Thanks to preservation work by the Aslan Foundation, High Ground Park will open to the public for the first time on November 29 for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Knoxville. The park preserves the remnants of historic Fort Higley where Union soldiers once guarded the high ground above Knoxville during the Confederate siege of the city.
The foundation invites the public to tour the low-impact park in South Knoxville beginning at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29. Due to limited parking at the site, a shuttle service will be available from a specially designated lot along Cherokee Trail at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. The park will close at sunset.
Refreshments will be provided and exhibitors, including the East Tennessee Historical Society, Knoxville Civil War Roundtable, McClung Museum, Legacy Parks Foundation, South Knoxville Alliance and representatives from Historic Homes of Knoxville, will have displays set up in a tent immediately adjacent to the park until 3 p.m.
“We look forward to High Ground Park becoming an important part of the fabric of South Knoxville, highlighting the area’s beauty and historical significance”, said Aslan Foundation Board President Bob Young. “We are proud to preserve the remnants of historic Fort Higley for future generations of people drawn to the triumph and tragedy of the Civil War.”
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 unprotected on South Knoxville’s wooded ridgetop since 1865, the remnants of these features are the only signs that remain of the historic fort.
The site of Fort Higley would soon have been lost to development without quick action from the Aslan Foundation to purchase it from developers. With the creation of High Ground Park, the Foundation wishes to make the site accessible to the public while honoring its legacy and protecting its beautiful natural setting. The park includes a peaceful walking trail with natural landscaping designed to highlight seasonal color displays from wild flowers, native flowering bushes and trees, and the surrounding hardwood forest. The trail, bordered by a stone wall, climbs a ridge and opens into a woodland meadow where a trailhead leads walkers to the fort’s remnants.
Informative educational signage will be placed along the path and at the meadow. High Ground Park represents a key link in the proposed Battlefield Loop connecting South Knoxville’s Civil War forts and battlefields– including Armstrong’s Hill, Fort Dickerson, and Fort Stanley.
“November 29 was chosen as the date to dedicate this park because of its importance in the history of Knoxville,” Young said. “Union troops defeated Confederate forces at Fort Sanders, just a few miles across the river from Fort Higley. Fort Higley and other hill forts like it played a key role in the Union battle strategy to protect the high ground south of the Tennessee River.”
After Nov. 29, High Ground Park, located at 1000 Cherokee Trail, will be open to the public year-round from sunrise to sunset.