Tuesday, November 09, 2021

An epic visit to Liberty Gap battlefield with soldier's descendant


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On Saturday morning, we walked the nearly pristine Liberty Gap (Tenn.) battlefield, where Taylor Trey Agan's ancestor, 49th Ohio Sergeant Jonathan Rapp, fought in late June 1863. The visit was the first to the battlefield for Agan—and the first time since the war that Rapp’s diary and 1851 Colt Navy revolver returned to the field. Agan, a 28-year-old songwriter, also brought a wartime CDV of Rapp, which I shot near the cornfield where the soldier advanced 158 years ago. 

Rapp, who fought in 18 Western Theater battles, was wounded at Chickamauga in late September 1863 and at Nashville on Dec. 15, 1864. He was a captain when he mustered out on Nov. 30, 1865—two years after he fought at the Battle of Franklin (Tenn.)

A carte-de-visite of Jonathan Rapp at Liberty Gap.
At Liberty Gap, Agan read from Rapp's diary, probably from near where the soldier wrote the words on June 26, 1863. Rapp described this beautiful, and still rural, area of Central Tennessee. A special entry:

"5 a.m. The clouds are somewhat broken and the sun shines forth occasionally, its beautiful rays that gives new life to everything. In the valleys of Liberty Gap, the great mountains all covered with green trees. They lift their proud head so near to the sky. The rich valleys just ready for harvest; the wheat which is in abundance just ready to reap; the cornfields so green and so fine, just ready to shoot forth into blossom, but now are all trodden down by the soldiers of liberty.”

To put an exclamation point on the visit, we met a Labrador named Augie and his delightful owners— one who told me of her ancestor who was buried on a nearby hill with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and stones in the other. “If the devil didn’t want the whiskey,” she said, “he’d throw the stones at him.”

Much more to come on this story.

Taylor Agan holds his fourth great-grandfather's 1851 Colt Navy revolver at Liberty Gap.

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