Defenses of Nashville, Official Records, 1865

Diagram of Fort Negley

Aerial of WPA reconstruction in 1930s

Postcard of Fort Negley from the 1930s

AFTER its capture in 1862, Nashville was developed by Union forces into the most fortified city in North America. A series of forts ringed the city, the largest and southernmost being Fort Negley, named for U.S. Gen. James Scott Negley, provost marshal and commander of Federal forces in Nashville.

The remains of Fort Negley are located on a high hill south of downtown Nashville at the confluence of Interstates 65 and 40 and adjacent to the Cumberland Science Museum and Greer Stadium. The site, known as St. Cloud Hill, was a favorite picnic area for citizens prior to the war.

During the 1930s, WPA work crews restored the old fort to its original appearance, but the location was allowed to deteriorate and become overgrown with vegetation.

In 1865 the fort was renamed Fort Harker due to Gen. Negley's poor performance at the Battle of Chickamauga. Gen. Charles G. Harker had been killed at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia. The new name didn't stick, however, and the fort continued to be locally known as Fort Negley. Gen. Negley was later exonerated and went on to serve as a congressman and railroad president.

The opening guns of the Battle of Nashville, Dec. 15-16, 1864, were probably fired from Fort Negley, although the fort itself was never directly attacked at any time during the war.

Fort Negley was a complex fort, many of its features based on European forts. The fort was built in 1862, taking three months to construct. Many blacks were used in the construction, including 13,000 Union soldiers. The fort is 600 feet long, 300 feet wide, and covers four acres. It used 62,500 cubic feet of stone and 18,000 cubic feet of earth. It cost $130,000 to construct.

The east and west parapets are partially star-shaped, the redans allowing concentrated crossfire against attackers. At the southern end of the fort, where attack was most likely, were two massive bombproof bastions equipped with guns which could be aimed in several directions. Each bastion had tunnels which protected men moving through the works.

The stone foundation of the fort was covered with dirt, which would absorb the concussion of incoming artillery rounds and prevent the stonework from shattering. Grass was grown on the earthworks to prevent erosion.

At the center of the structure was a 12-foot-high stockade built of cedar posts, with turrets. Underground water cisterns were kept inside the stockade, which was designed as the last defensive position in case the fort was overrun.

Left standing near the stockade were two tall trees, which were used as observation platforms and signal stations.

The main entrance gate to the fort was secured with an enclosure through which troops and visitors had to pass.

Two interior works (east and west) flanked the stockade. On the west work was casement No. 1, a gun emplacement fortified with railroad iron. Inside was a 30-pound Parrot rifle, a cannon which could hurl a 29-pound shell 2.5 miles.

Wooden artillery platforms were built behind the east and west parapets for the 11 guns in the fort. Approximately 75 men were required to operate the artillery.

The hill on which Fort Negley stood was cleared of trees to provide wood for the structure and to open up fields of fire.

Over the years, Fort Negley deteriorated and become overgrown and forgotten. Now, however, efforts are being made to restore the old fort to its original appearance.

Fort Negley was officially re-opened to the public with ceremonies on Fri., Dec. 10, 2004. Interpretive signage along walkways tell the story of the fort and the people who built and manned it.


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