Geographically centered between the Grain Belt of the Midwest and the Cotton Belt of the Deep South, Tennessee was destined to be a major battlefield, supply center, transportation hub and invasion route for both the Union and Confederate armies. Unavoidably, Tennessee became a focal point of the Civil War. The state generated large quantities of supplies for a fighting force including wheat, corn, hay, beef, and bacon. Tennessee’s overall location made it a political hotbed, particularly in East Tennessee, which voted to remain with the Union, while the rest of the state chose to join the new Confederate States of America. Armies specifically targeted the city of Chattanooga because of its location as the “Gateway to the South.” Chattanooga was the railroad center of the Western Theater with trains reaching every part of the United States. The Union Army considered Chattanooga the last stronghold of the south, protecting the jewel city, Atlanta. Once Chattanooga fell, General Sherman marched toward Atlanta launching his renowned “march to the sea” and destroying any southern chance of winning.
The war disrupted and impacted the people of Tennessee in ways that are almost unimaginable. This traveling exhibition researched and developed by the Tennessee State Museum focuses on individual Tennesseans and will highlight the personal stories of common people surviving in the most trying and sometimes most jubilant of times. Most Civil War stories speak of the life of soldiers and conflicts that surrounded them. Meanwhile on the Tennessee home front, civilian life, especially in the rural areas, suffered immensely. Crops and farms were destroyed and livestock confiscated. Towns and cities faced the uneasy and unfamiliar aspect of occupation by Union or Confederate armies. Common People in Uncommon Times highlight the men and women on the home front, in battle, and in the political arena through photographs and archival materials from this pivotal point in American history. The lives of John fielder, a store keeper; Cate Carney, a defiant secessionist; and C.A. Haun a potter are just a few that will be explored during this traveling exhibition.
Common People in Uncommon Times: The Civil War Experience in Tennessee is sponsored by Cooke's Food Stores and Pharmacy in conjunction with the Tennessee State Museum as part of the the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War in Tennessee.