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Knoxville's Civil War Forts

Lushly overgrown Fort Stanley.

Photo by David Luttrell

Lushly overgrown Fort Stanley.

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  • Only a few Knoxville buildings, like Lincoln Memorial University's law school, stood during the Civil War. Built in 1848 as the state school for the deaf, it served both Confederate and Union forces, in turn, as one of the region's main military hospitals.
  • Where’s the Fort? Long forgotten, the largest fort on the south side, Fort Dickerson was saved as a city park in the middle part of the 20th century, and during the Centennial in 1963 served as the site of a large reenactment. Named for an Illinois Union captain killed near Cleveland, Tenn., it disappoints some visitors but awes others as the Knoxville area’s best-preserved fort. Before the Battle of Knoxville, it helped repel a tentative invasion by Confederate General “Fightin’ Joe” Wheeler.
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  • Fort Sanders: At the corner of Clinch Avenue and 16th, very near the southern rampart of Union Fort Sanders, the New York Highlanders monument stands as the only regimental monument erected in Knoxville by either side after the war, but it depicts in bas relief reconciled soldiers from both sides shaking hands. Union and Confederate veterans alike came to this site for an unusual reunion in 1890.
  • The Fog of War: Though hard to capture in photographs, Fort Higley is intact and distinctive, a tiny fort, its walls four or five feet high, in a clearing in dense woods.
  • Lushly overgrown Fort Stanley.
  • River Bluff, site of the historically murky Battle of Armstrong’s Hill, had yielded dozens of Mine balls and other artifacts over the years.
  • At right, one E.M. Johnson took some time to carefully carve his name in a River Bluff cave in May, 1865, at the end of the war.
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  • Forgotten Fortress? Though little is documented about it, and Civil War scholars have only begun studying it, a likely fortification stands near the Third Creek bike trail, guarding the trestle which then carried the tracks of the vital East Tennessee and Georgia Railway. A trespasser stands in front as to allow perspective.
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  • Impregnable? A detail from a map recently popular with Civil War enthusiasts. Cartographer Charles Reeves combined Orlando Poe’s exacting diagrams from 1863-64 with a modern map of city streets. In bold lines, the map shows the ring of forts that made invasion a discouraging prospect. Forts Higley, Dickerson, and Stanley, with their respective trenchwork, are indicated in the lower half.

We search out the remnants of Knoxville's Civil War forts.

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