Collections from Tennessee National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in Tennessee. We invite you to explore museum collections from Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Obed Wild and Scenic River, Shiloh National Military Park, and Stones River National Battlefield.

The tickets to President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial were much sought after items in 1868. For the first time in history, the House of Representatives impeached a president, who would then stand trial by the US Senate. Andrew Johnson had violated the Tenure of Office Act by removing his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton. The act stated that a president could not remove a high-appointed official who had been confirmed by the Senate, during the term of the president who appointed him.


However, Abraham Lincoln had appointed Edwin Stanton, and Johnson felt it was within his right to dismiss him. Ultimately, the Senate agreed. They found Andrew Johnson not guilty — by a one-vote margin. If one more senator had voted "guilty," the Senate would have reached the necessary 2/3 majority to convict and remove Johnson from office. As it was, he completed the rest of his term. In 1926, the Supreme Court ruled the Tenure of Office Act unconstitutional, affirming the belief Johnson had held about the act since its inception.

The tickets, color-coded by day, represent the significance of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in a multitude of ways: they represent the first impeachment of a president for "high crimes and misdemeanors." They represent his acquittal, proving that the nation could undergo such a trial and continue to maintain the critical balance of powers outlined by the founding fathers. They prove the value of the vote, and stand testament that one vote can make an insurmountable difference in our American democracy.

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, ANJO 6092-3-4-6767

Prior to the establishment of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, logging camps and mills were ubiquitous across the Upper Cumberland Plateau region. Although logging no longer takes place within the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, the industry remains an integral part of the local economy. This model of a 1900s lumber mill operation, a hand-carved and painted sawmill, depicts four figures working with a log dog, a mill, and a planer. This piece, one of a collection of pieces of American folk art carved by William Monroe Burke (1948-1978) of Fentress County, Tennessee, was donated to the park in the early 1980s.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, BISO 92808


This stencil was used for labeling containers of flour produced at the Mingus Mill. The stencil identifies the product (flour), grade (XX), quantity (98 lbs.), and the mill (Mingus).

Mingus Mill is located a half-mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Built in 1886 to grind wheat and corn, this historic grist mill uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building. The mill was restored by the National Park Service in 1937 with the help of Aden Carver, a local resident in his 90s who had worked on the mill's original construction.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, GRSM 1468

The former grist mill at the Lilly Bluffs section of the Obed Wild and Scenic River played an integral role in the early settlement of the area. Built by Woodson Hawn in the 1930s, the mill used the power of moving water to drive a horizontally mounted “tub wheel” which turned a shaft connected to a round stone disk. This disk ground against another stationary stone disk – the millstone. When dried corn kernels were fed into the stones, they were ground between the two stones and filtered out as grist (corn meal) via grooves in the stones, and slowly pushed toward the outer edge of these stones, where it was then collected and bagged. The mill was later operated by Alva and Elvie Howard, who operated this mill for ten years using the barter system, often keeping a portion of the final product for personal use. The mill was eventually destroyed by a flood in the late 1940s.

Obed Wild and Scenic River, OBRI 29

A conical tent mirroring the buffalo hide tipi of Plains Indians, the Sibley tent was patented in 1856 by West Point graduate and future Confederate general, Henry Hopkins Sibley. First used during the Utah Expedition of 1857-58, the tent saw more extended service during the American Civil War. The 12-foot tall design kept the shelter cool in summer, allowing heat to rise and exit the top while cooler air was drawn in through open flaps at the base. In winter, the interior was warmed by use of a wood-burning, sheet-iron stove placed in the center of the tent with a lightweight metal chimney to draft smoke out of the top. With an 18-foot diameter, it comfortably slept 12 men.
A major drawback to the tent was its great weight. An iron collar and chain assembly bore the weight of the heavy grade canvas, all supported by an iron tripod and wooden staff. This made the large tent unwieldy for active field use. Although nearly 44,000 were used by United States forces during the war, as the conflict continued the cumbersome tents steadily disappeared from field service, being used primarily in camps of instruction, garrisons, and semi-permanent assembly areas. Ironically, Sibley's agreement with the US War Department to receive $5 dollars for every tent made was nullified by his resignation from the army upon the outbreak of the Civil War to serve in the Confederate States Army. He received no royalties on his patent.

Today, only two original Sibley tents are known to exist. One of these is preserved at Shiloh National Military Park, and is the last known Sibley surviving in the Western Hemisphere. Supposedly this tent last served Union troops in Louisiana during 1864 Red River Campaign, where it was abandoned and seized by a local family.

Shiloh National Military Park, SHIL 3477

German immigrant Christian Nix left behind his young wife when he left Wisconsin to join the struggle to preserve the Union. On December 31, 1862, a Confederate bullet stuck Lieutenant Nix in the stomach while he led his company in the 24th Wisconsin Infantry during the Battle of Stones River. Nix endured six days of excruciating pain before finally passing away on January 5, 1863.

One of his comrades carved this head board to mark Nix's first grave site. Somehow the marker survived where so many others did not and made it into the hands of Nix's family. The family donated the marker and a number of documents, including a photograph and a letter describing Nix's death, to Stones River National Battlefield in 1986. Lieutenant Christian Nix currently lies in grave N-5390 in Stones River National Cemetery.

Stones River National Battlefield, STRI 252

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from: Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Obed Wild and Scenic River, Shiloh National Military Park, and Stones River National Battlefield.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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