War at Every Door: Partisan Politics and Guerrilla Violence in East Tennessee, 1860-1869

By Noel C. Fisher | Go to book overview

4
Hanging, Shooting, and Robbing

Control of East Tennessee would be determined by the struggle among four different forces. The Confederate and Union armies would shape the conflict in East Tennessee through both their occupation policies and their military operations. But the core of the East Tennessee war was the struggle between secessionist and loyalist partisans. Their war, which was fueled by both local grievances and the national conflict, began before Confederate forces ever set foot in East Tennessee and would continue after the last Union soldier had left. It was fought out in the economic, social, and intellectual arenas as well as the political and military, and it employed nonviolent as well as violent means. The editor who encouraged resistance to the occupying forces, the representative who pressured his government to adopt a harsher policy against dissent, the farmer who burned his neighbor's barn, and the bushwhacker who ambushed an enemy scout were all parts of the same war.

The violence in East Tennessee divided into three spheres, military, political, and criminal. The first included operations related to the conventional war, such as raids on enemy communications, assaults on enemy troops, and aid to friendly soldiers. The second sphere involved the harassment, intimidation, and murder of supporters of the enemy government. Unionist and secessionist guerrilla bands beat civilians holding the wrong political views, ambushed them on the road, shot them in their homes, and plundered and burned their houses, barns, and possessions. The third sphere, criminal, included actions such as theft and assault that did not always possess a military or political significance but that were nonetheless a common feature of guerrilla operations. Many bushwhacker bands lived partly or entirely by theft, and they routinely

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