In April 1861, a patriotic young man by the name of Webster Colburn heeded Lincoln’s call and enlisted in the Union infantry for three months as a private. Five years later, with a few more stripes and thousands of miles behind him, Major Webster Colburn, a Union quartermaster, mustered out of the army in June 1866.
His story is that of one man’s private war to survive a year in the infantry and artillery and four more in the demanding job of a union quartermaster. Providing the federal army with everything from socks to horseshoes and haversacks to horses was critical to the survival and success of the Union army. Quartermasters kept supplies coming even when railroad bridges were destroyed, wagon trains captured, and crops burned. The details of Colburn’s journey across Tennessee with the Army of the Cumberland during the Civil War emerged when 6,000 original documents, letters, diaries, orders, and monthly reports preserved by his family came into the hands of Dr. Nancy McEntee who shaped them into the narrative that became Haversacks, Hardtack, and Unserviceable Mules.
Come join us as Dr. McEntee shares the story of Colburn’s struggles at Shiloh, Stones River, Chattanooga and Knoxville and examines his difficulties and mounting responsibilities through times of starvation, loss and victory.
In the process you’ll learn about the thousands of mules and horses that were unserviceable and destroyed, the job of digging up and re-burying hundreds of victims from the Fort Pillow massacre, and the details of another massacre in Memphis in 1866 that history has all but forgotten.
Dr. Nancy McEntee
As a private pilot and lover of history, Nancy McEntee is the author of numerous articles on women pilots and local history. Her first book, Pilots, Pinballs, and Politics: The History of Naples Municipal Airport, became part of a PBS special on aviation in WWII. The Smoky Mountains of Southeast Tennessee are now home for her; a region rich with Appalachian lore and historical characters. Here is where she found the subject of her second book, Molsey Blount: The Colonial First Lady of Tennessee, the life of Gov. William Blount’s wife. Her latest book, Haversacks, Hardtack, and Unserviceable Mules, leaps forward from the Revolutionary period to the Civil War and tells the story of Webster Colburn, a Union quartermaster, whose job it is to feed, clothe, arm, mount, and sometimes bury his fellow soldiers. Because Colburn was with the Army of the Cumberland as a private soldier at Shiloh and Stone’s River, and as a quartermaster at Chattanooga and Knoxville, the book represents a significant contribution to the literature on the Civil War in Tennessee.
Interestingly, Dr. McEntee earned three college degrees later in life…a reflection of a late bloomer and an optimist.
She never planned to become an author yet learned quickly the joy of writing in finishing her PhD in 2003.
Now retired from numerous careers and pastimes, she volunteers in Cades Cove with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As a former USMC Woman Marine, she also volunteers with the East Tennessee Veterans Honor Guard, honoring deceased veterans as they are laid to rest.