This & That

Story published: 01-23-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

The Civil War in East Tennesssee and Johnson County

By Jack Swift

The awful American Civil War raged from 1861 until 1865. Although the state of Tennessee seceded from the Union, several counties of East Tennessee for the most part remained loyal to the Union. Johnson County was one such county. Prior to Tennessee’s secession a vote was taken and Johnson County voted 787 to 111 not to secede.

Prior to the war two conventions were held by representatives of the East Tennessee counties — an earlier one at Knoxville and a later one at Greeneville. The first convention passed general principles and arguments against breaking with the Union. Many of them were proud of their country’s deliverance from oppression in the Revolutionary War and wanted no part in breaking up that Union.

The second convention came after the June 8, 1861 election. In that convention, the delegates offered a number of reasons that the people of East Tennessee should not be coerced into going against their loyalty to the Union cause. Furthermore, they cast doubts about the fairness of the election.

One of the most interesting parts of the resolution is the following: “First, that we do earnestly desire the restoration of peace to our whole country, and most especially that our own section of the State of Tennessee should not be involved in civil war.” The resolution goes on to say that the counties of East Tennessee and such counties in Middle Tennessee as desire to co-operate with them may “form and erect a separate State.”

It is interesting to note that soon after Tennessee seceded from the Union, the County Court of Scott County approved a resolution to secede from the State of Tennessee to become the Independent State of Scott because of Tennessee’s secession. Reportedly that resolution wasn’t repealed until 1986.

There is no question that soldiers from both sides in the conflict fought bravely and vigorously in the war, it was often the civilian population that also suffered a lot too. The elderly, women and children of East Tennessee were subjected to cruelties while their husbands, sons and other male relatives were away at war.

While there was nothing humorous about that terrible war, there were incidences of cleverness that might produce a smile. One such story is related in the very interesting book titled “History of the 13th Regiment Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry.

It seems that a well-known citizen of the 7th District of Johnson County and who was or had been a member of the County Court was targeted by a contingent of Rebel forces. The clever gentleman anticipated trouble and built a trap door in his floor and dug a tunnel to come out on atop a hill beyond his house.

One day he was captured before he could get to his house. The Rebels were pleased that they had captured the one they were looking for. The commander of the group informed him that it wouldn’t be long until he would be “Gone up the Spout.” That term meant he would be shot or hanged. He implored his captors to let him go into the back room to change clothes, as he wanted to die in clean apparel. This was allowed with an officer with him. Feinting the act of picking up an item of clothing, he sprung the trap door, jumped in and ran fast through the tunnel coming out on top of the hill. His captors saw him running fast away and yelled “Halt, halt, halt” as they fired at him. He yelled back, “No time now to halt. I am now going up the spout.”