East Tennessee Civil War Trails

Just looking at the map can tell you how important Tennessee was during the Civil War. The state was an essential thoroughfare on the way to the Deep South. Both armies regularly marched down the paths that went on to become the same highways and interstates that tourists and locals travel today.

tennessee civil war trails

Civil War Trails

Today, these paths are known as Tennessee’s Civil War Trails. This network of roadways traverses the entire Volunteer State, and gives folks a chance to relive the region’s rich history as they explore highways, byways and even old country roads. Tennessee has the second most Civil War sits & battlefields in the country, just behind Virginia. Though the area did not see much action on the battlefield, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and the rest of the Tennessee Smoky Mountains were steeped in hot political activity during the war. The state served as a gateway from the north into Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Tennessee & The Union

Here in East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains, loyalties were especially divided during the War Between the States. While West and Middle Tennessee supported secession, East Tennessee lobbied hard to stay with the Union. In fact, most of the folks around here remained particularly loyal to the North during the war. You can determine this by looking at the inscriptions on some of the old cemetery stones in the Cades Code area.

For example, homesteader Russell Gregory’s tombstone at the Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery reads that North Carolina rebels murdered the founder of Gregory’s Bald in 1864. Gregory’s experience wasn’t unique. During the 1860s, this area was home to a few small settlements — including a few of the cabins and churches still standing today. Confederate sympathizers, or the “Rebs” as the locals called them, would often come over the hills during raids, taking livestock and food from the lush valley that produced much-needed vegetables and grains.

The Old Mill

The Old Mill, in Pigeon Forge, also worked for the Union during the war. The Trotter family, who owned and operated the mill between 1849 and 1900, used their resources to create a loom that made the fabric used to clothe the United States Army. Other East Tennesseans showed support for the Union army during the war by engaging in skirmishes often involving guerilla warfare. They were known for burning bridges, cutting telegraph wires and spying on their Southern-supporting neighbors for the Union troops and leaders.

In addition to Cades Cove and the Old Mill, local sites with Civil War history include:

Maryville

Maryville During the Civil War

Trails sign at 301 McGee St, Maryville TN 37801 - Fighting touched this county seat in August 1864 when Confederate cavalrymen attacked a detachment of Union cavalry here. The Confederates, hoping to smoke out Union resisters in the courthouse, set fire to nearby houses. The fire spread uncontrolled and destroyed much of the town but not the courthouse. This area, influenced by strong anti-slavery Quakers, voted decisively against secession in 1861.

Sevier

Battle of Fair Garden

Trails sign on the Walters State Community College, Old Newport Highway, Sevier TN 37876 - Fighting over fords and foraging grounds erupted here during the end of January 1864. Union cavalry won initial victories before hitting Confederate Gen. James Longstreet’s infantry near Dandridge. The outgunned Federal troopers withdrew, giving up the valuable winter foraging areas.