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