|State of Tennessee|
The Volunteer State
Agriculture and Commerce
|Anthem: Nine songs|
Map of the United States with Tennessee highlighted
|Before statehood||Southwest Territory|
|Admitted to the Union||June 1, 1796 (16th)|
(and largest city)
|Largest metro||Greater Nashville|
|• Governor||Bill Lee (R)|
|• Upper house||Senate|
|• Lower house||House of Representatives|
|• Total||42,143 sq mi (109,247 km2)|
|• Land||41,217 sq mi (106,846 km2)|
|• Water||926 sq mi (2,401 km2) 2.2%|
|• Length||440 mi (710 km)|
|• Width||120 mi (195 km)|
|Elevation||900 ft (270 m)|
|6,643 ft (2,025 m)|
|Lowest elevation||178 ft (54 m)|
|• Density||159.4/sq mi (61.5/km2)|
|• Density rank||20th|
|• Median household income||$52,340|
|• Income rank||42nd|
Big Bender (archaic)
Volunteer (historical significance)
|• Official language||English|
|• Spoken language||
Language spoken at home
|East Tennessee||UTC−05:00 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−04:00 (EDT)|
|Middle and West||UTC−06:00 (Central)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−05:00 (CDT)|
|ISO 3166 code||US-TN|
|Latitude||34°59′ N to 36°41′ N|
|Longitude||81°39′ W to 90°19′ W|
|Tennessee state symbols|
|Amphibian||Tennessee cave salamander|
|Mammal||Tennessee Walking Horse
|Reptile||Eastern box turtle|
Eastern red cedar
|Fossil||Pterotrigonia (Scabrotrigonia) thoracica|
|Gemstone||Tennessee River pearl|
|Poem||"Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee" by William Lawrence|
|Slogan||"Tennessee—America at its best"|
|Tartan||Tennessee State Tartan|
|State route marker|
Released in 2002
|Lists of United States state symbols|
Tennessee is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Tennessee is bordered by Kentucky and Virginia to the north, North Carolina to the east, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south, and Arkansas and Missouri to the west. The Appalachian Mountains dominate the eastern part of the state, and the Mississippi River forms the state's western border.
What is now Tennessee was initially part of North Carolina, and later part of the Southwest Territory.
Tennessee was admitted to the Union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796.
Tennessee furnished more soldiers for the Confederate Army than any other state besides Virginia, and more soldiers for the Union Army than the rest of the Confederacy combined.
Tennessee's major industries include agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism. Poultry, soybeans, and cattle are the state's primary agricultural products, and major manufacturing exports include chemicals, transportation equipment, and electrical equipment.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation's most visited national park, is headquartered in the eastern part of the state, and a section of the Appalachian Trail roughly follows the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Other major tourist attractions include the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga; Dollywood in Pigeon Forge; Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg; the Parthenon, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Ryman Auditorium in Nashville; the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg; Elvis Presley's Graceland residence and tomb, the Memphis Zoo, and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis; and Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol.
The meaning and origin of the word are uncertain. Some accounts suggest it is a Cherokee modification of an earlier Yuchi word. It has been said to mean "meeting place", "winding river", or "river of the great bend". According to ethnographer James Mooney, the name "can not be analyzed" and its meaning is lost.
- See also: List of counties in Tennessee
Tennessee borders eight other states: Kentucky and Virginia to the north; North Carolina to the east; Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi on the south; Arkansas and Missouri on the Mississippi River to the west. Tennessee ties Missouri as the state bordering the most other states. The state is trisected by the Tennessee River.
The highest point in the state is Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet (2,025 m). Clingmans Dome, which lies on Tennessee's eastern border, is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, and is the third highest peak in the United States east of the Mississippi River. The state line between Tennessee and North Carolina crosses the summit. The state's lowest point is the Mississippi River at the Mississippi state line: 178 feet (54 m). The geographical center of the state is located in Murfreesboro.
The state of Tennessee is geographically, culturally, economically, and legally divided into three Grand Divisions: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. The state constitution allows no more than two justices of the five-member Tennessee Supreme Court to be from one Grand Division and a similar rule applies to certain commissions and boards.
Tennessee features six principal physiographic regions: the Blue Ridge, the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Region, the Cumberland Plateau, the Highland Rim, the Nashville Basin, and the Gulf Coastal Plain. Tennessee is home to the most caves in the United States, with over 10,000 documented caves to date.
The Blue Ridge area lies on the eastern edge of Tennessee, bordering North Carolina. This region of Tennessee is characterized by the high mountains and rugged terrain of the western Blue Ridge Mountains, which are subdivided into several subranges, namely the Great Smoky Mountains, the Bald Mountains, the Unicoi Mountains, the Unaka Mountains and Roan Highlands, and the Iron Mountains.
The average elevation of the Blue Ridge area is 5,000 feet (1,500 m) above sea level. Clingmans Dome, the state's highest point, is located in this region. The Blue Ridge area was never more than sparsely populated, and today much of it is protected by the Cherokee National Forest, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and several federal wilderness areas and state parks.
Stretching west from the Blue Ridge for approximately 55 miles (89 km) is the Ridge and Valley region, in which numerous tributaries join to form the Tennessee River in the Tennessee Valley. This area of Tennessee is covered by fertile valleys separated by wooded ridges, such as Bays Mountain and Clinch Mountain. The western section of the Tennessee Valley, where the depressions become broader and the ridges become lower, is called the Great Valley. In this valley are numerous towns and two of the region's three urban areas, Knoxville, the third largest city in the state, and Chattanooga, the fourth largest city in the state. The third urban area, the Tri-Cities, comprising Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport and their environs, is located to the northeast of Knoxville.
The Cumberland Plateau rises to the west of the Tennessee Valley; this area is covered with flat-topped mountains separated by sharp valleys. The elevation of the Cumberland Plateau ranges from 1,500 to about 2,000 feet (460 to about 610 m) above sea level.
East Tennessee has several important transportation links with Middle and West Tennessee, as well as the rest of the nation and the world, including several major airports and interstates. Knoxville's McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) and Chattanooga's Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA), as well as the Tri-Cities' Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI), provide air service to numerous destinations. I-24, I-81, I-40, I-75, and I-26 along with numerous state highways and other important roads, traverse the Grand Division and connect Chattanooga, Knoxville, and the Tri-Cities, along with other cities and towns such as Cleveland, Athens, and Sevierville.
West of the Cumberland Plateau is the Highland Rim, an elevated plain that surrounds the Nashville Basin. The northern section of the Highland Rim, known for its high tobacco production, is sometimes called the Pennyroyal Plateau; it is located primarily in Southwestern Kentucky. The Nashville Basin is characterized by rich, fertile farm country and great diversity of natural wildlife.
Middle Tennessee was a common destination of settlers crossing the Appalachians from Virginia in the late 18th century and early 19th century. An important trading route called the Natchez Trace, created and used for many generations by American Indians, connected Middle Tennessee to the lower Mississippi River town of Natchez. The route of the Natchez Trace was used as the basis for a scenic highway called the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Some of the last remaining large American chestnut trees grow in this region. They are being used to help breed blight-resistant trees.
Middle Tennessee is one of the primary state population and transportation centers along with the heart of state government. Nashville (the capital), Clarksville, and Murfreesboro are its largest cities. Fifty percent of the US population is within 600 miles (970 km) of Nashville. Interstates I-24, I-40, and I-65 service the Division, meeting in Nashville.
West of the Highland Rim and Nashville Basin is the Gulf Coastal Plain, which includes the Mississippi embayment. The Gulf Coastal Plain is, in terms of area, the predominant land region in Tennessee. It is part of the large geographic land area that begins at the Gulf of Mexico and extends north into southern Illinois. In Tennessee, the Gulf Coastal Plain is divided into three sections that extend from the Tennessee River in the east to the Mississippi River in the west.
The easternmost section, about 10 miles (16 km) in width, consists of hilly land that runs along the western bank of the Tennessee River. To the west of this narrow strip of land is a wide area of rolling hills and streams that stretches all the way to the Mississippi River; this area is called the Tennessee Bottoms or bottom land. In Memphis, the Tennessee Bottoms end in steep bluffs overlooking the river. To the west of the Tennessee Bottoms is the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, less than 300 feet (91 m) above sea level. This area of lowlands, flood plains, and swamp land is sometimes referred to as the Delta region. Memphis is the economic center of West Tennessee and the largest city in the state.
Most of West Tennessee remained Indian land until the Chickasaw Cession of 1818, when the Chickasaw ceded their land between the Tennessee River and the Mississippi River. The portion of the Chickasaw Cession that lies in Kentucky is known today as the Jackson Purchase.
Most of the state has a humid subtropical climate, with the exception of some of the higher elevations in the Appalachians, which are classified as having a mountain temperate climate or a humid continental climate due to cooler temperatures. The Gulf of Mexico is the dominant factor in the climate of Tennessee, with winds from the south being responsible for most of the state's annual precipitation. Generally, the state has hot summers and mild to cool winters with generous precipitation throughout the year, with highest average monthly precipitation generally in the winter and spring months, between December and April. The driest months, on average, are August to October. On average the state receives 50 inches (130 cm) of precipitation annually. Snowfall ranges from 5 inches (13 cm) in West Tennessee to over 16 inches (41 cm) in the higher mountains in East Tennessee.
Summers in the state are generally hot and humid, with most of the state averaging a high of around 90 °F (32 °C) during the summer months. Winters tend to be mild to cool, increasing in coolness at higher elevations. Generally, for areas outside the highest mountains, the average overnight lows are near freezing for most of the state.
While the state is far enough from the coast to avoid any direct impact from a hurricane, the location of the state makes it likely to be impacted from the remnants of tropical cyclones which weaken over land and can cause significant rainfall, such as Tropical Storm Chris in 1982 and Hurricane Opal in 1995.
The state averages around 50 days of thunderstorms per year, some of which can be severe with large hail and damaging winds. Tornadoes are possible throughout the state, with West and Middle Tennessee the most vulnerable. Occasionally, strong or violent tornadoes occur, such as the devastating April 2011 tornadoes that killed 20 people in North Georgia and Southeast Tennessee. On average, the state has 15 tornadoes per year. Tornadoes in Tennessee can be severe, and Tennessee leads the nation in the percentage of total tornadoes which have fatalities.
Winter storms are an occasional problem, such as the infamous Blizzard of 1993, although ice storms are a more likely occurrence. Fog is a persistent problem in parts of the state, especially in East Tennessee.
- See also: List of municipalities in Tennessee
The capital is Nashville, though Knoxville, Kingston, and Murfreesboro have all served as state capitals in the past. Memphis has the largest population of any city in the state. Nashville's 13-county metropolitan area has been the state's largest since c. 1990. Chattanooga and Knoxville, both in the eastern part of the state near the Great Smoky Mountains, each has approximately one-third of the population of Memphis or Nashville. The city of Clarksville is a fifth significant population center, 45 miles (72 km) northwest of Nashville. Murfreesboro is the sixth-largest city in Tennessee, consisting of 108,755 residents.
Tennessee's largest cities
- Nashville - population 660,388
- Memphis - population 652,717
- Knoxville - population 186,239
- Chattanooga - population 177,571
- Clarksville - population 150,287
- Murfreesboro - population 131,947
- Franklin - population 74,794
- Jackson - population 67,005
- Johnson City - population 66,677
- Bartlett - population 58,622
The area now known as Tennessee was first inhabited by Paleo-Indians nearly 12,000 years ago. The names of the cultural groups that inhabited the area between first settlement and the time of European contact are unknown, but several distinct cultural phases have been named by archaeologists, including Archaic (8000–1000 BC), Woodland (1000 BC–1000 AD), and Mississippian (1000–1600 AD), whose chiefdoms were the cultural predecessors of the Muscogee people who inhabited the Tennessee River Valley before Cherokee migration into the river's headwaters.
The first recorded European excursions into what is now called Tennessee were three expeditions led by Spanish explorers, namely Hernando de Soto in 1540, Tristan de Luna in 1559, and Juan Pardo in 1567. Pardo recorded the name "Tanasqui" from a local Indian village, which evolved to the state's current name.
At that time, Tennessee was inhabited by tribes of Muscogee and Yuchi people. Possibly because of European diseases devastating the Indian tribes, which would have left a population vacuum, and also from expanding European settlement in the north, the Cherokee moved south from the area now called Virginia. As European colonists spread into the area, the Indian populations were forcibly displaced to the south and west, including all Muscogee and Yuchi peoples, the Chickasaw and Choctaw, and ultimately, the Cherokee in 1838.
The first British settlement in what is now Tennessee was built in 1756 by settlers from the colony of South Carolina at Fort Loudoun, near present-day Vonore. Hostilities erupted between the British and the neighboring Overhill Cherokees, and a siege of Fort Loudoun ended with its surrender on August 7, 1760. The following morning, Captain Paul Demeré and a number of his men were killed in an ambush nearby, and most of the rest of the garrison was taken prisoner.
In the 1760s, long hunters from Virginia explored much of East and Middle Tennessee, and the first permanent European settlers began arriving late in the decade. The vast majority of 18th century settlers were English or of primarily English descent but nearly 20% of them were also Scotch-Irish. These settlers formed the Watauga Association, a community built on lands leased from the Cherokee peoples.
The frontier fort on the banks of the Watauga River served as a 1780 staging area for the Overmountain Men in preparation to trek over the Appalachian Mountains, to engage, and to later defeat the British Army at the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina.
Three counties of the Washington District (now part of Tennessee) broke off from North Carolina in 1784 and formed the State of Franklin. Efforts to obtain admission to the Union failed, and the counties (now numbering eight) had re-joined North Carolina by 1789. North Carolina ceded the area to the federal government in 1790, after which it was organized into the Southwest Territory.
Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796 as the 16th state. It was the first state created from territory under the jurisdiction of the United States federal government.
During the administration of U.S. President Martin Van Buren, nearly 17,000 Cherokees—along with approximately 2,000 black slaves owned by Cherokees—were uprooted from their homes between 1838 and 1839 and were forced by the U.S. military to march from "emigration depots" in Eastern Tennessee (such as Fort Cass) toward the more distant Indian Territory west of Arkansas (now the state of Oklahoma). During this relocation an estimated 4,000 Cherokees died along the way west. In the Cherokee language, the event is called Nunna daul Isunyi—"the Trail Where We Cried." The Cherokees were not the only American Indians forced to emigrate as a result of the Indian removal efforts of the United States, and so the phrase "Trail of Tears" is sometimes used to refer to similar events endured by other American Indian peoples, especially among the "Five Civilized Tribes". The phrase originated as a description of the earlier emigration of the Choctaw nation.
Civil War and Reconstruction
The Tennessee legislature ratified an agreement to enter a military league with the Confederate States on May 7, 1861. On June 8, 1861, voters approved a second referendum calling for secession, becoming the last state to do so.
Many major battles of the American Civil War were fought in Tennessee—most of them Union victories. Ulysses S. Grant and the U.S. Navy captured control of the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers in February 1862. They held off the Confederate counterattack at Shiloh in April. Memphis fell to the Union in June, following a naval battle on the Mississippi River in front of the city. The Capture of Memphis and Nashville gave the Union control of the western and middle sections; this control was confirmed at the Battle of Murfreesboro in early January 1863 and by the subsequent Tullahoma Campaign.
Confederates held East Tennessee. The Confederates, led by General James Longstreet, did attack General Burnside's Fort Sanders at Knoxville and lost. It was a big blow to East Tennessee Confederate momentum, but Longstreet won the Battle of Bean's Station a few weeks later. The Confederates besieged Chattanooga during the Chattanooga Campaign in early fall 1863, but were driven off by Grant in November.
The last major battles came when the Confederates invaded Middle Tennessee in November 1864 and were checked at Franklin, then completely dispersed by George Thomas at Nashville in December. Meanwhile, the civilian Andrew Johnson was appointed military governor of the state by President Abraham Lincoln.
When the Emancipation Proclamation was announced, Tennessee was mostly held by Union forces. Thus, Tennessee was not among the states enumerated in the Proclamation, and the Proclamation did not free any slaves there. Nonetheless, enslaved African Americans escaped to Union lines to gain freedom without waiting for official action. Old and young, men, women and children camped near Union troops. Thousands of former slaves ended up fighting on the Union side, nearly 200,000 in total across the South.
Tennessee's legislature approved an amendment to the state constitution prohibiting slavery on February 22, 1865. It also ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (abolishing slavery in every state) on April 7, 1865.
In 1864, Andrew Johnson was elected Vice President under Abraham Lincoln. He became President after Lincoln's assassination in 1865.
Through violence and intimidation against freedmen and their allies, White Democrats regained political power in Tennessee and other states across the South in the late 1870s and 1880s.
Over the next decade, the state legislature passed increasingly restrictive laws to control African Americans. Tens of thousands of taxpaying citizens were without representation for decades into the 20th century. Disfranchising legislation accompanied Jim Crow laws passed in the late 19th century, which imposed segregation in the state. In 1900, African Americans made up nearly 24% of the state's population, and numbered 480,430 citizens who lived mostly in the central and western parts of the state.
On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the thirty-sixth and final state necessary to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provided women the right to vote. Disfranchising voter registration requirements continued to keep most African Americans and many poor whites, both men and women, off the voter rolls.
In 1953 state legislators amended the state constitution, removing the poll tax. In many areas both blacks and poor whites still faced subjectively applied barriers to voter registration that did not end until after passage of national civil rights legislation, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Tennessee celebrated its bicentennial in 1996. With a yearlong statewide celebration entitled "Tennessee 200", it opened a new state park (Bicentennial Mall) at the foot of Capitol Hill in Nashville.
The state has had major disasters, such as the Great Train Wreck of 1918, one of the worst train accidents in U.S. history, and the Sultana explosion on the Mississippi River near Memphis, the deadliest maritime disaster in U.S. history.
In April and May 2010, flooding in Middle Tennessee devastated Nashville and other parts of Middle Tennessee. In 2011, parts of East Tennessee, including Hamilton County and Apison in Bradley County, were devastated by the April 2011 tornado outbreak.
Tennessee has received an influx of people relocating from California, Florida, and several northern states for the low cost of living, and the booming healthcare and automobile industries. Metropolitan Nashville is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country due in part to these factors.
Major outputs for the state include textiles, cotton, cattle, and electrical power.
Tennessee has over 82,000 farms, roughly 59 percent of which accommodate beef cattle.
Although cotton was an early crop in Tennessee, large-scale cultivation of the fiber did not begin until the 1820s with the opening of the land between the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers. The upper wedge of the Mississippi Delta extends into southwestern Tennessee, and it was in this fertile section that cotton took hold.
Soybeans are also heavily planted in West Tennessee, focusing on the northwest corner of the state.
Major corporations with headquarters in Tennessee include FedEx, AutoZone and International Paper, all based in Memphis; Pilot Corporation and Regal Entertainment Group, based in Knoxville; Eastman Chemical Company, based in Kingsport; the North American headquarters of Nissan Motor Company, based in Franklin; Hospital Corporation of America and Caterpillar Financial, based in Nashville; and Unum, based in Chattanooga. Tennessee is also the location of the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, a $2 billion polysilicon production facility by Wacker Chemie in Bradley County, and a $1.2 billion polysilicon production facility by Hemlock Semiconductor in Clarksville.
Tourism contributes billions of dollars each year to the state's economy and Tennessee is ranked among the Top 10 destinations in the US.
Some of the top tourist attractions in the state are: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Graceland, Dollywood, Beale Street, Lower Broadway, the Ryman Auditorium, Gaylord Opryland Resort, Lookout Mountain, the Ocoee River, and the Tennessee Aquarium.
Beale Street in Memphis is considered by many to be the birthplace of the blues, with musicians such as W. C. Handy performing in its clubs as early as 1909. Memphis is also home to Sun Records, where musicians such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Charlie Rich began their recording careers, and where rock and roll took shape in the 1950s.
The 1927 Victor recording sessions in Bristol generally mark the beginning of the country music genre and the rise of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1930s helped make Nashville the center of the country music recording industry.
Three brick-and-mortar museums recognize Tennessee's role in nurturing various forms of popular music: the Memphis Rock N' Soul Museum, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, and the International Rock-A-Billy Museum in Jackson. Moreover, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, an online site recognizing the development of rockabilly in which Tennessee played a crucial role, is based in Nashville.
Major airports within the state include Memphis International Airport (MEM), Nashville International Airport (BNA), McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) in Alcoa, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA), Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI), and McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport (MKL), in Jackson. Because Memphis International Airport is the major hub for FedEx Corporation, it is the world's largest air cargo operation.
For passenger rail service, Memphis and Newbern, are served by the Amtrak City of New Orleans line on its run between Chicago, Illinois, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Nashville is served by the Music City Star commuter rail service.
Cargo services in Tennessee are primarily served by CSX Transportation, which has a hump yard in Nashville called Radnor Yard. Norfolk Southern Railway operates lines in East Tennessee, through cities including Knoxville and Chattanooga, and operates a classification yard near Knoxville, the John Sevier Yard. BNSF operates a major intermodal facility in Memphis.
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is the only federally recognized Native American Indian tribe in the state. It owns 79 acres (32 ha) in Henning, which was placed into federal trust by the tribe in 2012. This is governed directly by the tribe.
- State amphibian – Tennessee cave salamander
- State bird – mockingbird
- State game bird – bobwhite quail
- State butterfly – zebra swallowtail
- State sport fish – smallmouth bass
- State commercial fish – channel catfish
- State cultivated flower – iris
- State wild flowers – passion flower and Tennessee echinacea
- State insects – firefly and lady beetle
- State agricultural insect – honey bee
- State wild animal – raccoon
- State horse – Tennessee Walking Horse
- State reptile – eastern box turtle
- State rifle – Barrett M82
- State tree – tulip poplar
- State evergreen tree – eastern red cedar
- State beverage – milk
- State dance – square dance
- State fruit – tomato
- State fossil – Pterotrigonia (Scabrotrigonia) thoracica
- State gem – Tennessee River pearl
- State mineral – agate
- State rock – limestone
- State motto – Agriculture and Commerce
- State poem – "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee" by Admiral William Lawrence
- State slogan – Tennessee – America at its Best
- State songs – nine songs
Images for kids
Tennessee Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.