William Bowen Campbell: the making of a Tennessee unionist.

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Hagewood, William
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Middle Tennessee State University
"William Bowen Campbell: The Making of a Tennessee Unionist" provides a microcosmic paradigm of the nature of Unionism in Middle Tennessee by exploring the political career of Campbell. How could Middle Tennessee have remained so decisively loyal to the Union for so long and have still succumbed to an eleventh-hour conversion to secession? Did the region's planters deceive the yeomanry with racism or conspiratorial anti-republican propaganda or both? On the other hand, was the region's secession inevitable but only delayed because of economic and geographical considerations which in no way undermined the commonality of racial interests all white Tennesseans shared?
The biographical information presented in this project is more interpretative than narrative with an emphasis on the protagonist's ideological make-up. Extensive use was made of the Campbell Family Papers, the messages and papers of Governor Campbell, and the papers of his political colleagues. Among the major works utilized in the historiographic portions of this study were those of William Cooper, Michael Holt, David Donald, Daniel Crofts, and Paul Bergeron.
Tennesseans were not predisposed toward the Confederacy by race, geography, or economics. In fact, Campbell's Unionist career gives evidence of the vitality of Tennessee's two-party system, the state's rivalries between its subdivisions, and the dominance of many state and local issues, all of which mitigated the worst effects of sectional tension. Nonetheless, the exploitation of the slavery issue by the state's "Southern rights" Democrats led to the February 9, 1861, referendum on the secession question. Campbell and other pro-slavery Unionists had canvassed the state denouncing secession by demonstrating the impracticality of slavery's protection outside the Union. Crushed in the February referendum, secessionists made tactical reconsiderations that Campbell and other Unionists were unprepared for. Assuming Lincoln would not try to coerce the seceded states into rejoining the Union, Campbell and his associates made no efforts to organize and prepare to use force to hold Tennessee in the Union. On the other hand, secessionists employed terror, intimidation, and reverse psychology after Sumter aimed at persuading Tennesseans that the "anti-republican" Lincoln Administration sought to establish a Northern "monarchy." Campbell's own monopolistic sense of republican virtue blinded him to the possibility that " cotton aristocrats" could also employ anti-republican, conspiratorial rhetoric to achieve their ends. Thus, although the states of the Upper South were united in their racial fears, this did not underlie secession, since such phobias could make one either loyal or disloyal to the Union. Conversely, a "war of compulsion" was inimical to Tennessee's eighteenth-century concept of patriotism and republicanism.