History of Campbell County, Tennessee
 

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EAST TENNESSEANS VOTED AGAINST REFERENDUMS FOR CIVIL WAR SECESSION

By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.  This article was published in the LaFollette Press.

    

     The people of Tennessee were divided during the Civil War (1861-1865). East Tennessee was Union and Middle and West Tennessee were Confederate. Tennessee Governor Harris called an extra session of the Tennessee Legislature to meet on January 7, 1861. This Legislature passed a resolution asking the people to vote on the 9th of February for or against a Convention to consider the secession of Tennessee from the Union. The people voted by a margin of four to one against secession.

     The Legislature was again called together on April 25th and passed an Ordinance of Secession on May 1st which was submitted by a vote of the people on June 8, 1861. This time a majority of two to one was for secession, although East Tennessee voted against it. East Tennessee petitioned the Legislature to allow them to form a separate State, but were refused. Scott County seceded from the Union. Tennessee ultimately furnished 30,000 troops to the Federal army while 100,000 troops joined the Confederacy.

     As a result of this secession vote, East Tennessee was put into a bind. They were harassed, and treated as foreign citizens in their own State by the Confederates.

     Confederate Major General E. Kirby Smith, commander of the Department of East Tennessee, wrote on April 23, 1862, a proclamation to the disaffected people of East Tennessee. It goes as such:

     "The Major-General commanding this department, charged with the enforcement of martial law, believing that many of its citizens have been misled into the commission of treasonable acts through ignorance of their duties and obligations to their State, and that many have actually fled across the mountains and joined our enemies under the persuasion and misguidance of supposed friends but designing enemies, hereby proclaims:

"1st. That no person so misled who comes forward, declares his error, and takes the oath to support the Constitution of the State of the Confederate States shall be molested or punished on account of past acts or words.

"2d. That no person so persuaded and misguided as to leave his home and join the enemy [Union] who shall return within thirty days of the date of this proclamation, acknowledge his error, and take an oath to support the Constitution of the State and of the Confederate States shall not be molested or punished on account of past acts or words.

"After thus announcing his disposition to treat with the utmost clemency those who have been led away from the true path of patriotic duty the Major-General commanding furthermore declares his determination henceforth to employ all the elements at his disposal for the protection of the lives and property of the citizens of East Tennessee, whether from the incurious of the enemy or the irregularities of his own troops and for the suppression of all treasonable practices.

"He assures all citizens engaged in cultivating their farms that he will protect them in their rights, and that he will suspend the militia draft under the State laws that they raise crops for consumption in the coming year.

"He invokes the zealous co-operation of the authorities and of all good people to aid him in his endeavors.

"The courts of criminal jurisdiction will continue to exercise their functions, save the issuing of writs of habeas corpus. Their writs will be served and their decrees executed by the aid of the military when necessary.

"When the courts fail to preserve the peace or punish offenders against the laws these objects will be attained through the action of military tribunals and the exercise of the force of his command."

     W.M. Churchill, Col. and Provost-Marshall wrote on April 23, 1862, his account to the people of East Tennessee. It goes as such:

"To the Disaffected People of East Tennessee: The undersigned, in executing martial law in this department, assures those interested, who have fled to the enemy's [Union] lines and who are actually in their army, that he will welcome their return to their homes and their families. They are offered amnesty and protection if they come to lay down their arms and as loyal citizens within thirty days given them by Maj.-Gen. E. Kirby Smith to do so.

"At the end of that time those failing to return to their homes and accept the amnesty thus offered and provide for and protect their wives and children in East Tennessee will have them sent to their care in Kentucky or beyond the Confederate States lines at their own expense.

"All that leaves after this date with knowledge of the above acts their families will be sent immediately after them. The women and children must be taken care of by husbands and fathers either in East Tennessee or in the Lincoln Government."
 

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