Spring City in Rhea County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
The Rhea County Spartans
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
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.
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. Touch for map. The marker is located in front of the Spring City Museum & Depot. Marker is
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 • Women •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 4, 2017. This page originally submitted on October 11, 2013, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 507 times since then and 22 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 11, 2013, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. 3. submitted on November 18, 2017, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. 4, 5. submitted on October 11, 2013, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.