Skip to main content

SCOUT

Special Collections Online at The University of Tennessee

Robert A. Ragan Letters

 Collection
Identifier: MS-0743

This collection houses eight letters from Robert A. Ragan to his wife, Emeline (Neass) Ragan, during the Civil War. In them, Ragan discusses battles and skirmishes with the Rebels, describes the landscapes he has seen, relates his frustration with army life, mentions his fear of moving too far South, and comments on his unit's movements and actions. He is particularly concerned for the men in his unit, telling Emeline that "You dont no how it hearts me to heare of one of my boys dieing but we all have to die and it looks like this ware is going to distroy all of us." Although he is deeply disturbed by such tragedy, Ragan consoles himself by hoping for the best and "trust[ing] in one hoo rules all." Ragan is also extremely homesick, telling his wife that "If I Could get to come home I would giv all this wourld If I had it." He also expresses his concern for his family and friends in Tennessee and asks Emeline to write to him and to "pray for me in this struggle."

Dates

  • 1863 October 13-1864 April 11

Language of Materials

English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 2 business days are needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.

Extent

0.1 Linear Feet

Abstract

This collection houses eight letters from Robert A. Ragan to his wife, Emeline (Neass) Ragan, during the Civil War. In them, Ragan discusses battles and skirmishes with the Rebels, describes the landscapes he has seen, relates his frustration with army life, mentions his fear of moving too far South, and comments on his unit's movements and actions. He also expresses his concern for his family and friends in Tennessee and asks Emeline to write to him and to pray for him in the struggle.

Biographical/Historical Note

Robert Allen Ragan was born on July 17, 1837 in Greene County, Tennessee to Jacob P. and Charity (Cureton) Ragan. He married Martha Emeline Neass (also spelled Neas) on January 5, 1862 in Cocke County, Tennessee and the couple had seven known children: Mary Ellen (born 1863), Alice Cordelia (born 1865), Fannie Belle (born 1866), Julia Florence (born 1868), William Franklin (born 1870), Martha Luella (born 1872), and Charles Alexander (born 1873).

When the Civil War broke out, Ragan was teaching school in East Tennessee. Since he had served as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the State Militia previously, many of his friends urged him to raise a Confederate regiment after Tennessee seceded from the Union. He refused, thus marking himself as a Union man. Although he was originally exempt from conscription, the law protecting him was soon repealed and he was kidnapped and forced into the Confederate Army. He escaped his captors in Knoxville, Tennessee and went to great lengths to evade Confederate soldiers afterwards, including living in hiding and sneaking out of his father's house in his sister's dress to avoid being recognized by nearby soldiers.

In May of 1863, Ragan learned that a Union pilot (who escorted Union sympathizers to Federal lines) would be in his area. Unfortunately, he injured his foot on the way to the rendezvous point and was forced to wait for the next pilot, who departed in July of 1863. This time, Ragan managed to effect his escape to Kentucky. Here, he met Colonel Felix A. Reeve at Camp Dick Robinson and offered to return to East Tennessee to raise a company for the new 8th Tennessee Infantry. Reeve agreed, and Ragan returned to Tennessee with recruiting papers. He raised 120 men and after much hardship the group escaped to Kentucky and organized themselves as Company K of the 8th Tennessee Infantry. They participated in the Siege of Knoxville, the Atlanta Campaign, and several battles in North Carolina. The unit was disbanded on June 30, 1865.

After the war ended, Ragan returned to his family in Tennessee. They later moved to Washington, D.C., where Ragan published a short account of his experiences in the war entitled Escape from East Tennessee to the Federal Lines in 1910. He died in Knoxville, Tennessee on February 1, 1916.

Arrangement

Collection consists of a single folder.

Acquisition Note

William R. Schriver donated these letters to the University of Tennessee Libraries, Knoxville, Special Collections in October of 1973.

Related Materials

A published copy of Ragan's Escape from East Tennessee to the Federal Lines is available in Rare Books.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

Contact:
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA
865-974-4480