Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Skirmish at Lawrenceburg / Saving the Courthouse

Marker ID:  
Location: at the intersection of Waterloo Street and Military Street, Lawrenceburg, TN
County: Lawrence
Coordinates: N 35° 14.45    W 087° 20.11
  35.24083333    -87.33516666
Waymark: None


In November 1862, Confederate cavalrymen under Col. Albert G. Cooper camped near Lawrenceburg. He confined captured Federal soldiers and Union sympathizers in the jail here on the town square. Union Maj. Thomas C. Fitz Gibbon, commanding the post at Columbia, selected a detachment of 120 troopers from the 14t Michigan Mounted Infantry and set off to surprise the Confederates here the next morning. Unknown to Fitz Gibbon, however, Confederate scout Tom Moss heard of the plan and hurried ahead to warn Cooper of the impending attack.

When Fitz Gibbon and his forces arrived at Lawrenceburg the morning of November 3, they found almost 500 Confederates waiting for them behind several lines of cotton bale barricades that surrounded the town. Outnumbered but armed with Spencer repeating carbines and pistols, the Federals charged, scattered the defenders and took possession of the square. Seeing that the courthouse and log jail were empty of prisoners, the Union soldiers placed loose cotton inside the jail and set it on fire.

As the men of the 14th Michigan prepared to do the same to the courthouse a group of local citizens pleaded with the Federal commander to spare the building. The three-story 1821 brick structure also housed the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows. Fitz Gibbon realized that burning the courthouse would probably ruin the nearby Mexican War monument. As a gesture of respect to the memory of the Lawrence County volunteers who had died in the defense of their country during the Mexican War, the Union officer order his men not to harm the building.

Erected 2012 by Tennessee Civil War Trails.