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How Did We Get Here? - Part II

The Civil War Years

Posted 3/5/19

In last week’s edition, I promised stories of neighboring communities, the Civil War and early leadership. While researching different stories and characters in McKenzie’s history, I …

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How Did We Get Here? - Part II

The Civil War Years


In last week’s edition, I promised stories of neighboring communities, the Civil War and early leadership. While researching different stories and characters in McKenzie’s history, I found myself focused on the Civil War. I could not stop myself from delving deeper and deeper into the various stories.

Though McKenzie was not a fully incorporated municipality at the time, it was starting to take shape during the War Between the States. Without going into the buildup of the Civil War, it is important to know that Tennessee was a state of divided loyalties. The area of McKenzie and its smaller communities were pro-Confederate while the Town of Huntingdon was Union. Thus began one of the earliest divides between the two territories.

Tennessee was the last state to seceded from the Union on June 8, 1861. Governor Isham Harris lead the charge for Tennessee to join the Confederacy. Numerous battles were fought across the state; though Carroll County and McKenzie failed to produce a battle, they served as a pathway for troops.

McKenzie’s most noted Civil War event dates back to Christmas day 1862. In this event, Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest was following the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad to Dresden. Forrest learned of Union troops surrounding his location and preventing him from moving to the Tennessee River. With plans to outmaneuver the Union, he mobilized his forces to McKenzie Station on Christmas afternoon.

Virtually surrounded, Forrest moved his men towards Huntingdon and then McLemoresville. With 10,000 Union troops moving from Huntingdon, Forrest and his men slinked their way towards Lexington. On December 31, 1862 Forrest and Union forces collided at Parker’s Crossroads. Forrest would make his way through the skirmish crossing the Tennessee River on New Year’s Day.

The most interesting figure in McKenzie’s Civil War era history is a young lady by the name of Joseph Anna Hawkins (Cole). Born May 3, 1848, Annie was born in McKenzie. She was one of eleven children born to Richard Cole and Martha Smith.

The Cole Family settled in the McKenzie area around 1830 near present day Carroll Lake. Richard moved closer to town constructing a home what became Reynolds Street.

During the Civil War, Richard was commissioned a captain in the State Militia. A sympathizer of the Confederacy, the Cole home was visited regularly by Confederate troops including General Forrest.

In Annie Cole’s writings about the war entitled War Leaflets she writes, “ One day when General Forrest’s command was passing and the men and boys were cheering and singing all along the line, a brave handsome little fellow, not yet out of his teens, was riding in the rear and singing in a sweet melodious voice...

We school girls had never seen anything so pretty and romantic, of course, cheered and waved at him with, our whole soul. Those were days of romance and excitement with a succession of welcomes and farewells in which we younger girls in our way shared with the older ones.

Every time a new regiment or company of soldiers came in, we would claim a new sweetheart.

It was a great pleasure and quite the thing for the rebel to make tiny confederate flags and present to the boys in gray. All the scraps of silk and ribbon were gathered and saved for the purpose. A party of girls get together and each make a bonnie flag for the soldier boy, the darling of her heart. We set our nicest stitches on them. and passed many a happy hour in joking and trying to find out who was to get each one’s flag. My confident and best friend, Bettie Snead, lived at Hico. She would come and stay for days at a time at our house. We were almost inseparable and it always happened that we would both claim the same soldier boy.”

As previously stated, McKenzie was a pathway for Confederate and Union troops alike.

“It was at Christmas in 1863 when General Smith’s command came through and stopped in slow but sure, pursuit of the dashing “wizard of the saddle”, our gallant Forrest. There had been a lull in the passing of the enemy in this part of West Tennessee for some little time. Our smoke houses, corn cribs, and wheat bins were filled to the brim and we were little dreaming that the blue invaders were about to swoop down on us like the locust of Egypt. It was a soft pleasant afternoon for winter. Sallie and I had walked over to pay a little visit to our friend Sallie McKenzie.

We were enjoying a pleasant chat when George and Malcolm McKenzie came hastily in and said the earth was covered with Yankees. We thought at first they were joking and trying to scare us but looking out we were startled and terrified to see thousands of blue coats halted in front of the gate, and as far back as we could see. We saw that they intended to camp in the neighborhood that night. The advance guards were stationed on all roads at the crossing.

The officers and men were riding up and down the line pointing out directions, giving orders and snorting about generally...”

Annie goes on to explain the cruelty of the Northern Invaders, “Knowing their destructive and thievish disposition, he stopped by the fence and raising a couple of rails, laid a splendid watch on the fence, and placed the rails over it, then came on home to find them swarming in the yard and grounds.

The staff of officers took possession of our house and our parlor was used for headquarters. The camp reached from our house to Colonel Garland Snead’s covering a distance of more than a mile.

The troops consisted of Dutch, all kinds of Yankees, Negroes and seemingly every other nationality under the sun.

I can never forget the sickening scene when they began their work of destruction. Bursting open the doors, tearing down and burning fences and gates, cutting, and breaking up the family carriage, killing cattle, hogs, sheep, geese, turkeys, chickens and every living thing they could lay their cowardly hands on except horses, Negroes and our family, and we began to think the

prowling ruffians would cut our heads off next.”

Annie wrote her Civil War memories 25 years after the war. In the War Leaflets, she tells numerous stories of like in McKenzie from 1861-185. She would marry Camillus Hawkins. He would serve as mayor of McKenzie and was the first publisher and proprietor of the McKenzie Times which is the original name of The McKenzie Banner. Two of his brothers include William H. Hawkins, the first mayor of McKenzie, and Alvin Hawkins, twenty-second governor of Tennessee.

Jason R. Martin

B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS

Councilman, Ward II

Executive Chairman, McKenzie 150th Celebration

E: jmartin@mckenziebanner.com  P: 731.352.3323


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