THE HERALD, Rogersville, Tennessee Volume VI
Number 30 Wednesday, 3 February, 1892

January 30th: The SIZEMORE murder trial consumed the time of the criminal court yesterday. The testimony was all in by three o'clock and Mr. Charles NELSON opened on the part of the State. The argument will be concluded this morning. The trial of James SIZEMORE for the killing of Cicero JOHNSON, in May, 1891, recalls some interesting events that occurred in the dark days of terror that prevailed in the north-eastern counties of East Tennessee immediately after the close of the war. James SIZEMORE is the son of the notorious Bill SIZEMORE, who terrorized the people of that region by killing innocent and inoffensive people without even the slightest provocation, and there are many still living who will remember the bloody deeds charged up to Bill SIZEMORE and his gang of desperadoes.

At the beginning of the war Bill organized a company. He was a secessionist, but the union sentiment was so strong that the company resolved itself into what was known as the federalist guerrillas. They never mustered in regularly but led a roving, foraging, independent military life. While Bill was the acknowledged leader he had two trusty lieutenants by the name of FOSTER and WILLIS. After the war Bill ------ became nothing else but regular desperadoes, and people ------------tern counties were in---- of them. A thousand and one thrill-- ------- ------dents perpetrated by Bill SIZEMORE --------- his followers could be narrated, ------- few will suffice.

At one time, near the close of the war, some federal troops at Rogersville had with them seven rebel prisoners. Bill and his gang came to town, and Bill himself strode into where these prisoners were and shot every one down with his pistols. It was these sort of cruel and bloodthirsty acts, contrary to the code of warfare, but excused at the time because of war, that fitted them to lead the desperado life after the war was over.

It became a war between Bill's gang and peaceable citizenship, and one by one Bill and his gang fell by the wayside with their boots on. James ROGAN, who still lives and is a respected citizen, was fired upon one time, when a boy, by Bill SIZEMORE,
who shot him simply because he was looking at him.

At one time the bloodthirsty demon met a little boy on a bridge and told him he would have to die. The story is that the terrified lad fell at Bill's feet, gathered him about the knees, plead piteously for his life, but the boy was shot. This deed is said to have been the only killing for which Bill afterwards expressed any remorse. He said at night he frequently would feel this lad clutching him about the knees, and the sensation terrified him.

After the war Bill settled in Rogersville and ran the town and community to his own will. He took possession of a hotel and opened it, and one day had words with a man on the hotel front porch. He backed the fellow up against the wall and pumped him full of lead. On the same day, or shortly thereafter, Ira WILLIS, one of his old war lieutenants came along and called Bill to come to him from a crowd in front of the courthouse. He said, "Bill, you seem to be running the town about as you please." Bill replied that none dared to interfere.

WILLIS then said he guessed this sort of business had gone about far enough and that he had made up his mind to stop it himself and at the same time pulled down on SIZEMORE, shooting him squarely in the forehead. Bill fell forward and turned over on his back, his head next to the fence between them. WILLIS leaned over the fence and shot him again exactly through the same hole, although the ball made two holes in the back of his head. This ended the life of one of the greatest desperadoes in East Tennessee.

WILLIS himself was afterwards waylaid by a man by the name of BURTON and mortally shot through the body with a Winchester. He was riding and the horse ran away. BURTON followed up and found WILLIS lying by the roadside. WILLIS told BURTON not to shoot him again, as he was already dying, but BURTON said he was afraid he might get well and shot him again. The people of that county always believed WILLIS was hired to kill SIZEMORE, and it is known that a boy whom SIZEMORE knocked down once with the butt of a gun, sent WILLIS $5.00 of his hard earned money. Others sent him money also.

SIZEMORE had a partner by the name of WILLIAMS who met his death in Knoxville. Officer BRIDWELL, of the present city force, was then on the police force. He had a warrant for WILLIAMS for horse stealing, and, finding him in a saloon, went in and told him so. While he was reading the warrant to WILLIAMS, the latter jerked his gun and shot BRIDWELL in the right eye, the ball coming out just in front of his ear.

The officer was whirled clear around on his feet by the shot, and when again facing WILLIAMS, received another shot in the upper part of the same eye. By this time BRIDWELL had his gun out and WILLIAMS grabbed it, but the former shoved the muzzel against WILLIAMS' stomach and fired. The latter turned to run when the officer again shot him.

WILLIAMS died a few days afterwards from the wound in the stomach. But the brave officer had the constitution of a lion and is as good a man to-day as ever, although few men would have lived through the same trouble. Mr. WADDLE, also a policeman at that time, afterwards found another gun in WILLIAMS' boot. WILLIAMS' partner, the father of the man on trial, was afterwards killed by one of his own relatives.

Before WILLIAMS died he said that if he had succeeded in killing BRIDWELL, he would have been the fifteenth man he and SIZEMORE had killed. Referring back to the present trial of SIZEMORE, the defense consumed but little time in the examination of its witnesses yesterday.

SIZEMORE took the stand and told his story cooly and deliberately. He admitted killing JOHNSON and his reason was that JOHNSON had been bullying around him and threatened to kill him and he had got tired of it and concluded to have it settled one way or the other. When they met at a secluded spot mutually agreed upon, he had his hand on his gun. JOHNSON had his coat off and as they met he threw his coat down and advancing on SIZEMORE told him to take his hand out of his pocket or he would make him do it.

About this time JOHNSON reached into his back pocket and SIZEMORE presumed was reaching for his gun said, "Well, if that's your game, here's at you," and commenced firing. He testified that he shot at his heart and shot to kill. Willie SIZEMORE, the twelve-year old son of the defendant, was the only witness to the affair. The little fellow's testimony was given in a straightforward way, differing in but a few minor details from that of his father. He stated, however, that JOHNSON had procured a knife of some one at a saw mill. An affecting scene occurred. He broke down and commenced to
cry, then the father and some of the family all cried.

The KNOXVILLE TRIBUNE of the 2nd, Inst., says:

James SIZEMORE, who killed E. C. JOHNSON near Concord last May is a free man. The jury returned a verdict of "not guilty" yesterday morning. Judge SNEED was very much surprised and he issued orders that none of the jurors in the case should ever serve again in his court. Judge SNEED'S order and the verdict created a sensation among the members of the bar and the habitues of the courthouse and were the talk of the day.


It is such verdicts as that returned by the jury in the SIZEMORE case that encourages
mob law...

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