War and Conflict

American Civil War

Why did Andrew Johnson vow he would burn Nashville before surrendering it?

It seems a strange thing for a politician to say about his home state’s capital city. Andrew Johnson had served Tennessee in both the U.S. House of Representatives (1843–53) and the U.S. Senate (1857–62); he had also been governor (1853–57). But after the Civil War broke out, the Southern democrat made a surprising move: he sided with the Union. This show of allegiance was largely owing to Johnson’s strongly held belief that the South’s secession was unconstitutional. Having thus made his stand, President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) saw fit to appoint Johnson as the Union’s military governor in Tennessee. When rebel forces surrounded Nashville and seemed poised to take it, Johnson proclaimed he would sooner burn the city before surrendering it. But he was forced to do neither: In mid-December 1864 Union forces used the hand-cranked Gatling gun (invented in 1861) to help defeat the Confederate forces.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App