Editor's note: This is an historical fiction piece submitted by Paula Shannon.
The year was 1861 and the Civil War had just begun. My name is Harry and I was attending Cold Springs School.
I was the youngest of the boys (12) attending in the one room school house. It was located on the McGlothlin farm at the Cross Roads on Hwy. 259 between Mitchellville and Sengtown.
I had to walk three miles each way (uphill both ways) to go to school no matter what the weather. School was stopped when the war began and the school became part of the 2nd Camp Trousdale which was approximately six miles from Richland Station, Tenn. (Name changed to Portland, Tenn. in 1888).
We were a farming community but we did have some stores and a train depot/post office. I had an older brother named Jim. He was 18 and a strong, handsome young man. He stopped going to school when he was in the 8th grade.
I looked up to Jim all my life and now he was joining the Confederate Army (the Grays). It was a very scary time. My Dad was proud that his first born son was going to fight for the southern cause, the correct side.
We didn’t have any slaves mind you, but my father said the war was about state’s rights. My other brothers were Jack, 15, and Harold, 11. My sisters were Ann 14, and Margaret, 8.
Everyone was good at doing the chores on the farm. Sometimes I would sneak off and watch the soldiers at Camp Trousdale do their drill practice. I would get a stick and hold it like they held their guns and march around.
We didn’t see any battles in this area. We did have some skirmishes around here. And then Morgan’s Raiders were always causing trouble around the railroad at South Tunnel.
We had thousands of soldiers in the camp at that time and they were in the 3rd, 8th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 23th, 24th, 32th,35th, 41th, and 45th Infantry divisions. You know that with that many soldiers in a small area you had lots of “latrines” and of course they also butchered animals for food there.
They soon contaminated their water source. Hygiene was very bad and diseases were spreading like wild fire. There was measles, typhoid, mumps, small pox, dysentery, T. B. and don’t forget the mosquitoes causing malaria.
Of course we did have some soldiers who had wounds too. Our little school was turned into an army hospital before 1862.
We are located right on the Kentucky /Tennessee state line and you know our neighbor, Jim Hanna went into Kentucky and joined the Yankees, I would never understand that. He grew up with my brother and now they are fighting on opposite sides of this bloody war.
My sisters and Mom would cut up rags and go to Cold Springs every day to help care for the sick. My sister Ann found a soldier there she was sweet on and she would go read to him every day. His name was James and unfortunately after a few weeks of the fever he died. His spirit is known to frequent here even now.
If you are in the school late at night you will hear moans and groans and you will see a shadow figure at the fireplace. Sometimes the books will fall off the bookcase.
“Do you see that carving on the wall? That’s where James had written Ann’s name.” Ann was so heart broken when James died that she never did marry.
Camp Trousdale, which had moved three times, was disbanded. And in 1865 the soldiers came back home; even our Harry. Harry was different now, older and very depressed.
When the school reopened in 1866, Ann was 18 and she began teaching at Cold Springs School on a certificate. Sometimes when Ann is alone in her classroom after school she can hear James’ voice calling her. She then pulls out his favorite book and starts reading to him. She reads a chapter while the pages become drenched with tears.
Each year, the Highland Rim Historical Society sponsors a ghost story night around Halloween. This year it is only for 3rd graders in area schools on Tuesday, Oct. 29 Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Cold Springs School.
Bonnie Fussell, Jackie Wilber, and Carolyn Meadors do an excellent job telling “not so scary stories.” We hope if you have a third grader that you will bring them that night.
Paula Shannon is a member of the Highland Rim Historical Society.