By Mike Steely
We are so privileged in East Tennessee and Knox County to have so many historic sites surrounding us, especially the number of early forts. Within an easy day’s drive are fortifications built long before statehood and fort sites built during the Civil War.
In Knoxville there’s Fort Dickerson, overlooking the city just off Chapman Highway. The Civil War fort protected the city during the war. Nearby is Fort Higley, on Cherokee Trail, which was located and the breastwork restored only a few years ago.
The knoll where the Old Knoxville Courthouse sits was originally the site of a federal garrison fort and, within grounds of the fort, are the graves of John Sevier and his first and second wives.
Fort Southwest Point is located in Kingston and overlooks the junction of the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers. It also served as an Indian Agency. Fort Loudoun, south of Vonore, was the first English fort built on the west side of the Appalachian Mountains and, although reconstructed and relocated slightly above the original site, gives visitors a good idea of fort life before the American Revolution.
Tellico Blockhouse was a fort across the river from Fort Loudoun and built many years later as an Indian Agency, Trading Post, and military facility. The fort foundations and well were recovered and restored.
Fort Marr was a Cherokee Removal fort located along the Tennessee and Georgia state line and was moved years ago to Benton, Tn. All that remains is the blockhouse.
There are many fort sites that have been identified but the forts are long gone as civilization plowed over them, businesses, houses and roads now occupying the sites. Those include Breastwork Hill overlooking Tazewell where Union earthworks can still be seen.
Knoxville has several former old fort sites that have vanished under civilization including Fort Sanders, Fort Adair, and various smaller gun placement battery sites. Civil War Fort Huntington Smith was located on the grounds of the Green Magnet Academy. Cavett Station was located on Broome Road and was the site of a Chickamauga attack and massacre of residents there. Campbell’s Station and other pioneer cabins were fortified during the Cherokee wars and the Mabrey-Hazen House was fortified during the Civil War.
Other “lost” forts include various fort locations within the Cumberland Gap National Park, especially atop the pinnacle overlooking Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky. Fort Cass is located in Bradley County and Fort Watauga in Carter County. Fort Hiwassee is located near Dayton, Tn., on the Tennessee River and a private grave year there contains graves of the pre-Tennessee soldiers.
John Miller’s Fort was somewhere in Raccoon Valley. Raccoon was Miller’s nickname.