Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Hickman County Courthouse

Marker ID:  
Location: intersection of South Public Square and West Public Square, Centerville, TN
County: Hickman
Coordinates: N 35° 46.71    W 087° 28.021
  35.7785    -87.46701666
Waymark: None


center> Hickman County Courthouse·
A Brick Fortress

In 1864, the Hickman County Courthouse and Centerville's business district around the public square became a burned-out war zone. Confederate Col. Jacob B. "Jake" Biffle pursued Col. John Murphy's 2nd Tennessee Mounted Infantry for two days from Buffalo, about forty miles west of her. The Federals reached Centerville and occupied the courthouse. Protected by the thick brick walls, they temporarily held off Biffle's men, who had no artillery. When the opportunity arose, the Federals retreated to the safety of fortified Nashville. Confederate Capt. Albert H. Cross ordered the courthouse burned to prevent its reuse as a fort. In retaliation, Capt. John W. Taylor's company (2nd Tennessee), known as the Perry County Jayhawkers, returned here and burned all the commercial buildings, as well many private dwellings.

Earlier in the war, Confederate generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joseph Wheeler passed through Centerville on their retreat after the Battle of Dover on February 3, 1863, when their attack on the Federal garrison there failed. Union Gen. Jefferson C. Davis left Franklin and attempted to intercept the retreating Confederates but had little success. Slowed by cold weather, bad roads, and unfriendly citizens, Davis's men captured only thirty prisoners at Weems (Bon Aqua) Springs. Confederate Gen. Leonidas Polk wanted Gen. Earl Van Dorn to join Wheeler's men and attack Davis, but Van Dorn was too far south to comply. Forrest and Wheeler continued to the Duck River crossing at Centerville, where volunteers swam the icy river and secured the ferry. The weary cavalrymen then took a brief respite in town.

Tennessee Civil War Trails.