Today is Tuesday, August 22, 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 Four of Six)

At Murfreesboro, the bluecoats of Col. Duffield arrived. The colonel left his infantry, took his mounted escort of 15 men, followed by his staff, and they caught up with Wolford's Kentuckians and Given's Pennsylvanians at Lascassas as the cavalry returned from a vain pursuit. All turned and united with Dumont, who pushed on all night for Lebanon, evidently on the Cainsville Road. At one o'clock on Monday morning, May 5, Dumon halted four miles south of town to rest until daybreak.

Dismounting his men, the federal commander cautioned each to hold his horse by the bridle, the whole force lying on the ground to sleep until just before daybreak when they were awakened with the admonition, "Get ready for a fight."

As the Union cavalry thundered up the road past the farmhouse where Morgan's Pickets had taken shelter, one of the Pickets - Pleasant Whitlock, who had ridden in Morgan's command since the first days of Kentucky - jumped on his horse and raced past the attacking column. The rattle of gunfire began on the outskirts of town. Whitlock shouted the alarm, and as he shouted it, he was shot dead.

Morgan was roused and ran from his bedroom, leaving his boots behind, to mount his fine mare, Black Bess, and gallop to rally his men. Every street was jammed with federals. Wolford's first Kentucky charged up the main street through the center of town. The Southerners on the college campus on South College Street tried to reach the livery stables on West Main Street on foot to saddle up and mount. Being overtaken by the head of the attacking column, the Confederates threw themselves into the houses that then lined the street and maintained a heavy, sustained fire from the windows.

Dumont later reported that he had 600 men, and Morgan had 800 men. He also charged, "The disloyal inhabitants not in the army opened a murderous fire on our soldiers from their houses, and they kept it up. The loyal inhabitants - not a few but having no arms - could render us no assistance."

The fighting stretched all the way out West Main to Judge Robert Caruthers' garden. At the height of the battle, Morgan reached the square, and he rallied the men of his own company. As the Federals charged, the Confederates held their fire until the Yankees were almost upon them, then they blazed away. A second charge ended in hand-to-hand combat.

Wolford rode into the Confederate ranks by mistake. He was dangerously wounded in the abdomen and was captured. Morgan, who knew and admired him, begged him to give his parole so the wound could be treated by the Federal surgeon.

"My boys will retake me," Wolford said, and he was right.

Maj. Given also fell into the hands of the Confederates, mistaking them for Union troops in the confusion. Col. Smith was seriously wounded in the leg.

Finally, Morgan's men began to retire to the north and to the east. Before Morgan could rally them, Gen. Basil Duke said after the war, the curb on the bridle of Black Bess slipped, and the excitable mare ran away down the pike. By the time Morgan and one or two of his men could catch hold of the reins and stop her, his men were hopelessly scattered, and it was too late to rally.

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