History in Peril:

A Proposal for A
Civil War Protection Plan

for Davision County, Tennessee
November 6, 1998




Current Condition of Sites

Benefits of Civil War Heritage Protection

Federal Heritage Area

Recent Efforts of Neighboring Communities

Proposed Scope of Work

What Next?

Appendices (not reproduced here)

A. Site Inventory

B. Heritage Area Legislation


Tennessee ranks second only to Virginia in the number of Civil War engagements fought within its borders (1,462), and control of the state was a key objective for both the North and South in the Western Theater of the war. Nashville's population base, state capital status, and strategic location as a transportation and supply hub for the region resulted in an especially rich Civil War heritage. In December of 1864 the Union victory over General John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee at Nashville eliminated all Confederate hopes for future success in the Western Theater of the war. While the best known Civil War event in Davidson County was the Battle of Nashville, numerous other important but lesser known events related to the war occurred in Davidson County. Many of the county's Civil War sites and resources are unprotected from a variety of threats to their integrity and very existence, ranging from the natural elements to deliberate demolition and redevelopment.

The loss of Civil War resources is unfortunate not only for the sake of history itself, but it represents a lost opportunity for future economic development in the form of heritage tourism -- a "clean" growth industry which injects outside dollars into the local economy on an on-going basis. Recognizing the tremendous value of heritage tourism, especially economic development benefits, Congress recently established a Civil War heritage area for Tennessee which will focus tremendous federal resources (e.g., technical assistance and funding) to enable the state's various interested parties to work together in promoting Civil War heritage tourism. There are also other elements at play which have continued to build the momentum of public interest in the Civil War started in 1989 by Ken Burns' PBS documentary on the subject. For example, Winston Groom - best known for writing Forrest Gump - recently authored a book entitled Shrouds of Glory. Documenting Hood's 1864 campaign from Atlanta to Nashville, this book has focused additional nationwide interest on Middle Tennessee. While much smaller communities in the region, such as Murfreesboro, Spring Hill, and Franklin, are moving quickly to position themselves to capitalize on future heritage tourism by protecting and interpreting their resources, Davidson County appears to be lagging behind. Consequently, a comprehensive strategy is desperately needed for the protection, enhancement, interpretation and marketing of Davidson County's rich Civil War resources.


Davidson County has numerous Civil War sites which are unprotected, threatened and uninterpreted. By developing a detailed strategy for protecting, enhancing, interpreting and marketing its resources, Davidson County can effectively leverage the economic opportunities which the new Federal legislation and the efforts of the region's smaller communities will generate.

Current Condition of Civil War Sites

To date, at least twenty (20) specific sites directly linked to the Battle of Nashville have been inventoried. Several of the sites consist of fortifications (both earthern and stone), such as Fort Negley, Fort Casino, Redoubts 1-4, and Granbury's Lunette. Other sites include key geographic landmarks from the Battle, such as Bald Hill, Montgomery Hill, Shy's Hill, and Peach Orchard Hill. Historic houses associated with the battle include Belmont Mansion, Traveller's Rest, the Williams House, and Belle Meade Plantation, while the balance of sites consist of various objects such as the Battle of Nashville Monument site and the stone fence. Geographically, most of the sites are accessible (directly or indirectly) from key roads such as 21st Avenue, Hillsboro Road, Belmont Blvd., Granny White Pike, and Woodmont Blvd. Some of the sites, such as the historic buildings, are already owned by preservation-minded entities, they are well-maintained, and they are only in need of interpretation (i.e, wayside markers and a tour brochure) to link them to the Battle of Nashville. Other sites, however, such as deteriorating earthworks, are in need of both preservation and interpretation. Regardless of the individual status of each resource, a plan is clearly needed to coordinate their protection and interpretation in order to "recreate" the Battle as a whole, rather than these resources existing as disjointed pieces of a puzzle.

Benefits of Civil War Heritage Protection

The book entitled Dollars and Sense of Battlefield Preservation (Kennedy & Porter, 1994) makes a strong argument for preserving historic battlefields and related resources based upon solely economic and fiscal reasons. Those cited reasons, in addition to other compelling justifications, include:

Education: History can best be revealed, understood and taught when the places in which it occurred are left intact and in a condition similar to that of their historically significant point in time. Educational benefits can be enjoyed by a wide spectrum of society, from the scholarly research of academics to grade school children learning about American history.

Civic Pride: Civic pride is nurtured when citizens have a strong sense of place and can recognize a tangible community character which makes them feel that their community is special. Civil War sites and resources, such as the surviving remnants of the Battle of Nashville battlefield, provide Davidson County residents a strong sense of place.

Recreation: Civil War sites, such as battlefield parks, provide extensive open spaces which can accommodate a host of passive recreational uses. The federal ISTEA transportation funding program encourages the creation of greenways to link historic sites, and greenways have been successfully used for environmental and economic benefits, as well as recreational purposes. In fact, the Tennessee Historical Commission and the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society recently applied to this program for $112,000 for the acquisition of properties that comprise portions of Redoubt #1 and Shy's Hill.

Economic Benefits: In 1992 over 10 million Americans visited battlefields. Tourism is the second largest retail industry in the U.S. after grocery shopping, and it amounts to $325 billion in annual spending. Every $1 spent on tourism generates approximately $3.25 in additional spin-off spending, and 1986 estimates at Gettysburg calculated that "day-trippers" were spending $17 per day, while overnight tourists were averaging $47 per day. It was estimated in 1987 that visitors to Gettysburg spend $44.5 million annually and visitors to Fredericksburg in 1990 spent $29.1 million. Visitors to the more obscure Arkansas battlefields of Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove spent $10.8 million (1991) and $9.6 million (1992), respectively. When the estimated 1.86 multiplier factor for Pea Ridge is considered, the $10.8 million translates into $20.2 million for their local economy. In addition to spending by heritage tourists, the 1993 budgets of National Parks such as Petersburg, Chickamauga and Vicksburg were all at least $1.5 million -- and it must be remembered that these are job-producing industries which do not periodically relocate (Kennedy & Porter). For a more detailed understanding of the economics of Civil War heritage tourism, see the attached 1993 report by John Petersen entitled A Literature Review: The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Preserving Battlefields.

Fiscal Benefits: A recent study has estimated that the annual $53 million of direct and spin-off tourism spending in Fredericksburg's historic district generates an annual average of $893,000 in restaurant, lodging and business license taxes alone. In addition to tourism-related tax revenues, lands which remain undeveloped generate significantly more property tax revenues that they demand in public spending. Unlike urbanized areas, rural lands do not require substantial infrastructure and on-going public services -- especially education. A recent study of several contrasting municipalities revealed that for every dollar of tax revenue generated annually, undeveloped land was costing most municipalities between only $0.12 and $0.48 annually, while residential land was requiring an expenditure ranging between $1.06 and $1.25 per dollar of tax revenue (Kennedy & Porter). While commercial development will generally pay for itself considerably, it is clearly not true that all types of growth are a benefit to municipal coffers. As noted above, the attached report by John Petersen provides more detailed information regarding fiscal benefits.

Federal Heritage Area

Congress recently designated a "Tennessee Civil War Heritage Area" for the following reasons:

  • to preserve and interpret the legacy of the Civil War in Tennessee
  • to recognize and interpret key events and sites related to the Civil War in Tennessee
  • to recognize and interpret the effect of the war on the state's civilian population, and
  • to create partnerships among federal, state and local governments

Congress has further authorized the appropriation of up to $10 million for the heritage area, for which a 50% match must be provided, and Middle Tennessee State University's Center for Historic Preservation has been designated as the "clearing house" for the program. Clearly, this program has tremendous potential for assisting Metro government in its future efforts at battlefield protection and interpretation. See Appendix B for a copy of the legislation.

Recent Efforts of Neighboring Communities

Recognizing the tremendous potential for Civil War heritage tourism that is yet untapped, the public and private sectors have joined forces in many of Davidson County's neighboring communities to protect, enhance, interpret and market their resources. Examples of recent efforts include:

Spring Hill

Considering the fact that no legitimate battle ever occurred at Spring Hill, they have had tremendous success in selling themselves as a Civil War tourism destination. Although the only key action to occur there was the simultaneous encampment of the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of the Tennessee, some skirmishing, and a battle that nearly happened, the Maury County Convention & Visitor's Bureau and others have accomplished the following:

  • Commissioned the preparation of a battlefield protection plan.
  • Restored "Rippavilla", which is the antebellum mansion used by the Confederate generals the morning of the Battle of Franklin. It now is open for tours.
  • Conducted in 1995 one of the country's largest Civil reenactments which involved 8,000 participants from all across the country and attracted over 20,000 spectators.
  • Spearheaded the development of a tour guide brochure to highlight heritage attractions, especially Civil War sites, located between Columbia and Nashville.
  • Developed a tour brochure and wayside exhibits to interpret the area's Civil War history.


Franklin is in a position similar to Nashville in that it was the scene of a major battle and much of its battlefield has been lost. However, it has still made deliberate efforts to better protect and interpret its Civil War resources, including:

  • Commissioned a master plan to protect, stabilize, enhance and interpret Fort Granger, a earthen Union fort on City-owned property.
  • Prepared an extremely attractive and useful tour guide brochure for the battlefjield.
  • Continued enhancements to Carnton Mansion and the Carter House, privately-operated sites associated with the battle and open to the public.
  • Hired a consulting team to prepare a preservation plan for the Carter House.
  • The Lotz House Civil War museum was recently opened as a private venture to add another component to Franklin's tourism package.
  • Commissioned a study on the economic impacts of historic resources, which has prompted the City to now consider the preparation of a plan to protect and interpret Civil War resources.


Murfreesboro and Rutherford County have recently combined forces to tackle several Civil War related projects, including:

  • Commissioned a Civil War Heritage Protection & Interpretation Plan to address resources in the entire county.
  • Funded the development of a tour guide brochure of Civil War sites
  • Funded the fabrication of wayside exhibits which utilize high-quality graphics and imbedded fiberglass construction to interpret the Civil War in various locations.
  • Developed an extensive greenway system along Stones River, complete with waysides to interpret the Battle of Stones River.
  • Recently completed a Battlefield Transportation Corridor Plan to protect the integrity of historic road corridors.

Proposed Scope of Work

It is proposed that Metro government commission a plan to protect and interpret Davidson County's many Civil War sites and resources. The following general tasks might serve as a potential scope of work:

1.0 Background Research

Study Area Reconnaissance

This initial windshield survey would familiarize the project team with the various Civil War cultural resources within the extensive study area.

Meetings with Relevant Organizations

Examples of organization which should be sought out from the project's start include Metro planning staff, economic development and tourism representatives, and historic organizations. This task would assist the project team in fitting this initiative into the context of past, present and future planning and economic development efforts impacting Civil War resources. Consideration for those efforts would be balanced with the historic preservation objectives of local historic organizations, which also serve as sources of historic information.

Data Gathering

Most data examined would consist of historical data and land use information and regulations, including historic site data already assembled by organizations such as the Tennessee Wars Commission and the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society.

2.0 Inventory & Evaluation of Civil War Resources

Development of a Comprehensive Inventory

Building upon existing inventories and adding to it through historic research, this inventory would be the definitive source for Civil War resources in Davidson County.

Evaluation and Prioritization of Civil War Resources

This step would place individual resources within the overall context of the War, categorize resources based upon resource type (battlefields, camp sites, hospitals, etc.), evaluate their historic significance, determine their degree of surviving integrity, and identify any threats. Based upon those variables, resources would be prioritized with respect to needed protective measures.

3.0 Protection & Enhancement Strategies

Protection Strategies

Examples of protection strategies might include fee simple acquisition, conservation easements, and amendments to zoning and development regulations. There should also be programatic and funding recommendations to assist with implementing the strategies.

Enhancement Strategies

Examples of enhancement strategies might include erosion control, stabilization, landscape buffering and screening, and cleaning and maintenance measures. As with protection strategies, programatic and funding issues must also be addressed.

4.0 Interpretation Strategy

Development of Interpretive Themes & Stories

Because the Civil War in Davidson County is such a broad theme, several sub-themes must be identified in order to make the history more comprehensible and interesting. Examples of themes might include the Battle of Nashville, the Civilian Experience, Union Occupation and the Forts, the Role of Women, the Role of African Americans, the Experience of the Common Soldier from Davidson County, etc. Each theme must be accompanied by a series of interesting stories to illustrate and reinforce the themes.

Interpretation Plan

Once the themes and stories are developed, the methods of interpretation must be planned. Examples of potential methods include tour guide brochures (which might include multiple tours for multiple themes), wayside exhibits, a museum, audio tapes tied to driving tours, and living history demonstrations.

5.0 Marketing & Leveraging the Civil War

This final but important step would result in a strategy for marketing Civil War heritage tourism to a regional and national market. It would identify primary target markets, and determine how best to reach them (print, electronic media, conventions, etc.). This plan section would also describe how Civil War heritage tourism might fit into the broader tourism and economic development efforts for Davidson County in a way that maximizes economic benefits for the area.

What Next?

The next step is to determine what organization would oversee the preparation of a plan, estimate how much a plan would cost, identify funding sources, and begin the process.


The most appropriate organization to oversee this effort would be the Metropolitan Historic Commission, with support from the Metropolitan Planning Commission. Additional key supporters would include the Tennessee Historical Commission, the Tennessee Wars Commission and the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society, Inc.


It is preliminarily estimated that the cost for such a plan might range between $25,000 and $40,000, depending upon the amount of existing data already available, how much of a public process would be required, and similar variables. The cost can be better determined once a scope of work is detailed.

Funding Sources

Likely sources to fund the plan include Metro government, the State of Tennessee and, of course, the Federal government through "Tennessee Civil War Heritage Area" legislation.


Once a sufficient level of interest and commitment is conveyed by Metro government, a thorough search and determination of available data would be made, and the scope of work would be clarified. In turn, a more specific project cost can be pin-pointed. Once funds are allocated for the project, the historic commission would issue a request for proposals from interested parties to prepare the plan.

Appendix A

Civil War Sites Inventory

(The inventory includes the following sites but in greater detail than produced here)

  • Fort Negley
  • Fort Casino
  • Bald Hill (Love Circle)
  • Belmont Mansion
  • Montgomery Hill
  • Battle of Nashville Monument
  • Travellers Rest
  • Confederate Entrenchments (Woodmont Blvd.)
  • Redoubts 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • Williams House
  • Belle Meade Plantation
  • Kelley's Battery at Bell's Bend
  • Granbury's Lunette
  • Shy's Hill
  • Stone Fence (Stonewall Dr.)
  • Peach Orchard Hill
  • Old BON Monument Site

Also included in the Proposal, but not reproduced here, is a map of the sites and

Appendix B: Heritage Area Legislation.


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