Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Fort Negley - Defending the Capital

Marker ID:  
Location: at Fort Negley Park., Fort Negley Boulevard north of Chestnut St, Nashville, TN
County: Davidson
Coordinates: N 36° 8.582    W 086° 46.559
  36.14303333    -86.77598333
Waymark: None


Fort Negley
Defending the Capital
— Hood's Campaign —

In September 1864, after Union Gen. William T. Sherman defeated Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood at Atlanta, Hood led the Army of Tennessee northwest against Sherman’s supply lines. Rather than contest Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” Hood moved north into Tennessee. Gen. John M. Schofield, detached from Sherman’s army, delayed Hood at Columbia and Spring Hill before falling back to Franklin. The bloodbath here on November 30 crippled the Confederates, but they followed Schofield to the outskirts of Nashville and Union Gen. George H. Thomas’s strong defenses. Hood’s campaign ended when Thomas crushed his army on December 15-16.

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After the Confederate defeat at Fort Donelson in February 1862, Nashville surrendered to Union forces. Tennessee Military Governor Andrew Johnson insisted on the fortification of Nashville, a key transportation and supply hub. On August 6, Union Capt. James St. Clair Morton began implementing an elaborate design that made the capital the most heavily defended Unites States city outside Washington, D.C. More than 2,700 African American laborers constructed Fort Negley, the largest and most complex of Nashville’s five major forts. Soldiers occupied the fort in October while the laborers occupied the slope. The formidable stronghold protected Nashville’s southern approaches and deferred Confederate attacks. On November 5, the fort’s guns helped drive off Confederate forces under Gens. Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Hunt Morgan. The Nashville Banner announced the fort’s completion on November 16.

In spring 1863, Mary Overall, a young Confederate spy, capitalized on amiable relations between civilians and the military while attending a dance party here to gather information. Union Gen. Zebulon B. Tower proposed $20,000 in improvements in October 1864. On December 15-16, two newly installed Parrott guns provided artillery support during the Battle of Nashville, firing at targets more than three miles away. The 12th Indiana Light Artillery, along with soldiers from Illinois, Ohio, and Tennessee, as well as U.S. Colored Troops, occupied Fort Negley. It remained a federal post until 1867.

In 1928, after recognition of Fort Negley as a national military park failed in Congress, the city took possession. The Works Progress Administration reconstructed the fort between 1936 and 1938, but it subsequently fell into disrepair. The city later reopened the stabilized and interpreted Fort Negley as a Metro Park, and the visitors center was completed in December 2007.

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