KCWRT President’s message – January 2018

“Now is the winter of our discontent…”

Richard III by William Shakespeare

Winter can be a hard time of year. The days are short, and the weather is usually cold and often brings rain, snow, or ice. Trees are devoid of leafs, nothing is blooming, and outdoor activity is curtailed. Newspapers, magazines, and television commentators recall people who have died in the ending year, and events that we would often rather forget. We have time to contemplate our current divisive political and cultural climate. And yet…..

It could be, and has been, worse, and as students of the Civil War we should recognize that. We do not have opposing armies in the land, mass casualties, famine, burning cities, and the other curses that accompany internecine strife. George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The programs and activities of our Roundtable help us remember, and learn from, the history that belongs to us all.

On December 12 we again surpassed the century mark for Jim Ogden’s presentation about “Opening the Cracker Line” into besieged and starving Chattanooga. To be precise, we had 75 diners (66 members and 9 guests) and 35 attending the lecture (27 members and 8 guests). That’s a total of 110. Hopefully we will be able to use both rooms on January 9, so we won’t be as cramped. Join us for Michael Shaffer’s lecture on “Francis Shoup and the Chattahoochee River Line”.

More than 25 members are planning to go on the KCWRT Field Trip to Stones River Battlefield on Saturday, January 20. Neil Williams and Norman Shaw have planned an excellent event. Review the information elsewhere in this newsletter, and plan to enjoy a day of education and fellowship.

At our April 10 meeting we will celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable. There will be some special features for the evening. A couple of volunteers are needed to help plan. Please speak with any member of the Board.

We currently have 229 members, but we need to interest more young people in the Civil War. Jack Spiceland, Director of Promotion, has formed an ad hoc committee to address this issue. Members include Jack, Lee Muller, Jim Jorgensen, Joan Markel, Steve Dean, and Gerald Augustus. More thoughts and viewpoints will be welcome. Please contact Jack or any committee member.

We don’t commonly think of Starkville, Mississippi, as a Civil War tourism destination, but that should change. Mississippi State University is home to the newly expanded Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, and also a very large collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia and research material.

Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, will host the 27th Annual Civil War Weekend on March 16-18, 2018, plus an optional Spring Campaign to the Shenandoah Valley guided bus excursion March 18-20. Several nationally known speakers will participate. Full information including cost will be available at the January 9 meeting.

Finally, winter is not without benefit to those who study the Civil War. Vegetation is defoliated, and battlefield views are improved. Go to Fort Dickerson and enjoy the views of Knoxville. It’s a City Park, but your Roundtable has made major contributions to preserve and improve it. The public benefits.

John Burkhart, President

KCWRT in January: Francis Shoup and the Chattahoochee River Line

As May of 1864 turned into June, and June into July, Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee back-stepped across North Georgia. Abandoning one fortified position after another the Confederates moved south in syncopation to the sidestepping maneuvers of Wm Tecumseh Sherman’s combined Union forces. Dalton, Resaca, Allatoona, Kennesaw Mountain, Smyrna– each was flanked in turn by the wily Sherman, though not before the Union commander was bloodied at Kennesaw and reminded of the perils of a frontal assault against a well-fortified position.

Now as they approached Atlanta the federals ran into yet another line of massive fortifications along the Chattahoochee River, what Sherman called “the best line of field intrenchments I have ever seen”. The six-mile line was the handiwork of one Brigadier General Francis Shoup.

Come join us as historian Michael K. Shaffer shares the story of Shoup, the River Line, and the action that followed when Sherman faced Johnston on the Chattahoochee.

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Michael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, lecturer, newspaper columnist, and tour guide. A member of the Society of Civil War Historians, Historians of the Civil War Western Theater, and the Georgia Association of Historians, Michael served as president of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and currently serves on the board of the River Line Historic Area and as a consultant to the Friends of Camp McDonald. Michael holds BA and MA degrees in Military History: Civil War Studies. When he’s not writing, traveling, leading tours, and talking to groups like ours, Michael teaches Civil War courses at Kennesaw State University.

Anniversary of the Battle of Ft. Sanders

The Battle of Fort Sanders took place just after daylight on Sunday, November 29, 1863.

The short engagement was a total victory for the Federal troops and closed the Siege of Knoxville which began 11 days earlier.

The fort’s earthen walls were 20-feet high, almost straight up, and in the cold and foggy winter morning were wet, slick, and partially ice covered.  Confederate forces mounted a doomed attempt to traverse the unanticipated dry ditch and scale the walls.  They carried no scaling tools or ladders.

In a battle that lasted only twenty minutes, 813 of 4,000 Confederates died, were wounded or were taken prisoner.  Union casualties were only 13; 5 killed and 8 wounded.

Due to land development occurring in the late 1800’s nothing remains of the fort today.  A Tennessee State Historical Marker, a United Daughters of the Confederacy monument, and a monument to the 79th New York Highlanders commemorate the battle and the fort.  A Civil War Trails marker near the corner of 17th and Highland Streets details the Battle of Fort Sanders and includes a photograph of the fort just after the battle.

Below is a plan of Fort Sanders.  The Confederate attack took place against the northwest bastion, the upper left of the drawing.

Dennis D. Urban


Important anniversaries in November

We have some important anniversaries for the Civil War in East Tennessee this month. Nov. 16, 1863, was when the Battle of Campbell Station occurred, and Nov. 19th was when Gen. William Sanders died in the Lamar House (now the Bijou Theater) in Knoxville.

Urban, Dennis 3-13

Lamar House (Bijou Theatre)

Since 1817, the Lamar House has been an important part of life in downtown Knoxville, especially during the Civil War era.  This building was the most popular hotel during the Civil War but was also the scene of several dramatic and violent dramas during the war.  The three-story brick building was owned by former U.S. Congressman, turned ardent Confederate, William H. Sneed during the war.  While the city was under Union control, the Lamar House boarded many important military officers including CSA General Joseph E. Johnston and US General Ulysses S. Grant.

In September 1863, the situation shifted drastically with the arrival of Federal troops. The building then headquartered Union military officers and part of the building became the “Lamar Hospital.”

The mortally wounded General William P. Sanders was carried to and died in the building after having been shot in a skirmish on Kingston Road (now Pike) during the siege of Knoxville on November 18, 1863.  Following the war, Union authorities attempted to confiscate the property but a court intervention thwarted the effort.  The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.  Now, as the Bijou Theatre, it serves as a venue for concerts, musical events, and more.

President’s message: Living History Weekend, East Tennessee History Fair

Our August 8 monthly meeting was well-attended by 63 diners (55 members and 8 guests), and 36 members plus 3 non-members came for the lecture. So 102 persons listened and learned as Greg Biggs discoursed on the impressive logistics of Sherman’s Atlanta and To-The-Sea campaigns.

Did you know that each horse required at least 20 pounds of fodder per day, and there were several thousand horses in the army? Or that a Union soldier could march only about 50 miles before his shoes wore out? Or that Union trains traveled in a loop from Nashville to Chattanooga to Bridgeport to Nashville so that no use of sidings was required?

On September 12 Dave Mowery will discuss John Hunt Morgan’s raid across the Ohio River. Morgan had lots of men and animals—and no railroad or secure logistical tail. Come and hear how these obstacles were addressed.

Although most of our members elect to receive the monthly newsletter electronically, hard copies are still mailed to museums, libraries, and a few members. Our Secretary Steve Dean has found a company that will do this for us, and at less cost than we have been paying.



Dinner now begins at 6:30 pm, business at 7:15 pm, and program at 7:30 pm.

Renew your membership! If you have already done so, thank you

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John Hunt Morgan’s Great Raid of 1863 at the next KCWRT meeting


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From July 2-26, 1863, while the great battles at Gettysburg and Vicksburg captured the attention of the American people, Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan led nearly 2,500 cavalrymen on a daring raid into the North. Morgan’s objective

Morgan’s objective was to distract the Union forces under Major General William Rosecrans and Major General Ambrose Burnside from building up enough momentum to wrestle the mostly pro-Union East Tennessee region from its Confederate occupants and push General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee beyond its supply base at Chattanooga. Morgan’s incursion

Morgan’s incursion into Indiana and Ohio would produce the effect he desired, but it would end with disastrous results for his famous division. Come join us as

Come join us at the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable’s monthly meeting on Sept. 12 as David Mowery discusses Morgan’s Great Raid as it passed through three Union states and circumvented Cincinnati, which at the time was the seventh largest city in the United States and which served as the headquarters for Burnside’s department.

Morgan’s special forces operation represented the pinnacle of Morgan’s strategic and tactical skills and the best of his division’s raiding capabilities. No other American mounted infantry division would ever achieve what Morgan’s raiders accomplished on the Great Raid of 1863.

David Mowery has been studying the Civil War for over 35 years during which time he has researched, visited, and site-documented over 500 Civil War battlefields across the United States. Continue reading

New schedule for meetings: Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m., program at 7:15

With the September meeting, the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable begins a new schedule, with all meeting events a half hour earlier than with the previous schedule.

Dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The business meeting and program will begin at 7:15 p.m., and the speaker will generally begin at 7:30.

Meetings should adjourn at about 8:45 p.m.

Make a note of this schedule change, and don’t be late for the September meeting.

Living History weekend at Ft. Dickerson set for Oct. 29-30


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Fort Dickerson, the Civil War earthwork atop a hill on Knoxville’s southern riverfront will once again be populated with soldiers in blue and gray as the Knoxville Civil War
Roundtable and the City of Knoxville present a Living History weekend on October 29
and 30, 2017.

Local re-enacting units, historians, and authors alike will commemorate the Siege of Knoxville that took place in November of 1863.

The free event is sponsored by the City of Knoxville’s Parks and Recreation Department and hosted by the Civil War Roundtable. Fort Dickerson Park is located just off Chapman Highway in South Knoxville at 3000 Fort Dickerson Road.

The Living History Weekend will run from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Saturday, October 29, and from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., Sunday, October 30. 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.

Visitors are invited to park for free at Disc Exchange across from Shoneys, where they can ride a free shuttle to Fort Dickerson.

Fort Dickerson was one of sixteen earthen forts and battery positions surrounding
Knoxville that were built by the United States Army during the Civil War. It was one of
three constructed upon the heights across the Holston (now Tennessee) River from
Knoxville, the other two being Fort Stanley and Fort Higley.

The middle fort was named for Captain Jonathan C. Dickerson, 112th Illinois Mounted
Infantry, who was killed in action near Cleveland Tennessee.

For more information on this event as well as Civil War History in Knoxville, contact Event Coordinator Tom Wright at 865-482- 1680 thomaswright8@comcast.net or Re-enactor Coordinator Perry Hill at 865-283- 1691 or cpthill63rdtn@yahoo.com.

Tentative schedule of activities:

Saturday, October 29, 2017
10:00 am – Camps open to public
11:00 am – Ladies Fashions
11:30 am – Mustering in/Infantry Drill
12:00 pm -Civil War Arms

Sunday, Oct. 30, 2017

Jim Lyle tours Ft. Dickerson in these three videos



KCWRT’s Jim Lyle conducts a short tour of Ft. Dickerson in Knoxville.

Thanks to Val Lyle for these videos.

KCWRT welcomes Greg Biggs as August speaker


Greg Biggs has studied military history from the Spartans to modern wars for over 50 years with concentrations on the Napoleonic Era, the Civil War and World War II.

Greg Biggs

An expert on the military flags of the 18th and 19th centuries, Greg has consulted with museums, collectors and auction houses on Civil War flags and has written several articles on the topic in SCV publications, North-South Trader and Civil War News, Battle of Franklin Trust Magazine and others.

Greg is also a text editor and author for the scholarly Flags of the Confederacy web site (www.confederate-flags.org).  He has done research for several Civil War authors and has written articles for Civil War Regiments journal, Blue & Gray Magazine, Civil War News, Citizens Companion, Hallowed Ground and some online publications.

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