FRANKLIN – The long-lost diary of prominent Nashville historical figure and Civil War officer Randal William McGavock is now back in Tennessee after decades spent on a closet shelf in a Cincinnati home.
McGavock, who served as Nashville mayor from 1858 to 1859, kept meticulous diaries of his life's travels, which he detailed in nine volumes. Eight of those volumes have been kept at the Tennessee State Library and Archives since 1960, officials said. The ninth volume, which chronicles McGavock's early days fighting in the Civil War, was discovered by Andrea Shearn, a retired science teacher from California.
McGavock, born in 1826, was a lieutenant colonel in the 10th Tennessee Regiment of the Confederate Army. He was killed on May 12, 1863, in Raymond, Miss., during the Battle of Raymond.
He is the grandson of Randal McGavock, who served as mayor of Nashville from 1824 to 1825 and was the founder of Carnton Plantation.
Shearn found McGavock's diary inside a wooden box in a closet in the family home in Cincinnati while helping her parents move into an assisted-living facility.
A family ancestor, Capt. Myndert Wemple of Illinois, found McGavock's diary after his troops evacuated Fort Henry in a Middle Tennessee battle that was a disaster for the South.
Shearn learned the diary had been passed down through her family for 100 years before ending up with her grandmother.
After finding the diary, Shearn contacted state librarian and archivist Chuck Sherrill, who authenticated the diary.
"This nice lady from California called and said, 'I wonder if anyone in Tennessee would be interested in this diary,'" Sherrill said. "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."
Instead, Shearn donated the diary to the state archives to complete the state's collection of diaries on McGavock's life.
"We are extremely grateful to Andrea Shearn for returning this diary to Tennessee," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said in a statement. "I know that scholars and McGavock descendants will enjoy the opportunity to read it and fill in the blanks in this soldier's history."
About Randal McGavock
Randal William McGavock was born Aug. 10, 1826, in Nashville.
He received a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1849.
He was mayor of Nashville from 1858 to 1859.
He was killed on May 12, 1863 in Raymond, Miss., during the Battle of Raymond. He was originally buried in Raymond but his remains were later moved to Columbus, Miss., and finally Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.