Civil War battle to be remembered with sign

Mar. 29, 2013 @ 11:39 PM

A new sign commemorating the Battle of Fair Garden will be unveiled Friday, April 5, as part of Sevierville’s annual Arbor Day celebration. The public ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. on the Sevier County campus of Walter State Community College.

Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker and Dr. Carroll Van West, director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, will attend, along with local dignitaries.

The marker will be erected as part of the Civil War Trails program, which promote awareness of Civil War sites with driving tours. Sevier County author Carroll McMahan says that the marker helps preserve local history.

“With interesting connections to nationally known figures such as Colonel Eli Lilly, who fought in battle and later formed the world renowned Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company, and General Sturgis, for whom the town of Sturgis, S.D., was named, the Battle of Fair Garden Marker is sure to attract a large number of visitors,” McMahan said.

A multi-state program, Civil War Trails highlights over 200 sites in Tennessee. Maps can be found at various welcome centers across the state. McMahan has worked with state and city officials for several years on the project.

The battle of Fair Garden was the largest skirmish between Union and Confederate forces in Sevier County. On Jan. 25, 1864, Confederate Gen. James Longstreet commanded Gen. William Martin to drive the Union calvary from an area south of the French Broad River stretching from Dandridge to the Little Pigeon River.

Federal forces, led by General Samuel Sturgis, curtailed the approaching Confederate army at Rose Glen. The confrontation lasted three days, resulting in 65 casualities for the Union and the loss of 100 Confederate soldiers.

Spanning eight miles, the battle encompassed three Sevier County Farms – Rose Glen, the Stuart Dickey Farm and McNutt Farm. The Fair Garden marker will be situated across from Rose Glen Plantation on the Old Newport Highway.

During the battle, Dr. Hatton Hodgsen, who built Rose Glen and served as the attending physician for the Trail of Tears in the late 1830s, was on his deathbed inside the Antebellum plantation. Hodgsen also represented Blount County in the Tennessee state legislature between 1841-1845.

January will mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fair Garden. Most Civil War monuments were dedicated in the years immediately after the conflict, but new monuments continue to be erected. An additional 300 sites currently are  planned for Tennessee and Virginia.

In the early days, Sevier County residents were not initially receptive to the idea of Civil War monuments, McMahan said.

“It was such a hard time for Sevier Countians, who were mostly Union sympathizers in a Confederate state,” he said. “No one knew who to trust. Now that enough time has passed, it’s good to mark the battle site and preserve this piece in our history.”

The City of Sevierville Parks and Recreation department is administering the installation of the sign. Funding for the landscaping around the marker will be provided by the Sevierville Trees/Trails and Beautification Board.

Next week’s program is sponsored jointly by the city of Sevierville, the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, and Walter State Community College. Civil War reenactors will perform at the ceremony, and there will be a bagpipe performance.

For additional information, contact McMahan at the Chamber of Commerce, 865-453-6411.