Today is Monday, August 21, 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 Three of Six)

On April 13, a Mrs. Armfield passed through Lebanon going to Virginia. Mrs. John K. Howard and other officers' wives sent letters by her to their husbands in Virginia and, by the end of April, their letters had reached the Wilson Countians there. They told much news of the doings of the Federals in Lebanon, after that morning when Col. Munday's troops, band playing, flag flying, marched down West Main Street between closed doors and blinds to occupy the town. Gen. Robert Hatton wrote to his wife that he was "pained and disgusted at part of what I heard."

Needed elsewhere, Col. Munday's soldiers moved on to Murfreesboro, to Pulaski, in July to Huntsville, Ala. and in August to McMinnville. Left ungarrisoned, Lebanon was about to become the stage for its most dramatic day of the war.

After Shiloh, in April, Gen. Beauregard determined to use a certain Kentucky cavalry captain whose talents he had observed during the retreat from the battlefield. Promoting John Hunt Morgan to colonel, he authorized him to raise his battalion to a regiment or brigade, gave him a $15,000 war chest and sent him off to harass the enemy in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky, and also to meet and to aid some Kentuckians in passing through the Federal lines. Morgan's men swept into Tennessee.

On Saturday, May 3, Gen. Ormsby Mitchell felt their sting at Pulaski. His wagon train was attacked and burned. Col. Frank Wolford, a Kentuckian and the Federal counterpart to Morgan, was sent with his 1st Kentucky cavalry from Nashville to head Morgan off at Murfreesboro.

Up from Pulaski hurried Col. Duffield with the 9th Michigan Infantry. When Wolford's Cavalry got to Murfreesboro on Sunday, they were joined by Major Given and cavalrymen of the 7th Pennsylvania. The two units galloped toward Lebanon. Col. G. Clay Smith and the 4th Kentucky Cavalry, up from Shelbyville, joined Col. Wynkoop's 2nd battalion of the 7th Pennsylvania from Nashville at two o'clock at Murfreesboro. With Brig. Gen. Ebenezer Dumont, who was left to command defense forces at Nashville when Buell moved on to Shiloh, the troopers headed for Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Morgan was on the move. He bypassed Murfreesboro as being too strongly defended. At dusk on Sunday, he rode into Lebanon. He made the unwise decision to bivouac in the town. Two companies were quartered on the university campus, while others were scattered around the courthouse square. The horses were picketed for the night in the livery stables around town. Pickets were posted on all the roads. The commander established headquarters at the Lee house, just to the north of the square, but went to the home of J.M. Anderson on North Cumberland to spend the night.

It began to rain during the night, as drenching as rain can be in a Middle Tennessee May. Pickets on the road to Murfreesboro took shelter in a farmhouse to dry their clothes and to enjoy a sociable evening.

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