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Johnson County and the American Civil War

A cloud of war hovered over America in the years leading up to 1861. Strong passions were coming together in regard to slavery, states rights and other issues. It all culminated into a four-year storm of bloodshed when on April 12, 1861 Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter; a federal stronghold in Charleston, South Carolina. Federal troops returned fire and it was the be-ginning of the American Civil War. The war ended on April 9, 1865, at the Appomattox Court-house when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Last year marked the 150st Anniversary of that war. America’s freedom from the tyranny of King George of England had been hard won in the Revolutionary War and many years since a Civil War was about to rend it into two separate governments.
During that terrible conflict more than 360,000 Union soldiers and some 260,000 Confederate soldiers died from wounds and disease. South Carolina was the first state to secede in December of 1860. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana followed in January of 1861. Texas followed in February of 1861. Virginia broke from the Union in April of 1861. May of 1861 saw the secession of Arkansas and North Carolina. Tennessee seceded in June of 1861. Those eleven states formed the Confederate States of America. Ironically Tennessee has the dis-tinction of being the first state of the eleven to return to the Union.
There are many interesting facts about Tennessee’s participation in that “uncivil war”, but I find one of the most interesting things about it is the loyalty of East Tennesseans to the Union Cause. The terrain of East Tennessee was far different from that of most of Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. Many families eked out a living in the mountains, hills and valleys of East Tennessee with a great deal of labor and hardship. Some citizens further west in the state had a more gen-tleman-farmer kind of existence. Some historians suggest that the disparity between the two ways of life was a factor in the war.
Also, realizing how valiantly their ancestors fought years before to form a new nation, could it be that East Tennesseans were primarily interested in keeping the Union intact after such a strug-gle? Anyway, whatever the reason, many East Tennessee citizens remained staunchly loyal to the Union. The citizens of Johnson County were no exception. In a referendum prior to the War, Johnson County citizens voted 787 to 111 against seceding. Two conventions were held in which 29 East Tennessee counties renounced secession and asked to become independent from the state and align with the Union: the first in Knoxville May 30 through May 31, and the other in Greeneville June 17 through June 20. Isham G. Harris was governor of Tennessee at the time and being a strong southern sympathizer would have no part of that request.
So due to East Tennessee’s and Johnson County’s strong loyalty to the Union, much hardship and suffering occurred in that region during the Civil War.
There is no question that soldiers on each side of the Civil War fought valiantly for their cause. That War brought great change to our nation. But in the end the Union was preserved and the United States of America remains the greatest country on earth.