Virtue Road open, history shared

By the time this column is printed, Virtue Road should be fully open. It’s been a long wait (the project began in February 2021) but now we have a wider, safer road. More improvements are coming for the south end of Virtue, but that work is still a few years away.

Improved roads in Farragut always include 11-foot lanes with curb and gutter and pedestrian facilities. The new section of greenway along Virtue Road is special because it will eventually provide access to an interesting historical area. Development of a new section of greenway from the bridge at Brookmere subdivision to the bridge at Sheffield subdivision is currently under way. This beautiful, scenic stroll through the woods will have a view of the Virtue Mill site. A big thanks to Historic Resources coordinator Julia Barham for gathering information about this area.

Longtime Farragut residents may remember Virtue Mill, which was built sometime in the 1840s or 1850s. There was a movement to preserve the mill and have it placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it was destroyed by fire on June 2, 2002, as plans were being made for its restoration.

This same area is where the 17th Michigan Volunteer Regiment took a stand against Confederate forces on Nov. 16, 1863, as part of the Battle of Campbell Station. The 17th Michigan was assigned as part of the Rear Guard to protect Burnside’s Army, which was in retreat into the defenses of Knoxville. The Confederates, under General Longstreet, caught up with the 17th Michigan at Turkey Creek, in this location.

Almost cut off, Captain Frederick Swift of Company E and Sgt. Joseph Brandle, the flag bearer, rallied the regiment and stopped the Confederates.

Swift was later quoted as saying: “Fearing a stampede, I assumed the responsibility of moving the regiment across the creek and up to the top of the hill on the other side. One of the color-guard was killed, another had his eye shot out, and a third was seriously wounded. Seeing the colors fall, I snatched them up and called to the men: ‘We have fallen back just far enough; we will form here.’ Someone asked, ‘Who shall we form on?’ and I replied, ‘Form on me.’’’

Captain Swift and Sgt. Brandle were each awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions. Seven members of the 17th Michigan were killed and 52 were wounded in the skirmish.

If you haven’t seen the new and improved Virtue Road, I hope you will check it out this week.

As an alderman, I’ve been a passionate advocate for completing the gaps in our current greenway system. I’d especially like to see the greenway along Turkey Creek Road extended to Virtue Road so that more residents will have easy access to new parts of town, like the Virtue Mill site and the new Phase 3 at McFee Park. We already live in a great place, and it will be even better when we can walk or bike almost anywhere on a Farragut greenway.