Spring cleaning ye ole history column

Ned Jilton • Jun 15, 2018 at 2:30 PM

Even though summer is almost here, there is still time to get in some spring cleaning of the old history column. It’s a chance to followup on some past stories and update or clarify some others.


You might remember back in February, I wrote a column about the 3rd Tennessee Infantry Regiment with Company K, from Sullivan County, saving Stonewall Jackson’s left flank at the Battle of First Manassas.

Afterward I received e-mails asking what happened next and others pointing out I didn’t mention the 63rd Tennessee in the list of Confederate regiments with Sullivan County companies that I noted in the story.

Well, the two are related.

After the battle, the 3rd returned to Knoxville, where in March and April it took part in running battles in Morgan and Scott Counties with “bushwhackers.”

In June, Company K would leave the 3rd Tennessee and become Company E in the 63rd Tennessee, alongside Company F, another Sullivan County Company.

The 3rd Tennessee itself would become the 3rd Tennessee Mounted Infantry as there was another 3rd Tennessee Infantry in the western part of the state. One had formed as the 3rd regiment accepted into Confederate service while the other formed as the 3rd regiment accepted into state service.

As Company E of the 63rd, the men from Sullivan County took part in the Battle of Chickamauga before being transferred to the command of Gen. James Longstreet, then taking part in the assault on Fort Loudon in Knoxville.

The regiment would winter in the Rogersville area before eventually ending up manning the lines in the Petersburg area as part of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

The 63rd surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

I know the 63rd did a lot more in the war than this, but I’ll save that for a future column.


In April I wrote about the state legislature resurrecting plans to move the graves of President James K. Polk and his wife from Nashville to Columbia, Tennessee.

I have received a nice letter from John Holtzapple, director of the President James K. Polk Home and Museum, explaining the museum’s position.

“I respectfully disagree with your assertions that the President James K. Polk Home is a struggling historic site and that our support of the tomb relocation effort is motivated by tourism revenue,” he wrote.

“Like many nonprofit institutions, the Polk Home is always seeking financial support,” he said. “We are continually striving to expand our site, our collections and our outreach to better fulfill our educational mission. Our current projects include the completion of our new orientation video by Northern Light Productions, the renovation of our summer history camp cottage into a year-round educational facility, the introduction of more free and low-cost educational activities for our community and the expansion of our online distance learning programs to reach audiences that cannot come to Columbia.”

About the site itself, Holtzapple wrote, “In the 1920’s, Polk family members and historic preservationists successfully petitioned the State of Tennessee to purchase the house in Columbia where James K. Polk had lived when he launched his political career and where he had formally concluded his career at the end of his presidency. They saw the 1816 Columbia house as the best place to fulfill President Polk’s wish for a lasting memorial. That is why the Polk Home has received over 150 original artifacts from Polk Place (Pres. Polk’s Nashville home) including the fountain, the tomb’s fence and the tomb’s urns that are currently on loan to the State Capitol.”

The joint resolution to move Pres. Polk and his wife was signed by Speaker of the Senate Randy McNally and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell on April 16 before sending it to Gov. Bill Haslem on April 17.

The governor is allowed ten days, Sundays excepted, after a bill is presented to him to approve or veto the bill; if he takes no action within that period, the bill becomes a law without his signature.

The governor returned the resolution without signing it.

It still requires an OK from both the Tennessee Historical Commission and the Capitol Grounds Commission and then it goes to court for the family’s approval.


A little bit of clarification.

Also in April, it was a busy month, I wrote about Nashville saving land near Fort Negley where the slaves that built the fort are buried. In the column I asked that they remember the United States Colored Troops that were stationed at the fort and later fought in the battle of Nashville.

Even though I based it on the writings of Confederate soldiers that served in Gen. Frank Cheatham Corps, the main attack of the second day’s battle by the USCT was not on Shy’s Hill, but, according to records, on Peach Orchard Hill.

The 13th USCT went in last at Peach Orchard Hill and managed to capture the parapet of the Confederate works but the Rebel line held and 220 of the 13th USCT were captured.

Thanks to Jim Hardaway for pointing out this oversight  on my part.

But, like I said before, I thank Nashville for saving this site and I do hope they remember the colored troops as well as the slaves.

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