Chronological History of the American Civil War
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Monday, April 17, 1861 : Virginia succeeds from the Union. In 1861, as the nation divided, so did Tennessee. In the state's three grand divisions, Confederates and Unionists fought their own political war to determine which way Tennessee would go as the Confederate States of America took form in neighboring states. West Tennesseans, led by Governor Isham G. Harris, overwhelmingly wished connection with the Confederacy, while in East Tennessee most residents remained loyal to the Union. In the state's middle section, the counties in the Central Basin leaned heavily toward secession, but those on the basin's rim were more undecided in their support, a discrepancy which led to divided communities and divided families and prepared the way for vicious neighbor–against-neighbor guerrilla conflict when the Civil War commenced. John Houston Bills (The Pillars Home ~ pictured) during his lifetime was maybe the wealthest man in Hardeman County in Tennessee. Now at age 61, he was successful as a planter / plantation owner, a
merchant, a postmaster, an officer of the court, and a civic leader. He was also a diarist. He kept a daily record of his life for over twenty eight years in his diary. John Houston Bills’ diary entry for: Tuesday, April 16, 1861 : “Visit Hickory Valley find Scott replanting corn where Cheairs’ Hogs have rooted it up. Too wet to plow. Old Abe Lincoln proclamation of War against the South comes today. He Calls for 76,000 Volunteers to subdue them. Not one of which will he get from the Slave States. Now the south will be a unit. However wrong the leaders may have acted, no one will see the south coerced into submission to such a
Motley Abolition Crew as is headed by Lincoln. I have stood by the ship, the old Constitution as long as a plank remains, but now all is lost & the best government on Earth Sacrificed to unholy prejudices of the North. I hope we be able to build up as good upon the ruins. We shall see.” Wednesday, April 17, 1861 : Hardeman County plantation owner/ planter, merchant, and civic leader, John Houston Bills (The Pillars) wrote in his diary: “Held a town meeting last night and many of us subscribed money to uniform and Arm a company of Volunteers for the Southern service and whip back old Lincoln’s Minions of Antislavery men. Direful news of Civil War confirmed by the paper, today." Virginia secedes from the Union. Friday, April 19, 1861: Rioters in Baltimore, Maryland attacked the 6 th Massachusetts Regiment, the first fully equipped unit to respond to Lincoln’s April 15 th call for troops. Maryland was a slave holding state with deep roots in the South, but will remain loyal to the North. Saturday, April 20, 1861 : After being offered the command of the Northern Army, Robert E. Lee would resign his commission from the U.S. Army, and joins the South in their session. In his entry John Houston Bills wrote today: “Great Military excitement in town. Concession flags everywhere. No less than 4 in my sight. A company flag presented Capt. R.R. Neely Company by the ladies. Speeches by L.M. Brown and R. H. Wood.” Monday, April 22, 1861 , The Richmond Dispatch reports on the rude
treatment of U. S. Vice President, Andrew Johnson (pictured) by a large crowd in Lynchburg, Virginia, as he passed through on his way from Washington to Tennessee – “A large crowd assembled and groaned him, and offered every indignity he deserved, including pulling his nose.” The conductor and others intervene, and Johnson is eventually able to continue on his way.
Wednesday, April 24, 1861 : Hardeman County plantation owner/ planter, merchant, and civic leader, John Houston Bills (The Pillars) writes again in his diary: “Great military excitement in Memphis. The shrill of notes of the fife and noisy kettle drum is heard on every street corner. Recruits are very awkward, but it is apparent we are in a mist of Civil War. But one spirit pervades the public mind… all will resist the forces of Lincoln.”
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