Shy’s Hill

December 16, 1864

THE CRITICAL ACTION OF THE BATTLE OF NASHVILLE

Above: Napoleon 12-pounder faces North at the summit of Shy’s Hill in front of a backdrop of flags representing Minnesota (see story of why BONPS flies the Minnesota flag below), the U.S. flag, and the 1st National Flag of the Confederacy. (Photo by Tom Lawrence)

The Story

A heavy day of fighting on Thursday, December 15, 1864, saw Confederate forces fall back to the south to an east-west line roughly parallel to the current course of Harding Place in South Nashville. The right flank of the Confederate line was anchored at Peach Orchard Hill to the east, and the left or western flank at Compton’s Hill, later to become known for posterity as Shy’s Hill.

Darkness, battle fatigue and terrain became significant obstacles as Hood’s army attempted to re-group to the south.  Depletion from casualties resulted in a considerably shorter defensive line.  On the west flank, Hood positioned Maj. Gen. Benjamin Cheatham’s Corps on what he thought would be strategic high ground – the steep promontory of Compton’s Hill.  Cheatham, a Nashville native, placed defense of the summit of Compton’s Hill in the hands of Maj. Gen. William B. Bate’s division, consisting (from left to right) of Tyler’s Brigade under the command of 25-year-old Brig. Gen. Thomas Benton Smith, Finley’s Florida Brigade under the command of Maj. Glover Ball, and Jackson’s Brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Henry Jackson.

Tough Odds for Hood’s Troops.  Confederate troops occupying Compton’s Hill did so against staggering odds.  They were outnumbered by an overwhelming Union force which had surrounded them with infantry to the north and west of the Hill, and with cavalry to the south.

IMG_0380
Above: Artillery piece looks northwest, overlooking Green Hills Shopping Center, Burton Hills and other areas of Southwest Nashville. Federal Troops stormed the Hill from the north and northeast on December 16, 1864. The 12-pounder Napoleon was one of the most prevalent field artillery pieces used by both sides in the Battle of Nashville. BONPS placed this replica on the summit in 2008. (Click to enlarge) (Photo by Tom Lawrence)

Serious problems were facing the Confederate force as darkness descended on Thursday evening, December 15.  As the first day’s action died down, Cheatham’s Corps had to deal with the combined disadvantages of darkness, muddy terrain, and the weariness of what had been a difficult day on the battlefield, especially on the Confederate left flank.

Cheatham, positioned on the Confederate right flank on December 15, had to move south and west from his position around Nolensville Pike and was late arriving at the high ground.  Reestablishing their defenses in the dark created new problems. They dug all night with few tools and axes – a difficult task at night on the steep slope, and were able to cut some trees and pile rock to complement the works.  The trenches, however, due either to darkness or miscalculations by the engineers, were inadvertently constructed too far back from the “military crest.”  As a result, the steepness of the hill became a liability instead of providing a high-ground advantage, because when daylight came, they were unable to see down the slope far enough from their positions to fire at Federal troops charging up the hill until the attackers were almost in their lines.

In addition, the trench lines were set up by aligning with a fire on the grounds of the Bradford house to the northeast.  When daylight came on Friday, December 16, the angle and direction of the trenches did not line up with Stewart’s Corps to the east at around Granny White Pike.  An angry Cheatham had to quickly readjust the line to the south in order to link up with the remainder of the Confederate position which ran easterly toward Peach Orchard Hill.

Shy's Hill Trench line (Photo:  Tom Lawrence)
Above: Confederate trench line, marked with head logs, running from the top of Shy’s Hill roughly northeasterly towards Harding Place. (Click to enlarge) (Photo by Tom Lawrence)

Artillery.  The conditions also adversely affected the Confederate army’s use of its artillery.  U.S. artillery significantly outnumbered Confederate artillery by more than 3 to 1.  To make matters worse for Hood’s forces, most of Cheatham’s 34 cannons were unable to get into fighting position on December 16.  Unable to get through Granny White Pike, the artillery had to be moved toward the new line across the muddy fields of the Lea Farm.  When the fighting resumed on December 16, most of the guns remained parked and useless in the area now occupied by St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Belmont Park Terrace.

The Confederates were eventually able to place a reduced battery of smoothbore guns on a small plateau on the eastern slope of Shy’s Hill, commanded by Capt. Rene T. Beauregard, son of Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard.  Fire from these and a few others were no match for the three Federal batteries which all day raked the top of the hill from the west, north and northwest.  Confederate snipers, firing Whitworth long-range rifles, did their best from the high ground, but the prolific Federal fusillade – one battery as close as 500 yards – eventually leveled the earthworks on the summit.  By some estimates, as many as 1,500 rounds of artillery shells, many of them from rifled barrels, pounded Compton’s Hill on December 16th.

Hood Moves Troops From Hill.  As the day progressed, the already depleted Confederate force on the Hill was further reduced by Hood’s perceived need to move troops – four brigades in all — away from the hilltop. The first move occurred around noon, when the encroachment of Maj. Gen. James Wilson’s Union Calvary Corps from the south, behind the Confederate line, required Hood to shift Ector’s brigade of French’s Division, Stewarts Corps, to the south.

Next, furious fighting at Peach Orchard Hill caused Hood to move two brigades of Cleburne’s Division to the right flank late in the afternoon.  And finally, about the same time, Reynolds Brigade from Walthall’s Division, Stewarts Corps – posted to the right of Bate’s Division on the Hill – was moved south to support Ector.  The summit line was left thin, with no reserves.

By late afternoon, with daylight beginning to fade on a rainy day, Federal commanding Gen. George Thomas had been unsuccessful in ordering Maj. Gen. John Schofield to organize an assault on the hill with his XXIII Corps.  Growing impatient as the day grew darker, Federal Brig. Gen. John McArthur, division commander in Smith’s XVI Corps, saw the Union advantage gained during the day-long siege of the Confederate left flank slipping away, and that nightfall would enable Hood’s army to either strengthen or escape.

Federal Attack In Late Afternoon.  At about 3:30 p.m. he sent a message to Thomas and XVI Corps commander Gen. Andrew Smith that unless he were given orders to the contrary in the next five minutes, his division was going to attack Compton’s Hill and the Confederate line immediately to its east. Receiving no response by his imposed deadline, he ordered the charge by three brigades which contained four regiments of Minnesotans, as well as troops from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

McArthur began the assault with only the First Brigade.  Under the command of Col. William McMillen, they advanced under orders for silence and began the struggle directly up the severe north slope of Compton’s Hill, using the steepness as their cover.  The 10th Minnesota Regiment, surging up the northeast side of the hill on the left end of the Union advance, was exposed to flanking fire and was hit hard.  As the First advanced half way up the hill, McArthur sent the Second Brigade, with the 9th Minnesota on the right and the 5th Minnesota on the left. Its commander, Col. Lucius F. Hubbard, had two horses shot from under him and sustained a minie ball wound to the neck as the unit crossed a muddy corn field moving southwest.  With their line exposed to enfilading fire, they sustained significant casualties including four 5th Minnesota color bearers who were shot down in the charge.

Howard Pyle, a noted 19th century illustrator, painted this mural in 1906.  The original is located in the governor's Reception Room in the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota.  It depicts the attack on the afternoon of December 16, 1864 by the 5th and 9th Minnesota Infantry Regiments on the Confederate line just to the east of Shy’s Hill, which is seen in the background.  The area depicted is just east of Granny White Pike and just south of modern Battery Lane, on modern McArthur Ridge Court.

Howard Pyle, a noted 19th century illustrator, painted this mural in 1906. The original is located in the governor’s Reception Room in the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota. It depicts the attack on the afternoon of December 16, 1864 by the 5th and 9th Minnesota Infantry Regiments on the Confederate line just to the east of Shy’s Hill, which is seen in the background. The area depicted is just east of Granny White Pike and just south of modern Battery Lane, on modern McArthur Ridge Court.

 

In short order, however, the 10th Minnesota breached the line of Finley’s Florida Brigade, and attacked Smith’s and Jackson’s Brigades from the rear.  This precipitated the Confederate collapse.  By the time McArthur’s troops achieved the summit, many Confederates had already begun their retreat toward Granny White Pike and Franklin Pike. Those who remained were captured or killed.

The Fate of Col. Shy and Gen. Smith.  Among those who died fighting was 26-year-old Lt. Col. William L. Shy, commanding the 20th Tennessee,  under the command of Brig. Gen. Thomas Benton Smith.  Col. Shy, who grew up in Williamson County, Tennessee, was

Col. William L. Shy

Col. William L. Shy

killed by a close range shot to his head.  His body was taken to the nearby Felix Compton house and laid on the porch with a blanket over him.  His parents came from Franklin to get him.  His effort to hold the hill at all cost, and his death on the summit, resulted in a renaming of the hill in his name.

His commander, Brig. Gen. Smith, surrendered, though his fate had an unfortunate end. As he was being led back to Nashville, probably on Granny White Pike, he was struck multiple times on the head by a Federal officer wielding the butt end of a sword. The officer was thought to be Col. William McMillen, who commanded McArthur’s 1st Brigade.  Smith was expected to die from the resulting skull fractures;  he survived, but was institutionalized for the remainder of his life at an asylum in Nashville.  The street on which the Shy’s Hill trailhead begins, and where the historical marker is located, is named in his honor: Benton Smith Road.

The fall of the Confederate left flank at Shy’s Hill marked the end of the battle of Nashville. Even though the right flank had held its line in the battle at Peach Orchard Hill to the east, the entire force broke with the collapse of the west and the battle of Nashville ended with the retreat of Hood’s Army toward Brentwood and Franklin.

Shy’s Hill Now.  Today, the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society owns a portion of Shy’s Hill and leases the summit from the Tennessee Historical Commission.  It is protected by a conservation easement through the Land Trust For Tennessee.  The kiosk, eastern slope trail, and Memorial flag plaza at the summit were placed by, and are maintained by, BONPS.

The role of the Minnesota troops at Shy’s Hill and in the Battle of Nashville is memorialized in various ways, including a Minnesota monument at the National Cemetery in Nashville.  On Shy’s Hill,  BONPS flies the Minnesota state flag to recognize the fact that Minnesota sustained more casualties at Nashville than at any other battle in which its men fought, and that they played pivotal roles during both days of the Battle of Nashville.  The best-known painting depicting the battle at Shy’s Hill is the famous Howard Pyle canvas located in the Minnesota state capitol.  For an in-depth look at the role of Minnesota in the Battle, including the Pyle painting, see Minnesota Regiments At Nashville written by John Allyn, president of BONPS.

Visiting Shy’s Hill:

Shy’s Hill is located off Benton Smith Road in South Nashville. Admission is free to the public. A memorial flag plaza and Napoleon smoothbore artillery piece are located at the summit, which has vistas during winter months of the surrounding areas from which the Federal assault occurred in the late afternoon of December 16, 1864.

The site is open from dawn to dusk. Parking space is minimal; large vehicles may not be feasible.

Directions: From I-440, exit Hillsboro Road and travel south to Harding Place and turn left. Turn right onto Benton Smith Rd. to historical marker. The trailhead is marked by the historical marker and an interpretative kiosk at the bottom of the hill.

For Google map directions, click here.

Above: Trailhead kiosk contains interpretative maps, photos and descriptions of the battle at Shy’s Hill.  (Photo by Tom Lawrence)

Above: Memorial Flag Plaza on the summit, showing Memorial Wreath placed each December 16 by descendants of men who fought on this ground for both the Union and the Confederacy. (Click to enlarge)  (Photo by Tom Lawrence)

Above: Donors Plaque at the Shy’s Hill trailhead, bearing the names of those who contributed to the purchase the site for BONPS in 2008. (Click to enlarge) (Photo by Tom Lawrence)


Shy’s Hill Trail Rebuilt for Sesquicentennial

In February, 2014, BONPS Board member Parke Brown and his professional landscaping crew from The Parke Company, Inc. (http://www.theparkecompany.com/) rebuilt the winding trail up the East slope and gave the summit a facelift with weedeaters and chain saws.

The result:  Shy’s Hill and its topside memorial plaza look like a well-manicured state park, just in time for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the battle on the hill on December 16, 1864.

“It’s a good time to experience the uphill walk and contemplate the sacrifices made during battle,” Parke said.  His crew spent 100 man hours in February, 2014, installing the 150 8-foot beams which are laid out end-to-end to line the winding three-foot-wide trail.  Each beam was drilled and then anchored into the hillside with three 24-inch iron rebar rods.  The trail surface was then filled with 12 cubic yard of hardwood mulch.

In all, the project resulted in the installation of 1,200 linear feet of 4×4 beams (purchased and delivered up the hill by Board member Sidney McAlister, Parke noted) and 420 pieces of rebar.

 


Video:

Battle of Nashville 141st Anniversary on Shy’s Hill

On December 15, 2005, Anne Holt of WKRN-TV Channel 2 News interviewed then BONPS Vice-President Jim Kay on the significance of the Battle of Nashville and preservation efforts by the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society. He discussed the importance of Shy’s Hill and the surrounding battlefield.

(Video file is .wmv format; length is 2 min. 57 sec.; file size is 2.88 MB)


Video:

Shy’s Summit in 2013 Snow 

Short video of early March Snow at Shy’s Hill Summit 2013 [Video by Tom Lawrence]



Shy’s Hill as photographed in the 1880s and 1890s

Shy's Hill in the 1890s


December 2011: Sesquicentennial Commemoration Begins

THE BATTLE OF NASHVILLE DECEMBER 15 – 16, 1864

In the Sesquicentennial year, The Battle of Nashville Preservation Society, Inc. honored the memories of soldiers of the Union and Confederacy who fought and sacrificed in this profound historical event by placing memorial wreaths on two of its battlefield preservation sites which symbolize the deadly conflict on each of the two days of the battle — for December 15, 1864, Redoubt No. 1, and for December 16, 1864, Shy’s Hill. Below is President Philip Duer’s commentary on the event:

A Message from Philip Duer, President of BONPS 2011 – 12

December 16th, 2011

As I ascended Shy’s hill this morning to place our memorial wreath below the flags flying at the summit, I was struck by the thought that this day was the same 147 years ago — a chilling rain, fog, and a coldness that made the day heavy and miserable.
But today was not the same, it was different; I could ascend the hill with no thoughts of harm save for slipping on some wet leaves, and I was comfortable in my waterproof jacket and boots. I had no fear of being shot, wounded or maimed. I calmly walked up the hill, not rushing in desperation to reach the top. No one was trying to kill me nor I them. I was climbing the hill in peace.

I had no grief nor emotional trauma to deal with from the horror of Franklin. I had no reason to keep my head down. I had no hunger pangs, thoughts of home, nor whether I could survive not only the cold but other men trying to take my life. I didn’t have to press my body against the earthworks. I could stand in safety and view the panorama from Shy’s Hill in contemplation as to what it must have been like. I could see the hills where Union artillery fired hundreds of shells. I could see the lines of infantry and cavalry forming up for the assault. I could try and picture the scene as men fell and died on both sides. But in reality, I could not know what it was like, I could not perceive the horror of watching friends die, of the fear and panic, of waiting for the dreaded inevitable conclusion or of the jubilation of victory.

No, today is not the same save in one respect and that has been that every year since the battle people have remembered those who fought and gave their lives for what they believed in as they saw it, which in the end made us all Americans. It is inconceivable today that the mistakes made to cause such a war will ever happen again. It is for that fact that we remember their sacrifices. I can leave that hill in peace as I found it.

Philip Duer
BONPS President

Memorial Wreath, Shy's HillMemorial wreath on Shy’s Hill


December 16, 2012

A MOVING TRIBUTE TO THOSE WHO FOUGHT

In an extremely rare occurrence, the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville fell on a weekend this year. On December 16, 2012, BONPS inivted the public and descendants of the Battle of Nashville to meet at the summit of Shy’s Hill for a moving commemoration of the December 15 -16, 1864 Battle that triggered the end of the American Civil War.

A crowd of more than 100 climbed the trail to the top of Shy’s Hill on Sunday, December 16, 2012, to participate in the memorial event remembering the men who fought and those that fell in the Battle of Nashville.

The program included opening comments by BONPS President Philip Duer and a fact-filled presentation by noted historian Ross Massey as to the significance of the battle and of the Hill’s climactic role. Union and Confederate re-enactors attended the placement of the memorial wreath, accompanied by the martial drum of Paul Smith prior to placement and the violin of local musician Linda Gale Rose in conclusion.

Those placing the wreath included Ken Fieth of Nashville, whose ancestor was Brig. Gen. Thomas Benton Smith of the 20th Tennessee Infantry, who was captured at Shy’s Hill. The Shy’s Hill trail head begins at the street named in honor of the general — Benton Smith Road. Placing the wreath for the Union were BONPS board member Gary Burke of Nashville, whose ancestor fought with the 17th USCT, and David Clark, two of whose ancestors fought with the 35th Irish Indiana Inf. (Irish) Regt.

BONPS sought out descendants of the soldiers of both sides who fought in the Battle of Nashville. Many families, representing ancestors from the Union and the Confederacy, attended the event and participated in placing the memorial wreath. Their attendance was recorded in a group photograph (ancestor’s name, regiment, and unit organization will be published on the BONPS website and recorded as a historical Sesquicentennial event).

Histories, documents and photos sent to BONPS by the descendants and their families have been placed on a special Descendants page on the website. BONPS continues to invite descendants of the Battle participants to send their information for posting on the website.


(Click to enlarge) Descendants of the Battle of Nashville soldiers stand on the summit of Shy’s Hill with the Memorial wreath on December 16, 2012




Click on the individual images below to read the photo captions.

Below are some of the features related to the Memorial event:

• Philip Duer: Reflections on Shy’s Hill
Why the Minnesota Flag on the Shy’s Hill Summit?
War letters from home: A foot soldier tells about Nashville

Interview with Shy’s Hill Artist Col. Howard Massey

BONPS Board Attacks the Hill

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Why Fly the Minnesota Flag Atop Shy’s Hill?

“People wonder why we fly the Minnesota State flag at the summit of Shy’s Hill. For those who are knowledgeable about the battle here, it was the Minnesota regiments who assaulted the hill and charged across muddy cornfields below it to break the Confederate line on the second day, Dec. 16th, 1864. Howard Pyles’ painting (at the Shy’s Hill kiosk) portrays that dramatic attack. Minnesota suffered the most casualties at Nashville than in any other battle. It is with thanks to Vern Ege who has brought this article to our attention of a man devoted to finding the graves and stories of CW soldiers from Minnesota. His inspiration — stories of 2 soldiers from Minnesota who died at Nashville! While not the bloodbath of many battles, the story of Nashville continues to be of interest. One only has to read the late David Logsdon’s “Eyewitness to Nashville” to feel the growing tension, excitement, and despair as both armies faced off for 2 brutally cold weeks before the battle.

Vern’s ancestor’s story is provided below as we document those who fought here. http://www.startribune.com/local/178468071.html

Philip Duer, Pres. BONPS

Knud Otterson. Descendant: Jane Otterson Miller (& husband Vernon Ege). Private Knud Otterson was with Co. A, 5th Minnesota Infantry in which he volunteered early in the war in 1862 and despite two war wounds over the ensuing three years, finished his tour of duty in Alabama in 1865. Jane Miller is his great granddaughter and she and husband Vernon Ege have written a heavily-researched 27-page booklet telling Knud’s fascinating story as a Minnesota infantryman. That story includes his harrowing ordeal in Nashville, where he was with the 5th Minnesota when it charged across open fields and up the slope of Shy’s Hill on Dec. 16, 1864. This is the charge that is depicted in the famous Howard Pyle painting posted on the Home page of this website. In the charge across open ground, Knud was wounded in the left hip by a shell fragment and spent time in Cumberland Hospital in Nashville before getting additional care and ultimately being reassigned to Alabama, where he was on duty at war’s end. Below is a PDF link with the initial draft of the booklet, not yet in final form. But Jane and Vernon has granted permission to BONPS to included it on this page for the Shy’s Hill Memorial.

The Civil War Journey of Knud Otterson, 5th Minnesota Infantry

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A Civil War Letters To His Family: Nashville and Beyond

“Attached are multiple letters home from a German farm boy, Friedrich Giessler, writing home to his parents and siblings in Ohio starting in early October 1864 through January 8th, 1865. He was drafted September 21st, 1864 and served in Co. C, 41st Ohio Infantry. The translation done years ago seeks to include Pvt. Giessler’s spelling as for example “Neschwill, Tenesi” or for Hood “Hutt”, for dollars “Talers.” The letters are very interesting as they tell his story as a railroad guard on the trains going south before coming to his unit after Atlanta and Hood has moved north. He was at Franklin (in reserve) and was placed in the hospital later at Nashville because of illness by his sergeant at Hume School hospital. He witnessed the Confederate prisoners after the Battle of Nashville in downtown Nashville. It is with thanks that we have these letters from his descendant, Chip Giessler, a Methodist minister. Some things don’t change in war. Note he asks for money all the time from his family. These letters provide a good insight into the common soldier’s perspective, not grand military maneuvers but the day to day worries and aspirations of the ordinary foot soldier.” The first page shows Giessler and his friend Phillip Gehres. Philip Duer, BONPS president.

War letters of Friedrich Giessler, 41st Ohio Infantry

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Reflections of former BONPS president Philip Duer as he placed the memorial wreath at Shy’s Hill in 2011:

December 16th, 2011

As I ascended Shy’s hill this morning to place our memorial wreath below the flags flying at the summit, I was struck by the thought that this day was the same 147 years ago…. a chilling rain, fog, and a coldness that made the day heavy and miserable.
But today was not the same, it was different; I could ascend the hill with no thoughts of harm save for slipping on some wet leaves, and I was comfortable in my waterproof jacket and boots. I had no fear of being shot, wounded or maimed. I calmly walked up the hill, not rushing in desperation to reach the top. No one was trying to kill me nor I them. I was climbing the hill in peace.
I had no grief nor emotional trauma to deal with from the horror of Franklin. I had no reason to keep my head down. I had no hunger pangs, thoughts of home, nor whether I could survive not only the cold but other men trying to take my life. I didn’t have to press my body against the earthworks.
I could stand in safety and view the panorama from Shy’s Hill in contemplation as to what it must have been like. I could see the hills where Union artillery fired hundreds of shells. I could see the lines of infantry and cavalry forming up for the assault. I could try and picture the scene as men fell and died on both sides.
But in reality, I could not know what it was like, I could not perceive the horror of watching friends die, of the fear and panic, of waiting for the dreaded inevitable conclusion or of the jubilation of victory.
No, today is not the same — save in one respect, and that has been that every year since the battle people have remembered those who fought and gave their lives for what they believed in as they saw it, which in the end made us all Americans. It is inconceivable today that the mistakes made to cause such a war will ever happen again. It is for that fact that we remember their sacrifices.
I can leave that hill in peace as I found it.

Philip Duer
Former President
BONPS

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Shy’s Hill Art Work: An Interview With Col. Howard Massey

One of the well-known artistic renderings of the battle at Shy’s Hill was painted by Lt. Col. (Ret.) Howard Massey, a native of Columbia, Tennessee. Col. Massey was a highly-decorated career Army officer and later Major General in the Tennessee State Guard. Among his many military decorations was the Soldier’s Medal, the U.S. Army’s highest decoration for heroism not under direct fire, for rescuing a downed pilot in Vietnam. After retirement, he turned his attention full time to his passion for watercolor scenes of Tennessee, focusing his talents primarily on Tennessee wildlife and the Civil War. His work became instantly well known. Among the many honors he achieved as an artist included his selection as the Ducks Unlimited Artist-of-the-Year in 1988. His paintings hang in many private collections, including the Mutual of Omaha Museum in Omaha, NE. Col. Massey died in 2009 but his highly-regarded art lives on in his signed and numbered prints. His Battle of Nashville print, “Attack On Shy’s Hill,” is available for purchase in the BONPS Store on this site.

Col. Massey was interviewed on the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s TV show, “Tennessee’s Wild Side” by host Terry Bulger. The interview can be seen using these links:

http://www.tnwildside.org/VideosFlash/VideoPlayer.asp?Vid=1405VideoHighlight

http://www.tnwildside.org/stories.asp?Story=727&EpisodeForStory=1405

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BONPS Prepares The Summit for The Memorial

Much work is being put into preparing the top of Shy’s Hill for this special ceremony. Shy’s Hill work-days are always challenging due to the virtual inaccessibility of the summit by heavy equipment. Below are some of the photos of the Board members and other who took the Hill by storm on November 17, 2012 to begin the clean-up.


President Philip Duer lays head-logs along North rim of a Confederate trench


Jim Kay risks the steep eastern slope to haul mulch to the trail


Sidney McAlister man-handles a mulch bag into places the 4-wheeler can’t go


John Allyn gets ready to fire up his Stihl


Philip Duer and Gary Burke during the trench work on the Northeast slope

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 December 15, 2013

WREATH EVENT HONORS 149th ANNIVERSARY

The 149th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville was commemorated on Sunday, December 15, 2013, by the traditional laying of the wreath at the summit of Shy’s Hill.

IMG_5549
Past BONPS President Philip Duer, organizer and developer of the Shy’s Hill Memorial for 2012 and 2013, listens as historian Thomas Flagel describes the battle’s significance.

The event was attended by visitors and descendants of the participants of the battle. It included comments by the wreath ceremony organizer, Philip Duer, former President of BONPS, who described what the top of the hill would have been like on December 16, 1864, when the violent clash began in the late afternoon and put an end to the Army of Tennessee. With the leaves off of the trees on a cold, cloudy afternoon, attendees could clearly see the flat land surrounding Shy’s Hill and imagine the waves of bluecoats and the racket of artillery and rifle fire which would have defined the day.

Following Mr. Duer’s remarks, history professor and Civil War author Thomas Flagel presented his insights into the significance of the Shy’s Hill Battle and the Battle of Nashville in general. Standing under the three masts flying the American, Minnesota, and Confederate battle flags, he described how news of the battle traveled slowly and inaccurately around the country.

IMG_5542
Thomas Flagel puts the Battle of Nashville in perspective during Wreath event

Newspapers in the North, where presses were still running without interruption, received the news reasonably quickly, within days if not weeks, of the battle, and knew of the Federal victory in Nashville. War news in the southern states, however, where newspapers were barely in existence and news traveled only by copies of northern papers or word of mouth, was delayed by weeks or months. Even a couple of weeks after the December 15-16 battle, some southern states were still receiving the triumphant news that General Hood and his forces had reached the Cumberland River. It took weeks after that for news of the devastating defeat of the Confederate Army to reach many parts of the South.

IMG_5557
Tom Carr (L) and Scott Hessey present the wreath on behalf on ancestors for the North and South who fought in the Battle of Nashville

The commemorative wreath, honoring soldiers in both armies who died in the Battle of Nashville, was placed by two new additions to the descendants’ list: Tom Carr, attending with his daughter and grandchildren, placed the wreath for the U.S. Army in the name of Mr. Carr’s great-grandfather, Robert Hancock Walter of the 65th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which was positioned on the west side of Shy’s Hill. Scott Hessey and Wife Wendy of Hermitage, Tennessee, placed the wreath for the Confederacy in the name of his ancestor, L. C. Hessey of the 20th Tennessee, which defended the top of Shy’s Hill.

IMG_5510
BONPS board member Gary Burke (L) and fellow reenactor Bill Heard stand by the Shy’s Hill Napoleon

The ceremony was highlighted, as it had been in 2012, by the violin music of Linda Gale Rose and the martial drums of Paul Smith. A number of re-enactors attended as well, including BONPS Board member Gary Burke, representing the USCT in his woolen blues, and John Mansfield, a.k.a. President Lincoln. Reenactors ended the event with the firing of a three-gun salute.

IMG_5535
Philip Duer makes preliminary comments at 2013 Wreath Ceremony

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BONPS Shy's Hill Wreath 2012.si

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Milestone Event:

The Burning of the Shy’s Hill Mortgage

Watching the note burn are, left to right, Wes Shofner, Jim Kay, and J.T. Thompson.

 

The Battle of Nashville Preservation Society’s mortgage on Shy’s Hill property was burned amid cheers at the top of the historic summit on Saturday morning, April 15, 2006.

Goodbye debt — an iconic piece of the battlefield is saved

 

The ceremony marked the successful raising of $55,000 in funds over a 150-day period to retire the debt on the property, which lies on the east side of the hill.

 

Speaking at ceremonies atop Shy’s Hill were, left to right, City Councilwoman Lynn Williams, BONPS Vice-President Jim Kay, Metro Vice-Mayor Howard Gentry, BONPS co-founder Wes Shofner, and BONPS President J.T. Thompson

 

BONPS co-founder Wes Shofner had originally purchased the property in order to protect it from development. Property at the top of the hill had been owned by the Tennessee Historical Commission since 1954.

The hill-top ceremony was attended by participants BONPS President J.T. Thompson, BONPS Vice-President James Kay, BONPS Historian Ross Massey, Metro Nashville Vice-Mayor Howard Gentry, and Metro Councilwoman Lynn Williams. Vice-Mayor Gentry proclaimed the day “Shy’s Hill Day.”

Nashville Vice-Mayor Howard Gentry proclaims April 15, 2006 as “Shy’s Hill Day” as City Councilwoman Lynn Williams and J.T. Thompson look on

 

In 2005, BONPS blazed an access trail up the East slope of Shy’s Hill which incorporates several switchbacks and makes the steep climb much less strenuous. Trenches quickly dug by Confederate defenders in the darkness before the December 16, 1864 battle, which run up the side of the hill ,are now much more visible to visitors.

The hill was called Compton’s Hill when it was attached by a huge Union force late in the afternoon of December 16, resulting in a rout of the entire Confederate Army of Tennessee. It was re-named after Confederate Col. William M. Shy, who was killed at the summit during the hand-to-hand fighting there.

Confederate honor guard among the reenactors attending mortgage ceremony

The retirement of the BONPS debt was due to the generosity of BONPS members and friends. BONPS gave special thanks to those donating $1,000 or more:

Dan B. Andrews
Dr. James B. Atkinson
William B. Billips
Robert W. Bogen
David Broemel
Homer Brown
Robert D. Brown
Jean Byassee
John Eddie Cain
William G. Coke, Jr. Charitable Lead Trust
Paul E. Cook
Fred Crown
David Graves
William H. Hawkins
Doug Jones
James D. Kay, Jr.
Bill Leader
Fowler H. Low
Sidney McAlister
Joanne W. McCall
Michael B. McKee
Leroy Norton
Richard Norvell
Milton P. Rice
Louis Rieke
Wes Shofner
Jim Summerville
Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association
J.T. Thompson
Mr. and Mrs. Clark Tidwell

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BONPS, Nashville Metropolitan Historical Commission, and the Tennessee Historical Society Receive State Honor for Preserving Shy’s Hill

Above: Accepting the House Joint Resolution are, left to right, Doug Jones, Immediate Past-President of BONPS; Ann Roberts, Director of the Metropolitan Historical Commission; Ann Toplovich, Executive Director of The Tennessee Historical Society; and BONPS President J.T. Thompson.

The House Joint Resolution was issued by Representatives McDaniel, Harwell and Senator Henry. “While we are proud to be recognized by this distinguished resolution for the joint effort on the work on Shy’s Hill performed by BONPS, the Metro Historical Commission and the Tennessee Historical Society, we look forward to the work that continues to be important in preserving our battlefield sites,” said J. T. Thompson, BONPS president.

The Battle of Nashville Preservation Society was founded in 1993 to protect the remaining battlefield sites and promote an understanding of life in Davidson County during the American Civil War. The organization recently retired the debt on the Shy’s Hill property in order that future generations may appreciate its rich history. The Tennessee Historical Society owns the crest of the hill and leases that area to BONPS.

It was at Shy’s Hill on December 16, 1864, during the Battle of Nashville, that Federal troops finally broke the Confederate line on the left flank, resulting in a massive Rebel retreat and a decisive Union Victory.

Since its founding, the BONPS has been instrumental in the preservation of Shy’s Hill, Redoubt No. 1, and Kelley’s Point sites, as well as actively involved in the preservation of the Battle of Nashville Monument and the rehabilitation and interpretation of Fort Negley. The Battle of Nashville Preservation Society has played an integral role in the promotion, protection, and interpretation of the sites important to our city’s role in the Civil War.

 

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