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Tennessee (/ˌtɛnəˈs/ (About this sound listen), locally /ˈtɛnəsi/; Cherokee: ᏔᎾᏏ, translit. Tanasi) is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Tennessee is the 36th largest and the 16th most populous of the 50 United States. Tennessee is bordered by Kentucky to the north, Virginia to the northeast, North Carolina to the east, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south, Arkansas to the west, and Missouri to the northwest. The Appalachian Mountains dominate the eastern part of the state, and the Mississippi River forms the state's western border. Nashville is the state's capital and largest city, with a population of 660,388. Tennessee's second largest city is Memphis, which has a population of 652,717.

The state of Tennessee is rooted in the Watauga Association, a 1772 frontier pact generally regarded as the first constitutional government west of the Appalachians. What is now Tennessee was initially part of North Carolina, and later part of the Southwest Territory. Tennessee was admitted to the Union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796. Tennessee was the last state to leave the Union and join the Confederacy at the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. Occupied by Union forces from 1862, it was the first state to be readmitted to the Union at the end of the war.

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Christ Church (left) and Thomas Hughes Library in Rugby, Tennessee

Rugby is a settlement in Morgan County, Tennessee, that was founded in 1880 by British author Thomas Hughes, who is best known for writing the novel Tom Brown's School Days. Rugby, Tennessee, is named for Rugby, Warwickshire, England, where Hughes had attended Rugby School, the school that furnished the setting for the book.

Rugby was set up as an experiment in utopian living. It was intended in part as a community for the younger sons of the English gentry, who, because of the accepted system of primogeniture, would inherit little or no property. The settlement flourished for only a short while.

About half the original buildings, many in Ruskinian gothic revival style, survive and have been restored. Rugby currently has a population of around 85. The area's natural beauty, historic architecture, and seasonal festivals attract a brisk tourist trade. (Read more...)

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James Knox Polk (November 2, 1795 – June 15, 1849) was the eleventh President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849. Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, but mostly lived in and represented the state of Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as Speaker of the House (1835–1839) and Governor of Tennessee (1839–1841) prior to becoming president.

A firm supporter of Andrew Jackson, Polk was the last "strong" pre-Civil War president. He is noted for his foreign policy successes, particularly the successful Mexican–American War. Also, he threatened war with Britain, then backed away and split the ownership of the Pacific Northwest with Britain. He lowered the tariff and established a treasury system that lasted until 1913. A "dark horse" candidate in 1844, he was the first president to retire after one term without seeking re-election. He died three months after his term ended.

As a Democrat committed to geographic expansion (or "Manifest Destiny"), Polk was responsible for the largest expansion of the nation's territory, exceeding the Louisiana Purchase in total area. He secured the Oregon Territory (including Washington, Oregon and Idaho), then purchased 1.2 million square miles (3.1 million km²) through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican–American War. In the end, Polk completed the acquisition of most of the current contiguous 48 states.

The expansion re-opened a furious debate over allowing slavery in the new territories. The controversy was inadequately arbitrated by the Compromise of 1850, and only found its ultimate resolution in the Civil War. (Read more...)

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Clingman's Dome Tower on a Sunny, Snowy Day.JPG

Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains is the highest point in the state of Tennessee.
Image credit: Scott Basford (2007)

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