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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Spring City in Rhea County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

The Rhea County Spartans

Women's Cavalry

 
 
The Rhea County Spartans Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, July 27, 2013
1. The Rhea County Spartans Marker
Inscription. Walden’s Ridge, directly ahead, was a natural obstacle to east-west military movements during the war. In 1862–1863, Confederate authorities ordered three Rhea County cavalry companies to patrol the passes there between Emory Gap (north) and Sale Creek (south) to keep Federal forces out of the Tennessee River Valley.

In the summer of 1862, thirty young, socially prominent women organized a nonmilitary unit called the Spartans. Mary McDonald (age 28) gave herself the rank of captain, and her sister-in-law Caroline McDonald was first lieutenant. The Spartans first met for support and friendship but became more active partisans during the periods of Federal occupation. A mounted soldiers’ aid group, they carried food and clothing to fathers, brothers, and sweethearts in the patrolling cavalry. Their bold initiative was very unconventional for that time.

Some historians believe that the Spartans carried out limited espionage for the Confederacy.

In April 1865, Rhea County native Capt. John Walker, 6th Tennessee Infantry (USA), had them arrested. To teach them a lesson, he marched them to the Tennessee River and then sent them by riverboat to Chattanooga. There, Gen. James B. Steedman ordered their immediate release if they signed oaths of loyalty to the United States and reprimanded Walker for wasting
The Rhea County Spartans Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, July 27, 2013
2. The Rhea County Spartans Marker
army time and resources. Federal officers escorted the Spartans back here, but left them at the landing to find their way home.

They were not prosecuted, but they suffered during Reconstruction from vengeful Union partisans. Within a few years, most of the women had left the county, five moved to Texas. Capt. Mary McDonald Sawyer, who died in 1914, is buried in Buttram Cemetery in Dayton.

(caption)
During the war, most women performed traditional homebound roles such as making clothes for soldiers (above left). Some came to the camps to cook, mend, and clean (left) or followed the troops to sell them tobacco and personal items (above). A few took to the field to ferry supplies to their soldiers (right).— Courtesy Library of Congress
 
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Tennessee Civil War Trails marker series.
 
Location. 35° 41.61′ N, 84° 51.623′ W. Marker is in Spring City, Tennessee, in Rhea County. Marker is at the intersection of Front Street and West Rhea Avenue, on the right when traveling north on Front Street. Click for map. The marker is located in front of the Spring City Museum & Depot. Marker is
Spring City Museum & Depot image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, July 27, 2013
3. Spring City Museum & Depot
at or near this postal address: 390 Front St, Spring City TN 37381, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 6 other markers are within 17 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Grandview Normal Institute (approx. 3.6 miles away); Thomas "Big Foot" Spencer (approx. 13.4 miles away); The Scopes Trial (approx. 16.2 miles away); William Jennings Bryan (approx. 16.2 miles away); Rhea County Courthouse (approx. 16.2 miles away); Rhea County Veteran's Memorial (approx. 16.2 miles away).
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
Spring City Museum & Depot image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, July 27, 2013
4. Spring City Museum & Depot
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. This page has been viewed 398 times since then and 15 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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