Dissent from Confederate political-correctness was not unusual in the Civil War, as professional historian Victoria Bynum’s latest book relates. Parson Bill Brownlow probably was unique, however, in his willingness to risk all by publicizing his dissent in the pages of his newspaper. He had a platform: About eleven thousand subscribers when the war began.
Though a prominent pre-war apologist for slavery, the “Yankee-loving parson,” as Romy Lowe calls him in the novel, loved controversy and so was quick to change his mind “on the goose” when the war ended. Indeed, he had an inadvertent hand in creating Tennessee’s Ku Klux Klan when, as post-war governor, he chose to immediately give the former slaves (some of whom could neither read nor write) the vote.