A Civil War Biography
Felix Kirk Zollicoffer
Zollicoffer was born 19 May 1812 in Bigbyville, Maury County,
Tennessee. He received his early education in the old field schools
then spent a year working on his father's plantation. He spent the
next year studying at Jackson College in Columbia, Tennessee then,
at the age of 16, he began a career in the newspaper business in
Paris, Tennessee. The first paper on which he worked failed in 1830.
He then became a journeyman printer in Knoxville, Tennessee where he
stayed until 1832. In 1834 he became editor and part owner of the
Columbia Observer. He also helped edit the Huntsville Mercury and
the Southern Agriculturist. In 1835 he was named state printer.
He fought in the Seminole War of 1836 serving as a lieutenant in the
Tennessee Volunteers. In 1841 he became editor of the Nashville
Republican Banner, a major publication of the Whig party. He served
as adjutant general of Tennessee from 1841 until 1843. He served as
comptroller of Tennessee from 4 October 1843 until 15 October 1849.
He represented Davidson County in the state senate from 1849 until
1851. In 1852 he was a delegate to the Whig National Convention. His
influence helped carry Tennessee for Winfield Scott, the Whig party
presidential candidate that year and Zollicoffer was elected to
represent the 8th district in the US House of Representatives. He
was reelected twice, serving three terms from 4 March 1853 until 3
March 1859. He served on the state executive committee of the Whig
party in 1855 and the state executive committee of the Opposition
party in 1859. He supported John Bell for president in the 1860
election. On 24 January 1861 he was elected a delegate to the
Washington Peace Conference. Although he was an ardent supporter of
states rights, he was opposed to secession, but after Tennessee
voted to leave the Union he chose to side with the South.
After the war erupted Zollicoffer was commissioned a brigadier
general in the Provisional Army of Tennessee on 9 May 1861 by Isham
G. Harris, the governor of the state. When the provisional army came
under Confederate jurisdiction it became the Army of Tennessee and
Zollicoffer received a brigadier general commission on 9 July 1861.
On 1 August 1861 he was assigned command of the District of East
Tennessee, Department #2 and tasked with preserving the peace,
protecting the railroad, and repelling invasion in a
non-slaveholding area that was unsympathetic to the Confederate
cause. Since the Confederate government saw more pressing needs for
supplies, Zollicoffer's troop were under fed and poorly armed. They
were also thinly stretched covering the eastern part of the state.
On 8 December 1861 George B. Crittenden took over command in East
Tennessee. In early 1862 he ordered Zollicoffer to attack George H.
Thomas's Federal troops at Mill Springs, Kentucky. In the early
morning of 19 January 1862 Zollicoffer, while assessing enemy troop
positions, mistakenly wandered into Federal lines of the 4th
Kentucky commanded by Speed S. Fry. Once he discovered his mistake,
Zollicoffer, whose uniform was hidden by a white raincoat, attempted
to escape by pretending to be a Union officer. The Yankees
discovering Zollicoffer's identity opened fire and Zollicoffer fell
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