Skip to Main Content

Civil War in Tennessee (Special Collections): Government and Economy

This research guide highlights primary sources and research materials in Special Collections regarding the Civil War in Tennessee.

Government and Politics

Parson Brownlow's Farewell Address in View of His Imprisonment By the Rebels, 1861 (Eph.1861b)
Parson Brownlow's Farewell Address in View of His Imprisonment By the Rebels, 1861 William Gannaway "Parson" Brownlow was an influential East Tennessee minister, journalist, and governor. He was also a prominent spokesperson for the Whig Party and a staunch defender of the Union. After Tennessee left the Union, Brownlow continued speaking out against the Confederacy. He was eventually jailed in Knoxville and later expelled from the Confederacy for his anti-secession editorials. After traveling on a speaking tour throughout the North, Parson returned to Knoxville with the Union troops in the fall of 1863, continuing to rail against the Confederacy and secession. In March 1865, Tennessee Unionists chose Brownlow to succeed Andrew Johnson as governor of Tennessee. After two terms as Tennessee's Reconstruction-era governor, Brownlow, in 1869, was chosen to represent the state in the U. S. Senate. He served only one term before returning to Knoxville, where he died on April 28, 1877. Originally published in Brownlow's newspaper, Brownlow’s Whig, this address gives an interesting view of the war from a pro-Union East Tennessean.

Union and American -- Extra, 1861 (Eph.1861u)
This broadside announces that war is coming to Tennessee and urges residents to vote to secede from the Union. The headline, "To the People of Tennessee: Your Homes are in Danger! -- Rouse You to the Great Conflict!!," is followed by excerpts from Northern newspapers and a postscript that includes:

And what is the spirit that moves the vast North? Revenge and hate stream through every column of their journals. Conciliation, peace and mercy are banished words. ... The South is to be overrun and crushed forever; her proud spirit broken, her property confiscated, her families scattered and slaughtered, and then to remain through all time a dependency on the "free and sovereign" North.

Confederate States of America Legislative Document, 1861 May (MS.3436)
This broadside, published by Authority, presents to the citizens of Tennessee the General Assembly's reasons for proposing to leave the United States of America. These include a government blockade at Cairo, aggression by a duplicitous federal government, and political isolation from other Southern states. It then announces a general vote to be held on June 8 to decide, separately, whether or not to secede from the Union and whether or not to join the Confederacy. This call is submitted by R. G. Paine and eight other members of the Joint Select Committee.

Also included on the broadside are the Declaration of Independence of Tennessee, submitted by W. C. Whitthorne and B. L. Stoval; the military agreement between Tennessee and the Confederacy, endorsed by Governor Isham G. Harris; the act to authorize a provisional force, passed by the legislature on May 6, 1861; and the Constitution of the Provisional Government of the Confederated States of America, established by South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Memphis Freedmen's Bureau Report, 1864 May 31 (MS.3240)
Captain T. A. Walker wrote this report for the Freedmen's Bureau in Memphis, Tennessee, on May 31, 1864. It is divided into sections entitled: Financial, Expenditures; The Freed people of the city, The city schools; Holly Springs, Schools; Shiloah [sic]; Brick Yard; President Island, Schools; and General Remarks. Throughout the report, Walker lists some of the grievances experienced by freedmen and describes how the Bureau is attempting to address these issues. He also discusses a number of issues in Memphis proper, including housing problems, cases of sickness at the Freedmen's Hospital, and schools.

George Patterson Note and Clippings, 1864-1865 (MS.2235)
In a July 8, 1864, note from R. M. Pike, by order of Brigadier General Edward Hatch, Colonel George Patterson is commanded to report for "citizen train guard" in Memphis. Attached to the note are two newspaper clippings related to Special Order No. 74, requiring prominent Memphis secessionists to ride trains from Memphis to LaGrange in order to curb attacks on the railroads by Confederate soldiers and guerrillas.

According to the newspaper clipping, "forty of the most prominent and bitter secessionists in and between Memphis and LaGrange [were to] be arrested, and that twenty of them each day be placed upon the cars in the most conspicuous positions - one being placed on each side of the engineer - and no train will be allowed to leave Memphis without a Secesh Guard until this murderous business is desisted from."


John M. Sutherlin Letter, 1862 May 3 (MS.1968)
John M. Sutherlin wrote this letter to his brother, Virginia tobacco entrepreneur William T. Sutherlin, on May 3, 1862, from Knoxville, Tennessee. In it he reports on sales conditions in the South during the Civil War, writing: "I came down here … to see what the chance was to get my tobacco through from here to Atlanta … I regard bringing tobacco through East Tenn. now like drawing it through a furnace of fire, there has been in the last few days a very heavy engagement between our forces and the Federals at Cumberland Gap but cannot learn any of the particulars except our forces still hold their position there." Sutherlin thinks there is a good profit to be make selling tobacco in East TN, but is also nervous about selling it in East TN because of the political friction -- if he sells it to the union men, it will look like he is supporting the “yankees.” 

Loudon Bridge/Civil War Collection, 1862-1865 (MS.2686)
This collection consists of nine letters and two printed bridge diagrams on silk regarding the rebuilding of the burned bridge crossing the Tennessee River at Loudon during the Civil War. These letters consists of orders for rebuilding the bridge, transfer of troops from Cincinnati, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky to Loudon, and technical information.

Special Collections Contact Information

Profile Photo
Special Collections
121 Hodges Library
1015 Volunteer Blvd.
Knoxville, TN 37996

Go to Special Collections for more information.