John Spence


John Cedric Spence was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 1809 to Irish immigrant John Spence and Virginia resident Mary Chism. After seven years of schooling and an eight-year apprenticeship with his uncle, Spence opened a store in Sommerville, Tennessee, in 1832. He operated the store until 1847, when he moved to Memphis. In 1849, Spence moved back to Murfreesboro to engage in business. In 1854, he established the Red Cedar Bucket Factory at the present day site of the Murfreesboro Police Department, but later relocated it to the freight depot. He was a meticulous diarist, documenting as much history as possible that fell between the years 1799 and 1870. During wartime, Spence covered a variety of topics: battles, contrabands, women’s efforts, hospitals, refugees, the United States Colored Troops, and more. Spence was a staunch Unionist at the beginning of the war, but as it dragged on, he aligned himself more and more with the south. Due to failing health, Spence was unable to serve in the military. However, motivated by his sense of duty to recording history, Spence left a comprehensive collection of writings on contemporary events in and around Murfreesboro. A Diary of the Civil War contains all of his related writings, providing valuable insights into the battle that took place in his backyard: the Battle of Stones River. The three-day battle resulted in Confederate forces retreating further south and Federal forces encamping on the battlefields just outside of Murfreesboro. Spence wrote that so many Confederate wounded died “so fast that coffins could not be procured for them. A long ditch would have to be made, soldiers roped up in their blankets. In this way, laid in close to each other and covered up.” There were so many wounded that “the whole town appeared to be one general hospital.” Food and wood were in such short supply that both soldier and citizen scrambled to keep from starving or freezing. Refugees, black and white alike, began pouring into Murfreesboro looking for aid and shelter.

  • Businessman who established Red Cedar Bucket Factory, Murfreesboro
  • Kept a meticulous diary, A Diary of the Civil War, of battles, refugees, contrabands, women's war efforts, hospitals, Colored Troops, contemporary events and more