Monday, April 07, 2014

More Bridge Burning in Tennessee.

I received a letter from a gentleman by the name of Frank, ( no last name given ), asking for a picture of a ancestor by the name of Captain Gilson O. Collins.  Well we got to talking and he told me a story on how it was a small world.

It's a small world.

It is sometimes a small world.   I had heard about "Ollie" and had some of the stories by the late 90's.  I used to work for the government and after 9/11 was running a counterterrorism group with a lot of activated military reservists that had been uprooted.  I was  sensitive to their plight and took time on mids to chat from time to time about family and things. When I mentioned I was originally from TN (moved back now) this guy from California said "My family has roots from back there and my grandmother still lives there, but they were Unionists." 

I said I had some on both sides and he said "But mine were hung for it."  It struck a familiar cord with me but he didn't know any background and I said on a hunch, "can you get the family name from back in TN because I think I may know what happened."  So sure enough, a couple of days later he had the names, and they were a father and son  that were part of the bridge burners that were captured and hung. 

There is a roadside marker to them near their home.  So I told him the story and that my ancestor (Ollie Collins) was one of the group too.  Small world!  There weren't that many people involved in that action.

Author.  Well I got interested and asked for more information.  While I waited I looked into what I know already and found that there had been 30 to 40 men.  There were many bridges burn that night and some of the group went to one bridge and the others to another bridge.

Come to find out his ancestors Gilson O. Collins and brother Watson Collins was at the burning of the Zollicoffer bridge while the other group of men went the other bridge.

Frank's information.

There were several that were captured and hung.  The two related to the person I met were:  Jacob Harmon, Jr.  and Henry Harmon, father and son.   I included a description below that I had found of the hangings and related information.  The marker included is on former Harmon land.  Needless to say the guy I met was impressed with what I had on his family!

Push picture to enlarge.
Author.  This was taken from the Tennessee History.
Col. Leadbetter evidently did not understand the steadfast loyalty of the Unionists of East Tennessee, or he would have saved himself the trouble of issuing this proclamation. Very few took advantage of the proffered clemency. Meanwhile Brig. -Gen. W. H. Carroll had been placed in command at Knoxville, and on December 11, he issued a proclamation declaring martial law, and suspending the writ of habeas corpus. On the same day C. A. Haun, who had been confined in the jail at that place, was hanged on the charge of bridge burning. About a week later Jacob Harmon and his son, Henry Harmon, were hanged on a similar charge. These vigorous measures had the effect of driving many of the Unionists to Kentucky, and of silencing the most of the remainder for the time being.
Watson Collins. 

Watson Collins , a brother of Capt. G. O. Collins, married a daughter of Mordecai Williams and settled in Siam, TN in 1844. He was one of the "bridge burners" and was captured and  died in a Confederate prison during the Civil War. Watson Collins was a Union supporter during the Civil War, and was a  member  of the 'Bridge Burners'. He served with the Second East Tennessee Volunteer Infantry. Source: Title: Watson Collins Family Bible

Frank's note.  Gilson and Watson's father was also a Gilson O Collins.

Author.  Watson Collins, private, 2nd., Tennessee Mounted infantry, age 40, July 22, 1862, June 3, 1863.  Captured at Rogersville, November 6, 1863.
Final Resting Places of the Five "Bridge-burners"
Of the five Greene County men who were executed as "bridge-burners" by the confederate authorities, in the autumn of 1861, the burial place of four of them is known.

Jacob Harmon and his son Henry Harmon, both hanged at Knoxville, are buried in the Harmon Family Cemetery at "Pottertown." A story has been passed down through the Harmon family, that they were first buried outside the cemetery fence, because the confederates considered them to be "traitors", and would not allow the family to bury them inside. The story continued that the fence was later moved to enclose the two graves. It is not known if that is a true story, but it certainly could be, as confederate Colonel Leadbetter went to extreme limits at that time, to intimidate the pro-union population of East Tennessee, in the wake of the bridge-burning.

Christopher Alexander Haun is buried in the cemetery at Concord Baptist Church, near Mohawk. The Haun family were early settlers there. His widow, Elizabeth is buried at Mt. Hope Church cemetery, also near Mohawk. No marked grave for her was found, but official government pension records state that she was buried there. Their son Jacob Daniel Haun, who later became a union army soldier, is
also buried at Mt. Hope.

James Madison Hinshaw is buried in the Long Family Cemetery, just off highway 66, between Bulls Gap, and Rogersville, Tennessee. His wife was Lorinda Walker, the daughter of Gabriel Walker, who lived in that part of Hawkins County. The widow of Jacob M. Hinshaw married again, but is buried beside him, under the name of Rinda Jenkins. Their son William, who died at age seven, is buried
between them.
The burial place of Henry Fry is unknown at this time. Fry family records indicate that his widow Barbary (Wampler) Fry, is buried in the old Lutheran Cemetery at Blue Springs (Mosheim), in an unmarked grave. She is believed to be buried beside the marked grave of her father. It is very probable that Henry Fry may also be buried there, as that cemetery was not far from the place of his execution at Greeneville. One 1890s newspaper account mentions that Fry and Hinshaw were first buried in Greeneville, and later moved to the confederate cemetery in Knoxville. It seems unlikely that the confederate officials would have put themselves to that much trouble for the families of the two men who they considered to be traitors. Since Hinshaw is buried in Hawkins County, in a marked grave, which appears to be original to the period of his death, it is not likely that he was ever buried at another location.

When those facts are considered, I believe that it is very likely that Henry Fry is buried in the Old Blue Springs Lutheran Cemetery, where his widow Barbary (Wampler) Fry, was buried in 1899. The Wamplers were of german descent, and members of the Lutheran faith.
Memorial Service for the "Bridge-Burners"
On Saturday morning, October 19,1996, a military memorial service, with a 21 gun salute, was held at the Harmon Cemetery at "Pottertown", for the five men who were hanged by the Confederate authorities in 1861, for burning the Lick Creek railroad bridge, of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. That is believed to be the first memorial service ever held for the five executed "bridge-burners". Only two of the men are buried at "Pottertown". The other three are buried in cemeteries within a few miles of the Harmon Cemetery. The "Pottertown" location was selected for the service, as it was the assembly point for the ill-fated expedition, in 1861, and is a central location in relation to the other graves.

About 150 persons gathered on the cold October morning, to take part in the service. Approximately half that number were descendants of the men being honored. A sizeable group of soldiers from the Eighth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Union) reenactment group, held the impressive military service. It was a moving ceremony, especially for the descendants of the "bridge-burners."

Bronze grave markers from the Office of Memorial Programs, of the Department of Veterans Affairs, were recently placed on the graves of the five honored soldiers. In 1862 all of the men were posthumously made members of Company F Second Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment, by a Special Act of the Congress of the United States. That was the company and regiment of their leader, Captain David Fry.

Historical Marker for the "Bridge-Burners"

One hundred and thirty-five years after the five "Pottertown" "Bridge-Burners" were hanged, the Tennessee Historical Commission voted to erect a historic marker near the old "Pottertown" settlement, in honor of the five men, who gave their lives for the Union cause, in the first months of the Civil War.

The marker is located beside the eastbound lanes of U.S. Highway 11E, about one mile east of Mohawk Crossroads. The marker stands on land once owned by the Harmon family, who lost two members in the 1861 executions. The location of the marker is about one-half mile northwest of the Harmon family cemetery at "Pottertown". The United States flag which now flies over the cemetery, can be seen from the marker.

Authors last note.  To read my post on the Captain Gilson O. Collins and Zollicoffer bridge take these links.

Captain Gilson O. Collins.

Zollicoffer bridge.

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