Free Presentation to Highlight Love and War in the 1860s

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Theirs was a love story without the scandal and treachery found in the novel, "Gone With the Wind." However, a collection of love letters between East Tennesseans Oliver Caswell King and Katherine Rutledge King does provide valuable real-life insights into social and military history during the Civil War.

On May 6, the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) is hosting a free public presentation about that collection, which was donated to TSLA last year by siblings and King descendants Olivia King Inman and Judge Dennis H. Inman. The collection of letters chronicles the romance between Oliver King and Katherine Rutledge, which led to their marriage.

Because East Tennessee was a stronghold of Union support, the couple's pro-Confederacy views were somewhat unusual for people living in that region.

Oliver King, a student at Tusculum College, initially supported the Union cause, but later switched allegiances and enlisted in the Confederate Army. Katherine Rutledge, a student at the Masonic Female Institute in Blountville, was a staunch Confederate supporter who wrote to her beloved that "if my sweet heart hadn't to have went [to war] I don't believe I would claim him any longer."

After aligning himself with the Confederate cause in 1861, Oliver King wrote that "we'll just have to fight it out if it takes us a whole generation." He was gravely injured in a battle in Virginia in 1864 and taken as a prisoner of war.

The collection documents the couple's life during and after the war.

The May 6 presentation will be led by Susan Gordon, an archivist at TSLA, and Jess Holler, a graduate student at Western Kentucky University. The hourlong event will begin at noon that day in TSLA's auditorium.

TSLA's building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville. A limited amount of free parking is available around the TSLA building.

TSLA will soon make the collection available online.