Captain John McCoy

Tombstone of Captain John McCoy was placed in 1885.

Tombstone of Captain John McCoy was placed in 1885.

On April 28, 1864, 1st Sgt. John McCoy was discharged as first sergeant of Co. F, 2nd. Tenn. Vol. Inf. to accept a commission as lieutenant of Co l, 8th. Tenn. Cav. Before the war ended John McCoy had been once more promoted to captain of Co K, 8th. Tenn. Cav.

Capt. John McCoy remained in the Union Army as an officer. He was charged with the overseeing of constructing Lebanon  National Cemetery at Lebanon, Kentucky, beginning in 1867. He served as a Brevet Major in charge of around sixty men. His wife Ella (Dobson) McCoy who he married in Greene County on Nov. 16, 1865, was with him on the assignment to Lebanon, Kentucky.

Sometime after the project was completed, John and Ella McCoy returned to Greeneville, where he was a prominent member of the community. In August of 1875, John McCoy was the leader of the Andrew Johnson Guards, who marched in the funeral procession of the President.

Former army captain John McCoy was appointed the Town Constable or Marshall of the Town of Greeneville.


On August 12, 1878, John McCoy was shot in the office of the John Mason Hotel in Greeneville, in an altercation with a man named John Davis. He was shot in the left breast, but managed to walk to James A. Galbreath’s Drug Store, where he died.

Sherry Britton of Greeneville located two newspaper articles from the TRIBUNE, a Blount County newspaper.

One is dated Wednesday 21 Aug. 1878, stating that “The preliminary trial of John Davis for the killing of Captain John McCoy at Greeneville, Friday, was concluded Tuesday evening before Justices’ Gass and Culver. The investigation made out a very bad case against the prisoner, who refused bond and committed to jail to await trial for murder at the October term of Circuit Court for Greene County.”

The second article dated Wednesday 4 Sept 1878, states “John Davis, charged with killing Captain John McCoy of Greeneville has been granted bail of $5000.”

Records in the Tennessee State Archives show that one of the bondsmen was named Leland Davis, who was probably the seventy-seven year-old father of John Davis. Two other bondsmen were Alexander Susong and A.J. Stephens.

The files of the trial itself cannot be found in the Greene County records, however microfilm of the Greene County Circuit Court Minute Book (2/1876-2/1880) in the Tennessee State Archives shows that John Davis was found “Not Guilty”, although no details of the testimony of the trial are shown.

The ONLY thing found in local records is an executed warrant showing that “John McCoy as Town Constable, arrested John Davis on the 29th day of September, 1877.”  This arrest took place almost one year, before Davis shot John McCoy.

The arrest was based upon a warrant issued by the order of Mayor O’Brien of Greeneville. Davis was fined $25 on an unspecified charge. The defendant pled “not guilty.”


It can probably be reasonably assumed from the circumstances and the names of persons mentioned in the trial and those who made bond for Davis, that the altercation between John Davis and Capt. John McCoy, had origins several years earlier during the period prior to, and during the Civil War.

Greene County families were divided in their loyalties and the “after effects” surfaced for decades. Capt. John McCoy most likely lost his life as a result of his service to the Union.


 By Don Bible