Unionists and secessionists in East Tennessee divided over competing ideologies, political attachments, and visions of the future of their region. Secessionists identified with Southern interests and grievances and believed that they would prosper under a Confederate government. But Unionists feared the implications of Southern rule and declined to give up the nation and the government that they revered. A large number of factors, including party affiliation, slaveholding, residence, political and personal conflicts in the antebellum period, and business contacts, influenced individual choices for or against the Confederacy. The political terrain of this region was as varied as its geography, and no single factor explains the loyalties of East Tennesseans.
The division between Unionists and secessionists in East Tennessee hardened with surprising speed. Within months the two sides viewed each other as aliens, concluded that they could not both live in the same region, and began to harass and assault each other. Their struggle for control of East Tennessee was complex. Unionists and secessionists employed traditional political methods to build and maintain support, legal measures to intimidate and punish their enemies, propaganda to create sympathy for themselves and influence the policies of the Confederate and Union governments, and partisan violence. They also served as spies, guides, and soldiers for the Northern and Southern armies.
The war between Unionists and Confederate troops, and that between secessionists and Federal soldiers, was largely a stalemate. Conventional troops were superior in discipline, tactics, and resources, but partisans nullified these advantages by their unconventional methods, their knowledge of the area, and their ability to hide their identities. Neither the Confederacy nor the Union enjoyed notable success in controlling dissent, and their frustrations led not only to growing brutality among the troops but also to increasingly harsh political measures and occupation policies.
The relationship between the East Tennessee guerrillas and the regular Confederate and Union armies was a story of contradictions. Officially authorities on both sides condemned irregular warfare, even by their supporters, and sought to curb it. Both sides also