Secession in Tennessee

Tennesseans were divided on the issue of secession. In this lesson, students will explore the events that ultimately led Tennessee to secede. Students will also examine the geographical division of Tennessee over the issue of slavery and secession.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Explain with supporting details why Tennessee was divided on the issue of secession and the events that led it to eventually leave the Union to include: state convention...
Explain the geographical division of Tennessee over the issue of slavery and secession, including Governor Harris, the secession convention vote of 1861, anti-secession...
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Learning objectives: 

In the course of the lesson, students will:

  • Analyze primary source documents
  • Work in groups to create a timeline of events
  • Analyze the geographic patterns of voting results
  • Write an editorial that demonstrates knowledge of how public sentiment regarding slavery varied in throughout the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee
Essential and guiding questions: 
  • What events led Tennessee to secede in June 1861?
  • How did views on secession vary throughout the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Have students create a multimedia presentation on secession in Tennessee using documents and images from the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
Have students transcribe Governor Isham Harris’ letter of February 28th, 1861. Ask them to compare the sentiments expressed in letter with Harris reply to Lincoln’s call for troops following the Battle at Fort Sumter. 

Helpful Hints

Materials Needed:
Election Results:

  • Maury County
  • Scott County
  • Greene County
  • Hardeman County
  • Henry County
  • Cartmell Diary Entry: December 1860 Lawrence Family Papers Entries for
  • Jan 1, 1861 (page 68)
  • Feb 9, 1861 (page 68)
  • April 13, 1861 (page 69)
  • April 20, 1861 (page 69)
  • April 25, 1861 (page 69)
  • May 1, 1861 (page 70)
  • June 1, 1861 (page 70)
  • June 8, 1861 (page 70)
  • June 17, 1861 (page 70)
  • Map of Tennessee Counties
  • Timeline Graphic Organizer
  • Voting Results Organizer
  • Governor Isham Harris’ letter of February 28th, 1861 (for extension activity)