On April 17, 1836, in the County of Monroe Tennessee, John Washington Divine was born to Thomas and Elizabeth (Avens) Divine. He was the last of their 8 children. The county is located in the southeast part of Tennessee and it had a lot of sprawling farms, an abundance of wildlife and streams to fish in. The first gold mine in Tennessee was found in this county and that began to draw many newcomers looking for a better life. It was also one of the few East Tennessee counties to support secession at the outbreak of the Civil War.
John made the decision to become an Allopath (Medical Doctor) and he attended Columbia Medical School in South Carolina. During this time period, it only took 2 years to earn a degree. Knowledge of major surgery was very limited when a doctor graduated. Any doctor with surgical experience was immediately used to perform amputations or complicated surgeries during the Civil War which began in April of 1861. John was recruited within the first few months of the war.
He first mustered in when he was 24 years old. He enlisted as a private in the Union’s medical division. On October 1, 1863, John joined the newly formed 11th Regiment Tennessee Cavalry signing a 3-year commitment. He assisted the more experienced doctors and learned more complicated surgical procedures. He quickly moved up the ranks becoming a Lieutenant by March of 1864. On March 24th of that year, the 11th Regiment merged with the 9th Calvary Volunteers. He was sent to the Cumberland Gap Tennessee Post Hospital where they housed the more critically injured soldiers. In April 1865 he requested a 20 day leave to return home. During that time he married his longtime girlfriend Mary Adalaide Newlee. Although the war ended on May 9, 1865, John continued his service at the hospital, taking care of the soldiers. He officially mustered out on September 11, 1865, returning home to Monroe County and his new wife.
John and Mary welcomed their first child, William in 1866. Paul was born in 1871 and Nellie in 1879. It has not been proven as to how many children they had. We know of these 3 who survived but the years between the births leads one to believe there may have been stillbirths or miscarriages in between. In 1876 there is a record of twins being born but dying within a few days after the birth.
John opened his own Doctors’ office immediately after the war and he practiced medicine in Monroe County, He and his little family moved to Tazwell, Claibourne County, Tennessee in 1871. Once again he practiced medicine there until his death on September 3, 1903. According to a journal that he had kept, he had been haunted daily by the horrors he had seen and the deaths of the men in his care during the war. He would write that he welcomed death as it would be the end of these memories.
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