Nashville news: 1860-1869

1. Dec. 1864: With Nashville under federal occupation and many of the usual forms of recreation curtailed, concerns arose about how the local youth were entertaining themselves. This ad appeared in the Daily Press & Times:

Onanism or Self Abuse.

How many parents have seen the reason of a gifted son go to ruin; have seen him fade away from their homes, their hearts, and their hearths, like a shadow of evening from the hills, and have turned in tears to the tomb to which he has gone down, in the bloom of, beauty and the meaning of existence, without. once suspecting that the darling hope of their declining years was a victim to a solitary habit, which, alas ! is so common among the young. Let those thus afflicted call on DOCTOR COLEMAN, No. 64 North Cherry street, or address him by letter. Post Office Box 502, Nashville, Tenn.


24 July 1866: Nashville’s newspapers enter into a wire-service pact. Some would say it has been downhill ever since for local journalism….


October 1866: This history item ran in the Nashville Scene in October 1993:

Rumors of a race war

14 Oct. 1866: Almost a year and a half after Appomattox, we are still not entirely at peace.

“I have just learned that the freedmen, or many of them at least, are in a high state of excitement,” writes Secretary of State A.J. Fletcher in a note delivered today to Nashville’s mayor. “Some of them,” he adds, “contemplate violence.”

The African-Americans are said to believe that 48 of their number, imprisoned on trumped-up vagrancy charges, have been sold back into slavery in Mississippi. This has not happened, nor is there any evidence of a “high state of excitement” in the black ghetto. The city, nevertheless, is paralyzed by fear.

Under Federal rule, many white citizens feel unprotected against any attacks that may come from vengeful former slaves. But there’s just as much fear in the black community. Nobody knows where these rumors originated; they may have been planted by white vigilantes as a provocation.

White and black authorities move swiftly to quell anxieties. At a meeting of “leading colored men,” an ad-hoc committee reports that all the rumors are baseless. The men “denounce the exaggeration as a wicked attempt to enthrall us with bloodshed and suffering.”

History will bear out this charge: Between 1865 and 1876, there will be nearly 80 urban riots in the South, most of them planned in advance by whites.

Sources: Nashville Republican Banner, 10/15-17/1866; Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, vol. 4 (Anchor Books, 1989).

A contemporary account of the excitement from the Republican Banner is available here.


14 Oct. 1866: The same page of the Republican Banner includes an account of a carpetbagging visitor’s unfortunate wanderings about town of a recent evening:

Mr. E. P. Harris, agent of a business house in the city of New York, and a stranger to Nashville mystery and temptation, left his hotel late on Monday night and started down College street, leisurely puffing a fragrant Havana, and speculating upon the probable events of the morrow. On he went, the smoke-wreaths encircling his seven-dollar capillary shelter, and floating slowly away as he passed along.

He reached the Louisville depot, looked into the darkness beyond, and sauntered toward the romantic sidewalk leading to the enchanted castles whose frowning battlements and smoke-begrimed chimneys have so long looked down in somber dignity upon the neighboring sheds and shanties, and thrown dark shadows aslant the path of peregrinating pedestrians happening that way.

Passing little knots of fairies, the music of their soft voices saluted his unheeding ear, and he might have wandered on till gray dawn had marched up the eastern hills had not elfin Emma Woods tripped nimbly after him and laid her tiny fingers lovingly upon his arm, as if to shield him from the ruthless officer of darkness who would tear him from her. He would fain have went his way and left her to sport alone among the flowers, but the hungry beagle of the law seized him ere he had time to turn, and carried him back to the hands of men. Yesterday morning the young stranger was effectually disenchanted by the good Recorder, and $11 of his treasure was deposited in the municipal vaults, safe from fairies and the power of North End magic.

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