Monday, September 22, 2014

New TSLA Exhibit Explores the Civil War in Tennessee in 1864

1864 would prove to be the decisive year of the American Civil War. Despite Union victories at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga the previous year, Northern citizens were growing war-weary. The mounting lists of dead and wounded made many wonder if the South should finally be allowed its independence.

Geographically situated between the Midwestern states and the Deep South, Tennessee was to be the major battleground in the Western Theater. The Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers, combined with numerous rail lines which crossed the state, made Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Knoxville of strategic importance to both Union and Confederate forces.

Brothers Cpl. Jesse Mercer Pirkle and 1st Sgt. Elijah Jefferson Pirkle served in Co. G, 3rd Tenn. Cav., USA. They walked from Cleveland, Tennessee to Nashville to muster in the Federal army. In September 1864, Elijah was shot near Florence, Alabama and spent the rest of the war in the hospital. Jesse was captured at Sulphur Trestle, Alabama, imprisoned at Andersonville, and survived the war.
Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee, Tennessee State Library and Archives

A new exhibit, with 16 panels full of images and information on this fascinating period in our history, opened last Monday at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. It explores the role Tennessee played as a transportation and supply hub, the experiences and contributions of African-Americans, and key battles at Johnsonville, Memphis, Fort Pillow, Spring Hill, Columbia, Franklin and Nashville.

The exhibit also highlights historical records that are valuable genealogy resources such as army muster rolls, Civil War Service records, the Southern Claims Commission Records, Colored Pension Applications, the Union Provost Marshal Records, cemetery records and TSLA's manuscript collections.

Louis Napoleon Nelson, the last black Confederate veteran in Lauderdale County, is pictured in uniform with two other members of the United Confederate Veterans. According to his Colored Man's Application for Pension, Nelson served in Company M, 7th Tennessee Cavalry. He accompanied his master, Colonel E.R. Oldham, as a cook and acted as a regimental servant. Slaves in Confederate service were not allowed to bear arms, and most were body servants and cooks. The Tennessee legislature passed an act on April 9, 1921, providing pensions of $10 per month for "those colored men who served as servants and cooks in the Confederate Army in the War Between the States." This act did not provide benefits for their widows. On Nelson's pension application, Oldham swore "the applicant's habits are good and free of dishonor."
Record Group 3, Board of Pension Examiners Records, and Looking Back at Tennessee Collection, Tennessee State Library and Archives

Visitors to the Tennessee State Library and Archives are invited to come explore the role Tennessee played in the Civil War in 1864. The exhibit will remain open until mid-December.

The State Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, just west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville. The exhibit, free and open to all visitors, is located in the building's lobby directly behind the main entrance.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with the exception of state holidays. Parking is available in front, behind and beside the building.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

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