The Spaniards were the first who explored this region. Hernando de Soto, in 1540, passed from the state of Tennessee and probably camped near Chattanooga. In 1541, one of his men, Hidalgo de Elvas, first described the Mississippi River, which they called the Rio Grande de la Florida. In 1673, Needham and Gabriel Arthur explored the Tennessee Valley region on behalf of the British. The French also explored the lower reaches of the Mississippi with the expeditions of Pere Marquette and La Salle. The latter, in 1681, built Fort Pru’homme, near the city of Memphis. Shortly thereafter, in 1739, Jean-Baptiste Bienville founded Fort Assumption.
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The disputes between the Spaniards, the French and the British for control of the region culminated in the Indian wars which ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris, for which France lost the province of Louisiana which included the section east of the Mississippi. current state of Tennessee, which passed into the hands of the British, who thus had to depend on the colony of North Carolina. Previously colonists from Virginia had settled in Tennessee in the Cumberland River area since 1750. The first permanent settlement of the British, however, was built in 1768 in William Bean, near the Watauga River.
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Among the settlers emerged Daniel Boone and Richard Henderson who founded the Transylvania Land Company, which began colonizing a section of Kentucky and Tennessee that they had acquired in 1775 from the Cherokee tribes. Boone was in charge of leading the new settlers to these lands. In 1779, 150 settlers founded Nashborough, the city that later became known as Nashville, and declared their intention to separate from North Carolina, and along with other settlers supported the separation from Britain. During the War of Independence there was no battle on Tennessee soil, although settlers from this territory fought in neighboring colonies.
Relations between the Tennessee settlers and the North Carolina authorities deteriorated during the War of Independence. The reason that inflamed the minds was not only the inability of North Carolina to help the settlers in the clashes with the Indian tribes (who had sided with the British in the common struggle against the colonists), but also in the intention of the Carolina del North to cede the administration of the lands of western Tennessee to Congress. As a response in 1785 the settlers created the state of Flanklin and appointed Colonel John Sevier governor. This state was not recognized and in 1788 it disappeared. A year later, the United States Congress created the territory south of the Ohio River, the first step to create in 1796 the state of Tennessee which in the same year was admitted to the Union. During this transition period it was ruled by William Blount. Meanwhile, the governor of Natchez, Manuel Gayoso of Lemos, made some agreements with the Chickasaw Indians to maintain a detachment in the place he called San Fernando de Las Barrancas; the aim was to contain the pressure of the American colonists who tended to expand eastward, thus threatening Spanish Louisiana. In 1797, with the Treaty of San Lorenzo, Spain had to leave this position and return to the other side of the Mississippi.
Once Tennessee was able to attain state status, land policy was under the control of Andrew Jackson who during the 1812 war against Britain (with the conquest of New Orleans), and later in the wars against the Indians, gained prestige in front of the Tennessee Volunteers. Jackson was elected a senator in 1823 and president of the United States in 1828. The main economic activity of this state during the 19th century was the cultivation of cotton and Memphis became the main center of this activity in the United States. Starting in the 1840s, tobacco production began to rival that of the states of Virginia and Kentucky.
During the Civil War (1860-1865), Tennessee sided with the Confederacy, even though the issue of slavery had divided its citizens. In fact, as East Tennessee declared itself a supporter of the Union, this territory had to be occupied by Confederate troops to ensure its control. This circumstance explains why Tennessee was often a battlefield during the civil war. The most notable battles that took place in Tennessee during this period were the Battle of Shiloh (1862) and the Battle of the Lookout Mountains (1863), both of which were pro-Union. Control of a section of Tennessee allowed the Union to appoint a governor, native Andrew Jonhson, who in 1864 was chosen as the vice president of the United States. In 1865, after Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Jonhson held the post of president of the nation. In 1866, Tennessee was readmitted into the union and was also the only state where Congress did not appoint a military government during the reconstruction period. This explains why the activities of racist groups such as the ku klux klan were uncontrolled, until the excesses led in 1869, Congress to enact martial law and a year later, to modify the constitution of the state to ensure order.
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After the Civil War, Tennessee quickly recovered to pre-war production levels. The discovery of rich coal and iron deposits in the east of the state and the exploitation of forest resources allowed a rapid economic recovery, thanks also to investments by companies in the north.
During the twentieth century, great steps were taken in the reconversion of the primary activities of the industrial sector. A key fact in this process was the decision of the Roosevelt government, in 1933, to fund public works projects through the body called Tennessee Authority Valley which managed not only to create jobs during the hardest years of the Great Depression, but also to lay the foundations for the industrial development of the region. In 1985 the construction of the canal between the Tennessee and Tombridge rivers was completed, which allowed the opening of a communication route between the interior of the state and the Gulf of Mexico, with an undoubted repercussion for the economy of this region.