Historic Markers Across Tennessee

War on the Home Front - Belle Meade and Union Occupation

Marker ID:  
Location: on the grounds of the Belle Meade Plantation, 5025 Harding Road (Entrance to the Plantation), Nashville TN
County: Davidson
Coordinates: N 36° 6.4    W 086° 51.864
  36.10666666    -86.8644
Waymark: None


William Giles Harding, the owner of Belle Meade Plantation, was an ardent Confederate supporter who provided thousands of dollars to help arm Tennessee’s Confederate forces. He served on the state’s Military Armaments Committee. In March 1862, he helped Col. Nathan B. Forrest during the evacuation of Nashville by sending 30 wagons of munitions south.

After the evacuation, Union commanders soon took control and arrested leading Confederates, such as Harding, who was imprisoned at Fort Mackinaw, Michigan, from April to September 1862. His wife, Elizabeth McGavock Harding, ran the plantation in her husband’s absence. That fall she complained bitterly to Military Governor Andrew Johnson about the treatment of the family’s plantation: “There has been removed already from this place … five hundred wagon loads of hay, corn, oats, wheat, etc. … The Government has made a requisition upon me for horses for the use of the Cavalry and have taken every suitable horse I had except my carriage horses. The soldiers have entered the lawns and killed before my eyes and carried away very head of poultry upon the place, not only my own but the negroes’ also. They broke (into) my dairy and removed from there every onion, potatoes, and winter vegetables which I had provided for the use of a family of 150 persons.”

The arrival of Union soldiers also reduced the size of the plantation’s enslaved workforce. According to Harding, “They have taken from me without even giving me a receipt therefore every negro man—able-bodied—on this place, 22 in number.”