Wednesday, January 19, 2011
He Went With His State
Felix Kirk Zollicoffer was born May 19th 1812 on the family plantation in Bigbyville, Maury, Tennessee, the son of John Jacob and Martha [Kirk] Zollicoffer. He attended local schools and spent one year at Jackson College in Columbia Tennessee. Zollicoffer had left school to apprentice as a printer by the time he was sixteen. He was the editor and part owner of the “Columbia Observer” by 1834, and the editor of the “Mercury” of Huntsville, Alabama. Zollicoffer volunteered for the army in 1836 during the Second Seminole War. When the war was over he returned to home and his newspapers. He took up politics serving as the Comptroller of the State Treasury, and United States Congress.
Although Zollicoffer believed in states rights, he was not in favor of Tennessee seceding, and was a member of the Peace Convention of 1861. However when Tennessee seceded Zollicoffer joined the Confederate Army and was appointed Brigadier General in the District of East Tennessee. He and 4,000 new recruits were sent to Knoxville, Tennessee July 26th 1861 to suppress an East Tennessee resistance to the secession. Zollicoffer’s orders were to guard the Cumberland Gap, and he moved West into southeastern Kentucky, set up winter quarters at Mill Springs, Kentucky. On December 8th 1861 Zollicoffer was replaced by Confederate Major General George B Crittenden, who placed Zollicoffer in command of the First Brigade.
Union Brigadier General George Henry Thomas was ordered to break up Crittenden’s Army and on January 19th 1862 they attacked the Confederate force at Mill Springs. Zollicoffer had moved his troops to the north bank of river which proved to be indefensible, he could not however move the men do an insufficient number of boats. His men were routed. As the battle began to wined down Zollicoffer was shot by Union Colonel Speed S Fry, after wandering into a Union position thinking they were Confederate. He died January 19th 1862. Zollicoffer’s body was embalmed by a Union surgeon and returned to Tennessee where he was buried in the Old City Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.