Battle of Big Creek Gap

8 MARCH 1862
Col. James P.T. Carter USA and his troops are ordered on 8 March 1862 to proceed to Big Creek Gap, Tennessee and capture or disperse the Confederate forces that are blockading roads and molesting the Unionist civilians. Col. Carter is the youngest of the Carter clan from Elizabethton—brother of bridge burner W.B. Carter and brigadier general Samuel P. Carter, who is also serving in Northeast Tennessee.

10 MARCH 1862
On the morning of 10 March 1862, Col. Carter leaves with his command, which consists of the First East Tennessee Regiment, the Second East Tennessee Regiment, a detachment of the First Kentucky Cavalry, and Company B of the Forty-ninth Indiana Regiment led by Lt. Col. James Keigwin.

Big Creek Gap: Natural Opening
The road in front of you winds through Big Creek Gap, one of the few natural openings through the Cumberland Mountains in the region. During the Civil War, this corridor was much narrower and steeper, and even lightly loaded wagons found travel extremely hazardous. Cumberland Gap, one the main migration route[s] from the eastern states to the west and a strategic gateway during the Civil War, is about thirty miles northeast of here.
Early in the conflict, Confederate military engineers ringed Cumberland Gap with defensive works and considered the pass impregnable from the north and east. East Tennessee citizens who supported the Union alerted Federal commanders to the possibility of flanking the fortifications via Big Creep Gap. After a rigorous march, a detachment of Union soldiers, including a company of Campbell County men under Capt. Joseph A. Cooper, first penetrated the narrow passage here in March 1862 and routed the Confederate cavalry posted nearby. A more substantial offensive effort under U.S. Gen. George W. Morgan occurred in June, producing a bloodless Confederate withdrawal from Cumberland Gap. Subsequently, control of the Gap changed hands several times.
Across the highway, on a small knoll above and the right of the old rock quarry, are remnants of the earthworks that defended Big Creek Gap. They are the only know[n] Civil War-era fortifications in Campbell County. In the summer of 1861, the 19th Tennessee Infantry (CS) and other units stood watch here to guard the state border and prevent local men from joining the Union army in Kentucky. Rifle pits, gun emplacements, and ammunition dumps by soldiers from both are still extant.
(upper right) “Drawing Artillery Across the Mountains,” Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 21, 1863.
(lower right) Gen. Joseph A. Cooper Courtesy and USA Gen. George W. Morgan, Leslie’s Illustrated History.
 Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
Location. Marker is in LaFollette, Tennessee, in Campbell County at the intersection of North Tennessee Avenue and North Indiana Avenue (U.S. 25W)

13 MARCH 1862
Carter and his soldiers arrive at the foot of the north side of the Cumberland Mountains at 6 o’clock pm and learn that two companies of the Confederate First Tennessee Regiment Cavalry are encamped at Big Creek Gap. With the road completely blocked, Col. Carter sends the Union cavalry unit around another road. Carter and his men set off again at 9 o’clock pm, planning to meet on the other side of the mountain, about nine miles away. They are troubled during their march by the total darkness of the night and the necessity of walking single file through the narrow passageways in the mountains.

14 MARCH 1862
At about 6 o’clock am, after an intense skirmish of about 15 minutes, the Carter’s troops completely rout the Southerners, capturing dozens of horses and mules, and several wagons. Because of the poor visibility and bad roads, the cavalry did not arrive until after the skirmish.

Report of Big Creek Gap: Col. James P. T. Carter
GEN.: In obedience to your order of the 8th instant to proceed to Big Creek Gap and Jacksborough, Campbell County, Tennessee, and capture or rout the rebel forces which were reported to be in that vicinity blockading roads and molesting the persons and property of Union citizens, I left with my command on the morning of the 10th instant [‘instant’ means the 10th day in the current month], accompanied by Lieut. Col. James Keigwin, of the Forty-ninth Indiana Volunteers, and marched to Big Creek Gap via Boston. My force consisted of the Second East Tennessee Regt. Company A, of the First East Tennessee Regt., Capt. Cooper; Company B, of the Forty-Ninth Indiana Regt., Capt. Thompson, and a detachment of Lieut. Col. Munday’s First Battalion Kentucky Cavalry. We arrived at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains, on the north side, on the 13th instant, at 6 o’clock p. m. I then learned that two companies of the First Tennessee Regt. rebel cavalry were encamped at Big Creek Gap. Finding the road completely blockaded, I detached the cavalry, and sent them around by another road, with orders to meet the main body of the command at a certain point on the opposite side of the mountain. Procuring the services of a guide, I divided my command, placing one portion under charge of Lieut.-Col. Keigwin. We took up the line of march at 9 o’clock p. m., intending to meet at a point on the opposite side of the mountain about daybreak. The distance we had to march was about 9 miles, yet so difficult was the ascent of the mountain that it was only by the superhuman exertions, as it were, of the men that the march was made. The men, however, bore it patiently, and moved on “eager for the fray.”

Having to pass through narrow ways in single file, and the night being very dark, a portion of the infantry got lost, and did not arrive in time to take part in the skirmish. About 1,300 of the infantry came upon the camps of the rebels, under command of Lieut. Col. John F. White, at about 6 o’clock a.m. of the 14th instant, and after a sharp skirmish of about five minutes the rebels were completely routed. The rebel loss was 5 men killed, 15 wounded, and 15 taken prisoners, among whom were Lieut.-Col. White and Lieut. Hoyl. We captured 86 horses (27 killed), 7 mules, and several wagons, a large amount of camp and garrison equipage, a quantity of powder, and a large amount of quartermaster and commissary stores-a sufficient amount of the latter to supply the command during their stay. It being impossible to bring off the quartermaster stores I caused them to be burned and the powder destroyed. Owing to the darkness of the night and the impassability of the roads the cavalry did not arrive till after the skirmish. Had the troops been able to get up in time I am satisfied that we could have succeeded in capturing the whole force. On the arrival of the cavalry we marched to Jacksborough, distance 5 miles, and there overtook the rear guard of the cavalry; killed 1 man and captured Capt. Edward Winston, of the Corps of Sappers and Miners. We hoisted the Stars and Stripes over the town, and on the 15th instant marched to Fincastle, and from thence to Woodson’s Gap, where we encamped a few days.

Learning that there was a manufactory of saltpeter in the neighborhood, I sent a detachment of cavalry with orders to destroy the same. They destroyed about 1,000 pounds of saltpeter, broke up the kettles, burned up the shed, and destroyed about 11,000 pounds of bacon and 20 sacks of flour. Our loss was 1 wounded-Lieut. Myers, Company H, Second East Tennessee Volunteers. His wound, however, is not dangerous.

Officers and men behaved admirably, and proved that they are ready and willing at all times to meet the rebels. The people through the section of country over which we passed are truly loyal in their sentiments and hailed the advent of our troops with unbounded enthusiasm. Everything they had was freely tendered to us. We found forage and provisions abundant on the route after we left Boston. The position we had at Woodson’s Gap was a very strong one, and could have been held against a large force, and had we been permitted to remain we would no doubt have had an opportunity of meeting the forces at Cumberland Gap which had been sent out to attack us, but on the 19th instant I received an order from you to report at headquarters with my command at the earliest possible moment. I accordingly took up the line of march for this place on the 20th instant, and arrived here on the 23rd instant without the loss of a single man.
Your obedient servant,
JAS. P. T. Carter,
Colonel, Second East Tennessee Volunteers. 
Later Acting Brigadier-General, Comdg., Twelfth Brigade.

Big Creek Gap, Northeast Tennessee

Report of Big Creek Gap: Gen. E. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army,
Knoxville, March 15, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that the enemy, having passed the Cumberland Mountains, yesterday surprised and captured, without the fire of a gun, I believe, the larger number of two companies of the First East Tennessee Cavalry near Jacksborough. Their force consisted of a regiment of infantry.

Couriers who arrived last night bring the intelligence that they are moving in this direction. I have ordered forward to Clinton two Alabama regiments, the Third Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, a battalion of North Carolina Volunteers, a section (two pieces) Third Maryland Artillery, and a portion First East Tennessee Cavalry (an aggregate of 2,000 men), the whole under the command of Colonel D. Leadbetter, who had received such instructions from me as I thought necessary for the exigency.

From what I have learned of the character of the troops from East Tennessee in our service, of their strong Union proclivities, greatly increased by their near relationship to and from intimate association with many citizens who have fled the country and espoused the Federal cause, I am satisfied the capture near Jacksborough was the result of treachery. Pickets detailed from them cannot be relied on, and even officers are not free from suspicion of more fidelity to the Federal than to out service. It is not an individual opinion that some of the regiments from this section are disloyal, but it is the conviction of many of our friends, who know the public sentiment prevailing in those counties in which they were raised and the strong personal ties which would influence them to become so. There is a want among them of that confidence in the loyalty of each other which would make them faithful in the discharge of their duty to their fellow soldiers and to the country, and this is aggravated, too, by the opinion, which exists to some extent, that East Tennessee cannot be defended by the force we have in the field, and must be abandoned upon the advance of the Federal Army.

I cannot, therefore, too strongly urge upon the Department the propriety, if not the necessity, of removing these troops to some other point, where they cannot prove traitors, either by purchase or from love to the Federal Government, and where, if they do not make efficient soldiers, they cannot be tampered with by the enemy. If this be done, and their numerical strength be supplied by troops from other States, I am persuaded it would in every respect be to the advantage of the service.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General, Commanding.

USA Col. James P. T. Carter claims victory for his brave soldiers and the pro-Union sentiment in the surrounding area.

CSA Gen. E. Kirby Smith the Union victory is the result of treachery.

Conflict in Campbell County: War in the Mountains
The Civil War in Campbell County was often personal. Few residents owned slaves, and a large majority – 1,094 to 60 – voted against secession in June 1861. Local men formed what became Co. A and Co. B, 1st Tennessee Infantry (US), at the courthouse in Jacksboro on August 1-2, 1861. Despite the strong Unionist sentiment, Confederate forces occupied the rugged mountain region later that year to secure several strategic gaps and to block any large Federal advance from Kentucky.

Confederate control did not last long. In March 1862, Union forces won an engagement at Jacksboro, raised the United States flag at the courthouse, and then marched north to destroy a saltpeter operation near here. The Federals noted that “the people…are truly loyal in their sentiments and hailed the advent of our troops with unbounded enthusiasm.” The expedition destroyed 1,000 pounds of saltpeter (essential to the manufacture of gunpowder), numerous kettles, 11,000 pounds of bacon, 20 sacks of flour, and a shed.

Travel through the mountains was challenging and dangerous. One night in April 1863, William Sloan carried dispatches from Kentucky to Confederates near Jacksboro. He confided to his diary, “the darkness was at times so pitchy that it gave me the sensation of passing through a tunnel, or dark underground passage; but of course there was some light else my horse could not have found his way, but such light was not discernible to my senses. Altogether it was the most dismal ride I ever took in my life, to say nothing of being uncomfortable.”
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. 
Marker is near Jellico, Tennessee, in Campbell County on Indian Mountain State Park Circle in Indian Mountain State Park.

15 MARCH 1862
The Federals raise the United States flag over Jacksborough and march to Fincastle, and from there to Woodson’s Gap, where they camp for a few days. Col. Carter soon receives an order to report to headquarters with his command as early as possible.

For a short period of time the entire area of Big Creek Gap and Jacksborough are involved in the Civil War.

“BIG CREEK GAP AND JACKSBOROUGH, TENN.,” War of the Rebellion, Serial 010, Page 0019-0021, Chapter XXII, The Ohio University, accessed 9 November 2021,

“Operations in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Mississippi, North Alabama, and Southwest Virginia. March 4-June 10, 1862,” Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Chapter XXII, accessed 7 November 2021,

Dallas Bogan, “Union, Confederate Forces Faced Off Skirmishes At Big Creek Gap, Jacksborough,” History of Campbell County, accessed 8 April 2021,

Battle of Blue Springs

Burnside’s East Tennessee Campaign
Since his arrival in Knoxville on 3 September 1863,USA Gen. Ambrose BURNSIDE has been creating a plan to run the Confederates out of Northeast Tennessee. He sends Gen. Samuel Perry CARTER[brother of bridge burner W.B. Carter] and his cavalry to clear the roads and byways from Virginia. Not content to sit and wait for developments, Burnside personally leads a cavalry division and troops from Gen. Edward FERRERO’s infantry division to assist Carter.

Battles of Blue Springs
Fighting on the Same Ground Twice
On the morning of October 10, 1863, Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s campaign suddenly arrived at Blue Springs (present-day Mosheim) when Union cavalry attacked Confederate Gen. John S. Williams’s troops. By noon, the Confederate lines were stretched to the breaking point. At 5 P.M., Union infantrymen broke through the forward line of rifle pits, but heavy cannon and musket fire from the main Confederate positions drove them back. Three more assaults on the main Confederate line failed when Confederate Infantry and artillery fire shot them to pieces. After dark, the Confederates withdrew. The Federals pursued them in the morning, and later that day they met again in Rheatown. The tired Confederates escaped toward Jonesborough.
Union Gen. Alvan C. Gillem’s cavalry force marching from Bulls Gap met a small Confederate force on the same battlefield on August 23, 1864. The Federals engaged Confederate Col. Henry L. Giltner’s 4th Kentucky Cavalry pickets and drove them back two miles toward the ridge south of Greeneville Road, where they encountered more Confederate troops. Giltner’s men repulsed repeated Union attacks. Then William Brown, a local boy, pointed out a “by road” to Union Col. John K. Miller who used it to reposition his 13th Tennessee Cavalry. His next attack turned the Confederate left flank. A frontal assault then broke the Confederate line and resulted in “a running fight, which was closed by night two miles beyond Greeneville, the enemy halting and endeavoring several times to reform.” Gillem reported Union control of Greene County was again assured, for the time being.
Lloyd’s Official Map of the State of Tennessee, 1863 Courtesy Library of Congress
Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside Courtesy Library of Congress
Gen. Alvan C. Gillem Courtesy Library of Congress
Gen John S. Williams Courtesy Library of Congress
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
W. Marker is in Mosheim, Tennessee, in Greene County.
At or near 6766 West Andrew Johnson Highway, Mosheim TN 37818.

3 OCTOBER 1863
CSA Gen. John WILLIAMS and his cavalry set out to disrupt Union communications, hoping to take t he town of Bull’s Gap on the East Tennessee & Virginia [ET&VA] Railroad. On 3 October, Williams encounters USA Gen. Samuel P. Carter’s Union Cavalry at Blue Springs, Greene County, Northeast Tennesseeabout nine miles from Bull’s Gap. Gen. Carter, unsure of the size of Williams’ force, withdraws.

4 OCTOBER 1863 Burnside’s troops at Knoxville travel by cars on the ET&VA Railroad to Bulls Gap, 56 miles away. It will take a few days to move that many men.

10 OCTOBER 1863: Battle of Blue Springs
10 o’clock a.m.
Burnside’s Union force—the 9th Army Corps with part of the XXIII Army Corps—meet the enemy at BLUE SPRINGS. They launch an attack at the Confederate center at 10 a.m., while cavalry under Col. John W. FOSTER [of Blountville fame] sweeps around Williams’ right flank. Capt. Orlando POE, the Chief Engineer, performs a reconnaissance to find the best place for an infantry attack.

5 o’clock p.m.
Burnside sends in Ferrero and his infantry at 5:00 p.m., breaking into the Confederate line, causing heavy casualties. The Federals order a charge and completely rout the Rebels.

The Confederates withdraw after dark.

The Federals take up the pursuit in the morning.

10 OCTOBER 1863: New York Times article
A Brilliant Action at Bull’s Gap
Knoxville, Tenn., Oct. 10, 1863
Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck. General-in-Chief, Washington:
On the 8th [of October] inst. The enemy held down as far as Blue Springs, and a cavalry brigade of ours held Bull’s Gap, supported by a small body of infantry at Morristown. I, accordingly, dispatched a brigade of cavalry around by Rogersville to intercept the enemy’s retreat, and with a considerable body of infantry and artillery moved to Bull’s Gap. On Saturday, the 10th inst., I advanced a cavalry brigade to Blue Springs, where they found the enemy strongly posted and offering a stubborn resistance. Skirmishing continued until about 5 o’clock, … when I sent in a division of infantry, who charged and cleared the woods, gallantly driving the enemy in confusion until dark.

During the night the enemy retreated precipitately, leaving their dead on the field and most of their wounded in our hands. We pursued in the morning with infantry and cavalry. The intercepting force met them at Henderson’s but owing to some misunderstanding, withdrew and allowed them to pass with only a slight check. The pursuit was continued until evening, when I withdrew most of my infantry and returned to this place. Gen. [James] Shackelford with his cavalry and a brigade of infantry continued the pursuit, the enemy making a stand at every important position; but he had driven them completely from the State, captured the fort at Zollicoffer, and burned the long railroad bridge at that place and five other bridges, and destroyed the locomotives and about thirty-five cars. His advance is now ten miles beyond Bristol.
Our loss at Blue Springs and in the pursuit was about 100 killed and wounded.
The enemy’s loss was considerably greater.
About 100 prisoners were taken.
A. E. Burnside, Major-General  
Published October 17, 1863


10 OCTOBER 1863: Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s description of the Battle of Blue Springs
I left Knoxville on the morning of the 9th [of October] and overtook our forces on the same day at Bull’s Gap. On the following morning the advance was ordered and at Blue Springs, midway between Bull’s Gap and Greeneville, the enemy were found, posted in heavy force and a strong position, between the wagon road and railroad to Greeneville. Our cavalry occupied him with skirmishing until late in the afternoon.

Colonel Foster’s brigade was sent around to the rear of the enemy, with instructions to establish himself on the line over which he would be obliged to retreat, at a point near Rheatown. It was not desirable to press he enemy until Colonel Foster had time to reach this point. I directed Captain Poe (my chief engineer) to make a reconnaissance of the enemy’s position, with a view to making the attack at the proper time.

The ground was selected upon which the attacking force was to be formed, and at half past 3 o’clock, believing sufficient time had been given to Colonel Foster to reach the desired point, I ordered General Potter to move up his command and endeavor to break through the center of the enemy’s line. By 5 p.m. he had formed General Ferrero’s division for the attack.

When the order to advance was given, this division moved forward in the most dashing manner, driving the enemy from his first line.
During the night he retreated and we pursued early in the morning, driving him again beyond the Watauga River, beyond which point our cavalry was directed to hold him. Col. Foster’s brigade, which had been sent to cut off his retreat, met with serious difficulties in way of rough roads, so that he did not reach the point on the enemy’s line of retreat in time to make the necessary preparations to check him until our pursuing forces came up. …
Late Major-General.

10 OCTOBER 1863: Action at Blue Springs
On the morning of the 10th, an advance was made toward Greeneville. The enemy was encountered, posted on the high ground east of Blue Springs, and between the Greeneville road and the ET&VA Railroad, and offered a stubborn resistance to our cavalry, holding them in check for some hours. …

The attack was gallantly made and was eminently successful, the enemy being driven entirely from his position in advance to that occupied by his reserves. It was now quite dark, and everything was prepared to dislodge him from the latter early in the morning, by which time Col. [John W.] Foster was expected to be in the main road east of Greeneville and directly in the enemy’s rear, a position he did reach before daybreak.

The enemy, having had information of this movement, retreated long before daylight from our front, and attacking Foster, succeeded in pushing him from their line of retreat and in making good their escape.
ORLANDO M. POE, Capt., U. S. Engrs.
Chief Engineer, Army of the Ohio.

Map of the Blue Springs battlefield, New York Herald newspaper, 27 October 1863


10 OCTOBER 1863: The fight at Blue Springs
GREENEVILLE, 10 October 1863.
Gen. SAM. JONES, Jonesborough:
We have had a very hard fight to-day, beginning at 10 a. m., and ceasing at dark. The line of skirmishers was 2 miles long, which so extended my lines that the enemy at 5 o’clock, with 2,000 infantry, broke my center and attacked the batteries. They were repulsed with great slaughter. I have no complete returns, but hope my loss will not exceed 100—several valuable officers. The enemy charged along the entire line from right to left, and only succeeded in center by the use of grape and canister. We hold our position. The enemy rests on his. The force is greater than I telegraphed on 8th.
Jno. S. WILLIAMS, Brig.-Gen.
[Jno. was a popular way of spelling ‘John.’ Who knows why?]

J. S. WILLIAMS, Greeneville:
I congratulate you on to-day’s fight. Have you any doubt of your ability to hold your position? Was the fight at Greeneville, or beyond that point? Has Col. Witcher joined you with his command?
SAM. JONES, Maj.-Gen.

10 OCTOBER 1863: Battle of Blue Springs
Excerpt from the diary of Edward O. Guerrant.
The anticipated advance of the Enemy upon our position was made this morning about 10 O’C[lock]. From 10 A. M. until 5 P. M. the battle continued without any material advantage to either party, our object being only to hold our position against superior numbers & operate a diversion for Genl. [Robert] RANSOM, or rather now to save ourselves, now 75 miles from any base or support.

About 11 A. M. [John] Witcher (immortal Witcher) with his 34th Batt’n. (125 in no.) which came up on us this morning with their old, torn battle flag, fresh from the fields of Maryland & Pennsylvania, made a charge & drove the Enemy. Col. Carter commanded the right wing (1st. Tenn, 16th Ga. Peters Regt & Witcher’s Batt’n  about 800 in number) & Col. H. L. GILTNER commanded our left wing (4th Ky. 10th. Ky. & Mays Regt-about 900 in no) along the ridge we had two howitzers in one battery, two parrot guns in another and Schoolfield’s four little guns in another. During the day the artillery fought several duels. Sometimes shelled the woods. Shells from the Enemy’s guns struck in front of our battery & ricocheted immediately over it. Other struck the trees by it. (I allude to Loyd’s guns where the General & staff took position.) I have a Minnie ball that struck in [front] of me-another passed between Capt. Jenkins (who heard our cannon at Rheatown 18 miles [away] & camp up about 4 P. M. ) & me.

About 5 P. M. furious assault by 1000 or 1500 infantry, with artillery throwing canister was made upon Mays Regt. commanded by Lt. Col. Ed. TRIMBLE which consisted of not more than 150 or 200 men. After a most gallant resistance, in which fell several of our brave Kentucky boys, this gallant handful of men were compelled to give way, but only to fall back by the flank upon Col. Giltner Regt. about 200 yards. Mays Regt constituted our centre – being on Col. Giltner’s right. They were driven from the heavily timbered woods where we had out Head Quarters a few days ago. Thus the Enemy had broken our line & separated Col. Carter & Col. Giltner. But both wings held their position, their rear being protected by a farm of open fields commanded by our artillery. But the enemy emboldened by his success in driving back a handful of men had the temerity to attempt a flank movement upon Col. Carter by advancing through these open fields. The column consisted of some 1000 or 1500 Infantry (some of the Michiganders) and advanced from the woods in splendid style into the open fields and were opened upon by our artillery which sent them heeling it back in style neither so imposing nor splendid. They heeled it to the cover of the woods, & did not attempt another such movement. The fight continued from this until night without any other marked change in our position, the Enemy holding the timber in our centre but unable to use it to advantage. During the day they attempted a flank movement upon both of our flanks, but were checkmated.

Thus ended the Battle of Blue Springs fought on Saturday 10th. Oct. 1863 in Greene County, 2 1/2 miles from Blue Springs & 7 1/2 miles from Greenville. Federal forces, estimated at 5000 commanded by Maj. Genl. Burnside. Confederate forces 1700, commanded by Brig. Genl. Jno. S. Williams.
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant, a Confederate staff officer.


11 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Henderson’s Mill
Report of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, U. S. Army, commanding Department of the Ohio.
KNOXVILLE, TENN., October 17, 1863-10 p. m.
On Saturday, the 10th, advanced a cavalry brigade to Blue Springs, where they found the enemy strongly posted and offering a stubborn resistance. Skirmishing continued till the arrival of the infantry, about 5 p. m., when I sent in a division of infantry, who charged and cleared the woods gallantly, and drove the enemy in confusion till dark. During the night the enemy retreated precipitately, leaving their dead on the field and most of their wounded in our hands. We pursued in the morning with infantry with infantry and cavalry. The intercepting force met them at Henderson’s [Mill] but, owing to some misunderstanding, withdrew and allowed them to pass with only a slight check. The pursuit was continued until evening …
A. E. BURNSIDE, Maj.-Gen.


11 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Henderson’s Mill
A Confederate staff officer’s account of the skirmish at Henderson’s Mill
When several miles beyond Greenville on the road to Jonesboro’ Gen. Alfred E. JACKSON’s advance (Genl. Jackson Brigade of 500) constituted our advance Guard, was fired upon just at daylight. It was within two miles of Henderson’s mill-where we were going to Camp, and I was going to the front by order of Genl. Williams to halt the column there. The beautiful morning star, harbinger of coming day, was shining like a diadem on the brow of night – & we were peacefully, tho’ regretfully pursuing our way – when all at once a volley of musketry into the head of the column woke up to the feast of death.

One of Genl. Jackson’s Staff was captured & perhaps a few of his men killed. It was too dark to see more than 100 yards in the heavy timber in which the Enemy were concealed. I had just reached Genl. Jackson who was again advancing his column of infantry to drive them from the woods – supposing they were East Tennessee Bushwhackers  – when a furious volley was again poured into us from behind the trees not 75 yards in front. To prevent being shot from my horse, as Yankees generally shoot too high, I dismounted in an instant, but soon found myself left alone in the road under a heavy fire, all the others having sought the generous protection of the neighboring trees. My horse was wild with excitement – so that I could not mount him until Rufus Todd held him for me.

As soon as our men got shelter, they opened briskly upon the Enemy, & soon our artillery came up & shelled the woods. It was not yet good light. Genl. Williams immediately coming up ordered Jackson forward with Thomas’ Legion (Infantry) and Carter to charge with his brigade of Cavalry. The boys went in with a shout charging gallantly, driving the Yankees from one position to another. The General was in the front cheering the men onward – as he appreciated the critical position in which we were placed.

The Enemy confidently expecting us to remain at Blue Springs, had thrown a heavy cavalry force under Col [James E.] Carter (4 reg’ts of 2500 men – the same who went to Bristol and burnt Blountville,) in our rear to hold us in check until the forces on the other side could come up; therefore we must fight out or be captured: “horse, foot & dragoon,” artillery & transportation, & all.

Our men I say went in gallantly drove the Enemy back, & only once gave up any ground & then a batt’n of Mounted men were driven from the woods, but were soon rallied – (the Genl. assisting) & returned to the fight. The Enemy used their artillery at first, but when we once got them started, they never got time to unlimber again. The fight lasted until about 71/2 [7:30] A.M. & ended by the flight of the Enemy before the impetuous charges of our boys, who never stopped but kept on, never giving the Yankees time to rally & form.

We drove them some three miles when they left the main road at double quick taking a road to the left towards Kingsport, leaving our way open to pursue our falling back. So we were delivered from a Yankee trap.

Thank God for the gallantry of our troops! The losses we sustained I cannot determine. … Our boys were very much elated with their success, & the way the Yankees “skedaddled.”
Thus ended the battle of Henderson’s Mill – fought between Greenville & Rheatown, Tenn. On the morning of Sunday the 11th.
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant.


11 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Rheatown
Report of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside,
U. S. Army, commanding Department of the Ohio.
KNOXVILLE, TENN., October 17, 1863 10 p. m. On the following morning the advance was ordered and at Blue Springs, midway between Bull’s Gap and Greeneville the enemy were found, posted in heavy force and a strong position, between the wagon road and railroad to Greeneville. Our cavalry occupied him with skirmishing until late in the afternoon. Col. [John W.] Foster’s brigade was sent around to the rear of the enemy, with instructions to establish himself on the line over which he would be obliged to retreat, at a point near Rheatown. It was not desirable to press the enemy until Col. Foster had time to reach this point. I directed Capt. Poe (my chief engineer) to make a reconnaissance of the enemy’s position, with a view to making the attack at the proper time. The ground was selected upon which the attacking force was to be formed, and at half past 3 o’clock, believing sufficient time had been given to Col. Foster to reach the desired point, I ordered Gen. Potter to move up his command and endeavor to break through the center of the enemy’s line. By 5 p. m. he had formed Gen. Ferrero’s division for the attack. When the order to advance was given, this division moved forward in the most dashing manner, driving the enemy from his first line.
A. E. BURNSIDE, Maj.-Gen.

The town of Rheatown, Tennessee


11 OCTOBER 1863: Battle of Rheatown
Excerpt from the Report of Brigadier-General John S. Williams.
C. S. Army, commanding Cavalry Brigade.
Relating to the skirmish at Rheatown. We moved on to Rheatown, where, by some misunderstanding of orders, the artillery took the wrong road, and some time was consumed in getting it back. While waiting for its return the enemy again made his appearance, which, in the absence of our artillery, produced considerable confusion; but order was soon restored and the enemy checked. The artillery was brought back as soon as possible, and from a good position 2 miles east of Rheatown we again gave the enemy battle, which lasted for more than 3 hours, when gradually fell back to Jonesborough. Agreeably to your instructions, I moved Gen. Jackson’s infantry along the line of the railroad and the cavalry toward Blountville.
Brigadier-General John S. Williams.

11 OCTOBER 1863: A Confederate staff officer’s account of the Skirmish at Rheatown.
Col. Giltner had gone into Camp-Gen’l Jackson had diverged from the main column & was a mile off on the R. R. Col. Carter’s Brig – were sitting on their horses in the road above town. The Enemy had made another flank movement & came upon our left, and had placed their artillery in a gap of the ridge just opposite R-town, & commenced shelling our column. Witcher who was in the rear was cut off & came around South of the town & rejoined his Command.

Our artillery was by a misunderstanding all ordered down to the Rail Road with Genl. Jackson & accidentally escaped capture by the Enemy – and before it could be brought up the Enemy had advanced their sharp shooters within rifle shot of our mounted men & opened upon the columns standing in the road. A portion of Col. Carter’s brigade considering rather their safety than their honor-broke to the rear &caused the terrible military phenomenon of a panic resulting in a stampede. They rushed madly forward, dashing through fences, & passed right through our Head Quarters camp, where I was lying down to get a little rest.

Have rode my gray horse until his back was very sore, I was bridling Capt. Jenkins SORRELL – but had only time to put the bridle on – & mounted him bareback & joined Col Carter & some of his officers in trying to rally his men—& after appealing to their sense of patriotism & pride, & their baser sense of fear of being shot for stampeding, about 300 were stopped, dismounted & sent back to a position to hold the Enemy in check until our other troops could get in position & our wagons move[d] out of the way. I gave my grey horse (Charley) to ‘boy’ Arthur to lead, but the stampeders so frightened him that he jerked away & rushed headlong with the crowd.

Col Giltner’s men were soon put in position on the left, & Jimmie SCHOOLFIELD’s Battery of four little William Guns served by 25 as gallant boys as ever lived;- but Col Carter’s men being compelled to give way on the right compelled the withdrawal of our line to another position more defensible where we could check the advance of the Enemy until our trains could move out of the way. A heavy force of the Enemy’s cavalry upon our left flank also rendered a change of position necessary.

Great numbers of the men straggled to the rear, afflicted with all the “ills that flesh is heir to”-and a great deal more than its honest inheritance. We could muster about 1600 men, one fourth of whom or 400 were horse holders, leaving 1200 for action, not more than 800 or 1000 of whom could at any time be brought into battle. We had assurances that we were fighting from 3000 to 5000 mounted men.

From our position near Rheatown, we withdrew about 11/2 or 2 miles to a commanding eminence called Pugh’s Hill – where we fought another engagement we will call by that name. The third time we have delivered battle today – and this is Sunday. Nobody knew it. It’s sweet & once peaceful features were so disfigured in blood, and its heavenly rest & quiet was broken with the roar of cannon & musketry. Alas! how changed!

It was a beautiful & pleasant day, as well I remember: though we had no time to make observations on the weather. Every soul. With all its energies was bent on blood & battle, & saving ourselves, our artillery & transpiration from the enemy. Our position at Pugh’s Hill was a good one, commanding all approached on the centre but liable to be flanked on the right: and this flanking way off fighting is peculiarly in favor with the Yankees. Our dismounted cavalry—withdrew from their former position to this new one in splendid style, and before the Enemy made their appearance, we had our dispositions made to meet them. Genl. Jackson was cut off from us & it was difficult & dangerous to communicate with him at all.

In this engagement the artillery was well handled upon both sides-one of their shells killing and wounding several of our artillerists & artillery horses; and our fire driving back in confusion both their cavalry & Infantry. After quite a severe engagement, in which bombshells & Minnie balls played quite a serious part, Col Giltner comdg. (the Genl. was sick ) ordered the men to fall back to their horses, which were held in the rear of the position.

The enemy pressed so closely on the rear that the “double quick” movement became the popular one, which very soon ended in a disgraceful stampede – one of the most fearful things I ever witnessed. Hundreds & hundreds of men & horses came rushing past, and no effort of officers could stay the impetuous tide. Officer & men of every corps & company, all mingled & crowded together came a headlong speed down the road, through the fields, over fences, across hills & everywhere. Horses riderless and riders horseless all came in the swelling, seething tornado of human flesh and human fear.

At one time I gave up all for lost – and with Capt. Stanton & Capt. Jenkins made arrangement to save ourselves from capture, if possible, or being ridden down by the tornado of stampeders. The Gen’l, all his officer of the line, & staff officers used every exertion in human power to stop the men, but in vain. The horse holders ran away & left our men to their fate who were on foot. Giltner’s fine regiment was in danger of being sacrificed.

The Enemy were pressing closely upon them in superior numbers & many of their horses had been run off by the stampeders. I suppose there were 500 men rushing headlong towards the rear perfectly panic stricken & demoralized. I am satisfied that if the Yankees had charged our brigade with 200 good cavalry they would have routed it, & almost destroyed it, & taken artillery & all. But fortunately they did not have the pluck or the sagacity to take advantage of our disorganized state, & so by luck we were saved. They did endeavor a charge upon our dismounted men as they were falling back to their horses, but a volley sent them charging back.

Col Giltner’s reg’t being on the extreme right, & furthest away from the horses, experienced the greatest difficulty in getting out, & indeed three of his Captains and 40 or 50 of his men did not succeed in getting to their horses at all, but were cut off from the Enemy, & those not captured were dispersed in the woods. The Col. ordered his horse holder to stand by their charge until his men came up, or the Yankees captured them. He would not leave his men on foot to be rode down or captured by the enemy.

Jim Schoolfield’s battery unlimbered on the roadside & sent a broadside into the Yankee column which checked their advance, & saved many a brave, footsore fellow from capture. The battery & its gallant boys deserve immortal honor. At intervals of every half mile guards were placed to stop all men going to the front, & with drawn pistols threatened to shoot any man who dared to pass. By this means the pace of the fugitives was reduced to a moderate travelling gate, from the ‘240’ style at which they had started, & in this way we pursued our march on through Leesburg to Jonesboro. I came forward to Leesburg to find my horse, that had gotten away, and overtook Arthur leading him just at Leesburg. Since yesterday our men & horses have gone without food or rest night & day & fought four times.

Our losses in this last fight a Pugh’s hill were more serious than at any time today. Giltner alone lost about 50 killed, wounded & missing out of his reg’t – most of whom it is hoped will come up. Three of his captains … were lost. The loss of the Enemy must have been severe, as our men fired deliberately, & sometimes at 50 paces. We learned from a prisoner that they lost 60 this morning at Henderson’s mill. They must have lost more [of] both at Rheatown & Pugh’s Hill. So, without food or rest, we marched 35 miles and fought four times since yesterday morning. I never was so exhausted …
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant

Blue Springs Church and Cemetery
The amputated limbs of the wounded and some of the dead from the Battle of Blue Springs of 10 October 1863 are said to be buried in a mass grave in this cemetery.

14 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Blountville
Confederate forces evacuate Zollicoffer [Bluff City]
The enemy advanced & endeavored to force our position at Blountville, but did not succeed, & turned our right flank, (as usual.)
The movements of the enemy forced Gen’l. Williams to concentrate his forces at Zollicoffer & fall back to Abingdon [VA]. It was supposed the Enemy would gain Bristol before us, The cars at Zollicoffer were loaded with store[s], sick, & wounded, & hastened past Bristol, to prevent capture. The Gen’l & all the troops evacuated Zollicoffer about 10 P. M.
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant, October 14, 1863.

Within days, Williams and his men have retired to Virginia.

Burnside’s troops return by cars to Knoxville on 15 October 1863.

“Battle of Rheatown, Sometimes called the Rheatown Races,” 1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, Carter’s Company B, accessed 23 October 2021,

“Battle of Rheatown,” War of the Rebellion, Serial 051, Chapter XLII, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021,

“Blue Springs,” Battles of the Civil War, War of the Rebellion, The Ohio University, August 11-October 19, 1863, accessed 13 October 2021,

“Blue Springs (October 10, 1863), “ East Tennessee Campaign (September-October 1863), Legends of America, accessed 13 October 2021,

A Confederate staff officer’s account of the Skirmish at Rheatown:

“East Tennessee Campaign,” Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook, Tennessee State Library and Archives, accessed 10 February 2021,

“East Tennessee Campaign,” War of the Rebellion, Serial 051, Chapter XLII,  The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021,

Battle of Blountville: Not just a four-hour romp

In August 1863, USA Gen. Ambrose Burnside organizes his 15,000 troops in Kentucky and marches into Northeast Tennessee. On 3 September 1863, with most of the Confederate troops absent defending Chattanooga, Burnside easily occupies Knoxville, and is received by cheers from the city’s Unionist civilians. Confederate forces have successfully controlled Northeast Tennessee since 26 July 1861.

Major General Ambrose Burnside USA

Protecting the Railroad
The railroad running through Northeast Tennessee—the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad—is the chief means of communication, travel, and shipment of supplies. The bridges, telegraph lines, and tracks of the ET&VA have been in possession of the Confederate forces since July 1861—except for a short period in November 1861 when gangs of Unionists burned two of the railroad bridges on the ET&VA.

Col. John W. Foster USA

Soon after his arrival in Northeast Tennessee in September 1863, Gen. Burnside maps out an aggressive campaign to gain control of the ET&VA railroad. Hoping to also rid the area of Rebels, Burnside sends Union troops to push through to the Virginia border, running off the Southern military along the way. This is the initial step in the Union attempt to force CSA Gen. Samuel Jones and his command to leave Northeast Tennessee.

In mid-September, USA Col. John W. Foster marches his force toward the town of Zollicoffer (now Bluff City) in Northeast Tennessee to engage the troops stationed there under CSA Col. James E. Carter. These troops skirmish for several days along [ET&VA] Railroad between Carter’s Depot [now the town of Watauga] and Zollicoffer [present-day Bluff City]—vying for control of the railroad.

September 20, 1863
Confederate Repulse of Union demonstration in force near Zollicoffer
[now Bluff City]
ZOLLICOFFER, September 20.
The enemy made a demonstration in force on us here to-day, and were repulsed. My cavalry followed them to Blountville, 6 miles from here. Their force engaged to-day are believed to have been not less than 2,000, all mounted, and six pieces of artillery. Five other regiments are reported between Jonesborough and Watauga Bridge, but they had not engaged my force at the latter place late this afternoon.
NOTE Zollicoffer is a station on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, 11 miles from Bristol. Jonesborough is 32 miles from Bristol. The distance from Bristol to Knoxville is 130 miles.

21 September 1863
On 21 September 1863 near Shipley’s Ferry crossing on the Watauga River, Union forces receive reinforcements and turn north toward the town of Blountville in Sullivan County.

Unlike most counties in Northeast Tennessee, in June 1861 Sullivan County vote strongly for separation from the Union—1,586 voting for and 627 against. Many call it ‘The Little Confederacy.’ With most of its residents in and around the county seat, Blountville benefits from a major transportation route and a small but educated group of merchants and professionals.

22 September 1863: Battle of Blountville
On the morning of 22 September CSA Col. James E. Carter and his 1st Tennessee Cavalry withdraw from their position on the Watauga River and occupy Blountville.

Battle of Blountville: Confederate Position
[The marker stands] in the former schoolyard of the Masonic Female Institute, where Confederate troops stood as they defended Blountville on September 22, 1863. Col. James E. Carter’s 1st Tennessee Cavalry withdrew that morning of 1863 from the Watauga River to positions … that had already been prepared to block the Union Col. John W. Foster’s cavalry brigade after it crossed the river. Foster took up a position on Cemetery Hill on the western end of town early in the afternoon, and a destructive artillery duel ensued. After four hours of fighting and shelling, the Confederates withdrew to Carter’s Depot on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad a few miles east of here as Federals charged through the town near dusk.
Carter lost a cannon and about fifty men captured in battle. The next day, he evacuated the depot, leaving it in Foster’s hands.
White Side Lodge No. 13 constructed the Masonic Female Institute in 1855 “to promote female education.” Jefferson Academy, the boys’ school, which stood near Cemetery Hill, contributed funds for the construction of the girls’ school. The academy was closed about 1900, and the girls’ school then became the Masonic Institute for both girls and boys until 1919.
Blountville, looking east from near the Union position, with the Masonic Female Institute at upper right, ca. 1900 – Courtesy Sullivan Co. Archives
Masonic Female Institute, 1907 – Courtesy Hunt Library
Marker is on Franklin Drive, 0.1 miles east of Tennessee Route 394, Blountville TN 37617.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

USA Col. John W. Foster and his 2500 men occupy the south bank of the Watauga River; he leads his cavalry brigade across the river at 9 a.m. After a short fight he drives the outnumbered Rebel pickets in on the main Confederate body and sets up his artillery on Cemetery Hill on the west side of town.

Engagement at and burning of Blountville [artillery duel]
BLOUNTSVILLE, TENN., September 22, 1863.
GEN.: We met the enemy at Hall’s Ford, on the Watauga, this morning at 9 o’clock, where our passage over both rivers was disputed by a heavy picket force of cavalry. After considerable skirmishing, the enemy was driven back and near to town, where we found the enemy posted in a chosen position with four pieces of artillery.
It was with difficulty that we could dislodge them after four hours’ fighting. I at last effected it by a charge of the Sixty-fifth Indiana Mounted Infantry, Fifth Indiana Cavalry, and Eighth Tennessee Cavalry, which was made just before dark. Our loss is not heavy, about 6 killed and 14 wounded, mostly of the Sixty-fifth Indiana Volunteers. We captured about 50 prisoners and 1 piece of artillery.
The shells of the enemy set fire to the town, and a great portion of it was consumed. Lieut. Miller, of my staff, will communicate all further desired information of my position and the enemy’s movements, and what is deemed necessary by me.
Very respectfully,

Battle of Blountville: Federal Guns on Cemetery Hill
This is where Union forces stood as they attacked Blountville on September 22, 1863, during a campaign to control the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. On the day of the attack, the Confederates occupied Blountville while the Federal forces held the south bank of the Watauga River.
Union Colonel John W. Foster led his cavalry brigade across the river at 9 A.M., drove off pickets from Confederate Col. James E. Carter’s 1st Tennessee Cavalry, and then occupied Cemetery Hill. Foster shelled Carter’s positions in Blountville … then ordered a charge about sundown that pushed Carter’s regiment from the town.
Foster reported that he suffered six killed and fourteen wounded. The next day, he occupied Carter’s Depot as the Confederates withdrew.
The cemetery here was created before 1824 on land that later belonged to the adjacent Blountville Presbyterian Church. Although churches typically had their own burying grounds, the local Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist churches, which stood near here, all shared this cemetery.
Blountville from Cemetery Hill — Copyright Anita B. Long (2002)
Blountville Presbyterian Church, which burned during the war. It was rebuilt later (shown with a red roof in the painting). Photograph ca. 1900 Courtesy Sullivan Co. Archives
The marker is located in Blountville Cemetery, Blountville TN 37617V
[lower right]
Battle of Blountville Heritage Trial.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

Col. Foster attacks at noon, continuously shelling the town. The two sides fight an artillery duel for four hours. Col. James E. Carter and his men stand defiantly in Foster’s way.

Battle of Blountville: “…the best portion of the town was destroyed”
This is the Sullivan County Courthouse. Its interior was burned during the Union attack on Blountville on September 22, 1863, as Confederate and Federal forces vied for control of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, located a few miles east of here. Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside needed the railroad for a supply line to Knoxville; the Confederates wanted it for a supply line to Virginia. After several days of skirmishing at Blountville and along the railroad at Carter’s Depot and Zollicoffer, the Confederates occupied Blountville while Federal forces held the south bank of the Watauga River.
Union Col. John W. Foster led his cavalry brigade across the river at 9 A.M. on September 22. Confederate Col. James E. Carter’s 1st Tennessee Cavalry defended Blountville. For four hours in the afternoon, as Foster occupied Cemetery Hill, the two sides fought an artillery duel until Foster ordered a charge that drove Carter’s men out of town.
During the fight, exploding shells set fire to the courthouse and other buildings. Foster reported that “the shells of the enemy set fire to the town, and a great portion of it was consumed.” Mrs. Walter E. Allen, however, later wrote that “a shell from the Federal guns entered the courthouse, setting it on fire, and soon all the best portion of the town was destroyed.”
Sullivan County Courthouse, constructed 1854, ca. 1900 photo Courtesy Hunt Library
Sullivan County commissioners, ca. 1900 Courtesy Hunt Library
Marker is at or near this postal address: 3425 Tennessee 126, Blountville TN 37617.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

Sullivan County Court House 
The Court House in Blountville is gutted by a fire that breaks out during the shelling. [It is rebuilt in 1866.] Several other dwellings and buildings are destroyed during the Battle of Blountville. Most reports state that Union shells struck the courthouse, burning its interior contents completely and leaving only the brick exterior walls intact.

The Cannonball House: Narrowly Missed Destruction
[This marker stands] in front of the Miller-Haynes house, known as the Cannonball House because of structural damage it sustained from Union cannon fire during the Battle of Blountville on September 22, 1863. During the artillery exchanges, Confederate forces were largely behind and east of the house, while Col. John W. Foster’s Union forces were positioned west of here at Blountville Cemetery. Several cannonballs struck the house’s western side.
It was fortunate that artillery fire did not destroy the house completely. Kentucky Confederate Edward O. Guerrant wrote in his diary on September 25: “Twelve dwellings, the Court House, Jail & both hotels were burned by the enemy’s shells. About the half (& better half) of the little town was destroyed.” Foster, in contrast, reported on the day of the battle that “the shells of the enemy set fire to the town, and a great portion of it was consumed.”
In 1849, Elbert S. Miller had purchased the house and lot from J. Irwin’s heirs; Miller later sold the home to Matthew T. Haynes, who lived there during the Civil War with his wife Kate Snapp Haynes and other members of the Snapp family. Haynes held the Confederate office of state receiver and was responsible for acquiring the confiscated property of Union sympathizers. Haynes’s brother, Landon Carter Haynes, was one of the region’s most vocal Confederates and represented Tennessee at the Confederate Senate in Richmond.
These photographs show shell damage to exterior clapboard in the rear of the house, now protected by plexiglass, and to an interior door.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

The Cannonball House with its marker in the foreground.
During the Battle of Blountville, this house stood between the lines as fighting swirled around it, but it survived.

Mr. Wm James of Blountville came by with his family & plunder this evening – all in one little two horse wagon. His house was burned & he saved only his wife & children from the flames. Enough for happiness if he be strong and faithful. Twelve dwellings, the Court House, Jail & both hotels were burned by the enemy’s shells. About the half (& better half) of the little town was destroyed. Mr. James says we had about 1000 troops there & the Enemy 5000 (five to one,) but that the best of the fight was with us. It was principally an artillery duel. After fighting for several hours & until it was almost night, Col. Carter’s (comd’g) ammunition was exhausted & he withdrew in good order.
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant,
September 22, 1863

Old Deery Inn: Refuge from the Storm
In September 1863, Confederate Gen. Samuel Jones’s command and Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s forces contested control of the [Virginia and Tennessee] East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad a few miles east. On September 22, Union Col. John W. Foster’s brigade engaged the forces of Confederate Col. James E. Carter at Blountville.
When the firing began, the women and children gathered the sick and elderly and sought refuge in the cellars of the most solid buildings; the St. John residence and the Old Deery Inn.
“In the thick of the fight and more dangerously exposed than the soldiers of either side were the fleeing women,” historian Oliver Taylor wrote in 1909. “In the confusion of such a hasty departure distracted mothers became separated from their children; cavalrymen dashed across their path, while bullets and bombs whistled above them. They went through Brown’s meadow and finally found a safe retreat beyond the hills.” Exploding shells set much of the town on fire.
William Deery constructed this trading post and tavern, later known as the Old Derry Inn, early in the 1800s. As Deery prospered, he added to the building, including a three-story hewn stone structure in the rear. After his death about 1845, his widow lived here until the Cate family purchased it after the Civil War.
Although Deery’s children had left Sullivan County years before, they did not escape the war’s effects. Eldest daughter Martha married Col. William Churchwell, who died at Cumberland Gap in 1862. Seraphina, the youngest daughter, married Col. Randal McGavock, a colonel in the 10th Tennessee Infantry Regiment (CSA) who was killed at the Battle of Raymond.
Old Deery Inn, 1927 — Courtesy Hunt Library
The dining room in the stone section of the inn where town residents took refuge during the Battle of Blountville.
(lower right)
Battle of Blountville / Heritage Trail map.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

Present-day Old Deery Inn in Blountville, Tennessee
Many women and children who lived in the nearby fled to the historic Deery Inn for safety during the Battle of Blountville.


Major-General Burnside’s situation report to President Abraham Lincoln
CARTER’S STATION, TENN., September 23, 1863.
His Excellency A. LINCOLN, President United States:
Your dispatch of the 21st is received, and the order shall be obeyed at once. Every available man shall be concentrated at the point you direct, and with as little delay as possible. We hold this road effectually to this point, and have driven the enemy within a few miles of Virginia and probably into Virginia. I am now waiting for reports from the front so that I can definitely report to you the position of our advance.
One of our cavalry brigades had a sharp fight yesterday at Blountville, in which the enemy were beaten and dispersed. I will telegraph the particulars this evening or to-morrow. The main body of the troops are now moving in the direction your order indicates. The bridge at this place is burned, and I suppose the one over the Holston at Union Station [Zollicoffer] is also burned. That is the extreme point that I was ordered by Gen. Halleck to hold.
I leave for Knoxville very soon, and will try to telegraph you from there early tomorrow morning. Nearly 40 miles of the distance has to be made on horseback, owing to the burning of some small bridges between Greeneville and Jonesborough, which I hope to have repaired very soon. I shall leave force enough in this neighborhood to, in all probability, hold this section until the citizens can be armed. The entire country is Union up to the line of the Watauga River. Sevier County is entirely rebellious. …
Our cavalry, under Gen. [James M.] Shackelford, has been continually in contact with the enemy, driving them all the time. Col. Carter’s brigade has been moving along line of railroad, and Col. Foster has been on the flank. He whipped the enemy very handsomely, both at Blountville and Bristol. We have thus far captured but four pieces of artillery and but few prisoners. I hope direct telegraph communication will be opened with you to-morrow.
A. E. BURNSIDE, Maj.-Gen., Comdg.

The accounting
After delaying the Union advance for more than four hours, Col. Carter and his Confederates withdraw to Carter’s Depot on the ET&VA Railroad, a few miles away. Col. Foster loses 27 Union soldiers during the battle. Carter suffers 165 casualties, fifty of his men are taken prisoner, and he loses one artillery piece. The next day, he evacuates the depot, leaving it in Foster’s hands. Though it is considered a minor battle in the overall history of the American Civil War, the battle left a permanent mark on the town and its people.

24 September 1863
Union troops drag out the occupation of Blountville for two days. On 24 September 1863, Union forces move on toward Zollicoffer and the reinforced Confederates who await them. The Confederates attack the advancing Union troops from Hamilton Hill. After several hours of fighting, the Yankees are driven back to Blountville. After a few hours, they head out through Carter’s Depot on their way back to Knoxville.

“Battle of Blountville,” Civil War Reenactment and Military Park, 158th Anniversary of the Battle of Blountville 2021, accessed 1 October 2021,

“Battle of Blountville,” Civil War Talk, accessed 10 October 2021,

“Battle of Blountville: Confederate Position,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 1 October 2021,

“Battle of Blountville: Federal Guns on Cemetery Hill,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 1 October 2021,

“Battle of Blountville: …the best portion of the town was destroyed,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 1 October 2021,

“The Cannonball House: Narrowly Missed Destruction,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 10 October 2021,

“Old Deery Inn: Refuge from the Storm,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 10 October 2021,

“Old Deery Inn,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 10 October 2021,

“Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook,” Tennessee State Library and Archives, accessed 10 February 2021,