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Capturing of Raider Andrews Highlight of Standifer’s Career

By John Wilson, Chattanooga News-Free Press Staff Writer, May 9, 1993, page F6

William Isaac Standifer was in the Cherokee War and raised a company to fight in the Mexican War, but the most famous captive of his military career was James Andrews.

“Captain” Standifer was a close acquaintance of Samuel Williams and happened to be in the vicinity of his homeplace on the Tennessee River when the famed leader of the Andrews Raiders escaped from Swain’s Jail in Chattanooga during the midst of the Civil War.

Andrews had acted as a Union agent in stealing the “General” locomotive and seeking to tear up railroad tracks in the Chattanooga vicinity. Samuel Williams and Captain Standifer were outspoken Southern sympathizers.

Word came that Andrews had gone across the river in a canoe and was hiding on Williams island. Captain Standifer joined Williams in capturing Andrews and later turned him over to Confederate authorities, who eventually hanged him at Atlanta.

Captain Standifer was in hot water when the Federal troops soon arrived in town, forcing out the Confederates. He made a narrow escape from town after it became known he was to be arrested. Some friends loaded him in a rowboat with food and put him off in the night at the old wharf at the foot of market Street.

William Standifer had first arrived at the wharf site in March of 1837 when it was still knows as Ross’s Landing. He came from a distinguished family, his father, James Standifer of Bledsoe County, was a member of Congress.

James Standifer and his wife, Patsy, had come from Virginia to the East Tennessee area from Virginia to the East Tennessee area about 1805 with their eldest son, William, who was then a young boy. Their other children were Luke, Jesse, Skelton Carroll, James Madison and Eliza Ann.

James Standifer was the son of another William Standifer, who was born in Henry County, VA, and lived from 1757 to 1826. His wife was Jemima Jones. This William Standifer moved to Knox County, Tennessee about 1790, and pushed on to Bledsoe County and then Marion County. Polly Standifer, a daughter of this William Standifer, was married to Amos Griffith.

The Standifer family dated back to John Standifer, who came to the U. S. from Scotland in the 1660s. His son, John Standifer, Jr., had sons James, Israel, and William. The William Standifer who came to East Tennessee was a son on James Standifer, who lived from 1715-1807 and married Martha Watkins.

James Standifer of Bledsoe County was in his fifth term in Congress when he took ill of pneumonia near Kingston while on a trip to Washington about the time his son, William, arrived at Ross’s Landing.

Captain Standifer had completed college at Blount College in Knoxville, and he was always interested in education, later serving as a trustee along with Samuel Williams and others for the Hamilton Male Academy at Harrison.

A Whig in politics, he was in the state Legislature from 1839-43 representing Hamilton and Marion Counties.

He gained a position as clerk and master for Chancery Court and moved from Chattanooga to Harrison, where the courthouse was then located, in March of 1844. He moved back into town in the summer of 1858.

Captain Standifer, despite being a prominent man, managed to elude the census taker most years. He is listed as living alone in Chattanooga in 1860.

It is often written that his son, Lt. Leroy Standifer, was killed during one of the shellings into Chattanooga during the war. However, Leroy Standifer was a son of Leroy Standifer Sr., who settled out at Standifer Gap.

Leroy Standifer Sr. married Mary Moore in 1834 and they had 16 children. They obtained a state grant for land in Hamilton County in 1842.

Leroy Standifer was a distant cousin of Captain Standifer. Leroy Standifer was the son of Benjamin Standifer, a pioneer settler in the Sequatchie Valley. Benjamin Standifer, who lived from 1764-1839, was the son of Israel Standifer and also traced his line back to John Standifer who came to America in the 1660s.

*This article lists William's middle name as Issac.   However, it is generally known that his middle name was Israel.

*Contributed by Jim Standifer

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