Randal McGavock’s long-lost diary returns to Tennessee

Randal_William_McGavockSarah Stringfellow
Staff Writer

In a bizarre turn of events, the long-lost diary of famous Nashvillian and Civil War Confederate officer, Randal William McGavock, was found buried deep within a closet shelf in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“This nice lady from California called and said, ‘I wonder if anyone in Tennessee would be interested in this diary,’” Chuch Sherrill, State Librarian and Archivist recalls. “When she told me it was Randal McGavock’s diary, my first thought was to fly to California and get it before it disappeared again.”

Andrea Shearn, a retired school teacher, found the diary in a wooden box amongst her parents things whilst moving them into an assisted living facility. She believes her Grandmother placed the diary within the box during the early 1960s, but her parents had no knowledge of its presence. Even more incredible, is that within the diary, Shearn found the inscription, “Captured at Ft. Henry Stewart Co. Middle Tennessee Feb 6th 1862 by Capt. M Wemple Co H 4th Ill Vol Cav  Presented to Ms. Lue Wemple.” Upon investigation, Shearn learned Wemple was her ancestor, and had discovered McGavock’s diary after the disastrous battle near Fort Henry. Wemple’s descendants have passed down the diary from generation-to-generation for over 100 years, until finally disappearing into a closet north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Upon finding the diary and researching the McGavock’s, Shearn contacted the Tennessee State Library for authentication.

“We had this great set of diaries, but the volume from the beginning of the Civil War was missing,” Sherrill said.
McGavock, elected mayor of Nashville at the tender age of 32, was a Harvard educated lawyer and lieutenant colonel of the 10th Tennessee Regiment of the Confederate Army. He is the grandson of Randal McGavock, owner of Carnton Plantation and Nashville Mayor from 1824 to 1825. A meticulous recorder, McGavock wrote a series of nine diaries, detailing his life’s journey throughout the tumultuous Civil War Period. Eight of the volumes are currently housed at the Tennessee State Library, with the ninth and final diary completing the state’s collection.

Shearn later visited Nashville to explore Carnton Mansion, Two Rivers Mansion and other sites, while donating the diary to the state library and o Tennessee archives.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett said: “We are extremely grateful to Andrea Shearn for returning this diary to Tennessee. I know that scholars and McGavock descendants will enjoy the opportunity to read it and fill in the blanks in this soldier’s history.”

Contact Sarah Stringfellow at 615-298-1500 or email sarah@gcanews.com.