The Civil War in Bradley County

CIVIL WAR 

(April 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865)

Battle of Chickamauga.

Battle of Chickamauga.

The Participants

The Union States: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, Nevada, California

The Union States where slavery was legal: Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri

The Confederate States: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas

A County Divided: Bradley County under Confederate Control

June 1861 – September 1863

First inauguration of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America at Montgomery, Alabama, February 18, 1861.

First inauguration of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America at Montgomery, Alabama, February 18, 1861.

Bradley County’s Unionist Majority

The secession or rebellion of Tennessee was a rebellion of office-holders and politicians.
— J.S. Hurlburt, 1866

After the election of Abraham Lincoln in November of 1860, the discontented South began to draw up plans of secession. South Carolina, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, seceded from the Union and formed the Confederated States of America in February of 1861. 

Tennessean voters, under mounting pressure to choose an allegiance, were asked whether to hold a convention to discuss the possibility of secession, to which they responded with a resounding “no convention.” However, after a campaign promoting the idea of secession, Tennesseean politicians forced a secession vote through on June 1, 1861.

East Tennessee, including Bradley County, was strongly opposed to secession. Bradley County voted 1,382 to 507 to remain in the Union. However, Middle and West Tennessee overwhelmed the vote and pushed Tennessee to secession, leaving Unionist-majority Bradley County in the Confederacy. 

East Tennessee urgently called a meeting in Greeneville, TN, and drafted a document to request they be allowed to form a separate state so that they might remain in the Union. The Bradley County delegates were R.M. Edwards and J.G. Brown. Their request was ignored. 

Despite the majority of citizens in Bradley County being Unionists, there were still Confederate allies in the county. The first Confederate company was mustered into service in Bradley County on August 10, 1861. 

Actions Taken by Unionists in Bradley County

My distress is that our friends in East Tennessee are being hanged and driven to despair, and even now, I fear, are thinking of taking rebel arms for the sake of protection.
— President Abraham Lincoln, January 6, 1862

While East Tennessee was still a Confederate holding, Union men in East Tennessee were enlisted to burn railroad bridges between Bridgeport, Alabama and Bristol, Virginia to cut off the line of communication between Richmond and the Gulf States. Several bridges were burned, including Hiwassee Bridge, and the men found responsible were hanged, but a one, who was pardoned and sent to prison. The consequences for Unionists in East Tennessee were harsh, even of those not involved in the bridge-burning. 

Treatment of Unionists in Bradley County during Rebel Occupation

What Impudence the North [has] to think we will be under one of their tyrants. Has also called for 50,000 volunteers. Never will he get one of my kinsmen to respond to his call.
— Myra Inman, March 2, 1862
Train passengers prod the bodies of Union supporters "Hensie" and "Fry" near Knoxville, Tennessee, USA in December 1861 at the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War (1861–1865). The two were hanged by Confederate authorities, on the orders of General Danville Leadbetter, near the railroad tracks so passing train passengers could see them.

Train passengers prod the bodies of Union supporters "Hensie" and "Fry" near Knoxville, Tennessee, USA in December 1861 at the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War (1861–1865). The two were hanged by Confederate authorities, on the orders of General Danville Leadbetter, near the railroad tracks so passing train passengers could see them.

Union-supporting men were coerced into enlisting in the Confederate Army. Those who refused were imprisoned in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Some Union men, in an attempt to hide or escape Confederate enlistment, would hide in manmade caves. Food and supplies were brought to these refugees by Union-sympathizing women. 

The families of Union soldiers or men who had refused to pledge allegiance to the Confederacy were forced to pay taxes to support the families of Rebel soldiers. 

In July of 1861, the private arms of Bradley County Union men were forcibly taken by Rebels, acting on a law by Governor Harris, which recalled arms owned by the state of Tennessee. Rebel soldiers damaged and took property from Bradley Unionists, often paying them in Confederate currency.

The Alien and Sequestrian Acts

The Alien and Sequestrian Acts were measures taken against Unionists living on Confederate-claimed land, particularly those in East Tennessee. On August 8, 1861, Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued the Alien Act, stating that all men fourteen years of age and older, who do not give their allegiance to the Confederate states, could be arrested as alien enemies. Less than a week later, the Confederate President proclaimed that this applied to the Unionists of East Tennessee. 

The Sequestrian Act allowed the seizure of property belonging to men who did not give allegiance to the Confederacy – it allowed the seizure of the copper mines at Ducktown and the Cleveland Copper Rolling Mill. These sources provided the South’s only supply of copper, which was needed for artillery and percussion caps. 

A County Divided: Federal (Union) Occupation of Bradley County

Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

Prior Union Sentiments

For over one year (April 1861 – June 1862), a Union flag flew in Cleveland’s public square until threat by Confederate forces from Mississippi forced it to be taken down. 

One telegram sent by President Lincoln to Gen. Henery W. Halleck reads: “To take and hold the railroad at or east of Cleveland, Tennessee, I think is as fully as important as the taking and holding of Richmond.” 

Treatment of Rebels in Bradley County during Federal Occupation

In September of 1863, Federal soldiers arrived in Cleveland, of which Myra Inman, in her diary, said thus, “When will we see another Southern soldier, we are now in the federal government, and I detest it. I took a good cry this eve at our fate.”

Church services were stalled during this time as Cleveland was largely abandoned. 

Union soldiers stripped Cleveland of its properties. Myra Inman writes about Union soldiers taking her family’s corn, potatoes, and chicken – even the quilt off her slave’s bed. She also reports of other Confederate families being robbed blind by Union soldiers. She is warned by another citizen that she must be careful visiting Southern families lest the secret police arrest her. 

Colonel Long (Union) demolished the railroad in Bradley County and burned down the Cleveland Copper Rolling Mill, filling it with confiscated “rebel torpedoes.” The following onslaught of explosions lasted for thirty minutes. 

Slavery in Bradley County

Escaped slaves in 1862.

Escaped slaves in 1862.

Although present since Bradley County’s formation, ownership of slaves was relatively low, with 250 out of 1382 men owning slaves, the majority (185 out of 250) owning five or less. 

In 1860, there were 1,173 slaves and 58 free blacks in Bradley County. Slave trade was negligible as the county’s agricultural economy produced more corn, wheat, sweet potatoes, and livestock than cotton. In the greater economy, the railroad and copper industries were more significant. 

Confederates in Bradley County believed in the “right of slavery by Divine authority.” Rev. William McNutt delivered a sermon to the Baptist Church in Cleveland in 1861 detailing the right of slavery, which was lauded by The Cleveland Banner. 

After the end of the war, Myra Inman lamented in her diary: “We have not servants to eat here, the first time such a thing has occurred since I can remember, it seems so strange we have to do our own work.” August 18, 1865.

Other Sources of Military Assistance

Not all citizens of Bradley County could or wanted to enlist in the army, though everyone helped in the war effort. Women often made flags (though they could be Union or Confederate, dependent on their own leanings) and presented them to soldiers. Young girls made bouquets for soldiers. Women with the appropriate skill could provide soldiers with various items: coats, drawers, pincushions, needle cases, etc. 

Locals, including Myra Inman, often put on concerts for soldiers stationed in Cleveland. Those who could would offer their homes to soldiers, providing them with food and medicine when needed.

Many women helped wounded soldiers coming through Bradley County and assisted at nearby hospitals, though one was never built in Cleveland. One such example was that of Jane Montgomery Hardwick, a Confederate woman.  While moving through Cleveland, a soldier in the Federal army was gravely injured. Hardwick, despite tensions between the two sides, cared for the dying man in her home and gave him a proper burial. 

Voices of Bradley County during the Civil War

Myra Inman, who kept a diary during the Civil War.

Myra Inman, who kept a diary during the Civil War.

The Confederacy

The Cleveland Banner: a weekly Democratic, pro-Confederacy newspaper, which ran from May 1854 to November 1863 after Union occupation of Bradley County. It resumed operations two years later, after the end of the war. 

Editor Robert McNelley said of the rebellion: “The Black Republican tyrants and Vandals can never make much, in glory or profit, by invading such a State as this. These gallant men are as ready, too, to rush to the defence of their Southern sisters as they are to defend their own homes and soil.” 

Myra Inman’s Diary: Myra Inman was thirteen at the time she began writing in her diary in 1859. Through her eyes, we have gained some understanding of life as a young woman in a middle-class Rebel family. She gives a daily account of her comings and goings, as well as her thoughts on the events that unfold during the Civil War.

Myra Inman said of the end of the war:“Mysterious it is to me why God permitted such a sad calamity to befall our South. Why He permitted the noblest blood of the South to be sacrificed for the bondage of the sable race. Many a bitter tear and sad regret has the termination of this unhappy ending caused me—unjust as I would deem it, if I did not believe God has decreed it thus.” May 8, 1965

The Union

The Battle Flag: a brief, pro-Union replacement of The Cleveland Banner during Union occupancy. 

The History of the Rebellion in Bradley County, East Tennessee: a vehemently pro-Union book that appeared in Cleveland in 1866. Attempts were made by Confederate-sympathizers to have this book banned. Having failed that, they burned every copy they could find on the courthouse lawn. Only twelve of the original thousand remain. 

Author J.S. Hurlburt said of the rebellion: “it was an aspiration of half the nation, fanned into a white heat of Satanic frenzy, to culminate in every abomination and wickedness for which God ever punished angels or men.” 

The End of the War

May 9, 1865

The Confederate forces began to shrink and they lost their capital at Richmond to the Union. General Robert E. Lee (Confederate) evacuated his troops and attempted to regroup. However, he was headed off by General Ulysses S. Grant (Union). General Lee surrendered his army on April 9, 1865. Five days later, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by Southern sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth. Like dominoes, the armies of the Confederacy began surrendering across the South. General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his force of 90,000, the Army of Tennessee. By May 9, President Andrew Johnson announced the end of the war.