I was first intrigued by Jennie, when I saw her name on the notable persons list at Old Gray’s cemetery with the description “Helping nurse the wounded, CSA”. We don’t often know the stories of the women who lived through the Civil War and I was curious about what I could find out about her.
Jennie was one of 6 children born to Mary Hamilton and Nathan Gammon in Jonesboro, Tennessee. The family already had deep roots in the area; Nathan’s grandfather Richard Gammon signed the Tennessee State Constitution in 1796. Nathan moved his family to Knoxville in the 1850’s where he was a merchant responsible for transporting goods from the Tennessee River to the interior. When the railroad came to town, he served as the first freight agent. He later became Clerk for the District Court of the United States (Court of the Confederacy in 1861-1863). It is reported that Jennie helped her father with transcribing documents for the court. The family owned 5 slaves (3 adult males and 2 children), according to the slave schedules of 1850 and 1860.
Jennie would have been 26 years old when the Civil War started. Her three brothers William, Joseph Hamilton (Hammy) and George joined the Confederate Army. At first this would have been a heady, high-spirited, patriotic time when the Confederate Army was in control of Knoxville, but it must have quickly became more stressful as the tides of war turned. William was wounded in the arm and unable to stay in the army. He was released from service in the spring of 1863. It appears that Hammy served the Confederate cause until the war ended in 1865. He must have had some perilous experiences as suggested from family letters that tell of his near escapes from capture. Unfortunately, George was not so lucky and he was taken prisoner by the Union Army in the summer of 1864 and taken to Camp Morton in Indianapolis.
In September 1864, William traveled to Indiana to see George at the Confederate prisoner of war camp. He was unable to see him in person, but left him gifts and money from the family. Afterwards, William went north to New York and New Jersey. It is not clear from his letters if he was there on family or military business. And then he disappears……. His father, Nathan, looked for him after the war, but without success. The family assumed that he was murdered. (I have some very un-genealogically supported theories on this one….but perhaps I have read too many mystery/conspiracy books.)
Meanwhile, Knoxville was occupied by the Union Army by the fall of 1863 and the Union sympathizers had their revenge on the Confederate supporters. According to family stories (I haven’t been able to get a copy of “Reminisces” presented to the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1899 which might confirm these), Jennie was small but a “veritable storehouse of energy.” She protected her family from angry mobs and went to court with her father when he was arrested for treason for his role as Clerk for Court of the Confederacy. She fed and nursed Confederate Soldiers that were at the temporary hospital at the University of Tennessee. She even received a bullet wound in her leg by a stray “minnie” and refused to be seen by a Union doctor. She sounds like a spitfire!
More about Jennie’s life after the Civil War in Part II