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Long-Lost Civil War Diary of One-Time Nashville Mayor McGavock Returned to Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A Civil War diary kept by a onetime mayor of Nashville Randal McGavock has been returned to Tennessee 152 years after it was found by a Union captain when Fort Henry was captured from Confederate forces.

The diary was found in Cincinnati by retired teacher Andrea Shearn while helping her parents move into an assisted living facility. Both she and her parents had been unaware that her grandmother had placed the diary in a wooden box on a shelf in 1963.

An inscription said the document had been captured by Capt. Myndert Wemple of the 4th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry on Feb. 6, 1862. Shearn's research determined that Wemple was an ancestor, whose descendants passed the diary down through the family for the next 100 years before it was forgotten.

Shearn then turned her attention to McGavock, and was surprised to learn that he was a Harvard-educated lawyer who served a one-year term as Nashville mayor beginning in 1858, when he was 32. He had earlier embarked on a 20-month tour of Europe, Asia and Africa and wrote a book, "A Tennessean Abroad."

McGavock was a lieutenant colonel in the 10th Tennessee Regiment who was killed in battle in 1863 in Raymond, Mississippi.

Fort Henry marked an early triumph for Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who wrested key forts along the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, isolating the Confederacy from the West. Grant would later rise to be the top military command and ultimately win the war.

Shearn contacted the Tennessee State Library and Archives about her find.

"This nice lady from California called and said, 'I wonder if anyone in Tennessee would be interested in this diary,'" archivist Chuck Sherrill said in a release. "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."

Sherill said the archives have housed eight volumes of McGavock diaries since 1960, but the volume from the beginning of the Civil War was missing.

Shearn and her husband flew to Nashville to donate the diary to the archives and to visit historical sites associated with McGavock and his prominent family, like Two Rivers Mansion in Nashville and the Carnton plantation in Franklin.

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

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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