Monday, 21 February 2011

Carnton - a Scotch-Irish plantation

The historic Carnton Plantation is situated in Williamson County, some miles from Nashville, and it was established in 1826 by Randal McGavock (1768-1843), who was mayor of Nashville in 1824-25.

The McGavock family were Ulster-Scots and the estate was named after their ancestral home district near Glenarm in county Antrim.  They had settled in Ulster in the 17th century and like most Ulster-Scots settlers in Antrim they were Presbyterians.  James McGavock (1728-1812) emigrated from Ulster to America in 1754 and he was the father of Randal McGavock.

For several generations the Carnton Plantation was the home of the McGavock family and the African-American families who lived as slaves on the property.  Randal McGavock's son John (1815-1893) inherited the farm upon his father's death.  John McGavock married Carrie Elizabeth Winder (1829-1905) in December 1848 and they had five children.  Three of the children died at young ages but two survived, Winder McGavock (1857-1907) and his sister Hattie (1855-1932).

On 30 November 1864 the Confederate Army of Tennessee attacked a well-entrenched Union force at Franklin, about 20 miles from Nashville, and this was the scene of a bloody and decisive battle.  It lasted less than five hours but it led to 9,500 soldiers being killed, wounded, captured or counted as missing.  Nearly 7,000 of that number were Confederate soldiers.  This was the bloodiest five hours of the Civil War.

As the battle went on the doors of the Carnton mansion were opened to provide shelter for injured and dying Confederate soldiers, who required medical attention.  One soldier wrote that 'the wounded, in hundreds, were brought to [the house] during the battle, and all the night after.  aAd when the noble old house could hold no more, the yard was appropriated until the wounded and dead filled that.'  The house became in fact a field hospital during that battle.

Many of the floors in Carnton became stained as the Confederate blood soaked through the carpets and seeped into the wooden floors.  Many blood stains are still present today and the heaviest stains are in the children's bedroom which was used as an operating room.

Afterwards most of the Confederate dead were buried in shallow graves on the battlefield and so in 1866 the McGavocks designated nearly two acres of land near the family cemetery for the re-interment of almost 1,500 Confederates.  Today, the McGavock Confederate Cemetery is the largest privately owned military cemetry in America and it is a lasting memorial to those soldiers.

The McGavock family owned Carnton until 1911, when Susie Lee McGavock, widow of Winder McGavock, sold it.  The house suffered years of neglect but in 1973 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1977 it was handed over to the Carnton Association.  Since then it has been restored and maintained as a historic attraction for visitors.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Sumner A Cunningham (1843-1913) - founder of The Confederate Veteran

Sumner A Cunningham
Sumner Archibald Cunningham was the founder, publisher and editor of the Nashville publication The Confederate Veteran.  The magazine was one of the most influential publications of the New South and made Cunningham a central figure in the 'Lost Cause' movement of the late 19th century.

He was born in rural Bedford County, Tennessee, on 21 July 1843 and was of thoroughly Ulster-Scots ancestry on both sides of his family.  His father was John Washington Campbell Cunningham (1812-1855),  his mother was Mary Ann Buchanan (1820-1889) and they were married in Lincoln County, Tennessee, on 13 September 1842.

His paternal grandparents were Humphrey Cunningham (1777-1836) and his wife Margaret Patton (1780-1847).  Humphrey was the son of George Cunningham (1753-1837) of North Carolina and the grandson of Humphrey Cunningham (1730-1806) of Pennsylvania and his wife Rhoda M Simeral (Summerville) (1733-1831), who was born in county Donegal.  Margaret Patton was born in North Carolina and was the daughter of Thomas Patton (1726-1808) and his wife Margaret Erwin.  Her grandfather Matthew Lander Patton (1705-1778) was born in Londonderry and emigrated from Ulster to Pennsylvania.

His maternal grandparents were Samuel Buchanan III (1778-1852) and Rachael Greenfield.  Samuel's grandfather, also Samuel Buchanan (1690-1774), was born in county Tyrone about 1690 and emigrated from Ulster to America with his father, Alexander Buchanan, in 1702.  The name Buchanan is Scottish and the Buchanans probably came from Scotland to Ulster in the 17th century.

The Samuel Buchanan who emigrated from Ulster was the father of John Buchanan, who was born in Washington County, Virginia, in 1721, and the grandfather of Samuel Buchanan III, who was born in Virginia on 13 March 1778.

Sumner A Cunningham's Ulster-Scots ancestors were therefore from Londonderry, Tyrone and Donegal.  They had lived through the troubled times of the Williamite War and the Siege of Derry and they left Ulster in the early 18th century.

With the advent of the Civil War, Sumner A Cunningham joined the local home guard in October 1861 and then in November his unit was assimilated into company B of the 41st Tennessee Infantry in the Confederate States Army.  He saw his first fighting at Fort Donelson the following February but was captured when the post fell and spent several months in Camp Morton in Indianapolis before being exchanged.  After their release Cunningham and his fellow Tennesseans joined General Joseph E Johnston in Mississippi.

The 41st missed the siege of Vicksburg and the subsequent surrender of Pemberton's army but did participate in the siege of Jackson a few days later.  Cunningham then missed two critical battles due to sickness.  While his comrades fought under Bragg at Chickamagua, he was suffering from malaria and when he rejoined them for the siege of Chattanooga, he missed the decisive battle at Missionary Ridge, again because of illness.

Promoted to the rank of sergeant major, Cunningham fought through the entire Atlanta Campaign and Hood's foray into Middle Tennessee, including the battles of Franklin and Nashville, but in December1864 he went home and ended his military service.

In 1872 Cunningham published a limited edition of his reminiscences of life in the 41st Tennessee Infantry, which give a good overall picture of the life of a western Confederate soldier.  This was edited and republished in 2001 by Dr John A Simpson.

After the war Cunningham returned to Shelbyville and worked for a time as a merchant but he had an interest in journalism and he bought and edited the Shelbyville Commercial (1871), Chattanooga Times (1876) and Catersville Express (1879).  In 1883 he started a monthly magazine called Our Day,which was publsihed in New York but directed at southern audiences.  However each business venture ended in financial failure and in 1885 he joined the Nashville American as a staff correspondent.

In 1892 Cunningham was assigned the responsibility for collecting funds to erect a monument to the recently deceased president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and he established a newsletter to keep patrons informed of the progress of this initiative.  This developed into the Confederate Veteran, which was founded in January 1893 as a monthly magazine to commmemorate the Confederate soldier.  Charging a subscription rate of only one dollar a year, Cunningham made his magazine available to a wide audience and by 1904 it had one of the largest subscription lists in the South, with a readership of 22,000, the majority of whom hailed from the western portion of the former confederacy.  The magazine published reminiscences of former soldiers as well as reports of reunions and memorials and it also reported on the local and regional activities of the United Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Cunningham published and highlighted the forgotten story of Sam Davis, 'the boy hero of Tennessee'.  His efforts to educate Tennesseans on the exploits of Davis led to the construction of a monument on Nashville's Capitol Hill in 1909 and Cunningham considered the Davis memorial the 'crowning glory' of his career.

Cunningham died in Nashville on 13 December 1913 after a brief illness.  He was aged seventy and was seated at his desk, working on a proposed monument to commemorate Daniel Decatur Emmitt, the composer of the famous song Dixie.  He was buried in Willow Mount Cemetery in Shelbyville.

After his death his secretary Edith Drake Pope assumed the editorship of the Confederate Veteran and kept it going until 1932. 

Beginning in 1921 the United Daughters of the Confederacy sponsored the Cunningham Memorial Scholarship at Peabody College in Nashville.
  • John A Simpson, S A Cunningham and the Confederate Heritage: 1994
  • John A Simpson, Reminiscences of the 41st Tennessee: The Civil War in the West: Shippensburg, 2001
  • The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture

Rev James Hugh McNeilly (1838-1922)

Rev James Hugh McNeilly (1838-1922) was a Presbyterian minister in Nashville and the grandson of an Ulster emigrant.  During a ministry that spanned forty years, all of which he spent in Nashville, he ministered in four congregations and did much for the furtherance of the gospel.

His grandfather Hugh McNeilly was born in Belfast in 1765 and emigrated from Ulster to Pennsylvania.  He moved from there to Mecklenburg County in North Carolina and there in 1800 he married Margaret Martin.  They moved to Dickson County, Tennessee, and there they purchased a tract of land.  Hugh cleared the land, built a log cabin and and farmed the land until his death in 1836. 

Hugh and Margaret McNeilly had several children and Robert McNeilly was born on a farm near Bellview in Davidson County on 12 March 1807.  He became a lawyer but he was also a farmer and operated a grist mill and a saw mill.  McNeilly owned 450 acres of land and had ten slaves.  McNeilly served in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1837 to 1838 and he was a life-long friend of President James Knox Polk (1795-1849), who was also from Tennessee and also had Scotch-Irish ancestry.  His brother Thomas McNeilly also served in the Tennessee General Assembly as a senator for two terms from 1859 to 1863.

Robert McNeilly moved to Charlotte in Dickson County in 1842 and he was the circuit court clerk for Dickson County from 1842 to 1862.  He was a friend of Christopher Strong (1760-1850), an Ulster-Scot who emigrated from Ulster to America in 1771 and fought in the War of Independence.  In his will Christopher Strong freed his slaves on condition that they agree to go to Liberia and McNeilly accompanied them on the journey to Liberia. 

McNeilly was a devout Presbyterian and served for many years as a ruling elder in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church but eventually he changed to the Presbyterian Church, Old School, and he was superintendent of Union Sunday School in Charlotte.  He died at White Bluff on 11 January 1885.

On 17 August 1837 Robert McNeilly married Margaret Larkins (1811-1898), who also had Scotch-Irish ancestry, and they were the parents of James Hugh McNeilly (1838-1922), who was born on Jones Creek in Dickson County on 9 June 1838.  He was educated at Jackson College in Columbia, Tennessee, from which he graduated in 1856, and then at the Theological Seminary in Danville, Kentucky.  He was licensed as a Presbyterian preacher in 1860.

McNeilly served in the Confederate States Army from September 1861 to May 1865.  He was a chaplain to the 49th Tennessee Infantry Regiment and distinguished himself on the field of battle.  During the war his father Robert was imprisoned for a short time in Nashville for sending supplies to three sons who were serving in he Confederate States Army but eventually he was released by the military governor, Andrew Johnson, another Scotch-Irish politician, after taking a 'modified oath of allegiance'.

On 10 October 1865 James Hugh McNeilly married Mary Russell Weatherford (1848-1914) and they had six children.

After the war McNeilly returned to Nashville and in November 1867 he became pastor of Woodland Street Presbyterian Church, whiere he was pastor for ten years.  He was also pastor of Moore Memorial Presbyterian Church on Broadway for eleven years from 1879 to 1890.  After that he organised Glen Leven Presbyterian Church where he was pastor for twenty years.  At various times, when First Presbyterian Church was without a pastor, he also provided pastoral service to that congregation.

His entire ministry was spent in Nashville and then in 1911 he retired because of poor eyesight but he was appointed pastor emeritus of the four congregations which he had ministered.

Dr McNeilly served several terms as chaplain to the Tennessee United Confederate Volunteers and he wrote many articles for the Confederate Veteran.  He also took part in the dedication ceremony of the Battle of Nashville Monument and many other important events for the UCV. 

He wrote Religion and Slavery: A Vindication of the Southern Churches, which was published by the Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1911.  This grew out of a paper he had presented to the Presbyterian Ministers Association of Nashville in 1905.  The following year he wrote The Failure of the Confederacy: Was It a Blessing?, which was published by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans in 1912,

Dr James H McNeilly died on 28 September 1922, at the age of eighty-four. 
  • James H McNeilly, Reminiscences of Rev J H McNeilly DD: typed copy in Tennessee State Library
  • James H McNeilly, Religion and Slavery: A Vindication of the Southern Churches: 1911
  • Robert Ewing Corlew, A History of Dickson County: Nashville, 1956

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Henry M Rutldge (1775-1844) - a celebrated citizen of Nashville

Henry M Rutledge was the only son of Edward Rutledge (1749-1800), who signed the American Declaration of Independence, and the grandson of Dr John Rutledge (1713-1750), who emigrated from county Tyrone to America about the year 1735.  The Rutledges were one of the reiver clans on the border between Scotland and England in the 16th century and many of them came to Ulster in the 17th century.

Dr John Rutledge married Sarah Hext and they were the parents of Edward Rutledge, who was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on 23 November 1749.

He was educated in law at Oxford University and was admitted to the bar in England.  Edward became a lawyer and was a delegate to the Continental Congress from South Carolina in July 1774.  He signed the Declaration of Independence and then left Congress in November 1776 to join in the defence of his colony.  He was a member of the Charleston battalion of artillery and attained the rank of captain.  He returned to Congress in 1779 but left again in 1780 when the British invaded South Carolina.  Edward Rutledge was a militia officer during the Revolutionary War and he fought in the defence of Charleston. 

Edward Rutledge served in the South Carolina legislature from 1782 to 1798 and was then governor of South Carolina for two years from 1798 to 1800.  However his health was declining and he died on 23 January 1800.  He was buried in the family plot in St Philip’s churchyard, Charleston.

On 1 March 1774 Edward Rutledge married Henrietta Middleton (1750-1792), a daughter of Henry Middleton (1717-1784), who had signed the Declaration of Independence.  They had three children of whom the eldest was a son Henry Middleton Rutledge (1775-1844), who was born on 5 April 1775.

Henry Rutledge studied law and then after an extensive tour of America he sailed for England, where he hoped to complete his legal education.

Back in America he became a successful lawyer and on 15 October 1799 he married his cousin Septima Sexta Middleton (1783-1865), a daughter of Arthur Middleton of South Carolina, another signatory of the Declaration of Independence.  Septima Sexta is Latin for seventy-six and her father named her for the year 1776 in which the American Declaration of Independence was made.  Shortly before their marriage Septima's mother presented the couple with Jenys, a 942-acre plantation adjacent to Cedar Grove.

Rutledge was a respected figure in Charleston and on 4 July 1804 he delivered an oration in St Philip’s Church, Charleston, in commemoration of American independence.  The event was organised by the American Revolution Society of which he was a member.

Henry Rutledge and his wife moved from Charleston to Nashville and in 1814 they built a house called Rose Hill, on College Hill.  Much of the original house was burned during the Civil War but it was restored and extended.  Today the house, at the corner of Rutledge and Lea, is used by the law firm of Blackburn & McCune.

As a lawyer and a planter, Henry was a prominent citizen in the city and he was one of the four vice-presidents at a civic dinner when General Lafayette visited Nashville on 4, 5 May 1825.

Henry M Rutledge died on 20 January 1844 and was buried in Nashville City Cemetery.

Genon Hickerson Neblett & Mary Bray Wheeler, Chosen Exile: The Life and Times of Septima Sexta Middleton Rutledge, american Cultural Pioneer:  1982

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

General Robert Armstrong (1792-1854) - postmaster of Nashville

Robert Armstrong was born in Abingdon, Virginia, on 28 September 1792 of Ulster-Scots ancestry.  The Armstrongs were one of the reiver clans of the Scottish Borders and they were extremely powerful but after the Union of the crowns of Scotland and England in 1603, King James I moved to pacify the Borders and many Armstrongs were moved to Ulster.  Later various members of Armstrong families crossed the Atlantic to America during the Ulster-Scots migration of the 18th century.

Early in the 19th century, the Armstrong family moved from Virginia to Knox County, Tennessee.  This was named after Henry Knox (1750-1806), a revolutionary general and secretary of war, who was born in Boston of Ulster-Scots parents.

Robert Armstrong was educated in Abingdon but at the age of 20 he returned to Tennessee and was made lieutenant of a company of volunteer artillery.  He served under Andrew Jackson in the Creek War of 1813-14 and displayed considerable courage at the Battle of Enotochapko on 24 January 1814.  He was seriously wounded but recovered and also distinguished himself at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

On 9 June 1814 he married Margaret Dysart Nichol (1798-1834), a daughter of Josiah and Eleanor Nichol, and she too was of Ulster-Scots descent.  The marriage took place against the wishes of her parents and the ceremony was held in Andrew Jackson's living room at The Hermitage in Nashville.  Margaret's father Josiah Nichol (1770-1833), a prominent Nashville merchant, was born in Fahan, county Donegal, and emigrated from Ulster to America about 1788,

Robert Armstrong was postmaster at Nashville from 1829 to 1845.  During that period, in 1836, as brigadier general, he commanded the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers in the campaign against the Seminole Indians in Florida.  This culminated in the Battle of Waterloo Swamp, in which the Indians were defeated.

Armstrong was a supporter and friend of Andrew Jackson and he ran unsuccessfully for governor of Tennessee in 1837.

When James K Polk became president of the United States of America in 1845, Armstrong was sent as United States consul to Liverpool.  This was one of the most important positions in the foreign service.  Polk was also from Tennessee and of Ulster-Scots descent.

Before Armstrong left for Europe in the spring of 1845 and a few months before the death of Andrew Jackson, the former president bequeathed his sword to Armstrong.  This was a token of his personal friendship and his estimation of Armstrong's military service.  In 1855, after Armstrong's death, his family presented the sword to the United States government.

In 1851 Robert Armstrong and Andrew J Donelson (1799-1871), who also had Ulster-Scots ancestry, became the joint proprietors of the Washington Union, a Democratic newspaper.  Soon afterwards Donelson was forced out by several factions in the Democratic Party and Armstrong became the sole proprietor.  In this capacity he was appointed printer for the House of Representatives.

Robert Armstrong died in Washington DC on 23 February 1854 and his funeral was attended by President Pierce and his cabinet, with a corps of pall-bearers from the Senate and House of Representatives.  In January 1855 his body was moved to Nashville and finally reinterred in the city cemetery.

Robert Ewing, 'Portrait of General Robert Armstrong', Tennessee Historical Magazine, July 1919

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Meharry Medical College and its Scotch-Irish benefactors

Meharry Medical College in Nashville was established in 1876 as the first medical school in the South for African-Americans and its first benefactors were a family of Scotch-Irish Methodists.

Central Tennessee College was chartered in 1867 by northern missionaries of the Methodist Episcopal Church as a college for freedmen.  It provided education for African-Americans at a time when segregation made that necessary.  The college was renamed Walden University in 1900, in honour of a Methodist bishop, but it closed in 1925 and later the site was leased to Trevecca Nazarene University.

The medical department of Central Tennessee College was founded in 1876 and received generous support from Samuel Meharry and his four brothers, Alexander, Hugh, Jesse and David.  It received a separate charter in 1915, becoming Meharry Medical College, and today it is a graduate and profesisonal institution affiliated to the United Methodist Church.  Its mission is to educate healthcare professionals and scientists.

Alexander Meharry (1763-1813) and his wife Jane, the parents of the five Meharry brothers, were born at Ballyjamesduff in county Cavan of Scottish ancestry.  An earlier Alexander Meharry had fled from the district of Ayr to Ulster in the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.

Alexander and Jane was married in 1794 and then emigrated from Ulster to Pennsylvania.  They settled for a time at Connellsville, where their first son was born, but in 1798 they moved west to Manchester in Adams County, Ohio, and they had six more sons and a daughter. 

Samuel Meharry was born there on 7 December 1810 but tragedy hit the home on 20 June 1813 when his father, Alexander Meharry, died as a result of an accident.  He was hit by a falling tree when he was returning from a camp-meeting.  At that time his wife was expecting another child and when that child was born on 17 October 1813 he was named Alexander after his father.

The three oldest brothers, Hugh, Thomas and James, moved to Indiana in 1827 and the following year they settled on land in Montgomery County.

Samuel Meharry was raised in Adams County, Ohio, and as a young man he became a salt trader.  This business took him far and wide and on one occasion he was travelling through the rough terrain of Tennessee when his wagon slipped off the road and fell into a swamp.  He was helped by a family of freedmen, whose names are unknown, and they gave him food and shelter for the night.  The next morning they helped him recover his wagon and he is reported to have told the former slave family, 'I have no money but when I can I shall do something for your race.'  Samuel had a keen interest in the condition of African-Americans and he was a staunch abolitionist.

His younger brother Alexander Meharry joined the Ohio Methodist Conference in September1841 as an itinerant preacher and served in various places in Ohio and Kentucky.  Alexander informed Dr John Braden, president of the Central Tennessee College, that Samuel had an interest in the welfare of African-Americans and when Braden approached Samuel Meharry he gave a donation of $100 towards the building of a medical college in Nashville.  After that he gave further donations and his brothers gave even more.  Their total support was around $15,000.

It was therefore appropriate that the college in Nashville was named after the Scotch-Irish family who were such generous benefactors.

Biographical Record and Portrait Album of Tippecanoe County, Indiana:  Chicago, 1888
Meharry History Committee, History of the Meharry family in America: descendants of Alexander Meharry I, who fled during the reign of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, on account of religious persecution, from near Ayr, Scotland, to Ballyjamesduff, Cavan County, Ireland; and whose descendant Alexander Meharry III emigrated to America in 1794: Lafayette 1925
Charles V Roman, Meharry Medical College, A History: 1934

Saturday, 15 January 2011

First Presbyterian Church, Nashville

Rev Thomas B Craighead (1750-1825), a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian minister, arrived in Nashville in 1785 and established the first congregation in the area with a minister.  He was therefore the founding father of Presbyterianism in Nashville.

The next Presbyterian minister to come to the area was Rev William Hume (1770-1833), who was a Scot.  He was installed on 2 December 1801 and did more than any other to sustain the early Presbyterian witness.

In 1814 Rev Gideon Blackburn (1772-1838), another Scotch-Irish minister, with a committee of six women and one man, went to the county court house to formally charter the Presbyterian congregation, which had already been in existence for 28 years.  In that year the First Presbyterian Church was built at the corner of Fifth Street and Church Street and ever since there has been a Presbyterian church on that site.
The original First Presbyterian Church
In 1815, after the Battle of New Orleans, the state of Tennessee presented General Andrew Jackson with a ceremonial sword on the front steps of the church.  Rev Allan Dirchfield Campbell joined the faculty of Cumberland College as a professor in 1820 and that same year First Presbyterian Church called him to be their minister.

The original church building was destroyed in a fire in 1832 but a second building was then erected on the same site.  It hosted the inauguration of James Knox Polk, a Scotch-Irish politican and future president, as governor of Tennessee but it burned down in 1848.

The congregation then hired the Philadelphia architect William Strickland, who was in Tennessee to design and supervise the construction of the Tennessee State Capitol, to design the present building.  The construction work started in 1849 and ended in 1851.

When it was built the church had only 350 members but they erected a building with space for 1,000 and so they ran out of money to finish it.

During the Civil War the building was seized by the United States government and used as a hospital.  After the war the congregation received reparations and they began the process of finishing the interior and exterior of the church.  The columns were put in place in 1871, the interior was reconfigured in 1880 and the organ was enlarged in 1914.

First Presbyterian Church, the third and current building, around 1920
By 1954 the First Presbyterian congregation was considering a move out of the city to the suburbs and they voted to do so.  However through the encouragement of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and local efforts, they were persuaded not to demolish the building.  Instead they sold it to those members of the congregation who did not want to move and so in 1955 the Downtown Presbyterian Church was formed.  It has continued to worship and minister to the needs of the city from the same location, where Presbyterians have worshipped for almost two hundred years. 

The Old First Presbyterian Church in Nashville was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1993.