McMinn County was divided during the American Civil War. The well-established railroad brought numerous pro-secessionist and anti-secessionist speakers to the county, including Andrew Johnson, Horace Maynard, John Bell, and William "Parson" Brownlow. In 1861, McMinn County voted against secession by a narrow 1,144-904 margin. The county sent 12 units to the Union army and 8 units to the Confederate army. General William Tecumseh Sherman was briefly headquartered at the Bridges Hotel in McMinn County while preparing his "March to the Sea."