Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fort Negley, TN

After Confederate forces were driven from Forts Henry and Donelson  in February 1862, Confederate commanders decided to leave Nashville.  After Nashville was abandoned, it was almost immediately occupied by Union forces, who began preparations for its defense. Fort Negley was the largest of the fortifications protecting the city.  The fort was a star-shaped limestone block structure atop a hill south of the city. Captain James St. Clair Morton supervised the fort's construction. The fort is 600 feet long, 300 feet wide, and covers four acres.  The fort was constructed from 62,500 cubic feet of stone and 18,000 cubic feet of earth at a  cost $130,000.

It was mainly built by the labor of local slaves, newly freed slaves, and free blacks. The newly freed slaves flocked to Nashville after it was taken by Union forces with the understanding that their status as slaves was to be revoked were they to work for the Union. The  free blacks were forcibly conscripted for the work.  Records show that 2,768 blacks were officially enrolled in its construction. During construction 600-800 men died and only 310 ever received any pay.  The fort, completed in 1862, was named for Union Army commander General James S. Negley.

On April 19, 1861, Negley was appointed brigadier general in the Pennsylvania Militia. He raised a of Pennsylvania volunteers and served under Robert Patterson in the Shenandoah Valley in 1861. His appointment as brigadier general expired on July 20 but he was reappointed brigadier general of volunteers on October 1, 1861. In October, he was placed in command of the 7th Brigade in the Department of the Ohio. He commanded the Union expedition against Chattanooga during the Confederate Heartland Offensive. The expedition proved to be a successful demonstration of the Union Army's ability to strike deep into the heart of Confederate held territory.
On November 29, 1862, he was appointed major general of volunteers and took command of the 8th Division in the Army of the Ohio. His division became the 2nd Division in George H. Thomas' Center Wing of the XIV Corps during the Battle of Stones River. On the second day of fighting, he led a successful counterattack against Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge on the Union left flank. He commanded his division during the Tullahoma Campaign and the Battle of Chickamauga. During the maneuvering that preceded the battle, Negley's division, in the advance of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas's corps, was almost trapped in a cul-de-sac named McLemore's Cove, but command confusion in the Confederate Army of Tennessee allowed them to escape. After the Union defeat at Chickamauga, Negley, whose division became scattered during the second day's fighting, was relieved of command, but was acquitted of any wrongdoing during the battle. When Ulysses S. Grant became general-in-chief in 1864 he discussed restoring Negley to command. However, after serving on several administrative boards, Negley resigned in January 1865

When the Battle of Nashville finally began in December 1864, it was largely fought on the heights farther south of the city than Fort Negley.  Despite its then-impressive appearance, Fort Negley never played a leading military role. Shortly after the war, the fort was abandoned and fell into ruin.  During the Reconstruction period, the area was used as a meeting place for the Ku Klux Klan.

The remains of Fort Negley are located  at Chestnut Street and Fort Negley Blvd, Nashville TN 37203 (just southeast of intersection of I-40 and I-65). An interpreted trail leads from the parking lot through the fort. Signs describe the Battle of Nashville from the fort’s perspective. Open daylight hours. Free. A visitor center, also free, with exhibits and an introduction to the fort is open Tuesday–Saturday 9 am–4:30 pm. 615-862-8470
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     Fort Negley

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