Friday, November 11, 2011

November 11, 1861 (Sunday): "A Mild or Concilliating Policy Will Do No Good"

Strawberry Plains Bridge (After Reconstruction)

KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1861.

General S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector General:
    SIR: My fears, expressed to you by letters and dispatches of 4th and 5th instant, have been realized by the destruction of no less than five railroad bridges, two on the East Tennessee and Virginia road, one on the East Tennessee and Georgia road, and tow on the Western and Atlantic road. The indications were apparent to me, but I was powerless to avert it. The whole country is now in a state of rebellion. A thousand men are within 6 miles of Strawberry Plains Bridge, and an attack is contemplated to-morrow. I have sent Colonel Powell there with 200 infantry, one company cavalry, and about 100 citizens, armed with shot-guns and country rifles. Five hundred Unionists left Hamilton Country to-day, we suppose to attack London Bridge. I have major Campbell there with 200 infantry and one company cavalry. I have about the same force at this point and a cavalry company at Watauga Bridge. An attack was made on Watauga yesterday. Our men succeeded in beating them off, but they are gathering in larger force, and may renew it in day or two. They are not yet fully organized, and have no subsistence to enable them to hold out long. A few regiments and vigorous means would have a powerful effect in putting it down. A mild or conciliating policy will do no good; they must be punished, and some of the leaders ought to be punished to the extent of the law. Nothing short of this will give quiet to the country.
    General Zollicoffer, at great inconvenience to himself, has sent me Colonel Powell's regiment, numbering about 600 effective men, which I have disposed of as above stated. I have arrested 6 of the men who were engaged in burning the Lick Creek Bridge, and I desire to have instructions from you as to the proper disposition of them. The slow course of civil law in punishing such incendiaries, it seems to me, will not have the salutary effect which is desirable. I learn from two gentlemen just arrived that another camp is being formed about 10 miles from here in Sevier County, and already 300 are in camp. They are being re-enforced from Blount, Roane, Johnson, Greene, Carter, and other counties. I need not say that great alarm is felt by the few Southern men. They are finding places of safety for their families, and would gladly enlist if we had arms to furnish them. I have had all the arms in this city seized, and authorized Major Campbell to impress all he can find in the hands of Union men, who ought now to be regarded as avowed enemies, for the use of the new companies. I felt it to be my duty to place this city under martial law, as there was a large majority of the people sympathizing with the enemy, and communicating with them by the unfrequented mountain paths, and to prevent surprise and the destruction of the commissary and quartermaster's stores.
    I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                        W. B. WOOD,
                                                                                        Colonel, Commanding Post. 

Official Record, Series I., Vol. 4, Page 236

Two men, David Fry and the Reverend William Blount Carter, had made their way to Kentucky from their native Tennessee and came into communication with Federal authorities.  They expressed the loyalist sentiments of Unionist East Tennessee (a strongly pro-Union area) and were told to arrange for the burning of nine key bridges when Union forces came into Tennessee from Kentucky.  This would have prevented Confederate forces from moving West to meet the advance.  The troops did not come, but the bridge burners went ahead and succeeded in destroying five bridges.  Confederate forces arrested hundreds of loyalists and hanged two (including Fry).

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