Great Smoky Mountains National Park
the Civil War
|The Civil War had a shattering impact on the
residents of Cades Cove. There had never been a slave in the cove's history and the
mountain people in the hills of East Tennessee had little in common with the rest of the
South. While 21 fought for the North and 12 fought for the South, the remaining were
mostly pro-Union. They paid dearly for their northern sympathies, as they were surrounded
by hostile territory. From 1862-1864, a Confederate regiment called Thomas' Legion
occasionally wreaked terror upon the cove by stealing livestock, harassing children and
often taking prisoners. Finally, the residents had to post small children as guards along
the mountain tops. When these children saw Confederates approaching, they would blow horns
they had brought along. The echo of these horns sounded through the valley and warned the
residents below to run and hide.
Perhaps no other story explains the bitter divisions in East Tennessee as does the story of Russell Gregory and his son Charles. Russell was too old to fight in the war but had strong Northern sentiments. His son Charles, however, was supportive of the South, and in 1862 actually joined the local Confederate regiment Thomas' Legion. Russell, upset at the continuing raids, finally organized an ambush on the Confederate group. The next time the Confederates came through they were surprised at all the old cove men who fired upon them and forced them to retreat. Unfortunately, one of the Confederates was Charles Gregory, who immediately recognized his father's gun as having fired the first shot. Charles retreated with his comrades but informed them that it was his father who had organized the ambush. The Confederates came back later that night, and Charles pointed out where his father lived. Charles had no idea what his fellow soldiers had in mind for revenge. After Charles pointed out his dad's house, the soldiers went in and dragged Russell out and killed him right in front of his son. Russell was now a hero who gave his life for the cove people. He is remembered by his tombstone epithet which reads "Russell Gregory murdered by North Carolina rebels. Apparently, Charles was eventually forgiven for his part in his father's death, as he is buried right behind him in the Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery.
The Civil War forever changed the history of the cove. The residents of the cove no longer trusted outsiders. They felt betrayed by the American government for not having sent any soldiers to protect Cades Cove residents during the war. They felt anger at the Southern states, who they blamed for the war. So the cove turned inward and almost no new immigration occured into the cove until the coming of the park in the 1920's. Without new blood, the residents intermarried and by 1900, there were over 700 people-but only a handful of different last names. There are even a few cases of cousins marrying cousins during this era in history.
|Email Steve Speer at: [email protected]|