Douglas E. Jones: Remember fort for historical, tourism value
Published as Eye on Nashville in the Nashville Tennessean, Mon., Feb. 21, 2005

Last December, a landmark of national reputation was resurrected from 75 years of neglect. Mayor Bill Purcell rededicated Fort Negley to the citizens of Nashville.

The city, under the vision and leadership of Purcell, Parks Director Roy Wilson and Metro Historical Executive Director Ann Roberts, has done an excellent job in restoring Fort Negley for historical interpretation.

That same weekend, the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society (BONPS) along with the Tennessee Historical Society, hosted a national symposium on the Battle of Nashville. Our symposium was sold out with people traveling from Minnesota, New Mexico and New England.

The mission of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society is to preserve as much of the Nashville Battlefield as possible as well as to educate and tell the story of the Battle of Nashville.

During the last two years, I have spoken to numerous civic clubs and organizations. We have placed our new book, Guide to Civil War Nashville, in many local high school libraries and as president of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society, I can report to you that there is a huge interest in Nashville history from Civil War groups, amateur historians and individuals across this country.

Currently, the BONPS is working on reopening Shy's Hill. The plan includes, among other things, interpretative signs, a new and safer trail to the summit, and an observation deck.

The executive director and staff of the Travellers Rest Plantation has also been very active in working with Metro and our organization in promoting Nashville history including the Battle of Nashville.

If you are a resident of Nashville, you should be familiar with your city's history. A visit to these sites will help you understand and appreciate what the city and the war was like a 140 years ago.

Nashville has an opportunity to increase its tourism through promotion of places such as Fort Negley, Shy's Hill, Belle Meade Plantation, Travellers Rest and Belmont Mansion. Historical tourism is a low cost economic engine. Tourism does not require extra police and fire departments. There is no burden on our public schools or our quality of life.

Many states already recognize this potential. A recent Virginia study found that tourism at seven battle fields generated nearly $157 million in total tourist expenditures last year and $22 million in local and state tax revenues. Tennessee is second only to Virginia in the number of Civil War battlefield sites. In 2004, 1.4 million people visited three Tennessee battlefields: Fort Donelson, Shiloh and Chickamauga. This number does not include visits to Franklin and Nashville battlefields.

Nashville can easily become the centerpiece for historical tourism across Tennessee!

There is another chapter of history involving Fort Negley and the city of Nashville that is drawing new interest. Fort Negley was constructed by local African Americans. The United States Colored Troops played an important role in the battle, especially at Peach Orchard Hill. Forgotten for many years, the efforts of these men struggling for their freedom is only now becoming appreciated. Fort Negley stands as a monument to their courage and sacrifice.

Recently, several groups have expressed an interest in utilizing the property at Fort Negley. I am sure these institutions are well meaning and their intentions are honorable, but they fail to understand an important fact. This ground represents and memorializes American history. There should be no new encroachments at Fort Negley.

The city of Nashville and Middle Tennessee have a tremendous opportunity to continue developing these historical sites for tourism. It is also important to preserve Fort Negley and Shy's Hill not only for tourism but also the future generations of Nashvillians. These places continue to teach us lessons about our past and about ourselves.

Douglas E. Jones, is a local attorney with the firm of Schulman, LeRoy and Bennett and president of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society.


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