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The first of four issues of the Hartsville Vidette printed in August of 1862.

This month, we are looking at recently-donated items to the Trousdale County Archives.

The archives are part of the county offices complex, located at 328 Broadway in Hartsville. Behind the main building is the new water department building and the Trousdale County Archives facility.

The archives building is open every Wednesday from 9 a.m. until noon and from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. for researchers and visitors. If someone is doing family genealogy or simply wants to see the collection of local history books and papers, the archives welcomes individuals to stop by.

Over the last year, two significant old newspapers have been donated to the archives, and they are more than 100 years old to boot.

Let’s start with a short history lesson.

People were living in our community by the 1780s, well before we became a state in 1796. A thriving river town, Hartsville was designated a postal community in 1807, and the state legislature recognized the town in legislation in 1817.

However, we didn’t get our own newspaper until 1858 when a local schoolmaster started one called the Hartsville Plaindealer.

Clark Barteau was the headmaster at the old Hartsville Female Academy. Enterprising, he took his writing skills and created a second job for himself as the editor of the paper.

We have no copies of any issue of that newspaper … unless someone reading this article knows of one lying about somewhere.

When the Civil War broke out, Barteau joined in the fighting and left his newspaper and the academy behind.

Now comes the interesting part … when Confederate cavalryman and raider John Hunt Morgan occupied Hartsville in late summer of 1862, he took advantage of the abandoned newspaper office to publish a little paper of his own.

Gordon Niles, one of Morgan’s soldiers with past newspaper experience, handset the type for the first issue of the Vidette.

The name is a French term for a man on horse who serves as a sentry to protect a military camp. He would be stationed out further than a regular sentry, a type of early warning system.

The unique name was not new to Middle Tennessee.

From 1820-28, Murfreesboro had a newspaper called the National Vidette. So, the name may have been familiar to both Morgan and members of his unit, known for raiding Union supply lines.

The implication of the name was that the newspaper would be the first to alert its subscribers to what was happening in the world about them, a sentry in the world of journalism.

The paper printed by Niles was not a true newspaper, in that it reported little local news. But, it was instead a propaganda sheet for Morgan and his exploits. The paper uses most of its one sheet, printed on both front and back, to telling how great John Hunt Morgan was and to mention his success in his job of bedeviling the Yankees.

Three issues were edited by Gordon Niles until a skirmish with Union soldiers in nearby Gallatin saw Niles killed.

A fourth issue was edited by Richard Gano before Morgan moved to safer territory. Union soldiers were hot on his trail.

Morgan would retreat south to Murfreesboro but return on Dec. 7, 1862, for his more dramatic Battle of Hartsville, which we have written about in an earlier series of articles.

So, what’s the reason this brief history?

A resident of Castalian Springs has donated two copies of the original Vidette to our archives.

We might point out that copies of the paper are rare.

The two papers have been placed in an archival quality box, alongside the one other copy that our museum had, bringing us to a total of three issues. A copy of the fourth issue is on our wish list to make our collection complete.

At today’s meeting of the Trousdale County Historical Society, which will be held at 2 p.m. at the archives building, we will recognize the individual who donated these significant old newspapers to our local history. We will treasure the papers and protect them for future generations of Trousdale County residents and are forever grateful for the generosity of our neighbor and their donation.

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