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“Readers will find Brownlow unique, above all, but as entertaining as he is sometimes thrillingly loathsome, full of great energy and rhetorical skill and rambunctiousness in the tradition of the tall tale vernacular writers of the time.”—David Madden, Director of the United States Civil War Center

He was a failed Methodist minister [apparently a little too much fire and brimstone (slander and libel anyway) for even a circuit rider] and a carpenter, not a trained journalist, by trade. He was just a big pro-slavery gas-bag who was able to sell enough advertising to get by because his paper got read, even by those who hated him and just as he had been able to fill the tent with scurrilous attacks on Baptist and Presbyterian missionaries he was able to fill his editorial columns with hatred for anyone who didn’t agree with his politics. The real tragedy is that this uniquely unqualified creature would find himself installed by the army of occupation as first governor – when he was the ONLY candidate – and then senator from Tennessee where he was physically too infirm to function but served anyway [some things never change] until he finally relieved Tennessee of his prescence by dying of  “paralysis of the bowels.” He is so fondly remembered that in 1987 the Tennessee state legislature banned his portrait from the state Capitol.

In many ways the journalism that predates the first classes at the Columbia School of Journalism in 1912 has a good deal more entertainment value. There were no pretensions of objectivity, the facts were gracefully adapted to fit editorial policy and you read the paper that you agreed with. This is of course exactly what makes them so unreliable as primary sources and why you should closely examine the bibliography of any history book that relies too heavily upon them.  [Not that they have become any more reliable even with the veneer of education for journalists and the false mantle of objectivity.] This book proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt and is a wonderful little treasure trove of how the flag-waving chauvinism of an ardent unionist is every bit as unreliable as the pining of a moonlight-and-magnolias Southerner.

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Secessionists and Other Scoundrels: Selections from Parson Brownlow’s Book Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c 1999 edited, with an introduction by Stephen V. Ash Tennessee Politics and government 1861-1865 Hardcover. Selections from William Gannaway Brownlow’s Sketches of the rise, progress, and decline of secession. 1862. 1st ed. and printing. 157 p.: ill. ; 22 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [151]-152) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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East Tennessee newspaper editor and Methodist preacher William G. “Parson” Brownlow, a man of fervent principles and combative temperament, gained fame during the secession crisis as a staunch, outspoken southern unionist. Unlike most southern unionists, however, Brownlow refused to renounce his loyalty to the Union after the Civil War broke out. He continued to write editorial tirades against the Confederacy until forcibly silenced by southern authorities.

Ft. Sanders, Knoxville, Tenn., showing saliant assaulted by Longstreets forces, November 29th 1863

Ft. Sanders, Knoxville, Tenn., showing saliant assaulted by Longstreets forces, November 29th 1863

Arrested, jailed, and ultimately banished to the North, Brownlow continued his war of words against the Confederacy through speaking tours and through the publication in 1862 of Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession; with a Narrative of Personal Adventures Among the Rebels — a best-selling but ill-organized hodgepodge of his editorials, speeches, letters, and commentary. Secessionists and Other Scoundrels, a collection of selected excerpts from Brownlow’s original, offers an accessible and powerful explication of the parson’s unionism and a moving narrative of his travails under Confederate rule, without sacrificing the vitriolic prose and scathing wit for which he was celebrated — and denounced.

Photograph of the War in the West. These photographs are of the Siege of Knoxville, November-December 1863. The difficult strategic situation of the Federal armies after Chicamauga enabled Bragg to detach a force under Longstreet which aimed to drive Burnside out of East Tennessee and did shut him up in Knoxville, which he defended successfully. These views, taken after Longstreet's withdrawal on December 3, include one of Strawberry Plains, which was on his line of retreat. Here we have part of an army record; Barnard was photographer of the chief engineer's office, Military Division of the Mississippi, and his views were transmitted with the report of the chief engineer of Burnside's army, April 11, 1864.

Photograph of the War in the West. These photographs are of the Siege of Knoxville, November-December 1863. The difficult strategic situation of the Federal armies after Chicamauga enabled Bragg to detach a force under Longstreet which aimed to drive Burnside out of East Tennessee and did shut him up in Knoxville, which he defended successfully. These views, taken after Longstreet’s withdrawal on December 3, include one of Strawberry Plains, which was on his line of retreat. Here we have part of an army record; Barnard was photographer of the chief engineer’s office, Military Division of the Mississippi, and his views were transmitted with the report of the chief engineer of Burnside’s army, April 11, 1864.

In these pages the inimitable parson is at his worst. By turns sarcastic, angry, and droll, he bombastically proclaims his convictions and excoriates his foes. Every sentence exemplifies the motto that adorned the masthead of his newspaper, the Knoxville Whig: “Cry aloud and spare not.” In an informative introduction, editor Stephen V. Ash places the excerpts in context by sketching Brownlow’s career, summarizing his historical significance, and discussing the history of the book itself. Civil War scholars and enthusiasts will welcome Secessionists and Other Scoundrels as an exciting and entertaining opportunity to be reintroduced to one of the era’s most colorful and controversial characters.

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The Knoxville union cemetery was founded in 1863 and the monument was completed in 1901 — the height having been calculated to surpass that of the Confederate monument — and was topped by a bronze eagle with wings spread. In this heart of the Confederacy neither the graves nor the monument have ever been desecrated except that on August 22, 1904 the eagle was shattered by a bolt of lightning, the sound of which rattled Knoxville and could be heard for miles all around – Deo Vindice indeed!

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