McCallie: Federal incursion into East Tennessee caused chaos

McCallie: Federal incursion into East Tennessee caused chaos

June 2nd, 2013 by Dr. David McCallie in Opinion Columns


Dr. David McCallie, a retired physician, is the grandson of Thomas Hooke McCallie.

• For more on this article, call Chattanooga Area Historical Association editor L.C. Jolley at 423-886-2030.

Editor's Note: The following is excerpted from "THM - A Memoir," WestBow Press, 2011. Thomas Hooke McCallie was pastor of the Chattanooga Presbyterian Church from 1862 to 1873, during Confederate control of the city and later under Union occupation. The episode describes the chaos resulting from a Federal incursion into East Tennessee at Knoxville to destroy communications between Richmond and the Deep South - all while Thomas McCallie was trying to retrieve his niece from her stay at boarding school.

In June 1863, I went with my wife, Mary, then 6 months old, and servant woman as nurse to attend the closing exercises of Rogersville Female Seminary and bring home Penelope Hooke, who had been in attendance on the sessions of the school during the past year.

On Saturday morning we started home on the [rail] cars, expecting soon to be at home and in my pulpit the next day. When we reached Bull's Gap is was our surprise to learn that Knoxville was attacked by a column of Federals, the bridges burned and the union forces probably marching directly toward us. We were in a strait. We knew not what to do. My wife remembered that Cousin Robert Barton lived about 12 miles down the R.R. so we sent him at once a note detailing our condition and situation.

He promptly sent a carriage for us and a two-horse wagon for our baggage, and took us directly to his own house. We reached there Sunday before noon.

Editor's Note: Between June 14 and June 24, 1863 - when THM and family were in Rogersville - U.S. Army Col. W.P. Sanders was leading an expedition of 1,500 men from Kentucky into the Tennessee River Valley burning bridges and destroying rails and telegraph lines. Their mission was very successful as noted by THM in the paragraphs above and below.

We soon found out that we had to be patient for there were no cars running and no means of communication whatsoever. We knew not what hour the Federals might come dashing up the road, capture and carry off, both Cousin Robert and myself. Here I waited as patiently as I possibly could. My mother with the family was in Chattanooga. She knew not what had become of me, for there was no mail, no telegraph, no communication whatever.

On the following Friday after near a week's anxiety, I left my wife and babe, and went in Cousin Robert's carriage down to Morristown. There I took a car toward Knoxville till we came to a burnt bridge. We crossed the river, took a wagon, to another burnt bridge, then again a car, getting into Knoxville just before dark. I stayed that night with Rev J. H. Martin. The next morning I went down to the depot, and found a car going out to Chattanooga at 9 a.m. I took my seat, but was soon disturbed by an armed guard coming into the trains and ordering everybody out, stating that General Buckner [Major General Simon Bolivar Buckner, CSA] had impressed the train to convey his troops to Chattanooga.

Determined not to be out-done I went forward to a box car loaded with troops from Fla. I spoke kindly to them, told them my circumstances and my great desire to get to Chattanooga, when they kindly invited me to come in and ride with them. This I did. We had nothing but boards to sit on, the ride was rough and slow, for it took us till midnight to reach the depot in Chattanooga. But at home at last.

My mother was glad to see me, for she knew nothing of what had become of me - not a line did she receive, nor a word. She only knew I was cut off, by burnt bridges and by an invading column of a hostile army. I soon learned from her that all was well except that the old man, Mereda, had fallen over suddenly in the kitchen dead and that he had been buried. Poor M. how unprepared for his call.

The next morning Sunday I entered my pulpit, and what was my surprise to see Gen. Buckner and his staff come marching down the aisle to attend services.

He never knew that the preacher in the pulpit had been turned out by his orders the day before of the car that could have brought him to Chattanooga and that in spite of him he had come on the same train and was now before him.