The Civil War still evokes passion from both sides of the conflict after over 140 years. Now add the fact that some Southerners fought for the Union instead of the Confederacy and generously stir into the mix. It certainly makes for some interesting exchanges!
Below is an e-mail sent to me by Mr. Gene Wade, whose ancestors fell victim to the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry:
My thoughts: I recently visited the old graveyard near Purdy where many of the Hurst family is buried. Although I know that Fielding Hurst was not buried here I understand that many of his “troopers” are buried here. I am a combat veteran with over 27 years service in the US Army but I honestly felt evil lurked here; possibly magnified because of the darkness. I felt so threatened by “haints” that I returned to my car to retrieve my 40 Cal Glock and shoved it in my waistband for protection form the evil I honestly sensed lurked there. Seldom have I felt so much evil and so threatened. It was a feeling I never had before or afterward, even in Viet Nam. Perhaps I was unduly affected, but I did feel threatened and felt the presence of what I felt was evil.
I might add that I have several times visited the grave of Fielding Hurst at the church cemetery where he is buried, the name of which I cannot recall, and like my late cousin did on an annual basis, I unashamedly urinated on the grave of Fielding Hurst. I plan to repeat my “performance” every time I return to that area. Perhaps I should not feel the way I do but I just do. Perhaps because so many of my Confederate ancestor relatives simply disappeared in the “Hurst Nation” has something to do with it. And perhaps because I think Fielding Hurst was truly EVIL and caused the mutilation and execution of numerous Confederates, destruction of cities and homes and was never called to answer for his outrages and for his murderous actions. I frankly cannot see how anyone, faced with known documentation, can really defend Fielding Hurst.
That’s just the way I feel. Sorry if I offend, but that’s what I feel………..
Below was my response:
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Hurst. I disagree with some of your feelings, not so much about Hurst as about the men in the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry. Granted there were some bad men in its ranks who committed terrible crimes outside the boundaries of “civilized” warfare against both soldiers and civilians and Hurst himself deserves his fair share of the blame. But Confederate soldiers and guerrillas committed equally brutal crimes against Unionist soldiers, their families, and civilians as well. Not all were the noble and virtuous men that history has portrayed them. Guerrilla warfare is a nasty way to fight and both sides–Union and Confederate–were guilty of thievery, arson, and murder in West Tennessee and other parts of the South.
The Unionists retaliated against their neighbors, who had persecuted them before and during the war because they sided with the Union rather than embrace the Confederacy. I believe that is where the animosity started and what fueled Hurst and others to do what they did, right or wrong.
I feel that Hurst was a brave man who like many of the men under his command had the courage to stand up for their country when most everyone around them were ready to destroy it. He could have fled north and escaped the persecution, but instead he sought a military commission to raise a cavalry regiment and fight. But he also misused his military authority against all Confederates, soldiers and civilians alike, and extorted money under the threat of arson. War does not bring forth the noblest of traits, to paraphrase John Allan Wyeth.
I’m sure we will agree to disagree, but still I appreciate the dialogue.
We are all entitled to our viewpoints and I welcome the exchange of opinions regarding Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry. Mr. Wade had ancestors who lost their lives to members of the regiment, just as many other descendants in West Tennessee and north Mississippi. I’m sure the resentment he feels toward Hurst and his men is indicative of their sentiments as well and I can certainly understand their feelings.
But I honestly believe not every member of the Sixth Tennessee was “evil.” It’s true there were some bad seeds (Hurst could be numbered among them) who sought vengence for wrongs committed against them and their families. But there were also honest men who had principles and sincerely wanted the Union to remain whole and who opposed slavery. These are the men who deserve to be honored for their courage and their determination to stand up for what they believed. They did not fight for a “Lost Cause.”
Hopefully my book will give at least a glimpse into what Southern Unionists endured before, during, and after the war and provide a more objective view of them that has been given in the past.