Isham G. Harris, Governor, U.S. Senator

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Isham Green Harris

Birthplace: Franklin County, TN, USA
Death: Died in Washington, DC, USA
Place of Burial: Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis,
Immediate Family:

Son of Isham Green Harris, Jr. and Lucy Harris
Husband of Martha Maria Harris
Father of Eugene T. Harris; George Harris; Isham Green Harris; Edward K. Harris; James H. Harris and 1 other
Brother of Richmond Pinckney Harris; James Trousdale Harris and Judge William Rowland Harris

Managed by: Private User
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About Isham G. Harris, Governor, U.S. Senator

Isham Green Harris (February 10, 1818 – July 8, 1897) was an American politician. He served as Governor of Tennessee from 1857 to 1862 and as a U.S. Senator from 1877 until his death.

As governor, his decision not to respond to President Abraham Lincoln's request for troops to quell the secession of the Southern states helped make Tennessee the last state to join the Confederacy. During the American Civil War, Harris served as staff officer in the Confederate Army.

Following the defeat of the CSA, Harris fled to Mexico, but returned to Memphis after learning most Confederate officials were not being prosecuted for treason. He was subsequently elected to four terms in the United States Senate and served as its President pro tempore.

Early life

Harris was born in Franklin County, Tennessee near Tullahoma. He was educated at Winchester Academy in Winchester, Tennessee. He moved to Paris, Tennessee, to become a store clerk. He studied law while there and was admitted to the bar in 1841 and began his practice in Paris.

Early career

He was elected to the Tennessee State Senate in 1847, serving one term there and then two in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1849 to 1853. During his first term in the House, he chaired the Committee on Invalid Pensions. A Democrat, he was his party's nominee for governor in 1857 and was elected, succeeding Andrew Johnson.

Civil War period

Perhaps rather surprisingly given the troubled and volatile nature of the times, he was re-elected twice, in 1859 and 1861. When President Abraham Lincoln declared that there was rebellion in the South in 1861 and asked for troops to help quell it, Harris refused to make the call, and none were provided. This helped push Tennessee to become the last state to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy.

The Confederate government had lost control of much of Tennessee, including the capital, Nashville, by early 1862. Apparently, upon learning that Lincoln had appointed Andrew Johnson as military governor of Tennessee, Harris, while not resigning formally, ceased to make any real effort to function as governor, serving instead as a staff officer in the Confederate States Army, first for Albert Sidney Johnston and then for Joseph E. Johnston. Gov. Harris was present at the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing), Tn. on April 6–7, 1862. At 2:15pm on the afternoon of April 6 at Shiloh, Gov. Harris found General Albert Sidney Johnston slumping in his saddle he asked the General "General are you wounded?" to which Johnston replied "Yes, I fear gravely so". Harris and other Staff officers moved General Johnston to a small ravine near the famous "Hornets Nest" and desperatley tried to aid the General. A bullet had cut the main artery in his leg and he bled to death at 2:30pm. on April 6, 1862. Governor Harris and the others secretly moved General Johnston's body to Shiloh Church so as not to cause moral damage to the troops, where his body remained till the Confederate Army withdrew to Corinth, Ms. the next day, April 7, 1862. ending the Battle of Shiloh.

[edit] Post-war career

After the war, Harris fled with General Hylan B. Lyon and other Confederates to Mexico, hoping to rally with Maximillian. Harris then sought refuge in England. Upon learning that only the highest-ranking officials of the Confederacy were being punished, and that it might be possible for all others to have their civil rights restored, he returned to Tennessee and resumed the practice of law in Memphis, Tennessee. He was subsequently elected to four terms in the U.S. Senate, serving from 1877 until his death, and is, to date, Tennessee's second-longest serving Senator, next to Kenneth McKellar. From 1893 to 1895 (53rd Congress), Harris was President pro tempore of the Senate. Other Senate assignments in his career included chairing the District of Columbia Committee in the 46th Congress and the 53rd Congress, the Committee on Epidemic Diseases in the 49th Congress through the 52nd Congress, and the Committee on Private Land Claims in the 54th and 55th Congresses.

Death and legacy

His funeral was held in the Senate chamber of the United States Capitol and he is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, where many prominent West Tennessee political figures are buried.

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Isham G. Harris, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

February 10, 1818
Franklin County, TN, USA
Age 25
Age 31
Age 39
July 8, 1897
Age 79
Washington, DC, USA
Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis,