Back to top

Judah P. Benjamin to Colonel W.B. Wood, Instructions concerning Eastern Tennessee, November 25, 1861

Judah Philip Benjamin, detail
During the autumn of 1861 in the eastern counties of Tennessee, Unionist opposition to secession had resulted in public meetings, organizing, and, during early November, the burning of five railroad bridges near Union Depot, Greeneville, Charleston , and Chattanooga. This destruction panicked the entire South and moved the Confederate Government in Richmond to action. Troops were dispatched with orders to "crush the rebellion" and in this letter to a Confederate commander in Knoxville Acting Secretary of War Judah Philip Benjamin issued explicit instructions as to the treatment of insurrectionists. Convicted arsonists were to be "hanged on the spot" and their bodies displayed at the the burned bridges. Order was restored and hundreds of Tennesseans loyal to the Union fled to federal lines. (By John Osborne)

Tabs