Bridge Burners Ought to be Tried at Once
Colonel William B. Wood


TO HON. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War: -

SIR: - The rebellion in East Tennessee has been put down in some of the counties, and will be effectually suppressed in less than two weeks in all the counties. Their camps in Sevier and Hamilton counties have been broken up, and a large number of them made prisoners. Some are confined in this place, and others sent to Nashville. In a former communication, I inquired of the Department what I should do. It is a mere farce to arrest them and turn them over to the courts. Instead of having the effect to intimidate them, it really gives encouragement and emboldens them in their traitorous conduct. Patterson, the son-in-law of Andrew Johnson, State Senator Pickens, and several other members of the Legislature, besides others of influence and distinction in their counties, - these men have encouraged the rebellion, but have so managed as not to be found in arms. Nevertheless, all their actions and words have been unfriendly to the Government of the Confederate States. Their wealth and influence have been exerted in favor of the Lincoln Government, and they are the parties most to blame.

They really deserve the gallows, and, if consistent with the laws, ought speedily to receive their deserts. But there is such a gentle spirit of conciliation in the South, and especially here, that I have no idea that one of them will receive such a sentence at the hands of any jury. I have been here at this station for three months, half the time in command of this post; and I had a good opportunity of learning the feeling pervading this country. It is hostile to the Confederate Government. They will take the oath of allegiance with no intention to observe it. They are the slaves of Johnson and Maynard, and never intend to be otherwise. When arrested, they suddenly become very submissive, and declare they are for peace, and not supporters of the Lincoln Government, but yet claim to be Union men. At one time, while our forces were at Knoxville, they gave it out that a great change had taken place in East Tennessee, and that the people were becoming loyal.

At the withdrawal of the army from here to the Gap, and the first intimation of the approach of the Lincoln army, they were in arms, and scarcely a man but was ready to join it and make war upon us. The prisoners we have all tell us that they had every assurance that the enemy was already in the State and would join them in a few days. I have requested at least that the prisoners I have taken be held, if not as traitors, as prisoners of war. To release them is ruinous. To convict them before a court is next to impossibility. But if they are kept in prison for six months, it will have a good effect.

The bridge-burners and spies ought to be tried at once.

Very respectfully, yours,


Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession by W. G. Brownlow
George W. Childs, Philadelphia, 1862, pages 267-269.