Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Clifton ~ Occupied River Town

Marker ID:  
Location: 303 Main Street, Clifton, TN
County: Wayne
Coordinates: N 35° 23.077    W 087° 59.668
  35.38461666    -87.99446666
Waymark: None


From the fall of Fort Donelson to the war’s end, Clifton experienced significant military activity. It was an important port on the Tennessee River and a primary ferry-crossing between Middle and West Tennessee.

During his famous West Tennessee raid on December 1862, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest used the Clifton ferry as he entered West Tennessee. He used it again when he left.

Late in December 1863, the 2nd Tennessee Mounted Infantry (US) occupied Clifton and placed a garrison on Stockade Hill behind Clifton Presbyterian Church, which Confederate troops had uses as a hospital. The Federals used it s a livery stable and a blacksmith shop. The damage the building suffered resulted in a claim against the United States, which compensated the congregation with $780 in 1915. The funds were used to construct the present tall steeple.

On July 15, 1864, USS Undine, and eight-gun boat, arrived at Clifton. When it left in the afternoon, it struck a snag, tearing a two-foot long gash, and sank. The sailors removed its guns and ammunition, giving two cannons to Clifton garrison and placing two others on the riverbank to cover the roads to the river and the west bank opposite Clifton.

Five days later, the 19th Tennessee Cavalry (CS) prepared to attack Clifton but first demanded the town’s surrender. When the Federal commander refused, the Confederates withdrew. The next day, U.S. Navy forces salvaged USS Undine. Forrest later captured the gunboat, which then became the only naval vessel operated by a cavalry unit.

Erected 2012 by Tennessee Civil War Trails.