KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The deadly events in Charlottesville, Virginia, have prompted loud protests around the country for the removal of Confederate statues.
Several groups are pushing for the removal of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest at the state building in Nashville. At one point Monday, two protesters covered up the bust. The likeness of the Confederate hero who was later a leader in the Ku Klux Klan had already been moved once.Previous story: Haslam: Nathan Bedford Forrest should not be honored at State Capitol
All of the protests, though, bring up the question of why there are no public Confederate statues in East Tennessee.
“East Tennessee was a famously pro-Union section of the South during the Civil War,” said Maryville College Professor Aaron Astor. “There were obviously a lot of Confederate soldiers, too. Not only during the war, but after the war a lot of former Confederate sympathizers left the area.”
Astor says as Abraham Lincoln’s Republican party took hold, with business ties strongly to the North, there wasn’t much desire to celebrate the Confederacy, or even the Civil War itself.
“It was a painful experience. It was a divided community. This was a place that in many ways felt under siege,” he said. “Even going back before the war, East Tennessee had kind of carved out its own identity in many ways, and continued to, being one of the few Republican party hotbeds, when everyone else was the old Southern Democrats.”
Astor adds these feelings from so many years ago have an unintended benefit.
“There was just not a lot of desire to build a lot of these public monuments, and now, I guess the benefit is there’s not a lot of debate on whether they should stay.”