ELIZABETHTON –– Visitors stopping by the Carter Mansion Friday and Saturday were taken back to a time in U.S. history where the states fought not against foreign troops, but rather against each other.
The strong campfire aroma and the smells coming from blanks fired from a shotgun filled the air, as people sat on benches to watch a re-enactment of the legendary showdown between John Carter and Confederate raiders coming to collect Capt. Dan Ellis during the Civil War.
“What we represented here today in our little skirmish that we did is a local legend. A gentlemen named Capt. Dan Ellis, he was pilot for the Union army during the Civil War and ... his job was to pilot people through the mountains that were Union supporters here in Tennessee,” Chad Bogart, historic interpreter with Sycamore Shoals State Park and Carter Mansion said. “It’s local legend that he hid out here in the Carter Mansion while he was being pursued by Confederate raiders and that he actually hid between the mattresses of one of the beds in the house while Mrs. Carter acted to be sick. When they ransacked the house in search for Dan Ellis, they wouldn’t look in the bed where the sick woman lay and so he escaped being captured that way.”
Bogart said Civil War roots run deep in Tennessee history, but East Tennessee strayed away from the ideals of the rest of the state during the war.
“Even though Tennessee went with the confederacy as a whole, Northeast Tennessee remained a Union stronghold during the war. Carter County, Greene County, portions of Washington and Sullivan County, remained very loyal to the Union and a lot of people wonder why,” he said. “One reason that I think would be that their ancestors –– their grandfathers and great-grandfathers –– had fought so hard during the Revolutionary War to create the Union that they were going to fight just as hard to preserve the Union.”
Crowd interactions were lively during the skirmish demonstration, sparking laughter and comments from everyone watching the events unfold.
Bogart said the park is mainly geared toward the Revolutionary War time period, but the Civil War Camp, now in its third year, has been a great success so far.
“Sycamore Shoals State Park is renowned for doing Revolutionary War history, so we want to branch off just a little bit and do more representation of history that was here in the area and do some Civil War, which was a major part of the history here, and, of course, the Carter Mansion played a big part in that as well,” he said. “The crowds have just continued to increase each time we do it and I think it just gives a new look on the history of our area and just a broader spectrum to show what really did happen in our backyard.”
Joe Fleenor, along with his wife Lynndie, his two sons David and Joseph and daughter Kailey, spent a good portion of their day at the Carter Mansion Saturday. Fleenor said the family just moved to the Hampton area from Washington County, Va. and was encouraged to check out the Carter Mansion by a friend.
“We didn’t know a whole lot about the area and a friend of mine was telling us about it and (we) found out a little bit of the history to the area,” he said. “That was an interesting story about John Carter and his family.”
He said that the family had a great time exploring the mansion and plans to come back.
“It was very interesting. The guys did a super job. We were here early this morning and watched the cannon demonstration. We had no idea all of the history happened right here at the bottom of the mountain,” Fleenor said. “It’s a treat for the family. You come out and there’s plenty of shade and it’s just a lot of entertainment.”