War on the Plateau: Raids in Van Buren County
427 College Street
Spencer, TN 38585
The Civil War first touched Van Buren County in 1861 when Confederates under James Randals began mining Big Bone Cave's saltpeter deposits. By 1863, 4,017 pounds of nitre--essential to the manufacture of gunpowder--had been produced. During Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's Kentucky campaign in September 1862, 2nd Lt. Carrol H. Clark and Sgt. Darius Clark of the 16th Tennessee Infantry wrote in their diaries for Sept. 1: "We marched all night and on the second day we struck Cane Creek near the mouth in Van Burian (Buren) County and camped at the Bija Crane Place. The distance we marched that night was 20 miles." Later that month, Confederate Col. Joseph Wheeler reported a "slight skirmish" at the farm of Mrs. John Fleming, a widow, where the Spencer-to-Dunlap Road crossed Harrison Road.