The American Civil War in Tennessee
The Cost of War, the Price of Freedom, a State Reunited
"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Abraham Lincoln uttered these words during the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, three years before the first shots were fired in the American Civil War. Lincoln's words became an enduring metaphor for a devastating four-year war that would leave hundreds of thousands of Americans dead or wounded yet also make new US citizens of millions of former African American slaves.
From 1861 to 1865 Tennessee was "a house divided," as it experienced hundreds of battles, large and small, and the wide-reaching devastating of "total war" on its farms and towns. The state supplied more soldiers to the Confederacy than any other state except Virginia -- it also provided more men for the Union cause than all the other Southern states put together. Tennessee was the last state to secede and the first to rejoin the Union after the fighting stopped.
The war years brought misery to almost every Tennessean. The violence and terror of guerilla warfare, disease and malnutrition, heartbreak and loss, and military rule by both sides touched every corner of the state.
The human costs of the conflict were considerable.
66,000 Confederates and 58,000 Federal soldiers were killed or wounded on Tennessee battlefields.
Two of the bloodiest battles of the entire Civil War, Shiloh and Stone's River, were fought in Tennessee.
The division that made Tennessee a reflection of the rift between North and South also made it a testing ground of political reform after the war. The state's many Unionists took power during Reconstruction and proceeded to abolish slavery, ratify the Reconstruction amendments to the Constitution and return Tennessee to the Union earlier than any other ex-Confederate state.
The sacrifices of African-American troops for the Union side strengthened the former slave's claim to a full share in postwar society. These first steps toward emancipation and citizenship were the most hopeful legacy of the Civil War in Tennessee. At war's end, 275,000 Tennesseans formerly enslaved were free.
There are hundreds of battlefields, historic sites and museums across the state that explore both the tragic history and hopeful symbols of heroism and kindness. Explore first-hand how the Civil War transformed Tennessee by visiting and discovering these sites throughout the Volunteer State.