1858—1865: Sub-Divisions in East Tennessee
The State of Tennessee comprises three Grand Divisions: West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and East Tennessee. There are even further divisions within East Tennessee—Southeast Tennessee, Knox County, and Northeast Tennessee—demonstrating how strongly each subdivision is attached to either the Union or the Confederacy. With new markets provided by the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad—completed in 1858—Southeast Tennessee sells increased quantities of cash crops to the South and identifies more with the Confederacy. Knox County, once strongly Unionist, relates more with the Confederacy after Southern troops occupy Knoxville in July 1861. Northeast Tennessee remains primarily Unionist from the entrance of the railroad in 1858 until the close of the Civil War in 1865.
1 MARCH 1860: A Unionist speaks out
More than nine months before South Carolina secedes from the Union, a U.S. congressman speaks his mind at a political convention. William Brickly Stokes is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from DeKalb County, Tennessee (4 March 1859—4 March 1861). On 1 March 1860, Stokes expresses his opinion of secession at the Opposition Party’s State Convention:
JUNE—DECEMBER 1860: Anti-secession campaign
Leaders in East Tennessee begin an anti-secession campaign and spend much of the latter part of 1860 holding meetings and speaking at rallies in counties throughout the region. Men such as Senator Andrew Johnson, Congressman Emerson Etheridge, Congressman Thomas A.R. Nelson, newspaper editor Parson Brownlow, and Horace Maynard, one of the few Southern congressmen to maintain his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives during the Civil War. This strong Unionist leadership early in the secession crisis is essential in keeping East Tennesseans loyal to the Union.
AUTUMN 1860: Governor Harris is working behind the scenes
During the presidential campaign of 1860,Tennessee Governor Isham Harris, a secessionist from West Tennessee, warns that the state must be ready to consider secession if the “reckless fanatics of the north” should gain control of the federal government. After Abraham Lincoln is elected President of the United States on 6 November 1860, Harris begins his own campaign to sever Tennessee’s ties with the United States. Southern Democrats, convinced that Lincoln would abolish slavery, begin calling for secession.
20 DECEMBER 1860: Why can’t everyone live free?
When Abraham Lincoln, a known opponent of slavery, is elected president in November 1860, the South Carolina legislature call a state convention. On 20 December 1860 the delegates vote 169 to 0 to leave the United States of America. This is the culmination of decades of debate between the North and the South about slavery and extending slavery into new Federal territories.
25 DECEMBER 1860: Is the Union lost?
During the secession crisis in Tennessee, most people in the state are not much interested in leaving the Union. However, as secession fever reaches the Unionist counties in Northeast Tennessee, more and more people sense impending conflict. As far away as the state capital of Nashville, a lawyer writes on Christmas Day 1860:
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Meredith Anne Grant, “Internal Dissent: East Tennessee’s Civil War, 1849-1865,”2008,Electronic Theses and Dissertations, East Tennessee State University, accessed 24 March 2021, https://dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3314&context=etd
“Timeline 1861,” Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints, Articles and Essays, Library of Congress, accessed 10 February 2021, https://www.loc.gov/collections/civil-war-glass-negatives/articles-and-essays/time-line-of-the-civil-war/1861/
“William Brickly Stokes,” Wikipedia, accessed 18 January 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Brickly_Stokes