William O. “Wild Bill” Sizemore

William O. Sizemore headed one of the most notorious Unionist gangs in northeast Tennessee. At the beginning of the war, Sizemore organized a company of men loosely associated with the Unionist cause that made its name terrorizing southern civilians. He reputedly shot seven Confederate prisoners in federal custody at Rogersville, and generally did as he pleased in the countryside. On April 5,1865, Sizemore appeared at the door of Eliza Fain, a southern sympathizer who lived in Rogersville. After telling Eliza that he intended to destroy her property and burn the house, he turned his men loose to accomplish the task. In Eliza’s words, “such a scene ensued for about half or three-quarters of an hour I have never witnessed.” Sizemore and his accomplices stole all Eliza’s silver, the meat in the smokehouse, a horse, fruit in the cellar, and all the milk and butter in the springhouse. The gang specialized in stealing provisions from citizens and selling the goods to military commissaries. Following the escapade at the Fain house, Sizemore and his men rode on to steal from other families in Rogersville. Fortunately, Bill did not act on his threat to burn Eliza’s house, but later that day the gang murdered five men associated with the secessionist band of Bill Owens. Eliza trusted in God to exact vengeance on Bill Sizemore and, shortly after the war, she got her wish. When the war ended, Sizemore set himself up in Rogersville and continued his bullying ways. In 1867, his cousin Irdell Willis shot him dead in front of the Rogersville courthouse, ending the notorious bandit’s short but violent career as a bushwhacker and robber.

  • Notorious bandit who headed a gang that terrorized civilians supporting Confederacy
  • Specialized in stealing provisions and selling them to the military
  • Shot and killed in Rogersville by his cousin