I’ve spent the whole War of 1812 Bicentennial waiting to post this. *squeals with delight*
Fun fact: Jimmy Driftwood, the guy who wrote this ditty, was actually an Arkansas schoolteacher and principal named James Corbitt Morris, who used music to liven up his history classes. In 1936 he set his own lyrics to a traditional song about the battle called “The Eighth of January.”
Driftwood got a recording contract about twenty years later, but “The Battle of New Orleans” didn’t become a sensation until Johnny Horton heard it on the radio while driving home from a show and decided to do his own version. Horton got a hit, Driftwood got a second career as a musician, and we got a song so awesome it almost makes up for the White House getting torched.
Here’s a little archival item to end one year and ring in a new one. My mom ran across this vintage Marble Springs postcard and gave it to me as a Christmas present. I don’t know the date of the photo, but somebody mailed the card from Knoxville to the tiny town of Godley, TX in 1910. That was thirty-one years before the state purchased the property. As you can see, the place needed some work.
I’ve seen this same postcard image online, and something about it has always befuddled me. If the building in the picture is one of the extant structures on the site, it could only be the kitchen, which is attached to the main cabin by a dogtrot.
Since the main house is a good half-story taller than the kitchen, you should be able to see the gable end over the kitchen’s roof on the postcard. But from the postcard, it looks like there’s no building on the other side of the kitchen. Somebody evidently retouched the image to replace the main house with trees. I have no idea why anybody would do this, unless the smaller, dilapidated kitchen cabin better fit some postcard maker’s notion of what an Appalachian homestead should look like.
I did a little poking around online and ran across a slightly different version of the image from UT Special Collections, dated 1921. Here the main house is clearly visible, as it would be if you were standing there in person. This version, however, also looks heavily retouched. Did somebody try to clean up an earlier, already retouched version and produce this result? I don’t know enough about early photo manipulation to tell precisely what’s been done to the images.
Anyway, it’s an interesting glimpse at a place that’s changed a lot over the years, and one where I’ve been privileged to spend quite a bit of time.
I’ve been reading Massacre at Cavett’s Station by the eminent Tennessee archaeologist Charles Faulkner. The titular massacre was one of the uglier episodes in the long history of white-Cherokee conflict on the Tennessee frontier. It took place on September 25, 1793 when a massive war party (contemporary reports put their numbers as high as 1,500) headed for the territorial capital of Knoxville heard firing from the town and feared they’d lost the element of surprise. Instead, they fell on Cavett’s Station several miles to the southwest, killing the thirteen men, women, and children who were there.
Remarkably, the Indians had managed to approach Knoxville without detection by John Sevier’s militia, but retaliation was not long in coming. In what would prove to be his last Indian campaign, Sevier marched into Georgia and caught some of the perpetrators at Etowah, near present-day Rome. The Indians were in a position to oppose the militia’s crossing of the Etowah River at the town, but when a party of the whites moved south to cross elsewhere, the Indians followed them and left the fording place near the town undefended. The militiamen galloped back to Etowah, dispersing the defenders and putting the town to the torch.
Apparently Sevier decided that defeating the Indians wasn’t punishment enough, because he decided to up the ownage by sending them the following message, a copy of which is preserved in his journal:
Your murders and savage Barbarities have caused me to come into your Country Expecting you would fight like men, but you are like the Bairs and Wolves. The face of a white man makes you run fast into the woods and hide, u see what we have done and it is nothing to what we shall do in a short time. I pity your women & children for I am sure they must suffer and live like dogs but you are the Cause of it. You will make War, & then is afraid to fight,—our people whiped yours mightily two nights ago Crossing the river and made your people run very fast.
To the Cherokees and their warriors if they Have Any.
Ouch. Not much for the niceties of spelling and punctuation, but the guy definitely knew how to twist the rhetorical knife.
Today’s the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin. When it comes to the Civil War Sesquicentennial, I haven’t really done much in the way of commemorative posting. I’m taking notice of this anniversary, however, because I have a personal connection to Franklin. I don’t have an ancestor who died there or anything of that sort; it’s entirely a matter of happenstance.
I was born on November 30, and every year my dad—a longtime history teacher and Civil War buff—would remind me of the coincidence. (Luckily for him, my mom’s birthday is the anniversary of Bunker Hill, so he always remembered that one, too.) So here are a few links in recognition of a dark day for the Confederacy and an auspicious one for me.
Sorry for the absence, folks. I’ve been pretty busy with classes, so we’ve got some catching up to do. Here are a few items to amuse and inform:
If you’re a student looking for some public history experience or a Civil War buff who loves sharing your knowledge with people, here’s a neat opportunity for you. The Knoxville Civil War Gateway is recruiting volunteer docents and walking tour guides. If you’re interested, e-mail KnoxCivilWarGateway@gmail.com, or call (865) 277-6398.
We’re getting ready for our next quarterly board meeting of the Governor John Sevier Memorial Association, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to encourage all you folks to join the GJSMA, if you haven’t already. Memberships start at just $25, and carry some great benefits. It’s a fantastic way to support Marble Springs State Historic Site here in Knoxville.
And if you’re looking for a nifty place to have a wedding, family reunion, company picnic, or other event, Marble Springs is an excellent choice.