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A Brief Look at the Battle of Athens

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posted on Oct, 22 2008 @ 04:20 PM
With all this concern over the economy, the Global Meltdown, potential uprisings, martial law, NWO, etc. I think it's time we take a gander at what I see as a very interesting in which may come in handy to remember.

Note: I am not advocating a rebellion on the national government. The purpose of this thread is simply to show how history has proven that we, as American citizens (and this goes for people of every other nationality who fight for freedoms) will not stand for injustice but for so long. It doesn't matter whether you agree with the way in which this rebellion was accomplished or not. The important thing is that we learn from the past so we can prevent injustice before it occurs.

Battle of Athens

Also known as the McMinn County War, the Battle of Athens was a rebellion against the local government in August of 1946 by the residents of Athens and Etowah, Tennessee. Due to citizen request, the United States Department of Justice investigated allegations of electoral fraud in the early 1940s, yet took no action. Many residents suspected that the poll-boxes were being switched.

Basically, the wealthy Cantrell family ruled McMinn County. Paul Cantrell was a sheriff from 1936-1942 and elected Senator in 1942 and 1944; Paul's Deputy, Pat Mansfield, took over his Sheriff position upon his departure to the Senate; Four of the seven Justices of the Peace were Cantrells.

Sheriff Cantrell and his deputies recieved money every time they arrested, incarcerated, and released prisoners. When many WWII veterans returned to the county, they were given an exhaustive amount of fines for anything these 'officers of the law' could find.

“There were several beer joints and honky-tonks around Athens; we were pretty wild; we started having trouble with the law enforcement at that time because they started making a habit of picking up GIs and fining them heavily for most anything—they were kind of making a racket out of it. After long hard years of service—most of us were hard-core veterans of World War II—we were used to drinking our liquor and our beer without being molested. When these things happened, the GIs got madder—the more GIs they arrested, the more they beat up, the madder we got …
Encouraged by his success as sheriff, Cantrell began what would become a ten year reign as the king of McMinn politics. In future elections, ballot boxes were collected from the precincts and the results counted in secret at McMinn County Jail in Athens. Opposition poll watchers were labeled as troublemakers and ejected from precinct houses. McMinn County Court, which was dominated by Republicans, directed the county to purchase voting machines. The Cantrell Democrats countered by getting a bill passed in Nashville abolishing the court and then selling the machines to “save the county money.”

When the GIs returned to this fraudulent excuse of a voting system, they decided to take things into their own hands. In 1946 they secretly met and formed their own nonpartison political party, with their own candidates. The veterans had secretly fielded five candidates for different offices, but sheriff was the primary focus; good ol' Paul Cantrell was running for this position again.

The veterans offered a one-thousand-dollar reward for verifiable information about election fraud and repeated a slogan that for weeks that said: YOUR VOTE WILL BE COUNTED AS CAST. It was veterans vs. Mansfield/Cantrell. Upon voting day, veterans from Blount County came to aid the local GIs in watching the polls. As a counter, Mansfield brought in several hundred armed deputies to crowd inside the voting precincts. The veterans knew that this was how Cantrell was going to get the voting boxes moved to the jail where they would be "counted."

At 9:30 a.m. on election day, a GI representative by the name of Walter Ellis was arrested for 'protesting irregularities.' Herein lies the straw that broke the camel's back. By 3:00 p.m. that afternoon, only an hour before polls closed, a group of armed veterens and citizens approached the voting precinct. An elderly black man, Tom Gillespie, was told by a guard, "Ni**er you can't vote here" and when protested, Gillespie was hit with brass knuckles. When he dropped his ballot and charged the door to head outside, Gillespie was shot in the back, just as he had reached the sidewalk.

Because of all the commotion and fear of rioting, Mansfield's deputies took two GIs, representatives who were watching the polls, hostage. The two men managed to break through the glass and run to the street once a crowd of unarmed citizens came and started taunting the deputies to release them. When one of the deputies stepped through the broken glass and waved his gun, the veterans decided to go back and get their guns.

Hours later, Cantrell and his cronies were back at the jail and counting the ballots, thinking they were safe. They had no idea that some GIs had broken into an armory and stolen all the high powered rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns, and all the ammo they could carry. About 9:00 p.m. that same night, the fully-armed veterans began a seige on the jail, killing anyone who came out to fire back. After not being able to break through by 2:30 a.m., the GIs considered using dynamite.

Before they decided to use it, an ambulance came up on the North side of the jail. Believing that it was there to aid the injured, the veterans let it pass. However, the ambulance sped off North after picking up two men: Paul Cantrell and Pat Mansfield. The veterans then use the dynamite, and, as planned, after blowing up a jail wall, the men who were barracaded and abandoned by Cantrell surrendered. On August 4th, Cantrell telegraphed his resignation, issuing in the GI representative as the sheriff in town.

Practically every press outside of Athens condemned their actions, calling them things such as 'lawless.' This might be a somewhat accurate word, for the only man convicted in any crimes that day was the man who shot Gillespie. He recieved a sentence of 1-3 years. The GIs, on the other hand, boasted of the return of the independent vote to the community and the election of 'fine people' to lead it.

posted on Oct, 22 2008 @ 04:27 PM
I know this looks like a history lesson, and I apologize for that, but with all the anger over the corruption of the Government and Wall Street, I sincerely hope that remembering this particular rebellion might aid in responsible future decisions concerning "overthrowing the government" or whatnot.

Also, I want to say that I am fully aware this was a very small rebellion for a small town. It's the symbolization of the Battle of Athens that I was trying to focus on; the people stood up to corruption and actually made a difference that will forever be marked in that area.

posted on Oct, 22 2008 @ 05:27 PM
There are many cases of public up rise, and some amazing victories when all odds are against them. I think in our modern culture we fail to understand the significance of our history, the lessons it should have taught us, and still can.

posted on Oct, 22 2008 @ 05:34 PM
Thanks for the lesson. I think Robert Heinlein used this incident as the basis for his novel, "Starship Troopers." In that novel, the back story was that after some vague "disturbances" government was in disarray, and the ones who took charge were vets. They got together and decided that only vets could vote. (Yeah, I know, that ain't the way it happened in McMinnville. The man used what is known as literary license. That's why they call it "creative writing.")
Heinlein was something of a rabble rouser, often encouraging people to rise up against the government when they thought it had become oppressive.
I shudder to think what he would have to say for the sheeple who fallen for the socialism preached by the democrats.
If Heinlein was alive today, he would be condemning all of us to the ninth circle of hell for letting this country get in this shape.

posted on Oct, 22 2008 @ 05:58 PM
reply to post by Alexander_Supertramp

This was, I believe, a Movie. Or rather, the story was used as a plot in a movie.

posted on Oct, 22 2008 @ 06:09 PM
Reply to Rockpuck and kettlebellysmith

It was used in the novel/movie Starship Troopers, I haven't seen that movie in 10 years thanks for reminding me.
Good to know I'm not the only person who really like this battle.

posted on Oct, 22 2008 @ 07:52 PM
What? .. No, it was not "starship troopers" ... it was an actual movie.

The 1992 made-for-television movie An American Story (produced by Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions) was based upon the McMinn County War but set in a Texas town in 1945. It was nominated for two 1993 prime time Emmy Awards and one American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) award that same year.


[edit on 10/22/2008 by Rockpuck]

I knew I have seen this story played out before lol, now I know.

[edit on 10/22/2008 by Rockpuck]

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