come out, the men carried his mother, then old and feeble, out of the house and set it on fire. Jourd was finally forced to leave the burning house and was captured He was carried from his home, near the present site of Alfred Rodger's home, to a large oak tree near Rodgers' Store. To that tree he was hanged and shot many times.

To give an account of all the incidents connected with the guerillas would require a volume within itself. These few incidents will give an idea of the lawlessness of the guerillas. I shall, however, give a sketch of a brave and daring man who carried on guerilla warfare, yet who would not be called a guerilla in the common sense of the word.

Silas Hodges might better be called a scout for the Confederate army, but he worked as he saw fit. He was a man of good judgment and iron nerve. What he did was very bold and cunning. He became such a terror to the Federals in and around Henderson County that they sent out detachments to hunt him down, but he was too shrewd to be trapped.

On one occasion he and one of his men went to the encampment of the Federals at Mifflin to get some horses. The man with him stopped outside the outermost guard while Hodges ventured into the FederalCamp. Here in Federal uniform he sauntered about with the Union men until night. When all were asleep, he took one horse at a time until he had carried eleven of the best horses the Federals had to his friend on the outside of the camp. The horses were then taken to General Forrest.

On another occasion, he walked boldly into the Federal camp at Jacks Creek dressed in a Federal uniform. How he obtained the Federal uniform no one knows, but probably anyone would guess correctly. He soon found himself engaged in conversation with his enemies, who made bad threats against Silas Hodges, not knowing that he was the man. Again, in the silent hours of the night, he escaped, this time taking with him a beautiful roan horse.

At another time near Mifnin, he found himself in the Union camp and dressed as a Yankee. This time he noticed a man following him who seemed to suspect his identity. Hodges found his chance and shot him rather than risk the outcome and then joined the search for the murderer.

These are only a few of the many events in which Hodges was the leader. He was brave, fearless, bold, cautious, cunning, and sly. He had a true friend in his horse, which was ever alert. On different occasions this horse saved the life of Hodges by warning him of danger, usually from being am bushed by his enemy.

Hodges settled down after the war and made, or continued to make, a good citi4en. But he always seemed to be weary and on the lookout for danger. He finally moved to Texas where he died.

During the war, soldiers on both sides found it a hard task to visit home, for soldiers from the enemy's army might attack and capture them at any time. When the County was occupied by Rebel soldiers, it was unsafe for a Union man to be seen. When the Union controlled the County very few Rebels ventured in.

But on April 9, 1865 the great and bloody war came to an end, and no longer was it dangerous for a man to go to his 'own home. Both the Union and the Confederate men were discharged from the armies. Prison walls were let down and the prisoners administered unto. According to reliable information, the Union soldiers in Rebel prisons were in an unusually bad state of physical being when released. They had undergone hardships unbelievable. In Andersonville Prison in Georgia prisoners were treated more inhuman than perhaps anywhere else. They were kept confined without clothes to keep them warm. Their food was so scanty and unwholesome that many died of starvation and of diarrhea. A man might enter strong and robust but within a few months be a skinny and haggard wreck. The "body lice'' were thick upon these weatherbeaten victims and sucked the life's blood from them. Conditions were such that the lice could not be destroyed.

Exposure, starvation, cruel treatment, and lack of medical aid caused men to die on every hand. Friends and relatives could do nothing for each other. Harrison Thomas, now living near Lexington on the Reagan road, was one of Andersonvilles subjects. His brother W. H. Thomas, was with him and became so weak from exposure and starvation that he could no longer go When one ceased to stir about in this "Hells Enclosure," he had little chance. Harrison stayed with his brother to the end, but could be of little help except to comfort his mind and soul. The hours of waiting, waiting, waiting must have been terrible for Harrison as he sat by the side of his dying brother. But the end finally came, and the limp and skinny form of this gallant Henderson Countian stiffened to rise no more….

Many others from Henderson County experienced like fates, but they remained firm in their conviction. And when the United States once again ruled supreme and burst asunder the prison gates that barred her citizens from freedom, these noble characters marched heroicly out and paid tribute to their dear old flag, which was unfurled over them--Old Glory.

For me to determine which side was right and which was wrong in this war is beyond my power or the power of any one else. We can only form our own opinions. But the Great Civil War, though expensive as it was in money and blood, has served its purpose. It made the Union supreme and put an end to slavery. Instead of mutual prejudice that once existed between the different sections of the country and between the different families of our own county we now have mutual respect. The Union has become greater and nobler because the sections have come to understand each other better and because the people of the whole nation have become one people. The men from Henderson County and elsewhere who gave their lives on the field of battle, whether they wore the blue or whether they wore the gray, did not give their lives in vain. They settled a great question and settled it for all times. The union is supreme and without slaves.

No longer do we see four million human beings governed by the lash, or bear the strokes of cruel whips, or see hounds tracking women through tangled swamps, or see babies sold from the breasts of mothers, or see all the sacred relation of wife, mother, father, and child trampled beneath the brutal foot of might--all under our own beautiful banner of the free. Instead of this we see a country without a slave, a country filled with happy homes where love and honor reign, a country filled with progress in every line, a country the foremost of all the earth. Man at last is free. Nature's forces have by science been enslaved to serve man's needs. Wind, water, flame, and lightning have been harnessed and are now the tireless toilers of the human race. And Henderson County has done its bit in bringing all this about.

  1. Why did Southerners not wish to free their slaves?
  2. What did both the northern and southern states do?
  3. Tell of the beginning of the Civil War.
  4. How did Tennessee stand in regard to secession and the war?
  5. What was the vote of Henderson County with respect to secession?
  6. When the clash of arms came, with whom was the County largely in sympathy?
  7. Who left their homes, families, and loved ones?
  8. When and where did the Confederates gather?
  9. How many companies did they form and who were the captains of each?
  10. How many Union companies were formed in Henderson County? What were their chief duties?
  11. What became of most of these soldiers?
  12. Describe the Battle of Lexington?
  13. Tell the story of Ingersoll's capture.
  14. Describe the Battle of Parker's Cross Roads.
  15. Why has this battle never been given much note in history?
  16. Tell of the conditions back home.
  17. What were Guerillas?
  18. Tell of Ike McCarrol, Jim Scott, Johnnie Powers, Ed Halley, Rev. W. D. Blankinship, Jim McBride, Billy Hughs, Jourd Brigance, and Silas Hodges.
  19. Discuss conditions in Andersonville Prison.
  20. What good purpose has the Civil War served?

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