Part Three of: A Tennessee Vendetta

Published 9:15 am Monday, February 27, 2017

Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of a multi-part series. Part One was published on Sunday, Feb. 5, and Part Two was published on Sunday, Feb. 19.

The die had been cast and the cycle had begun. What started was an argument had become a blood feud. Rogers, the dishonorable, had killed a good man, Johnstone. The son of the fallen became James the Avenger and returned the favor. Now the mantle of vengeance would fall upon William Rogers, who in turn would become the Reckoning.
William and James grew into young men and their families flourished and multiplied. Relationships were fostered and both had their fill of bonds of friendships and loyalties. Those friends in turn would grow to resent the other party of the feud and would take their hand at spiting one another. Random acts of vandalism, threats, and violence would break out in streets of town, and on the home front.
For a short time, there was a brief respite in the hostilities. Anyone not associated with the history of the warring parties would have thought that perhaps the madness had come to an end. The respite, however, was nothing more than a rouse. One that would lure James into a false sense of tranquility and peace.
One morning, William arose and readied himself for the day. Without uttering a word to his family, grabbed his father’s rifle (that had killed the elder Johnstone in the first place) and mounted his horse and rode away as if he was doing nothing more than going for a hunt. This façade wasn’t a full out lie — he was going to hunt, but his prey was not to be any other creature than James Johnstone. William and his friends had used this time of peace to spy on James and learn his daily routine, most importantly, when he was alone. He had several relatives and friends who would come by, and more often than not, the numbers didn’t fare well for Rogers.
William, like James, had figured the Sabbath was the best time for his course of calamity. James would be up early and down by a shallow lull in the river, gathering buckets of water. This morning would be no different than the others. James was punctual with his arrival at the river and was quietly observing the light fog that rose from the cool waters. The quiet moment was abruptly shattered when a gunshot rang out, the shot went wild and splintered a branch overhead. James looked in the direction of the sound and saw a billow of smoke as a second shot echoed across the river. James was quickly backing up, and was turning to run, when he saw William and his two friends (they were brothers of mean reputation) galloping on horseback across the river. James drew his pistol and fired two shots at William, neither finding their intended mark. But he was able to wing one of the brothers, prompting him to lose his courage, causing him to fall from his horse into the river waters.
William and the other had reared back to check on the other. James heard him yell out “I’m fine, go git em!!” If anything else was said, James wasn’t around to hear it, he had made it to his horse. A short minute later has was coming off of his steed before it even stopped. William was shortly behind giving chase, firing his father’s rifle all the while. James burst through the door and screamed at his family to get down on the floor. He fetched his rifle and fired a few quick shots out the front door. He couldn’t see them, it was more of a desperate attempt at hopefully killing them blindly.
It was quiet again, James was slowly going window to window, looking for any sign of them and to gain a vantage point. He had just crossed the dining area when the front door kicked open. James spun and fired off a volley of lead at the empty doorway when outside a lone gunshot rang out, the window glass broke, James clutched his chest, took a few steps forward and was dead before he hit the kitchen table.
William and friend rode off quickly to gather their wounded and make their getaway. The family hadn’t seen them, and James… well, dead men tell no tales, so they made their escape successfully. Made no difference though, the community wasn’t filled with idiots and fools. No one had a doubt who had committed this murder. William scoffed that he had no hand in what transpired. Someone else, however, knew the better. That someone would wait for his moment for revenge, and revenge they shall have.
Time had passed, and again a false sense of security had spread across the families minds and spirits. One morning William kissed his wife on the cheek, and told her he was going to ride into Elizabethton. It was a bit of a ride round trip, so his wife wasn’t particularly worried when he was late for supper. She was nervous, but not worried. She remained calm while every so often, she would visually scan the roadside, expecting him to come trodding up any moment. That calm melted away into worry when sunset came. Then worry became dread as her husband had not returned as the midnight hours tolled by.
Thanks for reading. Part 4 next week! The mountains call again!
Scott Bowers is the County Historian for Carter County and commander of Camp 2083 Lt. Robert J. Tipton of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Send questions or comments about his columns to

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