The Execution of Pvt. Elvis B. Parker
Thousands of Tennessee families were caught in the crossfire of the Civil War. Dempsey Parker's family, which lived in the Hillsdale community here in Macon County, is one of many examples of a family sharply divided between North and South.
Parker, a respected elder, had served his country in the War of 1812 and was an ardent Unionist. His son Isaac Newton Parker, however, served in Confederate Lt. Col. James D. Bennett's 7th Tennessee Cavalry. Son Daniel Webster Parker joined Co. H, 5th Kentucky Cavalry (US). Another son, Alfred B. Parker, who did not enlist, was killed in March 1863 by unknown guerrillas.
Dempsey Parker's fourth son, Elvis Brooks Parker, enlisted in the 7th Tennessee Cavalry in October 1861. He went home after 90 days, believing his enlistment had expired, and then joined the Federal 5th Kentucky Cavalry. In August 1862, Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan's troops captured Elvis Parker near Gallatin, and a subsequent court martial found him guilty of desertion and of "fighting in the Federal ranks against his own countrymen." Dempsey Parker proclaimed that he would not denounce his devotion to the Union, even if that pledge cost his son his life, and he challenged Morgan to shoot him if the general did not like those sentiments. On August 23, a firing squad executed Elvis Brooks Parker at Morgan's camp at Mills Woods near Hartsville. Elvis Parker's brother Daniel Webster Parker continued to serve in the 5th Kentucky Cavalry (US) for the rest of the war. He died in Trousdale Co. in 1909.
"The whole command will appear on Dress parade in camp at 4:00 p.m. 2d. The prisoner Elvis B. Parker, private I the 5th Ky Reg't, U.S.A and a deserter from Capt. Bennett's Battalion of Cavalry, having been tired by a Court-Martial, and FOUND GUILTY of desertion, and, has been condemned to death, and sentenced to be executed at 4 o'clock this day within our camp." The (Hartsville) Vidette,
Aug. 23, 1862
Firing squad about to execute a soldier for desertion, with units assembled to witness the event, Harper's Weekly
, Dec. 28, 1861
Gen. John Hunt Morgan Courtesy of Library of Congress