It began in Bradley County by raising an American flag bearing 33 stars. That was a few days after the fall of Fort Sumter, April 12 and 13, 1861, and Union supporters in Cleveland raised a 90-foot hickory pole in the courthouse yard and hoisted the handmade flag presented by Sally Shields.
The Civil War had reached into Bradley County.
Two years ago, a replica of the flag was hoisted once again in re-enactment of he happenings in Bradley County and the area during the Civil War.
Events planned this weekend include Friday’s public lecture/panel discussion at 7 p.m., on the front porch of the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library, and living history demonstrations that are free and open to the public on Saturday, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., at the corner of 8th and Ocoee streets.
Parking is available in spaces downtown, just a short walk from the event site, according to Melissa Woody, vice president of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The historic Jarnigan House (Cleveland-Bradley County Public Library) is a beautiful setting for the lecture.
“Bring a chair and listen to a distinguished panel of local Civil War historians and educators including Bryan Reed, associate professor of history and chair of social sciences at Cleveland State Community College and president of the Bradley County History & Genealogy Society with special interest in local history; Andrew Bledsoe, assistant professor of history at Lee University specializing in Civil War and military history; and Neil Greenwood, professor of history at Cleveland State Community College also specializing in Civil War,” Woody said.
The flag raising in 2011 kicked off the series of the 150th anniversary events which are scheduled to continue as events of that day are brought back through re-enactments and other historical programs.
The effort of raising the original 33-star flag was funded by William Cate. In summer 1861, when Confederate soldiers moved through the area toward Virginia on the train, soldiers shot at the flag from the tracks. A Louisiana (or Mississippi) regiment passing through Cleveland demanded the flag come down.
After negotiations between Unionists and Confederate authorities, the pole was taken down in July 1861. However; the same flag was raised again over the city on Feb. 10, 1864, after Union troops occupied Cleveland.
As history unfolds in Cleveland, Bradley County and Charleston, events will continue as the next installments will be held Friday and Saturday at the corner of Ocoee and 8th streets, then Nov. 8 and 9 in Charleston City Park. ‘’A lecture series is also slated for the Charleston Park venue, but details have not been finalized.
The fall of 1863 saw shots fired and battles fought in local yards and businesses. Famous generals were in the area. Gen. William T. Sherman became an overnight guest in Charleston and Gens. Joseph Wheeler and Nathan Bedford Forrest staged attacks in Bradley County, according to Woody.
Living history will be presented to students and Civil War history buffs.
The dates of the events coincide with happenings of 150 years ago.
The sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, is a statewide effort, and other states that saw significant Civil War action are commemorating anniversaries of that era as well.
The Civil War Trails wind through the state and in Bradley County and Charleston.
Woody said the Civil War was played out in the area’s collective backyard.
Tennessee developed a website surrounding history as well as some of the planned events which will cover the period.
Events are also planned in November in Charleston Park. Later this month, the Fort Hill Cemetery tour will take place.
On Sunday, Oct. 27, from 4 to 7 p.m., the Bradley County Historical & Genealogical Society will host its annual walk through the cemetery as a lantern tour.
“Students from Lee University research interesting citizens buried at Fort Hill and actors dressed in period clothing stand beside the graves and tell about the person’s life in first-person description. This year, the tour will feature local personalities associated with the Civil War,” said Woody.
Admission to the event is $5 and a shuttle will run continuously from parking at the Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland.
“Every year, the cemetery tour remembers interesting citizens who shaped our community in big and small ways,” Reed said. “This cemetery is rich with stories of our community’s past. These stories are brought to life at this event.”
“Tennessee’s Civil War history is rich and complex, with the staggering effects of total war felt in every part of the state,” according to the tncivilwar.com site.
Events have already begun to unfold regarding how the war “evolved throughout the state and changed life for everyone.”
For a full slate and description of the Sesquicentennial activities planned in Cleveland and Charleston, visit the “history” section of www.visitclevelandtn.com, the official website for the Convention & Visitors Bureau of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.