Isham G. Harris of Tennessee
Confederate Governor and United States Senator
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
Series: Southern Biography Series
“Tennessee will not furnish a single man for purposes of coercion but 50,000 if necessary for the defense of our rights and those of our southern brothers.” With these defiant words written on April 17, 1861, in response to the U.S. government’s call for troops, Governor Isham Green Harris of Tennessee gave notice that the state ...
Abbreviations Used in Notes
1. "From the Beginning Fairly Successful As a Lawyer": 1818–1853
For Isham Green Harris, the governor of Tennessee, April 6, 1862, dawned a bright, sunny day full of the promise of a great victory, one that would repel the blue-clad troops from the North who had, in the previous few weeks, invaded Tennessee. The Confederate army, gathered from all parts of the South, ...
2. "My Buisness Will Be to Advocate the Principles and Platform of Democracy": 1854–1860
When Green Harris took up his law practice in Memphis in 1854, the city had grown substantially from the small, rough river town of just a few years before. The census of 1840 showed a total free population of 1,799, with 221 slaves. By 1850, the population had grown to 8,841, and by 1854, thanks in part to ...
3. "For the Defense of Our Rights and Those of Our Southern Brothers": 1861–1862
With South Carolina out of the Union, and other Deep South states preparing to follow, the Tennessee General Assembly met in special session on January 7, 1861. Hot-blooded secessionists vowed in newspapers that the state would “not bow to the yoke of despotism,” while moderate Unionists rejoined that ...
4. "I Intend to Remain Until the Battle is Over": 1862
Accompanied by a strong force of gunboats, Federal Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant sailed two divisions of his command up the Tennessee. A winter of confused and often lackadaisical effort on the part of the Confederate military relating to the defenses on the Tennessee resulted in the fall of Fort Henry on February 6, 1862, ...
5. "In This Struggle for National Independence": 1863
As the Army of Tennessee settled behind the Highland Rim, Isham G. Harris was called on once again to operate in his element, politics. Yet the exigencies of the war made the execution of the familiar unfamiliar. First, the retreat from Murfreesboro brought to the surface differences that existed between Braxton Bragg and ...
6. "Tennessee, A Grave or a Free Home": 1864–May 1865
After its loss at Chattanooga, the Army of Tennessee settled down for a winter during which Joseph E. Johnston and his officers would restore its strength and the confidence of its men. The new year of 1864 would see Harris continue his role as an advocate and morale-booster for the Tennessee troops in the army. ...
7. "Better a Penniless Exile than to Have Violated Principle": 1865–1867
In early May 1865, the new Unionist legislature in Nashville passed a joint resolution “Declaratory of the treason of Isham G. Harris, ex-Governor of the State of Tennessee.” The resolution accused Harris of “treason, perjury, and theft” and stated he was “responsible to a great extent for the war, misery, and death of ...
8. "We of the South Have Accepted the Results in Good Faith": 1868–1876
On January 29, 1868, an advertisement appeared in the professional cards section of the Memphis Appeal for “Isham G. Harris, Attorney at Law.” His substantial personal fortune effectively wiped out by the war, Green Harris resumed his life’s profession in 1868. There was little other means of making a living, ...
9. "Stand by Your Time-Honored Principles": 1877–1883
Although the previous Congress had numerous ex-Confederates in its ranks, the prospect of Confederate war governor and Mexican exile Isham Green Harris in the Senate seems to have been particularly obnoxious to his former enemies. The New York Times, crediting the School Fund slander, recalled Andrew Johnson’s hatred ...
10. "The Old Man Invincible": 1883–1897
In a letter to a friend in early 1884, Harris complained that he was becoming increasingly “disgusted with modern politics and modern politicians.” Lamenting that neither party adhered “to the old landmarks,” Harris felt that the Democrats were almost no better than the Republicans in observing the constitutional limits ...