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

DeKalb County in the Civil War

A Country and a County Divided

DeKalb County in the Civil War Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 18, 2014
1. DeKalb County in the Civil War Marker
Inscription. Click to hear the inscription.  DeKalb County differed from surrounding counties. A sizeable minority of its citizens opposed secession and voted against it in the June 8, 1861 referendum. Their champion was a slave owner, Congressman William B. Stokes. The majority followed former Congressman and Smithville attorney John H. Savage, who lost to Stokes in the 1859 election. The war intensified the already bitter rivalry between the men, who became colonels on opposite sides.

Savage commanded the 16th Tennessee Infantry (CS) while Stokes led the 5th Tennessee Cavalry (US). Stokes’s followers became “scalawags” to the secessionists. Col. John F. Goodner, 7th Tennessee Infantry (CS), wrote that the county’s Unionists were “thieves headed by the scum of all creation, Stokes’ arabs.”

After the Confederate Army of Tennessee withdrew from the county in the spring of 1863, Stokes and his Union cavalry played a large role in subduing local Confederate guerrilla activity. Frank Marchbanks, a young lawyer of Sparta, was chased down by Union troops near Sligo ferry and killed. His tombstone, erected by John H. Savage, reads “Murdered by Stokes Cavalry.”

DeKalb County in the Civil War Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 18, 2014
2. DeKalb County in the Civil War Marker
the war, Stokes was reelected to Congress and supported Republican Reconstruction policies. Former Confederates hated him. In 1869, Stokes ran for governor as a Republican but failed to carry DeKalb County. Savage did not return here but reestablished his law practice in McMinnville, where he became a vocal Democrat defender of the Confederate Lost Cause in the Tennessee General Assembly in the 1870s.

Many DeKalb County residents held bitter feeling for years after the war, and every election brought out renewed conflict.

(lower left) William B. Stokes Courtesy Library of Congress John H. Savage Courtesy Library of Congress
(upper right) DeKalb County Courthouse (demolished in 1890) and square during a public hanging - Courtesy DeKalb County Historical Society
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Tennessee Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 35° 57.636′ N, 85° 48.781′ W. Marker is in Smithville, Tennessee, in Dekalb County. Marker is on South Public Square near East Public Square, on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. The marker is located on the grounds of the DeKalb County Courthouse. Marker is in this post office area: Smithville TN 37166, United States of America.
Other nearby markers.
DeKalb County Courthouse image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 18, 2014
3. DeKalb County Courthouse
At least 8 other markers are within 13 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Veterans Memorial DeKalb County Tennessee (a few steps from this marker); DeKalb County Confederate Monument (a few steps from this marker); Evins' Old Mill (approx. 1.4 miles away); Beckwith Inn (approx. 2.7 miles away); Battle of Snow Hill (approx. 7.1 miles away); Adam Dale (was approx. 9.3 miles away but has been reported missing. ); WW II Tennessee Maneuvers (approx. 9.8 miles away); Tennessee Veterans (approx. 12.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Smithville.
Categories. War, US Civil
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on June 10, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 405 times since then and 37 times this year. Last updated on March 14, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 10, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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