Monthly Archives: September 2010

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of September 27

This week, thirty-eight additions to the Civil War category in the Historical Marker Database.  States represented are Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

– The Tannehill Ironworks near McCalla, Alabama provided kettles, ovens, hollow-ware, harness and canteens to the Confederate government.

– The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument in Norwalk, Connecticut honors that community’s Civil War veterans.

– Several markers from around Milledgeville, Georgia.  Some 25,000 Federals camped outside of the city on November 22-25, 1864.   General Sherman briefly used the Governor’s Mansion as his headquarters.  St. Stephens Episcopal Church was damaged when the nearby arsenal was destroyed.

– A stone marker in Atlanta notes the location of Manigault’s Brigade during the Battle of Atlanta, July 22, 1864.

– Several markers related to the Battle of Ezra Church, on the west side of Atlanta.  On July 26, 1864 General S.D. Lee’s Corps stepped off to attack Federal lines from a line near present day West View Cemetery.   General J.C. Brown’s division led the attack on the left of Lee’s line.  Clayton’s Division advanced on the left.    Lick Skillet Road was a prominent feature on the battlefield.

– A wayside marker in Augusta, Georgia orients visitors to the site of the Augusta Arsenal.

– A state marker in West Point, Georgia details an action fought there on April 16, 1865.  Fort Tyler was the last Confederate fort to fall in the war.

– Some of the interpretive markers recently added from Fort Scott, Kansas cover Civil War related topics.  On December 16, 1858, “Free Staters” raided the fort to free one of their imprisoned compatriots.  Another marker discusses garrison activities during the war.

– A marker near Cynthiana, Kentucky discusses Dr. James A. Henshall author, naturalist, and physician, who rendered aid to wounded of both sides during the war.

– John J. Crittenden, of Russellville, Kentucky, worked hard in the early days of the war to find a compromise.  The war divided his family, with his sons on opposite sides, both serving as generals.

– In Southeast Missouri, the towns of Poplar Bluff and Caruthersville suffered from guerrilla activities during the war.

– The Federal Army of Southeast Missouri wintered near Van Buren, Missouri in the winter of 1862-63.

– On September 23, 1861 Kansas troops under General James H. Lane destroyed the town of Osceola, Missouri.   Parts of the movie Outlaw Josy Wales are based on this episode.

– Missouri State Guard under General Sterling Price defeated some of the Kansas “Jay Hawkers” on September 2, 1861 at the battle of Drywood, near modern Nevada, Missouri.

– A memorial in Passaic, New Jersey honors soldiers of the Revolutionary and Civil War.

– Another marker tracing Morgan’s Raid this week, this time from near Harrisville, Ohio.

Camp Boone, just over the Kentucky-Tennessee state line near Clarksville, Tennessee, served as a muster point for Kentucky men joining the Confederate army.

– A combined operation at Galveston, Texas on January 1, 1863 recaptured the port for the Confederacy.  Captaining one of the Confederate ships was Leon Smith. Smith was very active with coastal patrols and blockade running during the war.  Confederate troops occupied fortifications on Virginia Point outside Galveston.

– A state marker notes the location of Fort Martin Scott, in Fredericksburg, Texas.  The fort was a pre-war frontier fort, used by Confederates during the war.

– A memorial in Isle of Wight, Virginia honors the county’s Confederate veterans.

– A state marker in Jonesville, Virginia briefly notes an action fought there on January 3, 1864, resulting in a disaster for a Federal raiding force.  Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, a leader in the field of osteopathy, was born in Jonesville and served in the war.

– A state marker and a Civil War Trails marker discuss the Battle of Marion, Virginia, fought on December 17-18, 1864.   Colonel William Peters, of the 21st Virginia Cavalry, and college professor both pre- and post-war, was buried in Marion.

– A memorial in Surry, Virginia honors Surry County’s Confederates.  A nearby plaque notes the death of Captain Jacob Faulcon, killed during a Federal raid on November 11, 1864.

– A marker near Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin discusses a Chippewa settlement there.  Many of the tribe fought in the Union army during the war.  The famous Old Abe mascot of the 8th Wisconsin was captured on the lake.

Pea Ridge: A Restored Battlefield

Yesterday I closed saying Pea Ridge was a well restored and maintained battlefield.   Yes restored.

When established in 1956, Pea Ridge National Battlefield Park included over 4,000 acres of the core battlefield area.  Unlike many other fields, Pea Ridge’s bounds included nearly all the contested ground.  But that area included several dozen structures – homes, barns, cribs – none of which dated to the war.  Farmers cleared much of the wartime forests for fields in the years after the war.   The effect of agricultural activity on the battlefield is clear in this 1940’s aerial photograph.

1940's Aerial Photo of Pea Ridge (see note)

With a patchwork of fields across the core battlefield area, only the familiar Big Mountain along with traces of the road network stand out.   I’ve traced placed some notations on the photo in the view below.

1940s Map with Fields, Roads and Points Noted. (Click to enlarge.)

Yellow lines show the existing road network.  In particular notice the Telegraph and Leetown Roads, which were still in full use at that time.   On the left, County Road 700 would become the western boundary of the park.  I don’t think the US highways were designated in the 1940s, but have labeled them as such here for reference.  Green boxes indicate the important fields that existed during the battle.  And I’ve added some red stars for notable reference points for discussion.

In stark contrast to the forest with a few patches of fields, in 1940 only a few stands of trees stood on what was otherwise an expanse of farmer’s fields.  Numerous buildings appear in those fields.

On the left, notice the Leetown battlefield.  The wood line where McCulloch and McInstosh fell was not there in 1940.   Morgan’s Woods, where combatants fought a bitter close-quarters contest, were also gone save a small stand of trees.   Little Mountain retained its wooded slopes, but stood surrounded by open, clear fields.

Looking to the eastern part of the field, at Welfley’s Knoll shadows of several buildings lay in what is an enlarged Cox’s Field.  Big Mountain, while still wooded, had several open fields on top.  A new structure stood at the site of Elkhorn Tavern.  And the wood lines around Ruddick’s and Clemon’s fields were gone.  The wide intersections near the tavern imply that the Telegraph Road, Ford Road, and Huntsville Road were in use.

Compare to a Google Earth view today, with the same points indicated.

Modern View of Pea Ridge Battlefield

(You may wish to browse the Google Map I prepared this from for reference also.)

Most apparent are the restored wood lines.  But look close.  Practically no buildings (Elkhorn Tavern, the visitor center, and some park maintenance areas).  Where did they go?  In a visit to the battlefield in the  early 1980s, I recall seeing debris piles and remains off to the sides of the display areas.  At that time park rangers indicated those were structures leveled for landscape restoration.   (During my recent visit, a volunteer at the park further elaborated that in the 1960s, many structures were simply leveled in place as the park lacked funds.  Those were cleaned up over time.)

So can you “restore” a battlefield?  Perhaps.  In the case of Pea Ridge, the National Park Service worked for more than half a century to restore wood lines and clear non-wartime structures.  Sure, no shopping complexes or apartments were leveled, but the starting point in 1956 was far from the 1862 appearance.  The change is remarkable, but is not the whole story.  The overhead views do not provide details of fence lines, artillery pieces, and a reconstructed Elkhorn Tavern.   For those touches, organizations outside the park aided the efforts (and rightfully should be covered in another post).

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Elkhorn Tavern from the old Huntsville Road Trace

Pea Ridge was not exactly a pristine battlefield which the park service simply had to maintain.  When created in 1956, the field was a diamond in the rough that has taken well to fifty plus years of polishing.


NOTE:   Source for the aerial photo is “The Battle Raged…With Terrible Fury:” Battlefield Archeology of Pea Ridge National Military Park, Midwest Archeological Center Technical Report No. 112, by Carl G. Carlson-Drexler, Douglas D. Scott, and Harold Roeker.   Lincoln, Nebraska:  United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Midwest Archeological Center, 2008, page 7.   I recommend this very detailed study of the field’s artifacts for those interested in the battlefield.

Massed Artillery in the West: Pea Ridge

In his report of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Captain Louis Hoffmann, Forth Independent Battery, Ohio Light Artillery recounted his activities on March 8, 1862:

The battery was placed on the left wing of the First Division, on a high plateau, and has not changed its position, firing without interruption during nearly four hours. After having compelled the enemy to stop the firing of his batteries, Hoffmann’s battery turned its whole attention to a high rocky hill opposite our plateau, occupied by the strongest force of the enemy, for the support of our infantry, which that time commenced its marching up the said rocky hill…. The four 6-pounder rifled guns of the battery have thrown 460 shots and the two howitzers 106 shells and spherical case. [OR, Series I, Volume 8, Serial 8, page 238]

Hoffmann’s battery was one of six batteries, or surviving portions of, massed on the Federal left on the second day of battle at Pea Ridge.  All told, twenty-one cannons formed across Cox’s Field, spanning from the Ford Farm nearly to the Telegraph Road.

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Right End of Federal Gun Line in Cox’s Field

The massed guns was the largest concentration of field artillery seen thus far in the war (keep in mind Shiloh was a month in the future, and the great eastern battles of 1862 had yet to transpire).  In what was perhaps the greatest day in his military career, Brigadier General Franz Sigel, commanding the First and Second Divisions (in other words a “wing”) of the army, directed this concentrated firepower against the Confederate lines in preparation for an infantry assault.

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View of Confederate Lines Opposite Cox’s Field

Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis, commanding the Army of the Southwest, put events in motion the previous night by ordering Sigel to concentrate his command for a morning attack against Confederates.  Sigel sent his First Division commander, Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus, to examine the ground and begin placing the troops.  Osterhaus, exhibiting a keen eye for terrain, noted a rise on the western side of Cox’s Field.   Today the ground is known as Welfley’s Knoll, named for Captain Martin Welfley, whose Missouri Light Artillery deployed on that high ground.

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Looking West Down Federal Artillery Line at Welfley’s Knoll

On the Confederate side, Major General Earl Van Dorn did not prepare for this concentrated assault.  At no time during the morning were more than a dozen guns positioned to counter Sigel’s artillery.  In his official report, Van Dorn cited ammunition shortages.   To some degree this was true, but Van Dorn and his commanders did little to direct the guns in defense.

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Confederate Gunner’s View of Telegraph Road and Federal Guns

But other factors also worked against the rebel gunners.  The lay of the ground worked against the Confederates.  Big Mountain hemmed in the Confederate right flank.  And batteries deployed at the edge of Cox’s Field were enfiladed by Welfley’s Battery.  Ranges varied between 500 yards to 800 yards.  With many rifled guns and better fuze-shell combinations, the Federal gunners had a technical advantage also.

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Welfley’s Knoll from the Confederate Gun Line

The bombardment left a memorable impression upon those on the field that day.  Some witnesses estimated a cannon fired once every two seconds that morning.  Just based on Hoffmann’s report, that Ohio battery averaged a shot every two minutes over the span of four hours from each rifled gun; and one every four minutes from each howitzer.  And likely the average does not properly reflect the intense firing mid morning.   Still even a conservative estimate is a round every thirty seconds from Hoffmann’s gunners alone.

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View of Confederate Artillery from Welfley’s Knoll

Under cover of this bombardment, Sigel advanced his infantry in bounds to staging points.  Upon seeing several Confederate batteries withdraw, Curtis remarked to Sigel, “General, I think the infantry might advance now.”  With that order, the entire Army of the Southwest, four divisions, stood on line and advanced.  A sight not often seen during the war in the east, much less in the far west.   The infantry assault broke the Confederate line and triggered a general retreat, if not full route.

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View of Cox’s Field from East Overlook

On the second day of Pea Ridge artillery did pave the way for an infantry assault.  Some will point out the Confederate Army of the West was not widely equipped with rifled muskets.  That may be true, but the bombardment ranges at Pea Ridge were closer than at battles later in the war.  And those massed guns were mostly Mexican War vintage smoothbores and 6-pdr bronze rifles, with only a handful of 12-pdr Napoleons.  That said, perhaps, with the bombardment and the grand attack of the Army of the Southwest on line considered, Pea Ridge was among the last true “Napoleonic” battles.

The restored and well maintained battlefield at Pea Ridge offers the student of the war the opportunity to study the tactical use of massed batteries.  And that battlefield preservation is the subject of my next post on Pea Ridge.

The Forgotten Theaters?

I started out to title this post “Eastern Theater Exclusivity,” but felt that rather bias, and off the direction of my thoughts.  Since my relocation to Virginia a few years back, I’ve been attracted to these great eastern battlefields.  As any Civil War enthusiast would, I love the “anniversary” events in the parks (and yes I missed the Antietam hikes this year – double darn it).  But leave it to Lee White to remind me more than one of the war’s great battles shares the September 17 date.

As I’ve mentioned before, my focus for years was towards the western theater (with I would argue the trans-Mississippi thrown in).  Perhaps because I grew up near those battlefields.  Or perhaps the Army opted to station me at installations in Georgia and Texas.  Regardless, my exposure to the eastern theater was through books, reinforced during furloughs crammed full of stops and tours.  (I fondly recall a “monsoon rain” day at Manassas in 1993, with nothing but my Army issue poncho for protection.  You do learn a lot of about battlefields in adverse weather, I suppose.)  Still, I strove to understand the eastern theater, if not in detail at least to be conversant.

Yet, I’ll often hear from my comrades here in the east something to the effect, “Oh, you mean there was activity west of the Shenandoah?”  Sure, it is always in jest.  But the comment is usually accompanied with, “I really need to read up on the western theater.”  Not a knock on those folks, but personally, when I’ve admitted a lean area in my study as such, then I am inclined (if not outright challenged) to resolve such a gap with further studies – to round out my understanding.   Sure, none of us are likely to achieve the mastery of the subject to the level of Ed Bearss.  He’s one in a million, and spent most of his life in pursuit of greater understanding of the topic. But my goal is to continue to push the boundaries of my understanding, conceding I’ll never cover it to that level of mastery.

I would say the same applies outside of the military aspects, in particular to the social, political, and even financial subject areas as pertaining to the war.   History is not a linear study, but one of connections and associations.  Hard to say what influences played upon a particular event unless one approaches the study with a broad view.   (Hey, just who exactly was this Jay Cooke guy, and how did his bond/note sales effect the war effort?)

Yes, I feel the turning point for the Federals came when Grant chose to renew battle on April 7, 1862 at Shiloh.    And yes, Confederate defeat was sealed when The Army of the Cumberland overran Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863.  But I won’t let my opinions limit my studies. I’d be a fool not to capitalize on my location here in the “seat of the war,” as it may be.

I’ve been in a “western” mood lately, mostly due to recent visits out that way.  I’ll get back to “eastern” topics at some point.  But there are so many interconnected threads between the theaters and topics.  For now, I prefer to be unfettered by faceted studies.  I’d prefer to work that whole field of “high cotton.”

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of September 20

A lot of activity in the Civil War category of the Historical Marker Database this week.  Seventy-four entries from eleven states – Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia:

– Burned by Federals in April 1863, LaGrange College near Leighton, Alabama never reopened.

– A marker in Tuscalosa, Alabama adds more details to the April 1865 defense by the city’s Home Guard, led by Benjamin F. Eddins.

– A state marker in Rockmart, Georgia notes the passing of Federal troops on their way to attack the Dallas Line in May 1864.

– Speaking of Dallas, three markers from the Dallas, Georgia vicinity.  One notes the site of the Robertson House, used by General William Hardee as a headquarters.  Two other state markers indicate the arrival of McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee on May 24, and the advance to Pumpkin Vine Creek on May 25-26.

– Two markers in Atlanta, Georgia discuss the Battle of Moore’s Mill fought on July 19, 1864.

– Two markers from Millidgeville, Georgia discuss March to the Sea. A junction of the Federal 20th and 14th Corps occurred outside Millidgeville on November 23, 1864.  The 20th Corps continued on to Milledgeville to produce a bit of damage to say the least.

Four markers at the Cumberland Gap discuss untested fortifications, built by both sides, defending that strategic gap.  On the Virginia side of the gap is a state marker noting the advance of General Burnside in 1863.

Cumberland Ford, outside Pineville, Kentucky, was used by both sides during the campaigns in eastern Kentucky.  Pineville is the county seat of Bell County, named for Joshua Fry Bell.  Bell was the state’s delegate to the unsuccessful 1861 peace conference.

Fort Clay was a component of the Federal defenses of Lexington, Kentucky.  Jefferson Davis lived in Lexington while a student, 1821-24.

Two battles were fought at Cynthiana, Kentucky.  Both associated with raids, one in 1862 and the other in 1864,  by General John H. Morgan.

Four markers interpret the Battle of Barbourville, Kentucky.

– A marker in Port Gibson, Mississippi discusses the battle fought there on May 1, 1863, as part of Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign.

– Speaking of Vicksburg, an entry this week cites the engine of the U.S.S. Cairo as a mechanical engineering landmark.

– I only managed to document one of the dozen interpretive markers for the Battle of Springfield, Missouri on my recent visit.  Hopefully a “marker hunter” out that way can finish the task.

Eminence, Missouri, situated in the scenic Spring Region of the state, was burned by guerrilla bands during the war, and rebuilt at the present day site.

The Grubb Cottage in Burlington, New Jersey was built for General Edward Grubb, of the 3rd, 10th, 23rd and 37th New Jersey.  The architect was his friend Frank Furness, who earned the Medal of Honor for actions at Trevilian Station.

– A simple plaque near Sunbury, Ohio indicates the birthplace of General William Rosecrans.

– Jay Cooke, known as the financier of the Civil War, built a grand mansion near Put-in-Bay, Ohio, on Lake Erie.

Fourteen entries from western Ohio this week covering Morgan’s 1863 Raid.  Many are bronze plaques without attribution.  I would appreciate hearing from any reader who might know what organization placed these.

– A state marker at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania reminds us the town was raided in 1862, occupied in 1863, then burned in 1864.

– A state marker and a U.D.C. memorial recall the Battle of Dingle’s Mill fought in the closing days of the war near Sumter, South Carolina.

– A Civil War Trails marker in Harrogate, Tennessee notes Lincoln Memorial University was founded based on the wishes of President Lincoln, expressed to General O.O. Howard.

Eighteen entries this week from the Lookout Mountain battlefield, overlooking Chattanooga, Tennessee.

– A memorial in Fayetteville, Tennessee honors the women of the Confederacy.

– A Civil War Trails marker relates aspects of Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia.

– A marker in Amelia Court House, Virginia provides a brief biography of John Banister Tabb.  Tab served on a blockade runner and later the 59th Virginia during the war.  Post-war he was a noted poet and priest.

– A Civil War Trails marker near Smithfield, Virginia orients visitors to Fort Huger which defended the James River.

– A marker in Windsor, Virginia relates the remarkable story of the Roberts brothers.  Seven brothers served from 1861 to the end of the war (six in the 16th Virginia and one in the 11th North Carolina)… and all survived the war.

20-pdr, or 3.67-inch, Navy Parrott Rifle

Yesterday I mentioned a 20-pdr Navy Parrott Rifle on display in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.   Having discussed the Army’s version of this caliber in an earlier post, perhaps it is time to properly introduce the Navy model.

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20-pdr or 3.67-inch Navy Parrott Rifle

The Navy received 336 of the 20-pdrs from West Point Foundry during the Civil War.  The main difference between the Army and Navy model was the breeching jaws in place of the Army’s knob.  Here’s what the Army’s looked like:

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Breech of 20-pdr Army - Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg

Compare to the profile on the Navy Parrott in the same caliber:

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Breeching Jaws of 20-pdr Navy Parrott

A set of jaws, with a block spanning the opening, forms a “loop” through which passed a breeching tackle rope to restrain the gun when fired.  A pin held the block in place.  You can see the join between the block and jaws, which I would assume is welded in place today.  Also note the rear sight socket on the right side of the breech band.  Normally the socket, which is the same used on Army models, was set with the hole oriented vertically.  I would guess during repairs or other work, the sight socket was twisted, and is out of alignment today.

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Muzzle Profile - 20-pdr Navy Parrott

The gun displayed at Cumberland Gap has a slight muzzle swell.  At present, I cannot confirm if this was a “Navy” standard, or (as with other model Parrotts) this was simply a feature of early production batches.

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Muzzle and Bore of 20-pdr Navy

Hard to make out the rifling, but just enough to count five lands and grooves.  Unlike the Army, the Navy did not mark the muzzles of the guns.  Instead the particulars were stamped on the trunnions and top of breech.

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Right Trunnion - 20-pdr Navy

On the right trunnion was the date of manufacture, projectile size, and diameter of bore.  In this case – 1861 // 20 pdr // 3.67.  I failed to get a good photo of the left side trunnion, but regulations required a “P.” stamp indicating successful proofing, along with the initials of the inspector.   In this case “R.B.H.” for Robert B. Hitchcock.

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Breech Stampings - 20-pdr Navy Parrott

Over the breech band were the initials of the manufacturer, registry number, and weight.  Here those appear as “R.P.P   No. 83  1695 lbs.”  These stand out crisp even after nearly 150 years, even better than marks of some later day “inspectors” who attempted to leave a mark.

The Navy normally placed an anchor over the barrel between the trunnions.  But that mark is not visible today.

Other than markings and the breeching jaws, the Army and Navy models were interchangeable.  Tallies from West Point production show on occasion production batches were reallocated to meet service requirements.  While the breeching jaws caused little impact on the Army’s use, when the Navy received an Army model a wrought iron shackle or clevis was attached over the knob.

While the story of this particular piece is undocumented, 20-pdrs of this sort saw service in both the blue- and brown-water fleets.  The Navy often provisioned lighter gunboats with 20-pdrs, where heavier rifles could not go.


Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

Cumberland Gap

Another of our stops during the recent vacation was Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  While the park’s interpretation is largely focused on the story of migration and settlement, there are a few sites for those with Civil War interests.

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Pinnacle Overlook from the West Side Visitor Center

Pinnacle road provides access into the saddle of the gap and up to Pinnacle Overlook.  Along the route are pull-offs to view restored sections of the Wilderness Road and Fort McCook.

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Fort McCook - Cumberland Gap

Rifled 6-pdr Field Gun, produced by Marshall & Company in 1861, stands guard over remains of Fort McCook.   The view of Middlesboro is impressive (offering a view of the crater of an ancient meteorite strike).  But the works have suffered from exposure, time, and footsteps (unfortunately).   The marker there provides a map indicating the locations of other works defending Cumberland Gap during the Civil War.

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Cumberland Gap Defenses

Fort McCook covered the western approaches to the Gap.  A little further up, and on the right side of the map, is Fort Lyon.

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Fort Lyon - 20-pdr Parrott Navy Rifle

Fort Lyon overlooked the eastern approaches and the saddle of the Gap.  Fort Lyon is better preserved of the two positions and boasts a 20-pdr Parrott Navy Rifle.

The park offers an extensive and attractive trail system.  A few sources mention additional earthworks on the other ridge lines around the gap.  Unfortunately I did not have time to hike and explore those sites.  So I’ll have to plan another visit, before saying for sure if more earthworks still stand in the Gap.

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Looking East from Pinnacle Overlook

Certainly, the main attractions to Cumberland Gap are the overlooks and the Wilderness Road.  And the story of exploration and westward expansion trump the Civil War events.  For the battlefield stomper, Cumberland Gap offers a few sites – and a great starting point for explorations into southwestern Virginia, northeastern Tennessee, and western Kentucky.