There are many names in Tennessee, and particularly in the eastern portion of that State, which the loyal people will not let die. They will be read and thought of in the far future as the present generation look back on the demigods of the Revolution. A letter from Cincinnati, of recent date, gives some account of one of these noble-hearted Tennesseeans; and as the story came from the lips of a dying man, it is probably truthful. The writer states that among the rebel prisoners at Camp Dennison, Ohio, was one named Neil, who, when asked how he came to be a rebel, stated that the secessionists scared him into it.
He had been a postmaster in Van Buren County, Tennessee, and a Union man. The rebels held three elections in that county, but got hardly a solitary vote in Neil’s precinct. Enraged at this, they imported a force of soldiers, and began to lynch unarmed Unionists. This style of procedure made some converts, but it was withstood. Among the victims Neil spoke of–and as he knew that he was dying, he reminded his hearers of his obligation to speak the simple truth–was the martyr patriot whose history he thus recited:
There was in Van Buren County an old Methodist preacher of a great deal of ability, named Cavender. He was from the first a most determined Union man; and as his influence in the county was great, they determined to make an example of him, and get him out of the way. So they took him out of his house, put a rope around his neck, set him on a horse, and led him into a forest. They then told him that unless he would publicly renounce his Unionism, they would hang him. Cavender replied, “God gave me my breath to bear witness to his truth; and when I must turn it to the work of lies and crime, it is well enough to yield it up to Him who gave it.”
They then asked him if he had any parting request. He said “he had no hope that they would attend to anything he might ask.” They said they would. He then desired that they would take his body to his daughter, with the request that she would lay it beside the remains of his wife. They then said, “It’s time to go to your prayers.” He replied, “I am not one of the sort who has to wait until a rope is round his neck to pray.” Then they said, “Come, old man, no nonsense; if you don’t swear to stand by the Confederacy, you’ll have to hang,” at the same time tying the rope to a branch.
The old man said, “Hang away.” One then gave a blow with a will to the horse upon which Cavender sat: the horse sprang forward, and the faithful servant of God and his country passed into eternity. You will remember that they said they would fulfill his last request. Well, they tore the flesh off his bones and threw it to the hogs; his heart was cut out, and lay in a public place till it rotted. Can it be wondered if few are strong enough to resist their only legitimate arguments for rebellion?
Originally posted 2008-10-29 21:56:37.