Fort Dickerson 1863–64 - Knoxville, Tennessee
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member DougK
N 35° 56.919 W 083° 54.977
17S E 236956 N 3982184
Quick Description: This Interpretative Sign tells the story of Fort Dickerson during the Civil War.
Location: Tennessee, United States
Date Posted: 5/12/2014 2:05:28 PM
Waymark Code: WMKPNR
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member saopaulo1
Views: 2

Long Description:
This interpretative sign is located near what was the gate to the old Fort Dickerson. A large “Engineer’s overhead diagram of Fort Dickerson, which was constructed in the winter of 1863–64,” dominates the right side of the marker. Other drawings and pictures line the right side of the sign. The following story is told by the sign:
Fort Dickerson was one of the sixteen Federal forts and battery emplacements constructed around Knoxville during the Civil War. Temporary earthworks were thrown up here in November 1863. Designed by Capt. Orlando M. Poe, Chief Engineer of the Army of the Ohio, the fort was completed between December 1863 and February 1864 by the 21st Ohio Artillery Battery. This irregular shaped fort was constructed of earth and timber with 25 gun embrasures (openings through which cannon were fired). These enabled the defenders to move cannon to the area under attack. Only four to six cannon were usually stationed in the fort.

The forts surrounding Knoxville were named for Federal officers who died during the Knoxville Campaign. Ft. Dickerson was named in honor of Capt. Jonathan C. Dickerson of the 112th Illinois Mounted Infantry, who was killed in action at Cleveland, TN.

Ft. Dickerson, rising 200 feet above Knoxville and the Holston (now Tennessee) River, was flanked on the west by Ft. Higley and on the east by Ft. Stanley. These forts were designed to protect Knoxville from the south and guard the roads from Maryville and Sevierville.

The fort came under direct attack only once during the early stages of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet’s Campaign to capture Knoxville. Confederate Gen. “Fightin’ Joe” Wheeler was ordered to take the heights opposite Knoxville and, with 4,500 cavalry, surprised the Federal cavalry outpost at Maryville on the morning of November 14, 1863. The sound of the attack alerted Gen. William P. Sanders’ Federal Cavalry Division of 1,500 men who were headquartered a few miles away at Rockford. Although vastly outnumbered, Sanders stubbornly fought a series of delaying actions that enabled the Federals to dig rudimentary earthworks and man the fort with both artillery and infantry. The surprised Confederates found not only cavalry, but also infantry and artillery waiting at Ft. Dickerson. After exchanging artillery and small arms fire Wheeler was convinced that the heights could not be easily taken. Due to the formidable heights, steep slopes and unexpected firepower, Wheeler decided that further attacks would be too costly in both manpower and time. The Confederates retreated southward, rejoining Longstreet’s force after the Battle of Campbell’s Station on November 16th.

On November 25, 1863, Ft. Dickerson served as support during the fighting at Armstrong’s Hill west of the fort. For the next year it also served as the base for several actions against Confederate cavalry which made incursions to test the Federal strength. To the end of the War Ft. Dickerson continued to fulfill its role as one of the guardians of Knoxville, protecting its “back door” and the vital pontoon bridge that connected the city with the loyal areas to the south.

Ft. Dickerson has survived for over 140 years, but it is now a mere shell of the 1864 fort. The parapet which once sheltered the soldiers with its six foot walls is now barely knee high, gun embrasures are marked by mere hints of depressions in the walls; the collapsed powder magazine is a shallow depression and the dry ditch around the fort is now partially filled with the earth washed down from the parapet. Abuse, overgrowth and erosion from thee wind and rain have ravaged its strong design, but Fort Dickerson still stands as an enduring reminder of East Tennessee's role in the Civil War.

Group that erected the marker: Knoxville Parks and Recreation; Tennessee Wars Commission

URL of a web site with more information about the history mentioned on the sign: [Web Link]

Address of where the marker is located. Approximate if necessary:
Fort Dickerson Road SW
Knoxville, Tennessee USA

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