Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Maryville During the Civil War

Marker ID:  
Location: Maryville-Alcoa Greenway in Bicentennial Greenbelt Park, Maryville, TN
County: Blount
Coordinates: N 35° 45.3    W 083° 58.454
  35.755    -83.97423333
Waymark: None


Maryville During the Civil War
"A shameful...fire"

During the antebellum period, Blount County supported abolitionism. In 1822, local Quakers and other residents formed an abolitionist society, and in the decades following, local clergymen preached against the evils of slavery. When the county considered secession in 1861, residents voted to remain with the Union, 1,766 to 414.

Fighting directly touched Maryville, the county seat, in August 1864. Confederate Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s cavalrymen attacked a small detachment of the 2nd Tennessee Infantry (U.S.) under Lt. James M. Dorton at the courthouse. A federal officer later reported that the Confederates, “not caring to hazard lives by storming the place, very foolishly, and I may say criminally set fire into the court-house and burn the enemy out; but instead of doing so the fire spread in all other directions and left the garrison uninjured. The result was all the business property and a great deal of residence property was destroyed, and the people turned out homeless. The fire did not injure the court-house, being isolated from the other buildings.” A Confederate soldier, William Sloan, confided in his diary: “A shameful feature of this fire is that nearly all the victims are people of southern sympathies, and many of their sons are away in the Confederate Army.”

When Lt. James M. Dorton commandeered the courthouse as Union headquarters, the county records were moved to James Toole’s Main Street store. As the fire that the Confederates set spread to the store, former slave Polly Toole ignored the danger, entered the building, and saved the records. A statue of Polly Toole, honoring her bravery, stands in the courthouse today. Maryville recovered after the war, in part with the help of the Freedmen’s Bureau, which funded the construction of Anderson Hall at Maryville College.

Tennessee Civil War Trails.