Tomorrow is an Election Day in Tennessee. I am reminded of the value of county voting records that can provide information found in no other records. Here is an example of how voting records may lead us to new conclusions in our previous genealogical and historical research.
Albert Rougemont of Stewart County, Tennessee was murdered on December 31, 1862. Following the fall of Fort Donelson in February 1862, law and order in the area had been dispensed by the office of the Union Provost Marshal at Fort Donelson. The Provost Marshal conducted an inquiry into Rougemont’s murder in March, 1863. The leading suspect was a local man named John (“Jack”) Hinson.
Over the years, Jack Hinson has become a local legend as a documented Civil War sniper. His Civil War career as a sniper is said to have come about following the murder of his two sons in December 1862 by Union troops occupying the area. Books have been written about him and heated debates have taken place among the quietest of citizens. The prevailing opinion has been that Hinson was neutral in the war until the Union troops murdered his sons. Do the surviving records substantiate this opinion? Let’s take a look…
The records of the Union Provost Marshal at Fort Donelson survived and are at the National Archives. In the collection referred to as the “Union Provost Marshal Records Pertaining to Two or More Citizens”, document numbers 04220 and 04221 contain the Provost Marshal’s inquiry into the Rougemont murder. Rebecca Lancaster, a neighbor of both men, had the following to say about them:
“I know there was some difficulty between Rougemont and Hinson, but knew but little about it. I know but little of Rougemont’s character, only he was a good enough neighbor. I do not know whether he was for the union or not.” About Hinson, she said,
“I do not know, but have heard from neighbors, that he was on Southern side in politics.”
Elijah Lancaster, another neighbor nearby on the night of the murder, testified about Hinson:
“He was an open secessionist. He use to be a fighting man. I know his sons – do not know that any of the family have been among the guerillas.”
This deposition took place in March 1863, a few months after Hinson’s sons were supposedly killed by Union troops, yet this close neighbor makes no mention of the sons being dead but speaks of them in the present tense.
Most of the neighbors deposed by the Provost Marshal knew of some disagreement between Hinson and Rougemont going back several years, due to the fact that Rougemont had testified against Hinson in a Circuit Court case in which Hinson had been accused of altering the course of a road in the neighborhood.
Now back to the voting records – what can they confirm or refute about the opinions expressed by the neighbors of Hinson and Rougemont? First, let’s look at the June 8, 1861 secession election in Stewart County “for separation and representation”. Note that Albert Rougemont and Jack Hinson lived in District 7 of the county:
Hinson was #669 on the district voter’s list. Rougemont’s name does not appear. The district vote was unanimous in favor of secession.
Next, the August 1, 1861 election to ratify the constitution of the Confederacy:
Hinson was #199 on the district voter’s list. Rougemont’s name does not appear. The district vote was unanimous in favor of the Confederate constitution.
Finally, the November 6,1861 election for choosing electors for President and Vice-President of the Confederacy:
Hinson was #46 on the district voter’s list. Rougemont’s name does not appear. The district vote was unanimous.
The voting records support the testimony to the Provost Marshal that Hinson was a ‘Secesh’ and that Rougemont was a ‘Union man’. Do these voting records, then, prove that Hinson killed Rougemont? No, they don’t. If Hinson killed Rougemont, as I think he did, it was more likely due to the quarrel between the men going back several years, not due to their opposing views on the war. But these records add important background information to understanding the greater context of the war and of the stories of Hinson and Rougemont.
Read for yourself the entire Provost Marshal’s case file on FamilySearch.
Search for other Tennessee Provost Marshal records at the Tennessee State Library and Archives index.
Obtain copies of the voting records cited above from the Stewart County (TN) Archives.
And lastly, search your own county’s Archives for voting records that can enrich your ancestor’s story.