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The burning of Linden’s courthouse: May 12, 1863

Posted on Thursday, June 7, 2018 at 2:46 pm

On May 10,1863, Major General W. T. Sherman wrote orders to Lt. Colonel W. L.M. Breckenridge directing him to a Confederate stronghold in Linden, Tennessee. In the orders, Sherman stipulated the following points. Breckenridge’s First Western Tennessee Cavalry was to engage the rebel forces, capture of kill as many as possible and destroy the supply depot. He was ordered to burn the courthouse, paying particular attention to the destruction of land records and civil records. Any civilian deemed to be sympathetic to the rebels were to be arrested. He had to recover and transport any valuable military supplies and impress upon the population the hopelessness of their cause. Finally, he was to march the prisoners to the gunboat for them to be sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago Illinois.

On May 11, 1863, fifty-five of the 1st Western Tennessee Calvary preceded from the Tennessee River and rode a distance of twelve miles and camped near the town undetected. In the early morning hours of May 12, the sleepy villa was unaware that they were about to be attacked. The Federal forces attacked suddenly and swiftly. The Confederate pickets were soon scattered, leaving behind three butternuts killed. The Unionists captured Lt. Colonel William Frierson, five officers, thirty men, ten conscripts, and several horses. The were successful in burning the courthouse and capturing supplies. A little over a year later, the rebels would have their revenge.

On September 26, 1864, the 2nd Tennessee Mounted Infantry (U.S.), under the command of Colonel John Murphy rode towards Beardstown, unaware that the Confederate forces under Colonel Jacob Biffle had matching numbers. On September 27, just north of Lobelville, a skirmish began which lead to an all-day engagement. That night, both armies camped ‘at arms”. The next day, the Confederate forces were relentless in their attack, resulting in a route of the Federal forces, or as some reported, a ‘panicked run’.
On the weekend of May 11-12, 2018, the people of the area once again witnessed history come alive! On Friday students from the area visited several stations and learned of life during that period. From learning about doing laundry (hands on activity!), learning basic military marching tactics, period dancing, games of the era, to visiting camps and hearing stories of olden days, the students were treated to a grand educational experience. General Lee shared his life’s story and a chaplain sat in the graveyard telling of heroic deeds of yesterday.

On May 12, 2018, the artillery put on an impressive firing demonstration. At 10:30, Regina and James Sharp welcomed the spectators. The Master of Ceremonies (D. Chaltas) was introduced and narrated the Battle of Beardstown. At 11”30, a wonderful Victorian Ladies’ Tea was held at the AZ bill Community Center. The Confederate Belles of Tennessee sponsored the grand event. MS Millie Polk welcomed everyone and spoke about pride in being from the south. The chaplain offered invocation.

At 12 o’clock, a grand street concert was held with the musical talent of the 5th Alabama performing period songs such as the Yellow Rose of Texas, and other hits of the era. Casey’s Military tactics were demonstrated. At 1:30 Mrs. Millie Polk and Mrs. Robert E. Lee addressed the audience. Mrs. Regina Sharp paid homage to Marberry Smith, one of the founding members of the 5th Alabama Regiment Band that passed away last weekend. The ban played his favorite song, The Yellow Rose of Texas! A special ritual, known as the Blessing of the Sword, was conducted by the chaplain in the presence of all. It was very moving and conducted in a manner honoring our ancestors. At 3 o’clock, the reenactment of the burning of the courthouse began with men inside the courthouse attempting to protect it. That night a grand military ball was held with the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment Band performing.

-By David Chaltas