A State of Rebellion
The Unionist attempt to form a separate state of East Tennessee was a forlorn hope. The Tennessee legislature politely referred the loyalist memorial to a committee, which voiced doubts that the petition expressed the will of most East Tennesseans and concluded that the present legislature should take no action on the matter. Moderate Unionists were disappointed, but they counseled their followers to be patient and avoid a confrontation with Confederate authorities. Many loyalists, however, refused to accept that counsel, and despite Confederate efforts at conciliation they remained intransigent. 1
After June 8 the Unionist campaign to throw off Confederate rule became increasingly violent. Loyalists organized and drilled military companies, seized political control of many counties, attempted to acquire weapons and ammunition, and initiated contacts with the Union army in Kentucky and with the Lincoln administration. In response, Federal forces developed plans to aid the Unionists and invade East Tennessee. Thousands of loyalists escaped to Kentucky to join the Federal army, while others remained in East Tennessee to harass Confederate troops and assault Southern supporters. Open Unionist resistance eventually culminated in mass uprising against the occupying forces.
The same conditions that allowed the Union and Confederate governments rapidly to recruit thousands of men were equally favorable to the formation of irregular forces. Given the state's militia structure, the presence of a few trained officers, and ready availability of firearms, rough forces could be quickly organized. The mobilization of partisan forces was primarily a decentralized process, but some prominent Unionists coordinated efforts in several counties. William G. McAdoo noted in August that the Sevier County Home