William Gibbs Allen wrote a great deal of history relating to Rhea County and the War Between the States. One could only imagine what his writing would be like if he had been alive today, viewing all the events happening in the world he could see and hear about. His newspaper articles telling of his experiences during that war are perhaps his most remembered work, and his most colorful. Allen recounts life during the War Between the States which helps us to understand the historical significance of people and events. However, some of his memory is somewhat “fuzzy” due to the fact that these accounts were written approximately fifty years after these events occurred! Even so, his information is all that remains of some events, and is correct for the most part. W.G. Allen kept a scrapbook of the columns he wrote for the Dayton Herald, and had many of his historical writings still in his handwriting in between the pages of his scrapbook. The following column was probably written for the Dayton Herald in 1911 (according to the date of Thursday, June 1, 1911 which was found next to this article), and would have been one hundred and nine years old in June of this year. Allen died in 1924, and is buried beside his wife in Buttram Cemetery. The following is the newspaper column written by W.G. Allen, with any mistakes such as misspelled words or punctuation errors, and with any corrections or additional information in parenthesis.


Surprises Wife Who Thought He Was Dead

Death Claims Only Child During a Visit to Major and Mrs. William Russell

General Wharton and his Texans crossed the river at Kelley’s Shoals, General Wheeler at Cottonport, at the forks of the Washington and Smith Crossroads. I saluted General Wheeler and went to Esq. Thomison’s. (Esq. is a title of courtesy). Great was the surprise of my wife and her sisters. They had heard I was dead. My faithful boy soldier, who had led my extra horse, bid me a final adieu. He was killed at Farmington. There never was a braver lad gave up his life for home and country, than John Loyd.

After resting 2 hours, and getting something to eat, my wife’s sisters saddled our horses. Mary E. Allen, my wife, took William V. Allen, our only child in her lap and we rode to Cottonport. On the river bank we met a lieutenant of artillery, who tied my wifes (should be wife’s) bridle bits to my horses (should be horse’s) bridle bits, so the horse my wife was riding would be on the upper side of my horse so I could guide her horse on the bar, we had to swim the boat shoot, this Lieutenant went before us, he was a great help, I have forgotten his name.

When we reached the south bank of river went to Maj. William Russell’s and while at Mr. Russell’s our little boy took sick and died. I and wife wanted to bury him in our family grave yard, which was 5 miles below Maj. Russels (should be Maj. Russel’s), on the north side of Tennessee river (should be River). Maj. Russell and I went to Fraziers ferry. (should be Frazier’s Ferry) He called my uncle, A.W. Frazier, who was an old man. I told him Willie was dead and I wanted to burry (should be bury) him by his little sister.

Uncle Frazier saw the officer in charge of the pickets. He agreed for I, wife and Miss Mary E. Russell, to escort the corpse over the river and allow us to return to the south bank of Tenn. River. My uncle had the grave prepared when the yawl (a small sailboat) came for us. Who should I meet but Alfred Burton, one of my neighbors who was a yankey (should be Yankee) pickett. (should be picket—a picket was a soldier used to guard troops from surprise attack) The officer and men of the picket post, was present at the burial—oh! How sad. (should be officer and men were present). The officer had us returned to the south bank of the river. Miss Mary E. Russell, after the war, married Lieutenant W.F. Blevins of Co. J 5th Tenn Regiment. When she died she was a near neighbor. It was my privilege with five other good rebels to carry her to the cemetery. On returning to Maj. Russell’s, my wife while dressing my breast found the fragments of my coat vest and shirts, in the wound. She succeeded in removing the wad of clothing with a pair of scissors. They had lodged on the splintered bones. (This was from an earlier wound).

After some days, of rest, my wife wanted to visit some friends at Ten Mile, Tenn.

(William Gibbs Allen was the son of Valentine Allen III and Ann Frazier Allen, and lived in Washington, Rhea County. He was elected Trustee of Rhea County in August of 1859, and in December of that same year, he married Mary Elizabeth Thomison, the daughter of William Preston and Nancy Smith Thomison. W.P. and Nancy Thomison were the great-great grand parents of this writer.)

As we think about the history involved in this newspaper column of W.G. Allen’s, we are able to glimpse life as it really was during the War Between the States. He described the hardships which were suffered, and how people lived day to day through the harsh events of history. It is important for us to realize that our connections to the past make life possible for future generations. We need to remember to study the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.

Pat Guffey can be reached at pat459@charter.net