Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Pottertown Bridge Burners

Marker ID:  
Location: 1270 Pottertown Road, Midway, TN
County: Greene
Coordinates: N 36° 12.033    W 083° 0.826
  36.20055    -83.01376666
Waymark: None


Pottertown Bridge Burners
Unionists Pay the Ultimate Price

When Tennessee left the Union in June 1861, Greene County was a hotbed of divided loyalties. Several Unionists, who crafted multi-colored earthenware pottery which is still highly valued, were among the occupants of the nearby community named “Pottertown.” That autumn, celebrated antebellum potter Christopher Alexander Haun conspired with other residents to cripple the Confederate-controlled rail system by burning railroad bridges. The Rev. William Blount Carter, a local minister and Unionist, devised the plan. President Abraham Lincoln approved and promised Federal forces would protect the bridge burners’ families.

Capt. David Fry, Co. F, 2nd Tennessee Infantry (U.S.) came from Kentucky with orders to burn the bridges. With his help, Carter finalized the plan to burn all major railroad bridges in East Tennessee in one night. On November 8, 1861, local Unionists arrived at the home of Jacob Harmon, Jr, another local potter, and were sworn into Fry’s command.

About sixty men then went to the Lick Creek railroad bridge, where they captured Confederate pickets. After burning the bridge, they released the Confederates, a decision they soon regretted. Although the president had promised military protection, Confederates later captured several men associated with the bridge burning and hanged Haunm, Henry Fry, Jacob Harmon Jr., Henry Harmon and Matt Hindshaw. Confederate President Jefferson Davis commuted Harrison Self’s sentence.

The Harmons are buried here in the family cemetery. Haun’s pottery kiln stood a few hundred feet up Pottertown Road to the right, and the Bridge-Burner Memorial marker and flagpole are on the left.

“I am very glad to hear of the action of the military authorities and hope to hear they have hung every bridge-burner at the end of the burned bridge.” —Confederated Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin

Tennessee Civil War Trails.