April’s Newsletter!

Clarksville Civil War Roundtable

Founded March, 2004 – Clarksville, Tennessee

April 15th, 2009 – Our 61st Meeting

The next meeting of the Clarksville (TN) Civil War Roundtable will be on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009, in the café of Borders Books in Governor’s Square Mall. This is located on Wilma Rudolph Blvd (Hwy 79) south of Exit 4 off I-24, then head south a bit. The mall is on the left. The meeting begins at 7:00 pm and is always open to the public. Members please bring a friend or two – new recruits are always welcomed.



Most people know that on October 16, 1859, John Brown and twenty-two followers attacked the Federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Many historians have insisted that this raid and his subsequent execution escalated sectional tensions that resulted in the Civil War. Southerners labeled John Brown as a religious fanatic, and they denounced him, his followers, and his supporters as terrorists and traitors. In the North, many abolitionists and transcendentalists began to challenge this interpretation and began transforming Brown into a religious martyr.
Our speaker, Kevin Tanner, will examine John Brown’s actions leading up to and including the raid on Harper’s Ferry. He will then focus on the two myths of John Brown: Brown the Religious Terrorist and Brown the Martyr. Within this, Tanner will reveal how the cultural battle over defining John Brown was as important as Brown’s actions in escalating sectionalism.

Kevin Tanner is an Associate Professor at Austin Peay State University for the AP Center at Fort Campbell. He recently completed his dissertation “A Foe to Sad Oppression’s Rod: The Story of Gerrit Smith,” an excerpt of which was presented to the Ohio Valley Historical Conference in Bowling Green, KY in October, 2007. He received his Ph.D. in History from SUNY Binghamton this past December. Tanner has previously served as adjunct at Murray State University and West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah. He has also taught classes at Binghamton University. He has an M.A. in American History from Binghamton, and M.S. in Mass Communication from Murray State University and a B.A. in American History and Political Science from the University of Rochester in New York.

Please join us as Kevin Tanner presents an interesting program on John Brown.


The Clarksville CWRT was very fortunate to have hosted Norman Shaw of the Knoxville CWRT and his excellent program on the tragedy of the Sultana steamboat explosion that took place near the end of the war just north of Memphis, Tennessee. Loaded with recently repatriated Union prisoners of war from Confederate prison camps at Cahaba, Alabama and Andersonville, Georgia, the boat had recently had its boiler patched. The excess weight of the ship due to being overloaded along with the improperly repaired boiler certainly helped to cause the explosion and massive casualties. The Sultana still ranks as the largest American maritime disaster in history with some 1800 people, soldiers and civilian passengers, being killed.

Mr. Shaw’s program, featuring precise diagrams of the Sultana as well as a Power Point and video presentation, took accounts from survivors and descendents of survivors along with official reports to weave the tale of tragedy. Starting with the released POWs and how they got to the Sultana, through the creation of a survivor’s descendents organization that meets annually at sites pertinent to the story of the captured POWs, Mr. Shaw handled it all with firm knowledge of the topic as well as in a sympathetic manner.

This is a tragic Civil War story and Mr. Shaw’s program would be a wonderful program for your CWRT. Thanks for coming to see us!


May, 2009 – Jeff Patrick, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield – “A Mean Fowt Fight; The Battle of Wilson’s Creek”

June, 2009 – Jim Epperson, University of Michigan – “The Prisoner Of War Cartel”

July, 2009 – Prof. Earl Hess, Lincoln Memorial University – “The Rifled Musket in the Civil War” (based on his book)

August, 2009 – Dr. Michele Butts, Austin Peay State University – “1st U.S. Volunteers, Galvanized Yankees.”

September, 2009 – Lee Anderson, Western Kentucky University/Clarksville CWRT – “Remembering Calamity: The Total War Fallacy”

October, 2009 – Thomas Cartwright, former Director, Carter House Historic Site – “The Battle of Thompson’s Station”

November, 2009 –

December, 2009 – Max Hochstetler, Austin Peay State University/Clarksville CWRT – “The Decker Brothers and the 32nd Indiana Infantry in the Civil War”

February, 2010 – Dr. Wally Cross, Austin Peay State University, “The Commanders Of Ft. Donelson”


Thanks to all of you, the Clarksville CWRT continues to grow. We would love to have you join us! If you have friends interested in the Civil War, please bring them along. July is our fiscal year when dues for the current campaign were due. If you haven’t paid your dues for this season yet please do so. Our dues help us get great speakers and for historical preservation. Annual dues are as follows:

Single membership – $20

Family – $30

Military – Active duty and Veterans – $15

Military Family – Active duty and Veterans – $25

Student – $10

Former members and our many guests – We would love to see you back at the Clarksville CWRT meetings every month and we hope that you will consider rejoining us! To our guests, thank you for much for coming to see what we are about. Your dues money goes towards helping to pay the travel expenses we get to visit us so we hope that you considering joining our ranks very soon. Welcome to our new members!!!!!



Belle Meade Civil War Cavalry conference

The Civil War Cavalry Conference held at Bell Meade on Friday March 27th and Saturday, March 28th, was well done and delightful event. It was hosted in conjunction with the Tennessee State Museum’s Hoofbeats In The Heartland cavalry exhibit. The conference began on Friday evening with a wonderful talk by Richard McMurry, who gave an excellent presentation on his latest book, a collection of letters by an officer of the 8th Confederate Cavalry. A well educated man, this collection, deftly edited by McMurry, is well worth seeking out for the regiment operated in Middle Tennessee. The letters primarily are written to the young lady he eventually married and would interest readers of both military and social history.

The following morning featured a full slate of speakers including our own Greg Biggs who did a program on the Battle of Shelbyville, Myers Brown of the state museum’s program on Tennessee’s Union Cavalry (based on his fine new book – our Borders store carries this), and Prof. Brian Knight of Texas who did a wonderful talk on the guerrilla officer, Champ Ferguson. Also featured was a program by retired Prof. Lonnie Maness on Forrest’s December, 1862 West Tennessee raid. The programs ended with a panel discussion before adjourning for a tour of Bell Meade and a walking tour of the fighting that took place on the property during the Battle of Nashville lead by Thomas Cartwright. The event was well attended, and the terrific staff at Belle Meade did everything in their power to make it very enjoyable. The evening refreshments as well as a continental breakfast and a fantastic BBQ luncheon made sure that no one went away hungry. This was a wonderful way to spend the weekend, soaking up some Civil war history, mingling with some like minded folks, and not having to stray far from home. Belle Meade is a wonderful place to hold such events!

Austin Peay State University hosts historian Alecia Long from LSU on Benjamin Butler in New Orleans

On Monday, April 6, I was fortunate to attend a special event hosted by the Austin Peay History Club, which featured Alecia Long from LSU doing a program on Union Gen. Benjamin Butler and his infamous (or famous) Gen. Order 28, better known as the Woman Order. Prof. Long did an excellent job explaining her research methodology and how she applied this to some of the information that she had uncovered regarding the occupation of New Orleans and Butler’s role in subduing a very angry civilian, and mostly female, population. While Butler, like many officers who wrote post-war memoirs, glossed over the topic asserting that once his order was in place he had very little trouble with the civilian population, Prof. Long, using period newspapers, diaries, and other accounts, asserted that this was not the case at all. She also made a valid point that if you place all these events in a time line, Butler had a very difficult time from the very beginning and was forced to issue his order within a scant two weeks of arriving in New Orleans. The program, supported by a Power Point presentation, was well received and quite a few CWRT members were in attendance despite the wintry weather. It was a joy to be able to attend such a nice event and to support our local university too. Thanks very much to Prof. Minoa Uffelman of APSU for letting us know about this excellent program!
Invite Prof. Long to your CWRT – CWRTs are always looking for good programs on fresh topics and Prof. Long’s program on Butler and the Woman Order fits that bill perfectly. The Clarksville CWRT highly praises this program and urges other CWRTs interested in something new and different to contact Prof. Long at Louisiana State University by her email address: aplong@lsu.edu. Be sure to look for her new book, Occupied Women: Gender, Military Occupation, and the American Civil War, due out this summer.


The new Nashville CWRT, scheduled to begin on Monday, April 20th at Ft. Negley park in Nashville may be delayed. Problems developed with Nashville’s Metro parks stated that the group needed to be a non-profit status to use the site, which is something that takes time and money to create. The possibility of the park system having meetings as special park events was discussed but since a CWRT raises dues to pay for speakers, this was not a doable proposition due to budget problems with Nashville city units.

A new site is being sought as this goes to press and the Clarksville CWRT members and friends will be kept posted as to developments. One site under consideration is Traveler’s Rest which was Gen. Hood’s headquarters during the Battle of Nashville. The site is right off I-65 and features a wonderful meeting building onsite as well as ample parking.

RIPPAVILLA SITS AMID SHADOWS OF GROWTH – Nashville Tennessean 3/22/2008 (courtesy Civil War Preservation Trust newsletter)

Can a bad economy spell increased preservation of historic land? And is that a good thing? Spring Hill is a local example of how the national recession is affecting growth and preservation. The nation’s largest preservation group last week again named Spring Hill’s Civil War battlefield one of the most “endangered” Civil War sites in the nation. It’s the fifth consecutive year the land here has been named to the list.

The area encompasses 400 acres around Rippavilla, a former plantation, land where an out-of-state developer wants to build homes, apartments, a theater, restaurants and retail space one day. SLF Acquisitions’ development might generate millions in taxes and hundreds of jobs at a time when the city has faced financial turmoil, brought on by the national economic collapse of the housing market and the financial freefall of General Motors, whose Saturn plant first spurred growth in Spring Hill. It would also erase what some consider to be a historic treasure.

The Spring Hill battlefield extends from Kedron Road to Main Street. It is where, on Nov. 29, 1864, troops from Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood failed to stop Union forces from retreating to nearby Franklin, where the bloody Battle of Franklin was fought the next day. For now, development of that land remains on hold, and the Washington, D.C.-based Civil War Preservation Trust wants to keep it that way. “If anything, it means it’s still a danger, or we wouldn’t be putting it on the list,” said Jim Lighthizer, president of the Civil War group. “In this case, the development pressure continues to stay on the battlefield.” The trust has owned about 110 acres of battlefield land along Kedron Road since the 1990s.

Meanwhile, General Motors owns a little more than 500 acres around the 1850s-era former plantation, and last year the automaker entered into a contract with SLF Acquisitions to develop the project. SLF Acquisitions is still interested in buying and developing the land, said its attorney, Randy Hardison of Columbia. According to SLF’s figures, the development would generate an estimated $1.9 million in adequate facilities taxes for Spring Hill. In addition, it would bring the city nearly $1.4 million in property taxes and $5.9 million in sales taxes each year. Hardison said SLF has the money to buy the land now, but doesn’t mind waiting, either, since an improved economy would make the development more marketable. Initially, plans were to stretch development out over 20 years.

As a condition of the sale, GM required SLF to donate nearly 100 acres around the former plantation to Rippavilla Inc., the nonprofit entity responsible for its care. GM also agreed to pay the entity $1 million over a 10-year period. But Pam Perdue, executive director of Rippavilla Plantation, wants an additional 85 acres adjacent to Rippavilla, between the plantation and Saturn Parkway, preserved. She says she can prove the land has historic value. “There were soldiers camped there,” Perdue said. “There was gunfire exchanged there as people were marching northward.” But Hardison contends the land SLF wants to buy is not historically significant. “This is not really a battlefield,” Hardison said. “It was the missed opportunity to be a battlefield that ended up happening in Franklin. The Union troops just tiptoed by them. How much historical significance does that give to this property? What actually occurred, occurred behind where Target is, and that’s gone.” But Lighthizer remained firm: “As a general rule, land speculators and agents for land speculators don’t necessarily make the best historians.”

Despite work to preserve the battlefield, Perdue concedes that most of the GM land will likely be sold. She just wants to see the most important kept for posterity. “I’m not against development,” she said. “I understand that we cannot preserve all the land. I’m OK with them selling 300 acres to the south of us and developing it.” Lighthizer and Dan Brown, executive director for the Tennessee Preservation Trust, contend the economic benefits to land preservation can pay off for a city with historic tourism. “Tourism creates jobs,” Lighthizer said, “and it’s a renewable resource in the sense that you don’t have to use it up or ever exhaust it.” Brown cited the battle’s importance to the scope of the Civil War as proof of the land’s importance and why it should be saved for others to appreciate. “We’re not saying we’re against development. We’re just saying we can co-exist.”


Our neighbors to the north have a wonderful Civil War tour that tourists can enjoy. Bowling Green was held by both Confederate and Union troops during the war. Information for the tour can be found on the city’s website. You can tune into interactive programs highlighting Bowling Green’s 15-stop Civil War Discovery Trail, download audio and video files, and see a 360-degree photographic tour of Fort Webb at http://www.visitbgky.com/civilwardiscoverytrail.html.


The membership voted by acclamation to return the current slate of officers for another year of managing the Clarksville CWRT. Speaking for the officers, thanks very much for your vote of confidence. Never forget that this is YOUR CWRT so any and all suggestions will be heard and discussed before the membership. – Greg Biggs, President, Clarksville CWRT

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s