Elizabeth Miller Harrell and Simon Harrell

In the Tipton Hill Community Cemetery rests a Union soldier whose company helped kill “the best man in the Southern Confederacy,” General John Hunt Morgan. The phrase comes from one of Morgan’s Captains, Henry B. Clay, who was present at the killing and is quoted in Melanie Storie’s readable and informative book, The Dreaded Thirteenth Tennessee Union Cavalry: Marauding Mountain Men (The History Press, Charleston SC 2013).

We know that Sgt. Simon Harrell, Company M of the 13th TN Calvary, was present on that fateful day because we have a copy of a letter written to his wife Elizabeth in which he confirms his involvement. The 3 ½ page letter includes words of endearment to Elizabeth; assurance that he has looked for a dress pattern for her (probably at Knoxville); that he sent needles, five dollars in “green Back,” and a “tye” for their son Enoch; encouragement for her to plant as much wheat as she can, but he’ll do it if she can’t and he can come home on “fur low;” a surprise visit from Sara and the Boys; and that he has around $140 “cuming” to him. He also says that “we hav not had mutch time fur writing letters Since we come to East Tenn fur we hav wore out nearly all our horses and killd a rite (?) good horses.”

Simon Harrell letter, part 1

Almost giving it a feeling of “oh by the way,” Simon tells her that the company never knows when and where they will be moving out. “The dark est and wetest nite ever saw we traveled all nite and killd old John Morgan at Greenville and severl other rer rebels and took several prisners…”

General John Hunt Morgan and wife Melanie

Controversy continues among historians as to the circumstances and ethics of Morgan’s death; however, we know of at least one local soldier who was directly involved.

Harrell letter, part 2

The story will continue in April 2018 when Melanie Storie (Lecturer, Department of History, ETSU) will present the first Mitchell County Historical Society program of 2018 at the Mitchell County Historic Courthouse. Details to follow.

A special thanks to R.H. and Richard Harrell who came over the mountain from Tennessee and shared this letter with us at Griffith’s Store in Tipton Hill and gave us permission to make photocopies.