Hangings at the Depot- CWT
103 Loretta Street
Greeneville, TN 37743
On November 8, 1861, East Tennessee Unionists initiated an attack on Confederate rail service by destroying 5 railroad bridges and area telegraph lines. Two of the conspirators were hanged at the Greeneville Depot.
On the night of November 8, 1861, East Tennessee Unionists initiated an attack on Confederate rail service by destroying railroad bridges. Of the nine bridges targeted, five were successfully rendered inoperable, temporarily halting the rail services of three lines: the East Tennessee and Virginia, the East Tennessee and Georgia, and the Western and Atlantic. The Unionists also damaged area telegraph lines, severing Confederate communication and “isolating” command in Knoxville from Nashville and Richmond, Virginia. President Abraham Lincoln pledged due compensation and protection of the participants in the daring mission and their families, planning to invade East Tennessee concurrently with the bridge burning operation. Unfortunately for the bridge burners, Lincoln’s promise of military support never came to fruition. His commander of the Department of the Cumberland, Gen. William T. Sherman, did not proceed with the invasion. Enraged by the Unionist uprising, Confederate command demanded swift and brutal justice. Those associated with the destruction of bridges were to be apprehended, tried, “and if found guilty, executed on the spot by hanging…It would be well to leave their bodies hanging in the vicinity of the burned bridges,” the instructions continued. For participation, Henry Fry, Jacob Hinshaw, and Harrison Self were tried and sentenced to death by a Confederate court martial. Jacob M. Hinshaw and Henry Fry were hanged on November 30, their bodies left swinging from a tree near the Greeneville depot in full view of passing trains for 24 hours. Only Harrison Self escaped execution. Self had an execution date set for 4 p.m. on December 26. His daughter Elizabeth arrived at the jail to say goodbyes when the permitted time had elapsed, she “came out weeping bitterly, and shedding burning tears.” As a last effort to save her father, Elizabeth telegraphed Confederate President Jefferson Davis pleading for leniency. It read in part, “As he remains my earthly all, and all my hopes of happiness center on him, I implore you to pardon him.” Davis responded with a pardon just two hours before execution time, and Self was set free appearing “as if he had gone through a long spell of sickness.”
- Jacob M. Hinshaw and Henry Fry were hanged on November 30, 1861, for their part in the bridge burnings of Nov. 8.
- Harrison Self, also convicted with them, was pardoned in the nick of time, after his daughter sent a plea to President Jefferson Davis.