Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Fortunate Survivor

Marker ID:  
Location: 2363 S Germantown Rd, Germantown, TN
County: Shelby
Coordinates: N 35° 5.059    W 089° 48.617
  35.08431666    -89.81028333
Waymark: None


Fortunate Survivor
Germantown Presbyterian Church

This is the only Germantown church to survive the war, while the town suffered because of its strategic location on the Memphis & Charlestown Railroad. Many male members of the congregation joined the 4th Tennessee Infantry (CSA), while others resisted the occupying Federal troops as civilians.

Federal forces occupying Memphis used the railroad to move troops and supplies. Concerned that Confederate raiders would cut the rail line, Gen. William T. Sherman wrote commander-in-chief Gen. Henry W. Halleck on June 28, 1862, "Had we not better clean [out] Germantown, a dirty hole?... They openly boast the Yankees shall never run a train over the road." Memphis newspapers carried rumors of looting and building-burning by regular troops, stragglers, or camp followers. Some accounts alleged that entire towns were burned, including Germantown, while others asserted that only one house was burned, or none. The Germantown Presbyterian Church minister, the Rev. Richard R. Evans, persuaded a Federal officer to spare the church because both were Masons. Together with the Masonic Hall, the church was saved and used as a hospital, commissary, and stable. The Baptist and Methodist churches were burned. Pvt. Henry C. Bear, 116th Illinois Infantry, wrote on December 16, 1862, that "a house in Germantown" had been burned. By 1863, a diarist wrote that "houses have been burned, and others are deserted and are used as soldiers' barracks."

Confederate supporters fought on until the end. The last engagement in Tennessee occurred about six miles outside Germantown on April 18, 1865, nine days after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered in Virginia.

Germantown Presbyterian Church is the town's oldest public building. The Rev. A.G. McNutt and seven charter members organized the congregation on March 24, 1838; the Greek Revival-style frame church dates to 1851. The bell tower was added in 1867. The Rev. Evans (1820-1903) guided the congregation through the Yellow Fever epidemic of the 1870's, economic downturns, and the rebuilding of lives. He ministered here for 53 years. In 1950, the congregation rotated the church to face east, and it continues to serve as a chapel.

Tennessee Civil War Trails. 2017

Pictures of this marker can be found on HMDB.org


American Presbyterian and Reformed Historical Site marker 386