The focus and purpose of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable is to provide you with useful and interesting Civil War history and information relative to Knoxville and the surrounding region. Our most important mission is educational as evidenced by the scope of largely nationally-known speakers we bring to Knoxville each month. Our monthly newsletter, The Scout, supplements the website and contains important and timely monthly information including the list of upcoming speakers, their topics, and upcoming events.
Please note our only requirement for membership is an interest in the American Civil War. Specific lineage or ancestry is NOT required. We always welcome guests to our speaker meetings who may join us for dinner or for the lecture only.
We hope you enjoy our website and we’d like to see you at an upcoming meeting.
[NOTE: The following essay on the origins of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable is by, and courtesy of, Norman C. Shaw, its founder and first president. This is an extract of a longer article, “The Founding of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable, ” which was written by Mr. Shaw for the Roundtable’s Tenth Anniversary in 1993.]
The creation of each Civil War Roundtable in the country has its own unique story. Ours is no different. The concept of a CWRT in Knoxville surfaced as I conceived the idea of teaching a starter course on “Civil War Campaigns and Battles” for the University of Tennessee non-credit program during its winter session of 1983.
From this class and this nucleus of students came the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable. After polling the class to determine who would like to be involved in establishing a roundtable in Knoxville, I had the support of such fine individuals as Colonel John Brennan, George McGhee, David Schultz, Pat Freeman, Gary Balltrip, Howard Russell, and Walt Corey (as knowledgeable as anyone in Civil War history). After the class ended, we obtained the additional support of Jim Doncaster and Hayes Rochat. Including myself, this rounded out our number to an even 10.
Our first few meetings were rather informal, but enthusiastic, affairs in March 1983 at the United Methodist Church on Middlebrook Pike. Our ranks had increased now to 13. The initial Scout’s Report, which proclaimed our existence to the world, was published in April 1983.
This first newsletter also announced that a promotional meeting would be held at the Second Presbyterian Church on Kingston Pike on the 21st of that month. A notice was also placed in the local newspaper. A large group of about 50 showed up to hear the excellent talk of Dr. Charles Bryan, Executive Director of the East Tennessee Historical Society, on “The Impact of the Civil War on East Tennessee.” That was an exciting evening! We obtained 13 new members who joined that very evening, and a few more enrolled by mail the following week.
With this promising start, and with the talents and involvement of so many, our Roundtable grew to nearly 100 members before year’s end. Our growth was enhanced by our location in an area rich in history which, in turn, provided us with both members and a variety of desirable speakers — some from our own membership. We also strove to provide in that year a variety of activities for our members and area residents alike. We created the secondary meeting each month called the Gung Ho, established the commemoration ceremony of the Battle of Fort Sanders, and began sponsoring the Civil War Tours of Knoxville in association with the Dogwood Arts Festival the following year, in April 1984.
Despite some growing pains during that first year — such as club organizational questions and repeatedly being forced to move our meeting location — both in that initial year and in years since we have demonstrated our commitment to achieving the stated goals of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable: “Knowledge, commemoration, and preservation of our Civil War heritage.”