Monday, September 3, 2012

Governor Isham Green Harris of Tennessee, my 1st cousin 6x removed

Isham Green Harris Sr, was the son of my 6th great grandparent's, Captain Isham Harris (Revolutionary War) and Martha Green.  He was my 5th Great Grand Uncle.  He and his wife, Lucy Davidson had moved from Old Warren/Vance County, NC to Tennessee in 1806.  Their son, Governor Isham Green Harris, was born 12 years later.

Isham Green Harris

Isham Green Harris, Jr. was born in Franklin County, near Tullahoma, TN on February 10, 1818.  He was the ninth child born to Isham Green Harris, Sr. and Lucy Davidson.  He was named after his father, yet he wasn't his father's first born son.   This is a tradition he would carry on with his own son, Isham Green Harris, III.  

Harris was educated at Carrick Academy in Winchester, TN.  After his formal education, he joined his brother William in Paris, TN, where he became a store clerk.  At age 20, with borrowed funds from his brother, he set out to "hang out his own shingle" and open his own store in Ripley, MS.  Ripley had recently opened up to settlers as a result of a treaty with the Chickasaw Indians.  This proved a successful venture for Harris.   He worked at the store during the day and studied law at night.

In early 1841, he moved back to Paris, where he continued studying law.  On May 3, 1841 he was admitted to the Henry County bar.  He would earn a reputation for being honest and proficient.  This helped him become one of the most successful lawyers in the area, operating quite the lucrative practice.

In 1847, he was elected to the Tennessee State Senate, where he served one term.  He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1848 and again in 1850.  He declined to run for a third term in 1852, instead deciding to resume his law practice in Memphis.

In 1857, Harris was the Democratic Party's nominee for Governor.   Upon election, he would succeed future President, Andrew Johnson.  He was re-elected in 1859 and again in 1861.  

As Governor, he ignored President Lincoln's call for troops to be raised in Tennessee.  On April 25, 1861, following the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Harris pushed forth an "ordinance of independence" and another one aligning Tennessee with the Confederacy.   Both would later win voter approval in June.  Instead of supplying the Union with the troops Lincoln requested, he raised over 100,000 troops for the Confederacy.  Harris remained acting Governor of Tennessee until the Union occupation of Nashville  in 1862.

Harris would further lend his services to the Confederacy by serving as a Staff Officer to several Confederate Generals.   He was aide-de-camp to General's Albert Sidney Johnston, Braxton Bragg, John Bell Hood, P.G.T. Beauregard, and Joseph E. Johnston. 

Cover Sheet for Isham's service as aide-de-camp

Summary of Isham's Civil War Service

Harris was present at the battle of Shiloh in April of 1862.  Here he would play witness to one of the most dramatic blows to the Confederacy.   At 2:15 p.m. on April 6th, Harris noticed General Albert Sidney Johnston slumping in his saddle.  Harris asked, "General, are you wounded?"  to which the General replied, "Yes, I fear gravely so".   A bullet had severed General Johnston's femoral artery.  Harris and other Staff Officers moved Johnston to a small ravine near the "Hornet's Nest" where Harris attempted to make a tourniquet for his wounded leg.  It was too late, within 15 minutes, General Albert Sidney Johnston had bled to death.  He was the highest ranked casualty on either side of the war. 

General Albert Sidney Johnston

Governor Harris and the other Staff Officers wrapped General Johnson's body in a blanket and moved it to his field headquarters in an attempt not to cause any additional damage to morale.  Johnston's body would remain in his tent until the Confederate retreated to Cornith on April 7th.  

Following Shiloh, Harris served at the headquarters of the Army of the West for the remainder of the war.  After the surrender of the Confederacy, Harris fled to Mexico for 18 months before seeking refuge in England for a year.   Upon hearing that former Confederate leaders were being granted pardon's by, now President Andrew Johnson, Harris decided to return home to Memphis in 1867.  

Harris' pardon was approved by President Johnson.  

Isham's Presidential Pardon

due to hm being in exile, his Brother George W. D. Harris wrote his letter requesting pardon

Pardon Request written by George W. D. Harris, brother of Isham

In 1877, Isham G. Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate.   He would be re-elected in 1883, 1889, and 1895.  From 1893 - 1895, he served as President pro tempore of the Senate. 

Isham Green Harris while serving as Senator

Isham Green Harris died in office on July 8, 1897 while in Washington DC.   His body was returned to Tennessee where he was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.

Historical Marker for Isham

Grave of Isham Green Harris

Close-up of Inscription on Isham's grave

Here's my relation to Isham Green Harris:

Governor Isham Green Harris (1818 - 1897)
is your 1st cousin 6x removed
Isham Green Harris (1765 - 1840)
Father of Governor Isham Green
Capt. Isham Harris (1741 - 1824)
Father of Isham Green
Ransom Harris Sr. (1764 - 1832)
Son of Capt. Isham
Ann Washington Harris (1795 - 1870)
Daughter of Ransom
James C. Moss (1824 - 1891)
Son of Ann Washington
William Allen Moss (1859 - 1931)
Son of James C.
Valeria Lee Moss (1890 - 1968)
Daughter of William Allen
Phebe Teresa Wheeler Lewis (1918 - 1977)
Daughter of Valeria Lee
Joyce Elaine Lewis (1948 - )
Daughter of Phebe Teresa
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Joyce

1 comment:

  1. Chip-

    I'm also 1st cousin 6x removed to the Gov. My 3rd great g-father was 1st cousin. My G-father was named for him the year before he died and I'm the 3rd.

    Ike Harris