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Letter from John Baxter to Robert Love

Knoxville, Tennessee.

My Dear Sir: September 2nd, 1861

Your letter of the 29th July did not reach me before I left for Richmond. What detained it I do not know. But on my return I received and read it with great interest. By it, I see that you had properly appreciated my position. From what I had heard, you had misconceived my views, but I seen now that you had not.

With the strongest possible convictions against the policy and propriety of Secession, I have ever exerted by influence to preserve peace in East Tennessee, and, as I think, with no little success. You will see the result in Nelson’s card to the people of East Tennessee. I approached him as a friend and opened up the way to convictions without which he most probably would not have made the concessions which seemed to be indispensable as a prerequisite to his release. By degrees he came to the opinions entertained by me, and by common consent, we both made a step forward, acknowledged the country divided and consented in our own minds to yield to a necessity-to an evil which we could not arrest. The result you will see in his card, which was submitted to me and approved by me in manuscript.

Under this connection that the country was inevitably divided, I have been assiduously laboring since my return home from Richmond, to bring our party friends to acquiesce in the stand taken by Nelson. You will see by the Knoxville Whig of this week, that my efforts have not been without success.

The most danger to which we have ever been exposed in this section arises from this cause. We have among us, the meanest and most unprincipled clique on earth. They have been constantly pressing the Government to send in troops. The troops came, and this intimidated and influenced our people, and may yet involve us in civil war, tho I do not apprehend such an evil. What desperate men we have among us, have and will probably, go to KY and that will become, and before long, a bloody battlefield. The result of this state of things, we way be exposed to more or less of violence, in which good men are just as likely to suffer as others, but, I have no idea any thing like civil, general civil war will ever rest among us.

My efforts in the future, as in the past, will be constantly directed to prevent it. I have thought often, of going up to Carter (County) and Johnson (County) were I satisfied that I could do any good, I would go, but, perhaps, I can do as much by staying at home.

We are well and quiet. Would be pleased to see you and Sallie and children with us. I am sorry that I was not at home during your last visit.

A rumor has reached town this morning that one of the Carters-whether James or William we cannot ascertain-was taken a night or two ago in an attempt to get across from KY into Carter Co. Whether this is reliable or not, I am not well advised, but if it is so, you had as well be careful. From all I can learn the Carter Co., Union men are desperate and might attempt to avenge Carter’s arrest on you. I know nothing to this effect, but merely wish to excite you to proper caution and circumspection.

Whenever I can serve you command me, and if Carter County, should be cursed with an outbreak, bring Sallie and the children down. It would afford us pleasure to have you here.

Yours truly,

John Baxter (signed)

Note: John Baxter was my Father’s brother-in-law, both having married sisters, daughters of James Michell Alexander, of Buncombe County, North Carolina. John Baxter was United States District Judge in the District including Tennessee for several years, till his death. Were a very able lawyer, and a very influential Republican Politician. He was a Union man and my Father opposed Secession, but when the Southern State seceded he went with the South. I copy this letter, thinking it would in some degree enlighten those who may hereafter read these letters. F.D. Love

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