The war was a life altering experience for the Gammon Family, as it had been for everyone in the country. After 9 months in the prisoner of war camp in Indianapolis, George is released in a prisoner exchange in February of 1865. He wastes no time hooking back up with a unit of the Tennessee army. On their way to Virginia, they find out that Lee has surrendered at Appomattox on April 9th. George makes his way back to Jonesboro, Tennessee and joins his brother Hammy at their uncle’s house. George and Hammy are finally able to return to Knoxville in June of 1865. George writes in his memoir “We met your grandfather, Aunt Jennie and old Billy at the depot and went home. As we walked down Gay Street with our ragged clothes, we were recognized by a few and jeered by some.”1 Soon after George had to go to Chattanooga to take an oath of allegiance to the United States, a step that all Confederates were required to do to begin the process of uniting the country.
Unfortunately, efforts of reconciliation for Knoxville residents were not easy. The effects of civil war on the populace brought out the worst in people as they settled scores from before and during the war. They were also dealing with the deaths of family members, the loss of property and fear of what life be like after the war. It was in this atmosphere that two ex soldiers, Confederate Abner Baker (a college friend of George) and Unionist William Hall, got in a fight and Hall was shot and killed by Baker. A mob formed and took Baker from jail and lynched him. There is still arguments today about who was at fault and the motivations 2, but the end result was that ex Confederate soldiers did not feel safe in Knoxville and many left the city, including George and Hammy. George moved to Memphis and stayed with Col. Robert Fain Looney (an extended family member), until the early part of 1869. Joseph “Hammy” Gammon moved to London, Kentucky and stayed there until he died in 1873.
Nathan Gammon appears to have remained in Knoxville and applied for amnesty directly to his old Tennessee friend, President Andrew Johnson, in late July of 1865. His world had literally turned upside down in just 5 years. In 1860, he had been a clerk of the District Court of the United States, with a large family and moderate wealth. He is indicted for treason by a Grand Jury in 1864 related to his service in the Court of the Confederacy. At the end of the war, he is obliged to appeal to the President for a special pardon, so as to be able to do any type of business and provide for his family. It is not surprising that he died within a few years on June 14, 1869.
I haven’t been able to find the family in the 1870 census or the 1869 city directory, but according to the Pritchett book, Jennie, George and their mother Mary were living in Knoxville in reduced circumstances. The next available city directory is not until 1876, but there I found George working as a bookkeeper. George eventually marries, owns his own insurance company and is elected to local political offices. Jennie is listed in the 1882 city directory working as a teacher at the Bell House School. Knoxville started the free public school system in 1871 and in 1876 a teacher’s salary was $44.05 per month.3 Jennie is the principle of the school by 1888 and continues in that role through 1892. She returns to being a teacher in 1893 and seems to retire by 1899. Through the years the family is able to recover financially and build a new life with respect from their community. Jennie never marries and lives with her mother Mary, her brother and his family for most of her life. Mary dies in 1895 and George dies in 1915.
In December of 1925, Jennie is in a car accident with her family on Christmas Eve and dies the next day of complications. The articles about the car accident and her obituary all mention how much Jennie was admired and loved by former students. I bet she was a tough teacher, but loyal and loving…just as she was with her family.
Note: I relied heavily on Margaret Gammon Pritchett’s book, The Gammons of East Tennessee, to help fill in the gaps when records were missing. She mentions in her introduction that she was left many letters and first hand accounts of the Civil War from her father’s family. This is a reminder (again) of how important it is to document our family’s history, as this might be the only way for their story to be told and heard by following generations. Thank you Ms. Pritchett for taking the time to write it all down!
1 Margaret Gammon Pritchett, The Gammons of East Tennessee (Jacksonville: M.G. Pritchett, 1992), 101.
2 Amy McRary, “Ex-Confederate Abner Baker was hanged by mob,” (Knoxville) News Sentinel, 12 Apr 2015, p. 8E, cols. 1-5.
3 Knoxville City Schools, A history of the Knoxville public schools. (Knoxville: Knoxville Public Schools, 1952).
Other Records used:
- Census and slave schedules – Ancestry.com
- Nathan Gammon’s Confederate amnesty request – Ancestry.com
- Obituaries – Gammon Family File, McClung Collection, Knoxville, TN
- Knoxville City Directories – McClung Collection, Knoxville, TN
- Jennie’s Death Certificate – Ancestry.com
- National Park Service Civil War Soldiers Database
- Library of Congress Digital Collection – Photographs from the Civil War
- McKenzie, Robert Tracy. Lincolnites and Rebels: A Divided Town in the American Civil War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
I wonder if anyone will ever think our lives are as interesting as those who went before us? Of course, we wouldn’t wish a civil-war-type-of-interesting on anyone! And to think that Jennie went from being born in the horse and buggy days pre-civil war, to having long career and eventually dying in an auto accident! That woman saw a lot happen in her life time.
Yes, I know what you mean…my life doesn’t seem very exciting compared to Jennie’s. But yet when you think of our lives in the historical context in which we live, we become the manifestation of current events and trends. Hopefully someone will be interested in what we did!