John Jacob Zollicoffer (1775 - 1840)

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John J. Zollicoffer, Sr.'s Geni Profile

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Birthplace: Halifax, North Carolina, United States
Death: Died in Maury, Tennessee, United States
Managed by: Cameron Robert Culbertson
Last Updated:

About John Jacob Zollicoffer

John Jacob Zollicoffer was born in Halifax Co., SC and migrated to Tennessee in 1807, settling on land granted to his father, Captain George Zollicoffer, for service in the Revolutionary War. George's father was Baron Jacob Christopher Zollicoffer, who migrated from Switzerland to Virginia.

John Jacob's two sons by his first wife, Martha Kirk Zollicoffer, were Frederick (1806- - 1874) and Felix Kirk, born May 19, 1812 near Bigbyville in Maury County. Martha Kirk (30 March 1793 - 11 June 1815) was the daughter of Isaac Kirk of North Carolina. Frederick, who married Elizabeth Love, became a doctor and settled in Kosciusko, MS. Felix Kirk Zollicoffer studied in the "old field" log schoolhouse, attended Jackson College in Maury County, and was apprenticed to A.O.P. Nicholson as a printer in Columbia. He worked on newspapers in Paris, TN, Knoxville, TN and Huntsville, AL, and in 1835 became State Printer of Tennessee. He was editor and owner of the Columbia Observer and the Southern Agriculturist, and in 1843 was editor of the Republican Banner, state organ of the Whig Party. He later moved to Nashville and became State Senator. Felix married Louisa Pocahontas Gordon and had six daughters who survived the union.

Felix Kirk Zollicoffer served in the Second Seminole War and was a Brigadier General in the Confederacy. He was killed at the Battle of Mill Springs on January 15, 1862, and there is a park with monument dedicated to him near the small town of Nancy. Gen. Zollicoffer is buried in the Old City Cemetery in Nashville.

John Jacob and Martha Kirk Zollicoffer had two daughters, Ann Maria, who married a Swanson, and Leanna (1804-1848), who married a Williams. Martha Kirk Zollicoffer is buried in the Zollicoffer Cemetery on the John Abernathy place, off Campbellsville Pike, in Maury County.

Sources of information: "The Zollie Tree," by Raymond E. Meyers

"History of Maury County, Tennessee," by William Bruce Turner

Additional Information on Felix Zollicoffer (son of John Jacob):

Felix Kirk Zollicoffer (May 19, 1812 – January 19, 1862) was a newspaperman, three-term United States Congressman from Tennessee, officer in the United States Army, and a Confederate brigadier general during the American Civil War. He led the first Confederate invasion of neutral Kentucky and was killed in action at the Battle of Mill Springs, the first Confederate general to perish in the Western Theater.

Felix K. Zollicoffer was born on a plantation in Bigbyville in Maury County, Tennessee, son of John Jacob and Martha (Kirk) Zollicoffer. He was a descendant of immigrants from Switzerland who had settled in North Carolina in 1710. His grandfather George had served as a captain in the Revolutionary War, and had been granted a tract of land in Tennessee as a reward for his military service. Young Zollicoffer attended the "field schools" in the area and spent one year at Jackson College in Columbia, Tennessee. He left school at the age of sixteen, became an apprentice printer, and engaged in newspaper work in Paris, Tennessee, from 1828–1830. When the paper failed, he moved to Knoxville in 1831 and spent two years as a journeyman printer working for a local newspaper there. He became editor and part owner of the Columbia Observer in 1834. He was elected State Printer of Tennessee in 1835. On September 24, 1835, he was married in Columbia to Louisa Pocahontas Gordon. She would bear him fourteen children, but only six lived through infancy.

He also edited the Mercury in Huntsville, Alabama. Volunteering for the army in 1836, he served as a lieutenant in the Second Seminole War in Florida. He returned home and became the owner and editor of the Columbia Observer and the Southern Agriculturist in 1837 and the editor of the Republican Banner, the state organ of the Whig Party, in 1843.

The latter role engaged Zollicoffer in political circles, and he soon was named as Comptroller of the State Treasury from 1845–1849, as well as serving as Adjutant General for the state. He was a delegate in the State Senate from 1849 until 1852 and was a delegate to the Whig National Convention in 1852, supporting the candidacy of General Winfield Scott. Zollicoffer was elected as a Whig to the Thirty-third United States Congress and reelected as a candidate of the American Party to the Thirty-fourth and Thirty-fifth Congresses (March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1859). During the first campaign, he fought a duel with the editor of the rival Nashville Union newspaper.[1] He declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1858 and retired to private life. He strongly supported fellow Tennessee moderate John Bell (CU) for president in the election of 1860.

With war clouds threatening and firebrand Tennesseans pushing for the right to secede from the Union, Zollicoffer served as a member of the peace convention of 1861 held in Washington D.C. in an effort to devise a means to prevent the impending war. Although a strong supporter of states rights, Zollicoffer was not in favor of secession.

When Tennessee seceded, Zollicoffer offered his services to the Provisional Army of Tennessee. Despite his brief combat experience, he was appointed as a brigadier general by Governor Isham Harris. On July 9, 1861, he transferred to the Confederate States Army with the same rank and was given command of a department within the District of East Tennessee on August 1. In July 1861, Harris ordered Zollicoffer and 4,000 raw recruits to Knoxville to suppress the East Tennessee resistance to secession. In September, he led a force of 5,400 men from Tennessee through the Cumberland Gap along the Wilderness Road in an effort to seize central Kentucky. After winning the first Confederate victory in the commonwealth at the relatively minor Battle of Barbourville, he suffered a reversal at the subsequent Battle of Wildcat Mountain and was forced to retreat back into rural eastern Tennessee, an area that was unsympathetic to the Confederate cause. Zollicoffer treated peaceful Unionists fairly but imposed harsher measures after Union guerrillas burned several railroad bridges in November.

Although Zollicoffer's main responsibility was to guard the Cumberland Gap, in November 1861 he advanced westward back into southeastern Kentucky to strengthen control in the area around Somerset. He found a strong defensive position at Mill Springs and decided to make it his winter quarters. He fortified the area, especially both sides of the Cumberland River. On December 8, he was superseded by the arrival of Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden, who assumed command of the department, but retained Zollicoffer as commander of the 1st Brigade in his army.

Union Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas received orders to drive the Confederates across the Cumberland River and break up Crittenden's army. He left Lebanon and slowly marched through rain-soaked country, arriving at Logan's Crossroads on January 17, where he waited for Brig. Gen. Albin F. Schoepf's troops from Somerset to join him. Two days later, they attacked Crittenden and Zollicoffer at the Battle of Mill Springs. Zollicoffer had placed his troops in a very poor position, with their backs to a bend in the Cumberland River. Zollicoffer's men were routed from the field. Some accounts claim that Union Colonel Speed S. Fry shot Zollicoffer as the battle waned. He had inadvertently wandered into the Union position, thinking they were Confederate soldiers with his nearsightedness and the gathering darkness. He was struck several times by enemy bullets and soon died from his wounds.

The Federals respected Zollicoffer's body; he was embalmed by a Union surgeon and was eventually returned to Tennessee and finally interred in the Old City Cemetery in Nashville.

Zollicoffer Park, a Confederate cemetery containing a mass grave of the Confederate fallen, lies just outside of Nancy. (There is also a Union cemetery located in Nancy, Mill Springs National Cemetery, the oldest of all National Cemeteries still receiving burials other than Arlington National Cemetery). This public park receives at least two memorial events each year, one on 19 January ("that somber sabbath morn") and the other on Memorial Day. There have also been re-enactments of the Battle of Mill Springs.

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John J. Zollicoffer, Sr.'s Timeline

1775
July 13, 1775
Halifax, North Carolina, United States
1803
January 3, 1803
Age 27
1804
1804
Age 28
1806
December 3, 1806
Age 31
Halifax, North Carolina, United States
1808
June 28, 1808
Age 32
1812
May 19, 1812
Age 36
Columbia, Maury, Tennessee, United States
1818
November 25, 1818
Age 43
Maury, Tennessee, United States
1820
1820
Age 44
1823
1823
Age 47
1825
1825
Age 49