Early Tennessee newspaper publisher
Once Tennessee seceded, Brownlow shifted to attacking the Confederate government. In October 1861 he was forced to cease publishing and flee Knoxville, hiding in Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains. Offered a safe conduct pass to Union lines, Brownlow returned to Knoxville that winter only to be arrested and imprisoned. Union prisoners in Knoxville endured starvation and other physical abuse for several months as part of an extortion ring involving a corrupt magistrate and jailor, and while Brownlow and many other prisoners were freed after Confederate authorities learned of the abuse, his health never fully recovered.
After being escorted to Union lines in March 1862, Brownlow toured the North, stirring up support for East Tennessee Unionists and publishing books and articles. In November 1863, Brownlow returned to Knoxville after its occupation by Union General Ambrose Burnside and resumed publishing his newspaper under the new name of the "Knoxville Whig and Rebel Ventilator".
U.S. Civil War
Brownlow's election after the Civil War as governor survived his opponents' attempts to rig the vote. The Confederacy had just surrendered, and much of the state had required Union military occupation. Certain ex-Confederate officers were barred from voting, and a strong showing came from the eastern part of the state, a center of Union loyalty where there had never been much slavery practiced and secession was generally opposed.
Tennessee was not officially readmitted to the union until July 2, 1866; even then it was the first ex-Confederate state to be officially readmitted. Brownlow was re-elected by a greatly expanded electorate (with the inclusion of freed slaves) in 1867; he resigned in February 1869 to accept election to the United States Senate by the state legislature, the method used prior to the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Brownlow is considered to be responsible for the current Seal of Tennessee, which meets the requirements outlined in the legal description for the original state seal but is considerably more modern and streamlined-looking than its predecessor.
Ash, Stephen (1999), Secessionists and Scoundrels, Louisiana State University Press, ISBN 0-8071-2354-4