Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Burning of Zollicoffer Bridge, Tennessee.

On the night of November 8, 1861, the bridge at Zollicoffer, between Bristol and Carter's Depot, Tennessee, was burned by the men from Carter county, Tennessee.

The man chosen to lead them was Daniel "Dan" Stover, he was without any knowledge of military matters but was made their Colonel.

The men of the burning.
Col. Stover said to them : "All who are willing to go with me to the bridge and assist in burning it, fall in line."  The following men fell into line.

John F. Burrow, John G. Burchfield, Gilson O. Collins, Watson Collins, Landon Carter, M. L. Cameron, Jackson Carriger, James T. Davenport, Samuel Davenport, Daniel Ellis, John Fondrin, William M. Gourley. Henderson Garland, Wm. F. M. Hyder. J. K. Haun, Jacob Hendrixson, Mark Hendrixson, Jonas H. Keen, George Maston, B. M. G. O'Brien, Berry Pritchard, Henry Slagle, James P. Scott, Daniel Stover, the leader, and James Williams, C.C. Wilcox, J. P. Wilson, John K. Miller and Morgan Treadway..

It is alleged that only twenty-three men went to the bridge, while three others, Simerly, Treadway and Williams did the part assigned them guarding the horses. The list who fell into line is as nearly correct as we have been able to get it. It is said that two or three names that appear above did not go all the way to the bridge while it is said by others they did.

The burning of the bridge.
Col. Stover and G. O. Collins had masks over their faces which had been prepared by Mrs. Lizzie Carter. The other men were not disguised in any way. When the men signified their willingness to go G. O. Collins gave the command in an undertone to move towards the bridge which they did, moving quickly and in good order. Arriving at the south end of the bridge they did not find any guard at first. They formed the men, part of them being up the river, and others down the river, while six or eight of them went hastily through the bridge nearly to the north end of it.

The two guards, Stanford Jenkins and William Jones, rebel soldiers, were under the bridge, the former at the south end and the latter at the north end. Hearing the men, Jones ran and John F. Burrow raised his gun to shoot him, but was ordered not to fire. As the party returned from the north end of the bridge Jenkins came up from under the bridge and recognizing G. O. Collins, spoke to him and said : "Ollie, here's my gun, don't kill me." G. O. Collins, M. L. Cameron and J. M. Emmert then hastily placing the pine and pouring the turpentine on the bridge applied matches to it and it was soon in flames. They hastened back to their horses, taking Jenkins with them. Unfortunately he had recognized Collins, Keen, Carter, and others.

The company mounted their horses and proceeded some distance on their return when they halted to consult as to what disposition they would make of their prisoner. Feeling sure that Jenkins had recognized Keen (who had once employed him), Collins, and perhaps others, and that if released he would probably report their names to the Confederate authorities, the situation became very serious. In discussing what should be done with Jenkins, Watson Collins and others advocated shooting him.

They said that if he reported them their lives would pay the penalty, and that in time of war no man could be trusted, that "only dead men tell no tales," and that their only safety was in silencing him forever; but through the intercession of Mr. Keen, who was very kind hearted, and shrank from blood shed, and the appeals of Jenkins himself, who made the most solemn promises that he would not betray them, they swore him to secrecy and turned him loose. The party then made a hasty retreat, separating and returning to their homes as if nothing unusual had happened.

Authors note.  Immediately after being let go Jenkins went to the Confederate authorities, and under oath reported the names of Keen and others.

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