I had an email from my buddy Robert McGinnis recently telling me about a couple of events taking place in Knoxville the weekend of June 22-24. Robert is the curator at James White’s Fort in Knoxville and a descendant of James White, founder of Knoxville. He thought perhaps Blount County residents would be interested to know that the descendants will be gathering for the first James White Family Reunion in a century.
“Most of the events are closed to family members only, but on Sunday afternoon, June 24, there will be two public wreath laying ceremonies,” Robert said. The first will be at 2 p.m., when attendees will gather at First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in downtown Knoxville with the Mary Blount Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution based in Blount County and a color guard from the Stephen Holston Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, to lay wreaths at the graves of James and Mary Lawson White.
“Wreaths will also be laid there at the graves of Gov. William and Mary Grainger Blount, since about a third of the attendees are also descended from them,” Robert said. Blount County is named for William Blount, and Maryville, the county seat, derives its name from Mary Blount. Wreaths will also be laid on the graves of John and Melinda White Williams and Margaret White McClung.
At approximately 3:30 p.m., reunion-goers will assemble at Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville to honor the memory of Pleasant Miller McClung and other Confederate soldiers buried in the McClung family lot there. Robert said this service will be conducted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and different chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, including the W.Y.C. Hannum Chapter in Blount County.
Robert is descended from the Whites and the Blounts as well as Pleasant Miller McClung. “I discovered that the wreath laying will occur exactly 155 years to the day from the time (Pleasant Miller McClung) was buried at Old Gray,” Robert told me.
Robert shared an account of McClung’s death on June 24, 1863. Here are some excerpts from the report, which was written by friend of the deceased: “From the beginning of this revolution, Capt. McClung was an ardent supporter of the Southern cause …
“Very soon after the War began, Capt. McClung was appointed ordnance officer at Knoxville and shortly thereafter moved his family from his plantation in the Southwestern part of the county, to the city. The last time I saw Capt. McClung was on the day preceding his death, in the midst of his labors, while preparing for the reception of the enemy in their recent raid on Knoxville. Amid all the excitement of the occasion, he moved calmly among his men giving the most careful supervision to their work, occasionally stopping to make some pleasant remark to a friend. The next morning, June 20th at half past eight o’clock amidst the roar of cannon and din of battle, standing by a battery, calm, undaunted and with his usual bright and benevolent face, speaking words of encouragement to the men, he received his death wound, a ball from the enemy having taken off both his legs just below the knees. In the afternoon of the same day, I saw him lying in his coffin – dead, but his countenance so impressive of good mature benevolence and the same placid smile that so constantly played over his features in life, that he seemed wrapped in peaceful slumber and enjoying pleasant dreams …
“In the death of Capt. McClung his family sustained and irreparable loss, many of us are deprived of a noble and generous friend, the community has loss a good and honorable man, the service of a capable, zealous and faithful officer and the country a pure patriot. Peace to his ashes.”
The public is invited to the ceremonies at both First Presbyterian Church and Old Gray. A private wreath laying ceremony for the family will be held at the Moses White family burying ground later that day.
The James White Family Reunion will include a tour of White’s Fort, Blount Mansion, East Tennessee Historical Museum and the McClung Collection, a family dinner, an evening reception at the fort and a church service at First Presbyterian Church. If you are a descendant and want more information, contact Robert McGinnis, the reunion chair at Robert@jameswhitesfort.org.