Battle of Nashville Preservation Society
(Confederate Gen. Chalmers' HQ)
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Belle Meade Carriage House.
Belle Meade Plantation
5025 Harding Rd., Nashville, TN 37205
Call (615) 356-0501 or (800) 270-3991
Property of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities
Admission fee charged.
Open Mon.-Sat., 9-5;
Belle Meade Plantation hosts a Victorian Christmas celebration in December.
Directions: From I-440, take 70S exit and drive 4 miles to entrance sign on the left.
The Queen of Tennessee Plantations:
Today, the National Historic Place covers 30 acres and includes the Greek Revival mansion, the huge carriage house and stables, the smokehouse, garden house, creamery, and the original 1790 log cabin.
Tours are conducted by docents in period costume. The Visitors Center features a large gift shop.
In 1807, Virginian John Harding bought 250 acres and a log cabin known as Dunham Station, a trading post on the Natchez Trace. Several years later the farm gained reputation as a stud farm when the famed horse Imp. Boaster stood as stud there. The original house was probably begun in the 1820s.
In 1853 John Hardings son, William Giles Harding, completed the Greek Revival mansion, doubling its size and adding the front porch and columns, which are solid limestone.
Harding was very wealthy and very pro-secession and donated $500,000 to the Southern cause. When the Federals occupied Nashville in February 1862, Harding was arrested and sent north to Fort Mackinac in Michigan to be imprisoned. His wife, Elizabeth I. McGavock, was left to tend their farm in his absence. In September, Harding was released on parole and returned to Belle Meade.
Belle Meade was headquarters to Confederate Gen. James R. Chalmers of Nathan Bedford Forrests cavalry command prior to the Battle of Nashville in December 1864.
On the first day of the battle, Union soldiers burned the Rebel wagons parked at the racetrack while Chalmers was elsewhere. Returning to Belle Meade, Chalmers men charged the Yankees and drove them back before running into an enemy infantry camp. The Yankees fired as the cavalry galloped back past the mansion, where Selene Harding, 19, waved a handerchief despite the bullets flying around her. Bullet holes can still be seen in the porch columns.
After the war, William Harding turned over control of the farm to his son-in-law, William Jackson, a West Point graduate who had commanded a cavalry division under Gen. S.D. Lee in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Under Jacksons tutelage, Belle Meade (French for beautiful meadow) became an internationally renown thoroughbred farm and showplace. The farm sold breeding stock of ponies, Alderney cattle, Cotswold sheep, and Cashmere goats. The vast estate also featured a 600-acre deer park.
At its sale in 1904, Belle Meade was the oldest and largest thoroughbred farm in the nation.
Belle Meade Plantation remained a private residence until 1953, when it was sold to the state. The historical site is now maintained by the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities.