“The end of an evil year in the history of America—what another year will bring forth remained to be seen—perhaps and most likely the bloodiest war ever known in America, God forbid!” — Tipton County Court Clerk John T. Douglas, December 1861
On June 10, 1861, 943 residents of Tipton County voted in favor of secession with only 16 votes against. Local men already had begun forming volunteer military companies. The first of these, the Tipton Rifles, trained and drilled at the old fairgrounds in Covington under the command of Capt. John Turner until they departed for Germantown to become part of the 4th Tennessee Infantry. In all, the county furnished twelve companies for the Confederacy.
Although West Tennessee quickly came under the control of the Union army, Confederate Col. Robert V. Richardson completed the organization of the 1st Tennessee Regiment of Partisan Rangers at its main camp near Bloomington. Federal attempts to curtail the Rangers’ activities resulted in numerous engagements throughout the county. The largest of these occurred in the Lemmon Woods near Covington in March 1863, where Union Col. Benjamin H. Grierson’s cavalry attacked and scattered the Confederates then destroyed their camp and equipment.
Most of Tipton County was left untouched by war, with the exception of the town of Randolph. In September 1862, a band of guerillas fired upon an unarmed Union packet boat laden with relief goods intended for Southern families. Union Gen. William T. Sherman gave orders to destroy Randolph, leaving one house standing to mark the location of the town. Two years later, Confederate partisans attempted to commandeer the steamer Belle Saint Louis at the Randolph landing but were driven off after a short fight.