Press Conference

Mayor Bill Purcell announces city funding for an interpretive center at Fort Negley
at press conference attended by , left to right, U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper,
State Rep. Steve McDaniel, and CWPT President James Lighthizer.

City commits $2 million for Fort Negley;
CWPT names Nashville to Top Ten Endangered Battlefields

City funding for an interpretive center at historic Fort Negley and inclusion of Nashville on this year’s list of Top Ten Endangered Battlefields were announced at a recent Civil War press conference.

Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell announced that the city will commit $2 million in city parks funds to enhance the site of Fort Negley, build an interpretive center there, and open the fort to the public for the first time in 60 years.

Fort Negley was built in 1862-63 during the U.S. Army occupation of Nashville, the largest inland stone fortification built during the war. Mayor Purcell noted that the site should be open to the public in about one year.

The site of the Battle of Nashville, fought Dec. 15-16, 1864, was named as one of the Top Ten Endangered Battlefields by the Civil War Preservation Trust, according to CWPT President James Lighthizer.

In praising Mayor Purcell’s support, Lighthizer said Nashville’s generous $2 million commitment was “unheard of” and probably the largest such municipal funding for Civil War preservation in the nation. The naming of Nashville to the Top Ten list should allow Nashville to compete for federal preservation funding, he said, probably on a matching basis.

Developing local heritage sites to draw tourists is a plus for the city because such sites are “a low-impact economic engine.”

Mayor Purcell was presented the Preservationist of the Year Award for the city’s efforts by Bob Henderson, President of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society.

Mayor Purcell stated, “In 1928 (Fort Negley) was purchased by the city for development as a military park. Then in 1940, with workers from the federal WPA, restoration of the fort began, only to be abandoned four years later when the park was closed to the public.

“Now, nearly 60 years later, as a result of the Parks Master Plan, this city is committing $2 million over the next two years for construction of an interpretive center here and site improvements that will lead to the reopening of Fort Negley to the public. It is my hope that having now been elevated from a ‘too late to save’ status, the Civil War Preservation Trust will join us in rejoicing in the preservation of Fort Negley in the years ahead.”

Although the Nashville battlefield has been considered “too late to save,” the BONPS in recent years has worked to preserve three battle sites, in addition to educating and publicizing local preservation efforts:

  • Shy’s Hill, the major Union breakthrough on the western flank of the Confederate lines the second day of battle;
  • Redoubt No. 1, one of the five small forts on the Conderate left flank the first day of battle; and
  • Kelley’s Point Battlefield, a city greenway where Confederate cavalry armed with artillery held off Union gunboats on the Cumberland River six miles west of Nashville, Dec. 2-14.

Lighthizer praised the BONPS for its tireless work in helping preserve sites of the Battle of Nashville, most of which is now covered by residential and commercial development.

Also speaking at the press conference were U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper and State Rep. Steve McDaniel. Cooper said that he had taken a guided tour of the Battle of Nashville sites and that it had completely changed his perspective of the city, knowing where the men of both armies had fought 140 years ago in what is now an urban environment.

An ardent preservationist, McDaniel praised the BONPS and the city for their work in preserving the past. McDaniel has been instrumental in historic preservation projects, especially development of heritage tourism at Parker’s Crossroads.

The full text of the CWPT report on Nashville reads as follows:

"In November 1864, Confederate General John Hood led the Army of Tennessee northward toward Nashville in a last desperate attempt to draw General William Sherman out of Georgia. Despite the terrible losses suffered at Franklin, Hood stubbornly continued on to Nashville.

“Hood was confronted at Nashville by General George Thomas, one of the Union’s finest commanders. On December 15, Thomas launched a massive attack on both Confederate flanks, forcing Hood to fall back to a second line between Shy’s Hill and Overton Hill. The next day, Thomas finished the job, taking Shy’s Hill and routing the remnants of Hood’s army. Only 15,000 to 20,000 Southerners escaped the debacle at Nashville.

“Current Status: Little remains of the Nashville battlefield. However, the local Battle of Nashville Preservation Society has been working tirelessly to preserve and reclaim key parts of the historic battleground. In the past few years, the Society has saved land at Kelley’s Point, Shy’s Hill and Redoubt #1. In addition, the city of Nashville has earmarked $1 million to help restore Fort Negley, one of the most significant Civil War sites within the city limits.

Nashville is ranked Priority IV, Class A by CWSAC because so much of the battlefield has been lost to development."

For more information, click here to go to the CWPT announcement site.

Listed in the report as “at risk” Civil War sites in Middle Tennessee were Franklin and Stone’s River, both of which were in the Top Ten during the past two years.

The press conference was held at 1 p.m. on Wed., Feb. 19. Originally scheduled at Fort Negley, it was moved to the nearby science museum due to inclement weather.

In conclusion, CWPT’s Lighthizer said that if citizens do not support the saving of Civil War battlefields, excusing his language, “it ain’t going to exist much longer.”

With 43,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its goal is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War sites and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism.

BONPS President Bob Henderson

BONPS President Bob Henderson addresses local Civil War preservation efforts
as Civil War Preservation Trust President James Lighthizer listens.


 

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