In August 1864 Federal soldiers surrounded Confederate spy Dewitt Smith Jobe in Triune, Tennessee. When the soldiers demanded Jobe hand over the papers he was carrying, the Rebel spy tore them up, put them in his mouth and swallowed them.
Incensed by the defiant Rebel, the soldiers pistol whipped him, gouged out his eyes and cut out his tongue. Jobe was then mercilessly dragged behind a horse as the Union soldiers barbarically cheered and laughed as he died. The young scout’s lifeless body was discovered hanging by his feet from a tree a short time later.
A week or so later word finally made its way to Jobe’s cousin, Dee Smith who was stationed in Chattanooga. Still reeling from the execution of his other cousin, Sam Davis, the year before Smith couldn’t contain himself when he heard what the Union had done to Jobe. In the middle of the night Dee Smith left behind the Army of Tennessee and set out to avenge the murders of his beloved cousins. As Smith rode north to Murfreesboro he set his sites clearly on Union Major General William Rosecrans and other member of the Federal Army that got in his way.
Before arriving in Murfreesboro, Smith encountered an encampment of sixteen Union soldiers sleeping around a campfire in Tullahoma. While they peacefully slept, the Confederate Angel of Death vowed no quarter and cut the throats of fifteen soldiers. He left one alive to tell other soldiers about the bloodthirsty Rebel who was coming for them.
As Smith’s body count grew, so did his legend. His name struck fear into the hearts of Federal soldiers in the area. But as time went on, he became more brazen. He even left a note pinned to a Union soldier who had found himself in Smith’s crosshairs. It read, “Part of the debt for my murdered friend, Dee Jobe.”
It’s said that in all, Smith killed approximately 50 Yankees and set fire to a number of homes that Union soldiers were staying in around Murfreesboro.
Unfortunately, the overwhelming might of the Union Army was too much for just one man. The Confederate Avenger was severely injured in a shootout in Nolensville and finally captured. Smith was brought to Murfreesboro and sentenced to be executed. But he wouldn’t give the Yanks the satisfaction of watching him hang from a tree. Smith passed away in the courthouse while be treated by a doctor a few hours before he was to be hanged.
Today it’s said that the spirit of Dee Smith still roams the second floor of the Rutherford County Courthouse. Those who have worked there late night tell strange stories about water faucets that turn themselves on and toilets that flush on their own. Doors have also been known to open on their own or violently slam shut.
One longtime county employee told me about a strange incident while working late one night. As she was working diligently in her office upstairs she got a phone call from another office inside the building. Thinking it was another co-worker working late, she answered it but no one was on the line. She went downstairs to investigate only to find she was the only person in the building.
If you’d like to learn more about the Rutherford County Courthouse or other haunted places in Murfreesboro, please check out my book Southern Ghost Stories: Murfreesboro, Spirits of Stones River. It’s available at Pickled Treats and Antiques in Gallatin as well as Amazon.