May 19, 2012

'E.H.W.' Meets a Tennessee Unionist, Later Hanged as a Spy

Location: Pulaski, TN 38478, USA
While traveling through Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee, and the northern part of Alabama, Lancaster's soldier-correspondent Corp. Elias H. Witmer spent some time with a Unionist and former resident of Lancaster.  The man, Samuel W. Kenney, had according to Witmer worked in Lancaster from 1840 to 1841.  He described the conversation and what he learned about Kenney's sufferings as a Unionist in a letter that was extracted in the May 26, 1862, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link

Upon searching for more information about Kenney, I was surprised to not only verify him as a resident of Giles County, Tennessee, but learn that he would be hanged as a spy a year later under the orders of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg.  Fifteen years after the incident, his wife Miriam V. Kenney received a $12/month special pension by act of Congress, with a corroborating letter from General Negley testifying that Kenney indeed was a spy.  According to an forum, the family did not know what happened to Kenney, and it was only in the 1890s that his body was returned to Illinois. 

I'm not sure how to interpret Kenney's status, whether he was actually acting as a spy, or whether he simply aided the Union army when it was in his neck of the woods.  It would be interesting to see the Negley letter, as Negley's pattern of loyalty and helping people around him makes it seem like he would have gladly written to help Kenney's widow based on casual encounters with Kenney.  I'll have to watch for more information about Kenney and the circumstances that led to his execution.   


  1. I have a copy of the letter Negley wrote in 1888. My email address is; could you email me the pages from the book so I can download them to my genealogy program? I will email you the letter.