Civil War in Bristol
Bristol was a divided area when the Civil War began. However, during the years that followed, Bristol became a confederate stronghold. Although Bristol didn’t experience any battles, it served as a crucial point for soldiers in the area during the war.
The train depots located in Bristol were a stopping point for many soldiers traveling to the Deep South or northern Virginia. During the years of the war, both train depots were burned down. One occurrence was in December 1864 during (Union General) Stoneman’s Expedition into Southwest Virginia.
In the later years of the war, the trains bought soldiers to Bristol for medical attention. The Exchange Hotel, which once stood in historic downtown Bristol, served as an Army hospital for the Confederacy. The local residents made sure the hospital was supplied with food, medicine, bandages and fuel until the end of the war. Many recuperating soldiers were placed in private homes when the hospital began to overflow with patients.
For the soldiers who didn’t make it, they were placed in the East Hill Cemetery. A special section is dedicated to those who served. Although most are confederate soldiers, union soldiers can also be found.
Built in 1920, the Confederate Soldier Monument was erected to honor those that fought for the Confederate Army from Tennessee and Virginia. Today the monument can be found at Cumberland Square Park off of Cumberland Street.
Among the many confederate and union soldiers that served from Bristol, was confederate Colonel John S. Mosby, who moved to Bristol with his wife in 1857. During the war, Mosby was deemed the “Gray Ghost” because of his quick raids on Union strongholds and ability to vanish before being captured.
Bristol has many stories from the Civil War times. Several that can be heard on the self-guided historic downtown walking tour.
For more information about the Civil War in Bristol and surrounding area follow the links below:
Historic Downtown Bristol Walking Tour
Bristol Historical Association
Sullivan County, TN Archives
Historical Society of Washington County, VA
Tennessee Civil War Trail
Virginia Civil War Trail