The Mission Of BONPS
The Battle of Nashville Preservation Society, Inc. (BONPS) was formed in 1992 by a group of Nashvillians who recognized that the last remnants of the battlefield were quickly disappearing, and that the Battle of Nashville was poorly understood by both Nashvillians and visitors alike. For a detailed review of the overall history of battlefield preservation in Nashville, see the article below by Jim Kay: “Battlefield Preservation in Nashville.”
Initially, its goal was to search for and identify unimproved ground that played important roles in the 1864 battle and find a way to protect it from development. The group’s work and tenacity ultimately led to the ownership and protection of two iconic pieces of the battlefield – Confederate Redoubt No. 1, and the summit of Shy’s Hill. Both have now been granted permanent protection from development through the Tennessee Land Grant, and have been improved by BONPS with the addition of interpretative kiosks and signage as well as reproduction field artillery pieces.
BONPS has been instrumental in contributing to the preservation of numerous other portions of the battlefield, including efforts to protect and interpret Fort Negley, Kelley’s Point, and numerous other smaller sites as well as many historic markers. It played a key role in the relocation of The Battle of Nashville Monument to Granny White Pike. BONPS continues to assist in maintaining not only the sites it owns, but also in watching over and maintaining many others including the Monument.
In 2011, the Sesquicentennial year of the American Civil War, BONPS continued its search for battlefield sites, including efforts to purchase and preserve an acre of undeveloped land in the area of Peach Orchard Hill, site of some of the most vicious fighting and where men of the United States Colored Troops notably distinguished themselves on the field of battle. If successful, BONPS plans to improve the site with an interpretative kiosk and signage, as it has done at Redoubt One, Shy’s Hill and Kelley’s Point, in order to assist the public’s understanding of the conflict.
Protecting land and structures is not the only work of BONPS. The group’s officers and directors maintain close relationships with other similar organizations in the Middle Tennessee area, working together to commemorate and explore one of the most significant events in Nashville history. In keeping with this goal, its members routinely make talks and presentations to schools, clubs, historic associations and other public gatherings. Many are authors of scholarly works which explore the Battle and the issues which surround it. Its members have studied the battlefield in detail, have amassed important collections of artifacts from the battlefield, and have participated in reenactments which help the public understand the war.
In 2012, BONPS began offering personal tours of the battlefield and of Nashville’s other Civil War historic sites for visitors interested in this important history.
Annually, BONPS sponsors, often in conjunction with other groups, a wide range of educational and entertainment events which shed light on the Civil War in Nashville, ranging from plays to in-depth seminars. BONPS sees becoming an indispensible resource on the Battle of Nashville as one of its major goals and responsibilities. This goal includes developing strong association and cooperation with both private and governmental historic groups, such as state and local historical commissions.
It also includes development of this website which is designed to provide a rich and authoritative repository of Battle of Nashville information as well as serve as a community bulletin board for historic events sponsored by BONPS and numerous other Civil War groups. Through the website, BONPS makes numerous educational materials available to improve an understanding of this historical event, including maps, books and DVDs.
Philosophy and legal status
BONPS undertakes its goals of preservation and education with the non-partisanship of a historical association, honoring the men who fought for both the Union and the Confederacy on Nashville soil. BONPS is a tax-exempt, open-membership Section 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation which is managed by elected officers and a board of directors, all of whom are identified on the website. Contact can be made with BONPS at its main phone number and by email, as well as with various officers; all contact information can be found in the Contact Us section of the website.
Battlefield Preservation in Nashville
By Jim Kay, former president of BONPS
Nashville Tennessee was a relatively sleepy city until February 18, 1862 when it was surrendered without a fight after the fall of forts Henry and Donelson. The city became a boom town and the population grew from 20,000 to 100,000 very quickly. Nashville became the transportation gateway for the Union Army to invade the south. The city became the third most fortified city on the continent. It had two separate lines of interior and exterior earthworks that stretched from the Cumberland River on the west to the Cumberland on the east. The inner line was about 8 miles long and the outer line was about 12 miles long. Looming top of every major hill overlooking the city was a Federal fort, battery or blockhouse, including Fort Negley, the largest inland fort built during the Civil War. The city was impregnable to attack.
Not only did Nashville boom in terms of population, it ran into other problems with crime, bar fights and prostitution. The battle at Stones River on December 31, 1862 brought, for the first time, large causalities to the city and major medical facilities were located. The United States army confiscated numerous homes, hotels and businesses to be used as hospitals, prisons or to store ordinance. Most every large plantation home surrounding Nashville had at least two federal soldiers, sometimes officers, living in the home to not only protect the homes but to also make sure that any person staying there on parole honored the terms. The occupation was difficult on Nashville.
Hood’s movement into Tennessee in the fall of 1864 was a bold move to try to change the tide of the war. His direct frontal assault at Franklin, without aid of any artillery, was a four hour blood bath that cost him over 5000 in killed, wounded and captured – almost 20% of the army. His troops woke up the next morning to the carnage and found their dead stacked six and seven deep in the trenches. The morale of the army, which 24 hours earlier had been on a high note, was swept into oblivion. Hood moved forward to Nashville and tried to draw George Thomas out for a fight. After delays due to weather, Thomas attacked on December 15, 1864 and drove the Confederate line back about two miles. On December 16, 1864, Bates division, which occupied a very poor position on present day Shy’s Hill, collapsed under an attack and the Confederate army was swept from the field. Most men threw down their guns and ran. Hood lost an additional 6000 men captured, killed and wounded – 27% of his fighting force. The ragged and frozen army of Tennessee was destroyed as a cohesive army.
The difficulty that Nashville had with the U.S. occupation, which did not end until 1876, combined with the losses at Franklin and Nashville, made battlefield preservation a topic of little, if any, discussion. The Union army had destroyed the countryside by digging miles of trenches and cutting down every tree within the Nashville city limits. Nashville wanted to forget what had happened and consequently no preservation occurred. There was a movement in Congress in the 1880’s to make Nashville and Franklin federal battlefields but that failed. On the fiftieth anniversary of the battle in 1914, 20 signs were place at strategic points during the first day of the battle and these were accessible to the streetcar service from downtown. Trees had re-grown and the United States forts were either in ruin or had been demolished but the earthworks was still present and many Nashvillians deemed them “scars” of the war. The battlefield for the most part was lost in history.
In 1923 Mrs. James Caldwell, a prominent Nashville historian, started the Nashville Battlefield Association and some money was raised but no sites were saved. A monument was erected in 1927. The Great Depression then hit Nashville. But for battlefield preservation, it was a positive. In 1934, the Works Progress Administration rebuilt Fort Negley but it quickly fell into ruins again as it was “yankee fort” and most of Nashville did not care about it. This trend continued for another 60 years.
By the end of World War II the farms that composed the second day of the Battle of Nashville were starting to be developed and the land became expensive – $500.00 per acre after platting. In 1954, the developer of the Shy’s Hill property donated the top 3.5 acres to the Tennessee Historical Commission. This was the only notable battlefield preservation that took place until the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society was formed in 1992.
Since 1992, BONPS has taken the premier leadership role in saving Redoubt 1 and Shy’s Hill. Due to a generous loan from its first president, Wes Shofner, Redoubt 1 and the lot on Shy’s Hill were purchased and the debt later paid. BONPS was instrumental in having Kelley’s Point, a site of the naval engagement on the Cumberland River before the Battle of Nashville, made into a park. Mayor Bill Purcell was approached by BONPS in the mid 90’s to restore Fort Negley and build a visitor’s center. This 2.5 million dollar project was accomplished and the visitor’s center was opened in 2007. Additional battlefield signs have been placed in south Nashville and negotiations are underway to establish a one acre park on the eastern flank near Peach Orchard Hill. Realistically though, the future of additional preservation in Nashville is bleak due to the fact that Nashville is a boom town and land prices have sky-rocketed to such a degree that any core site, if it can be found, cannot be purchased. Most of the second day of the fighting in south Nashville is on property that is valued at $350,000.00 to $450,000.00 per acre. However, additional battlefield signs are being placed and the public is continuing to be educated as to the history of our battlefield. The Battle of Nashville Preservation Society continues to protect its land and the importance of the events in Nashville – its dedication to preservation will not cease even under the most difficult of circumstances.