By MIKE WEST
Have you noticed the new signs proclaiming state Route 70S Tennessee's first state highway?
State Route 1 (SR-1), was once called the Memphis to Bristol Highway, is a 538.8-mile-long mostly-unsigned state highway. It stretches all the way from the Arkansas state line at Memphis in the southwest corner of the state to Bristol in the northeast part. Most of the route travels concurrently with U.S. Route 70 (US-70) and US-11W.
These days, the road seldom bears the title SR-1. If memory serves me, there is some state Route 1 markers in Smithville.
It's a road that's long been filled with adventures, but not all of them involved four-wheeled motor cars.
The road passes through some of the most famous parts of Tennessee. For example in Nashville, it passes through Belle Meade as Harding Pike before becoming West End Avenue and Broadway, then Lafayette and Murfreesboro Road.
In Knoxville, the road is locally known as Kingston Pike and near the University of Tennessee campus it is known as Cumberland Avenue.
Wow, that is amazing, but let us get back to our little adventure. This one dates back to the Civil War:
January 27, 1863 - A Methodist circuit rider's encounter with a Confederate picket on the road to Woodbury
"Tuesday, Jan. 27th: Owing to the inclemency of the weather, from snow, I have not attended my appointment today. We are having another considerable snow, to-day. In my travels this afternoon, I met with several picket guards, as there are Confederate troops in the country. The first guard I came to, was an Irishman on the Woodbury road some two and a-half miles from Alexandria.
"On coming to him, I asked him if he was standing picket there. In the tone peculiar to hisrace, he answered in the affirmative, saying also, in a rather feverish manner, that no man could pass there without a "pass." I told him I had no pass, and enquired of him where I should get one. He said he did not know, but that no man could pass there without a pass. This he would often repeat, as I would talk to him.
"At length I thought I would enter into a rather social conversation with him, remarking that he had a rite cold spell of weather (ground then covered with snow) on him, when he replied he could not help it, and that no man could pass there with a "pass." I could not approach him, it seemed, by any means.
"At length a fellow-soldier of his, who was in a house, nearby, came out and told him to let me pass in, that citizens should go in, but not out, without a "pass." Then he passed me.
"From that point about two miles I passed six picket posts, the first and last being filled by Irish men. I found it not difficult to pass any post except those filled by Irish Men. And by neither of these could I pass without assistance by others.
"I learned this fact, from experience, this evening: that there was a vast difference between the native American and the Irish in the consideration of circumstances. With but little difficulty I could reason my natives into a permission to pass, and even those who were not on picket duty would volunteer their services and assist me at any point; but by no post filled by an Irish Man, could I pass, without assistance, and even then, 'twas done hesitatingly.
"And I am satisfied that an Irish man makes a good picket guard, provided they are all like this two. . ."
Private Journal of Joseph J. Pitts, 1862-1864, entry for Jan. 27, 1863. As cited in John M. Martin, ed., "A Methodist Circuit Rider Between the Lines: The Private Journal of Joseph J. Pitts, 1862-1864, Tennessee Historical Quarterly, No. 3 (Sept. 1960), p. 255.
These days (2015) you don't encounter too many Confederate picket posts along today's John Bragg Highway. But you just might encounter a few Rebel battle flags, which seem to be making a resurge in response to efforts to outlaw the flag completely.
Dang! It's enough to whip out a few choruses of "I wish I was in the land of cotton."
Dare I say, "Dixie?"