Civil War in Sullivan County
Union and Confederate forces in Sullivan County
battled to control the East Tennessee & Virginia
Railroad and the Holston River, strategically vital
transportation routes for moving soldiers and
supplies. The county supported secession while
most other East Tennessee counties remained
loyal to the Union. Confederate Col. George
Brent wrote of the Confederate army's foraging
parties, which plundered local secessionists as
well as Unionists, "The complaints of the citizens
of Sullivan County, Tenn., are well founded. ...
Robberies by soldiers in small parties have been frequent. ...
No receipts were given,
no money paid, and no
form of law observed."
Determined to control the railroad, Union forces attacked
the county seat, Blountville, on September 22,
1863. Col. John W. Foster shelled the town for
four hours, burning the courthouse and forcing
a Confederate retreat as terrified residents fled.
The Battle of Kingsport erupted on December
13, 1864, when Gens. Stephen G. Burbridge's and
Alvan C. Gillem's forces struck Confederate Col.
Richard Morgan's troops at the Holston River.
Morgan believed that a damaged bridge would
prevent an attack, but a surprise Federal assault
caused 100 Confederate casualties.
Some local Unionists found a haven on
Bays Mountain. Federal chaplain William S.
8th Tennessee Calvary, preached for
decades after the war at Depew's Chapel United
Methodist Church, where his comrade Benjamin F. Hood served as minister and trustee. Jerome Pierce, a former slave who fled to serve with the
Union army, bought land on Bays Mountain and
built a log house that still stands today.
Top right: Kingsport, ca. 1910 - Soldiers foraging. - Unionist refugees
Bottom right: Blountville, looking east from near the Union position, with the Masonic Female Institute at upper right, ca. 1900