Tennessee is a state located in the Southern United States. In 1796, it became the sixteenth state to join the Union.
Tennessee is known as the “Volunteer State”, a nickname earned during the War of 1812 because of the prominent role played by volunteer soldiers from Tennessee, especially during the Battle of New Orleans.
The capital city is Nashville, and the largest city is Memphis.
Tennessee borders eight other states: Kentucky and Virginia to the north; North Carolina to the east; Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi on the south; Arkansas and Missouri on the Mississippi River to the west.
Tennessee ties Missouri as the states bordering the most other states. The state is trisected by the Tennessee River.
The highest point in the state is the peak of Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet (2,025 m), which lies on Tennessee’s eastern border, and is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail.
The lowest point is the Mississippi River at the Mississippi state line. The geographical center of the state is located in Murfreesboro on Old Lascassas Pike (just down the road from Middle Tennessee State University).
It is marked by a roadside monument.
The state of Tennessee is geographically and constitutionally divided into three Grand Divisions: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee.
Tennessee features six principal physiographic regions: the Blue Ridge, the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Region, the Cumberland Plateau, the Highland Rim, the Nashville Basin, and the Gulf Coastal Plain. Tennessee is home to the most caves in the United States, with over 8,350 caves registered to date.
The Blue Ridge area lies on the eastern edge of Tennessee, bordering North Carolina. This region of Tennessee is characterized by high mountains, including the Great Smoky Mountains, the Chilhowee Mountains, the Unicoi Range, and the Iron Mountains range.
The average elevation of the Blue Ridge area is 5,000 feet (1,500 m) above sea level. Clingman’s Dome is located in this region.
Stretching west from the Blue Ridge for approximately 55 miles (88 km) is the Ridge and Valley region, in which numerous tributaries join to form the Tennessee River in the Tennessee Valley.
This area of Tennessee is covered by fertile valleys separated by wooded ridges, such as Bays Mountain and Clinch Mountain. The western section of the Tennessee valley, where the depressions become broader and the ridges become lower, is called the Great Valley. In this valley are numerous towns and the region’s two urban areas, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.
To the west of East Tennessee lies the Cumberland Plateau. This area is covered with flat-topped mountains separated by sharp valleys.
The elevation of the Cumberland Plateau ranges from 1,500 to 1,800 feet (450 to 550 m) above sea level.
West of the Cumberland Plateau is the Highland Rim, an elevated plain that surrounds the Nashville Basin.
The northern section of the Highland Rim, known for its high tobacco production, is sometimes called the Pennyroyal Plateau and is located in primarily in Southwestern Kentucky.
The Nashville Basin is characterized by rich, fertile farm country and high natural wildlife diversity.
Middle Tennessee was a common destination of settlers crossing the Appalachians in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
An important trading route called the Natchez Trace, first used by Native Americans, connected Middle Tennessee to the lower Mississippi River town of Natchez. Today the route of the Natchez Trace is a scenic highway called the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Many biologists study the area’s salamander species because the diversity is greater there than anywhere else in the U.S.
This is thought to be because of the clean Appalachian foothill springs that abound in the area.
Some of the last remaining large American Chestnut trees still grow in this region and are being used to help breed blight resistant trees.
West of the Highland Rim and Nashville Basin is the Gulf Coastal Plain, which includes the Mississippi embayment. The Gulf Coastal Plain is, in terms of area, the predominant land region in Tennessee.
It is part of the large geographic land area that begins at the Gulf of Mexico and extends north into southern Illinois.
In Tennessee, the Gulf Coastal Plain is divided into three sections that extend from the Tennessee River in the east to the Mississippi River in the west.
The easternmost section, about 10 miles (16 km) in width, consists of hilly land that runs along the western bank of the Tennessee River. To the west of this narrow strip of land is a wide area of rolling hills and streams that stretches all the way to Memphis; this area is called the Tennessee Bottoms or bottom land.
In Memphis, the Tennessee Bottoms end in steep bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. To the west of the Tennessee Bottoms is the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, less than 300 feet (90 m) above sea level.
This area of lowlands, flood plains, and swamp land is sometimes referred to as The Delta region.
Most of West Tennessee remained Indian land until the Chickasaw Cession of 1818, when the Chickasaw ceded their land between the Tennessee River and the Mississippi River.
The portion of the Chickasaw Cession that lies in Kentucky is known today as the Jackson Purchase.
Areas under the control and management of the National Park Service include:
* Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greeneville
* Appalachian National Scenic Trail
* Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
* Fort Donelson National Battlefield and Fort Donelson National Cemetery near Dover
* Great Smoky Mountains National Park
* Natchez Trace Parkway
* Obed Wild and Scenic River near Wartburg
* Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
* Shiloh National Cemetery and Shiloh National Military Park near Shiloh
* Stones River National Battlefield and Stones River National Cemetery near Murfreesboro
* Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
Fifty-four state parks, covering some 132,000 acres (534 km²) as well as parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest, and Cumberland Gap National Historical Park are in Tennessee.
Sportsmen and visitors are attracted to Reelfoot Lake, originally formed by an earthquake; stumps and other remains of a once dense forest, together with the lotus bed covering the shallow waters, give the lake an eerie beauty.
Most of the state has a humid subtropical climate, with the exception of the higher mountains, which have a humid continental climate.
The Gulf of Mexico is the dominant factor in the climate of Tennessee, with winds from the south being responsible for most of the state’s annual precipitation. Generally, the state has hot summers and mild to cool winters with generous precipitation throughout the year.
On average the state receives 50 inches (130 cm) of precipitation annually. Snowfall ranges from 5 inches (13 cm) in West Tennessee to over 16 inches (41 cm) in the higher mountains in East Tennessee.
Summers in the state are generally hot, with most of the state averaging a high of around 90 °F (32 °C) during the summer months. Summer nights tend to be cooler in East Tennessee. Winters tend to be mild to cool, increasing in coolness at higher elevations and in the east.
Generally, for areas outside the highest mountains, the average overnight lows are near freezing for most of the state.
While the state is far enough from the coast to avoid any direct impact from a hurricane, the location of the state makes it likely to be impacted from the remnants of tropical cyclones which weaken over land and can cause significant rainfall. The state averages around 50 days of thunderstorms per year, some of which can be quite severe.
Tornadoes are possible throughout the state, with West Tennessee slightly more vulnerable.
On average, the state has 15 tornadoes per year. Tornadoes in Tennessee can be severe, and Tennessee leads the nation in the percentage of total tornadoes which have fatalities.
Winter storms are an occasional problem—made worse by a lack of snow removal equipment and a population which might not be accustomed or equipped to travel in snow—although ice storms are a more likely occurrence.
Fog is a persistent problem in parts of the state, especially in much of the Smoky Mountains.
The area now known as Tennessee was first settled by Paleo-Indians nearly 11,000 years ago.
The names of the cultural groups that inhabited the area between first settlement and the time of European contact are unknown, but several distinct cultural phases have been named by archaeologists, including Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian, whose chiefdoms were the cultural predecessors of the Muscogee people who inhabited the Tennessee River Valley prior to Cherokee migration into the river’s headwaters.
When Spanish explorers first visited the area, led by Hernando de Soto in 1539–43, it was inhabited by tribes of Muscogee and Yuchi people. Possibly because of European diseases devastating the Native tribes, which would have left a population vacuum, and also from expanding European settlement in the north, the Cherokee moved south from the area now called Virginia.
As European colonists spread into the area, the native populations were forcibly displaced to the south and west, including all Muscogee and Yuchi peoples, the Chickasaw, and Choctaw.
Early during the American Revolutionary War, Fort Watauga at Sycamore Shoals (in present day Elizabethton) was attacked in 1776 by Dragging Canoe and his warring faction of Cherokee (also referred to by settlers as the Chickamauga) opposed to the Transylvania Purchase and aligned with the British Loyalists.
The lives of many settlers were spared through the warnings of Dragging Canoe’s cousin Nancy Ward. The frontier fort on the banks of the Watauga River later served as a 1780 staging area for the Overmountain Men in preparation to trek over the Great Smoky Mountains, to engage, and to later defeat the British Army at the Battle of Kings Mountain in North Carolina.
Eight counties of western North Carolina (and now part of Tennessee) broke off from that state in the late 1780s and formed the abortive State of Franklin.
Efforts to obtain admission to the Union failed, and the counties had re-joined North Carolina by 1790. North Carolina ceded the area to the federal government in 1790, after which it was organized into the Southwest Territory.
In an effort to encourage settlers to move west into the new territory of Tennessee, in 1787 the mother state of North Carolina ordered a road to be cut to take settlers into the Cumberland Settlements—from the south end of Clinch Mountain (in East Tennessee) to French Lick (Nashville). The Trace was called the “North Carolina Road” or “Avery’s Trace,” and sometimes “The Wilderness Road”.
It should not be confused with Daniel Boone’s road through Cumberland Gap.
Tennessee was admitted to the Union in 1796 as the 16th state.
The state boundaries, according to the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, Article I, Section 31, stated that the beginning point for identifying the boundary was the extreme height of the Stone Mountain, at the place where the line of Virginia intersects it, and basically ran the extreme heights of mountain chains through the Appalachian Mountains separating North Carolina from Tennessee past the Indian towns of Cowee and Old Chota, thence along the main ridge of the said mountain (Unicoi Mountain) to the southern boundary of the state; all the territory, lands and waters lying west of said line are included in the boundaries and limits of the newly formed state of Tennessee.
Part of the provision also stated that the limits and jurisdiction of the state would include future land acquisition, referencing possible land trade with other states, or the acquisition of territory from west of the Mississippi River.
The word Tennessee comes from the Cherokee town Tanasi, which along with its neighbor town Chota was one of the most important Cherokee towns and often referred to as the capital city of the Overhill Cherokee.
The meaning of the word “tanasi” is lost (Mooney, 1900). Some believe that Tanasi may mean “River with a big bend,” referring to the Tennessee River, or that the word Tanasi may have meant “gathering place”, as a reference to government or worship for the Native American tribes pre-existent to the pioneer era.
During the administration of U.S. President Martin Van Buren, nearly 17,000 Cherokees were uprooted from their homes between 1838 and 1839 and were forced by the U.S. military to march from “emigration depots” in Eastern Tennessee (such as Fort Cass) toward the more distant Indian Territory west of Arkansas. During this relocation an estimated 4,000 Cherokees died along the way west.
In the Cherokee language, the event is called Nunna daul Isunyi—”the Trail Where We Cried.”
The Cherokees were not the only Native Americans forced to emigrate as a result of the Indian removal efforts of the United States, and so the phrase “Trail of Tears” is sometimes used to refer to similar events endured by other Native American peoples, especially among the “Five Civilized Tribes.” The phrase originated as a description of the earlier emigration of the Choctaw nation.
Many major battles of the American Civil War were fought in Tennessee—most of them Union victories.
It was the last border state to secede from the Union when it joined the Confederate States of America on June 8, 1861. Ulysses S. Grant and the U.S. Navy captured control of the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers in February 1862.
They held off the Confederate counterattack at Shiloh in April.
Memphis fell to the Union in June, following a naval battle on the Mississippi River in front of the city.
Capture of Memphis and Nashville gave the Union control of the western and middle sections; this control was confirmed at the battle of Murfreesboro in early January 1863.
The Confederates held East Tennessee despite the strength of Unionist sentiment there, with the exception of extremely pro-Confederate Sullivan County.
The Confederates besieged Chattanooga in early fall 1863, but were driven off by Grant in November. Many of the Confederate defeats can be attributed to the poor strategic vision of General Braxton Bragg, who led the Army of Tennessee from Perryville, Kentucky to Confederate defeat at Chattanooga.
The last major battles came when the Confederates invaded Middle Tennessee in November 1864 and were checked at Franklin, then totally destroyed by George Thomas at Nashville, in December.
Meanwhile Andrew Johnson, a civilian, was appointed military governor by President Abraham Lincoln.
Tennessee was already mostly held by Union forces when the Emancipation Proclamation was announced, hence it was not among the states enumerated in the Proclamation, and the Proclamation did not free any slaves there.
Tennessee’s legislature approved an amendment to the state constitution prohibiting slavery on February 22, 1865.
Voters in the state approved the amendment in March.
It also ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (abolishing slavery in every state) on April 7, 1865.
Andrew Johnson (a War Democrat from Tennessee) had been elected Vice President with Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and became President after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.
Under Johnson’s lenient re-admission policy, Tennessee was the first of the seceding states to have its elected members readmitted to the U.S. Congress, on July 24, 1866.
Because Tennessee had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, it was the only one of the formerly seceded states that did not have a military governor during the Reconstruction period.
In 1897, the state celebrated its centennial of statehood (though one year late of the 1896 anniversary) with a great exposition in Nashville.
A full scale replica of the Parthenon was constructed for the celebration, located in what is now Nashville’s Centennial Park.
On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the thirty-sixth and final state necessary to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provided women the right to vote.
The need to create work for the unemployed during the Great Depression, a desire for rural electrification, the need to control annual spring flooding and improve shipping capacity on the Tennessee River were all factors that drove the Federal creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1933.
Through the power of the TVA projects, Tennessee quickly became the nation’s largest public utility supplier.
During World War II, the availability of abundant TVA electrical power led the Manhattan Project to locate one of the principal sites for production and isolation of weapons-grade fissile material in East Tennessee.
The planned community of Oak Ridge was built from scratch to provide accommodations for the facilities and workers. These sites are now Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Y-12 National Security Complex, and the East Tennessee Technology Park.
Tennessee celebrated its bicentennial in 1996. With a yearlong statewide celebration entitled “Tennessee 200″, it opened a new state park (Bicentennial Mall) at the foot of Capitol Hill in Nashville.
According to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2005 Tennessee’s gross state product was $226.502 billion, making Tennessee the 18th largest economy in the nation.
In 2003, the per capita personal income was $28,641, 36th in the nation, and 91% of the national per capita personal income of $31,472. In 2004, the median household income was $38,550, 41st in the nation, and 87% of the national median of $44,472.
Major outputs for the state include textiles, cotton, cattle, and electrical power. As proof of interest in beef production, Tennessee has over 82,000 farms, and beef cattle are found in roughly 59 percent of the farms in the state.
Although cotton was an early crop in Tennessee, large-scale cultivation of the fiber did not begin until the 1820s with the opening of the land between the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers.
The upper wedge of the Mississippi Delta extends into southwestern Tennessee, and it was in this fertile section that cotton took hold. Currently West Tennessee is also heavily planted in soybeans, focusing on the northwest corner of the state.
Major corporations with headquarters in Tennessee include FedEx Corporation, AutoZone Incorporated and International Paper, all based in Memphis.
The Tennessee income tax does not apply to salaries and wages, but most income from stocks, bonds and notes receivable is taxable.
All taxable dividends and interest which exceed the $1,250 single exemption or the $2,500 joint exemption are taxable at the rate of 6%. The state’s sales and use tax rate for most items is 7%. Food is taxed at a lower rate of 6%, but candy, dietary supplements and prepared food are taxed at the full 7% rate.
Local sales taxes are collected in most jurisdictions, at rates varying from 1.5% to 2.75%, bringing the total sales tax to between 8.5% and 9.75%, one of the highest levels in the nation. Intangible property is assessed on the shares of stock of stockholders of any loan company, investment company, insurance company or for-profit cemetery companies.
The assessment ratio is 40% of the value multiplied by the tax rate for the jurisdiction. Tennessee imposes an inheritance tax on decedents’ estates that exceed maximum single exemption limits ($1,000,000 for deaths 2006 and after;).
Tennessee is a right to work state, as are most of its Southern neighbors. Unionization has historically been low and continues to decline as in most of the U.S. generally.