Lawson Guthrie 



(written by R. Scott Guthrie)

Lawson Guthrie is likely the most colorful of Thomas and Mary Guthrie's nine children. Lawson was not only a prominent figure during the early years of Hamilton County but a large land owner and merchant in the area of Bartlebough along the Tennessee River. At one point he served as a county deputy but later gained fame as a soldier during the war with Mexico. Lawson raised a Company of men from Hamilton County for service during the Mexican War which became known as Company A. of the Fourth Tennessee Infantry. Lawson fought throughout the war and at the battle of Cerro Gordo, Mexico he was breveted for gallantry. He served throught the conflict as a Captain and was present present at the surrender of Mexico City. After returning home in 1848, Captain Guthrie, as he was then known, settled down to the enterprise of farming along the Tennessee River and according to one source, "he was a prime example of what a peace time soldier should be". Shortly thereafter he married Narcissa Smith, many years younger than Lawson and said to have been "very lovely" however Lawson and Narcissa remained childless.

In early 1861 Governor Isham Harris commissioned David M. Key and James W. Gillespie with the assistance of Lawson Guthrie to organize a regiment from Hamilton County for the Provisional Army of Tennessee to be mustered into Confederate service upon secession of the state. Lawson, retaining the rank of Captain, raised a company from the area of Ooltewah, Tennessee and organized them in October of 1861. After the regiment was formed it was first know as the Fifth East Tennessee Volunteers, Gillespie's Regiment with Captain Lawson Guthrie in command of Company K. The regiment was mustered into Confederate service at Knoxville on December 14, 1861 at which point Lawson Guthrie was elected its regimental Major and the organization became known as the 43rd Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment and in 1863 as the 43rd Tennessee Mounted Infantry.

Lawson Guthrie's Confederate military career is well documented in the Tennessee State Library and Archives, volume II of Zella Armstrong's "History of Hamilton County and Chattanooga Tennessee", along with several other local history texts including "James County, Lost County of Tennessee". The following account of Major Guthrie's service in the Confederate Army is taken from the above sources along with other bits of information gleaned from various historical sources........

During 1862 most of the 43rd Tennessee was detached to East Tennessee where they guarded the bridges against sabotage by Unionists from upper east Tennessee. Some of the bridges under guard were at Strawberry Plains, Lick Creek, Morristown, Loudon and the all important Hiawassie bridge at Charleston Tennessee which Unionists tried to burn. The regiment was reported to be poorly armed during late 1861 through early 1862 with flintlock muskets or shotguns but was later outfitted with better weapons and moved into Virginia. From this point they participated in minor engagements during an attempted invasion of Kentucky. One diary lists the miles traveled daily while in Kentucky and totals them at more than 600. While in Kentucky the regiment camped for some time at Mount Sterling which was sympathetic to the Southern cause. While there the regiment was presented with a large and handsome battle flag by the the ladies of the area. It was received by Lt. Col. Key in an eloquent address and history records that the battle flag of the 43rd, when surrendered, had 972 bullet holes in it that could be counted. After a time the 43rd returned to Lenoir Station in Tennessee and while there Major Lawson Guthrie participated in a Confederate Court Martial at Knoxville. In a letter of thanks, General E. Kirby Smith, in charge of the Department of East Tennessee notes Lawson Guthrie and signs a voucher to pay mileage to and from the trial. During this same period several receipts for monthly pay and forage allowances exist for Lawson Guthrie. His normal pay as a Confederate Major was one hundred and fifty dollars per month with a forage allowance for horses.

While at Lenoir Station the regiment became part of a brigade composed of three Tennessee infantry regiments, a North Carolina infantry regiment and a battery of Maryland artillery. On December 22, 1862 the brigade was dispatched by rail to fortify the City of Vicksburg, Mississippi and was engaged in picket duty and the building of fortifications around the city. On May 15, 1863 while in the rear guard on the march to Raymond, Mississippi, the 43rd was engaged by Federal troops at Big Black River and Bakers Creek. The 43rd fell back to Vicksburg and for the next 47 days was caught up in what has become known as the Siege of Vicksburg. During the siege, the city was starved and shelled into submission by Federal troops and on June 25th, 1863 Lawson Guthrie was shot in the thigh by a Union sharpshooter, this according to the diary of Private Clack of Rhea County, Tennessee, a soldier in the 43rd who kept a written history of the siege. On July 04, 1863 the city fell and Lawson Guthrie was captured along with the rest of the garrison. State Archive records list Lawson Guthrie as being among the sick and wounded prisoners awaiting transport to the occupied city of New Orleans. In prearranged surrender terms the prisoners would be forced to sign paroles in order to be released or exchanged. Upon arrival in New Orleans, Major Guthrie was sent to Demopolis, Alabama where he was freed in a prisoner exchange.

Sometime in late 1863 Lawson Guthrie returned to his regiment, which was now garrisoned near Bulls Gap, Tennessee. During this period of reformation the 43rd was issued horses and served as mounted infantry until the end of the war. In this same location on January 4th, 1864, Lawson Guthrie, almost 50 years old, resigned his commission. According to surgeons reports he could only serve under the most remitting of circumstances, suffering from wounds received at Vicksburg, chronic bronchitis and dysentery brought on during his term as a wounded prisoner. His resignation was sent to W.A. Seddon, Secretary of War for the Confederacy, and accepted and signed by Brigadier General John C. Vaughn who commanded Major Guthrie's division.

Upon returning home through occupied East Tennessee, Lawson Guthrie lived the remainder of his days on his farm in Hamilton County.

The 43rd Regiment, which Lawson Guthrie helped to organize, continued to be active until the end of the war, serving in Virginia during 1864-1865 and as part of President Jefferson Davis' escort as he attempted to evade Federal forces after the surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the spring of 1865. The regiment was finally surrounded at Washington, Georgia in May of 1865 where it surrendered to United States forces. All of the regiment's staff officers survived the war and Col. Key became a representative from Tennessee after reconstruction. The regiment held annual reunions until about 1920......

Vicksburg Mississippi July 15, 1863

I L. Guthrie and Major of the 43rd Reg't Tenn. Inf. Vols. C. S. A. being a Prisoner of War in the hands of the United States Forces, in virtue of the capitulation of the City of Vicksburg and its garrison, by Lieut. Gen. John C. Pemberton, C. S. A., Commanding on the 4th day of July, 1863, do in pursuance of terms of said capitulation, give my solemn parole under oath- That I will not take up arms again against the United States,nor serve in any military, police or constabulary force in any Fort, Garrison or field work held by the Confederate States of America, against the United States of America, nor as guard of prisons, depots or stores, nor discharge any duties usually performed by Officers or soldiers, against the United States of America, until duly exchanged by the proper authorities.
L. Guthrie (his signature)
43rd Tenn., Vols.
Sworn and subscribed before me at Vicksburg, Miss., this 15th day of July, 1863.
John C. Fry (signature) 20 Reg't Ohio Vols.