Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Connection To Johnsonville - U.S. Military Railroad

Marker ID:  
Location: 358 N Main Street, Kingston Springs, TN
County: Cheatham
Coordinates: N 36° 5.974    W 087° 6.901
  36.09956666    -87.11501666
Waymark: None


In November 1863, Federal troops occupied Kingston Springs to serve as headquarters for the supervisors of the U.S. Military Railroad Construction Corps. They oversaw the construction of this section of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad. When it was completed, the rail line connected Nashville to the major Union depot at Johnsonville on the Tennessee River. Federal commanders impressed both free blacks and escaped slaves to build the railroad, side-by-side with Irish immigrants. Together they constructed three wooden trestles near here, as well as bunkers, blockhouses, and fortifications to guard the line. The black laborers were inducted into the 12th and 13th United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863 and stationed in Kingston Springs. Col. William W. Wright, Chief of Engineers, reported that about 500 men of the 13th USCT began the work on November 19, 1863, and the 12th USCT relieved them on May 10, 1864. Gen. Alvan C. Gillem commanded both units. After the construction was completed, the 13th USCT remained on guard duty along the railroad until November 30, 1864.

Col. William W. Wright (1824-1882) was an engineer who worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1847 to 1854 and from 1859 to 1861, for the Memphis and Charleston Railroad until 1857, and for the Honduras Interoceanic Railroads until 1859. During the Civil War, he served in the U.S. Military Railroad Department, where he was highly regarded. He was in charge of the Aquia Creek Railroad and was responsible for extensive wharf construction. In 1864, he became chief engineer of military railroads in the Mississippi division. In January 1865, he joined Gen. William T. Sherman’s army and headed the Military Railroad Construction Corps. After the war, Wright worked for the Kansas Pacific Railway and the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, among others. In 1879-1880, he joined the International Technical Commission to investigate an interoceanic route across the Isthmus of Panama. He died in Pennsylvania and is buried there.