May 26 , 2021
Let me tell ya a story most will not have heard…a little local flavor from me. The time is November 1861 in Confederate controlled NE Tenn…Pottertown/Mohawk communities. “Tenn voted for secession on June 8, 1861, with residents of eastern Tenn voted 2 to 1 against secession but losing the vote to the state’s large western population.”
In response, a plan was hatched by Presbertian minster William Blunt Carter to burn 9 railroad bridges from Virginia to Georgia…..the complete length of E Tenn-Bristol to Chattanooga. This plan was personally approved by Abraham Lincoln, General George McClellan & Secretary of War William Seward. This action would completely disrupt troop & war supply traffic from Richmond to the deep South along the E Tenn & Virginia railroad…..Richmond’s only direct railroad to Atlanta. Also, immediately after the bridges were burned the Union army would invade E Tenn via the Cumberland Gap & protect the Union loyalist. One of these bridges spanned Lick Creek (Crik) about a 5-minute ride from my home at Mosheim. A party of about 60 loyalist men assembled at Pottertown & were secretly sworn into the Union army.
After midnight on Nov 9, ‘1861 the raiders set out on horseback for the 2 mile ride to the RR bridge. They captured several CS troops guarding the bridge. About 1/2 of the loyalist guarded the CS troops while the other 1/2 burned the bridge down to the waters level…mission accomplished. The CS troops were given the choice of swearing loyalty to the Union or be shot on the spot. Not surprisingly they swore loyalty to the Union. Less than 24 hours later CS authorities had tracked down 6 of the conspirators. Jacob Hinshaw, Alexander Haun, Jacob & his son Henry Harmon, all 4 were local potters. Captain David Fry a Greene Co farmer & veteran of the Mexican War & Harrison Self. Two of these five men were hanged within a week…an interesting point here both men were hanged from the same tree at the RR depot at Greeneville, Tenn.
Their bodies were left hanging for about 2 weeks as a warning to another loyalist here. Another died in jail before he could be hanged. Fry escaped a CS prison, shot 3 times & spent much of the war in the mountains as a Union pilot guiding loyal men to Kentucky to be sworn into the Union army. Self was pardoned by Jefferson Davis. The promised Union invasion never occurred & five of the nine bridges were actually burned. “William Stringfield wrote This…was the beginning of great troubles in East Tennessee. This made my home a military camp for the balance of the war”. In a nutshell, this is just one of the stories I grew up hearing & I hope you enjoyed hearing it too. A side note in 2008 NE Tenn was at the end of a severe drought. During this time the water level in Lick Creek dropped by about 2 feet & the burnt off original bridge posts could be easily seen sticking up out of the water.