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Often, the American Civil War finds itself painted in classrooms across the country as a conflict of clear-cut ideologies in the North and South. The citizens of the northern states wished to preserve the sacred Union, and northern forces fought valiantly while invading a rebellious South. The Unionists of eastern Tennessee put to rest the false generalization that all southerners were loyal to the Confederate States of America, as their struggle throughout the war on the behalf of the Union was a long and bloody event. On June 8, 1861, Tennessee voted to secede from the United States. The vote was far from unanimous, as 66 percent of the eligible voters of east Tennessee showed their northern tastes by voting to remain in the Union. Much to the dismay of these loyal Unionists, eastern Tennessee was soon brought under the control of the Confederacy. It was not until 1863 that a federal army entered eastern Tennessee, a full two years after the June of 1861 declaration of secession. President Abraham Lincoln heard the cry of the eastern Tennessean Unionists even prior to the state’s secession; the delay of liberation for the East was not from a lack of sympathies from the President. Lincoln wished to intervene quickly on the behalf of eastern Tennessee for both the protection of loyalists and the capture of a strategically important area, but an invading Union army was held back by non-cooperating Union generals. Indeed, pro-Union forces in east Tennessee created a situation that the Confederate government was unfamiliar with. Where most of the war was fought between North and South, the violence in east Tennessee was between neighbors. This violence was unlike anything else seen in the war, as the relative geographic isolation of east Tennessee led to a civil war inside the Civil War. The guerrilla warfare and subsequent bloody crackdown of Unionists created a difficult and unusual situation for the governments of both sides of the conflict to tackle.


Providence College

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