KCWRT announces preservation grant award

The Knoxville Civil War Roundtable (KCWRT) awarded the first annual Dot Kelly Preservation Grant to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Chapter 89 (UDC 89). The $500 grant was presented May 2 at the annual meeting and awards of the East Tennessee Historical Society (ETHS) held at the Foundry. The grant was to repair the pool and fountain at the Bleak House, Confederate Memorial Hall in Knoxville. The over 100-year-old concrete fountain was in disrepair due to leaks and cracks in the base.

In December 2015, the KCWRT created the grant to honor past president and long-time board member Dot Kelly for her many years of service to the KCWRT and her tireless efforts towards the preservation of Knoxville’s Civil War history and historic sites. This annual grant, in an amount not to exceed $500, is given to a group, individual, or organization for a Knoxville area Civil War preservation project. Beginning in 2017 and in future years, the annual grant information and application is included with the ETHS Awards of Excellence announced each February.

Accepting the grant check from KCWRT past president Dennis Urban and Dot Kelly was Karen Blevins, 3rd vice president of UDC 89. Also present was John Stegner, president of the KCWRT and Carlene Johnson, president of UDC 89.

Bleak House is a Victorian mansion built in 1858 by prominent Knoxvillian, Robert H. Armstrong. Slave labor was used to mold the bricks for the house on site. During the siege of Knoxville and the Battle of Fort Sanders in November and December 1863, the home served as headquarters for Confederate Generals James Longstreet and Lafayette McLaws. Three soldiers using the house’s tower as a sharpshooters post were killed there by Federal cannon fire. A comrade sketched their likenesses on the wall of the tower. Two cannonballs are still embedded in the walls. Artillery was also set up on the lawn to fire on the Federals. Tours of the house and grounds are offered. Refer to the UDC 89 website: http://www.bleakhouseudc89.org/

Bud Robertson to speak to KCWRT on ‘four-legged soldiers’ in May



Come join us for an unforgettable evening (Tuesday, May 9) with the redoubtable Civil War historian and luminary, Dr. James I. (Bud) Robertson, as he addresses…    

      ~The Four-Legged Soldiers in the Civil War~

It is easy when studying Civil War history to forget that an army existed, and functioned, solely because of horses and mules.  They were not merely the property and province of officers and cavalrymen. Every wagon, every ambulance, every artillery piece was immobile and, for all intents and purposes, useless in the absence of horsepower. While the human cost of the war was horrendous, far more of the silent servants died than did humans.  Yet one scarcely gives their sacrifices a passing thought.

What they did–and gave–will be the first half of Bud Robertson’s talk.  He will then “switch horses” and focus on regimental mascots, who were so invaluable in boosting troop morale, providing companionship, and promoting love to soldiers on both sides in the chilling atmosphere of war.

James I. “Bud” Robertson

James I. Robertson Jr., one of the country’s most distinguished Civil War historians, is the author or editor of more than 25 books including biographies of Gens. Robert E. Lee and A. P. Hill, several works on the common soldiers, and three studies written for young readers. His massive biography of Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson won eight national awards and was used as the basis for the characterization of Jackson in the Ted Turner/Warner Bros. mega-movie, “Gods and Generals”, a film for which Dr. Robertson served as chief historical consultant. For the sesquicentennial, The National Geographic Society published in 2011 his book The Untold Civil War based on stories and vignettes from his popular and long-running weekly series on National Public Radio. His latest book, After the Civil War: The Heroes, Villains, Soldiers, and Civilians Who Changed America was published in October of 2015.

Dr. Robertson served as Executive Director of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission in the 1960s and worked with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in commemorating the war’s 100th anniversary.  He then taught 44 years at Virginia Tech, where his upper division course on the Civil War era attracted 300 or more students per semester and made it the largest class of its kind in the nation.  At his retirement in 2011, the University named him Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History.

The Danville, Virginia native holds a Ph.D. degree from Emory University and honorary doctorates from Randolph-Macon College and Shenandoah University. A man of many talents, he is the lyricist of the Old Dominion’s newly adopted traditional state song, “Our Great Virginia” which the governor recently signed into law.

The recipient of every major award given in Civil War history, and a lecturer of national acclaim, Dr. Robertson is probably more in demand as a speaker than anyone else in the field of Civil War studies.


Civil War Trust Annual Conference, June 7-11, 2017

Saving America’s Civil War Battlefields   |   Civilwar.org
Annual Conference


In north Georgia and south Tennessee, Union and Confederate armies clashed during the fall of 1863 in some of the hardest fighting of the Civil War. The prize was Chattanooga, a key rail center and the gateway to the heart of the Confederacy. This summer, you can join Civil War Trust members with some of our nation’s elite historians as we delve into the battles that one Confederate soldier ominously called, “the death-knell of the Confederacy.”

At our 2017 Annual Conference, you can explore the battlefield as never before. Our lineup of expert tour guides and speakers includes Keith Bohannon, Michael R. Bradley, Peter Cozzens, Parker Hills, James Ogden III, and the Trust’s own Garry Adelman. Our tours will give a detailed look at the Battles for Chattanooga and the Battle of Chickamauga, and cover themes such as William Tecumseh Sherman versus Joseph Eggleston Johnston in North Georgia, and how George Thomas earned his enduring nickname. The complete list of tours can be found here.

The conference will take place June 7-11. Space is limited! Register now to reserve your spot at the conference and to sign up for your tour preferences. See you in Chattanooga!

Lee's Headquarters
Special Events at Lee’s Headquarters!

We have events planned throughout the year where you can visit the newly restored Lee’s Headquarters at Gettysburg. Save the date for an open house in 2017.

Learn More


Tell Your Story
Why Do You Support the Civil War Trust?

Tell us about why you are passionate about Civil War history and battlefield preservation. Please share your story on our website.

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Shiloh Animated Map

April 6-7 marks the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh. To commemorate the event, you can view the entire engagement from start to finish, from sunrise on April 6, 1862, to Grant’s Counterattack. Watch »

Park Day
Park Day Photo Contest

If you attended a Park Day Event last weekend, please enter your favorite photo from the day for a chance to win! Enter »



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President’s message: Ft. Sumter


Thank you to everyone who attended the March meeting to hear Curt Fields speak on “Appomattox: The Days before the Surrender”. His appearance and presentation as General Grant was commanding as well as enlightening. Total attendance for the lecture was an even 100. There were sixty-three diners, nine who were non-members. Also attending were an additional thirty-seven members and six who were non-members to hear the presentation. Thank you once again for your support and interest in the Round Table as this is the best attended event of the year.

Remember to make your dinner reservation by 11 a.m. Monday April 10th to hear Scientist, Attorney, Historian and Author Scott Mingus speak on “Extra Billy Smith”. I’m looking forward to seeing all of you at the April meeting.

Looking forward to the May 9th dinner meeting, please mark your calendar to hear Bud Robertson’s presentation on “The Four-Legged Soldier”. You will not want to miss Mr. Robertson, who is an outstanding speaker, historian and author.

Fort Sumter

It is 4:30 pre-dawn in Charleston Harbor. The date is April 12, 1861 and a single mortar round is fired at a fort in the middle of the harbor. The shell explodes over Fort Sumter, a Federal Fort. The mortar round is fired by the Confederate States of America under the command of Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard. Major Robert Anderson is the commanding Federal officer of Sumter. The American Civil War has begun.

The battle of Ft. Sumter

Surrounding the harbor, all of the Federal installations and Forts had been surrender to the Confederacy except for Sumter. Strategically and geographically Sumter can control all ships coming and leaving Charleston. The South for the past several months has been demanding that the fort be evacuated and surrendered. On the afternoon of April 11th, Beauregard sent a letter of ultimatum to Anderson demanding its evacuation. Anderson replied “I regret that my sense of honor, and my obligation to my Government, prevent my compliance”.

Beauregard was informed by friends in Washington that an expedition was on route to Charleston to relieve Anderson and a force would be landed to overcome all opposition. On the eve of the 11th, masts of the Federal ships could be observed forming off shore. Anderson sent word to Beauregard that he would evacuate the fort on April 15th. With the expedition force offshore, Beauregard could not wait. At 3:20 a.m. on Friday, April 12th, he sent word to Anderson that he would open fire within one hour.

By 5:00 a.m. gun batteries from Fort Johnson on James Island, Morris Island, Mount Pleasant, and Sullivan Island were firing on Fort Sumter. In Charleston, Mary Chestnut, the wife of Colonel James Chestnut, was awaken suddenly by the bombardment. She wrote, “I sprang out of my bed, and on my knees prostrate, I prayed as never before”. Spectators circled the harbor to watch the shelling of the fort. Concussions of the shells hitting the walls of Fort Sumter could be felt in downtown Charleston and the sound of the guns could be heard more than forty miles away. It most certainly must have been a spectacular site.

The assault on Fort Sumter ended with Colonel Anderson’s surrender at 2:30 p.m. on April 13th. The bombardment lasted for 34 hours with more than 70 Confederate guns and over 4000 shells fired. Although the fort had suffered considerable damage, no one lost their life.

The firing on the fort united a formerly divided North behind President Lincoln’s mission to preserve the Union. On April 15th Lincoln proclaimed a state of insurrection rather than war and issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to quell the rebellion. Officially, the Civil war has begun.

John Stegner, President
The Atlas of the Civil War edited by James M. McPherson The Union Is Dissolved by Douglas W. Bostick
The Everything Civil Book by Donald Vaughn

KCWRT welcomes historian Scott Mingus back to Knoxville


Historian and biographer Scott Mingus will speak to the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Details of the meeting on the left of this page.) His topic will be William “Extra Billy” Smith.

Scott Mingus is a scientist and executive in the paper industry and holds patents in self-adhesive postage stamps and bar code labels. He was part of the research team that developed the first commercially successful self-adhesive U.S. postage stamps.

Scott has written a dozen books and many articles on the Civil War, and his biography of Confederate General William”Extra Billy”; Smith won the 2013 Nathan Bedford Forrest Southern History Book Award and the James I Robertson Jr. Literary Prize. He also has written six scenario books on miniature war gaming and was elected to the hobby’;s prestigious Legion of Honor.

Scott maintains a blog on the Civil War history of York County (www.yorkblog.com/cannonball) and is a sanctioned Civil War tour guide for the York County Heritage Trust. His great-great-grandfather was a 15-year- old drummer boy for the 51st Ohio. Other family members fought at Antietam and Gettysburg.

William ‘Extra Billy’ Smith topic of April KCWRT meeting


Historian and biographer Scott Mingus will speak to the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Details of the meeting on the left of this page.) His topic will be William “Extra Billy” Smith.

William “Extra Billy” Smith, the oldest and one of the most controversial Confederate generals on the field at Gettysburg, was also one of the most colorful and charismatic characters of the Civil War.

William “Extra Billy” Smith

Known nationally as “Extra Billy” because of his prewar penchant for finding loopholes in government postal contracts to gain extra money for his stagecoach lines, Smith served as Virginia’s governor during both the War with Mexico and the Civil War, served five terms in the U.S. Congress, and was one of Virginia’s leading spokesmen for slavery and States’ Rights. Extra Billy’s extra-long speeches and wry sense of humor were legendary among his peers. A lawyer during the heady Gold Rush days, Smith made a fortune in California and, like his income earned from stagecoaches, quickly lost it.

Despite his advanced age, Smith took the field and fought well at First Manassas, was wounded at Seven Pines and again at Sharpsburg, and marched with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania. There, on the first day at Gettysburg, Smith’s frantic messages about a possible Union flanking attack remains a matter of controversy to this day. Did his aging eyes see distant fence-lines that he interpreted as approaching enemy soldiers, or did his prompt action stave off a looming Confederate disaster? What we do know is that his calls for support diverted limited Confederate manpower away from attacks against Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill that might have turned the tide of Southern fortunes in Pennsylvania.

Come join us as Scott Mingus, drawing from his award-winning 2013 biography, paints a broad, deep, and colorful portrait of one of the South’s most interesting leaders and devoted sons. Extra Billy Smith will satisfy anyone who loves politics, war, and a great story well told.

KCWRT Scout’s Report, April 2017

April 2017 

Ft. Dickerson Park clean-up day set for April 1


The Knoxville Civil War Roundtable sponsors a Ft. Dickerson Park clean-up day twice a year (Spring and Fall).

This year’s Spring Clean-up day is Saturday April 1.

We spread mulch on the trails, pick up fallen debris, and trim brush.  The Knoxville Police Department Explorer Scouts provide huge labor assistance. Knoxville Parks and Recreation provides the mulch and a loader.

All willing workers welcome.

KCWRT provides refreshments and light snacks.  Time is 9:00 – 12:00 noon.  Bring rakes, pitchforks, trimming and brush clearing tools.  Park at the top of the Fort Dickerson hill.  Enter off Chapman Highway south at the new entrance and stop light.  All are welcome.

Excellent community service hours.

Photos from our visit by General and Mrs. Grant (Curt Fields)

Photos from the visit Tuesday night by General (Curt Fields) and Mrs. Grant.

Photos by Dennis Urban

Scout’s Report: March 2017

The Scout’s Report, March 2017

MARCH2017 ev