Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Isham Green Harris, The War Governor of Tennessee

Tennessee Governor Isham Green Harris, served Nov. 3 1857 - March 12, 1862
Born: Feb 10 1818, Franklin County, TN
Died: July 8, 1897, Washington D.C.
Birth State: Tennessee
Party: Democrat
Wife: Married Martha Maria Travis.  She predeceased her husband by 7 months, dying at Paris Tennessee, interment at Elmwood Cemetery. They had eight children.
National Office Served: Senator
Military Service: CSA Army
Interment: Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, TN

His nickname, The War Governor of Tennessee, came about when the call for troops came from Washington.  His reply, "Tennessee will not furnish a single man for the purpose of coercion, but 50,000 if necessary for our defense of our rights and those of our Southern brothers."  He did better than that. Tennessee had equipped and made available to the Confederacy 100,000 men by July 1861.

Death of Mrs. Senator Harris
Nashville, Tenn., Jan 21--Mrs Martha A. Harris, wife of Senator Isham G. Harris, died at Paris, Tenn., Wednesday morning at early hour.  She was 74 and married the senator over 50 years ago.  she came of a prominent Henry county family named Travis, one of whom was a hero of the Texas war for independence. Senator Harris, who was summoned several days ago from Washington to his wife's bedside, was attacked with la grippe and was quite ill, but he is reported to be better Wednesday.
Originally published in the Daily Public Ledger, Maysville KY Jan 21 1897
Death of the Senior Senator from Tennessee, Who had been Failing for Several Months--He was a Notable Character in Public Life, His Official Career Dating Back to 1829--He First Went to Congress in 1849

Washington, July 9--Senator Isham G. Harris of Tennessee, died at his residence here a few minutes before 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon.  He had been growing constantly weaker for the past few days, the intense heat which has prevailed greatly debilitating him, and no doubt hastening his end.  There were times when he would rally slightly which gave his family hopes that he would be able to regain strength sufficient to be removed from the city, but his vitality had become too much exhausted to withstand the strain.  Yesterday morning the Senator revived somewhat but only temporarily.  During the Afternoon he sank reapidly and passed away peacefully.

There were present at his bedside when death came, his son, Mr. Edward K. Harris, and the latter's wife; Representative Benton McMillin, of Tennessee; Miss Polk, a friend from his native state, and the members of the household where the senator has lived for some time.  Another son, Charles H. Harris, not realizing the end was so near, had left the house a short time before death came.

Another son, James F. Harris, residing in Tennessee, is expected to arrive in the city today, and a fourth son, Isham G. Harris Jr., is now on his father's ranch and stock farm at Abilene, Tex., and probably will meet the funeral train when it reaches Memphis, where the interment will be made.

Senator Harris was last in the senate chamber about ten days ago, but he was unable to stay for any length of time, and had to be taken home in a carriage. During the past six months the senator had been able to attend to his duties only at intervals, having been away from the city several times endeavoring to recuperate.

Senator Harris is said to have accepted public office first in 1829, and he was in public life almost continuously after that date, and may be said to have been in public life 68 years.

Probably no man in public life has been identified with more of the history of this country than had Senator Harris. He had almost completed his seventy-ninth year, having been born in February 1818.  his first congressional career thus began earlier than that of any member of either house, antedating Senators Morrill and Sherman by seven years, and Galusha A. Grow, now a member of the house from Pennsylvania, by one year.

Mr Harris had, when he was elected to the national house of representatives, already become a man of state reputation in Tennessee,having the year previously served as a presidential elector on the democratic ticket and two years before been elected a member of the legislature of the state.

Mr. Harris represented the Ninth Tennessee district in congress for the term ending in 1851, when he declined a renomination.  

He then moved to Memphis, where he had resided since.  There he was engaged in the practice of law until 1857, with the interruption necessary to allow him to become a presidential elector in 1856.  In 1857 he was elected governor of his state and was serving in that capacity when the war broke out.  He took a pronounced stand for the southern confederacy and was known as one of the southern war governors.  the vicissitudes of the conflict rendered a frequent change of residence necessary and he was often with the army in the field.  He attached himself at different times to the staff of Generals Albert Sidney Johnston, Joseph E. Johnston, Beauregard and Bragg.

Albert Sidney Johnston fell from his horse into Senator Harris arms when he received his death wound.

1860 Census, Shelby County, TN
Isham G. Harris, Governor Tennessee.  He and his family were sharing a residence
with Evelina Parsons Atkins Harris, the wife of his brother William Rowland Harris.  William
died in 1858 from injuries received when the steamer Pennsylvania exploded.
William had been to New Orleansand was returning home when the accident happened.
He and his wife are interred at Elmwood Cemetery near Isham and his family.
After Lee's surrender, Mr. Harris was one of a small party of political refugees who escaped to Mexico, going across the country on horseback.  Parson Brownlow, who had become the military governor of Tennessee, offered a large reward in a characteristically-worded poster for the capture of his predecessor, but the latter remained absent from the county until his return was safe.  He remained in Mexico for several months, going thence to England, where he resided until 1867, when he returned to Memphis and resumed his practice of law.

Mr. Harris was allowed to follow the pursuits of the private citizen until 1877, when he was elected to the United States Senate, defeating L.L. Hawkins, republican.  He remained a member of the senate ever since, and would have completed his twentieth consecutive year in that body on the fourth of next March if he had lived to that date.  He was four times elected to the senate, the last time in 1895, and his term would not have expired until 1901.

Senator Harris received almost all the honors that the senate could bestow. He was the president pro tem during the fifty-third congress, a leading member of the committees of finance and rules and also of the democratic advisory,  or steering committee.  He had long been awarded by common consent the front place on both sides of the chamber in parliamentary questions, and in recent years he had been more frequently heard in expounding these questions than in the elucidation of other subjects.

He was possessed of a very positive manner and never failed to throw into his statements concerning parliamentary practice the fullest force of which he was able.  His language on these and other occasions was generally so uncompromising that he was regarded by those who knew him not well as a man of little feeling. That this was not true and that the and that the contrary was true none are so willing to testify as his opponents in the senate, who unite in attributing to him a warm heart as well as a just spirit and brilliant mind.

Senator Harris had not been especially active in the senate since the passage of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff act in 1894.
Posted in The times (Richmond VA) July 9 1897

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