Preacher in the Bell Tower

In honor of Confederate History Month, reprinted here is an article written by PULASKI CITIZEN publisher W.B. Romine that appeared in a special edition in 1936. The church referred to in the article is now Second Street Church of Christ.

Preacher Hid In Bell Tower
by W.B. Romine

Many incidents which appear almost tragic at the time when reviewed from a little distance take on aspects of comedy. Such is the story of Rev. Thomas Davenport of Pulaski, who was Chaplain of the Third Tennessee Regiment of Infantry in the Civil War. This regiment was composed largely of Giles County men.

Mr. Davenport was a little man physically. When full grown he was about the size of an average boy of 15, but he made up in courage and enthusiasm all he lacked in stature. When the orators began appealing for volunteers, the fifes shrieking forth inspiration to the accompaniment of the drums, Mr. Davenport wanted to enlist along with his fellows.

But enlistment officers insisted he was undersized for a soldier. The Rev. �Tommie� as he was called, urged that requirements as to size did not apply to a chaplain. So it was agreed that he might attend the reorganization of the regiment. He was appointed Chaplain of the regiment, and in addition to his duties kept a diary which was an interesting piece of local history.

But it was about a visit home we started to write. Chaplain Davenport was on a visit to home folks here at Pulaski, and while here began a series of sermons at the Methodist Church, which at that time occupied the site at the corner of East Washington and North Second Streets. And it is said that the Rev. Tommie talked more about the Third Tennessee than about the Prince of Peace. No doubt his audience was more interested just then in the boys at camp.

News of the kind of preaching the Rev. Tommie was doing leaked out and one day while services were in progress a company of Federal soldiers was observed approaching. It was their intention to capture Rev. Tommie and at same time capture witnesses to convict him.

The church building at that time had a gallery or balcony in the rear for Negroes. It may not be generally known, but it is a fact that practically every congregation in the South made provision for the Negroes and all worshipped, sang and shouted together before the period of reconstruction. Pardon this digression.

What we started off to say was that the bell tower was entered from the balcony by a trap door, and when the preacher was informed that the Federals were coming, the congregation was dismissed without ceremony. And acting upon the seaman�s motto, �Any Port in A Storm,� the little preacher passed through the trap door into the bell tower and so disappeared about the time the Federal soldiers reached the front door.

Inquiry was made for the preacher, but he was gone somewhere. Had been there just a little while ago, but it was the custom of the congregation to linger awhile and talk with each other. Maybe the preacher had gone home with somebody.

The Federals looked about but could find no trace of the preacher. They were sure there was a trick somewhere about his escape, but they were unable to find it. They felt sure he would come out of hiding soon, so they spent two or three days in town but never saw the preacher. He remained in the bell tower day and night, and one of the few friends who knew where he was quietly carried some food and water each night and passed it in through the trap door.

When the way was clear, the Rev. Tommie made his way back to his command.

Submitted by: Claudia Johnson
Pulaski Citizen