This week, I was invited to give my presentation on Colonel Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee (U.S.) Cavalry to the Tippah Tigers Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp #868 in Ripley, Mississippi. The membership treated me to a great meal and several members purchased copies of my book Hurst’s Wurst: Colonel Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry U.S.A. This is the first time anyone’s recorded one of my speeches, and I appreciate Robert Jackson of the Tippah Tigers posting it to YouTube. Thank you again to the Tigers (who you can also find on Facebook) for their hospitality!
Category Archives: Hurst’s Wurst
McNairy County Historical Society Meeting
There was a great turnout last night for my presentation to the McNairy County Historical Society at the Jack McConnico Memorial Library in Selmer, TN. Despite the rainy weather, there was a packed meeting room when I arrived and more chairs were being brought in from the library. I was very honored that people came out to listen to me talk about Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee (U.S.) Cavalry. Afterward, I answered questions from members and guests, signed copies of my book Hurst’s Wurst, and had the opportunity to talk with many people interested in Hurst, the Civil War, and their family histories that were tied to members of the Sixth Tennessee.
A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Corinth, MS who came to the meeting invited me to address one of their future meetings. I should have details in a few weeks.
Thank you, Judy Hammons and Nancy Kennedy with the Historical Society, for inviting me to speak. I enjoy coming back to Selmer and McNairy County whenever I have the chance.
Another Book Progress Report
Wow, it’s been almost two months since I last posted to my blog! Not that I heard a clamor from anyone who reads it for my whereabouts, but I thought I would check back in nonetheless.
I’ve still working on edits and rewriting a few chapters for my book Adam Huntsman: The Peg-Legged Politician over the summer in anticipation of its release this fall. I’ve also commissioned a talented young artist who is working on three unique artistic additions to the book that I’m very excited about. More news on this book project in the weeks to come.
I will be giving a talk in late October on the subject of my last book Hurst’s Wurst: Colonel Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry U.S.A. Details are still being worked out, but I should be able to make an announcement later this week. It’s been a while since I returned to anything related to Hurst and I’m looking forward to revisiting his story and that of the Sixth Tennessee (Union) Cavalry.
I haven’t been posting to my blog the past few months, but I have been tweeting on Twitter and built a decent 500+ tweets over the summer. There’s a few updates on my projects, but mostly I share links to newspaper articles and blog posts I come across having to do with U.S. history, Tennessee history, and U.S. Presidents. I hope you’ll follow me there!
On This Day in History: Fielding Hurst Escapes His Captors
On this day in history, Colonel Fielding Hurst of the Sixth Tennessee (U.S.) Cavalry was captured by Confederate soldiers near Somerville, Tennessee in 1863, but he escaped when his men came back for him.
Below is an excerpt from my book Hurst’s Wurst: Colonel Fielding Hurst and Sixth Tennessee Cavalry U.S.A. (pages 31-32):
Hurst found himself in enemy hands when two members of Colonel Richard V. Richardson’s group captured him four miles southwest of Somerville, Tennessee on July 25. While on scout with a squad of the 1st West Tennessee, he stopped for a moment to talk with a widow named Lewis and her daughter at their front gate as he waited for some of his men to rejoin him. Two Confederate soldiers named Hugh Nelson and C.A.S. Shaw, returning home to Somerville for fresh horses and clothing, came upon Hurst on the road. They approached him from behind with guns drawn as Mrs. Lewis asked, “Col[onel] ain’t you afraid the Rebels will catch you[?]” No sooner had he replied that he wasn’t when the two soldiers took his pistols from his saddle holsters and led him away on horseback toward their encampment. Hurst knew his men would try and find him and he rode slowly between his captors to give them more time to catch up. When they objected to his pace, he told them they could shoot him if they did not like it.
Meanwhile Captain Harry Hodges of Company B and a group of eight soldiers from the regiment had pursued them for seven miles. When they were found, Lieutenant Risden D. Deford and an African-American servant belonging to Captain Robert M. Thompson of Company A ran ahead and began firing at them. In the confusion, Hurst “drew rein and turned his quick grey mare” into the woods as one of his captors shot at him with one of his own pistols. Hodges gave him a revolver and the 1st West Tennessee chased the Confederate soldiers to within a few hundred feet of Richardson’s encampment. Outnumbered, Hurst and his men turned back a short distance to the top of a hill where they were joined by the rest of the squad. They “cheered lustily, making so much noise that the Rebels thought the whole regiment was coming to avenge their Colonel’s wrongs.” Richardson’s command was tempted but grudgingly decided to give up their trophy without a fight.
A Running Fight in Purdy, Tennessee (1859)
I’m taking advantage of a 30-day trial subscription to genealogybank.com and came across this newspaper article dated November 20, 1859 about a pre-Civil War fight between Fielding Hurst and M. Ledbetter on the streets of Purdy, Tennessee that involved pistols, horse shoes, and sticks! (Hurst is the subject of my book Hurst’s Wurst: Colonel Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry U.S.A.)
“A difficulty occurred between two of our citizens on last Wednesday night. M. Ledbetter snapped a pistol at F. Hurst, Esq., at the distance of about six feet, and Hurst afterwards fired twice at Ledbetter at the distance of about twenty paces, and one of the balls entered a chair in close proximity to Ledbetter.
Brickbats, horse shoes, sticks and bottles were thrown in wild confusion during a sort of running fight, which continued for several minutes. Much excitement prevalled, and some of our citizens done splendid dodging and running; in the latter list was found leading the way, one of the editors of this paper–we mean the one who lives in town. There was an old grudge between the parties, but we forbear comment.”
Hurst’s Wurst Book Review
Andrew Wagenhoffer, host of the blog Civil War Books and Authors, has posted his review of my book Hurst’s Wurst. He gives a very fair assessment of it and I appreciate him posting. it.
Book Signing March 22 Jackson, TN
I will have a book signing for Hurst’s Wurst in the Board Room of the Jackson-Madison County Public Library in Jackson, TN on Saturday, March 22nd 1:00-3:00 p.m. I hope anyone in or near Jackson will come by and see me.
Book Signing and Artisan Trail
Saturday’s book signing at the McNairy County Historical Museum was a big success! After four hours, every copy of Hurst’s Wurst that my wife Cindy and I brought with us was sold–27 in all! We met a lot of nice people and I enjoyed talking with everyone who came by.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ve had book signings before that drew no one, so I hoped for the best yet expected the worst. But when we arrived, we had about five people waiting for us (we were a little late in getting there) and I didn’t sit down and catch my breath for the next three hours! It was a better turnout that I could’ve expected.
I had the chance to meet many people who are interested in McNairy County history, many of whom are readers of this blog. Thank you for stopping by. I also met several members of the Hurst family, who appreciated the fairness that I’ve shown him in the book. There’s been so much of a negative slant to most everything written about him that they’re apprehensive when anything new comes out.
I’d like to thank Judy Hammond, president of the McNairy County Historical Society, for giving me the opportunity to have the book signing that day as part of the Arts in McNairy Artisan Trail. It’s a great way to spotlight the talents of artists throughout the county.
We were only able to make one stop on the Artisan Trail. We visited the workshop and museum of Hockaday Homemade Brooms at 2704 Hwy 142 outside Selmer. There we met owner Jack Martin, who makes brooms the same way his grandfather Jack Hockaday did over 90 years ago and with the same equipment he did back then. He does excellent work and I would encourage anyone interested in quality, handmade brooms to visit Jack’s workshop or his website at www.hhbrooms.com
McNairy County’s Boogeyman
Halloween is less than a week away–fear the ghost of Fielding Hurst!
The front page of yesterday’s McNairy County Independent Appeal had an article by Russell Ingle entitled “Ghosts of Purdy.” It’s a seasonal piece that ties Halloween with stories of ghosts supposedly haunting the home of Fielding Hurst and the Purdy Cemetery a short distance across the road.
Unfortunately, it’s also another example of sensationalizing history for the sake of an entertaining story and not getting the facts straight.
I don’t blame Mr. Ingle. I’m sure he just wanted to write an interesting story and share with readers what he had learned about one of McNairy County’s most notorious figures. I’ve had close to 15 years to learn what I know about Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry, so I can’t fault someone who may have only had a few days or weeks to research the subject.
There’s a lot of exaggerated and downright false information when it comes to Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee. One must trudge through period and modern-day partisan or erroneous writings to discover what is actually true. Much of them can be attributed to former Confederate soldiers, but some are more contemporary and simply expound and exaggerate from a one-sided (i.e. Confederate) point of view.
One hundred twenty-six years after his death, Fielding Hurst remains a despised man among descendants of the Confederacy in southwest Tennessee. It’s a hatred that’s been passed down from their great-great granddaddies who fought against him or felt his wrath or that of his men. I’ve heard stories of family members who were never seen again, their disappearances blamed on Hurst and his command. There are many people who have genuine reasons for their feelings against him.
Fielding Hurst has become the Boogeyman of McNairy County, Tennessee. He is a “monster” and a “demon”and his insidious reputation grows more brutal and bloodier with the passage of time. His evil deeds are magnified and sensationalized for dramatic effect to the point of absurdity. I’ve often thought someone should write a novel with Hurst as a central character because the stories that are considered truth already border on imaginative fiction.
I was contacted this week by someone who asked if it was true that Hurst “murdered and dismembered people and was possibly murdered himself. He cut off people’s heads and lined them up in his yard.” I repeat this not to make fun because the person only wanted to know if the accusations were true. Yet it shows how ridiculous the crimes attributed to Hurst have become. Such lies make Hurst sound like the Civil War’s answer to Vlad the Impailer, a.k.a. Dracula.
Probably the most common source used by writers is an article published in the Confederate Veteran (March-April 1992, p. 20-23) entitled “Hurst!” by W.Clay Crook. It’s available online and pops up on most every search for Fielding Hurst. Mr. Crook writes a well-worded story and turns prose with the best of them. It reads as an authoritative account of Hurst and many writers rely on its accuracy. Unfortunately, it suffers from a few factual errors and Mr. Crook gives no documentation to back up some of his assertions.
Mr. Crook writes:
“When the price of human misery and destruction is subtracted from war, little is actually left of the glory we so often admire in battle. It is true, however, that there are some who have tarnished the art of warfare more thoroughly than others. The Romans had Attila the Hun. Northwestern Europe, the Vikings … but old families in West Tennessee spit forth one invective — like acid from a shattered battery — Hurst!”
Hurst’s legend grows more with each writer’s take on his dastardly misdoings. Crook thought him worse than Atilla the Hunn, the Vikings, and Wiliam Tecumseh Sherman. Now Russell Ingle elevates his sinister stature to that of Adolf Hitler!
Mr. Ingle writes:
According to legend, Hurst said he was driven by divine mandate to cleanse the land of Rebels. Just like Hitler slaughtered the Jews, Hurst spread a bloody trail and left mutilated bodies wherever he traveled. The story is told how, on a patrol to LaGrange, Hurst carried with him a band of Confederate prisoners and, at every mile post, killed one, cut their head off and hung it on a post.
Granted, Hurst was guilty of many things from extortion and arson to executing Confederate soldiers and guerrillas. Murders of soldiers and civilians off the battlefield and on the home front, though committed by men under his command, were still his responsibility.
But in no way did his actions compare to the Holocaust and the death of approximately six million Jews in concentration camps, innocent victims who were persecuted because of Hitler’s prejudice against their people. They were not at war with Hitler and his armies, yet they were systematically killed because of their race.
Hurst’s so-called “mandate to cleanse the land of Rebels” makes him out to be a twisted and demented evangelist with an unquenchable thirst for Rebel blood, male, female, and child alike. This line was taken from Crook, who dramatically evoked the Bible with this verse: “Hurst himself felt driven by divine mandate to slay the Philistines (meaning “neighbors who tended to disagree” with him), cleanse the land of rebels and like Joshua before him, to spare not even the ox nor its manger.”
There’s no question Hurst detested those he and other Unionists labeled as “Secesh,” or the proponents of secession. He sought to avenge the persecution against he and his family from his rebel neighbors and the Confederacy as a whole. But to say he gave himself a “mandate” is unfounded and undocumented. It makes for good reading, but it’s simply not true.
The particulars of the executions of Captain John Ambrose “Dock” Wharton and four other Confederate soldiers have long been embellished. So what really happened?
Here’s the real story: It took place not at LaGrange but on the road between Purdy and Pocahontas, Tennessee. Hurst believed Wharton and his men were guerrillas and not Confederate soldiers and that Wharton had threatened to take his life. After a gun battle during which Wharton was wounded, he was taken to Hurst who vowed to end Wharton’s life instead. They were executed and left beside the road. At least one of the men, Thomas W.S. Morgan, was wounded and left for dead; nearby residents tended to him as best they could before he died.
There is only one authoritative source that I’ve found for the incident, a letter dated July 23, 1863 written by Dew M. Wisdom to Col. Philip D. Roddey. In it, Wisdom relates the incident but makes no mention of the soldiers’ bodies buried as mile posts, much less decapitated and hung on posts.
So where did the decapitation claim come from? Crook attributes it to G. Tillman Stewart, late historian of Henderson County. I’ve not found it in any other source materials. Because there is no evidence to prove it, it must be assumed that the decapitation version is false. The worst part is, when these distorted tales are published in books and newspapers and spread across the Internet, they become facts for those without the inclination to dig deeper. They are often accepted at face value and reprinted over and over again.
I’m sure I sound like I’m defending the actions of Fielding Hurst, but it’s really not the case. All I ask is that anyone who writes about him be objective and not completely believe everything they’ve read about him, particularly what’s available on the Internet. To embellish and exaggerate what he did for the sake of a good story distorts the facts and is dishonest to the reader.
(Parts of this post were written tongue-in-cheek to accentuate the dramatic prose used by some writers to describe Fielding Hurst and what he did.)
Hurst’s Wurst is Finally Done
Welcome to my first entry in my new blog! Hopefully they will interesting, entertaining, or sad enough for you to check back from time to time and see what’s up. I’ll do my best to write something either here or on the website at least every other day.
I feel as if a giant weight has been lifted from my shoulders. What began as a little rewriting here and there became a much more involved revision of my book Hurst’s Wurst: Col. Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry U.S.A. that took me a year-and-a-half to complete. Like all my books, it’s self-published so there’s no big bankroll in NYC sending me royalty checks. It’s all up to me to spread the word. But that’s the way I like it! I am using the publishing services of Lulu for the printing. I’ve been impressed with their work thus far and I’m looking forward to my first proof copy arriving in the mail early next week.
This is the fourth edition of a book that began in 1993 as a typewritten manuscript (I didn’t own a PC at the time) photocopied at Kinko’s Copies, where I worked when I was in college. Fourteen years later, it will be published as I always hoped one day it would: as a hardbound (and softbound), professional quality book. It has probably been my most popular work to date based on the letters and e-mails I’ve received over the last five years or so asking if I had any copies left. I wanted something better than a photocopied manuscript, but it wasn’t until I discovered Lulu that I was able to produce the kind of book I wanted.
Thank you to everyone who has already pre-ordered books so far. It’s humbling to know readers are interested in what I write. I’ll do my best to ship your copies as soon as I receive them. I will keep everyone posted.