Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bridge Burners in North Carolina

In November 1861, a group of dissidents/Unionists burned several bridges in East Tennessee. They had been told that Federal soldiers were on their way, and by destroying these bridges, the Federal soldiers could quickly capture key points. Unionists in East Tennessee then could mobilize and help hold the area, creating a stumbling block for the new Confederate nation. Of course, we know that it did not work out this way. The bridges were burnt, but regular Federal army forces never materialized (for a variety of reasons).

Reconstructed bridge, Strawberry Plains
While looking for something else (how often does that happen?), I came across a list entitled "List of Political prisoners made in obedience to call of the Confederate Congress" (Found in Louis Brown's book on Salisbury Prison). The list is dated February 17, 1863, and there are 131 names on this list. Among those 131 names are thirteen who are listed as "One of Fry's bridge burners in E. TN." They all have a date of March 22, 1862, which I assume is an incarceration date. 

The majority of the bridge burners that they caught were sent to Greeneville and then on to Alabama. A few were hanged. What are the stories behind these thirteen? Why were they taken to Salisbury? Were they captured in North Carolina? Questions like these just serve to remind me how little we know about some of the aspects of the time period.

Those below are listed as being incarcerated at Salisbury Prison in February 1863, and listed as bridge burners. I assume the county behind the names is the county where they were from. I could list a bevy of questions: who were these men? Where were they captured? Were they tried in a civilian court someplace? What happened to them - did they survive the war?

Beals, J. H. --Greene County
Cogburn, N. J.---Greene County
Collins, Charles--Virginia
Cox, David ---Greene County
Elder, W. R. ---Greene County
Gahayan, ----- Madison County, TN (North Carolina?)
Jones, J. --Hancock Co.
Keller, Wm --Greene County
Kelly, A. ---
Kelly, D. H.--- Greene County
McGee, Lemuel---Greene County
Triplett, William---Greene County

Woolsey, C.---Greene County

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