by Joe W. Stout


Weakley County was a divided community during the War Between the States as were many other areas.  Brother did fight against brother.  The Civil War had a devastating effect upon Weakley County as the residents of the county were divided in their loyalties.  History shows that approximately 1,100 men of the county joined the Confederate Army and fought for the South while 400 men chose to fight for the Union Army.

The letters and other stories about those days here in Weakley County just gives us more insight into how our ancestors lived.  Being able to convey ones thoughts on any subject is sometimes very hard to do.

The South did not secede to preserve slavery, and the North did not go to war to free the slaves.  Both sides were racist.  The issues were the Constitution and economic rivalry as well as states' rights.  Slavery was a side show issue that made for good propaganda.

The Richard Drewry family was one of the earliest settlers of the southern tip of Weakley County with a large plantation that was acquired because of his service in the Revolutionary War.  This land was located around and north of Shades Bridge.

John Drewry, Richard's  son, owned slaves, but he was a strong Union man, believing that it should survive.  He probably made many speeches over the years at the County Courthouse but none as controversial as the speech he mad at the polling place in Dresden on June 8, 1861, when Tennessee voted to secede from the Union. 

How much influence this speech had on the voters of Weakley is not know, but Weakley County was one of the few counties in West Tennessee that voted NOT TO SECEDE.  Tennessee as a whole did vote to secede.

John's speech transcribed from his own handwriting:

My Friends,

I think perhaps from the signs of the times and  my advantage age, that this may be the last vote I shall ever give for my country that I loved so much.

This will have been brought about by a system of fraud, perjury and oppression, that is without precedent in the history of the world.

But some of you will be more fortunate, for I have an abiding faith that those among you who may survive the shock of the next six months will eat their next Christmas Dinner under the stars and stripes of our beloved county. IF INDEED YOU HAVE ANYTHING LEFT TO EAT.

I therefore cast my vote for no separation and no representation

Jno Drewry, June8, 1861

Many small homesteaders, who had no slaves, fought for the Confederacy.  Five of six Southerners owned no slaves, and the 1860 census showed several thousands of free blacks living in the South with some of them owning slaves.

A Confederate chaplain, R.L. Dabney, told a group of young Southerners in 1868, "We have no need, sirs, to be ashamed of our dead; let us see to it that they be not ashamed of us."

Nathan Alexander Mitchell and William Henry Harrison Carlton were two of my great grandfathers who served in the Confederate Army in the War Between the States.  They were both simple farmers with large families.  Nathan served in the 55 Tennessee Infantry Regiment which was organized at Columbus, Kentucky, February 14, 1862.

Bill Carlton enlisted in Confederate States of America Army in August, 1861, Co. D. 12th Tn Infantry, CSA.  He was wounded on Picket duty between Corinth and Shiloh and was hospitalized eight weeks.  He was in the battles of Belmont, Shiloh, Richland KY., Murfreesboro, and Laverne.  He was discharged February, 1863.  The wound he received in the battle of Shiloh was to the head.  A silver dollar was placed in his forehead where the musket ball hit.  He stated he would never die broke.  Bill died in 1935 when I was five years old.  I remember placing my finger in the hole in his forehead.

Shade's Bridge

Prior to 1828, the only war to cross the South Fork of the Obion River was with the aid of a foot-log.  Fording was possible, in places, a few times during the year.  Shade's Bridge is a crossing that has been in use since 1828.  It is located seven miles southeast of Greenfield.  A modern concrete bridge in in present use.  Shadrach Madison, who went by the name of Shade Madison, operated a ferry at this spot from 1828 until 1833 when a bridge was built.  He was a "free man of color."

The September and December term of court of 1833 ordered the building of a bridge.  The court minutes of 1833 refers to Shade's Ferry and later the court referred the crossing as Shadrach Madison's Bridge or Shade Madison's Bridge or in some cases Shade's Bridge.

A brief skirmish between the "Claiborne Gang", along with other Southerners, and Union troops on the way to Shiloh ended with the Southerners having to flee because their powder was wet.

After the Union troops had passed, the Southerners burned the bridge which was a little late.  The present Shades Bridge Road for Greenfield is a winding road running to Shades Bridge.  The Road crossing Shades Bridge goes to the legendary "Skullbone" about a mile and a half into Gibson County.

There was also a bridge across the South Fork of the Obion River on the old Trenton Road.  This bridge was burned early in the War Between the States.  That crossing is now know as Lynn Point.

The Claiborne Gang

The area of Lawrence, Kansas, had an outlaw gang known as "Quantrell's Raiders" that terrorized that area.  There have been many writings and even movies about Quantrell's Raiders.  The southern tip of Weakley County also had their own outlaw gang of a similar nature.  They were known as The Claiborne Gang.  Very little has ever been written about this gang.  They terrorized the residents, stealing and murdering far and near.  They would kill people for no reason.  Jack Claiborne was the leader of the gang.

They consisted of a dozen of so of the Claiborne family and about 150 other men from Weakley and Gibson Counties.  They lived near the Pillowville Community about half way between what is now Greenfield and McKenzie.  They were Southern sympathizers.

The story was told that Jack Claiborne was killed by someone hiding under Shade's Bridge shooting him as he passed.

The residents of the area could not stand this lawlessness any longer and after this a posse of about 200 men went to the Claiborne's home to kill them.  Elisha Claiborne was killed, some were wounded, and others were later hunted down and killed.  this ended the terror of the Claiborne Gang.  Some were buried in the Seminary and Blooming Grove Cemeteries.

Lockridge Mill

About 20 miles due north of Shade's Bridge is the Latham community.  Near this community was Lockridge Mill located on the North Fork of the Obion River.

Several minor skirmishes between units of the Confederate and Union armies occurred in Weakley County.  The battle of Lockridge's Mill was the most prominent skirmish of the Civil War in Weakley County.

One month after the battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862, there was a skirmish on May 6, 1862, at this mill between Union and Confederate troops.  Col. Thomas Claiborne's Sixth Confederate Calvary attacked and destroyed three companies of the Fifth Iowa Calvary.  The Fifth Iowa Calvary was under the command of Major Carl Schaffer de Boernstein.  Major Bernstein was mortally wounded and died the next day.  The 5th Iowa Calvary was originally known as the Curtis Horse and was organized near St. Louis on December 20, 1861.

On May 3, 1861, three companies were sent to patrol beyond Paris and the upper North Fork of the Obion River in order to intercept supplies of medicine that had been taken from Paducah for the use of the Rebel army.  The weather was rainy and the road from Paris through Como to Dresden was made with great difficulty.  on May 6th at 1 p.m. they took the Mayfield Road north arriving at Lockriidge Mill at 5 p.m.

According to the diary of Josiah Conzett, a member of the 5th Ohio Calvary, upon arriving at the river,  Maj. Shaeffer ordered the companies to halt at the river before crossing the rickety cordway bridge to see to the horses and make coffee.  By not crossing the bridge and destroying it turned out to be a costly mistake.

Maj. Schaeffer, it seems, was also quite a ladies' man and had spotted a fine house with some fine looking ladies on the porch and went off to the house.  This imprudence and carelessness cost the Major his life when he refused to surrender when the Confederate troops arrived.  The attack caught the Union troops by surprise, and they scattered with every man for himself.  Some were killed and about one-eight of the Union troops were captured.