The 13th Regiment, Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry
Brave men in hard times.
While those living in northeastern Tennessee in 1860 - just two long lives ago - had heard mutterings of civil war, few expected actual hostilities. In the words of Captain Daniel Ellis "Little did I then imagine that the period was rapidly approaching when I, my neighbors, and my relatives, would be hunted and shot at like the wild beasts of the mountains."
News of the firing on Fort Sumter quickly dispelled this illusion. The war had begun, and Tennessee seceded.
The men of East Tennessee remained loyal to the Union.
When they had the courage to defy their new government, and burn the bridges of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad in November of 1861, Confederate authorities responded with a brutal campaign of indiscriminate arrests and hangings. Homes were invaded, searched and ransacked, and hundreds of men were compelled to hide while their houses were plundered and their families abused.
It is probable that this little area, Union in its sympathies (but lying so near Virginia, with its strong Confederate sentiment), was the scene of more tragedies in proportion to its population than any other part of the country.
After the dreary winter of 1862, the Confederate Congress passed the "Conscript Act". This took into the Confederate Army all able-bodied male citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 years. It had the effect of sending more men from East Tennessee into the Federal Army than the Confederacy, as they fled their homes to swell the ranks of Union forces.
In the fall of 1863, some 500 or 600 men (a full 200 of whom were under the age of 18 years) from Johnson and Carter counties met at Strawberry Plains. Originally planning to join the Union 12th Tennessee Cavalry, they instead formed the "Thirteenth Tennessee" volunteer cavalry regiment.
Theirs was the unit which (along with the Ninth Tennessee and part of the Tenth Michigan Calvary, and while supported by two sections of the First Tennessee Light Artillery) cornered and killed General Morgan - the "Grey Ghost" - at Greeneville in September of 1864. A squadron from the Thirteenth surrounded the General, and a private shot him when he tried to escape. It was a brave deed for these men, who were inexperienced soldiers at that time, to dash into a town in the face of Morgan's superior command and attack him.
The Thirteenth fought at Lick Creek, in Morristown, and at Bull's Gap, along with other unnamed and now dimly recalled or forgotten skirmishes. In December of '64, when General Stoneman stormed Fort Breckenridge and captured the salt works at Saltville, Virginia, he stated that "the Thirteenth Tennessee Calvary is due the credit of having acted the most conspicuous part".
The men of the regiment estimated that they rode over 3,300 miles during their period of service. We can only admire their endurance and courage.