Civil War Comes to the Smokies

The Civil War was one of the most harrowing times in Gatlinburg history and Pigeon Forge history. The Smoky Mountain cities were largely pro-Union, but Tennessee had elected to secede from the United States and join the Confederacy in 1861.

While Gatlinburg tried to remain neutral when war broke out, the city was eventually occupied by Confederate troops who wanted to mine saltpeter (a key ingredient in gunpowder) from nearby Alum Cave. The Confederate Army was forced out of Gatlinburg in 1863 after the Battle of Burg Hill. Over in Pigeon Forge, The Old Mill was used as a makeshift hospital and a quasi-factory for the production of Union Army uniforms.

The Old mill

Unlike many who were in the thick of political party lines at the time, the Smoky Mountain communities had little to gain from throwing their allegiances either way. These downtrodden farmers were concerned about how war would affect their livelihoods and communities, not to mention the fact that they would most likely be the ones to lay down their lives for what some called a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight.

Without slaves, wealth or even glory at stake, many of these mountain families preferred to keep out of the conflict. When the question of secession came to a vote, only 20 percent of residents in Tennessee Smoky Mountain counties voted “aye,” while around 46 percent of the Smoky Mountain counties in North Carolina were in favor of seceding. Regardless of any one town’s wishes, both states seceded in May, 1861.

Some pro-Union demonstrations erupted in response to this move, including a violent attack on Gatlinburg’s namesake resident Radford Gatlin, but the efforts were to no avail. Tennessee had already entered the war, bringing the Smoky Mountain citizens with them.

One Smoky Mountains site that fell under Confederate interests was known as Alum Cave. A rich source of saltpeter, the cave could provide ample source minerals to create much-needed gunpowder as well as Epsom salts. A Major William H. Thomas along with a legion of local guerrillas, Cherokees and Confederate soldiers held the caves and conscripted local forces to help him build roads and mine the valuable saltpeter. Provisions were acquired from Jefferson City to sustain the forces during this time.

In order to unroot the Confederates from Alum Cave near Pigeon Forge, two companies of Union soldiers were dispatched in December of 1863. 150 Union soldiers led by Colonel William J. Palmer of the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry marched through the Smoky Mountains and down Fighting Creek to the edge of Gatlinburg. A skirmish broke out on Burg Hill, and the outnumbered Confederate forces under Major Thomas quickly retreated along Dudley Creek. Few casualties were had, and no deaths, according to record.


Roosevelt’s “Grand Trip” to the Smokies

Many people are aware that President Roosevelt visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1940 to dedicate the park. But few realize that this was his second trip to the Smokies; his first trip occurred in 1936.

“For thirty years I have been wanting to get to the Great Smoky Mountains. I have planned at least a half dozen trips to this section, but each time something happened to prevent my coming. Today I finally made it. I am not disappointed. I am delighted and thrilled. It was a grand trip.” So spoke Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the occasion of the first visit of a sitting president to the new national park.

The presidential party left Washington DC on the evening of September 8, traveling overnight by special train to Knoxville. Waiting for the president in Knoxville was his customized automobile, bearing the presidential seal. The car—a convertible designed to allow the president to see and be seen—had been driven to Knoxville the evening before by White House chauffeur Monte Snyder. After the stop in Knoxville, the train was to continue on to Asheville to meet up with the president and his party after their trip across the Smokies.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedication speech was Sept. 2, 1940 – Labor Day – at the new Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The dedication date came at a point when the nation’s attention was turning from the Great Depression to what would become World War II. Pearl Harbor was still 15 months away, but the rumble of war could be heard in the distance.

Indeed, a great deal of Roosevelt’s park dedication speech dealt not with soaring rhetoric about nature and its beauty but about external threats to the American way of life, what he said were “dangers far more deadly than were those that the frontiersmen had to face.”

Here in the Great Smokies, we meet today to dedicate these mountains, streams and forests to the service of the millions of American people. …

There are trees here that stood before our forefathers came to this continent; there are brooks that will run as clear as on the day the first pioneer cupped his hand and drank from them. In this park, we shall conserve the pine, the redwood, the dogwood, the azalea, the rhododendron, the trout and the brush for the happiness of the American people.

The old frontier that put the hard fibre in the American spirit, and the long muscles on the Americana back, lives and will live in these untamed mountains to give future generations a sense of the land from which their forefathers hewed their homes.


The Redneck Comedy Bus Tour

The Redneck Comedy Bus Tour: Click to visit website.

The Redneck Comedy Bus Tour lets you laugh your way through the Smoky Mountains. You’ll embark on a 2-hour, fun-filled ride through the Smoky Mountain area. The comedy is clean and very funny! The tour is also very informative. 

Guests will also enjoy a 15-minute rest stop at the Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler, so everyone gets a chance to stretch their legs, fill up what’s empty and empty what’s full. An optional complimentary VIP moonshine tasting to whet your whistle is also offered inside the distillery.

According to the company, the buses are BYOB, redneck attire is encouraged and snacks are never a bad idea! The tours depart from Cooter’s Place in Pigeon Forge and are open for all ages.

Smoky Mountains Sightseeing Tour | The Redneck Comedy Bus (theredneckbus.com)


Parrot Mountain

Parrot Mountain is four acres of beautiful land with hundreds of tropical birds and thousands of different kinds of plants.

Parrot Mountain in Pigeon Forge

You’ll find parrot cottages and tropical birds. Once you enter the Secret Garden, you’ll see toucans, hornbills and more flying freely.

There are over 50 birds to feed.

There is also a baby bird nursery to visit where you can pet the babies and watch them be hand-fed. If you’re interested in purchasing a bird to take home, you can choose one from the nursery.

Parrot Mountain and Gardens also has beautiful landscaping, including a waterfall, beautiful flowers and plants and benches for relaxing.

We really enjoyed having the birds talk to us and holding the birds. The people there are very knowledgeable.

The parking lot is on a steep surface, so be careful. The paths are a little steep, but I did see someone in a cart brining around someone on crutches, so they will accommodate people.

For more information about Parrot Mountain click HERE


Anakeesta: Getting High on Life in Gatlinburg, Tennessee — Travels with Bibi

Recently, my son and his family were visiting Gatlinburg, Tennessee from their home in Indiana. In order to satisfy the varied interests of our group, who ranged in age from 3- to 59- years old, we loaded up the cars and headed to Anakeesta, Gatlinburg’s recent addition to their top-tier attractions. While there, we found […]

via Anakeesta: Getting High on Life in Gatlinburg, Tennessee — Travels with Bibi