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

By Noel C. Fisher | Go to book overview
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6
Real or Supposed Danger

From the beginning of the war President Lincoln had taken a particular interest in East Tennessee. Retaining some belief in the potential of Southern Unionism, he was anxious to secure this loyalist region and employ it as a base for rebuilding a loyal state government. Lincoln was also impressed with the importance of the rail line linking Virginia to Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and his orders for the Union invasion in November 1861 had stressed the advantages of cutting this line of communications. But Lincoln was never able to bring his commanders to share these views. Union officers conceded the importance of the East Tennessee railroads, but they were even more impressed with the logistical difficulties of supplying an army over mountain roads. Union commanders were also more concerned with the South's large population and industrial centers than with this remote region, regardless of how loyal it was. Lincoln, therefore, faced repeated frustrations in his attempts to rescue East Tennessee. Deeply disappointed with Sherman's cancellation of the invasion in November 1861, in December and January he repeatedly pressured Sherman's successor, Major Don General Carlos Buell, to make East Tennessee his primary target. But Buell considered an invasion of the region nearly impossible, and he was far more interested in Nashville. Buell first put Lincoln off, then bluntly rejected the president's plans for East Tennessee. 1

Unionist refugees had not been silent during the Confederate occupation. Andrew Johnson, Horace Maynard, William G. Brownlow, Andrew Jackson Fletcher, and others repeatedly urged the Lincoln administration to occupy East Tennessee, worked to create public sympathy for the Unionist population, and attempted to convey to Union officers the desperation of the East Tennessee loyal

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