DEFEAT AT HOLDER FORD
By: Walter E. Clabaugh, Kingston, TN
From The Roane County Heritage Commission Newsletter, Vol. V,
July, August, Sept. 1993.
The following is a summary of notes I collected while visiting in the New Midway Community of Roane County. I was a guest of Walter Norman who is a very close friend. Walter was born and raised in that beautiful valley and as young boy sat on the porch and listened of his grandfather, Smith HARVEY, along with Yokum BUSH, tell Civil War stories.
Smith HARVEY and Yokum BUSH were Union soldiers in Company I, 1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry stationed at Kingston after the Union Army had advanced to this area in September, 1863.
At this particular time, Colonel Yokum BUSH, Smith HARVEY, George LITTLETON, Jesse LITTLETON, Robert JOHNSTON, Amos HART, Christian MARTIN and many more Union soldiers from this area were camping across from Holder Ford.
Holder Ford was the place where Holder Ford crossed the creek where Holder Road crossed the creek. The road leads to Paint Rock Ferry which was a good spot to cross the Tennessee River and avoid Kingston where a Union command was set and well defended. Some folks know this area as Greasy Run. This name came from the spot where an old bear, named Greasy, was shot by Mr. HOLDER.
One afternoon, a large group of Confederates was making its way south with local troops in the ranks and were traveling on Holder Ford Road when they spotted Union forces in their path. The two groups stopped and looked each other over. The Reb commander sent troops up on the hillside to take a better look at the Yanks. They were trying to make a decision to advance, which would force a fight, or wait until morning. Colonel BUSH and some of his me came forward to get a better look. As they were discussing the situation, one of the Union troops was stripping the bark from a small sourwood tree with a long knife, which was made from a broken sword, when a shot rang out, coming from the Rebs on the hillside. The bullet hit the small sourwood tree, passing through the tree hitting the Yank in the stomach. The bullet didn't break the skin, but raised a large blister. Colonel BUSH said the soldier really put on a show for the boys, rolling on the ground and screaming like a cat with his tail caught in the door. The Rebel commander made the decision to wait until morning to make the move south and deal with the Yanks in their path. This decision gave Colonel BUSH and his men time to prepare for the fight. The Yanks worked all night digging in, improving their breastworks, setting up their cannons in the cedars, loading them with cannon balls and then setting canister close by for the next load. As the morning came, sharp shooters climbed the trees and made ready for first light and the Rebs. The Rebs had under-estimated the strength of the Yanks because most of the force was hidden from their sight by the stand of cedars. They may have thought that this was just a local group of reserves, but they were, in fact, battle hardened troops that had been in the fight since 1861. The Rebs charged across the field and were met by a wall of bullets and cannon fire. When the battle was over Colonel BUSH and his men walked through the fallen soldiers. Some of the troops were recognized as local men, two being the MARTIN brothers whose family lived in the next valley and were of German descent. The dead were buried close to where they fell. This battle cut the wound deeper in an already divided community. Pain was felt on both sides and the healing was slow. Hearing the story of this confrontation made me more aware of the suffering that must have torn this small community apart. May it be a lesson for us all.
Some of the men in this battle lost their lives before the end of the war. Colonel BUSH was invited to the inauguration of the U.S. GRANT and made the trip to Washington. Smith HARVEY remained in the valley and raised a family. He is buried in sight of the battlefield where he had fought so bravely. Other men in the group served in government, farmed the land and made this a better place to live.
Written by Walter E. Clabaugh, Kingston, TN
This story, written by Walter E. Clabaugh, Jr., though based on stories told by the Civil War veterans and their families and passed down verbally can be taken as factual. Hundreds of battles, officially called "skirmishes", were played out everywhere soldiers met. Many were never reported or documented in any way except through the stories told by the participants after the Civil War.
Colonel Yokum BUSH referred to, is listed in the official record as a 2nd Lieutenant, Company I, 1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, Union Army. He may have received a brevet promotion to Colonel.
The 1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry of the Union Army, was formed mostly from Roane County. Robert K. BYRD, of Roane County was instrumental in forming this regiment which was commissioned as Camp Dick Robinson September 1, 1861. R.K. BYRD was appointed Colonel of the regiment and served a time as commander of the Kingston garrison after the Union Army took Kingston in September 1863.