The last state to leave the Union, Tennessee became the first to reenter in 1866. But the end of the Civil War did not bring an end to hardships. no other state except Virginia except Virginia experienced more military engagements than Tennessee. Roads, bridges, rail lines, and lives were destroyed. Corn productions had declined twenty percent, cotton harvests were down thirty percent and tobacco fifty percent.
Yet county courts, private schools, and churches began to recover. Industries such as lumber, four, and textiles soon surpassed prewar production levels. Most importantly, 250,000 formerly enslaved Tennesseans were now free.
But poverty remained. Five years after the war, more than forty percent of Middle Tennessee farmers did not own the land they operated. The public school system, weak and small before the war, continued to struggle from lack of teachers and funds. The newly won freedom among African Americans suffered at the hands of Klansmen and conservative politicians. In 1873, symbolizing the enduring hardships of life, the cities of Franklin, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, Nashville,and surrounding communities experienced a cholera epidemic that killed thousands.