What if East Tennessee had split off and become a Union state?

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BlueandGrayl

First Sergeant
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Corona, California
During the Civil War, East Tennessee was by far one of the most Unionist regions in the South (next to West Virginia, North Alabama, Texas Hill County, Free State of Jones, Free State of Winston and other areas) even though it was under Confederate control for the most part until at least 1863 though historically speaking there were East Tennessee Confederates. In its history East Tennessee was a largely mountainous region settled by yeomen with few blacks (free or slave) living there and there even had been a emancipationist movement there though even that died out in the 1840s it also voted for the Whigs (who were not secessionist supporters and were fairly nationalistic) in contrast to the rest of Democrat Tennessee. In 1861, while Middle and West Tennessee voted for Confederate secession post-Fort Sumter most East Tennessee counties rejected it (with the exceptions of Meigs, Monroe, Rhea, Sequatchie, Sullivan, and Polk who were pro-secession) in fact most of the Eastern counties were so opposed to secession (such as Scott, Servier, Carter, Campbell, and Anderson for example) that they actually decided they wanted to be their own state and on May 30 1861 representatives from 26 East Tennessee counties met in Knoxville to discuss splitting off from Confederate-controlled Tennessee though there were at the very least decided to stay neutral they would meet again in Greeneville on June 17 this time to actually discussing making East Tennessee a Union state and met for the final time on April 12, 1864 about the Reconstruction plan. There were even plans to host a meeting in Kingston to form the Union state of East Tennessee but Confederate troops under Felix K. Zollicoffer would capture one of the planners T.A.R. Nelson was arrested after attempting to flee to Washington, D.C. and agreed to stay neutral. During "Reconstruction", these Unionists would serve various positions in Tennessee government. So it makes me wonder what if East Tennessee had split off from Confederate Tennessee and was admitted into the Union state as its newest state? Well it would have some major implications as to how the Civil War progresses for starters the Union Army would control the important railroad hub city of Chattanooga earlier than it did than in OTL and might even encourage nearby aforementioned North Alabama (another Unionist region) to split from Confederate Alabama and become its own state or even join East Tennessee to become the state of Nickajack, East Tennessee (or Nickajack if its linked with North Alabama) as a Union state would also allow an earlier Georgia campaign to occur speeding up the end of the conflict and additional manpower from a Unionist region with the formation of "East Tennessee (or Nickajack)" regiments. A "Reconstruction" East Tennessee (or Nickajack) also means the Republican Party gains a reliable region in the South to attract East Tennesseean (or Nickajacker) Southern whites to support them and even when Jim Crow does come it wouldn't as nearly bad here when compared to Mississippi and Alabama. But for this scenario to succed let's just say either A. the Knoxville or Greeneville meetings lead to East Tennessee Unionist leaders not only adopt the "Declaration of Grievances" but announce its split from Tennessee and its intent to join the Union without the Confederates coming in at the right time as a new state instead (for Knoxville) just declaring neutrality or B. Don Carlos Buell does a better job in taking the region and with the help of loyal white Unionists forming a West Virginia-style "Restored Government of Tennessee" separate from the Tennessee state military government that leads to the formation of the state of East Tennessse and (for the Nickajack option) by the time Union forces occupy North Alabama it decides to vote to join up with their Tennessee bretheren to form the "State of Nickajack". In today's day and age, East Tennessee (or Nickajack) would be nicknamed the "Great Smoky State" for being home to the Great Smoky Mountain and its scenic mountains.
 

Carronade

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Location
Pennsylvania
As you say, it would have profound implications for the course of the war - which is why the Confederates wouldn't just sit back and let it happen. Other than the Union army marching straight to Richmond, a Union East Tennessee would be about the biggest threat they would face. Confederate troops from the surrounding states would seek to suppress the separation movement just as they did in West Virginia, with the important difference that East Tennessee was isolated from support or supply from the rest of the Union.

The Union in 1861 tacitly respected the declared neutrality of Kentucky, on the theory that first side to violate it would drive Kentucky into the other side, but this would complete the isolation of East Tennessee. Would Lincoln risk losing Kentucky in order to support the rebels (anti-rebels?) of Tennessee?
 

BlueandGrayl

First Sergeant
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Location
Corona, California
As you say, it would have profound implications for the course of the war - which is why the Confederates wouldn't just sit back and let it happen. Other than the Union army marching straight to Richmond, a Union East Tennessee would be about the biggest threat they would face. Confederate troops from the surrounding states would seek to suppress the separation movement just as they did in West Virginia, with the important difference that East Tennessee was isolated from support or supply from the rest of the Union.

The Union in 1861 tacitly respected the declared neutrality of Kentucky, on the theory that first side to violate it would drive Kentucky into the other side, but this would complete the isolation of East Tennessee. Would Lincoln risk losing Kentucky in order to support the rebels (anti-rebels?) of Tennessee?
When Polk does break Kentucky neutrality (assuming nothing else changes) Kentucky will call for Union Army protection thus siding with the Union and with a Unionist Kentucky it means East Tennessee does have at least one place where they can get support and supplies so its possible there could be a East Tennessee Union state.
 
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which is why the Confederates wouldn't just sit back and let it happen.
Indeed they didn't. Confederate troops under Felix Zollicoffer were immediately sent into east Tennessee.

Would Lincoln risk losing Kentucky in order to support the rebels (anti-rebels?) of Tennessee?
Mr. Lincoln, early on did see the benefit of a Union controlled east Tennessee and encouraged an invasion. The beginnings of that was the disastrous bridge-burning campaign that was to be followed by an invasion from Kentucky. The result was Confederate military occupation, mass arrests, and even executions. Lincoln then reluctantly listened to McClellan, Sherman, Buell, and Thomas who convinced him a campaign that would result in the capture of Nashville was more feasible.
 

BlueandGrayl

First Sergeant
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Location
Corona, California
Indeed they didn't. Confederate troops under Felix Zollicoffer were immediately sent into east Tennessee.



Mr. Lincoln, early on did see the benefit of a Union controlled east Tennessee and encouraged an invasion. The beginnings of that was the disastrous bridge-burning campaign that was to be followed by an invasion from Kentucky. The result was Confederate military occupation, mass arrests, and even executions. Lincoln then reluctantly listened to McClellan, Sherman, Buell, and Thomas who convinced him a campaign that would result in the capture of Nashville was more feasible.
In all honesty, if you're even going to have your home region of East Tennessee (or Nickajack if North Alabama joins in) as a Union state since you probably have ancestors who fought for the Union again as I mentioned earlier you're either gonna have to A. The Knoxville or Greeneville meetings result in the declaration of the state's creation or B. Don Carlos Buell is able to launch a successful campaign into East Tennessee and loyal white Unionists help set up a "Restored Government of Tennessee" (a la "Restored Government of Virginia") separate from Andrew Johnson's Tennessee military government that evolves into a new separate state and for the Nickajack option once Union forces do occupy North Alabama the population decides to link up with their East Tennessee bretheren to form "Nickajack". Again, you would have to change some small details for either scenario to happen.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
If this happens right off the bat, it limits rail access to Richmond from the rest of the states of the Confederacy to 1 line. Depending upon how far 'East Tennessee' extends, it will cut West Tennessee, Mississippi, and Northern Alabama rail lines off from the rest of the Southern rail 'system'. Maybe this gets the Danville / Greensboro line built quicker - maybe not.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
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BlueandGrayl

First Sergeant
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On top of all that, as I said a East Tennessee (or Nickajack) Union state would mean no Battle of Missionary Ridge and by extension no Chattanooga Cammpaign (or at least not in the way it would occur in OTL if and IF Confederate forces try to retake East Tennessee) and an earlier Atlanta campaign though unlike OTL's version this TTL's Atlanta Campaign is handled not by William Tecumseh Sherman and the Army of the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee all at the same time instead its carried out by say Ulysses S. Grant (or Henry W. Halleck) and only the Army of the Tennessee since Sherman's "total war" tactics aren't employed either in this ATL Battle of Atlanta there's no "March to the Sea" and so Confederate forces decide to hold off the cities of Savannah and Columbia from Union troops rather than the latter just marching unopposed. The war's length would also be shortened from 1861 to say 1863 or 1862 depending on how the Union Army's performance against the Confederate Army in the East is and how long the Confederates are able to hold off Vicksburg.
 

BlueandGrayl

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To elaborate on East Tennessee (or Nickajack) political affiliation would be it start off fairly Republican since they are the party that was most associated with the Union and they're under a Civil War-era Unionist government throughout "Reconstruction" (1868-1876) but when Reconstruction does end the Southern Democrats would then take over East Tennessee (as what they did with the other Southern states in OTL) and it would remain so for the rest of the 19th century and if we were to take West Virginia's voting patterns in the 20th century it swings either Republican or Democrat depending how well either party's candidates appeal to East Tennesseans (or Nickajackers) and by the 21st century like the rest of the South, East Tennessee (or Nickajack) will be Republican.
 

BlueandGrayl

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2018
Location
Corona, California
If this happens right off the bat, it limits rail access to Richmond from the rest of the states of the Confederacy to 1 line. Depending upon how far 'East Tennessee' extends, it will cut West Tennessee, Mississippi, and Northern Alabama rail lines off from the rest of the Southern rail 'system'. Maybe this gets the Danville / Greensboro line built quicker - maybe not.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
Yeah as I said it would shorten the length of the war since the Western Confederacy's rail lines to the East would be severed thus making it harder to supply the Confederates though I agree they'll build the Danville-Greensboro line to make up for this.
 
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BlueandGrayl

First Sergeant
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Corona, California
For how the state of East Tennessee (or Nickajack) would look today:
Capital: Knoxville
Largest city: Chattanooga
Other major cities: Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol, (Decatur and Hunstville if Nickajack)
Counties (in alphabetical order): Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Cocke, Cumberland, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hawkins, Hancock, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Loudon, McMinn, Marion, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Polk, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union, Washington (Cherokee, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marshall, and Winston if Nickajack I also merged the two Blounts, Marions, and Morgans together)
Population: 1,211,439 (2,212,424 as Nickajack combined with North Alabama population)
Fun fact: East Tennessee (or Nickajack) is the birthplace of Southern country music
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
During the Civil War, East Tennessee was by far one of the most Unionist regions in the South (next to West Virginia, North Alabama, Texas Hill County, Free State of Jones, Free State of Winston and other areas) even though it was under Confederate control for the most part until at least 1863 though historically speaking there were East Tennessee Confederates. In its history East Tennessee was a largely mountainous region settled by yeomen with few blacks (free or slave) living there and there even had been a emancipationist movement there though even that died out in the 1840s it also voted for the Whigs (who were not secessionist supporters and were fairly nationalistic) in contrast to the rest of Democrat Tennessee. In 1861, while Middle and West Tennessee voted for Confederate secession post-Fort Sumter most East Tennessee counties rejected it (with the exceptions of Meigs, Monroe, Rhea, Sequatchie, Sullivan, and Polk who were pro-secession) in fact most of the Eastern counties were so opposed to secession (such as Scott, Servier, Carter, Campbell, and Anderson for example) that they actually decided they wanted to be their own state and on May 30 1861 representatives from 26 East Tennessee counties met in Knoxville to discuss splitting off from Confederate-controlled Tennessee though there were at the very least decided to stay neutral they would meet again in Greeneville on June 17 this time to actually discussing making East Tennessee a Union state and met for the final time on April 12, 1864 about the Reconstruction plan. There were even plans to host a meeting in Kingston to form the Union state of East Tennessee but Confederate troops under Felix K. Zollicoffer would capture one of the planners T.A.R. Nelson was arrested after attempting to flee to Washington, D.C. and agreed to stay neutral. During "Reconstruction", these Unionists would serve various positions in Tennessee government. So it makes me wonder what if East Tennessee had split off from Confederate Tennessee and was admitted into the Union state as its newest state? Well it would have some major implications as to how the Civil War progresses for starters the Union Army would control the important railroad hub city of Chattanooga earlier than it did than in OTL and might even encourage nearby aforementioned North Alabama (another Unionist region) to split from Confederate Alabama and become its own state or even join East Tennessee to become the state of Nickajack, East Tennessee (or Nickajack if its linked with North Alabama) as a Union state would also allow an earlier Georgia campaign to occur speeding up the end of the conflict and additional manpower from a Unionist region with the formation of "East Tennessee (or Nickajack)" regiments. A "Reconstruction" East Tennessee (or Nickajack) also means the Republican Party gains a reliable region in the South to attract East Tennesseean (or Nickajacker) Southern whites to support them and even when Jim Crow does come it wouldn't as nearly bad here when compared to Mississippi and Alabama. But for this scenario to succed let's just say either A. the Knoxville or Greeneville meetings lead to East Tennessee Unionist leaders not only adopt the "Declaration of Grievances" but announce its split from Tennessee and its intent to join the Union without the Confederates coming in at the right time as a new state instead (for Knoxville) just declaring neutrality or B. Don Carlos Buell does a better job in taking the region and with the help of loyal white Unionists forming a West Virginia-style "Restored Government of Tennessee" separate from the Tennessee state military government that leads to the formation of the state of East Tennessse and (for the Nickajack option) by the time Union forces occupy North Alabama it decides to vote to join up with their Tennessee bretheren to form the "State of Nickajack". In today's day and age, East Tennessee (or Nickajack) would be nicknamed the "Great Smoky State" for being home to the Great Smoky Mountain and its scenic mountains.
There is a very good book about East Tennessee " War behind every door Partisan Politics in East Tennessee 1861 to 1867 " Noel Fisher North Carolina University Press.
I am not home so I can't get the exact title.
Liberating East Tennessee was a bridge to far until General Burndide liberated Knoxville in the latter lart of 1863.
War is the art of the possible and to many things were going on to create a West Virginia style state in East Tennessee.
Leftyhunter
 
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BlueandGrayl

First Sergeant
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east tennessee roots, I am specifically talking about the Unionist region of East Tennessee you must have ancestors who fought for the Union in contrast to the most pro-Confederate Western and Middle Tennessee. Since I am referring to East Tennessee potentially becoming a state and a possible merger with North Alabam (another Unionist region) to form the state of Nickajack would love for this to happen?
 
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Location
Kingsport, Tennessee
east tennessee roots, I am specifically talking about the Unionist region of East Tennessee you must have ancestors who fought for the Union in contrast to the most pro-Confederate Western and Middle Tennessee. Since I am referring to East Tennessee potentially becoming a state and a possible merger with North Alabam (another Unionist region) to form the state of Nickajack would love for this to happen?
Football Saturdays in Knoxville might be a little different, singing about "Good Old Nickajack" as opposed to "Good Old Rocky-Top." :dance:

Yes indeed, I had a number of Unionists ancestors/relatives. The mountainous Counties in east Tennessee bordering on western North Carolina could correctly be described as "pro-Union." Not so much in the valleys and along railroads and rivers. Pretty evenly divided. Numerous folks had economic ties to the lower south that encouraged their allegiance to the Confederacy. Things were kind of ironic here. Many of the few slave-owners were pro-Union. Many of those who made every effort to keep east Tennessee in the Union, were Confederate to the bitter end, once the dye was cast.

There were two rebel brigades at Vicksburg made up entirely of east Tennesseans.

A number of east Tennesseans surrendered with Lee at Appomattox.
 
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BlueandGrayl

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2018
Location
Corona, California
Football Saturdays in Knoxville might be a little different, singing about "Good Old Nickajack" as opposed to "Good Old Rocky-Top." :dance:

Yes indeed, I had a number of Unionists ancestors/relatives. The mountainous Counties in east Tennessee bordering on western North Carolina could correctly be described as "pro-Union." Not so much in the valleys and along railroads and rivers. Pretty evenly divided. Numerous folks had economic ties to the lower south that encouraged their allegiance to the Confederacy. Things were kind of ironic here. Many of the few slave-owners were pro-Union. Many of those who made every effort to keep east Tennessee in the Union, were Confederate to the bitter end, once the dye was cast.

There were two rebel brigades at Vicksburg made up entirely of east Tennesseans.

A number of east Tennesseans surrendered with Lee at Appomattox.
Well thanks for the info, so mountainous East Tennessee counties pro-Union, valley and railroad/river counties bitterly divided. Perhaps had the Union movement in East Tennessee was more successful then North Alabama would join in and the State of Nickajack (like you mentioned) would be formed giving the Union a foothold state in the Upper and Lower South. Nickajack would be known for its scenic mountains of course.
 
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CCMDCSA

Sergeant
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May 20, 2018
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Silver run Md carroll county
If East TN broke away would any of the NC border counties want to join because of their Union sentiments?
I have some doubts my grandmothers family is from yancey and mitchell counties and a branch of my grandfathers from burke so ive spent alot of time researching my family in the area you are absolutely correct with pro union sympathies in the mountain counties but I don't believe they made up the majority in any of them it seemed like most of the pro union men in the area travelled and enlisted mainly in Knoxville which tells me yankee sentiment was more prevalent in Tennessee than the closer big town of Bakersville Nc as always i could be wrong though
 

JeffCSA

Private
Joined
Apr 10, 2019
It's good that it didn't happen or we would have to live with the stigma and shame of that action today. One just has to shake their head over those that want to make themselves believe the war was over slavery. I guess you have to try and come up with some moral reason to invade and kill hundreds of thousands of people to keep their tax paying hind ends contributing to the federal coffers. The largest East Tennessee slaveholders fought like crazy to stay in the union and contributed large sums of money for it. Ranting is through, now.

It would have been something else if that had happened. Things were bitter enough as it were. Even today trying to research family histories is hampered due to one faction not claiming and denying relationship because someone belonging in an army of one side or the other. Scott County was so insulated to the outside world that it was a while before many found that a war had broken out. When Scott County was discussing about seceeding from Tennessee a Confederate army of about 1,100 came to "straighten them out". Those men in that army that were from Scott couldn't wait to get there ..... they wanted to deal with those that were traiters to their own state of Tennessee. Unionists felt they were citizens of their country while those that viewed themselves as citizens of Tennessee were Confederates. This is why division and hatred was so extreme here in East Tennessee. These differing views were extreme and there was no middle ground.

Interesting 'what If' thread.
 
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