‘Sons of East Tennessee’: New book explores post-Civil War division and reconciliation | News


Books have been written exploring the reconciliation of veterans from opposing sides after the Civil War. Jack Brubaker takes a more personal approach to the subject, however, in his recently published book, “Sons of East Tennessee: Civil War Veterans Divided and Reconciled.”

“My main goal was to do something that no one had ever done, which was to personalize reconciliation by focusing on specific veterans,” Brubaker said. “The subject of reconciliation has been covered quite well, but none of these books approach it with an involved family nucleus, real human beings who have been researched and have a story. That’s what I wanted to do. I think I did pretty well.

Both families — the Bernards and McCorkles — are rooted in Hawkins County in northeast Tennessee, a section hard-fought by the Civil War. The book centers on General Reuben Bernard, who fought for the Union, and Dr. William McCorkle, who had served as a surgeon, with the rank of major, of a Confederate cavalry regiment. The two men first met at the graves of their sons, Army lieutenants and University of Tennessee graduates John Jay Bernard and Henry Leftwich McCorkle, who were killed together in Cuba during the Spanish War. -American. The young men were buried with a joint funeral at Knoxville National Cemetery in 1899.

Seed of history

The seed of the story was planted when Brubaker, a retired investigative reporter for the LNP newspaper in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, columnist, The Scribbler, for LNP for more than 42 years, and author of six books additional, was looking for a story of reconciliation after the civil war. While reading the book “Remembering the Civil War” by Caroline Janney, he was intrigued by its mention of two Civil War officers meeting at the graves of their sons.

“It was only about half a paragraph, but I followed her endnote where she gave the origin of this story in an old magazine,” Brubaker said. He found the magazine online and was able to read the full review. “But the account did not name the men involved, the fathers or the sons,” he said. The story said the young men were both graduates of the University of Tennessee, so Brubaker did some research to find all of the Spanish American War soldiers who had graduated from UT “I found only two that died, and they died together at the El Caney battlefield in Cuba,” he said. “That’s how I found their names, and then I did a lot of research on their families.

The research began seven years ago via online sources.

“I did all of this before I went to Knoxville, and I did it believing I had the right families,” Brubaker said with a laugh. “The Knoxville newspapers weren’t digitized when I started my research, so it wasn’t until I went to Knoxville and the Knox County Public Library and turned to the microfilm reels that I found the stories of the death of the lieutenants that I knew I had the right people.”

In-depth research

Brubaker’s account spans from shortly before the Civil War in 1861 to the end of the Spanish–American War in 1898. Chapters about fathers and sons alternate with chapters about events in eastern Tennessee and elsewhere. Settings include Knoxville, Rogersville, and other locations from eastern Tennessee to the battlefields of Virginia, Arizona, and Cuba.

Extensive research using a number of reference books and online sources for background information on the days and times the two families lived was carried out. Research on the Bernard and McCorkle families, in particular the two veterans and their sons, is drawn from a published biography of Reuben Bernard, digitized newspaper accounts, letters from the four men, recollections of their contemporaries, and stories provided by their descendants. Descendants of the McCorkle family in Mooresburg, Hawkins County hosted a meeting to benefit Brubaker. Additionally, Brubaker found information at, among others, the Knox County Public Library, the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. . He meticulously references all of his sources in the book.

Still, Brubaker would like to find additional information, such as more personal information about those involved.

“What would be the greatest discovery would be letters from Dr. McCorkle or General Bernard, discussing their feelings about the war,” he said.

Complete separation

Brubaker devotes a chapter to the extent of the separation between the veterans of the North and the South.

“National cemeteries were created to bury the dead of the Union. They excluded all Confederate dead except POWs who died while in Union POW camps or in hospitals,” he said. “This decision meant that the Confederates had to set up their cemeteries. From the very beginning of the war until well after the war, the two sides were separated in death as they had been during the war. This was a significant obstacle to reconciliation in the first years after the war. They had separate services for Memorial Day, they erected separate monuments in cemeteries. It was something I was vaguely aware of but hadn’t focused on until this book. This is something that I see as a major part of this difficulty in reconciling after a war.

After the reconstruction, the two parties slowly began to participate in decorating and Memorial Day services together.

“Veterans who died after the war were buried in the same cemeteries, and for me that was part of the reconciliation process.” He also sees McCorkle and Bernard’s meeting at their sons’ graves as a symbol of reconciliation, as men who had been adversaries in the Civil War mourned their sons, who had both fought under the United States flag. died together and were buried in nearby graves.

The book is written in a very readable narrative and all sources are listed. It’s available on Amazon.com for $16.49 in Kindle and $35 in paperback.


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