Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Irish Shanty - Only Boiling Eggs

Marker ID:  
Location: 210 Ferbee Road, Dickson, TN
County: Dickson
Coordinates: N 36° 5.55    W 087° 30.933
  36.0925    -87.51555
Waymark: None


On July 2, 1863, as Federal forces conducted a campaign to rid the Yellow Creek valley of Confederate guerrillas, a forward detachment of the 8th Kentucky Cavalry (US) rode up to a grocery store and tavern located about two miles to the west. The site, known as Irish Shanty, was rumored to be popular with guerrillas.

Several cavalrymen later claimed that about twenty men in front of Irish Shanty fired on the troopers as they approached. The cavalry charged and captured suspected guerrillas Dr. Aaron James, Euphrates Shelton, James Shelton, William Few, Jonas Spicer, and Dr. Payton Washburn. Escorted to Fort Donelson, the men were held for trial before a military commission. Attorneys for the accused claimed that their clients were not guerrillas and never fired on the cavalrymen. Instead, they were merely boiling ten dozen eggs in front of the building, and the cavalrymen mistook the smoke and crackle of the fire for discharged weapons.

The tribunal convicted James, Spicer, and Euphrates Shelton, sentencing the first two men to death and Shelton to five years’ hard labor. As regulations required, the trial record and verdicts were transmitted to Washington, D.C., where Joseph Holt reviewed them. Holt reported to President Abraham Lincoln that the evidence was insufficient for conviction and that the trial before the commission was improper. On December 12, 1863, Lincoln disapproved James’s sentence and soon also reversed the verdicts regarding Spicer and Shelton. The men were released and returned home by year’s end.

“It is however proven that while in a state of disgraceful and brutish intoxication, (James) did on that occasion utter foul and abusive threats and epithets toward the said soldiers.” — Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, Dec. 1863