A Timeline of Tennessee’s History


Tennessee is one most well-known of the 50 states that make up the United States of America; its admission to the Union was made on the 1st of June, 1796, when it became the 16th state. It was formerly a section of North Carolina before becoming a component of the Southwest Territory. This state was the last to leave the Union and become a part of the Confederacy when the American Civil War commenced in 1861. It also became the first state that was readmitted into the Union following the end of the war. 


The area that is now Tennessee is believed to have been inhabited by the Paleo-Indians as far as 12,000 years ago. Archaeologists have also discovered a mastodon skeleton aged 12,000 years with marks of hunters in the prehistoric area. The Icehouse Bottom site in the state has provided evidence of human settlement as far back as 7,500BC. 

The state is also home to other sites that show unequivocal evidence of human habitation during the prehistoric period. The Pinson Mounds are some of the biggest of such areas in the United States, and it has a minimum of 12 mounds and an expansive earthen closure. 

Exploration and Settlement by Europeans

Spanish explorers from Europe arrived in the place that is now modern-day Tennessee in the 16th Century. Hernando de Soto led the expedition, and he entered the area now called the Tennessee Valley before moving to the northern section of Georgia. In 1559, there was another expedition led by Tristan de Luna, and then in 1567, there was another expedition by Pardo and it also entered the Tennessee Valley, but they were met with some resistance. 

The records provided by these early Spanish explorers showed a detailed insight into what life was like in 16th-century Tennessee. A good portion of the valley remained under the influence of the Coosa chiefs. The residents spoke a variant of the Muskogean language, and then there were the Cherokee-speaking peoples who inhabited the far-flung areas of the Appalachians. 

Joining the Union

One of the most critical aspects of the history of Tennessee was the admission to the Union. It was in 1795 that a census of the territory showed that there was enough population for statehood. A referendum also showed that most of the residents wanted the state to join the Union. The governor demanded a constitutional convention in Knoxville, and all the county representatives came up with a constitution and a bill of rights. 

People chose a new governor, and the new legislature voted the old governor and William Cocke as their senator with future president Andrew Jackson becoming a Congressman. Hence, Tennessee’s leaders had turned the territory into a new state, and they proceeded by applying to Congress for their admission into the Union. As the Southwest Territory was already the first federal territory to put itself forward for admission, there was some uncertainty level. 

However, there was a vote on the 1st of June, 1796; there was approval from the Congress regarding Tennessee’s admission – it became the 16th state in the Union. The borders were drawn via an extension to the northern and southern borders of North Carolina. 

Civil War

When the Civil War came, many residents of Tennessee were not in support of secession before they felt they had contributed too much for them to break away. However, some small areas like Franklin County supported the secession; Franklin County even went as far as threatening secession on its own. Eventually, during the war, several of the conflicts happened in the state, with many of them being victories by the Union forces.

The United States Navy and Ulysses Grant took over the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers in early 1862. The Union made bigger gains with their capture of Nashville and Memphis and consolidated control with the resounding success at the Battle of Stones River at the beginning of 1863. The final major battles came with the invasion of the Confederate forces in the last quarter of 1864. 


The ending of the war led to the adoption of the 13th Amendment by Tennessee in 1865, and on the 24th of July, 1866, it became the very first state to be readmitted to the Union. It was also the only state in secession that a military leader did not lead during the Reconstruction. 

20th Century

The legendary American soldier, Alvin York, dominated the 20th Century in the state, who did a lot of exploits during the First World War in October 1918. Apart from getting the Medal of Honor and several laurels from France, he became the personification of patriotism all across the United States. 

21st Century

Since the time it was created as a state, Tennessee has evolved and advanced a lot in various aspects of life. By 2002, Phil Bredesen had emerged as the 48th governor of the state, and several amendments to the constitution had been done. Today, the state is a leader in tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, and other sectors. It has several tourist sites, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most well-known of all the country’s national parks. 

There are also other sites like the Distillery of Jack Daniel, Tennessee Aquarium, Bristol Motor Speedway, Memphis Zoo, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and a host of others. An overwhelming fraction of the state, well over 75%, are whites, and about 15% are blacks, and others are Native Indians, Asians, Latinos, and other racial groups. The state’s economy depends on the production of clothes, the generation of electrical power, cattle, cotton, and various agricultural products. 

There are also several massive corporations and brands in the state. Good examples of these include Volkswagen, General Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Eastman Chemical Company, Regal Entertainment Group, Pilot Corporation, Caterpillar Financial, and a host of others. 

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