Mountain Rebels: East Tennessee Confederates and the Civil War, 1860-1870

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Mountain Rebels: East Tennessee Confederates and the Civil War, 1860-1870. By W. Todd Groce. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, c. 1999. Pp. xviii, 218. $28.00, ISBN 1-57233-057-0.)

Most scholarly attention to East Tennessee during the 1860s has focused, with justification, on its Unionism. W. Todd Groce argues in this new study that the effect of that focus has been to distort wider understanding of the area's experience in the Civil War. He writes that "the general public has little, if any, notion that East Tennessee possessed a large, vocal, and determined Confederate minority in 1861" (pp. 46-47). In his opening chapters Groce examines the sources of secessionism in the mountain counties. His conclusions complement those of John Inscoe and Kenneth Noe in their respective studies of adjacent western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia, in that all three historians locate the source of pro-Confederate loyalties in the up-country's economic development in the 1850s, in particular the expansion into the region of the railroad. The railroad contributed to prosperity, but it also exacerbated divisions between town and country, between rising and declining economic circumstances, that would be reflected in post-1860 alignments.

Groce handles his evidence--of cereal crop and livestock production, farm sizes, and population trends--deftly, but he candidly admits the absence of explicit testimony connecting support for the South's cause to changing local perceptions of economic fortune. He reaches more solid ground in his discussion of secessionist leadership. East Tennessee's secessionist elite was on average younger and wealthier than its anti-secessionist counterpart, and its authority derived from commerce rather than agriculture. These qualifications would prove successful in many parts of the slave South, but upcountry secessionists "lacked either the power or the talent to control political affairs on either the state or local level" (p. …