150 Years Ago Today in the Civil War: East Tennessee Convention

150 Years Ago Today in the Civil War: East Tennessee Convention

A second round of East Tennessee Convention meetings was held June 17-20, 1861, in Greeneville, Tenn. Delegates from East Tennessee and one county in Middle Tennessee drafted a memo to the Tennessee government asking permission to leave the Confederacy and form an independent state aligned with the Union. The Tennessee...

A second round of East Tennessee Convention meetings was held June 17-20, 1861, in Greeneville, Tenn. Delegates from East Tennessee and one county in Middle Tennessee drafted a memo to the Tennessee government asking permission to leave the Confederacy and form an independent state aligned with the Union.

The Tennessee legislature rejected the convention’s request, and the governor stationed Confederate forces in East Tennessee.

Late in 1861, Scott County resolved to break away from Tennessee and form the Free and Independent State of Scott. The law remained on the books until it was re-discovered and repealed in 1986, though neither the Union nor the Confederacy had ever recognized the state.

As early as the 1840s, Andrew Johnson, then a Tennessee state senator, introduced state legislation—which failed—calling for East Tennessee to separate from the rest of the state. After the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, Unionists and secessionists campaigned for their causes throughout the state. Early referendums failed on whether to hold a convention discussing secession, but June 8, 1861, Tennesseeans voted in favor of an ordinance to secede. Most eastern counties remained heavily against.

According to Life in Civil War America, more battles were fought in Tennessee than any other state except Virginia. After the Union victory at Fort Donelson in 1862, Johnson became the state’s military governor.

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