Civil War life in occupied Tennessee
During the War of 1912, Andrew Jackson was the first officer to declare martial law in the United States. His actions set the precedent for widespread use of martial law by both Union and Confederate Officers during the Civil War, and eventually codified in Federal Law by President Abraham Lincoln. For much of the Civil War, most of Tennessee, including the area around Nashville was under martial law and under the control of Union Forces.
After the fall of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in 1862, the Union Army quickly gained control of Nashville and the important industries and railroad junctions there. As the Union forces pushed further south toward Corinth, Mississippi and toward Chattanooga, greater areas of Tennessee fell under martial law and by early 1863 nearly the entire state was under Union control. However, as the Confederate army withdrew, increasing numbers of local residents took up arms against the Union forces.
There were two main categories of resistance groups that formed in the wake of Union advances. The first consisted of regular Confederate soldiers, typically cavalry and those who left their regular units to remain close to their homes. The second was local citizens who banded together to cause trouble for Union forces.
These groups, labeled insurgents, guerrillas, or even bushwackers by the Union soldiers, conducted numerous attacks against Union forces and captured or destroyed Union supplies. They focused their efforts on disrupting the rail line between Nashville and Chattanooga, a key Union line of communication. They also attacked Union foraging parties and supply wagons. Often, these attacks were very brutal, with guerrillas killing entire units, even those who surrendered.
Many areas of middle Tennessee gained notoriety as hotbeds of Union resistance, including areas around Tullahoma, Murfreesboro, and Gallatin. Several of these guerrilla leaders also gained notoriety approaching myth, including Samuel ‘Champ’ Ferguson, John Hunt Morgan, and Ellis Harper. Guerrilla groups not only attacked Union forces, but often attacked slaves and locals suspected of cooperating with the Union. In one case in Clarksville, a guerrilla band killed several slaves and the local farmer, cutting off his ears as a warning to any who supported the Union. The attacks against the Union supplies, communications and local supporters forced the Union to take drastic measures.
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