He served in the military in Pvt - D Co 24th Inf (CSA). (125)(164) Will joined the CSA with Lum (Laban). He served as a private in D company, 24th Tennessee Infantry under Captain Wilson. He was discharged at Bowling Green in the fall of 1861 due to palpitation of the heart (rapid or fluttering heartbeat). On May 10, 1863, he visited his brother, who was a member of Stokes Federal cavalry in Franklin. After his visit, a squad of 9 men from Van Dorn's Army dragged him from his home to Pultight Hill. There they shot him five times in the stomach and left him for dead. They departed with his horse and tack. The senseless and brutal murder by his fellow CS A troops up roared his family and the community. They formed together with a regiment of the Union army under the command of Captain Rickman.

 

 

William Lafayette Biggers

September 28, 1840 - May 10, 1863

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THE GHOST OF WILL BIGGERS

 

Many stories of brother against brother have come out of the Civil War. None is more poignant than that of Will Biggers of the Cross Keys community of Williamson County.  He was killed at the hands of his fellow Confederate troops.  His murder was so senseless and brutal that it is said that his spirit refused to leave the area, and his ghost still haunts Pulltight Hill in southern Williamson County.

William L. Biggers was the son of Andrew Jackson C. and Malinda Hartley Biggers.  Both his paternal grandfather, Robert Biggers, Sr., and his maternal grandfather, Laban Hartley, Jr., were pioneer settlers in the Allisona-Cross Keys area of the county.  Both had large families, and their children married into most of the families in the area.  After Will's murder, the community was divided in its sympathies.  Even today there are strained relations between some of those families that date back to the death of Will Biggers.

An entire company of soldiers was raised to join the Union army in an area that was almost entirely Confederate in its sympathies.  Indeed, this area of the county furnished a sole Republican member of the Williamson County Quarterly Court up until present days.

  On September 11, 1801, Robert Biggers and his wife, Katherine bought land on Grove Creek in Williamson County.  There they lived and farmed until Robert's death in 1820.  They reared nine children, one of whom, Andrew Jackson C. Biggers, was the father of Will Biggers.


  Will's other grandfather, Laban Hartley, came to Williamson County about 1818.  He settled near the Biggers family and built a sandstone house at Cross Keys.  It is the oldest stone house still standing in the county.  It is said to have taken seven years to build.  it was surrounded by the orchard for which Laban Hartley was famous.  Laban Hartley, Jr., the son of the Revolutionary War soldier, died August 18, 1850, leaving eleven children.  His daughter, Malinda W. Hartley, had married Andrew Jackson C. Biggers.

Jackson Biggers and his wife Malinda bought and lived on land that had previously belonged to her father.  It was located in the area of the county between Cross Keys and Allisona called "The Grove."  In September 1860, Malinda Hartley Biggers petitioned the court for the division of her father's estate.  In the petition, she stated that she and her husband Jackson had purchased land previously owned by Laban Hartley and she needed her share of the estate to be able to pay for it.

 

William Lafayette  Biggers, called Will, was the oldest in the family. he was born on September 28, 1840.  Lum, whose real name was Laban Columbus, was two years younger, having been born December 31, 1842.  When the Civil War came, both of them enlisted in the Confederate Army.  They joined Company D, 24th Tennessee Infantry, under Captain John A. Wilson at Cave City, Kentucky.  Will served as a Private and Lum as a Teamster.


Will was discharged at Bowling Green in the Fall of 1861 due to "palpitation of the heart."  At this point, key facts are missing.  He is said to have later joined with Nathan Bedford Forrest's forces or with General Earl Van Dorn's Cavalry.  Both forces were active in the area where he lived.  No doubt it was his activity during this period that could explain the reason for his murder.
   

A third Biggers son, whose identity is not clear joined the Union forces.  He served with Stokes Federal Cavalry. While Will was home on sick leave, he decided to go to Franklin to visit his brother who was there with Stokes' troops.  On May 10, 1863, shortly after this visit, a squad of eight men from Van Dorn's army, which was stationed at nearby Spring Hill, appeared at the Biggers' home.  They dragged him from his home and took him to the top of Pulltight Hill where he was shot and killed.  The following article appeared in the Nashville Union on July 23, 1863, and summarized the event:


     "We learned yesterday of an outrage perpetrated by a squad of Van Dorn's Cavalry--a part of his bodyguard--in Williamson County on the 10th day of May last, which will add to the infamy that already attaches to the name of "Rebel Cavalry-man."  On that day eight of these miscreants called at the house of Mr. Bigger, near Bethesda, 14 miles from Franklin, and called for his son, W.L. Bigger.  Upon making his appearance they required him to go with them, and when about to start, he asked his brother for some tobacco,  Then one of the Rebels told him he "would not want tobacco long."  They took him off and in the first grove, they came to shot and killed him.  A number of balls struck him, and he must have died instantly.  having thus brutally murdered him, they took his horse and saddle and departed.  Mr. Bigger was in his 23rd year--had been in the Revel Army, but was discharged on account of feeble health.  What he was murdered for is left to conjecture.  His murderers assigned no cause.  it seems to have been a cold-blooded, wanton act.  he has a brother in Stokes' Federal Cavalry, whom he visited at Franklin and it is supposed that this visit may have had something to do with the murder."

 Andrew Jackson C. and Malinda Hartley Biggers had ten children.  Three of them played key roles in the events that led to the division of sympathies in the area.

Andrew Jackson C. Biggers wrote the following obituary for his son, Will:


     "William L. Bigger was born in Williamson County on the 28th of September 1940 and on the 10th of May 1963

      he was  arrested by eight rebel soldiers.  While at home quietly sleeping and torn from his brothers and

      sister and carried about one mile to the place we now occupy (sic).  And then brutally (sic) murdered him by

      shooting him five times when taken (sic) his horse and saddle with them.  Leaving him dead.  He had visited

      his brother and neighbors belonging to the Federal Army.  While living in their lines."

 


AT the time that he was shot Will Biggers had a small book in his coat pocket.  One-shot went through the book.  It is now in the possession of Early Wray of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.          

 

 


 

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In October 1992 a military marker was dedicated to William, whose grave had been marked by a rugged tombstone with his name, birth & death, marker was supplied & organized a dedication ceremony by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and today Will's ghost is said to roam Pultight Hill. 

Meanwhile, Lum Biggers was active with the Confederate forces. He fought in the Battle of Shiloh. It was during this battle that Joe Crafton, a neighbor, and friend of the Biggers family, fired the first shot that killed a Federal colonel. The captain had given orders not to fire until the command was given, but Crafton felt that he would never get such a shot again. The colonel was riding.a big fine horse that broke and ran into the Confederate lines after its rider was killed. Lum caught the colonel's horse, took it over, and worked it as an ambulance horse. He named the animal "Abraham Lincoln."

 

Lum was wounded at Perryville, Kentucky, in 1862 and was discharged after the Battle of. Perryville.  Although' Lum had been discharged, he continued to serve in the Confederate Army by acting; as a special orderly for Pat Cleburne at Murfreesboro on Dec ember. 31 and for a short time afterward.' It is said that their third brother Rodney, also served during the Civil War and was killed in Kentucky.

 

When Lum heard of his brother's murder at the hands of their fellow soldiers, he returned home as soon as possible and went to see Van Dorn at Spring Hill. Lum had a good recommendation from his company, and regiment, officers. endorsed by^ Cleburne., Hardee, and Bragg. When Lum entered Van Dorn's camp, he found Will's horse and saddle. Immediately, he went to Van Dorn's headquarters with this information and recommendation. Van Dorn's rude treatment of Lum so enraged him that Lum immediately went into the Federal lines and joined the Union forces attaching- himself to the 5th Tennessee Cavalry under Colonel William B. ' Stokes.  Later,  Andrew Johnson, military governor, appointed Lum recruiting officer. and; scout' to help enlist men for Captain William 0. Rickman's Union command of scouts in and around Bethesda. Captain Rickman was married to a kinsman and lived near the Biggers home. William 0. Rickman enlisted in 1860 at the age of 27 in Company H,.5th Tennessee Cavalry. He was born in Marshall County. He married^Nancy White and is buried in the White Cemetery in the 21st District of Williamson County.

 

The muster roll of Company H under Rickman contains the names of many neighbors and ' kinsmen from Williamson and Marshall Counties -such as Crafton,' Criswell, Hartley, McKissick, Skinner, Truett, White, and others. Many of these soldiers no doubt had enlisted in this Federal company to express their outrage at the murder of Will Biggers.

 

Meanwhile, several miles away in the village of Spring Hill on the Williamson and Maury County lines there occurred one of the most bizarre incidents of the Civil War, which was not totally unconnected with the Biggers incident. Confederate troops were stationed at Spring Hill under the command of dashing and handsome General Earl Van Dorn, a native of Port Gibson,  Mississippi., and a graduate of West Point. He had made quite a name for himself both as a general and as a ladies'' man. It is to be recalled that it was a contingency of  Van Dorn's troops that murdered Will Biggers and it was Van Dorn whom Lum Biggers went to see, and it was Van Dorn who treated Lum so. rudely.  

While stationed in Spring Hill, Van Dorn became romantically involved with one of the local belles, who happened to be married. She was Jessie Helen McKissack, daughter of a prominent local family, who had married Dr. George B. Peters in 1858.

 

Dr. Peters was reared, in Maury County. He became a physician and moved to Bolivar, Tennessee, where he practiced medicine for 23 years. He also served as State Senator from the 21st District in the years 1859-61.  At the time of the Van Dorn episode, he was living in Phillips County, Arkansas. In 1863 he obtained a pass to go to Spring Hill to visit his wife who was staying with her "family there.

 

It is to be noted that Dr. Peters was several years older than Jessie McKissack and that he had been previously married and had several children by his first wife, who had died. Mrs. Peters was in her" early 20's at the time.

 

Upon his return to Spring Hill, he was deluged with stories of the intimacy of his wife and General Van Dorn. On the morning of "7 j 1863, at about 8 o'clock, he went to Van Corn's headquarters in the old Chairs house next to the Presbyterian Church, where he drew his pistol and shot Van Dorn through the head. -He died instantly.  Dr. Peters then fled to Shelbyville where he expected to be pardoned by General Leonidas Polk. Finding that authorities intended to arrest him, he returned to Nashville within Federal lines by way of McMinnville and Gallatin.

 

Lum Biggers was serving as a Union soldier on picket duty ' when Dr. Peters entered the Federal lines after killing Van Dorn. Peters knew Lum and was grateful to find him at this time. Lum escorted him to General Gordon Franger's headquarters in Nashville.

 

In September of that same year, Lum was about one-fourth mile north of Riggs Cross Roads on Nolensville Pike and hid in the bushes when he heard two horses galloping down the pike. Seeing an officer and his orderly, Lum jumped out of the bushes, drew his pistols, and forced the two men to surrender. At this time, Lum realized that the men he had captured were Lt. Colonel Thomas, H. Peebles, and his-.orderly.  Lum- had served previously under Peebles who had organized Company B from the vicinity of Spring Hill and south Williamson County. Lum had said to others later that ..he, would not have attempted to capture the men had he known who they were because Colonel Peebles was an extremely "game" man.  The orderly was released and Colonel Peebles was taken to Lum's house as his guest that night.

 

Colonel Peebles asked Lum in detail about the Federal lines ^and was informed that it would be difficult for him to escape to, the south. Colonel Peebles had many letters that he was attempting to carry south, but. even with' the friendship they shared, Lum could not allow the mail to be delivered.  Early the next morning, Lum,snd Colonel Peebles went to Federal Headquarters in Nashville where Peebles was paroled and Lum went on his bond.

 

 Another account of this same incident related that Lum saved Colonel Peebles's life near Chapel.Hill by refusing to let Federals search Peebles. Colonel Peebles'reportedly chewed up his information and stuffed it in cord holes. Later, he was sent to prison in Nashville.  He was shot on November 10, 18'70, In Williamson County by S. A. Pointer' following a misunderstanding over school and money matters. He had just been elected as a state senator on the day he was killed.

 

Lum Riggers served the remainder of the Civil War and returned to live near his childhood home. He was married four times and had. several children. . Many older residents of the Cross Keys - Allisona'area claim to have seen the ghost of Will Biggers on Pulltight Hill. It may have been a figment of their imagination, but the story of Will Biggers is more than imaginary​.

 

         

Louise G, Lynch, Williamson County Historical Society