Few people living today remember Sam Fondren. Most have not even heard of him.
However, Fondren was perhaps one of the most colorful figures in Elizabethton’s military history.
Sgt. Sam Fondren, who began his service in 1892, fought in the Spanish-American War and was a member of the old State Guard in Elizabethton.
Fondren, who lived at 512 Academy St., enjoyed a military career that spanned 48 years.
The first State Militia was organized in Elizabethton by Captain J.R. Fletcher. A company of men established by J.W. Weeks left for Nashville the day after the Spanish-American War broke out, and Sgt. Fondren was among them. They were mustered into service at Nashville and sent to Chickamauga near Chattanooga. There, Fondren separated from his company and transferred into the regular Army. He was then sent to Cuba.
In an old Star newspaper article, Fondren spoke with pride of the Tennessee all-volunteer army.
“It was when McKinley was president that the only war in history that Tennessee’s quota was filled by volunteers,” Fondren told the reporter. The Spanish-American War was called the “Volunteer” War.
In the article, which ran in the Star in 1953, Fondren recalled some of the men from Elizabethton who were also in the war. Among them were Fletcher and Timberlake and Charlie Wilcox. Other Carter Countians serving in Company D with Fondren were William Nidiffer, Edmond E. Cass, James T. Perry, Daniel M. and George Blevins, Wiley M. Campbell, D.A. Geisler, I.C. Geisler, John Glover, James H. Henry, John Humphrey, Charles Allen, W.E. Shell, Alexander Shell, Joseph Holier, William Ledford and Arthur Taylor.
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