On Sept. 29 in Lambert Recital Hall at 7 p.m., Maryville College Associate Professor of History Dr. Aaron Astor will give a presentation on his recently released book, “The Civil War Along Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau.” The presentation will serve as part of this year’s Appalachian Lecture Series hosted by the College.
Astor’s book looks not only at the Civil War but also the geographical implications of the Plateau and the settlement of people along the Plateau. The book also explores the reconstruction after the war and how the area has developed since, such as the development of many state parks in the area.
“The book is looking at the people and the land and the interaction between them,” said Astor. “It’s not just that the people have changed, but the land has changed… and the Civil War was right at the heart of it.”
In the presentation, Astor will explain the ways in which the Cumberland Plateau fits into the wider context of the war. Not only was it a difficult geographical element to conquer at the time, it also represented a division of loyalties within the state of Tennessee.
“It [the Cumberland Plateau] was a place that was right on the fault line of Union and Confederate support and many who wanted to support neither side,” said Astor.
Astor will also share a few stories about the more interesting characters fighting in the area, such as “Tinker Dave” Beaty and Champ Ferguson, two war guerrillas fighting against each other during the war.
Astor thinks students from the Cumberland Plateau area will find it interesting to discover the significant role it played in Civil War history, and all audiences will have a better understanding of the state’s rich internal history.
While researching for the book, Astor found that it is a divide that still affects the location of people’s homes today. He noticed that many well-known Democrats and Republicans are still living somewhat divided, which can be traced back to the division of Union and Confederate supporters during the war.
Astor describes the history of the Plateau as a “key part of the identity of this state,” which indicates that it is also “key part of the identity for the people.”
Ultimately, Astor wants audiences to leave the presentation with a better understanding of how stories they already know about the Civil War fit into the bigger picture. He explained that once people see how these dots connect, they are better able appreciate the state’s diverse history.