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Do you know the Battle of Athens?

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posted on May, 21 2011 @ 04:16 PM

The Battle of Athens/McMinn County War

Concern about corruption in McMinn County had long been suspected with the powerful machine of the wealthy Cantrell family which had long virtually ruled the county. Paul Cantrell was elected sheriff in 1936, 1938, and 1940 then was elected to state senate in 1942 and 1944. His former deputy Pat Mansfield was elected sheriff.

At a citizen request the US Department of Justice investigated allegation of electoral fraud in 1940, 1942, and 1944 but had never responded to the findings.

In 1941 a state law was passed which reduced the number of voting precincts in the county from 23 to 12 thus reducing opposition and reduced the number of justices of the peace from 14 to 7, 4 of which were "Cantrell men". The sheriff and his deputies ran a fee system where they all made money every time a person booked, incarcerated, and released, which meant the more arrests they made the more money was brought in for them.

Reports of buses from out of the county passing through and the passengers being fined for drunkenness even if they did not have a drink. The crime was rampant and tight control was horrible.

August 1946 election seen the roles reverse where Cantrell sought the sheriff position and Mansfield sought the senate seat. Just before this though 10,000 veterans of World War II had returned to their home in the county, these men accounted for roughly 10% of the population. Many of these veterans decided to field their own non-partisan candidate against Cantrell while working to fight the blatant fraud in the elections.

"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 …"

Veteran Knox Henry stood for election against Cantrell and they made their opposition to his corruption clear when a GI speaker at a rally said:

"The principles that we fought for in this past war do not exist in McMinn County. We fought for democracy because we believe in democracy but not the form we live under in this county."

August 1st was the date of the primary election. Mansfield brought in 200 armed 'deputies' to intimidate the voters that day. The GI poll-watches were immediately beaten when spotted. An African-American man named Tom Gillespie at 3pm went to cast his vote and was confronted by the sheriff's deputy who told him he could not vote. When Gillespie continued on he was viciously beaten by the deputies. That did not stop him though as he picked himself up and went onwards to vote. A deputy so enraged pulled out his gun and shot the man (who later recovered). Hearing the gunshot a crowd soon arrived.

Fellow deputies at the time then detained ex-GI poll-watchers in a polling place. A crowd then gathered there which led Sheriff Mansfield to tell his deputies that the crowd must be dispersed. The two ex-GI's imprisoned inside broke out a window then the crowd surged towards the building. Sheriff's deputies formed a half circle around the front of the building with their guns drawn. It was recounted that one deputy even yelled with his gun drawn high:

"'If you sons of bitches cross this street I'll kill you!'"

At this time Mansfield quickly grabbed the ballot boxes and rushed them to the court house for counting while the deputies feared for their lives against the angry crowd of ex-GI's which had just returned from winning a World War.

Angered, the GI's searched the county for weapons and ammunition. There was going to be a war.

By borrowing keys to National Guard and State Guard armories they got 3 M1 rifles, 5 M1911 pistols, and 24 M1917 rifles. At 8pm a group of GI's and 'local boys' headed for the county jail. Three of the GI's were fired upon from the jail and 2 were wounded. A gun fight erupted between the GI's and the deputies inside the jail. But after 30 minutes the fight had subsided as the GI's ran out of ammunition.

A simple account of the event said: "From the hillside fire rose and fell in disorganized cascades. More than anything else, people were simply shooting at the jail."

One man inside the jail was badly heart but not mortally wounded. The sheriff's deputies just wanted to wait it out. Governor McCord then mobilized the State Guard to intimidate the GI's, although they were never sent to Athens, perhaps out of fear that the ex-GI's which accounted for a substantial portion of the State Guard would refuse to fire on their fellow ex-GI's.

At 2am on August 2nd men from neighboring Meigs County joined the fight by throwing sticks of dynamite onto the front porch of the jail. The scared deputies immediately surrendered while the GI's moved in and secured the building.

Before sunrise the event had ended and the guns were returned to armory cleaned.

The result of this battle ensured that the election results were fairly counted. It gave 1,168 votes to Henry and 789 to Cantrell. After the election GI's cleaned up the county government, fixed the jailhouse, and all newly elected officials accepted a $5,000 pay cap.

*****Below is a video from a movie (An American Story) depicting this battle*****

This is a very fine example of people taking action to restore law and order to their government even if it called for armed force. Maybe that is the reason why we are never taught about this in school or hear about it anywhere.

edit on 5/21/2011 by Misoir because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 21 2011 @ 04:25 PM

the united states of america really was still alive somewhere.

intriguing. thanks for the story.

posted on May, 21 2011 @ 04:32 PM
Answering your question:No.
I was suprised to see modern day times. This sounds like ancient Greek. But with further view i see it's modern

I will read now, thanks for the info, and thanks for showing me how garbage American Education is

posted on May, 21 2011 @ 04:40 PM
I have heard this story before.

It is a good example of what can happen when people band together to fight corruption althoiugh fight may get nasty at times.

posted on May, 21 2011 @ 04:40 PM
reply to post by TarzanBeta

This is an amazing story. Amazing to me, because it does show how the vets continued to stand up for the people and what they went to fight for. But were times simpler then?

Are the vets of the present wars as clear about things? Gosh I hope so, because it sure feels like corruption rules everywhere. Let's hope people continue to expose corruption.

posted on May, 21 2011 @ 04:43 PM
Thank you for this story! S&F

For a half a second, I felt that bit of American Pride I have been missing for so very long. But then it sank in that, although a new bit of history for me, it is history. This spirit and demand for freedom no longer exists in this country.

Sigh. Nostalgia for the days of freedom.

posted on May, 21 2011 @ 05:21 PM
reply to post by Wolf321

It's sad that we must be nostalgic for the past rather than enjoy the present and expect a better future.

posted on Mar, 9 2012 @ 05:07 PM
This story needs to be spread far and wide as it shows how the second amendment is supposed to work.


posted on Jul, 14 2012 @ 11:33 PM
link found this and was gonan start a thread but as the search function actualy worked ill post it here as i think every one needs to be reminded of actions like this that activly stoped corruption in its tracks when vetrans were pushed to far by a corrupt government and why the second amendment is such a crucial part of our country and heritage and more importantly sets the precidnt of if we as a people are pushed to far we will stand up for our rights when the chips are really down

posted on Jul, 14 2012 @ 11:44 PM
10% of the population was veterans. That wont ever happen again.

Is there a county in the US that has 10% in a militia?

Or is 10% Libertatian?

posted on Jul, 15 2012 @ 12:48 AM
reply to post by Semicollegiate math is not my strong point but if you wanted the actual numbers you can check there and if you are interested in commenting on the thread i made you can find it here

posted on Mar, 3 2013 @ 07:47 PM
Here is another Youtube on it.

posted on Mar, 3 2013 @ 07:51 PM
do you know the polyponnesian war ? usually gets forgotten in most history books

(sorry, just finished reading bluebeard)

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