Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Battle of Blountville - "…the best portion of the town was destroyed"

Marker ID:  
Location: Sullivan County Courthouse, 3425 Tennessee 126, Blountville, TN
County: Sullivan
Coordinates: N 36° 31.98    W 082° 19.61
  36.533    -82.32683333
Waymark: None


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 to your left, 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.”

Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.