Battle of Nashville 140th Anniversary Symposium
Dec. 10-11, 2004 at Nashville Public Library
In commemoration of the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville (Dec. 15-16, 1864), the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society and the Tennessee Historical Society hosted a symposium to present new examinations, as well as assessments of past historiography, of the 1864 Atlanta-Nashville campaign and the late Civil War experience in Middle Tennessee and the western theater.

The symposium drew more than 200 history buffs to the Nashville Public Library on Dec. 10-11, 2004. Co-sponsors included the Nashville Public Library, Metro Nashville Historical Commission, and Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area/Middle Tennessee State University.

Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell welcomed the participants following the presentation of the colors by the 13th USCT Color Guard and the Forrest Cavalry Corps Color Guard. Mayor Purcell spoke on Friday only hours after ceremonies officially reopening historic Fort Negley to the public for the first time in 60 years. The symposium moderator was Ann Toplovich, Executive Director of the Tennessee Historical Society.

The featured speaker was author and historian James Lee McDonough, PhD, professor emeritus of Auburn University and author of the newly published Nashville: The Western Confederacy’s Final Gamble.

McDonough said he was able to find several unused primary sources for his book. He said in his research he realized that on the first day of battle that Confederate Redoubt No. 4 had been attacked and taken first, then Redoubt No. 5. Most studies of the battle have stated the opposite.

Also, McDonough said he wanted to emphasize the role of the U.S. Colored Troops in the battle, particularly at Overton Hill on Dec. 16th. He cited the works of Ambrose Bierce, a Union soldier on Gen. Beatty’s staff who watched the USCT attack. Previously Bierce had applied to be an officer in charge of black troops but then declined because he didn’t think blacks would fight. The struggle at Overton Hill changed his mind. “Better fighting was never done. Their chances were hopeless and they knew it. Still they showed courage and discipline,” McDonough cited Bierce as observing.

McDonough also claimed that most citizens of modern times have not and cannot fully realize the enormity of Civil War casualties. The war resulted in the deaths of 622,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians. In the South, fifty percent of the men ages 18-30 were either killed or maimed.

Book Signings at Symposium

Mark Zimmerman (left) and James Lee McDonough sign books at the 140th Anniversary Symposium,
respectively Guide to Civil War Nashville and Nashville: The Western Confederacy's Final Gamble.

On Friday night a reception was held at the historic State Capitol.

The speakers and topics presented at the Symposium included:

A Battlefield Preservation Case Study: The Battle of Nashville, hosted by Ann Roberts, Metro Historical Commission.

“Can You Give Me Directions to the Nashville Battlefield: An Examination of Civil War Battlefield Preservation in Tennessee” by Timothy B. Smith, PhD, Shiloh National Military Park.

“The Role of Nashville’s Built Environment During the Civil War,” by Michael T. Gavin, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, Middle Tennessee State University.

“The Legacy of the USCT and Its Impact on Preservation Efforts at Fort Negley” by Norm Hill, Tennessee Historical Commission.

The Context of the Battle, hosted by Dr. Reavis Mitchell, Fisk University.

“Rachel Carter Craighead & Maggie Lindsley: The Female Experience During Occupation and the Battle of Nashville,” by Carole Bucy, PhD, Volunteer State Community College.

“The United States Colored Troops at the Battle of Nashville,” by Jennifer Edwards-Ring, Western Illinois University.

“While They Were Waiting: Williamson County, Tennessee, December 1864,” by Bob Holladay, Florida State University.

Symposium Luncheon

Symposium participants enjoy fellowship and lunch at the Metro Public Library
before hearing the featured speaker, James Lee McDonough.

The Nashville Campaign and the Battle of Nashville, hosted by BONPS President Doug Jones.

“’I Don’t Want to Be in a Hotter Place’: The Twelfth USCT at the Battle of Nashville,” by James S. McRae, State University of West Georgia.

“’Fighting Joe’ Cooper at the Battle of Nashville,” by Benjamin Severance, PhD, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“Gibson’s Louisiana Brigade: Its History and Actions at the Battle of Nashville,” by Jane Johansson, PhD, Rogers State University, Claremore, Okla.

“A Forlorn Hope: The Confederate Rearguard After Nashville,” by Walter Pittman, PhD, Ruidoso, NM.

The Aftermath and Legacy of the Battle, hosted by Dr. Carroll Van West, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.

“The Southern Assessment of the 1864 Tennessee Campaign,” by Keith S. Bohannon, PhD, State University of West Georgia.

‘”A Black Page in the Memory of Our Lost Cause’: Perceptions of Hood’s Tennessee Campaign,” John D. Fowler, PhD, Kennesaw State University.

“The Union Legal Response to Hood’s Invasion of Tennessee,” by Gary Shockley, JD, Nashville, Tenn.

“The Aftermath: Middle Tennessee, December 1864 to May 1865,” by Stephen V. Ash, PhD, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Author of Middle Tennessee Society Transformed, 1860-1870: War and Peace in the Upper South and When the Yankees Came: Conflict and Chaos in the Occupied South, 1861-1865.

A special exhibit, “Corporal Samuel J. Churchill’s Medal of Honor,” was displayed at the symposium. Researched and designed by Linda Barnickel, Veterans History Project Coordinator at the Nashville Public Library, with the assistance of Churchill descendents, the exhibit follows the actions of Churchill and his unit, Battery G, Second Illinois Light Artillery, along with Wolfe’s Third Brigade on the first day of the battle.