If you’re free at noon tomorrow, pack your lunch and head over to the East Tennessee History Center in downtown Knoxville for a brown bag lecture on the 1793 massacre at Cavett’s Station. The speaker is Dr. Charles Faulkner, who’s spent years studying Tennessee archaeology. Admission is free.
Tag Archives: Knoxville
Well, as of today, I’ve been given the honor and privilege of being associated with one of the coolest historic sites in East Tennessee. I’m now on the Board of Directors for the Governor John Sevier Memorial Association, which oversees Marble Springs State Historic Site in Knoxville. Sevier spent the last fifteen years of his remarkably eventful life there.
Needless to say, this is pretty exciting for an early Tennessee/King’s Mountain enthusiast like me. Marble Springs has an extremely dedicated and talented staff, and I’m looking forward to being involved.
The Frank H. McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee is hosting a series of Sunday lectures on the Civil War in Knoxville, starting this Sunday. While you’re there, you can check out the Ft. Sanders exhibit; it’s pretty cool. Click here for details.
Jack Neely goes looking for the fortifications that once defended the city in an article for Metro Pulse.
…there’s a new Knoxville Civil War Gateway on the corner of Gay St. and Hill Ave:
Beginning May first the Civil War Gateway will be open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 AM- 4 PM, providing maps, walking tour brochures, videos, troop information, and graphic presentations of the Civil War story here in East Tennessee. Saturday guided tours will be announced and conducted regularly. Consult www.knoxcivilwar.org for all details.
Sounds pretty cool!
Here’s some more virtual time travel. This is Fort Sanders on the western outskirts of Knoxville, TN. It was the site of a failed Confederate attack in November 1863, but I think the photo is from 1864.
Now the site of the fort is well within the city. Here’s the same view, give or take a block or two.
The Knoxville News Sentinel has been celebrating its birthday with a retrospective of notable stories from its century-and-a-quarter-long run. A recent article highlights one of the more colorful episodes in Knoxville history.
On the night of Dec. 13, 1901 two police officers tried to break up a brawl in one of the city’s less reputable establishments and ended up getting shot by one of the participants, who managed to flee the scene despite being beaten over the head withe the officers’ clubs. The shooter was later arrested and subsequently identified as Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry—one of the most notorious members of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch gang. He had been traveling throughout the country passing off notes taken in a Montana train holdup before his pool hall fight landed him in a Tennessee jail.
Logan’s trial turned into one of the twentieth century’s first legal media circuses, and ended in the summer of 1903 when he managed to snag a jail guard’s neck with a wire and make off with the sheriff’s horse. You can read the full story in the book Harvey Logan in Knoxville by Sylvia Lynch, who happens to be my mom.
The Sentinel article notes that Logan refused to have his picture taken, so the newspaper recruited an East Tennessee artist to visit the jail and produce a sketch to run on the front page. The artist was Lloyd Branson. Loyal readers of this blog might recall that Branson’s name has appeared here before. He painted the famous picture of the Sycamore Shoals muster preceding the Battle of King’s Mountain that now hangs in the Tennessee State Museum and adorns the banner at the top of this site, and he also depicted the battle itself in a painting which burned in a Knoxville hotel fire.
I told my mom about this, and she mentioned that she’d discussed Branson’s sketch of Logan in her book. I pulled a copy off the shelf, and sure enough, there was a picture of Lloyd Branson working on a self-portrait. So when I was a teenager, before I had any inkling that I’d study history, my mom wrote a book about an outlaw who got his picture drawn by Lloyd Branson, and then years later I wrote my thesis about a Revolutionary War campaign which was the subject of two paintings by Lloyd Branson. I then realized that Lloyd Branson stands at the nexus of all that is.
The always-readable Knoxville historian Jack Neely weighs in on the disappearing Farragut monument, and considers the wider implications. His assessment is that we East Tennesseans have been pretty lousy stewards of our historic resources, and I heartily agree with him.
“Laws of probability suggest that every privately owned historic site will eventually end up in the hands of someone who doesn’t care much about history,” he writes. “Independent-minded property owners have an advantage over preservationists: one property owner can cancel generations of care. Without some permanent enforceable protections in place, a community will erase its own history.” Of course, “permanent enforceable protections” will mean curbs on doing what we darn well please, which is anathema to a great many people.
I’ve been a conservative for quite a long time, and historic preservation is one of those areas where I often find myself in disagreement with fellow members of my political persuasion. Look, I’m all for a robust conception of property rights. The notion that a man can be told what to do or what not to do with what he owns gets my blood boiling; if you can’t do what you want with your property, one wonders if it’s really your property. But I also believe there is such a thing as responsibility to the common good, and protection of historic resources is very much a part of that common good. Few people ask for the onerous responsibility of stewardship over these resources, but a responsibility is never abrogated just because it isn’t desired.
We conservatives are a rather schizophrenic lot. We cheer when our leaders pose for photo-ops at museums and historic sites to spout platitudes about our heritage, and then we cheer just as loudly when they make decisions that deprive those museums and sites of the resources they need to maintain and share the heritage they invoke. We preach about looking back to our predecessors who sacrificed to secure the freedoms we enjoy, and then we exercise these freedoms by erasing all trace of those predecessors whenever it serves our immediate self-interest.
Oh, we absolutely love to invoke the past, so long as it doesn’t cost us anything.
…of Knoxville, with Jack Neely as your virtual guide. His “Secret History” column in the Metro Pulse is always an intriguing read. Any city that hosted both Union and Confederate rallies on the same street and at the same time is bound to have some notable stories to tell.
If you’ve got an appetite for more, there are a couple of books worth recommending. Robert Tracy McKenzie’s Lincolnites and Rebels explores the political struggles in Knoxville during the Civil War era. Digby Seymour’s Divided Loyalties provides a detailed account of the fighting in and around town, particularly the dramatic Confederate assault on Fort Sanders in 1863.