Historic marker #672 in Whitley County commemorates the heroics of Julia Marcum during the Civil War.
Born on November 7, 1844, Julia Marcum grew up in Scott County, Tennessee. Her parents were Hiram and Permelia (Huff) Marcum. The family lived on a farm four miles east of Huntsville, in the northeastern part of Tennessee. Her family members were strong Unionists. At the start of the Civil War, Hiram Marcum helped organized an underground railway to get men north that wanted to join the federal army. The Confederate forces got wind of this secret and began camping out in the area. Hiram grew fearful of the troops, so he slept out in the woods to avoid capture at his house in the night.
On September 7, 1861, Confederate troops came into the family’s home. Julia wrote an account of this night later in life, around 1926. She remembered that the Confederates “broke the door open with bayonets on their guns and said there was 36 men around who had come to kill [Hiram] Marcum and would kill all the women and burn us all in the house.” All the soldiers but one went searching on the farm’s property for Julia’s father. This remaining man began to threaten Julia’s sister Didama and choked her mother. Julia grabbed an ax for protection as the soldier tried to strike her with his bayonet. Julia then went under the gun and “chopped him in the face and breast with the ax … getting the best of him.” During the fight, the Confederate struck Julia with the bayonet in the head and shot at her. This violence resulted in her losing an eye and a finger. Her father finally came to their aid and killed the solider, but fearing for his family, left the farm never to return. Many people did not think that Julia would recover but after several months she rallied.
Another confrontation between Julia and Confederate troops occurred again when she tried to save her cousin, George. He hid in their barn waiting to head north, but Confederate troops found out. Julia ran to alert her cousin. Confederate soldiers spotted her and attempted to shoot her but missed. George died in the skirmish. His death became the last straw for the Marcum family and they packed their bags, eventually settling in Kentucky.
Julia tried to work as a teacher after the war’s end, but her wounds forced her to retire. In 1884, she petitioned Congress for a pension to compensate for injuries inflicted in defense of her country. Fortunately, Julia was friends with a member of the Committee of Pensions, Kentucky Congressman Frank Wolford. On February 24, 1885, Julia Marcum received a pension for combat wounds. She was one of only a handful of women to get this aid. On May 9, 1935, Julia Marcum died in Whitley County, Kentucky at the age of 91. She received a military funeral and her body was laid to rest in the Highland Cemetery in Williamsburg.