Camp Chase Gazette

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152nd Anniversary of the Battle of Blountville: City of the Dead

Posted on Friday, January 1, 2016 at 8:38 am

On September 22, 1863, the peace of the valley guarding the small town of Blountville, Tennessee, was shattered as artillery fire rained down from the heights overlooking the western side of the town.   Women and children fled from the area of the local tannery and court house.  The location of the Federal Forces was a cemetery that soon became known as the ‘City of the Dead’.  The Confederates had formed a defensive position on the knoll where the current Blountville Middle School is located and another line of defense close to the Sullivan County maintenance building.

The battle raged for close to four hours, as cavalry charged and counter charged along the lines.  An artillery bombardment shattered the court house and several other buildings.  The rebel forces had to withdraw but were soon reinforced.  They devised a plan to draw the Federal troops into a trap but the scheme was soon discovered and the Federal army retired from the field.  The end result of the battle was an almost total loss of the town.

On October 9, 2015, over 650 school children from the area attended a well-planned educational experience. The students were treated to a hay ride to different stations.  Some of the stations included the medical displays by the Ellers and Bill Walker, uniform displays by John Lyle, pewter spoon casting demonstrations, period games and toys by Kay Milsap, camp life, music by Can Joe and Dewey, presentations by General Grant, General Lee and General Alfred Jackson.

On Saturday, the ladies tea was held.  Mrs. Lee was the keynote speaker. She discussed how she designed her husband’s headquarters’ flag and its significance.  Immediately after the tea a memorial ceremony was given honoring Joe Adkins, Commander of The Gen. Alfred E. Jackson Camp #2159 in Jonesborough, Tenn. and Marty Tant, Commander of the Lt. Robert D. Powell Camp #1817 in Blountville, Tenn.  The Tennessee Color Guard and 19th and 60th Tennessee Infantry.  As reported by the Commander of the Honor Guard, Bryan Green, the Madam of Ceremonies, Shelia Hunt, called for the posting of the Colors.  The orders was called, “Color Guard, Forward the Colors, March.”  The troops led by the Color Guard marched through the mud and rained soaked field to the event tent followed by the Honor Guard commanded by Captain Rick Delaney.

The agenda included the invocation by Captain Dotson of the 79th N.Y. Company H, a welcome by Mayor Richard S. Venable (direct descendant of Charles Venable, staff officer to R.E. Lee), opening remarks by Mrs. Hunt, memorial address by Billie Joe Holley, and David Chaltas, wreath presentations by UDC Chapter #754 (presented by Katie Walker), OCR Chapter #11 (presented by Clara Craft), military salute by Honor Guard and benediction.  The famed Can Joe provided moving music for the occasion.

Impromptu presentation were given by Mr. and Mrs. Lee prior to the battle.  At 2 o’clock the sounds of artillery resonated up and down the valley.  The cavalry charged into town as the women and children ran for their lives.  The tannery was set ablaze and the Confederate troops began their counter charge.  The battle raged back and forth to the delight of the approximately 1,000 spectators braving the dreary dampness. The battle ended with the Federal forces taking the field.  To find information about next year’s Battle of Blountville, visit their site or contact the following: or (423)323-4660.

-The After Action Report respectfully submitted by David Chaltas.