Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Suffering and Survival

Marker ID:  
Location: I-26 Kingsport Washington and Sullivan County Welcome Center, Kingsport, TN
County: Sullivan
Coordinates: N 36° 2    W 082° 32.945
  36.03333333    -82.54908333
Waymark: None


Suffering and Survival
Civil War in Sullivan County

Union and Confederate forces in Sullivan County battled to control the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad and the Holston River, strategically vital transportation routes for moving soldiers and supplies. The county supported secession while most other East Tennessee counties remained loyal to the Union. Confederate Col. George Brent wrote of the Confederate army's foraging parties, which plundered local secessionists as well as Unionists, "The complaints of the citizens of Sullivan County, Tenn., are well founded. ... Robberies by soldiers in small parties have been frequent. ... No receipts were given, no money paid, and no form of law observed."

Determined to control the railroad, Union forces attacked the county seat, Blountville, on September 22, 1863. Col. John W. Foster shelled the town for four hours, burning the courthouse and forcing a Confederate retreat as terrified residents fled. The Battle of Kingsport erupted on December 13, 1864, when Gens. Stephen G. Burbridge's and Alvan C. Gillem's forces struck Confederate Col. Richard Morgan's troops at the Holston River. Morgan believed that a damaged bridge would prevent an attack, but a surprise Federal assault caused 100 Confederate casualties.

Some local Unionists found a haven on Bays Mountain. Federal chaplain William S. DePew, 8th Tennessee Calvary, preached for decades after the war at Depew's Chapel United Methodist Church, where his comrade Benjamin F. Hood served as minister and trustee. Jerome Pierce, a former slave who fled to serve with the Union army, bought land on Bays Mountain and built a log house that still stands today.

[Photo captions]
Top right: Kingsport, ca. 1910 - Soldiers foraging. - Unionist refugees
Bottom right: Blountville, looking east from near the Union position, with the Masonic Female Institute at upper right, ca. 1900

Tennessee Civil War Trails.

Photos of this marker can be found on HMDB.org