Long-Lost Civil War Diary Returns to Tennessee

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The long-lost diary of a prominent Nashvillian has been returned to Tennessee by a California woman. Andrea Shearn, a retired science teacher, found the diary while helping her parents move into an assisted living facility.

Shearn found the diary in a wooden box on a closet shelf in Cincinnati, where her grandmother had evidently put it in 1963. Neither Shearn nor her parents realized it was there.

Examining the diary, Shearn learned that it had belonged to R.M. McGavock, a Confederate officer with beautiful handwriting. Under McGavock’s name was written: “Captured at Ft. Henry  Stewart Co. Middle Tennessee Feb 6th 1862 by Capt. M Wemple Co H 4th Ill Vol Cav  Presented to Ms. Lue Wemple.” 

Delving into her own genealogy, Shearn discovered that Capt. Myndert Wemple of Illinois was her ancestor. He evidently found the diary after McGavock and his troops evacuated Fort Henry in a battle that was a disaster for the Confederates. Wemple’s descendants preserved the diary and handed it down through the family for the next 100 years, until it disappeared into that closet in Cincinnati.

Shearn transcribed the diary, becoming ever more interested in the writer and his experiences. She was surprised to learn that Randall McGavock was a Harvard-educated lawyer who was elected mayor of Nashville at the age of 32. He was a lieutenant colonel of the 10th Tennessee Regiment of the Confederate Army.

Shearn got in touch with State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill.

“This nice lady from California called and said, ‘I wonder if anyone in Tennessee would be interested in this diary,’" Sherrill recalls. "When she told me it was Randal McGavock’s diary, my first thought was to fly to California and get it before it disappeared again.”

Sherrill and others at the State Library and Archives had long been aware of Randal McGavock and his diaries, as eight volumes of his diary have been housed at there since 1960.

“We had this great set of diaries, but the volume from the beginning of the Civil War was missing,” he said.

Shearn eventually flew to Nashville to visit Two Rivers Mansion, Carnton and other sites associated with Randal McGavock and his family. She and her husband brought the diary with them and generously donated it to the archives.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett said: “We are extremely grateful to Andrea Shearn for returning this diary to Tennessee. I know that scholars and McGavock descendants will enjoy the opportunity to read it and fill in the blanks in this soldier’s history.”


Mountain City Milling Advertised The Health Benefits Of Graham Flour

“Exercise regularly.    Cut back on sugar and salt.   Get adequate sleep.   Eat more fiber.”   Those may all have been instructions from your physician at your last physical.   However, the belief that a healthy lifestyle is good for you goes back much farther in history.   John Harvey Kellogg, M.D. (1852-1943) promoted diet and exercise ... (click for more)

Chester Martin Remembers The Clarence T. Jones Observatory

A true example of American   - and Chattanooga - ingenuity, it was Clarence T. Jones's childhood dream to build a telescope of worthy size and importance. As a professional architect he was able to connect with all the necessary local sources to produce the handsome instrument shown here. Working with the new Barnard Astronomical Society, the telescope with all its component ... (click for more)

County Schools Prepare To Set Priorities For Next Round Of School Building Funding

County school board members are gearing up to set priorities for the next round of new school construction in Hamilton County. Lee McDade, assistant superintendent, said officials may know by the spring how much money will be available to build new schools or add on to existing ones - or do a combination of both. Board member Rhonda Thurman said a proposal to build a new Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Walker County Will No Longer Have Full-Time County Attorney Under Whitfield Tenure; Will Add Full-Time Communications Director

Incoming Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said under his administration there will no longer be a full-time county attorney. "We will outsource this service on a fee basis," he said. Mr. Whitfield said he has begun interviewing attorneys who might be able to help out the county from time to time. Don Oliver has long been the county attorney for Walker County ... (click for more)

Vehicle Emissions Testing Causes More Pollution Than It Prevents - And Response

While a noble cause to make sure vehicles are operating efficiently with the minimum amount of pollutants, a simple analysis makes it somewhat evident the VET program in Chattanooga causes more pollution that it prevents.  Though I don't know how many vehicles are tested on an annual basis, if you assume an average round trip of 10 miles to the nearest testing station (five ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Senseless Divide

If I could change one thing about the schools in Chattanooga, my wish would be that everybody could become good friends. I’m talking about the private schools versus the public schools. The rancor is so bad we hardly ever play in sports anymore and what the loathsome TSSAA has done in recent years to the out-numbered private schools is sinful. My dream would be that there would ... (click for more)