“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
If you’ve ever been through the state of Tennessee, particularly in the fall of the year…
thinking that you had come to take in the beautiful and picturesque Smokey Mountains
and perhaps an eyeful of the warm and golden hues of Fall’s magnificent splendor,
you will have no less certainly seen the giant orange or white T’s
that vie for dominance over the Tennessean landscape.
Or perhaps it’s an orange and white checkerboard painted door, orange, and white flags,
a myriad of stickers donning every Tennesse car, or even a checkerboard with a giant
T painted on many an old and seemingly dilapidated barn.
For in the fall, each and every Saturday hundreds of thousands of Tennessee fans will
be heard statewide singing a rousing rendition of Rocky Top as they cheer
on their Tennesee Vols.
So I suppose it’s only natural that most of us have either earned or been given the
dubious honor of a nickname…
Usually, a name attached to us during childhood that has an odd and often irritating
way of sticking with us throughout life…
and thus the same seems true for our 50 states.
We have states boasting themselves by their nicknames as the Show-Me State,
The Sunshine State,
The Peach State,
The Sooners state,
The Buckeye state…
Some of the nicknames are for obvious reasons while other nicknames are simply lost
in the annals of the history of our Nation.
Yet you may just find yourself asking…”what exactly is a Vol?”
A Vol is a Volunteer…as in Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State.
And if you don’t quite know your history, you might think that is just a reference
to the fact that those state residents like to volunteer for things.
And in a way, you’d be partially right.
But the story, according to most historians, actually goes back to the War of 1812.
And whereas you may have only thought that the Colonies,
which gave way to these United States of America, had won their freedom from the
British in 1776…you would naturally think that that was the final end of the story…
and therefore you would need to be reminded that hard feelings die slow deaths and that
those who spent centuries vying for dominance always hate to lose.
“The War of 1812 was a defining period in the early history of Tennessee.
For the first time, Tennessee was thrust into the national
spotlight through its military and political prowess.
When war was declared on Great Britain in June 1812,
it was a Tennessean, Congressman Felix Grundy,
who was given the lion’s share of credit
(or blame) for steering Congress toward a declaration of war against one of the
mightiest military powers of the day.
Grundy, a Nashville lawyer, along with a group of Democratic-Republicans known as the War Hawks,
provided the rhetoric necessary to lead the nation into a conflict that many considered unpopular. Tennessee’s accomplishments on the battlefield during the Creek War (1813-1814)
gave the country something to cheer about in a period of otherwise dismal campaigns
against the British.
And, of course, Andrew Jackson’s stunning victory at New Orleans
showed the world that the United States was coming of age and could take its
place among the nations of the world.
New Orleans Campaign
(December 1814 – January 1815)
After leaving a sizable portion of his army to occupy the various garrisons
throughout the Mississippi Territory,
Jackson arrived in New Orleans in early December to conduct the defense of the city
that was to be the prize of Great Britain’s southern campaign.
Located above the mouth of the Mississippi River,
New Orleans’ strategic location and accumulated wealth offered a tempting reward
to a British army fresh from its victory over Napoleon in Europe.
Elite English forces faced Jackson’s polyglot army of militia,
frontier volunteers, U.S. regulars, pirates, free blacks, Creoles, and Choctaws.
Although the famous Battle of New Orleans has been noted in song and celebration,
the British assault on New Orleans was actually composed of several different engagements:
Brief History of Tennessee in the War of 1812
Prepared by Tom Kanon, Tennessee State Library, and Archives
Yet some historians argue that the nickname actually came later during the
Mexican American War.
According to Tennessee History, future President, General Zachary Taylor,
dispatched a report to President Polk saying ‘hostilities had begun.
The report reached President Polk while he was dining and the President
immediately called his cabinet into an emergency session.
The following week, a divided Congress agreed that a state of war existed with Mexico.
“U.S. Navy Ships immediately moved to blockade the Gulf of Mexico and others in
the Pacific moved towards California ports.
With a regular standing army of only 8,000 men and General Taylor screaming
for reinforcements, President Polk was forced to call upon the states to raise
2,600 men each to supply the American Army in Mexico,” stated Tennessee History.
The proclamation went out from Nashville that the federal government needed 2,600 volunteers
to assist in the war with Mexico…
Within a week’s time, more than 30,000 Tennesseans responded to the call to arms.
And it was from this overwhelming show of patriotism that the State of Tennessee not
only assisted in winning the outright sovereignty of the State of Texas,
but also in securing its lasting title as The Volunteer State.
Appalachian Magazine – May 24, 2016
During the war of 1812, this particular time in our young nation’s tenuous growth—
most of the political leaders of the day were the movers and shakers…
they were the voters and decision makers…
they did not think the general uneducated populace of the fledgling states should be
given the vote themselves…given the vote to pick and choose such positions
It was a more paternal form of leadership in that the leaders decided they knew
what was best “for the people”…
And yet it was a president who sent out a call for help…be it in 1812 or 1840,
a call went out to these same uneducated farmers, laborers, and shopkeepers
who just happened to be Tennesseans, during yet another devastating war…
a call for their help in defending their young Nation.
For this war was to be a final stamp to America’s true independence.
The request was for 2,600.
There was such a strong sense to protect and maintain what so many had sacrificed
their lives over.
What a marvelous moniker…
The Volunteer State…
the state where the citizens realized the importance of what was at stake…
not only for their state but for their entire Nation.
All of this history is really something to ponder yet is easily glossed over when we glance
It makes me wonder…
if our president today sent out the call for help in defending our Nation…would anyone answer
the call or would they be simply too busy disparaging him and those who support his leadership?
Are we so divided today that we would actually let who we are as a Nation, simply disovlve…
If my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14