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'The Battle' residents, relics remembered
Historians reflect on battle aid from residents


Approaching the 150th anniversary of The Battle at Campbell Station, let the Burnsides, Longstreets and other famous Civil War generals step aside.

Names such as Galbraith and Nelson occupy high places among Campbell Station and Concord residents by making huge personal sacrifices, which included treating wounded Union and Confederate soldiers.

Barbara Beeler, a local historian and volunteer at Farragut Folklife Museum, recalled Battle stories told by her grandfather, “He was born in [18]75,” having heard eyewitness accounts handed down from Beeler's great-grandfather, a Union soldier named Jhue King.

“He would tell about what pappy would tell him,” Beeler added.

One told of Nancy Galbraith, whose home along Virtue Road was near where the Battle commenced during a cold, rainy morning on Nov. 16, 1863.

“They were falling out in battle in her front yard,” Beeler said. “She would take them in and take care of them, Union or Confederate.


“Some place they have a letter, I read it one time ... a letter from a Union soldier to Nancy, thanking her for taking care of him,” Beeler said. “I believe he was one of the units from Michigan.”

Mona Smith, a local historian, author and museum volunteer, said Galbraith “took them into her home and fed them and cared for them and hid them out,” adding Concord citizen David Galbraith is a “direct descendant” of Nancy, living near the site of her home near the corner of Virtue and Turkey Creek roads.

What is now known as the Russell House-became a post-Battle “hospital” in the home of Dr. William Nelson, who treated wounded Union and Confederate soldiers — including amputations.

“They had to do a lot of surgery where there was a lot of water,” Beeler said in reference to springs that now run underground in that location.

Gerald Augustus, Civil War historian and former history teacher at Lenoir City Middle School, said Nelson and his son-in-law, also a doctor, “had a door as an operating table, that's part the story, too,” after the house had been ransacked by soldiers.

“Wounded soldiers, they just put on the floor.” Augustus added. “Supposedly at least one amputation took place. ... Supposedly the blood stains are on still on the floor.”

A big sideboard in the house during the war, now on display at the museum, “Was so heavy that the Confederates that were going to break it up for firewood couldn’t get it out the door,” Augustus said.

“They were going to bring in an ax and chop it up, and Dr. Nelson wanted to save that piece, it was the only thing left in the house.

“They left it.”

Malcolm Shell, local historian, author and FFM volunteer, said, “If you face the house from behind the Taco Bell, the room on the left was the surgical suite. They said the bloodstains are still there, soaked into that pine floor. They said there’s scribbling on the wall from the soldiers who were treated there.”

As for how the Nelsons reacted to the oncoming battle, Beeler said Eliza Nelson “gathered up all her good china and silver and everything like that and she took it up on the ridge where Sonja Drive is now, and hid it from the armies, both of them.”

Concerning local casualties, “I've never heard that anyone was killed,” Beeler said.

Moreover, “We didn’t have anybody from this community that fought in the Battle of Campbell Station that we could find,” she added.

Augustus said the Nelson family’s slave during the Battle, 12-year-old “Little” Joe, “is where a lot of these stories come from ... he lived into his 90s. … A lot of the stories that Frank Russell told had been told to him by ‘Uncle’ Joe, the slave.”

 

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