Today is Wednesday, August 23, 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 Two of Six)

On Monday, the Confederate headquarters in Nashville realized the capital must be surrendered. Crittenden's troops were ordered to change their line of march and to head for Murfreesboro. On Sunday, Feb. 23, a beautiful sunny day, Nashville was evacuated. The bad news was not long in reaching Wilson County soldiers in Virginia. On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the day that the Federals formally accepted Nashville's surrender, Pvt. David Phillips of the 7th Infantry wrote in his diary, "... heard during the day that the enemy certainly had Nashville. The boys completely got down by the news from Tennessee. Many a poor fellow, lamenting his case."

Lebanon was still in suspense. On March 17, R.L.C. White, a Cumberland student from Lebanon, wrote to a friend in the Southern Army, "Although the Feds have been in possession of Nashville and Gallatin for three weeks, we Lebanonians have not yet been molested. We are expecting every minute to be our next, however. Cumberland University has played out, finally. The Prep, still continues under Grannis and Old Tom."

Then, when Southern people were knowing the first pangs of discouragement, came the dashing John Hunt Morgan and his cavalry. On March 15, they left Murfreesboro. Their first march, mostly at night, guided by Col. Ready of Murfreesboro, a former Congressman and Morgan's future father-in-law, carried the troopers two miles north of Lebanon. Early the next morning, Morgan continued the march, crossing the Cumberland River at Canoe Branch Ferry. He reached Gallatin at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, sent his men out to destroy railroad rolling stock and to eavesdrop on the Federal telegraph to get what information they could. The mission accomplished, the cavalrymen headed south, passed Lebanon again and reached Lascassas over the Cainsville Road.

That was enough for the Federal headquarters in Nashville. On March 22, Special Orders Number 8 told Col. William W. Duffield of the 23rd Brigade to send one regiment and two companies of cavalry to Lebanon as soon as the troops got to Nashville. Col. Wynkoop's 7th regiment of Pennsylvania Cavalry, divided among several posts, was to send four companies to Duffield's brigade. Two went to Lebanon, two went to Murfreesboro. Morgan's men were soon to meet the Pennsylvanians.

Col. Duffield selected the 23rd Kentucky Volunteers, commanded by Lt. Col. Marcellus Munday. They had been at Lebanon, Ky. in February guarding a bridge, marched to Bardstown and Louisville in March to proceed to Nashville by water. From Nashville, they marched to occupy the little county seat. The regiment selected the campus on the corner of East Spring Street and South College Street to pitch its tents. The commodious and imposing college building, completed only three years before when two spacious wings, a tower and a colonnaded portico were added to the three-story building of 1844, was converted into barracks.

The grounds around the building contained 20 acres. The campus was beautifully set in bluegrass and was shaded by handsome trees. Around the campus stood a heavy cedar picket fence six- to eight-feet-high.

Col. Munday's first action was to raid and to destroy the Harlan & Glass Rifle Factory on North Cumberland Street where short-barreled Mississippi rifles were made for the Confederate Army. Lebanon had also been the location for a powder mill. The Godfrey cave near Statesville was one source of saltpeter; A.H. Buchanan had processed saltpeter for gunpowder in a cave on the Cumberland River bluff above Cairo Bend near Cunningham Island before he joined the army.

It was a Union sympathizer's day for a change. Earlier, Jordan Stokes Sr. found the life of a Union man in Lebanon to be subject to pressure and vilification that he went to Federal-controlled Nashville. Mrs. Stokes, however, remained at the home on East Main Street. William B. Campbell and his son, William, went of their own choice behind the Federal lines in Kentucky. Mrs. Campbell remained in Lebanon. Now, Abram Caruthers, who represented the county in the Secession Legislature of 1861 and reluctantly voted for secession although fundamentally a Union man in principle, apprehended and arrested by the Federal soldiers. He left his beautiful mansion and his family and friends and went to Marietta, Ga. There among strangers he fell ill and died on May 5, 1862. Nathan Green Sr., who believed and who spoke for the Union principles but who always upheld the fundamental rights of the states, took unequivocal ground in favor of resistance when the moment for decision came. He remained in Lebanon and, although his opinions were well known, he was not molested in person or property by the occupying troops.

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