Hawkins County’s Civil War Trail continues with the historic town of Rogersville, a powder keg of anger and resentment for both Union and Confederate sympathizers alike in 1861. Most people in this area favored the union; as a matter of fact county residents voted 1,260 against succession with 845 for separation. Yet most of the men in the county enrolled in more Confederate company’s than in Federal. In those days Rogersville was a model western town with dirt streets, brothels, stone sidewalks, saloons, horse drawn transportation and livery stables. The men carried guns to protect their families and property.
Rogersville and neighboring communities have many Civil War landmarks and stories. The following is just a sampling. Let’s start in the Western section below town.
Marble Hall Mansion: Colonel John Morgan’s 13th Calvary troops were camped here in 1864 in order to keep a union stronghold on Rogersville. Orrville Rice the wealthy marble industrialist who built the 5 story structure lost all his money backing the confederacy. The house burned in 1910.
Stipes Farm: Longstreet’s forces camped here in December 1863, near a place known as “Blue Pond”. Before the war four slaves had lost their lives in the bottomless pond and their bodies never found. When Longstreet’s men went to break up camp they weren’t able to bring two wagons and four cannons with them so they pushed them into pond to keep Union soldiers from getting them.
McClure House on 11W: Frank M Baker one of General Morgan’s men was killed here during an attack led by Bill Sizemore and the Federal Calvary. 30 men were wounded and killed during that skirmish.
Allison Heights: This subdivision was named for B.F Allison a member of the 63rd. He was captured here under a mass of grapevines on August 23, 1864 by the same men who killed Baker.
Hampton House on Broadway: This structure built in 1849 was owned by the 4th great grandson of General Wade Hampton. It was used as a confederate hospital during the war. Horses were stabled in the back parlors. The house burned in 2002.
Walker House on Main Street: This was the home of Dr. Joseph Rogers Walker the grandson of the founder of Rogersville. During the Civil War he was the only doctor in the area and he tended both the Confederates and the Union soldiers. He had a special permit so he couldn’t be harmed.
Kyle-Simpson House: This antebellum structure was occupied by Union soldiers during the war. Confederate sympathizers wouldn’t walk on that side of the street.
Hale Springs Inn: Tradition states that this brick edifice was used as a confederate hospital from 1862-1864. The story goes that Union and Confederate soldiers would shoot at each other across Main Street.
Old Presbyterian Cemetery: Here lies the body of Lt. Robert Powell the first Confederate soldier to be killed outside of Virginia. Powell was killed by men under the command of Colonel Crawford also from Rogersville and a long time friend of Lt. Powell’s father.
Powell Law Office: Rogersville native Alexander Peter Stewart attended school here in the 1820’s. Later in life he was one of two Tennesseans who attained the rank of lieutenant-general in the Confederate Army.
Farmer’s Hotel on the town square: Built in 1847 by the Kyle family this structure served as studio for Samuel Shaver, Rogersville’s noted portrait painter. During the Civil War he was commissioned by President Jefferson Davis to paint the portraits of 12 Confederate Generals. He completed the task but after the war the paintings were stolen and never found.
Depot Street: Unionist Bill Sizemore rode at full gallop down Depot Street and shot and killed four men.
Courthouse: In April of 1862 Hawkins County donated the courthouse bell to the Confederacy. The bell was melted down and used in the making of bullets and cannon balls. In the winter of 1863 union soldiers broke into the courthouse and seized hundreds of records and burned them on the courthouse square to warm themselves. A captain ordered them to stop and return the papers to the courthouse. Many records dating as far back as 1765 were destroyed.
Overton Lodge: On December 15, 1862, Unionist John Riley stood behind the Columns on the porch of this structure and shot Confederate General John Bynum as he rode down Main Street.
Confederate and Union Graves: Located on Kyle Street are two century old cemeteries; one at the t Presbyterian Church and the other at the eastern end of the street. Both contain the graves of union and confederate soldiers.
Clay Kenner Home: Captain Henry Boyle Clay was with General Morgan when he was killed at Greeneville in 1864. He escaped to Rogersville and was hidden in a secret room of this house by his future wife Nancy Phipps Bynum.
Rosemont: This was once the home of Rogersville attorney Colonel C.W Heiskell, the first Confederate to enlist from Hawkins County.
Three Oaks Plantation: Located on McKinney Avenue this ante-bellum plantation is one of the last of its kind in Tennessee.
Gallows Site: Located on Colonial Road behind Liberty Lumber it is also known as the “Hanging Cut.” On May 1, 1861 two slaves were hung here for the murder of their owners the Haynes family.
Slave Cemetery: Located in the eastern corner of the highland cemetery this is one of the oldest slave burial grounds in the county. Here also lie the bodies of John and Ned.
Black Troops: In February 1864 the 1st U.S Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment was mustered in Knoxville several freed slaves from Rogersville were in this regiment.
August 1864: Gilliam’s men attacked Confederates in Rogersville during a bloody onslaught that resulted in 23 killed and 27 captured.
Colonel Ingerton of the 13th Tennessee Calvary, USA attacked the town at daylight and killed 13 more men and captured 24.
For all the residents living in Rogersville during and after the Civil War life was less than ideal. These true survivors suffered through death, destruction starvation, and poverty.
All people: black, white union and confederate. They overcame but it took them many years to do it.
Rodney L. Ferrell is Hawkins County Historian.