Civil War Index

The Civil War in Roane County
By: John McMurray

Like most areas of the United States, particularly in the South, Roane County was an area in turmoil during the Civil War. Families, churches, communities, and counties were split by divided loyalties during the conflict and beyond. Before secession, Roane County was overwhelmingly pro-Union. However, after secession it seems that Roane County was about evenly divided between North and South. Military companies raised in Roane County were about evenly divided between the two sides. Roane County twice voted overwhelmingly against a convention to consider secession. Nevertheless, the middle and western parts of the State carried Tennessee into the Confederacy. The Confederates retained control of East Tennessee and Roane County until September 1, 1863. Confederate generals in military command of East Tennessee were Crittenden, Zollicoffer, Edmund Kirby Smith, J. P. Smith, Samuel Jones, Dabney E. Maury, Simon B. Buckner, and finally Jubal Early. In the summer of 1863, Union General Ambrose Burnside began an invasion of East Tennessee in order to take this sensitive pro-Union area from the Confederates. Burnside and his army arrived at Kingston on September 1, 1863. After the Burnside operation, Roane County and East Tennessee came under the command of Union Army Generals J. G. Foster, J. M. Schofield and George Stoneman. It is known that a Colonel Morrison of the Confederate Georgia Cavalry was in command at Kingston during 1862. Also, at one time in late 1863 Union Colonel R. K. Byrd, from Roane County, was in command at Kingston. In 1860 Roane County encompassed what is now Roane County plus parts of Loudon County, which was formed in 1870 from parts of Roane, Monroe, and Blount Counties. Both Loudon and Philadelphia were in Roane County during the Civil War. Lenoir City had not been founded and was known as Lenoir Station. Kingston was the only town in the present Roane County area during the 1860-1865 period. Post Oak was just a community, although larger than Kingston at the time. Rockwood and Harriman would not be founded until years after the conclusion of the Civil War. There were no major Civil War battles fought in what is now Roane County. There was a lot of activity around Loudon, since it was the Tennessee River crossing for the railroad running from Knoxville to Chattanooga. The nearest thing to a major action in present Roane County occurred on November 24, 1865 at Kingston. At this time Confederate General Longstreet was in Knoxville in an attempt to relieve pressure on the Confederate armies in the Chattanooga area. Cavalry patrols and units from both sides were evident all over East Tennessee. Confederate General Joe Wheeler's cavalry was attached to General Longstreet and made a determined attempt to take Kingston on November 24, 1863. According to official reports, the Union Army at Kingston had drawn up a line on the edge of an open field with two 24-pound cannons in support. There was evidently a brisk fight for awhile, with the Confederates withdrawing that day. The strength of the Union force defending Kingston is not known, but the Confederate force probably numbered between 500 and 1000 men. Between November 16th and 23rd, 1863 there were numerous skirmishes around Kingston leading up to the action of November 24. There was also a skirmish at Kingston on December 4, 1863. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was at Kingston twice during the War and on one of these occasions, he reportedly "wintered" at the Wester home, which sat on the Tennesse River bank at what is now Southwest Point Golf Course. Kingston was considered an important post by both sides and the town is mentioned throughout The War of the Rebellion--Official Reports. An important building during the War was the old Roane County Courthouse. It was built in the period 1853-1856 and served as a hospital and headquarters for both the Union and the Confederacy during their respective occupations of Roane County.