DeKalb County in the Civil War

DeKalb County in the Civil War (HM1ETC)

Location: Smithville, TN 37166 Dekalb County
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Country: United States of America
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N 35° 57.636', W 85° 48.781'

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A Country and a County Divided

DeKalb County differed from surrounding counties. A sizeable minority of its citizens opposed secession and voted against it in the June 8, 1861 referendum. Their champion was a slave owner, Congressman William B. Stokes. The majority followed former Congressman and Smithville attorney John H. Savage, who lost to Stokes in the 1859 election. The war intensified the already bitter rivalry between the men, who became colonels on opposite sides.

Savage commanded the 16th Tennessee Infantry (CS) while Stokes led the 5th Tennessee Cavalry (US). Stokes's followers became "scalawags" to the secessionists. Col. John F. Goodner, 7th Tennessee Infantry (CS), wrote that the county's Unionists were "thieves headed by the scum of all creation, Stokes' arabs."

After the Confederate Army of Tennessee withdrew from the county in the spring of 1863, Stokes and his Union cavalry played a large role in subduing local Confederate guerrilla activity. Frank Marchbanks, a young lawyer of Sparta, was chased down by Union troops near Sligo ferry and killed. His tombstone, erected by John H. Savage, reads "Murdered by Stokes Cavalry."

After the war, Stokes was reelected to Congress and supported Republican Reconstruction policies. Former Confederates hated him. In 1869, Stokes ran for governor as a Republican but failed to carry DeKalb County. Savage did not return here but reestablished his law practice in McMinnville, where he became a vocal Democrat defender of the Confederate Lost Cause in the Tennessee General Assembly in the 1870s.

Many DeKalb County residents held bitter felling for years after the war, and every election brought out renewed conflict.

(lower left) William B. Stokes Courtesy Library of Congress John H. Savage Courtesy Library of Congress
(upper right) DeKalb County Courthouse (demolished in 1890) and square during a public hanging - Courtesy DeKalb County Historical Society
Series This marker is part of the Tennessee: Tennessee Civil War Trails series
Placed ByTennessee Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 2:14pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 607035 N 3980229
Decimal Degrees35.96060000, -85.81301667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 35° 57.636', W 85° 48.781'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds35° 57' 38.16" N, 85° 48' 46.86" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)615, 931
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 154-198 S Public Square, Smithville TN 37166, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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