Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

Parting the Canebrakes

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The express purpose of the writing of this column is very simple. Many, many people and families have moved to Lebanon and Wilson County from other places who have absolutely no knowledge of our history, how we came to be and of who and what we are.

Long gone are the valued historians such as I.W.P. Buchanan, G. Frank Burns, Dixon Lanier Merritt, J. Bill Frame, Virginia and Dick Lawlor, Eugene Sloan, Hugh Walker, Ellen Schlink, Herman Eskew Jr., Paul Wooten and many others.

As has been previously stated, history cannot be accurately told solely through "snippets" - the complete story must be told.

The War of Secession in Wilson County (Part One of Six)

With a jingle and a flourish, two companies of Confederate cavalry rode through Lebanon on August 1, 1861, bound for Zollicoffer's Army in East Tennessee, and thus, the war arrived in Wilson County.

On May 26, 1865, a ragged, footsore band of Confederate veterans trudged into Lebanon from the south. The war had ended.

Between these days, a bitter, ravaging conflict of cavalrymen and infantry, bushwhackers, raids, skirmishes, expeditions and attacks, raged from Cainsville to Green Hill. Great leaders - Forrest, Morgan, Wheeler, Starnes, Dibrell, Crittenden, Roger Hanson of the "Orphan Brigade," Rosecrans and Frank Wolford - played their parts, and Wilson Countians saw them.

Until Companies C and E of the first battalion of Tennessee Cavalry crossed the Cumberland River at Wood's Ferry en route from Camp Jackson and Gallatin to a rendezvous with Zollicoffer's forces at Livingston, the county's only knowledge of war had come from the recruiting of soldiers and their gala departure for the training camp.

The cavalrymen camped for the night one-and-a-half miles from the river on the road to Lebanon. The other three companies had taken another route, planning to cross the river at Carthage. On August 1, the two groups moved through Lebanon and bivouacked for the night seven miles beyond, marching on through New Middleton to Trousdale's Ferry on the Caney Fork River the next day.

On January 19, Zollicoffer was dead, and Mill Springs was lost. The Confederate right wing in Kentucky crumbled.

On Feb. 6, 1862, Fort Henry on the Tennessee River fell.

On Sunday, Feb. 16, Fort Donelson fell.

On that same Sunday, Gen. G.B. Crittenden's forces, retreating from Monticello, Ky. via Livingston into Middle Tennessee, crossed the Caney Fork River at Trousdale's Ferry.

Tennessee enjoyed spring-like weather that February. On the night of Feb. 14, a biting wind with sleet and snow flurries swept out of the northwest and left a half-inch of snow for Crittenden's men to slosh through. But, they had been ordered by Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston to move without delay to Nashville, to halt within 10 miles of the city and to report for further orders.

By daylight Sunday, all of Col. Statham's brigade except a few wagons had crossed the Caney Fork. Before night, most of Gen. Carroll's brigade had crossed the Caney Fork. Seven regiments of Crittenden's division had moved west of the river and toward Nashville by way of Lebanon. Capt. Allison's company of the First Battalion of Cavalry, including a number of Wilson County men, was still boarding among the citizenry near Trousdale's Ferry.

At the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Lebanon, the pastor, Dr. B.W. McDonnold, was preaching that Sunday night. The clatter of horses' hooves was heard outside. A spurred and booted rider strode down the aisle, handed a slip of paper to the bearded minister and left. His face pale, Dr. McDonnold told the congregation the news - that Fort Donelson had fallen, that Crittenden's Army was retreating upon Lebanon from the east and that the forces at Bowling Green were retreating to Nashville.

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