Old Stringfield Cemetery

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Old Stringfield Cemetery

Photo of Stringfield Cemetery Gate and Stonewall
Stringfield Cemetery Photo.jpg
Old Stringfield Cemetery in historic Strawberry Plains, Tennessee

The Old Stringfield Cemetery is located on the Hamilton Fort overlooking the Holston River and the Strawberry Plains Railroad Bridge, which was considered by Union and Confederate generals as the most important railroad bridge in East Tennessee. The nearby fort was used during the Civil War to guard against enemy attacks on the bridge.
On June 20, 1863, a Confederate force of some 400 men, many belonging to Thomas' Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders, fell back to this cemetery for protection against a much larger advancing Union cavalry force. While the Rebel unit was in the grip of the enemy, it would slide into the cemetery's four-foot stonewalls to continue the fight while minimizing losses against the Yankee army of 1,500 strong.

Old Stringfield Cemetery, Strawberry Plains, TN
Stringfield Cemetery.jpg
Old Stringfield Cemetery, Strawberry Plains, TN

While 1,500 Union cavalry galloped across the open fields, they were surprised to be welcomed by murderous grape and canister fired from Levi's battery. Veering their mounts directly into the mainly Tennessee and North Carolina force of 400, the 1,500 pressed the battle, which soon forced the enemy command to withdrawal and take cover behind the four-foot stonewalls of the Old Stringfield Cemetery. The artillery was unable to protect a 360 degree field of battle and it soon succumbed to the swift moving cavalry which flanked its position. The Northern command held nearly a 4-to-1 advantage, but as it moved on the battery, the Southern men, who had already sought cover from behind the stone defense, rose from behind the cemetery's mortar walls and fired their muskets directly into the cavalry. The cemetery formed a square and gave the impression of a fortress, thus allowing good protection. After some volleys were exchanged, the defenders were compelled to surrender. The captured Confederates were paroled and instructed to go home, but the cannons were spiked and rendered useless. Many of the paroled men, now having survived what could have resembled an Alamo finish, were now more determined to protect their homes, and they either served in the home guard or returned to their old units.
The Old Stringfield Cemetery, adjacent the Holston River, is located in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, where William Stringfield's father, mother, two brothers, and a sister were buried. William Stringfield, known respectfully as W.W. Stringfield, was later interred at Green Hill Cemetery, Waynesville, North Carolina, where many of the fellow soldiers from his old Civil War unit had been buried.

Old Stringfield Cemetery, Strawberry Plains
Stringfield Cemetery, Strawberry Plains.jpg
Stringfield Cemetery, Strawberry Plains, Tennessee

The Old Stringfield Cemetery at Strawberry Plains, TN, has been the final resting place for loved ones as well as a city of refuge for outnumbered Confederates in the year of 1863. If you are ever in the area, you are encouraged to visit the Stringfield Cemetery. Know that while at this cemetery, you are paying respect to some of Tennessee's founding fathers and mothers, and then imagine for a moment that you are behind its formidable stone walls with your best friends, and then bursting into and onto the field are 1,500 horsemen charging in your direction and firing small arms at you. Because that is what it was like for the men who were not trained soldiers while behind the walls. They were regular folk that believed in protecting their homes from an enemy, regardless of its size.
(See also related reading below.)

Recommended Reading: East Tennessee and the Civil War (Hardcover: 588 pages). Description: A solid social, political, and military history, this work gives light to the rise of the pro-Union and pro-Confederacy factions. It explores the political developments and recounts in fine detail the military maneuvering and conflicts that occurred. Beginning with a history of the state's first settlers, the author lays a strong foundation for understanding the values and beliefs of East Tennesseans. He examines the rise of abolition and secession, and then advances into the Civil War.

Early in the conflict, Union sympathizers burned a number of railroad bridges, resulting in occupation by Confederate troops and abuses upon the Unionists and their families. The author also documents in detail the ‘siege and relief’ of Knoxville. Although authored by a Unionist, the work is objective in nature and fair in its treatment of the South and the Confederate cause, and, complete with a comprehensive index, this work should be in every Civil War library.

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Recommended Reading: Bridge Burners: A True Adventure of East Tennessee Underground Civil War. Description: When the East Tennessee and Virginia Railway line was completed, dignitaries gathered in celebration as the final spike was hammered into the last tie in Greene County. Opening new doors of growth and economic development in the Region, the railroad would become a point of conflict only three years later. When the Civil War began, the line became a vital link in transporting Confederate troops and supplies into Virginia. Continued below...

The railroad was vulnerable since many hostile Unionists remained in the region. Confederate authorities were understandably worried about the rail lines and how to protect them. Inevitably the stage was set and on a cold Friday night, November 8, 1861, the Unionists proceeded with plans to burn the key railroad bridges of East Tennessee; President Abraham Lincoln had approved the plan. This thoroughly researched, easy-to-read narrative tells the incredible true story of the people and events in the ‘insurrection gone wrong’.

Recommended Reading: War at Every Door: Partisan Politics and Guerrilla Violence in East Tennessee, 1860-1869. Description: One of the most divided regions of the Confederacy, East Tennessee was the site of fierce Unionist resistance to secession, Confederate rule, and the Southern war effort. It was also the scene of unrelenting 'irregular,' or guerrilla, warfare between Union and Confederate supporters, a conflict that permanently altered the region's political, economic, and social landscape. In this study, Noel Fisher examines the military and political struggle for control of East Tennessee from the secession crisis through the early years of Reconstruction, focusing particularly on the military and political significance of the region's irregular activity. Continued below...

Fisher portrays in grim detail the brutality and ruthlessness employed not only by partisan bands but also by Confederate and Union troops under constant threat of guerrilla attack and government officials frustrated by unstinting dissent. He demonstrates that, generally, guerrillas were neither the romantic, daring figures of Civil War legend nor mere thieves and murderers, but rather were ordinary men and women who fought to live under a government of their choice and to drive out those who did not share their views.


Recommended Reading: Touring the East Tennessee Backroads (Touring the Backroads) (380 pages) (John F Blair Pub; 2 edition) (October 1, 2007). Description: The historical facts in the first edition of Touring the East Tennessee Backroads have not changed much since the book was first published in 1993, but highway construction and development has altered the routes of the 13 tours. For this second edition, the author drove over 3,000 miles to update the tours where people such as Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Sequoyah, Nancy Ward, and Clarence Darrow once traveled the same backroads.


Recommended Reading: Mountain Rebels: East Tennessee Confederates and the Civil War, 1860-1870 (240 pages) (University of Tennessee Press). Description: In this fine study, Groce points out that the Confederates in East Tennessee suffered more for the ‘Southern Cause’ than did most other southerners. From the first rumblings of secession to the redemption of Tennessee in 1870, Groce introduces his readers to numerous men and women from this region who gave their all for Southern Independence. Continued below...

He also points out that East Tennesseans were divided in their loyalties and that slavery played only a small role. Groce goes to great lengths to expose the vile treatment of the Region’s defeated Confederates during the Reconstruction. Numerous maps, pictures, and tables underscore the research.

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