CIVIL WAR IN CLARKSVILLE
Nannie Haskins Williams
Click on Picture to Enlarge
Burning of the St Louis & Other War Activities on the Cumberland River
Civil War in Clarksville from 1861-1864, An Overview. By: Ellen Kanervo Tennessee seceded from the Union on June 8, 1861—the last border state to join the Confederacy. Montgomery County residents had generally opposed secession as late as January of that year, but as the country moved toward war, attitudes changed. In the June referendum, Montgomery County voted 2,742 to 3 for separation. Once committed, Clarksvillians responded quickly and enthusiastically, according to the young diarist Nannie Haskins: Our country was then perfectly distracted; To arms! To arms! was echoed from every side; volunteer companies were being formed all over the country to fly to her rescue; and of course Clarksville did her part…. The county’s men quickly joined one of three regiments, the 14th, the 49th, or the 50th. The 14th was sent to Virginia and took part in almost every major battle in the eastern theater, forming the apex of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. The 49th and 50th were captured at Fort Donelson but later released in prisoner exchanges. The 49th suffered major losses in the Battle of Nashville and the 50th was decimated at Chickamauga. In addition to raising regiments of her own, Montgomery County, which adjoins border state Kentucky, served as a training ground for Kentuckians who supported the new country of the Confederate States of America. Kentucky brigades, including the famous Orphans Brigade, trained at Camp Boone and Camp Burnett, both in the northeastern corner of the county. Historians estimate that 3,000 ex-slaves from as far away as Louisville were recruited at Clarksville from 1863 to 1865 for service in the Union army. Serving in the 12th, 13th, 16th, and 101st U.S. Colored Infantry regiments and the 9th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, these men played significant roles in constructing railroads and fortifications, in defending essential posts against determined attack, and in doing battle in the horrendous struggles at Nashville and Chattanooga. Of the many major battles fought in Tennessee, the one which most affected Clarksville’s status was the Confederate defeat at Fort Donelson, just 40 miles downriver from the city. Ulysses S. Grant and the U.S. Navy captured control of the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers in February 1862, and occupied Clarksville that same month. The Union army also took command of the Confederate Fort Defiance at the conjunction of the Red and Cumberland rivers, later renaming the site Fort Bruce. Clarksville’s loss was a blow to the Confederacy because of its rail lines, river transportation, large horse and mule breeding operations, and a foundry capable of producing cannons. And guerrilla fighters made at least two attempts to wrest the city from Union occupation. In August 1862, Nathan Bedford Forrest sent Lt.Col.Thomas G. Woodward,and Lt.Col. Johnson commanding the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, CSA, toward Clarksville. Woodward’s and Johnson's 300 troops took back the city without firing a single shot on August 18. Federal Col. William Lowe recaptured the city in September in fighting just north of the Red River at Riggins Hill. However, fighting surrounded the city until December when Union Col. S.D. Bruce came to Clarksville to stay for the duration of the war. Occupation was harsh: churches were closed sporadically, banks sent assets to England, gunboats leveled the community of Palmyra, suspected of harboring guerrillas. Thanks to Ellen Kanervo for submitting this summary. She will later add information to several of the subjects using links from this summary.