Local News

November 13, 2010

Civil War anniversary: General Duff Green

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is certainly a quote that aptly describes Gen. Duff Green. By appearance, the General was a tall, lanky man with a long white beard and small, sharp, dark eyes. Over the years, he was occasionally described as an uneducated frontiersman, hot-tempered, and prone to fisticuffs. Actually, Green was well-educated, versed in politics, law and economics as well as a shrewd businessman.

Duff Green was born Aug. 15, 1791, in Wofford County, Kentucky. He served in the Kentucky Militia during the War of 1812, and led the Missouri Brigade in the Indian Campaign.  During his military service, Green earned the rank brigadier general and nickname of “General.” While living in Missouri, he started his vocation as a school teacher. In 1820, Green was elected to the Missouri State House of Representatives, followed by a term in the state Senate. Thus, he began his career and fascination with politics.

Later, Gen. Green moved to Washington, D.C. and purchased United States Telegraph. He employed his persuasive editorial powers to help Andrew Jackson win the 1828 presidential election. Green was an influential member of President’s Jackson’s inner-circle, which was often referred to as Jackson’s Kitchen Cabinet.

Most assumed that Green not only shared Jackson’s pioneering spirit but his political views as well. Actually, Green’s support was purely the art of a political deal. The General’s true loyalties were to Jackson’s vice president, John C. Calhoun. As part of the political deal and alignment, Jackson had pledged to support Calhoun for president following Jackson’s own two terms in office. However, Old Hickory switched horses mid-stream or more accurately, vice presidents — Jackson ousted Calhoun and selected Martin Van Buren as his next running mate — and the rest is history. This ended Jackson’s and Green’s political relationship, but Green continued his high-ranking influence by serving as an advisor on the annexation of Texas and as a delegate to England.

Railroads and gambling brought Duff Green south to Dalton. Above all, Green was an entrepreneur and was willing to take a gamble for a fast dollar on a business deal. Duff came to this area in 1851 to take advantage of the building of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad from Knoxville that would connect with the Western and Atlantic Railroad.  Knowing the importance of the land surrounding the tracks, he made strategic land purchases. As Dalton grew he profited from his investments.  Green donated land for many public projects, including the land that was dedicated for West Hill Cemetery.  

Green maintained his friendship with the South Carolinian John Calhoun. As tensions between the north and south grew and the secessionists pushed for independence, Green is quoted as stating, “The Union is dear to us, but liberty is dearer.” For him, the central issue was not slavery, but state’s rights and a smaller federal government.     

Green supported the Confederacy by organizing three iron manufacturing plants to produce iron, nails, horseshoes, and rails to support the Confederate Army. In 1862, he and his son, Ben, established the Dalton Arms Company. War raged all around Dalton and many landmarks were completely demolished; however, Green’s beautiful home place, Hopewell, survived. After the war ended, because of his significant financial contributions to the Confederacy, Green had to personally appeal to President Andrew Johnson for a pardon and pay a $20,000 fine.

Green’s waning years were occupied with writing and speaking engagements primarily on the economic issues of his day. Green died June 10, 1875, surrounded by his beloved family and is buried in West Hill Cemetery.

This article is one of several that are running on Sundays about Dalton and life in Dalton leading up to the Civil War. The stories are provided by the Dalton-Whitfield Civil War 150th Anniversary Committee. To find out more about the committee go to www.dalton150th.com.

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