Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee

By Kent T. Dollar; Larry H. Whiteaker et al. | Go to book overview

“I shoot the men and
burn their houses”
Home Fires in the Line of Fire

Michael R. Bradley

When the Civil War began, both Northerners and Southerners believed that they were the victims of aggression. The bombardment of Fort Sumter was to the North a clear example of Southern belligerence. The South considered itself under attack as early as 1854 when conflict arose in Kansas and the use of violence to end slavery became acceptable to certain parties in the North. Indeed, John Brown’s raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry in October 1859, with the intent of inciting a slave rebellion, and the acclaim of Brown as a martyr by some Northerners increased this sentiment. For Tennesseans, the idea that one side had attacked the other became the overriding factor when the voters cast their ballots on the issue of secession. In February 1861, this feeling was restrained by the possibility of peaceful separation between the sections; however, in June 1861, when another vote was held, the war had begun, and the only choice for Tennesseans was whom to join in attacking whom.

Public speeches by civic leaders and newspaper editorials in both the North and the South in 1861 called for retaliation against the aggressors, and the men who went to war in 1861 saw vengeance as a reasonable action to be used against the other side. Because the war was fought primarily in the South, this section would feel the hard hand of war more than the North. When organized armies met on the battlefield, luck, numbers, and skill might bring victory, but the opportunity for retribution was limited by the ability of the other army to defend itself. The civilian population was

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