Knoxville will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, April 30 through May 3. A series of programs and activities will highlight Union, Confederate, and African American perspectives, with a focus on Reconstruction, remembrance, and reconciliation.
About the Blue & Gray Reunion:
Visitors are invited to explore Civil War forts, cemeteries, historic homes, museums, special exhibits, and a Civil War Exposition, as well as enjoy living history portrayals, a Blue & Gray Reunion Dinner, a play, music, and vintage baseball games as played during the 1890 reunion.
A Blue & Gray Reunion Dinner will be held on Friday, May 1, with Ron Maxwell, director of the popularly acclaimed films Gettysburg and Gods and General, as the featured speaker. Music and a short history of Knoxville’s 1890 Blue and Gray Reunion will add to the evening’s theme. Tickets are $60 each and must be purchased in advance. To purchase tickets call (865)215-8883 or visit www.eastTNhistory.org/BlueGray.
A “Peace Jubilee” on the evening of May 2 will feature events much like those that took place at the original 1890 reunion. There will be music and excerpts of speeches from the original reunion. A candlelight ceremony will give visitors an opportunity to remember an ancestor who fought in the conflict. Those without an ancestor who fought in the war may adopt an ancestor from a list available at the event. A fireworks finale will commemorate the war’s end.
On Sunday, May 3, cemeteries, historic homes, and fort tours will continue in the afternoon. At 8:45 and 11:00 a.m., First Presbyterian Church will host a “Service of Remembrance, Reunion, and Reconciliation for a Nation Divided.” At 2:00 p.m., a “Rededication of the Sultana Monument” will commemorate those who died in the Mississippi River explosion of the steamboat Sultana, on April 27, shortly after the war’s end. Many East Tennesseans, just released and on the way home from Cahaba Prison, were among the dead and the survivors from the largest maritime accident in the nation’s history.
About the Freedom Jubilee:
Events on May 2 will focus on the 1st U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, with an opening ceremony and color guard, the presentation of records transcriptions to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, a traveling exhibit, A Glorious March to Freedom, and a lecture by Dr. Frank Smith, executive director of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. The day will also include activities in Haley Heritage Square, a visit by Roots actor Ben Vereen, music, and children’s activities. Haley Heritage Square is named for Alex Haley, who spent the latter years of his life in Knoxville and nearby Norris.
All events are open to the public, most are free of charge. There is a small suggested donation to cover transportation for the Civil War Knoxville bus tours.