156th Anniversary of the Battle of Blountville

In a peaceful valley a few miles from the city of Blountville, they came to remember. Men and women willing to give of their time and energy to share their love of our American history, heritage and legacy came and set up encampments. On that location (The Old Hawley Farm-1173 Hawley Road) a reenactment of the ‘City of the Dead’ was held to recall and honor the sacrifices of men and women one hundred fifty-six years ago.

On September 22, 1863, the piece of the valley guarding the small town of Blountville, Tennessee, was shattered as artillery fire rained down from the heights overlooking the western side of the town. Women and children fled from the area of the local tannery and courthouse. Union Major General Burnside was ordered to clear ‘the gaps and roads’ to Virginia, with the directive of capturing the saltworks of Saltville, Virginia. Between his forces and the objective was Confederate Colonel James Carter fortified within the city of Blountville.

The location of the Federal Forces was in a cemetery that soon became known as the ‘City of the Dead’. The Confederates had formed a defensive position on the knoll where the current Blountville Middle School is located and another line of defense close to what is now the Sullivan County maintenance building. The battle raged for nearly four hours, as cavalry charged and counter charged along the lines. An artillery bombardment shattered the courthouse and several other buildings. The rebel forces had to withdraw but were soon reinforced. They devised a plan to draw the Federal troops into a trap but the scheme was soon discovered and the Federal army retired from the field. The end result of the battle was an almost total loss of the town due to fire ravaging several buildings. Some of the historical landmarks still bear the scars (Minnie balls, cannon balls) of the battle.

The reenactment began with federal cavalry charging along the spectators’ line, followed by confederate cavalry contesting their presence. To the delight of the crowd, the two forces engaged close to the audience. A cannonade followed with the opposing infantry forces attempting flanking movements and trying to hold the high ground. The battle scenario was well orchestrated and the commanders executed their duties with precision. The Federal Commander was Bob Dotson and Confederate Commander was Aaron Sells.

The weekend agenda included an education day for students in the region. Also featured were infantry demonstrations and drills. The artillery pieces were showcased, and an officer’s call where battle scenario was developed along with safety issues discussed was held. The ladies tea was held in sutlers’ row. There were two battles, church service on Sunday, and impromptu presentations in and around the camps.

Special thanks goes to the Department of East Tennessee Reenacting (Host of the yearly event), vendors, SCV Camps represented, reenactors and living historians, Mark your calendar and come join the historical event in 2020! To find information about next year’s Battle of Blountville, visit their site or contact the following site: http://thedet.org/ and/or https://www.facebook.com/Battle-of-Blountville-Civil-War-Park-and-Reenactment-348128205248632/