|This portrait of Daniel Stover hangs in Long Shadow in|
Bluff City, the home that Daniel's widow lived in for a time
Daniel joined the war effort in 1861 and shortly thereafter volunteered to participate for the Union in the effort to destroy the bridges on the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia railroad. The objective was to hinder the south’s ability to move supplies to their troops. These volunteers were known as “BridgeBurners”. The plan to burn the bridges was conceived by General W.B. Carter. After the plan was approved by President Lincoln, Carter met with General George H. Thomas. According to Scott and Angel, “The plans of Mr. Carter were to select one or two of the most trusted and daring men in each locality where a bridge was to be burned, and these men were sworn to keep the secret until the day set for burning all the bridges simultaneously. The one or two trusted individuals were on that day to notify as many of the bravest and most discreet men in the vicinity of each place where a bridge was to be burned after night fall of that day, and designate a leader.” Daniel Stover was one of those leaders. He was charged with burning the bridges at Carter’s Depot and Zollicoffer (now Bluff City).
Dr. Abram Jobe persuaded Daniel Stover to spare the bridge that crossed the Watauga River at Carter's Depot because it was so heavily guarded and Jobe feared that Daniel’s men would be imprisoned if they did so. Upon hearing Jobe’s argument, Daniel responded, “You espoused the Union cause before I did, and are as much entitled to your opinion in this matter as I am, or even as Mr. Lincoln himself. You have taken a great interest in the welfare and integrity of the Government, and if you wish to save the bridge at Carter's Depot you can do so but nothing can dissuade me from attempting to burn the bridge across the Holston river whatever may be the consequences; but you may go immediately to Carter's Depot and see Mr. Cunningham who has charge of affairs there; say to him what you have said to me and tell him I have consented for you to have your own way about the burning of that bridge .
|The cover of Harpers Magazine featured|
a story about the Bridge Burners in 1862
“Col. Stover having selected about thirty men from among the citizens, the most prudent reliable men that could be found in the vicinity of Elizabethton, and swore them into the military service at Reuben Miller's barn at the head of Indian Creek, for that purpose. These men coming from different directions met near Elizabethton and the nature of the enterprise was explained to them by Col. Stover, and they were informed by him that in addition to the honor attached to doing so great a service for the country they were to be paid by the Federal Government. He explained to them also that Gen. Thomas with his army was then, as he believed, on the borders of East Tennessee, and immediately upon the burning of the bridges, so that Confederate troops could not be hurried in by rail, the Federal army would advance rapidly into East Tennessee, finish the destruction of the railroad and protect the bridge burners and all other loyal people. Being provided with turpentine which had been procured by Dr. James M. Cameron, and a supply of rich pine knots which would easily ignite and set fire to the bridge, the company crossed the Watauga river at Drake's Ford (This is probably a reference to land owned by Abraham Drake who was Daniel’s grandfather), one mile east of Elizabethton, proceeded through Turkey Town and down Indian Creek, being recruited along the way by a number of men who joined them. Reaching a point about one-half mile south of Zollicoffer the men were halted and dismounted near a woods where the horses were concealed and Elijah Simerly, Pleasant M. Williams and Benjamin F. Treadway left to guard them. Col. Stover said to them: "All who are willing to go with me to the bridge and assist in burning it, fall in line." The following men fell into line : John F. Burrow, John G. Burchfield, Gilson O. Collins, Watson Collins, Landon Carter, M. L. Cameron, Jackson Carriger, James T. Davenport, Samuel Davenport, Daniel Ellis, John Fondrin, William M. Gourley, Henderson Garland, Wm. F. M. Hyder, J. K. Haun, Jacob Hendrixson, Mark Hendrixson, Jonas H. Keen, George Maston, B. M. G. O'Brien, Berry Pritchard, Henry Slagle, and James P. Scott. Col. Stover and G. O. Collins had masks over their faces which had been prepared by Mrs. Lizzie Carter. The other men were not disguised in any way. When the men signified their willingness to go G. O. Collins gave the command in an undertone to move towards the bridge which they did, moving quickly and in good order. Arriving at the south end of the bridge they did not find any guard at first. They formed the men, part of them facing up the river, and others down the river, while six or eight of them went hastily through the bridge nearly to the north end of it. The two guards, Stanford Jenkins and William Jones, rebel soldiers, were under the bridge, the former at the south end and the latter at the north end. Hearing the men, Jones ran and John F. Burrow raised his gun to shoot him, but was ordered not to fire. As the party returned from the north end of the bridge Jenkins came up from under the bridge and recognizing G. O. Collins, spoke to him and said, "Ollie, here's my gun, don't kill me." G. O. Collins, M. L. Cameron and J. M. Emmert then hastily placing the pine and pouring the turpentine on the bridge applied matches to it and it was soon in flames. They hastened back to their horses, taking Jenkins with them.”
In the end all of
the bridges were attacked and many of them were burned on the night of November
8, 1861. Daniel led the effort that successfully burned the Zollicoffer Bridge
that was located between Bristol and Carter’s Depot.
|An excerpt from Paper of Andrew Johnson by Paul H. Bergeran|
that gives an account of how Daniel's body was transferred
back to Elizabethton, 1866.
|Union sentry guarding Strawberry Plains Bridge ca. 1864 from the|
Library of Congress website
Though promised General Thomas’s troops did not come to protect the people of East Tennessee and the men who had risked their lives to burn the bridges were left to fend for themselves. Some were captured and hung or shot. Others fled to the mountains to hide where they suffered from exposure, hardship, hunger, cold and rain. Some enlisted in the Union Army and others went home. Daniel fled to the mountains and encamped at a place near the residence of John W. Hyder in the Doe River Cove. “Here the men were furnished with provisions, beef cattle, sheep, flour and cornmeal and feed for the horses by the farmers residing in the neighborhood. They remained there until the 16th of November. Constant rumors of the enemy had been circulated through the camp and they were expected at any time. Gen Leadbetter had arrived at Johnson City on the 15th with a large Confederate force and two mountain howitzers and moved out on the Taylorsville road towards the Union camp.
|Letter to Daniel from Edwin M. Stanton,|
Secretary of War authorizing Daniel to form
a Regiment of Volunteers.
“Col. Stover and his officers, realizing the hopelessness of resisting the large body of trained and well-armed rebel troops with men who had no experience in war and no effective arms, and having entirely, despaired of receiving Federal aid, disbanded the army, each man to take care of himself as best he could. Some fled to the mountains, some to Kentucky, while others returned to their homes, hoping to receive some clemency from the Confederate authorities. Most of these were doomed to disappointment as they were sent to prison, there to endure all kinds of curses and abuse, and many to suffer death. Such was the fiasco known as "The Carter County Rebellion."
The biography of Eliza Johnson says that “On November 8, 1861 Daniel led the burning of the Holston River. For this he was hunted down, and targeted for capture by Confederate troops. This forced Daniel and his men to seek refuge in the caves of the nearby mountains during the subsequent winter months and that is where he contracted tuberculosis. Most of the other men were among the working poor with families unable to provide their own sustenance. Daniel’s wife Mary directed that her farm’s livestock be slaughtered to keep the families fed. Not wanting to tip off the Confederates searching for the militia in the mountains, however, often inhibited her from smuggling the food baskets she and her mother prepared for them. Many often starved or froze to death in the mountains, a fact which weighed heavily on Mary.”
 Scott & Angel, p. 69
 Scott & Angel, p. 70-71
 Scott & Angel, p. 84
 Scott & Angel, p. 85
 First Ladies website, Eliza Johnson biography.