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  9:33 a.m. December 3, 2013
Historic Fort Higley preserved with opening of High Ground Park by Aslan Foundation

high ground park dedication
The Board of the Aslan Foundation and local elected officials dedicate High Ground Park, South Knoxville’s newest park that preserves the site of historic Civil War-era Fort Higley, at a ceremony on Nov. 29. From left to right are Aslan Foundation Board President Bob Young, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Tennessee State Senator Becky Duncan Massey, Knox County Commissioner Mike Brown, Knoxville Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis, Knox County Commissioner Ed Shouse, Aslan Foundation Board Members Jim and Lindsay McDonough and Aslan Foundation Executive Director Jeff Mansouri. (Image courtesy of the Aslan Foundation)

KNOXVILLE — Elected officials, Civil War historians and community leaders joined the board of the Aslan Foundation for the dedication of High Ground Park on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Knoxville on November 29.

“This is a very important project to the Aslan Foundation, and we believe for the City of Knoxville and Knox County, as well. It was important to everyone involved in this project to preserve the legacy of the site and provide context and meaning for the community,” said Aslan Board President Bob Young.

“We hope this site can become a template for public spaces that reflect a high standard of design, thoughtfulness and care to showcase the environmental essence of the area. We sincerely thank all of our partners for turning a determined vision into a beautiful reality.”

High Ground Park is a low-impact park on Cherokee Trail in South Knoxville that will preserve the historic site of Fort Higley. The park includes a peaceful walking trail with natural landscaping and a stone wall that opens into a woodland meadow. A trailhead leads to the earthwork remnants of the Civil War-era Fort Higley site. Informative, educational signage has been placed along the path and at the meadow.

“It is our history that informs our future,” Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said. “Thanks to the Aslan Foundation, a vital piece of our Civil War heritage and a beautiful part of our natural landscape will be preserved for future generations.”

High Ground Park represents a key link in the proposed Battlefield Loop connecting South Knoxville’s Civil War forts as part of the proposed 1,000-acre “Urban Wilderness and Historic Corridor.” The eventual goal is for Fort Higley to connect with Fort Stanley and Fort Dickerson.

“It is fitting that the park will open during the Civil War Sesquicentennial year in 2013, and today is an especially significant day for Civil War historians and enthusiasts,” Young said. “On this day 150 years ago, the Union troops stationed at the earthwork Fort Higley stood ready to defend the high ground south of the Tennessee River. Knoxville was a critical strategic position for Union forces and has become a significant Civil War heritage site.”

At the dedication, Dr. Earl J. Hess, Civil War author and associate history professor at Lincoln Memorial University, shared the history and significance of the Fort Higley site during the Battle of Knoxville in 1863.

Fort Higley was constructed by Union forces in 1863 in preparation for the battle to protect the high ground south of the Tennessee River from the Confederate siege. On Nov. 27, 1863, Capt. Orlando Metcalfe Poe, who served as chief engineer to Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Ohio, ordered the construction of three forts along the ridges south of the river: Fort Higley, Fort Dickerson and Fort Stanley.

As he strategized the defense of the Tennessee Valley, Poe said, “From these heights an artillery fire can be delivered in front of each flank of the lines on the north side of the river… With sufficient time, this disposition could be very much improved by making the several forts of such a character that each would be self-reliant.”

The dedication included an unveiling of Poe’s quote inscribed in the stonework in the meadow at High Ground Park.

In 1863, Fort Higley included a cannon redoubt, primary rifle trench, an interior trench, a ramp into the fort and a series of depressions thought to be rifle pits or shelters. Abandoned and lost to South Knoxville’s natural wilderness since 1865, these features are the only signs that remain of the historic fort and would soon have been lost to development without quick action from the Aslan Foundation in 2008.

Five years later the Aslan Foundation has completed a thoughtfully designed transformation of the site and has now opened it for the public to enjoy.

“This site is a treasure. It would have been a tragedy if this piece of Civil War history was lost,” Young said. “With High Ground Park, we’ve been able to retain 90 percent of the landscape’s unique features and provide free public access to this historical landmark.”

High Ground Park, located at 1000 Cherokee Trail, is now open to the public year-round from dawn until dusk.

Founded in 1994 by attorney Lindsay Young, the Aslan Foundation is focused on preserving the natural beauty and history of the Knoxville area and enhancing the region’s quality of life. The Aslan Foundation has invested in preserving and restoring historic lands and properties, including the purchase and donation of historic Westwood; creating and restoring hiking trails through the Trails Forever program with the Friends of the Smokies; and promoting animal welfare through ongoing support of Young-Williams Animal Center. In addition, the Aslan Foundation supports a variety of Knoxville area educational, social welfare and cultural endeavors with grant funding, including recent major gifts to the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Opera.

High Ground Park is a low-impact park that preserves the natural beauty of the urban wilderness and the site of historic Fort Higley, a Union hill fort constructed in 1863 to protect the high ground south of the Tennessee River during the Confederate siege. The park includes a peaceful walking trail with natural landscaping and a stone wall that opens into a woodland meadow with a trailhead leading to the historic site. Purchased by the Aslan Foundation in 2008 to save it from development, the site of Fort Higley includes the remnants of a cannon redoubt, primary rifle trench, an interior trench, a ramp into the fort and a series of depressions thought to be rifle pits or shelters.

Source: The Aslan Foundation

Published December 3, 2013

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