Sarah E. Thompson, 1859-1898
Sarah Lane was born February 11, 1838 in Greene County, Tennessee. In 1854, Sarah married Sylvanius H.Thompson and they had two children. Sylvanius later became a private in the 1st Tennessee Calvary U.S.A., where he served primarily as a recruiter for the Union Army. Sarah worked alongside her husband assembling and organizing Union sympathizers in a predominately rebel area around Greeneville, Tennessee. In early 1864, Sylvanius Thompson was ambushed and killed by a Confederate soldier.
Spurred by her husband's death, Sarah Thompson continued her work for the Union, delivering dispatches and recruiting information to Union officers. When CSA General John Hunt Morgan and his men spent the night in Greeneville, Sarah managed to slip away and alert Union forces to his whereabouts. Union troops invaded the area and by her accounts, she personally pointed out Morgan hiding behind a garden fence to a Union soldier who proceeded to kill Morgan.
After this event, Sarah served as an army nurse in Knoxville, Tennessee and in Cleveland, Ohio. She supported herself and her daughters by giving lectures in several northern cities about her experiences during the war. In 1866 she married Orville J. Bacon of Broome County, New York and had two children with him. They were subsequently divorced and she married James Cotton in the 1880s. Cotton died, leaving her once again a single mother.
After the war, Sarah's life was marked by the constant struggle to find suitable employment to support her family and to claim a pension for her services during the war. She worked through many temporary appointments in the federal government and eventually was granted a pension of $12 a month by order of a special act of Congress in 1897. She died on April 21, 1909 after being struck by an "electric car" in Washington, D.C., and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.