Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Unionists Within the Confederacy ~ Sevier County Home Guard

Marker ID:  
Location: on Old Mill Avenue west of Old Mill Street, 160 Old Mill Avenue, Pigeon Forge, TN
County: Sevier
Coordinates: N 35° 47.312    W 083° 33.23
  35.78853333    -83.55383333
Waymark: None


When the Civil War began, Sevier County Unionists at first operated quietly in secessionist Tennessee. In 1861, they set up a secret garment factory in the second floor of this mill and made cloth for uniforms. They also made shoes for Federal soldiers and Unionist Home Guards with leather from Newton Trotter’s nearby tannery. According to local tradition, the third floor was later used as a hospital. Captain William Trotter, son of mill owner John Trotter, commanded Company H, 9th Tennessee Cavalry (US).

After Tennessee’s vote for secession on June 8, 1861, East Tennessee Unionists formed Home Guard units. Sevier County loyalists established their unit in August 1861. The Home Guard was a militia-type group that protected the lives and property of local Unionists. The Guard initially drilled openly, but when Confederates occupied the county, many members went underground. They gathered intelligence, served as couriers and guides, and harassed the Confederates.

When the Union army took control of the region late in 1863 after the Battle of Knoxville, the guardsmen actively engaged Confederate forces. Early in December, they captured several soldiers in Confederate Colonel William H. Thomas’s Legion – a North Carolina unit composed of mountaineers and Cherokee Indians that was camped at Gatlinburg – and jailed them in Sevierville. Thomas raided the jail, freed his men, and disarmed the guardsmen. The Home Guard quickly regrouped and a month later helped Federal cavalry capture Confederate raiders and their commander, General Robert B. Vance (brother of North Carolina governor Zebulon B. Vance), at the foot of the Smoky Mountains.

Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.