Civil War Trenches Discovered in Nashville Yard

By Judith R. Tackett
The City Paper, Nashville Daily Newspaper
Fri., Sept. 6, 2002

Donna Hoffman has a little piece of history right in her own backyard – one of a series of Civil War earth trenches dug in 1862.

The Vanderbilt professor discovered the trench at her Fairfax Avenue home after clearing some honeysuckle that had covered the entire backyard.

“It definitely is part of the earthworks,” George Gause with the Metro Historical Commission said, adding the line matches perfectly with historic maps of the trenches.

“The one on Fairfax is the best preserved I have seen in Nashville,” said Bob Henderson, President of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society.

Nashville was a major supply hub for the Confederacy. Gause said Civil War troops connected hilltops, where they placed their main fortification and artillery, through trenches.

Henderson said the earthworks and forts were constructed in late 1862 after the Union occupation in February of 1862.

“The earthworks consisted of an outer perimeter about 3.5 miles long and an interior line about 2.5 miles long,” he said. “There were at least eight forts interconnecting the lines.”

In the 1980s archaeologists did a survey of the trenches. Since then the Historical Commission simply documents each report, leaving preservation up to property owners because of a lack of funding.

Gause said even though there are no programs or grants available to protect the remains of the trenches, private property owners are usually good about keeping the earthworks intact.

“It’s amazing. It’s a piece of history,” Hoffman said. “We’re definitely preserving it; no question about it.

“As a matter of fact we’re now waiting for it to get wet so we can go out with a metal detector,” she said.

Besides the West End/21st avenue area, other trenches have been found in the Antioch and Cumberland River area, according to Gause.

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