Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Death Of General Felix Zollicoffer

 General Felix Zollicoffer is another of the prominent people buried in Nashville's Old City Cemetery. He was the first Confederate General to be killed in the Western Theater during the Civil War. He was born in Maury County Tennessee on May 19, 1812 and died January 19, 1862 at the Battle of Fishing Creek Kentucky or as it is also called the Battle of Mill Springs. Zollicoffer began learning the printing business at the age of sixteen and would work at many newspapers over the years. He would also serve in many political offices including the state legislature and three terms as a U.S. Congressman. His only military experience before the Civil War was as a young Lieutenant in the Second Seminole War. He was opposed to secession and voted for Nashvillian John Bell in 1860. He also attended the Washington D.C. peace conference in 1861, which was a last minute effort to avoid the Civil War.

  On May 9, 1861 he was commissioned as a Brigadier General in the State Provisional Army by Governor Isham G. Harris. At the outbreak of the war he was the editor of the Nashville Banner and lived in a house that sat on the corner where the Tennessee Performing Arts building is today in Nashville. Zollicoffer was the epitome of a political general that was common in the Civil War. He had little or no military experience. On July 9, 1861 he was transferred with the same rank to the Confederate Army. His first assignment was to East Tennessee with 4,000 raw troops to suppress anti-Confederate resistance. In September he was sent to capture Cumberland Gap and Eastern Kentucky. After two battles at Barbourville which was a Confederate victory and Wildcat Mountain, which was a defeat.

  He eventually set up winter quarters at Mill Springs Kentucky. By this time he was superseded by General George Crittenden and was assigned to command of a brigade. However the South bank of the Cumberland at that point was a good defensive position but the North bank was low and flat which was a poor defensive position. Zollicoffer was ordered to move to the South bank. He refused because he did not have enough boats to cross quickly and he was afraid that he would be attacked halfway across the Cumberland. On January 19, 1862 he was attacked by General George H. Thomas in the rain. Zollicoffer was nearsighted and it was almost dusk. He ran upon a Union Officer named Colonel Speed S. Fry surveying the battlefield. Zollicoffer shouted at him not to fire on his own men thinking he was a Confederate. Fry rode off and was shot at. Realizing his mistake he turned and shot Zollicoffer along with other Union soldiers. Zollicoffer fell dead. He was embalmed by Union forces and sent back to Nashville where he was buried.

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