Fort Dickerson Living History Weekend

Everyone is invited to attend Weekend of November 12 and 13, 2022

We need volunteers for the Fort Dickerson weekend on November 12th and 13th. You can work just 2 hours or less. The time for the event on Saturday, 10 am till 4:30 pm and Sunday 11 am till 4:30 pm. If you would like to volunteer, please call Tom Wright, 865-621-2093.

The Living History Weekend runs from 10 am until 4:00 pm on Saturday, November 12, 2022, and from 11 am until 4:30 pm on Sunday, November 13, 2022. Activities will include living history campsites, infantry drilling with rifle firing demonstrations, a Civil War medical and surgical exhibit, ladies fashions, battle reenactments, cannon firings, and a salute to all veterans including an American flag retirement ceremony.

Visitors are invited to park for free at “Wee Care Shoppe” parking lot at 2537 Chapman Highway, across from Shoney’s, where they can board a free shuttle to Fort Dickerson courtesy of the Knoxville Department of Parks and Recreation.

Special Note: Bring your American flags that are no longer in condition to be flown or displayed to the event so the members of the 8th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry can properly retire them. There will be a public flag retirement ceremony after the skirmish on both days of the event. We encourage everyone to bring their weathered flags.

For more information on the event as well as Civil War History in Knoxville, go to Or contact Event Coordinator Tom Wright at 865-482-1680,, or Re-enactor Coordinator Perry Hill at 865-283-1691.

List of activities:

Saturday, November 12, 2022:  Opening at 10:00 AM

Sunday, November 13, 2022: Opening at 11:00 AM

10:00 AM: Opening Ceremony, Saturday only

11:30 AM: Mustering in/Infantry Drill

2:00 PM: Civil War Skirmish

3:00 PM: Pass and Review; Plus Flag Retirement Ceremony

3:30 PM: Medical and Surgical Demonstration

4:00 PM: Camps Closed to Public

Other Activities throughout both days: Ladies Fashion Exhibit, Civil War Arms Exhibit, Medical Demonstration, History of Fort Dickerson and other interpreters talking to the public about their historic character.


November 2022 Meeting Date Change

**Please note: Due to Election Day on November 8, the next meeting is on the third Tuesday, November 15th**

The KCWRT will have its monthly meeting on Tuesday, November 15th, 2022, at the Bearden Banquet Hall, 5806 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN. 

If attending the buffet, please call (865) 671-9001 for reservations prior to 10 AM on the Monday before the meeting so that we can let Bearden Banquet Hall know how many meals to prepare. Anyone attending only the lecture does not need to call in reservations.

06:30 P.M. – Buffet begins

07:15 P.M. – KCWRT Business meeting and announcements

07:30 P.M. – Speaker is Chris Mackowski. He will be discuss Fredericksburg: The Fourteen Critical Decisions That Shaped the Action and Defined the Battle

Special Note: We will be having a Holiday Auction at both the November and December meetings. The items are listed in the Scout’s Report.

New Civil War History Booklet

The Knoxville Civil War Roundtable (KCWRT) just released a newly expanded version of its 2015 booklet, Civil War Comes to Knoxville, Tenn. Containing 12 fully researched articles, the booklet provides fascinating stories and little known facts about our town during its most desperate years. The booklet will be used to better inform the public of our unique Civil War history and heritage. It will be available for the first time at the upcoming November Living History Weekend at Fort Dickerson as well as at KCWRT meetings, speaking engagements, and other public events. Speakers, at no cost, for your organization can be requested through our Facebook page or website (   

A Tribute to the Late Dewey Beard


Our Ole Friend Dewey

By David Chaltas and Steve Lundberg

We all thought we knew Dewey, but we were mistaken. William ‘Dewey’ Beard was like an iceberg in that we only saw the surface. He was a man of many hats and possessed talents beyond our wildest imaginings. He was a reenactor, historian, musician, singer, author, and actor. He performed in Operas, stunned the audience in karaoke impromptus, and churches. But most of all, he was a true friend and a strong Christian. His smile radiated throughout the room and when you met him on the field, his genuineness, gentleness, and kindness always made you feel welcome and important. He had a heart of gold and humble in nature. And who could forget that smile and impish prankster nature he possessed.

What can we say about Dewey? His life and his memories speaks volumes about the man. Lance Dawson, one of Dewey’s dear friends stated that trying to define Dewey was like needing an undiscovered color for a coloring book or art project. We agree, he was one of a kind and unique as that yet to be defined color. How can we define Dewey’s legacy? Maybe it is best to share some Dewey Tales and let them define the man.

One of the numerous stories that we have gives you a glimpse into his character. In order to recreate the Battle of Ft. Sanders, a replica of the earthen fort was built. One bright morning as the mist meandered over the field, we were awakened to the sound of Amazing Grace. When we looked upon the fort, there stood Dewey praising God in that voice that the angels coveted. He didn’t do it for show, but rather for the simple joy of praising God in the early day break light.

Jerry Patterson of the 63rd Tennessee, shared a story about Dewey at Fort Dickerson. Dewey had played and sang a few period songs. A man approached him and asked Dewey if he could sing any of AC/DC music. Dewey replied, “Which singer?” and proceeded to amaze the man with his range and musical abilities. Many recalled the many different characters he portrayed. At times he put on the

uniform of a World War I Veteran, and on other occasions, he wore a World War II uniform. During highland games he dressed in his plaid tartans. One story was that he was to meet in Knoxville with a few of his friends. They looked everywhere and didn’t see him until the ‘band’ came marching along playing. Right in the middle of the group was ole Dewey playing and marching away!

He was a Civil War reenactor that honored both blue and gray. He wore his Confederate uniform with the same dignity that he wore his Union one. But he didn’t just dress in different uniforms, he was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. If you got him started on a historical subject, you were in for a full explanation of the significance of events that transpired.

While talking with our mutual friend, Ken, he made a very important observance. During the service paying homage to Dewey, there were several videos with Dewey performing. At the very last, he played taps at a cemetery. Noting that, Ken stated, “Dewey is the only man who sang and played taps at his own funeral.” That summates our beloved friends last gift to us all.

Our friend Steven Lundberg offers the following tribute to our good ole friend Dewey. William “Dewey” Beard suddenly left this mortal coil by God’s grace on August 21, 2022, much to the dismay of everyone he has ever loved and touched in his fifty-seven years among us. His loving sweetheart Ann Martin, lifelong friend Dana Rice and others so accurately and emotionally conveyed that they have a hole in their hearts that could only be filled by one man – Dewey. The rest of us nod in agreement.

We are honoring to the best of our ability a man who we and countless others knew was a dear friend, an historical scholar, author, actor, musical performer, and musician and who he personally characterized as, “Your good ole friend Dewey.” We think his most cherished moniker is being known as the latter; “Your good ole friend Dewey.” That is how we remember him. We attempt to pay tribute to a man we knew and who enriched our lives and so many others just by knowing him. No life so lived can be summarized in a short article. Dewey Beard had a curiosity of a great many things and devoted his time and energy in pursuit of everything that piqued that curiosity with zeal and his utmost effort. He was a Renaissance man on many levels. Whatever he was interested in, he pursued with unbounded passion.

Dewey never met anyone who was not his friend. Your first meeting with Dewey meant that you were part of his extended family. You just knew that immediately. Dewey was the finest example of a man of service and selflessness. He put everyone above himself and there was nothing he would not sacrifice or do for someone else regardless of the situation. You were always happy to have been with Dewey and felt your time was better and life enriched spent in his presence.

As for his passions, they were many. No one put himself more into the details and depths of things that interested him in or had a talent for than he did. Dewey Beard was an historical author and scholar in his own right particularly related to East Tennessee and the Civil War. If you had a question about anything, he was someone you went to and he would either have the answer or knew how to get it. Einstein said that genius was not knowing the answer is but knowing how to find it. For many of us Dewey was our “go to” if we wanted to know something or gain historical perspective on a person or event. What a treasure and blessing he was to all of us.

Dewy Beard was also a singer and first-class performer and musician on a professional level. He had an opportunity to sing opera professionally. Dewey chose another path but that meant we were blessed with his talents, singing in our Civil War reenacting camps, playing bugle, or singing on the WBIR Heartland Series, at his church on the stage, or to his friends including Ann Martin who recalled a particular snowy Christmas eve, The power was out, and Dewey, wearing his stocking cap picked up his mandolin and sang Christmas songs to Ann including a favorite, “O Holy Night.” He wanted to make the moment special, focused on the meaning of the night and make his dear Ann happy. That was who Dewey was.

All of us who knew Dewey wish to say, “Thank you Dewey for the lessons you taught us on and off the field. Your Christian testimony, your wisdom, your kindness, that amazing voice and musical talents, and that humorous ‘pixie’ demeanor that brought us so much joy will be missed. But we are a better people because of you. We will do our best to embrace life on life’s terms and be kinder, more understanding, and show love through our actions because God graciously allowed our paths to cross.”


William Arley (DEWEY) Beard III, age 57, of Knoxville, TN and longtime resident of Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, passed away suddenly on Sunday, August 21, 2022, at his residence in Knoxville. He was a member of the 79th New York Highlanders, Kyle Masonic Lodge #422 F&AM, Lakeway Civil War Preservation Association, General Longstreet Museum, and Knoxville Civil War Roundtable. His many personal accomplishments included acting/singing (UT and Knoxville Opera Companies, Dollywood, Encore Theater); Historian (appearances on the History Channel, PBS, The Heartland Series, local tours) along with invited lectures (local colleges and high schools). Dewey was also a published historical author (“Blue Springs,” “History of the 79th New York Cameron Highlanders 1859-1876”, and “Strawberry Plains Tennessee 1861-1865.”)

A tremendous voice is now silent, but his legacy will live on in the hearts of all he touched and through his expansive collection of rare historical items. A Foundation for these items will be established to share with Museums and Historical Organizations. Preceded in death by father, William Arley (Bill) Beard II. He is survived by his loving mother, Stella Beard of Baton Rouge, LA; special longtime partner, Anne Martin of Knoxville; sister, Kim Beard Pollard (Brian) of Knoxville; niece, Chelsea Pollard of Knoxville; and nephew, Alex Pollard of Murfreesboro. There are also several aunts, cousins, and one remaining uncle. Central to his life were his numerous friends met through acting/singing, schools, reenactments, and karaoke.

A Memorial service was held at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, August 27, 2022, at Central United Methodist Church, 201 3rd Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37917 with Rev. Jimmy Sherrod officiating. Family received friends from 1:00 until 3:00 p.m. prior to the service. Family and friends gathered at 1:45 p.m. Sunday, August 28, 2022, at Beaver Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, 845 Beaver Creek Road, Strawberry Plains, TN for a 2:00 p.m. graveside service.

Special Live Presentation July 12; Public Invited

The Knoxville Civil War Round Table is proud to announce that the premier living
historians portraying Generals Grant (Curt Fields) and Lee (Thomas Jessee) will be on
stage for one very special performance on July 12, 2022 at 7 PM at Faith Lutheran
Church in Farragut. “Meeting at Appomattox Court House: The Last 48 Hours” is not
to be missed! Ticket price is $10. Children undere 12 are free. Doors open at 6 PM. Period musical presentation ar 6:30 PM. Costumed reenactors will be present.

Dr. E. C. (CURT) FIELDS, Jr., is an educational consultant and living
historian. A lifelong student of the American Civil War, his interest in
portraying General Ulysses S. Grant was driven by that study and his deep
respect and admiration for Gen. Grant. Dr. Fields is the same height and body
type as Gen. Grant and therefore presents a convincing, true-to-life image of
the man as he really looked.  His presentations are in first person, quoting
from Gen. Grant’s Memoirs, articles, letters, and interviews. As a living
historian, Dr. Fields has portrayed Gen. Grant at battlefield reenactments and
commemorations across the U.S. He has portrayed the general on film as
well, staring as Gen. Grant in the Visitor Center film shown at Appomattox
Court House National Historic Park and in the Discovery Channel’s three-
part documentary series “How Booze built America.” When not on the road
as Gen. Grant, Dr. Fields lives in Collierville, TN with his wife Lena.

THOMAS LEE JESSEE is a native Virginian who became interested in
military history as a boy growing up in Hamilton, Virginia in the heart of
Mosby’s Rangers’ country. He has been reenacting since the age of 18 starting
out as a Private and working his way up to General. He has attended
reenactments of all the major War Between the States battles throughout the
U.S. and has commanded troops at many of the national events. As a longtime
student of General Robert E. Lee, Mr. Jessee has portrayed the general in
various venues for many years and was chosen to portray General Lee at the
Sesquicentennial of Appomattox reenactment in Virginia and for the new
Appomattox Visitors Center film shown daily to the public. A retired
Electrical Superintendent and an active member of the Sons of Confederate
Veterans, Mr. Jessee currently lives in Lakeland, Florida with his wife Gail

Knoxville Civil War Preservation South of the River – Then & Now

The following excerpt is from a chapter in a forthcoming book on the Knoxville Campaign

By James R. Doncaster

While most of the major action in and around Knoxville occurred north of the Tennessee River—the Battle of Campbell’s Station on November 16th, Sanders’ delaying action on the Kingston Pike on the 17th and 18th, and of course the climatic assault on Fort Sanders on the 29th—the areas south of the river were not without conflict. As Longstreet and Burnside maneuvered above the river, General Joseph Wheeler with portions of four brigades of cavalry was dispatched by Longstreet to approach Knoxville via Maryville in a southern approach to the city. Contesting their advance were elements of Sanders’ cavalry who fought delaying actions near Rockford and Stock Creek before being driven back into the city on the 15th. All that kept Wheeler from crossing the pontoon bridge in pursuit were Union infantry supported by artillery placed on the hills south of the river. Heavy skirmishing on the 15th and 16th occurred on the lower heights of what would soon become Forts Dickerson and Stanley and in the valley in between them.

The most significant action south of the river occurred on November 25th when Robertson’s and Law’s Confederate brigades, the same brigades that had fought at Gettysburg’s Little Round Top less than five months before, clashed with Cameron’s blocking brigade of Union infantry. After scores of casualties were inflicted on both sides, the attacking force of Confederates returned to their lines on Cherokee Heights. Burnside and Poe examined the field and assessed the continuing threat the next day. The result was the creation of a battery position with supporting infantry trenchwork on a neighboring hill christened Fort Higley.     

Due to the topography of the land south of the Tennessee River, sites important to the contending armies generally have not suffered the fate of those north of it. The rugged hills opposite town rise from the southern riverbank to eminences more than three hundred feet in height, stymying development. Not all the land of historical significance there has been preserved, but much of it has thanks to the ongoing efforts of the City of Knoxville, the Aslan Foundation, and the Legacy Parks Foundation, with support from the American Battlefield Trust and the Knoxville Civil War Round Table. Because of the varying involvement of the different groups in the preservation efforts, the hills and crowning forts and fortifications will be addressed individually. Moving from west to east, they are Cherokee Heights, Armstrong Hill, Fort Higley, Fort Dickerson, and Fort Stanley.      

Cherokee Heights (Cherokee Bluff)

The lower slopes of Cherokee Heights on the eastern side from which Law and Robertson launched their attack on Cameron’s brigade is as rough and wooded now as it was in 1863 and is totally undeveloped. The flat top of the bluff above where E. Porter Alexander, the Confederate First Corps artillery commander, trained the guns of Captain William Parker’s Virginia battery on the federal lines across the river, sadly was lost to development in the late twentieth century. A gated condominium village now occupies this once lofty Confederate position.

Armstrong Hill  

Drury Armstrong owned the parcel of land that bore his name and became the site of the largest fight of the Knoxville campaign south of the river. The land, accessible by the Cherokee Trail today, remained in private hands for the next 150 years until it was purchased by Legacy Parks Foundation in 2009. Legacy Parks raised $1.5 million, including a $10,000 donation from the American Battlefield Trust, to acquire the River Bluff property which encompasses Armstrong Hill. Legacy Parks then deeded the property to the City of Knoxville in November of 2015 for inclusion in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. Hiking trails and interpretive signage on the Armstrong Hill fight are currently under study by the city and the foundation.

Fort Higley

After the fight at Armstrong Hill  Poe thought it expedient to strengthen the western edge of the city’s southside defenses. Thus, guns from Fort Stanley were emplaced and infantry trenchwork in a figure 8 pattern were dug in what soon would be called Fort Higley. No significant action occurred in this sector after these defensive moves were made. Fort Higley remained in private hands well into the twenty-first century. When the prospect of condo development loomed, however, the charitable Aslan Foundation in 2008 intervened, purchasing a 39-acre tract that held the fort. After archeological work was conducted at the site, Aslan developed the area into a public park that opened in 2013. Today, High Ground Park, which remains under Aslan’s stewardship, contains abundant signage and well-maintained trails that lead to the old earthen fort, an old Military Road, and to overlooks with sweeping vistas of the area. The park is accessible via the Cherokee Trail and is open to the public daily.

Fort Dickerson

By far the best-preserved remnant of the Civil War in Knoxville is Fort Dickerson. Begun in the days leading up to the siege to protect the southern approaches to the city and completed in February of ‘64 after the siege was lifted, the fort remains the best example of a Civil War earthen fort in East Tennessee. The fort remained in private hands until it became an 85-acre city park in 1957. Fort Dickerson was the site of a large centennial reenactment of the Battle of Fort Sanders in 1963, and it has been the site of annual reenactments and living history weekends conducted by the Knoxville Civil War Round Table for almost forty years. Over the years, the fort has been gradually restored by the Round Table and the City of Knoxville. Trees and vines have been removed, viewsheds opened, and three artillery pieces were purchased and placed in the fort’s embrasures by the Round Table to approximate the look of the fort in war time. The Aslan Foundation in 2017 created a beautiful new Fort Dickerson Gateway to welcome visitors entering the park at 3000 Fort Dickerson Road off Chapman Highway. Aslan also has been funding kudzu removal in the park and is making plans to build boardwalks beneath the ramparts of the fort to protect its earthen walls.    

Fort Stanley

The hill upon which Fort Stanley sits is just to the east of Fort Dickerson across present-day Chapman Highway. Together the two forts commanded the approaches to the city from the south. Union trenchwork and rifle pits defined Fort Stanley during the siege, and afterwards tents covered hillsides cleared to provide fields of fire. Today, little of Fort Stanley remains, and that which does exist is vine-covered and overgrown. Nevertheless, the Aslan Foundation purchased 22 acres of the hill in 2011 to protect the site and is considering purchasing additional acreage to protect the viewshed from the city.

The Future

One of the most enticing features of life in Knoxville today is the development of the Knoxville Urban Wilderness. According to the Visit Knoxville website, “Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is a spectacular outdoor adventure area where you can hike, bike, climb, paddle, or just wander in the woods—all within the heart of the city. Over 50 miles of trails and greenways connect you to a beautiful nature center, pristine lakes, historic sites, dramatic quarries, adventure playgrounds, five city parks, and a 500-acre wildlife area.”

The Urban Wilderness master plan calls for the forging of a new series of trails called the “Battlefield Loop”. The loop trail as proposed would link the Armstrong Hill battlefield with Forts Higley, Dickerson, and Stanley–in effect connecting all the extant Civil War sites south of the river. Much of the trail already exists, though some connecting links are yet to be defined. Still, thanks to the visionary thinking of leaders in city government, area foundations, and local civic organizations the future for historic preservation, restoration and interpretation in Knoxville never looked brighter. The Battlefield loop was not even a pipe dream twenty years ago. Soon it will be a reality.


Fabian Varin, born 1817, was a Canadian, born in Montreal, Quebec who emigrated to the U.S. probably around 1842. Like many others, he came for the job opportunities available here. The 1850 Federal Census finds him in Wilmington, North Carolina working as a carpenter, perhaps with a local railroad company. Here he married a local girl, Caroline (26), and by 1850 they had a three year-old daughter named Adeline as noted on the census. Her name was later listed differently by census takers and she was carried forward as Emma Ozaline (1845-1923). Ozaline is on her tombstone so that must be correct. She was born in Delaware, which may have been Fabian’s first U.S. destination.

By 1860 Fabian has been settled in Knoxville since at least 1854 but his family was much different. Caroline was no longer listed and it is suggested that she passed away. Fabian is now married to 22 year-old Mary Annie (nee Lewis).  Emma Ozaline still resides with the family as do John Fabian (born 1854) and Mary Josephine (born 1856). They have a home valued at $1,000 and have taken in a boarder, Ann Lonis. Fabian is still a carpenter but is employed by the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad and the family is living in the railroad machine shop.  Their rail line was extended from Loudon, TN to Knoxville in 1855. It originated in Dalton, GA in 1852.

On July 20, 1858, Varin purchased a lot in the county for $450 from John W. Thomas described as “about 1 mile west of the court-house, on the stage road, leading from Knoxville to Clinton”.  The property adjoined that of Abram Thomas, Dale Street and that of Major Swan. Notwithstanding this good description, the property has not been specifically identified. Dale Street is not shown on the 1855 or 1871 Knoxville maps. In the 1859 Business Directory the property of William G. Swan is identified as “one mile east of the depot and on the west side of the East TN & VA railroad”. However, the Abram Thomas property is described as on the “south side of Asylum between Bridge and Second Creek”. Although in the same general area, these three descriptions seem to be somewhat in conflict with one another. Nonetheless we know the general area in which Fabian Varin was to build his home and develop his property.

Fabian Varin probably began to build a home for his family soon after acquiring the property. The home had a brick foundation, was two stories high and had two chimneys. It was “18 feet x 47 feet, divided into six rooms, one a storeroom with counter and shelves, three of the rooms with presses, all of the rooms ceiled and painted”. There was also a separate outside privy measuring 5 by 8 feet. Eventually Varin added 682 feet of plank fence enclosing 50 evergreen shrubs and 22 fruit trees. It seems as if Varin ran some sort of side business from the home property.     

At the beginning of the Civil War, when the Confederates controlled Knoxville, the family home location would not have been in jeopardy. The situation changed drastically in September 1863 when the Federals took the town and began to destroy much of the war machinery and buildings the rebels built. If the Union didn’t need the machinery or buildings, it was destroyed or repurposed. Allegiances and loyalties were questioned. Working for a southern railroad company as he did, Fabian was in a vulnerable position. Clear fields of fire were developed by the soldiers who destroyed homes and businesses throughout the area in which the Varin’s lived and worked. Unfortunately, this area was very vulnerable during the siege of Knoxville, leading to the destruction of all that Varin worked so hard to establish.

Varin did not remain long in Knoxville after the siege and destruction of his property. By late March 1864 he was in Nashville working as a foreman of mechanics at the depot of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad. In the written report from the House of Representatives, he requested of the military that they furnish him a house near his work for himself and his family of eight. While the Federals could not furnish him a dwelling he was allowed to take for his use “about 1,500 brick now piled on College Hill”. It is not known if he made use of these bricks to build a new home.

Varin was considered to be of “unquestionable loyalty” throughout the war as reported when he made his first claim for damages on November 1, 1864. The claim referred to the “United States forces burning his dwelling-house, fence and out buildings, destroying his shrubbery and fruit trees during the siege of Knoxville”. The total estimate for damages was $4,000: $3,490 for the burned dwelling-house; $75 for the privy; $285 for the plank fence, and; $150 for the shrubs and fruit trees. The estimate was made and confirmed to William F. Seay, the Justice of the Peace for the Knox County Court by William Baumann and Nathan Currier. Varin’s loyalty was sworn to by Joseph Armbruster and Thomas P. McNichol. This filing was submitted well in advance of the establishment by Congress of the Southern Claims Commission on March 3, 1871.

Varin’s claim was not acted upon by the Claims Court and was eventually submitted from the Committee on War Claims to the U.S. Congress House of Representatives as bill H.R. 9801 in the first session of the 50th Congress on May 15, 1888. Note that this is almost 24 years after the initial submission! The House, however, was to pass the buck on this claim. They suggested that a judicial hearing be obtained from the Court of Claims. It is unknown if the claim was ever paid. The records of the Southern Claims Commission do not show this claim being paid, so it was likely never paid. Fabian Varin endured the loss as did 68% of all the other claimants.

By 1870 Varin and his family moved to Huntsville, Alabama where he continued to work for the railroad for the final 21 years of his life. In September 1872 he was granted a patent for an Improvement in Track Lifters device. Fabian Varin departed this life on March 23, 1891 and is buried in the family plot in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville. He served his adopted country well but surely never forgot the personal cost the Civil War brought upon him and his family. Mary Annie outlived Fabian by another 37 years and rests with him today.

A Military Ball, 161 Years Ago

Today, February 22, the real birthday of George Washington, a Military Ball was held in 1861 at Knoxville’s Lamar House sponsored by and for the benefit of the Knoxville Guards. They were raising money for the organization to buy uniforms and weapons. The Guards had a recent influx of new members; no doubt brought about by the prevailing war fever. The Lamar House was the premier hotel in the city and had been for many years. “The best of music is engaged” read the invitation which was in the form of a dance card. The four page card was embossed and the lettering was in gold, topped by a standing figure of a soldier in a dress uniform. The ball was to commence at 8:00 PM with no end time being specified.

The only known existing invitation was one addressed to Miss A.P. Shields of Grainger County by an unknown hand. Amanda Priscilla Shields was 16 years old and may have been a student at the Knoxville Female Academy. This could be how she came to be invited to the ball. Priscilla, the name by which she was known throughout her life, lived with her family on a farm northeast of Morristown. Whether she attended the ball is not known. However, the ball was important to her as she kept the dance card throughout her life and the card was passed on to family members for over 150 years.

The Knoxville Guards membership, which totaled at least 100 men, came from all ages and walks of life within the Knoxville community. The membership contained both professional and non-professional men. Attorneys, doctors, and wealthy merchants were counted among their membership as were clerks, bookkeepers and railroad workers. Certainly members must have been conflicted because of the events of the past few months. By Washington’s birthday, seven southern states had declared themselves succeeded from the Union. Certainly not all members of the Guards were secessionists. One can only wonder about the political discussions which must have taken place in the days before, and on the evening of the ball. Nonetheless, the ball went on and was apparently a success. Later, in April, after the attack on Fort Sumter, the Guards voted to offer their services to Governor Isham Harris in support of the Confederate cause. Their services were accepted and the Guards became Company E of the 19th Tennessee Infantry. They immediately went into training at the fairgrounds east of town.

Thus ended the short history of the Knoxvile Guards which began in 1859. If Priscilla Shields attended the ball, it was no doubt a highlight of her life for many years to come.


Very little is written about Knoxville Civil war damage claims yet there are some. Knoxville was an occupied city throughout the war, from the very beginning through the capitulation and into the Reconstruction era. Just after the succession of the state a military training ground and camp was established east of the city in what is now Chilhowee Park. The Knoxville Guards, a pre-war militia group was accepted in late April by the governor as a Confederate regiment and took up residence at this camp. Knoxville was occupied by Confederate troops prior to September 3, 1863 and by Federal troops afterwards. At times the troop levels were three and four times greater (15,000 – 20,000) than the civilian population of the town.

As a result, literally anything that could be used by soldiers for food, clothing, shelter, or animal forage was appropriated for use and without payment. Wooden fencing, buildings, barns, even privies were dismantled to create fires for cooking and warmth. Private homes and other buildings including brick homes in the field of fire of troops from both sides were taken down or burned so as not to provide a safe haven for sharpshooters. Warehouses and smokehouses were emptied to feed the hungry troops. The animal populations of private citizens (bovines, chickens, goats and other animals) rapidly ceased to be seen throughout the city. Wild animals such as rabbits and even rats became scare to non-existent. Even pets were not safe. While the enlisted men slept in the open air or in their shelter tents, officers of all ranks commandeered rooms in private homes and businesses for office and residential space. Floor rugs were cut up for blankets. It was in this environment that Knoxvillians lived and worked during the entire war.

One would expect a large number of war claims emanating from such conditions; however few are known to exist. Dr. Earl J. Hess, in his definitive 2012 book, The Knoxville Campaign, outlines a few on pages 273-274. There were no Confederate claims as the Confederacy no longer existed. Claims were made to the U.S. government for commodities used by Union troops; and their use must be proven to be eligible for compensation. The Southern Claims Commission was established by Congress on March 3, 1871, six years after the conflict ended, to consider claims by southerners. Prior to 1871, a few citizens filed claims directly with the Union high command as noted by Dr. Hess. However, such claims had no validity since no formal claims procedure had yet been established. 

William Blount Turk was a 42 year-old blacksmith from Maryville, TN who moved his business to Knoxville sometime after 1850 but by 1859 he ran a grocery business in town. His business and residence was on the west side of town, just north of the railroad on Bellevue Street between Broad Street and Jacksboro Road. His wife, Nancy, was 11 years his junior. The couple had five children ranging in age from one year-old to 15. The family also had an 18 year-old student boarding with them. They were not wealthy by any means; their real estate was valued at $1,000 and personal property valued at $75. William served for eight months in the Mexican war as a musician with the rank of private in the 5th TN infantry. He mustered out July 20, 1848 as the chief musician of the regiment. At the outset of the Civil War William was 43 years old and chose not to serve either side. While his exact allegiance remains unknown, it is presumed to be Union as the family moved to Federal occupied Nashville in 1864 after the siege of Knoxville.

William Turk’s life took a tragic twist when he was stabbed to death in Nashville on November 16, 1864 by an employee of his “Bear Show”. Being a musician, William had a compulsion for performance as he acquired a large trained bear and entertained folks with performances of his music and his performing bear. 

After the war and the establishment of the claims commission, his widow, Nancy J. Turk, filed a claim for “value of buildings destroyed at Knoxville, Tenn., by order of Major-General Burnside”. A report in the Senate of the United States August 15, 1876 stated the following;

            “The claimant in her memorial states that for twenty years prior to and during the year 1863, she was a resident of the city of Knoxville, Tenn.; that she was the owner, in her own right, of a certain dwelling-house and out-houses in the Fifth ward of said city; that on the 18th day of November 1863, when Knoxville was occupied by the Union Army, under General Burnside, and was besieged by the rebels, under General Longstreet, it became a military necessity that said buildings should be burned, and the same were burned by order of General Burnside, for the following alleged reasons: 1st, that the same were an obstruction to the range of the guns of General Burnside’s batteries; and 2d, that they would be a shelter and would furnish a protection to the rebel sharp-shooters in the advance of the enemy upon the lines of the Union forces; that said buildings were consequently burned by the officer of the day after he had notified the claimant to vacate the same; that the same were of the value of $1,230, all which is due and unpaid, and that the claimant has always been loyal to the Government of the United States”

The report goes on to state that the evidence shows that the buildings were in fact burned but there is “no evidence of her loyalty nor of her ownership of the buildings, except the statement in her petition, to which she makes oath”. The report goes on to state that even if her loyalty was proven, the facts of the petition are not grounds for a claim against the United States. 

            “The evidence tends to show, and leaves little doubt, that the claimant’s buildings would have been destroyed in the shock of battle had they not been burned as they were. There is no principle upon which the United States can be held liable to pay for them, and the payment would be dangerous as a precedent.”  (Italics added)

Consequently, the claim was not paid and Nancy Turk remained without compensation for her loss. She would also be out whatever attorney’s fees she paid to file her claim. The Turk case is not unusual in the findings of the United States government for Civil War claims. Of the 22,298 claims submitted to the Commission, only 7,092 (32%) met the stringent tests the Federal government used to prove both loyalty and the validity of the claim.       

November 1863/1864 – Significant in Knoxville and Tennessee Civil War History

The second half of November 158 years ago in 1863 and in 1864 was significant in the Civil War history of Knoxville and in the state of Tennessee. The events that occurred would change the complexion of Knoxville and other areas in the state forever. Such events deserve to be remembered.

November 17: The Siege of Knoxville by Confederate forces begins.

                         Union General William P. Sanders is mortally wounded.

November 18: General Sanders dies at the Lamar House.

Significant during the siege was the mortal wounding of newly promoted U.S. cavalry General William P. Sanders on November 18 and the Battle of Fort Sanders on the early morning of November 29. General Sanders died of his wounds on November 19 at the Lamar House hospital (today the Bijou Theatre). His low key funeral was held that night so as not to arouse suspicion among the Confederate troops. Sanders was interred in the churchyard cemetery of the Second Presbyterian Church which surrounded the church building. Not wanting to upset the troops, General Burnside did not make a general announcement of the death of the very popular general until a day later. However, by that time, many of the troops were aware of his death.

Later, when the Second Presbyterian Church relocated to west Knoxville along Kingston Pike, General Sanders was moved to the national cemetery in Chattanooga, where he rests today.

Six years ago, the KCWRT dedicated a plaque near the front entrance of the Bijou Theatre commemorating the death of General Sanders in this historic building.

November 19: The new unfinished cemetery at Gettysburg is dedicated with a memorable short oration by President Abraham Lincoln.

Tennessee had 775 soldiers in three regiments present at Gettysburg. Of those, 16 were KIA, 118 wounded, 37 wounded and missing, and 245 initially missing. This total of 416 men is equal to a 54% casualty rate against those present. Some of the 245 missing likely found their way back to their regiments within a few days.  

November 23: Battle of Orchard Knob in Chattanooga.

November 24: Battle of Lookout Mountain at Chattanooga.

November 29: Battle of Fort Sanders: Confederate casualties 813; Union casualties 13.  

November 30, 1864: Battle of Franklin

From November 1863 the war would drag on for another 17 months inflicting further hardship on the citizens of Knoxville and all of Tennessee.

Suggested Reading: Dr. Earl J. Hess, The Knoxville Campaign, Burnside and Longstreet in East Tennessee