Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 9 - Tennessee Civil War Notes

9, "Tennessee has taken her position and has proudly determined to throw her banners to the breeze, and will give her strength to the sacred cause of freedom for the WHITE MAN OF THE SOUTH;" excerpts from the "LEGISLATIVE ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE OF TENNESSEE" May 9, 1861.


* * * *

The election of a sectional President by an unreasoning appeal to numerical superiority, precipitated a crisis in the Government which many wise men anticipated and patriots would have gladly adjourned to another and far distant period. Several of the slaveholding States, upon the happening of this event, commenced preparations for leaving a Union which in their judgments, promised to become an instrument of destruction to the action constitutional rights of the South….A Peace Congress was called for, and anxious to give every evidence of a sincere desire to settle existing difficulties, prudent and discreet men were sent to confer with delegates from other States. The Congress resulted in a failure, as did the faithful efforts of Southern men in the Congress of the United States….It was believed that the masses of the Northern people would do justice to the demands of the South, if not prevented by the arts of their politicians. Subsequent acts prove that the masses are, if possible, more bitter in their hostility to the South than their leaders.

The inaugural address of the newly-elected President, however doubtful in its terms, was charitably construed into a message of peace. It was considered absurd to suppose that any President of a free country would ever venture upon the mad experiment of holding sovereign States together by means of the bayonet. No o­ne not blinded by fanaticism, can fail to recognize the fact that a government based upon the popular will can o­nly be maintained in its integrity by appealing to that powerful and controlling influence. Force, when attempted, changes the whole character of the Government; making it a military despotism, and those that submit become the abject slaves of power….

* * * *

Congress refused to vote a dollar for the prosecution of hostilities against the people of the South; he and his agents got the appropriation by falsehood, pretending that it was needed to pay off the Government debts, and instead of so using it, fails to pay even the maimed and wounded soldier his pension, or the hard-working census-taker his salary, but scatters it among a brutal soldiery, whom he has hired to murder Southern freemen and to desecrate Southern soil

* * * *

Tennessee, ever loyal to the Constitution, has been an advocate for peace, and has struggled to bring together the broken fragments of the Union, yet in the midst of her well meant efforts, a war is made upon her; every avenue of trade is closed up, and the people are suffering in all the privations of a blockade. Not even provisions, demanded by the necessities of the people, are allowed to be shipped into the State, and property of private individuals is made subject to piratical and illegal seizure. Boats have been plundered of their cargoes by authority of the Government, and when called o­n for an explanation by the Governor of Tennessee, even the honor of a reply is refused.

* * * *

Tennessee is unarmed, and the first great object was to organize the military and adopt every means of defence [sic] within our power, menaced as out country is by armies of alarming magnitude. Our western borders exposed to attack, with life, liberty and property staked upon the issue, it is not time to think of half-way measured. The money and the blood of Tennessee will be called for in no stinted quantities, if it be necessary to protect the priceless heritage of freedom that we possess, and which we hold a sacred trust to our children. The military bill is also submitted with this address to the judgment of our constituents….In conformity with these obligations of duty, the Legislature has prepared two instruments to be voted upon by the people, o­n Saturday, the 8th of June.

* * * *

In submitting these two grave questions to the popular judgment the Legislature dispensed with all intermediated agencies, preferring to go at o­nce to the great source of all political power – the people themselves….

* * * * *

The military league which has been formed with the Southern Confederacy is also submitted with this address…

* * * *

This league places Tennessee where she deserves to stand – in company with the old States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, whose histories are redolent with the glories of past struggles of liberty….

* * * *

It is painful to reflect that Tennessee has no representation in any national or confederate council; her gallant soldiers will go forth to battle for a common cause, and but for a short time, at least, her voice cannot be heard, o­nly through the ballot box in June.

It is submitted that Tennessee has but o­ne of two alternatives -- either to attempt to maintain a distinct and separate nationality, or to unite with the other States of the South. If you decide o­n the former, a provision should at o­nce be made for new departments of government….

* * * *

When this body met, it determined to sit with closed doors. We are aware that this mode of legislation is object to by some. It is the first time in the history of the State that the rule had been adopted, because in that history no case had occurred to call fort its exercise. The proceedings of the convent that framed the Declaration of Independence were in secret. The convention that framed the Constitution of the United States, held it s secret sessions, and the Senate of the United States not unfrequently sit with closed doors. Those who have taken occasion to condemn us, may be purer than those who framed the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States; but we very much doubt whether they will have a greater hold upon public confidence. But the reasons for our course are our best justification: the country was excited, and the public demands imperious. We desired to legislate uninfluenced and unretarded by the crowds that would otherwise have attended our deliberations; but still more important than this, the western portion of Tennessee was in an exposed condition, with no military defence whatever; the towns and counties bordering o­n the Mississippi river were liable to be assailed at any hour by the armed forces collected at Cairo, and we desired that no act of legislation o­n our part, would form the pretext for such an invasion, so long as it could be avoided. Our fellow-citizens of West Tennessee, and of Arkansas, are laboring night and day to erect batteries o­n the river to prevent a descent of the enemy. A duty that we owed to them to the cause of humanity demanded that we should not make our action known till the latest possible moment. IF some desired light, while we were at work, we equally desired to save the blood and the property of Tennesseans. Our doors have now been thrown open, the Journals will be published -- every vote is recorded, and he must be a fault-finder indeed who will complain after hearing the reasons that prompted our actions.

We have briefly touched the principal subjects that engaged the attention of the Legislature. Tennessee has taken her position and has proudly determined to throw her banners to the breeze, and will give her strength to the sacred cause of freedom for the WHITE MAN OF THE SOUTH [sic].*

G. Payne, Chairman of the Joint Select Committee

Edmund J. Wood, S. S. Stanton, J. A. Minnis, G. Gantt, W. W. Guy, Robt. B. Hurt, Benj. J. Lea, Joseph G. Pickett.


White, ed., Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, vol. 5, pp. 294-300.

*Ed. note - the members of the legislature made their real motives crystal clear with this declaration. That is, they were afraid of a slave rebellion, or, if they were not, they wanted to "play the race card" and frighten nonslaveholding whites [the vast majority when compared with slaveholders, 75% to 25%] with the horrible spectre of angry slaves with weapons bent upon the destruction of property and the rape of white women. No o­ne knows how accurate or justified those fears may have been, but they must have stimulated nonslaveholders to accept secession and uphold the economic interests of the slaveholders; it was clearly not in their best interests.




May, Monday 9, 1864

I slept very late, Laura came in to clean my room, did everything but make the bed, I told her if she would let me alone I would make the bed. I have been sewing on my white mull, did not get much done, have it all arranged, and hope to finish it tomorrow. We had a delightful rain this evening. Cousin Frazor bought John a horse today, from Mr. Madden. The two Miss Robinsons came over this evening, trying to find out where their Bros were, whom Floyd conscripted, we could tell them nothing, poor things I feel sorry for them, although they are such wicked people. Three Confederate Soldiers came riding up while they were here, I am very much afraid they will report it to the Yankees. I did not go in the Parlor after Tea, the rest were all in, singing and playing, which I enjoyed all alone on the Porch. Father sat a while - Laura and Bettie had a very good lesson - all asleep now except myslef, and I am prepared for a nice feast in one of the Waverly's - the Abbot, it will draw my mind, for a while at least, from it's own sad and weary thoughts -


January - November, 1864

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