Union troops had Blountville, Tenn., in their sights long before the Battle of Blountville left the town destroyed in September 1863.
East Tennessee was of strategic importance during the Civil War primarily because the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad ran through upper East Tennessee directly to Knoxville and Chattanooga. Early in the war, both sides recognized the importance of the railroad line for supplies and communications. Over the next four years, small battles took place to gain possession of this railroad with its Holston River Bridge in nearby Zollicoffer, which is today known as Bluff City.
A second factor that provoked Union animosity was the holding of seized property rights of Union sympathizers held by Matthew Haynes of Blountville whose brother was the eloquent Landon C. Haynes, speaker of the Confederate Senate.
A third target for Union guns was the tannery on the banks of Muddy Creek on the west side of Blountville. This tannery furnished the saddles for Mosby’s raiders, a Confederate Brigade of cavalrymen who looted Union sympathizers in Northeast Tennessee.
Blountville was a Union prize to be destroyed, and on Sept. 22, 1863, the Civil War came to Blountville.
The Battle of Blountville Civil War Re-Enactment and Sesquicentennial Celebrations are set for Sept. 6-8 on the Old Hawley Farm in Blountville. Camp set-up will begin at 5 p.m., Thursday. “Civil War Heritage Day” will be held for local school children on Friday. Re-enactments and skirmishes will be held Saturday and Sunday, along with a Ladies Tea and a Saturday night Ball.
Old-time sutlers and food vendors will be on hand throughout the event. The Irish Volunteers of New York will present Civil War period music throughout the event. The Old-Time County Fair, a new event this year on adjoining property, will take place on Saturday and Sunday.
Federal forces advanced from Knoxville and arrived on the outskirts of Blountville. Union forces occupied a cemetery overlooking the west side of town.
Southern forces formed artillery on a knoll near the present-day Blountville Middle School; another line was established by Rebel forces on a nearby hillside in front of the Masonic Hall, now the site of the maintenance building for the Sullivan County School System. The battle of artillery and cavalry began in earnest at lunchtime as Union guns offered the initial volley with the courthouse as the first target.
In only a few minutes, the courthouse was burning. Though casualties were light for both armies, the town was devastated, with countless homes and businesses burned to the ground by fires started by the explosions of Federal guns. For four hours, the battle raged as Union forces dislodged the Confederates, who began a withdrawal to present-day Bluff City.
The Confederates’ withdrawal was a pre-planned surprise counterattack, with fresh Confederate troops awaiting the pursuing Federals. Union forces, however, discovered the Confederate plot and refused battle. The men in blue retreated to Blountville, and Federal forces returned to Knoxville.
What remained was a devastated town — a burned jail, a gutted courthouse, businesses and homes destroyed, wounded and dead soldiers from both sides.
During the Battle of Blountville Re-Enactment, Federal forces will be under the command of Col. Lance Dawson and Confederate forces will be under the command of Gen. Duane Hamby. President Jefferson Davis will be portrayed by Phil McGourty, President Abe Lincoln will be portrayed by David Wolfe, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant will be portrayed by Dane Brewer, Gen. Robert E. Lee will be portrayed by David Chaltas and Gen. Stonewall Jackson will be portrayed by Danny Buckner.
Bill White will have the role of Gen. James Longstreet, Wayne Jones will be Major Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and Joe Adkins will be Col. Abraham Fulkerson.
For more information about the event, call 323-4660 or visit www.battleofblountville.com.