John Sevier and the Road to Statehood...

On June 1, 1796, Tennessee was admitted to the Union as the 16th state, the first state created from territory that had been under federal jurisdiction. The road to statehood was marked with many obstacles, and our state's first governor, John Sevier, played a significant role in navigating each one of them. You cannot travel this road, historically speaking, without encountering John Sevier.

On June 2nd on this 222nd anniversary of Tennessee's statehood, I had the high honor of presenting a lecture at my workplace for our annual Statehood Day celebration, this year focusing on Tennessee’s first governor John Sevier. I discussed how Tennessee became a state and the prominent role Sevier played in Tennessee's early history.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share this story. I received a warm reception, a kind and generous introduction by the president of our "Friends of the Library" group, and lots of interesting questions and positive feedback from the audience following my presentation.

Here are a few images from the day, some courtesy of the Friends of the Library organization, including a peek at all three of Tennessee's State Constitutions, which were on display to the public together for only the third time in our state's history. It was truly a historic occasion, and I was honored to have a part in it.









If you're interested in scheduling a lecture or book signing with us, we'd love to hear from you. Please visit the "Events & Appearances" section of this blog for more information.


 

Gordon Belt is an information professional, archives advocate, public historian, and author of The History Press book, John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero, which examines the life of Tennessee's first governor, John Sevier, through the lens of history and memory. On The Posterity Project, Gordon offers reflections on archives, public history, and memory from his home state of Tennessee.

Sevierville's "First Hero"...

In January, The High Road Agency approached me requesting permission to use some of my writing describing the life of John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero for a new exhibit at the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Visitor's Center. That exhibit is now on display and open to the public. I'm eager to see it in person.

I've accepted an invitation to a book signing at the Visitor's Center on Friday, April 27, 2018. The event will take place from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm ET. Visitor's Center is located at 3099 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Kodak, Tennessee. Be on the lookout for details about that event published in local media outlets. I hope to see you there!

In the meantime, Carroll McMahan, Sevier County Historian and member of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, graciously shared the following photograph of the exhibit with me. I'm grateful to Carroll for permitting me to publish this image here...

Image courtesy of Carroll McMahan, Sevierville Chamber of Commerce


I'm glad that my book helped to inform and inspire this exhibit. One of my goals in writing a book about John Sevier was to draw public attention to a long-neglected historical figure I've devoted several years of my professional life to studying. I hope that this exhibit also accomplishes that goal. I'm also pleased to learn that historical artifacts from Marble Springs, John Sevier's plantation home, are currently on loan to the Visitor's Center and on display.

The exhibit will remain open through 2018, so if you find yourself traveling near Sevierville, I encourage you to visit this display and learn something new about "Tennessee's First Hero."


UPDATE:


I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit Sevierville, namesake town of “Tennessee’s First Hero,” John Sevier. Here are a few photos from my April 27th book signing. Thanks to Carroll McMahan and the staff at the Sevierville Visitor's Center for their gracious hospitality, and many thanks to those who turned out to purchase a signed copy of my book on this special occasion...


Thankful for Carroll McMahan’s kind invitation. He is the Sevier County historian and host for this event.

Copies of John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero on display.

These panels feature some of my scholarship, excerpted from our book, John Sevier: Tennessee’s First Hero.

I had to do a double take looking at this portrait. It looks a lot like William Blount, but it’s actually John Sevier, another depiction painted by Charles Willson Peale.

John Sevier’s walking stick alongside a bust of his image, on loan from Marble Springs Plantation.

This small trunk, also on loan from Marble Springs, is engraved with Sevier’s name. It’s made from wood and covered in deer skin. For three months in 1796, it held the treasury for the newly formed state of Tennessee.


 

Gordon Belt is an information professional, archives advocate, public historian, and author of The History Press book, John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero, which examines the life of Tennessee's first governor, John Sevier, through the lens of history and memory. On The Posterity Project, Gordon offers reflections on archives, public history, and memory from his home state of Tennessee.

Fort Nashborough reopens to visitors

On July 13, 2017, I had the opportunity to attend a "ribbon hacking" ceremony (a clever historical spin on the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony) for the reopening of Nashville's Fort Nashborough historic fort.

Nashville's Mayor and selected dignitaries gather to hear opening remarks to the assembled crowd before the ribbon cutting ceremony at Fort Nashborough.
Author photo

According to The Tennessean...

"The new Fort Nashborough, which is the third replica of the original Nashville settlers' fort on the Cumberland River, reopens with a ribbon cutting and dedication and an invitation to the entire community to explore the new fort grounds.
Metro Parks Assistant Director Tim Netsch explained that this week's opening of the $1.7 million phase one of the riverfront fort in downtown Nashville will give visitors a more comprehensive look at the lives of the early settlers than previous fort replicas offered.
The new fort and interpretive center, which will be free to visit and will be operated by Metro Parks, showcase how the settlers lived and worked, and allow people to see the exterior of the fort's log cabins and block houses that were built with historically accurate construction...
...One important addition is an interpretive plaza area on the south end that focuses on Nashville's Native American history and includes an 8-foot-tall feather sculpture as well as interpretive signage detailing the various tribes and their roles in early Nashville history."


On January 1, 1780, James Robertson founded Nashville when he led his group of pioneers across the frozen Cumberland river to a place called The Cedar Bluffs. These men built a fort called Nashborough, which is replicated here.

I'm happy to see this important period of early Tennessee history back on display in a prominent location in Nashville's growing skyline. I'm particularly pleased to see that the story of Nashville's Native American settlers--here long before Robertson and Donelson--have a place of honor in this plaza. Hopefully, with the opening of this new interpretive center, more people will learn about the deep and diverse history of Nashville.



The eagle feather honors the heritage of Nashville's indigenous peoples.
Author photo

"The First Peoples" interpretive panel at Fort Nashborough.
Author photo

Fort Nashborough History Center is now open to visitors.
Author photo


I took a few more photographs of the fort and the ceremonies and posted them on Twitter. I invite you to click the preceding link for a sampling.


 

Gordon Belt is an information professional, archives advocate, public historian, and author of The History Press book, John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero, which examines the life of Tennessee's first governor, John Sevier, through the lens of history and memory. On The Posterity Project, Gordon offers reflections on archives, public history, and memory from his home state of Tennessee.

A fond look back, and the road ahead...

On April 12, 2014, Traci and I celebrated the official launch of our book tour in support of John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero...



Since that time, reader interest in our book remains strong, even as John Sevier enters its second printing and third year in publication. Along the way, we've had the opportunity to visit individuals, bookstores, heritage and lineage societies, colleges and universities, and historic sites to speak about the book. During our book tour, we've met a lot of interesting folks who share our passion for history. We're grateful for each opportunity, and we look forward to continuing our book tour in the days to come. If you're interested in hosting us for a lecture at your next gathering, please visit the "Events" page of this blog to learn more. We'd be honored to receive your invitation.

While we continue to schedule speaking engagements, our primary focus now is setting our sights on research and writing for our third book. Traci and I intend to explore several stories chronicled by Tennessee's earliest explorers and their encounters with Native Americans, drawing on letters, diaries, journals, legends, and folktales to tell the story of what I like to call "America's First Frontier." In the coming months, posts to The Posterity Project will be far and few between as we begin exploring this topic in greater detail through our research. However, I am looking forward to sharing a few of these stories with you from time to time as this next book project begins to take shape, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I want to express how grateful we are for the support we've received for our books, including our first publication, Onward Southern Soldiers: Religion and the Army of Tennessee in the Civil War. To learn more about both titles, and to order author-signed copies of each, visit the "Books" page for more information.



Gordon Belt and Traci Nichols-Belt are a husband and wife team of authors and public historians. Together, they have collaborated on two books. Traci Nichols-Belt is the author of Onward Southern Soldiers: Religion and the Army of Tennessee in the Civil War. Her book explores the significant impact of religion on the Army of Tennessee, C.S.A., on every rank, from generals to chaplains to common soldiers. Gordon Belt is the author of John Sevier: Tennessee’s First Hero, which focuses on the life and legend of Tennessee’s first governor, John Sevier. Both books are published by The History Press, an award-winning publisher of local and regional history titles from coast to coast. Gordon and Traci’s writings focus specifically on stories from their home state of Tennessee.

An interview with Pat Nolan on INSIDE POLITICS...

On Friday, August 19th, I had the opportunity to chat with Pat Nolan for an interview that aired on NewsChannel5+ later that evening. In that interview, Pat and I talked about 'John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero' and how writers viewed his life through the lens of history and memory.



Pat Nolan, NewsChannel5 Political Analyst, hosts INSIDE POLITICS, a weekly political interview show, and CAPITOL VIEW, a weekly on-line political commentary, airing on NewsChannel5+ and online. A friend and colleague pointed out to me that Pat is also the former president of the Friends of the Nashville Metro Archives, and he has spoken at Society of Tennessee Archivists annual meeting.

I'm honored by the kind words Pat shared with me after the interview...

"Thanks for coming on the show, Gordon! You've written a fascinating book about a legendary and critically important person in Tennessee's early history as well as how John Sevier's legacy has waxed and waned in the public's mind over the last two centuries."

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Pat and to have had this conversation. I'm also grateful to my Library & Archives colleague, Blake Fontenay, who arranged this interview along with NewsChannel5's Executive Director Rick Casebeer. Research gathered at the Tennessee State Library & Archives played a crucial role in the telling of this story, so I'm always happy to return the favor as an advocate for this venerable institution.

And now, I'm happy to share our interview with you here on The Posterity Project. The interview airs in three parts. Visit the NewsChannel5 website to view our conversation HERE.



 

Gordon Belt is an information professional, archives advocate, public historian, and author of The History Press book, John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero, which examines the life of Tennessee's first governor, John Sevier, through the lens of history and memory. On The Posterity Project, Gordon offers reflections on archives, public history, and memory from his home state of Tennessee.

A visit to Franklin...

Last week, my wife, Traci, had an opportunity to visit the Williamson County Archives and Museum in Franklin, where an audience gathered to hear her speak about her book, Onward Southern Soldiers: Religion and the Army of Tennessee in the Civil War.

Five years after first publishing Traci’s book with The History Press, we remain grateful for the outpouring of support and interest we’ve received for Onward Southern Soldiers. It is a testament to the durability of her scholarship and to the passions readers have for her topic.

Traci delivers a lecture before one of many audiences that have gathered over the years to here her speak about the role religion played in the motivations of men who fought with the Army of Tennessee in the Civil War. Author photo.


Franklin, of course, was once the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. At the Battle of Franklin in November of 1864, the Army of Tennessee lost over 6,000 dead and wounded, including six dead Confederate generals. Altogether, some 10,000 American soldiers became casualties at Franklin. When recollecting the battle years later one man said simply, “It was as if the devil had full possession of the earth.”

Following her talk, Traci took a self-guided tour of Franklin’s Civil War sites, including a brief walk along an area of Franklin once overrun by development. In the years that followed this bloody battle, the march of progress overtook portions of the battlefield. Commercial development consumed the land.

Concern for the loss of tangible remnants of the Battle of Franklin served as one of several factors that motivated Traci to pursue a degree in Public History. This shared concern also led the community of Franklin to preserve portions of the battlefield from the ravages of modernity.

Franklin now serves as a model for battlefield preservation throughout the nation. The citizens of Franklin deserve praise for their diligent work to restore these historic sites. The effort remains a work in progress, but after years of struggle, the results are beginning to pay off.

Sergeant John Johnston, Army of Tennessee, CSA, fought at the Battle of Franklin. Years later, he visited the site of the bloody engagement and drew a map of the battle along with notes of his personal recollections. Johnston’s hand-drawn map shows areas where specific skirmishes occurred and where his ancestors lived and their final resting places.
Image courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.


The demolition of the Pizza Hut in 2005 (left) and the marker commemorating Patrick Cleburne's death as it appears today.
Image and caption credit: The Civil War Trust.



This artist's rendering shows what a Battle of Franklin park will look like in the not-too-distant future. By purchasing land and removing commercial buildings, the citizens of Franklin have created a contiguous park allowing visitors to reflect on one Civil War's bloodiest episodes.
Image and caption credit: The Civil War Trust.


Times have changed dramatically since our nation’s earliest efforts to preserve Civil War memory. While Civil War monuments and the mythology of the “Lost Cause” continue to influence our narrative and shape public memory, they are no longer the sole source of remembrance.

Following the sesquicentennial anniversary of the war, a healthy debate has emerged from this period of commemoration concerning how best to present a more complete picture of the war and its primary cause—the institution of slavery. Still, society continues to struggle to come to grips with this “peculiar institution” and its legacy.

Battlefield preservation efforts like those taking place in Franklin provide us with an opportunity to learn. By asking difficult questions at the very site where conflict boiled over into battle, we move beyond the mere recitation of battlefield maneuvers and military strategy. We gain an opportunity to engage the public in a conversation about our shared Civil War memory by exploring the painful truths of war.

As Franklin continues to preserve the history of its role in the Civil War through battlefield preservation, we should commend its citizens for their commitment to preserve the past. We must not forget what took place here. To do so would be a disservice to the memory of those who died on this hallowed ground.



Traci Nichols-Belt is the author of Onward Southern Soldiers: Religion and the Army of Tennessee in the Civil War, published by The History Press. Traci holds a Master's degree in public history from Middle Tennessee State University and a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Anderson University. Her principal research interest is the Civil War, with a particular focus on the impact of religion on the military. Traci has appeared on radio and television to speak about the role of religion in the Civil War, and she has had her writings published in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly and in The New York Times Civil War blog, Disunion.