MARY LOVE CARRIED GRANT'S MESSAGE DESPITE DANGERS
By Walter T. Pulliam
This article appeared in The Harriman Record, 20 Apr1961.
One hundred years ago this month the American Civil War began when South Carolinians fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. Between April 12, 1861, the date Fort Sumter was fired upon, and April 9, 1865 when Lee surrendered, many heroes were made, North and South. Many women became heroines. None more so than Roane County's Mary LOVE. Her all-night ride late in 1863 from Kingston almost to Knoxville, directly through the Confederate lines, with a top-secret message from General GRANT tucked in her bosom, was one of the most daring feats of the war. It was the kind of daring that TV dramas, historical novels and moves are written about. Yet today few -- even in her own Roane County -- have heard of Mary LOVE. Her grave amid a cluster of trees atop a small hill off of Lawnville Road -- within sight of the new interstate expressway -- goes unnoticed except for a few direct descendants who keep the tiny family cemetery in which she is buried, cleared off each year. Her simple monument, the marble discolored by weather and age, merely reads: Mary LOVE Born Dec. 28, 1823, Died Feb. 24, 1887. It has now fallen over and lies face-up on the ground. The few books that tell of her feat are moth-eaten and mostly out of print, and no poet has risen to sing her praise as did Longfellow of Paul Revere. Yet her ride on that November night, 1863, makes Revere's ride a puny little escapade in comparison.
Family Divided--Most For The South. Like many families of the Civil War era, Mary's family was divided in sentiment, some North, some South. One brother, Joe, was a surgeon in the Confederate Army. Her mother and most of her brothers leaned toward the South. Mary, however, was strongly pro-Union. Since she was strong-mIndexd and outspoken, her mother, her two sisters and seven brothers all knew how she felt, even those who favored the South. They never dreamed, however, she would end up a heroine on the Northern side. Mary lived with her mother and brothers -- three of seven never married --- and her sisters in a comfortable, tree-shaded, story - and - a - half house with square white columns on the old stage-coach road through Lawnville, about three miles east of Kingston. The house -- which still stands [Note: the house burned down several years after this article was written] - was begun in 1840 by Mary's father, Hezekiah LOVE, who died that October. Mary's eldest brother, Robert, finished the house. A stage-coach driver, Robert had traveled much. He modeled the house after one he had seen on a trip down the Mississippi. Two of Mary's nieces live there today -- Mrs. Ethel LOVE LAUDERDALE and Mrs. Robbie LOVE SMITH. They recall much of the history of the place. Their father was Jesse Richard LOVE, Mary's brother, who married Louisa HOTCHKISS, from near Loudon, in 1867. After the wedding a party of 50 rode over from Loudon on horseback for the "in-fair" - or reception, as it might be called today -- at the LOVE home.
Mary, Sister Ran Store in Kingston. Mrs. SMITH recalled that she was just a little girl when her aunt Mary died in 1887. She remembers that Mary and Mary's sister, Hannah, operated a store, with a boarding house upstairs, for many years in Kingston in the 1870s and 1880s, and Hannah LOVE carried on for some time after Mary's death. The store and boarding house was in the frame building now occupied by Browder's Hardware Store. In 1873, through the efforts of Horace Maynard, the congressman from the Second District, Mary was awarded $2000 "for services in carrying dispatches" during the war, and Mrs. SMITH believes that Mary took the money to open up the store in Kingston. Mrs. LAUDERDALE and Mrs. SMITH have an old doe-skin Bible, dating from pre-Revolutionary days, which lists Mary's brothers and sisters as: Elizabeth, Robert, Mary, Josiah T., Hezekiah, William, John C., Jesse Richards, Hannah and Wiley B. They have little information about Mary's famous ride, however. -- only a letter pertaining to Horace Maynard's efforts to get Federal Compensation for Mary's services. "Perhaps, because most of the family was Southern, they were a little ashamed of Mary's aiding the Northern side," says Mrs. LAUDERDALE. "They didn't talk about it very much."
Burnside Pent Up By Knoxville Siege. Mary's courageous all-night journey on which she had to cross the wide Tennessee river on a freezing November night, occurred in 1863, late in the third year of the Civil War--. General Ambrose Burnside's Union army was besieged in Knoxville by the Confederate troops of General James A. Longstreet. The Confederates had Knoxville almost completely surrounded. General Burnside and his troops were almost hopeless of relief. Longstreet's Confederate forces were in active operation between Kingston and Knoxville, tightening up the siege daily, their pickets patrolling all roads. General Grant, then at Chattanooga, dispatched five couriers by different routes with messages telling the pent-up General Burnside that relief was on the way, that General William Tecumseh Sherman's army was moving up from Chattanooga and other Federal forces were coming from the North. One of the couriers was captured just out of Chattanooga. One was never heard of again. One was captured several days after the battle of Knoxville. One other was unable to find his way through the Confederate lines. Only one of the five messengers got to the pent-up Federal general at Knoxville. The Federal courier with this message came up from Chattanooga on the north side of the Tennessee, finally arriving in Kingston. At Kingston, he either was unable to go on to Knoxville or thought it unwise. History doesn't record the reason. It was still some 40 miles to Knoxville by the direct road, more than 50 by the circuitous route necessary to be taken. Burnside at Knoxville must get General Grant's message -- but who would deliver it if the courier couldn't go on? Such men as were present in Kingston, which was overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Union, hesitated. The trip was full of peril. Longstreet held all the country between Kingston and Knoxville. To be captured might mean death as a spy. The roads were execreable. The November weather was freezing. Judge Oliver P. TEMPLE of Knoxville, who recorded Mary LOVE'S feat in his book, "East Tennessee and the Civil War," published in 1899, gives this account of what happened. "At this moment," wrote Judge Temple, "a delicate, brave young woman, Miss Mary LOVE, stepped forward and said she would go. Her services were accepted. Mounted on a fleet horse, away she sped as fast as nimble feet and the sinewy limbs would carry her." What prompted Mary to volunteer is not known. Or why the men accepted her offer. Perhaps it was felt a woman would have a better chance of getting through the tightly-held Confederate lines.
Arrested--She Talks Her Way To Release. Mary, for all her daring, almost didn't make it. Some distance toward Knoxville, she ran smack into Confederate troops, was arrested, and conducted a considerable distance off her [Note: it appears a line is missing on the newspaper page] vost marshal, a Confederate officer named Philo B. Sheppard. In the Civil War, message-carriers were often shot as spies if caught. Any caught message-carriers were almost certain to be imprisoned. During questioning by the provost marshal, Mary told him with perfect self-possession that she was a sister of Dr. Joe LOVE, a Confederate surgeon who had been stationed at Knoxville, and that she was riding his horse. Both of these statements were true, according to Judge Temple. Provost Marshall Sheppard, it turned out, knew her brother, Dr. LOVE. Then, with General Grant's message still on her person since she hadn't been searched, as yet, Mary LOVE told the provost marshal that Dr. LOVE'S wife was dangerously ill at the village of Louisville, between Lenoir City and Knoxville, and that she was enroute to Louisville to wait on her brother's ill wife. This later part of her story intended route was likely untrue, Judge Temple relates, but she told it with such an air of sincerity that the provost marshal released her and allowed her to continue her way through the Confederate lines.
13-Year-Old Boy Carried Message On. Resuming her ride in the freezing weather, the raw November wind biting her face, crossing stream after stream, hill after hill, she rode as fast as her horse could go for 35 or more miles, finally reaching the home of her brother-in-law, Horace FOSTER, in Louisville, a small village now covered by TVA's Fort Loudon Lake. At the Horace FOSTER home, she fell exhausted. Her strength was gone. She couldn't go on. General Grant's all-important message so far was safe. But who would carry it on? Louisville was 15 miles from Knoxville, and Wheeler's Confederate cavalry held Louisville, and Confederate pickets were on all roads. A young neighboring lad of the Horace FOSTERS - a lad named John T. BROWN, only 13 years old, the son of Mrs. Elizabeth BROWN -- agreed to get the message through. Eight miles out of Louisville, on the way to Knoxville, he found the Little River so swollen by November rains he couldn't cross. He went to the home of Isaac LEBOW, an old friend of his father's, where he spent the night, frankly telling his host he had papers on him for General Burnside. Although a warm Confederate, LEBOW did not betray his friend's son. The next morning, according to Judge Temple, the BROWN youth swan the river and reached the Federal picket line just outside Knoxville, then a town about the size of Harriman today. A sergeant in the Union army escorted him to the headquarters of General Burnsides where he delivered the message, which was to the effect that deliverance of the besieged Union army was at hand. A few minutes later, military brass bands struck up national airs all over Knoxville; troops shouted their joy; artillery batteries pealed forth their thunder; and the troops took the 13-year-old lad, John T. BROWN, on their shoulders and carried him through the streets.
Message Boosted Union Troops' Morale. Longstreet attacked the besieged Federals at Fort Sanders in Knoxville on Sunday, November 29, losing 813 men, killed, wounded or captured in 20 bloody minute. Mary LOVE'S message was already in Burnside's hands before the Confederate attack, and undoubtedly helped bolster the besieged Union army's morale for the battle. The Federals lost only eight killed. One of the other couriers dispatched by General Grant from Chattanooga got to within the vicinity of Knoxville before being captured by Longstreet's pickets and his message conveyed to Longstreet. This was several days after the Battle of Fort Sanders. Having been repulsed -- and now with the news that a relieving Federal army was on the way - General Longstreet gave up all idea of taking Knoxville, and consequently withdrew his troops in the direction of Virginia on the night of December 4, 1863, thus ending the siege of Knoxville.
Temple Says Ride Outdid Revere's. In his book, "East Tennessee and the Civil War," Judge Temple concludes his account of Mary LOVE'S daring message-carrying ride with these words: "The famous ride of Paul Revere, on the night of April 8, 1775, from Boston to Concord -- a distant twenty miles, though he only went something over twelve miles -- to warn the patriots that the British were coming to seize the ammunition and arms stored in that place, has been celebrated in song and prose and perpetuated in marble. That ride on that beautiful moonlight night made Revere immortal. And yet here was a ride by a delicate young lady of thirty-five miles or more in bitter cold weather, over rough roads, and through a country of high ridges and hills, patrolled in every direction by a watchful enemy, with a wide river (the Tennessee) to be crossed. Surely a lofty marble column should mark the spot for all generations where repose the remains of the dauntless Mary LOVE . . . Let us hope, at least, that some Longfellow may arise some day who shall in verse give immortality to this daring woman and this heroic boy."