New marker notes site of Civil War battle in Sevier County

Apr. 08, 2013 @ 11:09 AM

The Battle of Fair Garden may not be among the most talked about in the Civil War, but it was significant.

And it is being recognized as such, at least locally. A marker was unveiled Friday on the campus of Walters State Community College to mark the spot of the battle.

Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker  made remarks, while the keynote address was given by Carroll Van West, director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University.

Van West focused on the importance of the battle not only as the largest between federal and confederate forces in Sevier County, but also its significance to outcome of the war on a larger scale.

Van West explained that the National Council that reviews and ranks battlefields in terms of significance included The Battle of Fair Garden, along with 38 other battles that took place in Tennessee, on its list.

"What battles are the most important? We know those names. We know names like Gettysburg, Chickamaugua, Shiloh, but also in that list of nationally significant battles is Fair Garden. ... So when you go out from this event today, remember the good speeches, remember the beautiful weather, but also remember that what happened here mattered," Van West said.

The marker features photographs of Union Gen. Samuel Sturgis, as well as Confederate Gen. James Longstreet. In addition, there are also photographs of Capt. Eli Lilly, who later founded the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Co, and a photograph of the Stewart Dickey house, which federal troops used as their headquarters.

A map directs visitors to other historical sites related to the Battle of Fair Garden, such as Rose Glen Plantation, home of Union loyalist Robert Hodgsen; the Stewart Dickey house; the Confederate camp; and McNutt's Bridge (now replaced with the Harrisburg Covered Bridge).

The battle encompassed eight miles of Sevier County, stretching from Dandridge to the Little Pigeon River.

While standing in front of the marker, visitors may look across the street to the hillside on which initial combat occurred on Jan. 27, 1864.

The marker is included in the Tennessee Civil War Trails Program, which is part of a five-state project that allows interested individuals to visit and explore sites associated with the War.

Sevier County historian Carroll McMahan presided over the unveiling of the new sign, but asked all those who were instrumental in moving the project forward to assist.

The program concluded with a military gun salute and Taps by American Legion Post 104.

n jfrye@themountainpress.com