Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Fort Johnson

Marker ID:  
Location: Benton County I-40 East Rest Area, Holladay, TN
County: Benton
Coordinates: N 35° 52.208    W 088° 1.292
  35.87013333    -88.02153333
Waymark: None


Fort Johnson
Controlling the Tennessee River

Take Exit 133, State Route 191, and drive north to visit two state parks associated with the struggle to control the Tennessee River during the Civil War.

In 1861, the Confederates built Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River and Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Adm. Andrew Foote captured them with army and navy forces in February 1862. The Federal victory at Shiloh in April secured control of the Tennessee River in West Tennessee. African American laborers built an extension of the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad between Kingston Springs and the depot on the eastern bank of the river. To maintain control and supply Union forces, they also constructed Fort Johnson at the depot in 1863. U.S. Colored Troops served as the garrison at the fort, named for military governor (and later president) Andrew Johnson.

Confederate Gen. Nathan B. Forrest attacked the depot in November 1864, posting artillery on the western side of the river and shelling the depot. When Union Col. Charles R. Thompson panicked and ordered all vessels burned to prevent their capture, the flames spread to the depot and supplies; the loss totaled millions of dollars.

On the western side of the river, you can visit Nathan B. Forrest State Park, where the Confederate attack is interpreted. On the eastern side, Johnsonville State Historic Park interprets the fort and depot. It includes two redoubts, rifle pits, the remains of a locomotive turntable, and an African American cemetery.