Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Civil War In Charlotte - "Marauding gangs of Freebooters"

Marker ID:  
Location: on the southeast corner of the Dickson County Courthouse, Charlotte, TN
County: Dickson
Coordinates: N 36° 10.697    W 087° 20.354
  36.17828333    -87.33923333
Waymark: None


In 1860, 300 people lived in Charlotte, the Dickson County seat. During the war, the residents witnessed considerable military activity, beginning February 17, 1862, when Confederate Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest, arrived here to reequip his men and horses after escaping the surrender of Fort Donelson.

Late in 1862 and early in 1863, local guerillas used Charlotte as a base. Col. Thomas G. Woodward’s band of partisans and Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry raided the Union transportation center at Harpeth River Shoals on the Cumberland River, 6 miles northeast. In 1863 and 1864, Federal forces built the Nashville and Northeastern Railroad from Nashville to the Tennessee River. Charlotte served as a recruiting and staging area for attacks against these critical Union supply routes.

Attempting to disrupt the guerilla networks here, elements of the 12th Tennessee Cavalry (US) occupied the town in 1863-1864. Maj. John Kirwine commandeered the Cumberland Presbyterian Church as a hospital, took over public buildings, and made his headquarters in the county courthouse. To destroy the civilian population’s support of the Confederate guerrillas and to secure the Union transportation routes, the Federals declared martial law, arrested citizens suspected of supplying Confederates, destroyed crops, and confiscated livestock. In October 1863, Military Governor Andrew Johnson authorized the creation of “Union Guards” in Dickson County to stop “marauding gangs of Freebooters.” These actions combined with frequent patrols of the country side eventually rendered the guerrillas and their attacks on railroad and river traffic ineffectual.

After the Federal occupation ended, Union troops still frequently moved through the area and no more large-scale guerilla attacks originated in Charlotte.