Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Mile Post 42 - The U.S. Military Railroad

Marker ID:  
Location: on Frank Clement Place west of Center Avenue (Tennessee Route 48), Dickson, TN
County: Dickson
Coordinates: N 36° 4.524    W 087° 23.328
  36.0754    -87.3888
Waymark: None


The railroad in front of you was part of a vital transportation network for the Federal army during the Civil War. W. H. Crutcher had purchased 533 acres and constructed a sixteen-by-sixteen foot log structure here in December 1860. After occupying the region in the spring of 1862, Union officers needed a reliable, efficient transportation link between the steamboats docked at Johnsonville on the Tennessee River and the major Union base at Nashville. They seized the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad that ran to Kingston Springs with plans to extend the tracks to Johnsonville. They completed it two years later as a Federal military railroad.

Free blacks and former slaves impressed by the Union Army constructed the military railroad. The 12th and 13th U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiments defended the railroad from Confederate cavalry and guerrilla attacks. These 78 miles of rail became vitally important after Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan burned the south tunnel of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in Sumner County, thus delaying southbound Federal supplies to Nashville.

Union Gen. William T. Sherman later stated, “The Atlanta campaign would simply have been impossible without the use of railroads.” After the military railroad was completed in 1864, army supplies were transported south by ship to the port facility at Johnsonville. From there, supplies were transferred from ships to railcars and transported through Mile Post 42 (present-day Dickson) to Nashville, Chattanooga and Atlanta.