This letter was written by Thomas Crutchfield, Jr. (1830-1886). Upon his father’s death in 1850, Thomas Crutchfield, Jr. took over operation of Chattanooga’s largest hotel, the Crutchfield House. It was located on Ninth Street but was destroyed by fire in 1867. Thomas Crutchfield, Jr. became mayor at a time when Chattanooga faced tough financial times. The city’s investment in so many railroad projects and officials refusal to levy taxes against its citizens had drained the city’s coffers throughout the mid-1850s. Though 1859 saw the completion of the Union Depot, the city’s financial future looked dim, forcing the Mayor and alderman to secure a $50,000 loan from a New York bank. The terms of the loan pledged the “property and faith of the city” for security.
In the late winter of 1861, as the country approached the Civil War, Thomas Crutchfield sold his hotel. Following the Civil War, Crutchfield opened a general merchandise store along Market Street. Unlike other southern businessmen, Thomas Crutchfield maintained enough capital following the Civil War that he was able to become a shareholder in the First National Bank when it incorporated in Chattanooga in the fall of 1865. [See Crutchfield Family Papers at the Tennessee State Library & Archives]
Crutchfield owned a sizable farm near Chattanooga known as the River Farm from which he undoubtedly penned this letter to his uncle in Athens, Georgia, with whom he apparently carried on a regular correspondence during the war. See Letter dated 25 July 1863.
14 July 1863
I have written you occasionally and kept you advised of movements generally as best I could. As to army movements now, everything to the outside would seem to be in status quo. Lee, I am advised, is fortifying at Antietam. I don’t see how he can hold that position. It seems that he must fall back or lose Richmond. It is too long a line and can be too easily flanked and his supplies & reinforcements will be a source of no little trouble to him.
I think from the movements here it is the intention to make the Tennessee River from Bridgeport up the line in connection with the forces at the gap, thence on through to Lee in Virginia. I think Rosecrans’ next move will be to flank Bragg by way of Guntersville, Gadsden, Rome &c., by a heavy cavalry force, destroying railroads, bridges, &c. and I think Bragg fears a move of that kind as I am advised he has sent a heavy force to Rome. Chattanooga is being fortified all around and batteries are being placed on the river. From it, it would seem that Bragg intended to make a stand here and dispute the passage of the Tennessee.
There is much anxiety manifested upon the part of the citizens and soldiers as to the present military status of the Confederacy. Some are desponding while some still have bright hopes. There is great anxiety about Joe Johnston. It is generally conceded that he cannot hold Jackson [Mississippi] having only 22,000 men while Grant has treble or quadruple that, and it is generally a wonder why he made a stand at Jackson. There are many surmises as to what point he will fall back on, whether upon Mobile or Montgomery, or whether he will make a junction with Bragg with the view, ultimately, of consolidating the whole Confederate army in the central Confederate States.
I learn that the Atlanta paper has a telegram that Morris Island off Charleston had fallen. I am advised that no such dispatch has been received at our office here. Upon the whole, the “situation” looks quite squally. I have thought for a long time Vicksburg would be the pivot of the war and I have no cause as yet to change my opinion.
As a protection to my wife during my absence at the other farm, I got Judge Moore of Florence, Alabama (who is the president of the Military Court of Hardee’s Corps) and his wife to board at my house. Today the Judge brought out Generals [William Joseph] Hardee & [Leonidas] Polk to dine with us. Mrs. Moore thinks General Hardee was depressed in spirits, whether from National or other troubles, she could not divine.
We would be glad to hear from you, Hope you will not be annoyed with troops as we are, though I learn some cavalry has been ordered to Athens. I know not what for unless to recruit their horses.
All in usual health & join me in much love to all. Truly &c., your nephew, — Tom Crutchfield
Wednesday morning, 15 July 1863
No encouraging news this morning. Suppose that the news is suppressed from Charleston. Fears are entertained for its safety. There was a colonel of a South Carolina regiment at my house this morning hunting some place to put his family. He told us that when he was in Charleston only a few weeks since, that there was only five regiments there—two of them regulars and the other three volunteers. It is supposed that Morris Island has given way. If so, the reduction of Fort Sumter & Charleston is a mere question of time. It was from Morris Island at Cummings’ Point, which is on the point of the island, that we reduced Sumter. Everybody is alarmed and much anxiety manifested even among officials.
I am writing in Post Office & they want to close here [so] I must. Yours, — Tom