Page images
PDF
EPUB

GREENVILLE.—DEATH OF MORGAN.

285

GOVERNOR BROWNLOW'S HOUSE,

ton), appeared on the street porch with a revolver in her hand, and threatened to shoot the first man who should attempt the sacrilege. The rude rebels quailed, parleyed, and then retreated; and over that dwelling was seen floating the last Union flag kept aloft in East Tennessee before the advent of General Burnside.

While in Knoxville we visited the various localities of interest in and around that city, accompanied by Colonel John Bell Brownlow, then editing his father's newspaper, the Knoxville Whig, and also by several young Union officers, whose courtesy we can never forget. On the morning of the 23do we rode to the rail

May, 1866. way station, behind the large, stout, black family horse of Governor Brownlow, which bore General McClellan through his campaigns in Western Virginia; and in company with Colonel Brownlow and Captain A. W. Walker, one of the most noted of the Union scouts in East Tennessee, we journeyed by railway to Greenville, near which occurred many events illustrative of the patriotism of the East Tennesseans. We arrived there toward evening, and took lodgings at the hotel of Mr. Malony, who told us that he was a fellow-craftsman, and rival in the tailoring business in that village, of Andrew Johnson, then acting President of the United States. We remained there until the next evening, gathering up information concerning military events in the vicinity, and in visiting the place where Union men were hung, and the spot where the notorious Morgan was killed in the vineyard of Mrs. Williams.

[graphic]

3

1 This is from a sketch made by the author in May, 1866. The street porch alluded to in the text is seen at the front of the house. The nearer building to the right of it, partly covered by a high fence, was used by Governor Brownlow for his library and study. For awhile, when the Confederates held Knoxville, the family were absent, having joined the head of it, then in exile. In the gratification of a petty spite toward the stanch patriot, General E. Kirby Smith, when in Knoxville, stabled a pair of mules in Dr. Brownlows library. When Buckner was holding East Tennessee, at the time Burnside entered it from Kentucky, he had his head-quarters at the pleasant house of the unflinching Unionist, and Member of the National Congress, Horace Maynard, on Main Street

* This was for many years the home of Andrew Johnson, and the place of his useful business as the maker of garments, in which, it is said, he excelled, and was consequently prosperous. While in Greenville we were shown his family Bible, in which, in the beautiful handwriting of Valentine Sevier, Clerk of the Circuit Court, were the following records:

“Andrew Johnson, born 29th December, 1907.

“Eliza, his wife, born 4th September, 1810. * Married, at Greenville, by Mordecai Lincoln, Esq., on the 17th day of May, 1827, Andrew Johnson to Eliza McCardal."

That excellent young woman, then only seventeen years of age, taught her husband, aged twenty years, to read and write. From that humble social position he rose to the highest public one in the gift of his countrymen. When the writer was at Greenville, Mr. Johnson's place of business was pointed out to him. It had lately been repaired, and the sign, A. Johnson, Tailor, which for long years was seen over the door, had been removed. The career of its occupant, from the time of the beginning of his useful pursuit in that shop at Greenville, and his official life and its termination in the Presidential mansion at the National capital, affords a most striking illustration of the admirable workings of our free system of government.

3 See page 39, volume II. • It was charged by the Confederates that Morgan was killed after he had surrendered. This was a most serious accusation, and required an authoritative denial, for the sake of the fair fame of the Union officers and soldiers. While at Greenville, a greater portion of the writer's time was occupied in the investigation of the matter, by the use of competent witnesses, and the following is the result:

286

JOURNEY FROM GREENVILLE TO RICHMOND.

The whole region of the great Valley of East Tennessee, eastward as well as westward of Knoxville, is clustered with the most stirring associations of the Civil War. We passed on our journey from Knoxville, Strawberry Plain, Bull's Gap, Blue Springs, and other places already mentioned as scenes of conflict; and from Greenville to Bristol, on the borders of Virginia, such notable places were many. Over that region and beyond we passed

on the night of the 24th and 25th,“ and at six o'clock in the * May, 1866.

morning were at Mount Airy, twenty-eight hundred feet above the Richmond basin, and said to be the most lofty point of railway travel in the United States. We descended into the rugged valleys eastward of this Appalachian range, and then ascended the western gentle slope of the Blue Ridge, one of the most beautiful and thoroughly cultivated regions in the world. The ravages of war had not been felt just there. We descended the more precipitous side of that lofty range into the fine high valleys around the upper waters of the James River, and arrived at Lynchburg in the evening, whence we traveled the next day, by way of Charlottesville and Gordonsville, to Richmond,' the track of the more direct route of railway being yet in ruins.

Morgan's raid into Kentucky, though disastrous to his immediate command, accomplished its object in a degree, for it drew Burbridge, as we have

Morgan, as we have observed, was at Greenville, and General Gillem, then his direct opponent, was at Bull's Gap. See page 283. Morgan made his head-quarters at the fine house of Mrs. Williams, with his staff. On the night of the 3d of September, on his return from a visit to his wife at Abingdon, in Virginia, he made arrangements for surprising and attacking Gillen at Bull's Gap the next morning. On account of rain at midnight he countermanded the order, and retired without any suspicion of danger. During that stormy night parts of two companies of the Third Tennessee Cavalry, under Colonel Columbus Wilcox, made their way to Greenville, while Morgan's brigade was lying a short distance from the town. While a greater portion of these troops were attacking the Confederates, a party surrounded Mrs. Williams's house at seven o'clock in the morning (September 4), and the cry of one of the guards, “ Take care, General Morgan!" was the first intimation given the guerrilla chief that danger was near. Morgan seized his pistols, declaring he would die before he would surrender, and fled out of the house into the garden without his coat. He first ran under the Episcopal church, back of the garden, and then, breaking the paling of the fence, passed through a lot and sought shelter under the old tavern of Colonel Fry, a Unionist, then in prison by order of Morgan. In his flight thus far he was accompanied by Major Gassett, of his staff. Now, fearing Mrs. Fry might report his whereabouts, he left the tavern and leaped over n fence into the vineyard of Mrs. Williams, adjoining her garden. He was called upon to halt, but refused, and at the junction of two paths in the vineyard, while crouching for concealment behind a grape-vine, he was shot by Andrew Campbell, a Union soldier, who was stationed in Market Street, near by. His dead body was carried into the street by two white soldiers and two colored men, and was finally left with his friends at Mrs. Williams's. General Gillem thought it best to retire his small number of troops on account of the strength of Morgan's brigade, but, on the approach of a larger body of Unionists, the Confederates iled eastward, pursued five or six miles by Lieutenant-Colonel John B. Brownlow, of the Ninth Tennessee Cavalry, with a part of two brigades.

The persons from whom the writer received the substance of the above brief account of Morgan's death, were Mrs. Williams, who pointed ont the place where he was killed, and who said he was in the act of firing his pistol when he was shot through the heart; Mary Hunter, formerly a slave of Mrs. Williams, and living in a house at the corner of the vineyard, and saw the whole transaction; and Mrs. Lucy Williams, daughter-in-law of Mrs. Williams, whose sister was at the house when Morgan left it, and heard him say he would never be taken alive. Mrs. Lucy Williams was a spirited young woman from Virginia, and thoroughly patriotic. She gave the Unionists much information concerning the movements of Morgan's brigade; and under the erroneous impression that she had betrayed him at this time, when his command entered Greenville on the withdrawal of Gillem, they brought a halter wherewith to hang her on a pear-tree near the place of their chief's death. She was then safe from harm, in Knoxville.

Coincident with the testimony of the above cited witness, was a letter written the next day to Morgan's wife by C. A. Withers, of the staff of the guerrilla chief, in which he says: “ General Morgan was killed in the garden of Mrs. Williams, in Greenfield, while endeavoring to escape. He was struck in the center of his breast, the ball passing through his heart.” It is stated that Morgan, when killed, was dressed in the National uniform. See knorrille Whig, September 14, 1864.

See page 435, volume II.

KNOXVILLE THREATENED BY BRECKINRIDGE.

287

[ocr errors]

• Oct. 2,

1864.

• Oct. 28.

[ocr errors]

Nov. 12, 13.

seen, away from the combined movement upon Southwestern Virginia, and gave the Confederates time to strengthen their forces in that direction, especially along the line of the great railway. Burbridge remained several weeks in Kentucky after his expulsion of Morgan, reorganizing and remounting his worn army, and then, late in September, he started with a fresh column directly for the salt works of the Confederates, near Abingdon, in Washington County, Virginia, to destroy them. He was met by a heavy force under Breckinridge, and after a sharp conflict was thrown back, with a loss of about three hundred and fifty men. His ammunition was running low, so he retreated that night, leaving his wounded to the care of his foe.

Encouraged by this success, Breckinridge soon moved into East Tennessee, and threatened Knoxville. Meanwhile General Gillem discovered a Confederate force in his rear, at Morristown, when he attacked them suddenly,' routed them, and inflicted upon them a loss of four hundred men and four guns. Soon after this Breckinridge moved cautiously forward, and on a very dark night' fell suddenly upon Gillem, at Bull's Gap, charged gallantly up a steep, half-wooded hill in the gloom, drove the Nationals from their intrenchments, and utterly routed them. Gillem fell back to Russellville, where he was again attacked and routed, and after a loss of his battery, train, nearly all of his small-arms, thrown away by his soldiers in their flight, and two hundred and twenty men, he fled to the shelter of the intrenchments at Knoxville. Breckinridge pursued him as far as Strawberry Plain, and for awhile held the country eastward of that point in subjection to the Confederates.

Other military movements in that mountain region were so intimately connected with, and auxiliary to, those of the Army of the Potomac against Richmond, that we will now turn to a consideration of the general events of that campaign from the Rapid Anna to the James, after noticing earlier movements of some detachments of National troops on the flanks and rear of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The first of these movements which attracted much attention occurred early in February, when General B. F. Butler, then in command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, lately vacated by General Foster, planned and attempted the capture of Richmond, and the release of the Union prisoners there, by a sudden descent upon it. Arrangements were made for a diversion in favor of this movement by the Army of the Potomac, and when, on the 5th of February," a column of cavalry and infantry, under General Wistar, about fifteen hundred strong, pushed rapidly northward from New Kent Court-House to the Chickahominy, at Bottom's Bridge, intending to cross it there, General Sedgwick, then in temporary command of the Army of the Potomac, in the absence of General Meade, made the diversion, in obedience to orders from Washington. He sent Kilpatrick's cavalry across the Rapid Anna at Elly's Ford, and Merritt's at Barnett's Ford, while two divisions of Hancock's infantry waded the stream at Germania Ford. These skirmished sharply with the Confederates, who stood unmoved in their position, and when the prescribed time for the execution of the raid had expired, these troops recrossed the Rapid Anna, with a loss of about two hundred men. Wistar's raid was fruitless,

d

d 1864.

a

288

KILPATRICK'S RAID ON RICHMOND.

1864.

[ocr errors]

owing to the escape, by bribery, of a culprit from prison, who gave the Confederates information of the approaching danger. Wistar found Bottom's Bridge and the line of the Chickahominy too strongly guarded, and there appeared too many evidences of strength beyond it to warrant him in attempting to cross the stream, so he returned to New Kent, without loss, his infantry having marched eighty miles within fifty-six hours, and his cavalry one hundred and fifty miles in fifty hours.

This raid was followed a little later by a more formidable one from the Army of the Potomac, led by General Kilpatrick. Its object was to effect the release of the Union captives at Richmond, then suffering terribly by cruelty and starvation in the filthy Libby Prison, and more horribly on bleak Belle Isle, in the James River, in front of Richmond—circumstances which we shall consider hereafter. Kilpatrick left camp at three o'clock on

Sunday morning, with five thousand cavalry, picked from his own . Feb. 28, and the divisions of Merritt and Gregg, and crossing the Rapid

Anna at Elly's Ford, swept around the right flank of Lee's army, by way of Spottsylvania Court-House, and pushing rapidly toward Richmond, struck the Virginia Central railway, at Beaver Dam Station, on the

evening of the 29th, where he had his first serious encounter with the Confederates. While small parties were out, tearing up the road and destroying public property, he was attacked by some troops that came up from Richmond, under the Maryland traitor, Bradley T. Johnson,

These he defeated, in a sharp skirmish, when he struck across the South Anna, and cut the Fredericksburg and Richmond railway at Kilby Station. This accomplished, he

pushed on by Ashland, and along the Brooks turnpike, and, early

on the first day of March,' halted within three miles and a half of Richmond, and within its outer line of fortifications, at which the Confederates had thrown down their arms and then fled into the city.

At Spottsylvania Court-House, about five hundred of Kilpatrick's best men, led by Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, a dashing young officer, and son of Admiral Dahlgren, then before Charleston, diverged from the main column, for the purpose of sweeping through the country more to the right, by way of Frederickshall, and through Louisa and Goochland Counties, to the James River, above Richmond, where they intended to destroy as much of the James River canal as possible, cross the stream, and, attacking the Confederate capital from the south simultaneously with Kilpatrick's assault

[graphic]

BELLE ISLE,

1864.

1 This is from a sketch made by the author immediately after the evacuation of Richmond, in April, 1865 from the high bank of the James River, near the Tredegar Works, looking across that stream southward.

[graphic][graphic][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »