My great-great-grandfather, Sergeant Ransom Myers, a one-armed courier with the 10th Michigan Cavalry.
reason I was visiting northeastern Tennessee was to retrace the steps of
Myers. If you've been following my website, you may remember
that Ransom fought with the Union Army in
Corinth, Mississippi early in the war (see
June 30, 2001). After Corinth, he was shot in the arm in Kentucky, his arm was amputated,
and he returned to Michigan, where he could've sat out the
rest of the war. Ransom felt so strongly about the Union cause, however,
that he re-enlisted. Of course, it's pretty hard to carry a rifle with one
arm, so Ransom joined the 10th Michigan Cavalry as a mounted, one-armed courier.
of years ago, I discovered a website devoted to Michigan Civil
War history and learned that during the last two years of the war, Ransom's unit
fought in northeastern Tennessee. Thanks to the website, I learned exactly
where Ransom saw action during the war, including places with strange names that I'd never heard
of, like Strawberry Plains, Rheaville, and Chucky
Bend. It was fun to drive through northeastern Tennessee and visit these
areas, as I envisioned the
one-armed Ransom dashing across the rolling hills on horseback while carrying
messages from one unit to another.
unit, the 10th Michigan Cavalry, is probably most famous for capturing the
Confederate cavalry general, John Hunt Morgan, who led several raids throughout
the Ohio River valley during the Civil War. Unionists called Morgan
"notorious" while Southerners referred to him as a
"hero." Anyway, towards the end of the war, the 10th Michigan
and a few other units had chased Morgan all over and finally cornered him in the
town of Greeneville, Tennessee, where, during the ensuing battle, Morgan was
killed. Therefore, in following Ransom's footsteps, I decided that I too had
to visit Greeneville.
learned from a billboard as I was heading into town, Greeneville was also the
home of America's 17th President, Andrew Johnson, and I stopped at the National
Park historic site here that commemorated his life. The site is pretty
small by National Park standards, less than a city block, but it's interesting,
nonetheless, and includes Johnson's house, which is filled with interesting
displays and paintings.
Greeneville's Andrew Johnson,
President of the U.S. from 1865 to 1869.
Being the only visitor there, I talked to the
cute-'n-perky young woman ranger at the front desk for quite a while and she
told me a lot about Johnson's
life. The only thing that most people (including myself,
before I visited Greeneville) know about Andrew Johnson is that he was the only president other than Bill Clinton to be
impeached. Few people remember why Johnson was impeached, but most
Americans probably think that he must have done something bad or wrong, and
therefore probably wasn't a very good president.
discovered, though, from the cute-'n-perky ranger, Johnson was very intelligent and honest, and stood strongly for his beliefs
in the Constitution. Johnson
was an articulate self-made man who started as a tailor here in
worked his way up to the U.S. Senate where, after the outbreak of the Civil War,
he became the only southern Senator not to
resign from U.S. Congress.
Because of that, and because Lincoln wanted to help heal the wounds with the Southern
states after the war, Lincoln picked Johnson in 1864 to be his running mate. Of course, Lincoln was assassinated the next
year, just a few days after the conclusion of the war, and Johnson was thrust
unexpectedly into the Presidency.
President, and as a Southerner, Andrew Johnson didn't
believe that the South should be harshly punished after the Civil War.
This irritated many of his Northern colleagues who wanted to impose severe
restrictions and penalties on the southern states, and this dissension
ultimately led to Johnson's impeachment by the Congress. By a single vote,
however, Johnson retained the Presidency. After he finished his single
term as President, Johnson moved back to Greeneville in 1869 where he lived until
his death, six years later.
left: Greeneville, Tennessee is a pleasant town with beautiful
architecture, about an hour
northeast of Knoxville. This town was named for
Nathaniel Greene, a general during the Revolutionary War and supposedly another one of
my ancestors, even though Greene never actually visited Greeneville. You can see Greene's house in
Connecticut in News: July 20, 2001.
right: Ransom's unit captured the Confederate Cavalry General, John Hunt
Morgan in this Greeneville house in 1864
left: Here's John Hendricks, the curator of the Greeneville Museum, next to a
photo of General John Hunt Morgan. John gave me a great 30-minute tour of
center: President Andrew Johnson's home at the National Park site in Greeneville.
right: Well, at least they're honest.
left: Jonesboro is a another beautiful town in northeastern
Tennessee. Ransom Myers also fought here, as well.
center: Jonesboro is the oldest city in Tennessee, dating back to the 1700s.
It has a lot of
interesting old buildings.
right: A Jonesboro advertisement in the pre-billboard era.
left: Walt Disney lied: Davy Crockett (1786-1836) wasn't born "on a
mountaintop in Tennessee." Actually, he was born here on the banks of the
Nolichucky River. This is a replica of his cabin, at Davy
Crockett Birthplace State Park, near Greeneville.
center: The Davy Crockett memorial.
right: I always get Davy Crockett mixed up with Daniel Boone. Crockett was the
one who died at the Alamo while wearing a coonskin cap. His motto was,
"Be sure you're right, then go ahead" -- good words to live by and
one of my favorite sayings.
Here's Fess Parker and
Buddy Ebsen singing
Ballad of Davy Crockett, from the 1960s TV show. Good thing they
stuck to acting. I'm still looking for the better-known
version, sung by Bill Hayes in 1955.
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