Fort Negley Opens to Public!
Efforts of BONPS, City Come to Realization
Mayor Dedicates

Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell addresses approximately 200 citizens in attendance at the official re-opening of historic Fort Negley on Fri., Dec. 10, 2004 under blustery skies. The City of Nashville appropriated $2 million to the project--the largest municipal contribution to Civil War preservation ever. Future plans include a small on-site interpretive center for the Battle of Nashville. Looking on are Vice-Mayor Howard Gentry and country music entertainer Kix Brooks of the award-winning duo Brooks and Dunn.

March to the Fort

The Color Guard of the 13th U.S. Colored Troops Infantry, escorting President Abraham Lincoln, followed by the 9th Kentucky Infantry, public officials and members of the public march solemnly up St. Cloud Hill to inspect the newly reopened fortifications. Interpretive signage along the paved road and elevated wooden walkways inside the fort tell how and why the fort was built.

Nashville Skyline

Blueclad re-enactors and the public mingle inside Fort Negley with the skyline of Nashville in the background. The fort was built in 1862 on one of the highest hills surrounding the city.

Terry, Sherry and Bill

Battle of Nashville Preservation Society members Terry Komp and Sherry Male pose with Sgt. Bill Radcliffe of the 13th U.S. Colored Troops Infantry re-enactors. Radcliffe has been holding vigil at the fort, first by himself and then with fellow re-enactors, during the anniversaries of the Battle of Nashville, Dec. 15-16, for many years. The fort was built by impressed black laborers, either slaves or runaway slaves, and it is estimated that 300 to 800 workers died during construction.

Union Troops at Fort Negley

The 13th USCT, 9th Kentucky, and Mr. Lincoln pose at Fort Negley. The USCT Regimental leader is Norman Hill, fourth from left, who addressed the crowd on the importance of African-Americans fighting as U.S. soldiers during the Civil War. Hill is Chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission and a member of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society.

BONPS President Doug Jones

BONPS President Doug Jones chats with Jackie Jones and Chris Cosner of the Mayor's Office during visitation at Fort Negley.

View From Bastion

From the walkway, visitors examine the southwest bastion of Fort Negley. In this view toward the southwest, Reservoir Hill, the site of wartime Blockhouse Casino, can be seen in the right middleground, while the site of the Battle of Nashville, particularly Peach Orchard Hill, can be seen in the left background.

Major BONPS Objective Becomes Reality

The Battle of Nashville Preservation Society was founded in 1993 by Wes Shofner and Ross Massey with one of their main objectives the re-opening of historic Fort Negley on St. Cloud Hill. On Fri., Dec. 10, 2004, that dream became a reality as Mayor Bill Purcell re-opened Fort Negley and led appoximately 200 citizens on an inspection tour.

Also on hand for the ceremonies were BONPS members; the 13th U.S. Colored Troops Memorial Regiment; the 9th U.S. Kentucky Infantry Regiment; Dennis Boggs as Abraham Lincoln; Vice-Mayor Howard Gentry; Metro Parks Director Roy Wilson; Metro Historical Commission Director Ann Roberts; Councilman Ronnie Greer (17th District); Norm Hill, Tennessee Historical Commission Chairman; Ann Toplovich, Tennessee Historical Society Director; State Historian Walter Durham; BONPS President Doug Jones; and Kix Brooks, country music entertainer and Civil War buff.

The ceremonies were followed Friday and Saturday by the Battle of Nashville 140th Anniversary Symposium conducted at the Nashville Metro Public Library, with reception at the historic State Capitol. The event was sponored by BONPS and the Tennessee Historical Society.

Brief History of the Fort

Fort Negley was the largest and most important fortification built by Union troops after their occupation of Nashville in 1862. Standing atop St. Cloud Hill, it marked the center of the Union defensive line which stretched in a wide circle around the southern part of the city. The Union Army was determined to hold Nashville at all costs because of its importance in the distribution of supplies by river and rail and so transformed it into one of the most heavily fortified cities in America.

Named for General James Negley, provost marshal and commander of Union forces in Nashville, the stronghold was built by conscription laborers--predominantly slaves and free blacks--of stones, log, earth, and railway iron. Engineer James St. Clair Morton designed the complex work of polygonal shape, the largest inland masonry fortification of the Civil War; he also supervised its construction. The stone fort itself was 600 feet long and 300 feet wide; including outer fortifications and earthworks over the brow of the hill, Fort Negley covered four acres and was considered to be practically impregnable. The fort never came under direct attack during the war, but its artillery played a crucial role throughout the city's occupation and the Battle of Nashville.

After the war ended and Union forces withdrew from Nashville, the abandoned fort fell into disrepair. The site was neglected until the 1930s, when the Works Progress Administration reconstructed parts of the fort and added a road, stone entrance gates, and recreation facilities. However, those restoration efforts also deteriorated, and the fort was designated an undeveloped park. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Interest in using the fort as an interpretive site grew among Civil War interest groups, educators, preservationists, and government leaders during the 1990s. Recognizing Fort Negley's significance and value, Mayor Bill Purcell's Parks and Greenways Master Plan made funding for its opening and interpretation a priority. In November 2002, the Metro Council appropriated money for that purpose. In observance of the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville, Fort Negley is open to he public.