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Knoxville in Knox County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

Knoxville: A Divided City

Simultaneous Union and Confederate Rallies

 
 
Knoxville: A Divided City Marker image. Click for full size.
By Tom Bosse, December 16, 2016
1. Knoxville: A Divided City Marker
Inscription.  In April 1861, before Tennessee seceded, Knoxville was deeply divided. Excited residents gathered in the streets and held rallies to sway public opinion. These divisions were never more visible then than during simultaneous Union and Confederate rallies on Gay Street (one-half block straight ahead) on April 27, 1861. Knoxville artist and keen observer Samuel Bell Palmer captured the spirit of the time in a sketch made from memory while he was a prisoner of war in Illinois.

A U.S. flag near Main Street, flying above the "Liberty Pole," was a gathering place for Unionists. On the corner of Church and Clinch streets, a Confederate flag marked a secessionist rendezvous point. At the corner of Gay and Main streets, then-Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson delivered a pro-Union, anti-secession speech to supporters gathered around him, while a Confederate regiment and band marched down Gay Street. Nearby, at the Lamar House, Confederate gentlemen entertained ladies with music. Perceiving the musical disturbances as deliberate, some Unionist reacted angrily, but cooler heads on both sides intervened to calm then.

Six weeks later, Tennessee
Left image image. Click for full size.
Drawing by Samuel B. Palmer (photo courtesy of Richard P. W. Williams)
2. Left image
Knoxville rallies
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joined the Confederacy. Much of East Tennessee, however, remained loyal to the Union. Tensions exploded, further dividing neighbors and families. While the national war raged, East Tennesseans also fought each other. Violence continued even after the war's end. The divisions persisted for decades, some for a lifetime.

(sidebar)
Knoxvillians Samuel Bell Palmer (left) and brother John enlisted in Capt. William D. Kain's Co., Tennessee Light Artillery, in March 1862. Captured at Knoxville in September 1863, they were imprisoned at Camp Douglas, Illinois, for the remainder of the war. While in prison, Samuel Palmer drew sketches, including the Knoxville rallies, and later sent them to Maj. Samuel K. Williams, Jr., a guard who had befriended him.
 
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #17 Andrew Johnson, and the Tennessee Civil War Trails series lists. A significant historical date for this entry is April 27, 1861.
 
Location. 35° 57.683′ N, 83° 55.017′ W. Marker is in Knoxville, Tennessee, in Knox County. Marker is on Main Street east of Walnut Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 300 Main Street, Knoxville TN 37902, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are
Lower right image image. Click for full size.
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress
3. Lower right image
Five Confederate prisoners at Camp Douglas
within walking distance of this marker. Treaty of the Holston (a few steps from this marker); Knox County World War II Memorial (a few steps from this marker); Old Knox County Courthouse (a few steps from this marker); Knox County Spanish American War Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); Captain Charles T. McMillan II (within shouting distance of this marker); Katherine Sherrill Sevier (within shouting distance of this marker); Site of First Block House (within shouting distance of this marker); Governor John Sevier (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Knoxville.
 
Upper right image image. Click for full size.
By Photo courtesy of Scott Van Ness, May 31, 2018
4. Upper right image
Samuel B. Palmer and John Palmer
Knoxville: A Divided City Marker image. Click for full size.
By Tom Bosse, December 16, 2016
5. Knoxville: A Divided City Marker
Andrew Johnson image. Click for full size.
6. Andrew Johnson
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 21, 2018. It was originally submitted on December 18, 2016, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 574 times since then. Photos:   1. submitted on December 18, 2016, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee.   2, 3, 4. submitted on June 21, 2018, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.   5, 6. submitted on December 18, 2016, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Jan. 24, 2022