Bridge Burners in Tennessee
Colonel William B. Wood

KNOXVILLE, TENN., NOV. 11, 1861.

GENERAL S. COOPER, Adjutant-General, &c.: -

SIR: - My fears expressed to you by letter and dispatches of the 4th and 5th inst. have been realized by the destruction of no less than five railroad-bridges. The indications were apparent to me; but I was powerless to prevent it.

The whole country now is in a state of rebellion. A thousand men are within six miles of Strawberry Plains Bridge, and an attack is contemplated to-morrow. I have sent Colonel Powell there with two hundred infantry, one company of cavalry, and about one hundred citizens armed with shot-guns and country rifles.

Five hundred Unionists left Hamilton county today, - we suppose, to attack Lowden Bridge. I have Major Campbell there, with two hundred infantry and one company of cavalry.

I have about the same force at this point, and a cavalry company at Washington bridge. An attack was made there on yesterday. Our men succeeded in beating them off; but they are gathering in large force, and may secure it in a day or two.

They are not yet fully organized, and have no subsistence to enable them to hold out long. A few regiments and vigorous means would have a powerful effect in putting it down. A mild or conciliating policy will do no good: they must be punished, and some of the leaders punished to the extent of the laws.

I have arrested six of the men who were engaged in firing the Lick Creek bridge, and I desire to have instructions from you as to the proper disposition of them. The slow course of civil law in punishing such incendiaries, it seems to me, will not have the salutary effect which is desired.

I learned from two gentlemen just arrived that another camp is being formed about two miles from here, in Sevier county, and already three hundred are in camp. They are being reinforced from Blount, Roane, Johnson, Greene, Carter, and other counties.

I feel it to be my duty to place this city under martial law, as there were a large majority of the people sympathizing with the enemy and communicating with them by the unfrequented mountain-paths, and to prevent surprises and the destruction of public property. I need not say that great alarm is felt by the few Southern men here. They are finding places of safety for their families, and would gladly enlist if we had arms for them. I have had all the arms in the city seized, and authorized Major Campbell to impress all he can find in the hands of Union men.

Very truly,


Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession by W. G. Brownlow
George W. Childs, Philadelphia, 1862, pages 265-267.