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John Ruhm Letter

Identifier: MS-2228

  • Staff Only

In a December 23, 1869 letter to Union General George H. Thomas, John Ruhm describes the atmosphere in Nashville towards the end of Reconstruction. After praising Thomas's previous letter to him, Ruhm tells the General, "as for the condition of Tennessee under the present regime, let me assure you it is deplorable." He argues that the current legislature shows zeal in their work to overthrow all their Republican predecessors have done.

Ruhm also describes the state of education in Tennessee, saying that "leading men do absolutely not want the poor man educated." He notes that the "free-school system has been abolished, and the poor little ones are now thrown upon the world without schooling." He adds that even the city schools of Nashville are on the point of being closed under the argument of economy.


  • 1869 December 23

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Written December 23, 1869 from Nashville, John Ruhm's letter to General George H. Thomas describes the state of affairs in Tennessee after the Democrats regained control of the general assembly. Ruhm argues that the current Legislature is only working to undo the work of the Reconstruction-era Republicans.

Biographical/Historical Note

John Ruhm, a future U. S. District Attorney in Nashville, served under General George Thomas as the Quartermaster for the 15th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry.

General George Thomas earned the nickname The Rock of Chickamauga after his troops stubbornly held their position on Snodgrass Hill after most of the army had fled from the field. Thomas was then given command of the Army of the Cumberland. After participating in the campaign to capture Atlanta, Thomas's troops took up position in Nashville, where they defeated General John Bell Hood's Rebel Army of Tennessee. Thomas remained in command in Tennessee until 1867, when he was assigned to the Pacific coast. He held this post until his death in 1870.

In 1869, Tennessee politics took an interesting turn when Reconstruction era Governor Parson Brownlow stepped down from office in February to accept a U. S. Senate seat. He was replaced for the duration of his term by Senate Speaker Dewitt C. Senter, a conservative East Tennessee Unionist. Hoping to win election in his own right and facing opposition from within his own party, Senter reached out for support from the state's Democrats by effectively setting aside the franchise laws that had been put in place during Reconstruction, allowing thousands of Confederate sympathizers to vote. Senter won the election, but conservative Democrats gained control of the legislature.


Collection consists of one folder.

Acquisition Note

Collection was purchased by Special Collections in February 1997.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA