Robert Hopkins Hatton


“Disunion is inevitable. What will follow, God only knows,” wrote Congressman Robert Hatton from Washington, D. C. on December 5, 1860. Born November 2, 1826 in Youngstown, Ohio, Hatton came to Tennessee in the 1830s. At age 14, Hatton nearly died from fever. The mercury used to treat him caused what biographer James Vaulx Drake called a “partially disfigured mouth” that frothed or drooled when he spoke for long (such as in court). Hatton graduated from Cumberland University in 1847. He enrolled in law school, but lack of money forced him to study independently. He earned his license and practiced law in Lebanon until his political career took off. Methodist, Whig (of the Henry Clay variety), and Know-Nothing by affiliation, Hatton was elected to the state General Assembly in 1855, then served in Congress from 1859 to 1861. In a speech to Wilson County Unionists, Hatton chastised Southern sympathizers who were openly hissing at him. The secessionists appeared that night at his house. In night clothes, Hatton dispersed the crowd by firing into the air. The crowd returned several shots without injury before it moved down the street and burned Hatton in effigy. Though a slaveholder, Hatton was staunchly anti-war, but his compromises and appeals fell on deaf ears. In May 1861, Governor Isham Harris called for volunteers, forcing Hatton to choose between state and nation. Hatton’s loyalty remained with Tennessee. He formed a company of Wilson County men mustered into service on May 22. They travelled up the Louisville and Nashville Railroad to Camp Trousdale at Richland Station and joined the Seventh Tennessee Infantry, with Hatton as Colonel. The Seventh went to Virginia with the First and the Fourteenth Infantry Regiments under Brigadier General Samuel R. Anderson. When Anderson resigned in April 1862, Hatton was given command of the force. On May 31, 1862, at the Battle of Seven Pines near Richmond, a Minie ball killed General Hatton instantly. Hatton, age 36, left behind his widow, Sophie, and three young children. On March 23, 1866, nearly four years later, Hatton was buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Lebanon,

  • Pre-war Congressman from Wilson County
  • Slaveholder who actively supported the Union
  • Chose state over country and formed a company of Wilson County men, who joined the Confederacy as part of Seventh Tennessee Infantry
  • Killed at the Battle of Seven Pines