The Most Hated Man In Tennessee

diane

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Messages
21,674
Location
State of Jefferson
#1
William Gannaway Brownlow, aka Parson Brownlow, was born in Wythe County Virginia August 29, 1805. He was second generation Irish, his parents being school teachers. However, when he was very young both parents died and he was parceled out to an uncle. Brownlow was basically illiterate, despite his parents' profession, and also did not like the idea of being a farmer. He was working toward building houses when he attended a camp meeting of the Methodists. It profoundly changed his life and he soon became a circuit preacher. Circuit rider preachers traveled from place to place where there were no churches and held services for the people. Brownlow quickly became a fanatic. Methodism was THE only religion and he got into serious trouble traveling about in predominately Baptist regions attempting to convert them! He also could never separate his personal prejudices from the word of God.

In time, he married Elizabeth O'Brien and went into the iron work business of her family in eastern Tennessee. During a recession the business failed and Brownlow took up politics and the newspaper business. His contrarian nature made him a Whig in a Jacksonian Democrat state and his newspaper was so inflammatory the postman delivered it with a pair of tongs so he wouldn't have to touch it! This love of contention earned him the nickname the Fighting Parson. It also earned him several potshots through his window and he had to relocate his paper and himself to another town.

Brownlow spent decades fighting Andrew Johnson politically but when the vote for secession rolled around, he and Johnson found themselves on the same team. With his usual forcefulness, Brownlow was against secession and the whole southern Confederacy. His paper, as usual as discordant as possible, was relocated to eastern Tennessee and Brownlow continued with the acid rhetoric until Confederate authorities, as part of their crack-down on the region, shut down his paper and forced Brownlow to flee to the North.

Once there, he came a celebrity speaker and again a newspaper man by nailing secession and Confederates. He allied himself with the Radical Republicans but did not advocate abolition of slavery. He also wrote a book about the evils of the Confederacy and his personal experiences.

The war over, Brownlow was elected to the office of governor by Unionist Tennesseans. He enfranchised freedmen immediately, before the Constitutional amendments to give them citizenship, and disfranchised the ex-Confederates. This sparked the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations given to violence and extremism. Brownlow used the Union League, primarily black veterans, to intimidate former rebels and Tennessee descended into racial discord. He also promoted bonds to build back the infrastructure destroyed by the war - unfortunately, this put Tennessee into a financial hole it took generations to climb out of. In 1869 he was elected to the Senate, replacing Andrew Johnson's son-in-law, and so left the state of Tennessee. He died in April of 1877.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was one of the people Brownlow targeted heavily and who fought back in the only way he could, which was associating with the KKK. It's no coincidence that Forrest disbanded and left the organization in the same year Brownlow left Tennessee. Brownlow investigated Forrest high and low, looking for something - anything - to lock the general up and throw away the key. He had people following him and observing him constantly - but all he ever came up with was an ex-soldier trying to make a living!
 

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Billy Yank

First Sergeant
Joined
May 31, 2013
Messages
1,105
Location
Putnam County, IL
#3
My compliments Lt. Col. Diane, The only thing I don't get is, if he was hated so much, how was he able to get elected governor & senator? I think the article explains it, but it seems a bit of a contradiction.
 

diane

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Messages
21,674
Location
State of Jefferson
#4
My compliments Lt. Col. Diane, The only thing I don't get is, if he was hated so much, how was he able to get elected governor & senator? I think the article explains it, but it seems a bit of a contradiction.
I put this up as a sketch in the hopes others would fill it out! :D One of Brownlow's mysteriously acquired powers was the ability to throw out votes he considered tainted or falsified. He threw out whole counties!
 
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Messages
5,884
Location
Kingsport, Tennessee
#5
William Gannaway Brownlow, aka Parson Brownlow, was born in Wythe County Virginia August 29, 1805. He was second generation Irish, his parents being school teachers. However, when he was very young both parents died and he was parceled out to an uncle. Brownlow was basically illiterate, despite his parents' profession, and also did not like the idea of being a farmer. He was working toward building houses when he attended a camp meeting of the Methodists. It profoundly changed his life and he soon became a circuit preacher. Circuit rider preachers traveled from place to place where there were no churches and held services for the people. Brownlow quickly became a fanatic. Methodism was THE only religion and he got into serious trouble traveling about in predominately Baptist regions attempting to convert them! He also could never separate his personal prejudices from the word of God.

In time, he married Elizabeth O'Brien and went into the iron work business of her family in eastern Tennessee. During a recession the business failed and Brownlow took up politics and the newspaper business. His contrarian nature made him a Whig in a Jacksonian Democrat state and his newspaper was so inflammatory the postman delivered it with a pair of tongs so he wouldn't have to touch it! This love of contention earned him the nickname the Fighting Parson. It also earned him several potshots through his window and he had to relocate his paper and himself to another town.

Brownlow spent decades fighting Andrew Johnson politically but when the vote for secession rolled around, he and Johnson found themselves on the same team. With his usual forcefulness, Brownlow was against secession and the whole southern Confederacy. His paper, as usual as discordant as possible, was relocated to eastern Tennessee and Brownlow continued with the acid rhetoric until Confederate authorities, as part of their crack-down on the region, shut down his paper and forced Brownlow to flee to the North.

Once there, he came a celebrity speaker and again a newspaper man by nailing secession and Confederates. He allied himself with the Radical Republicans but did not advocate abolition of slavery. He also wrote a book about the evils of the Confederacy and his personal experiences.

The war over, Brownlow was elected to the office of governor by Unionist Tennesseans. He enfranchised freedmen immediately, before the Constitutional amendments to give them citizenship, and disfranchised the ex-Confederates. This sparked the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations given to violence and extremism. Brownlow used the Union League, primarily black veterans, to intimidate former rebels and Tennessee descended into racial discord. He also promoted bonds to build back the infrastructure destroyed by the war - unfortunately, this put Tennessee into a financial hole it took generations to climb out of. In 1869 he was elected to the Senate, replacing Andrew Johnson's son-in-law, and so left the state of Tennessee. He died in April of 1877.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was one of the people Brownlow targeted heavily and who fought back in the only way he could, which was associating with the KKK. It's no coincidence that Forrest disbanded and left the organization in the same year Brownlow left Tennessee. Brownlow investigated Forrest high and low, looking for something - anything - to lock the general up and throw away the key. He had people following him and observing him constantly - but all he ever came up with was an ex-soldier trying to make a living!
Great Post !
 


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