|Date(s):||August 13, 1892 to August 19, 1892|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
|Rating:||4 (3 votes)|
The system of convict leasing was prevalent in the South following the Civil War. Under this system, private businesses could lease convicts for a small fee. Tennessee adopted this system as a way to deal with the rising prison population and to help relieve the burden of its state debt. In 1884, the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company leased the state penitentiary. The system caused many free laborers to lose their jobs and work for cheaper wages. In addition, the conditions that the prisoners lived in were atrocious. Much sickness, suffering, and starvation prevailed.
Opposition to the convict lease system soon developed. The miners asked the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company to allow them as many hours work in each week as the convicts, but they responded with indifference. On August 13, 1892, the Tracy City miners marched on the stockades. They removed the supplies and burned the buildings to the ground. Then, they placed 390 convicts on cars and shipped them to Nashville.
Spurred on by news of this event, miners from Grundy and Marion County marched on the Inman stockade on August 15. The miners disarmed the guards, dismantled the buildings, and shipped the convicts to Nashville. These victories renewed attacks in Anderson County. On August 16, at the Oliver Springs stockade, several miners and guards were wounded as the miners laid siege to Fort Anderson. The miners fired on the fort, killing two militiamen. Following this final revolt, Tennessee's convict war finally came to a close. Peace was declared on August 19. The following year Congress passed legislation to abolish convict leasing.