Historic Markers Across Tennessee

East Hill Cemetery

Marker ID:  
Location: on East Hill Cemetery Dr north of East State St, Bristol, TN
County: Sullivan
Coordinates: N 36° 35.625    W 082° 10.225
  36.59375    -82.17041666
Waymark: None


East Hill Cemetery
Historic Burying Ground

During the Civil War, Bristol was a strategic location on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. The Confederate Medical Corps established hospitals in the town, which soon became an important medical center. Wounded soldiers were brought by rail from battlefields in the region, and those who did not survive were interred on East Hill in a small plot. These 101 burials are concentrated in an area that lies beyond an opening flanked by two heavy stone posts. Almost 200 additional Confederate graves can be found throughout the cemetery.

The 16.7-acre East Hill Cemetery is divided by the Tennessee-Virginia state line. The westernmost part is the oldest, with the first burial occurring in 1857. The graveyard was not officially designated a cemetery until 1868, when merchant LaFayette Johnson purchased two acres, including the soldiers’ plot, because he wished to honor those who had died during the war. He then deeded the land to the Ladies Memorial Association for use as a town cemetery.

The graves of 57 Union veterans are located in the cemetery. According to oral tradition, twelve African American graves are near the soldiers. Although there are no individual tombstones, representative markers indicated their significance.

Pvt. James Keeling, 69th North Carolina Infantry (Thomas’s Legion), is one to those buried here. On the night of November 8, 1861, the Confederate sentry singlehandedly saved the vital railroad bridge at Strawberry Plains from destruction by would-be Unionist saboteurs. The sobriquet “Defender of the Bridge” is incised on the small obelisk that marks his grave.

Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.