Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Caught in the Crossfire

Marker ID:  
Location: at the intersection of North Jackson Str and W First N St (Route 66), Morristown, TN
County: Hamblen
Coordinates: N 36° 12.733    W 083° 17.9
  36.21221666    -83.29833333
Waymark: None


Caught in the Crossfire
Morristown in the Civil War

In 1861, Morristown was a small railroad town strategically located where the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad crossed the road to the Cumberland Gap. Although much of East Tennessee was Unionist, Morristown's residents held secessionist sympathies. Confederate Capt. Stephen M. Cocke used a marching band playing patriotic tunes to recruit his unit, encouraging men on the streets to fall in line. By the time the band reached the end of Main Street, Cocke had stirred enough hearts to raise his company.

Amid Confederate zeal, Union Lt. James A. Bird, Co. F, 2nd Tennessee Infantry (US), also recruited soldiers. He was wounded while burning bridges in East Tennessee under his commander, Capt. David Fry. Bird, discharged in 1863, opened a store in Morristown, despite wounds, illness, and persecution for his service.

At the Battle of Morristown on October 28, 1864, Union Gen. Alvan C. Gillem's men attacked Confederate Gen. John C. Vaughn's force, which retreated toward Russellville. The fight was personal, as both generals were native Tennesseans. Vaughn reported, "I regret to say that my command was stampeded at Morristown this morning...the enemy has a superior force to mine, and I lost a good many men as prisoners." Two weeks later, however, Vaughn and Gen. John C. Breckinridge prevailed against Gillem at Bull's Gap.

The Tennessee General Assembly established Hamblen County in 1870, naming Morristown the county seat. By 1874, the county had recovered enough to erect this striking Second Empire-style courthouse.

Tennessee Civil War Trails.