Bridge-Burning in Tennessee, 1861

Source: The Weekly Raleigh (NC) Register, November 20, 1861

The Troubles in Tennessee — The Burning of the Bridges

The Knoxville Register of last Tuesday gives the following account of the bridge burning in Tennessee by organized bands of traitors:

The deep-laid schemes to destroy the railroads in East Tennessee on Friday night last, by an organization of Lincolnite traitors, extending from Bristol to the Georgia line, resulted in the burning of the following bridges:

The bridge over the Hiwassee river, at Charleston, on the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad.

The bridge over Lick creek, on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.

The bridge over the Holston river, at Union, on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.

Two small bridges on Chickamauga creek, on the Western and Atlantic Railroad.

The telegraph wires were cut at various places between Knoxville and Chattanooga, and Knoxville and Bristol.

No attempt seems to have been made upon the bridge at Loudon, that being well guarded by a cavalry company.

The attempt to burn the bridge at Strawberry Plains was unsuccessful, and its preservation is due to the courageous conduct of the watchman.

We learn that his name is James Keelan, and are glad to hear from persons who came down yesterday, that notwithstanding his sever injuries, there is strong hope of his recovery. It is known that the man whom he shot in the act of applying the torch to the bridge was William Pickens, son of the late State Senator from Greene, Cocke, Sevier and Blount counties, who was carried by his fellow-conspirators to Sevier county, and is reported to have died yesterday. Another man was also wounded by Mr. Keelan, whose fidelity and courage, as well as the injuries he has suffered, have gained him the admiration and sympathy of the whole country.

The Lick creek bridge was guarded by several soldiers attached to Captain McLinn’s company, encamped near Midway. They were approached by a gang of ruffians, who first engaged them in friendly conversation and then suddenly attacked and overpowered them, and executed their hellish incendiarism. They carried the captured sentinels, we are told, to a house at some distance, and after forcing them to take the oath to support the Lincoln Government, released them. They hurried to their camp and gave such information as led to the immediate arrest of six of the incendiaries, who were yesterday brought to this city, and safely lodged in jail. We learn that they have made confessions which will probably lead to the capture of all engaged in this extensive conspiracy.

This diabolical plot does not seem to have been participated in by the great body of the East Tennessee Union men, but seems to have been confined to a number of desperate and reckless traitors, who confidently believed that before they could be brought to justice, the lincoln forces from Kentucky would have forced their way through the mountains to their rescue. The have again experienced how little dependence is to be placed upon the boasts and promises of Maynard and Johnson.

The cowards who were reported to be approaching Jamestown and Big Creek Gap, have retreated back into Kentucky, to escape from Hardee and his brave forces, leaving their duped and misguided co-labourers here to their merited fate. — There is no early probability that any of Lincoln’s troops will ever be able to force their way into East Tennessee, and all such attempts as the late incendiary one must only result in bringing a terrible retribution upon the heads of the foolish perpetrators.

Large reinforcements are now on the way to this point, both from the East and the West, and such guards will, no doubt, be placed along the railroad route as will be effectual to frustrate any similar attempts in future.

News having been received of the bridge burning at Jacksborough, Colonel Powell’s Regiment was immediately ordered by General Zollicoffer to this place, and arrived here yesterday morning. Several companies of this regiment will start this morning for various points along the road.

It is rumored that large numbers of Union men are arming and mustering in Blount and Sevier counties, for the purpose of protecting the incendiaries who attempted to fire the Strawberry Plains bridge, all of whom, numbering some sixteen, were from Sevier county.

We have rumors also of the uprising of about fifteen hundred Lincolnites in Bradley and Hamilton counties. They are rushing upon their own destruction.

Six of the incendiaries who burnt the bridge over Lick creek, and who were captured by Capt. McLinn’s cavalry, were brought to Knoxville, on a special train, yesterday afternoon. The names of five of them are, Looney McDaniel, _____ Hann, and three brothers Harman. They were marched, bond, through the streets, followed by a large crowd, to the city jail, to await an examination before the Confederate States Commissioner, which will probably take place to-day.

McDaniel is one of the Lincolnites who was arrested and brought before the Confederate Court in September last, and who, after being released, voluntarily took the oath to support the Southern Confederacy.

The Knoxville Register says:

The whole affair exhibits, beyond cavil, perfect concert of action between the traitors from Chattanooga to Bristol.

We are advised that there have been emissaries of the Lincoln army in Kentucky passing and repassing, through by-paths across the mountains, between the forces there and Andy Johnson’s myrmidons in East Tennessee.

Although they have done much damage to the railroads, fortunately, for us their blow has been premature. we have reliable intelligence from Jimtown that the Lincoln troops which were in force at Monticello are retreating instead of advancing, and thus the Tennessee Vandal insurrectionists have been disappointed in the support they anticipated from that quarter.

The avenger is on their track. They have again been deluded, and this time to their ruin, by that arch traitor to his country — Andrew Johnson.

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