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
"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
"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."