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THE HOME OF PRESIDENT JOHNSON.
THE “SWITZERLAND OF AMERICA."
From the grassy hills and vales of Southwest Virginia, I passed over by railroad into East Tennessee.
At first sight, the “Switzerland of America” is apt, I think, to disappoint one. It is a country of pleasant hills, bounded and broken into by mountains which do not remind you of the Alps. The cottages of the inhabitants lack the picturesque element. A few first-class farmers have comfortable-looking painted or brick houses ; while scattered everywhere over the country are poverty-stricken, weather-blackened little framed dwellings and log-huts. Many of these are without windows; the inmates living by the daylight let in through doors, and the firelight from open chimneys. Good barns are rare. The common class of villages are without sidewalks or paved streets. In the rainy season they are wretched. They look like Northern villages that have set out to travel and got stuck in the mud. One or two are noteworthy.
Greenville, the county seat of Greene County, is chiefly interesting as being the home of the President. It stands on broken ground, and is surrounded by a fine hilly country shaded by oaken groves. The town, as I saw it one wet morning, was eminently disagreeable. The mud came up to the very doors of its old, dilapidated, unpainted wooden houses. Its more pretentious, white-painted and brick dwellings were not quite so deep in the mire. A hundred chimney smokes draped the brown irregular roofs. President Johnson's house is on Main Street; a commonplace, respectable brick dwelling. The Rebels smashed the windows for him in wartimes, but they have been replaced, and the house is now occupied by the county sheriff. Every man knows " Andy Johnson.” He has a good reputation for honesty, but I was told he was “hard on money matters.” A prominent citizen who knew him intimately, said to me, “ Johnson is a man of much greater ability than he has ever had credit for. When he was a tailor, he did his work well, — always a good honest job. He has many good traits, and a few bad ones. He is surly and vindictive, and a man of strong prejudices, but thoroughly a patriot.”
There is in Greenville a spring which bursts out of a hillside in sufficient volume to carry a mill. The country abounds in springs, some of a curious character. In Johnson County, in the mountainous northeast corner of the State, there is a subterranean reservoir of water, out of which issue in the night-time, during the spring months, numbers of small black perch, of a blind species, which are caught in traps at the mouth of the spring.
Knoxville, (named in honor of Revolutionary General Knox,) the most considerable town of East Tennessee, is situated on abrupt hills, on the north bank of the Holston River, which is navigable by steamers to this point. Here is the junction of the East Tennessee and Virginia, and East Tennessee and Georgia railroads. The city has something more than eight thousand inhabitants. It was formerly the capital of the State. It is surrounded by fortified hills.
The place received rough treatment during the war. The Bell House, at which I stopped, was a miserable shell, carpetless and dilapidated, full of broken windows. The landlord apologized for not putting it into repair. “ I don't know how long I shall stop here. Hotel-keeping a’n’t my business. Nigger-dealing is my business. But that 's played out. I've bought and sold in my day over six hundred niggers," – spoken with mournful satisfaction, mingled pride and regret. “ Now I don't know what I shall turn my hand to. I'm a Georgian ; I came up here from Atlanta time it was burned.”
At the table of the Bell House, a Southern gentleman who
EAST TENNESSEE LOYALTY.
sat next me called out to one of the waiters, a good-looking colored man, perhaps thirty years of age, — “Here, boy ! ”
"My name is Dick," said the “ boy,” respectfully.
“ You 'll answer to the name I call you, or I 'll blow a hole through you !" swore the Southern gentleman.
Dick made no reply, but went about his business. The Southern gentleman proceeded, addressing the company :
“ Last week, in Chattanooga, I said to a nigger I found at the railroad, · Here, Buck! show me the baggage-room.' He said, . My name a'n't Buck. I just put my sis-shooter to his head, and, by — ! he did n't stop to think what his name was, but showed me what I wanted.”
This gentlemanly way of dealing with the “d-%d impadent niggers” was warmly applauded by all the guests at the table, except one, who did not see the impudence; showing that they were gentlemen of a similar spirit.
There were a great many freedmen crowded into Knoxville from Georgia and the Carolinas, whence they had escaped during the war. The police were arresting and sending them back. East Tennesseeans, though opposed to slavery and secession, do not like niggers. There is at this day more prejudice against color among the middle and poorer classes — the * Union" men, of the South, who owned few or no slaves than among the planters who owned them by scores and hundreds. There was a freedmen's school-house burned in Knoxville, while I was in that part of the State ; and on reaching Nashville, I learned that the negro testimony bill had been defeated in the legislature by the members from East Tennessee.
East Tennessee, owning but a handful of slaves, and having little interest in slavery, opposed secession by overwhelming majorities. She opposed the holding of a convention, at the election of February, 1861, by a vote of 30,903 against 5,577; and, at the election in June following, opposed the ordinance of separation submitted to the people by the legislature, by 32,923 votes against 14,780. The secession element proved a bitter and violent minority. Neighborhood feuds ensued, of a fierce political and personal character. When the Confederate army came in, the secessionists pointed out their Union neighbors, and caused them to be robbed and maltreated. They exposed the retreats of hunted conscripts lying out in forests and caves, and assisted in the pursuit of loyal refugees. When the National forces possessed the country, the Union men retaliated. It was then the persecutor's turn to be stripped of his property and driven from his home.
I was sorry to find the fires of these old feuds still burning, The State Government was in the hands of Union men, and Rebels and refugees from the Union army were disfranchised. Secessionists, who assisted at the hanging and robbing of Union men, and burned their houses, were receiving just punishment for their crimes in the civil courts and at the hands of the sheriff. This was well; and it should have been enough. But those who had suffered so long and so cruelly at the hands of their enemies did not think so. Returning Rebels were mobbed ; and if one had stolen back unawares to his home, it was not safe for him to remain there. I saw in Virginia one of these exiles, who told me how homesickly he pined for the hills and meadows of East Tennessee, which he thought the most delightful region in the world. But there was a rope hanging from a tree for him there, and he dared not go back. "The bottom rails are on top,” said he : “ that is the trouble.” The Union element, and the worst part of the Union element, was uppermost. There was some truth in this statement. It was not the respectable farming class, but the roughs, who kept the old fires blazing. Many secessionists and Union men, who had been neighbors before the war, were living side by side again, in as friendly relations as ever.
At Strawberry Plain, on the Holston River, I saw a manifestation of this partisan spirit. A laboring man, whom I met on the butment of the burned railroad bridge, was telling me about the Rebel operations at that place, when a fine fellow came dashing into the village on horseback.
“ There's a dog-goned Rebel now!” said my man, eyeing him with baleful glances. “He's a rebel colonel, just come