Congress on two occasions requesting Fort Negley’s designation as a national military park. Upon CoAs the largest inland masonry fortification built during the Civil War, Fort Negley stood as a symbol of federal occupation in the south. On February 25, 1862, civilian authorities, in hopes of preventing a costly battle and needless destruction, surrendered Nashville to the Federal army. Within six months, military officials, plagued by irregular bands of guerrillas and organized Confederate cavalrymen, initiated an ambitious fortification project meant to prevent Confederate retaking of the city. Under the direction of Captain James St. Clair Morton, Chief Engineer of the Army of the Ohio, soldiers, conscripted local slaves, runaway slaves and free African Americans built five major fortifications, twenty-one minor installations and nearly twenty miles of earthworks anchored by the Cumberland River.
Built between August and December 1862, Fort Negley, Nashville’s largest and most sophisticated fortification, loomed over downtown guarding the southern approaches to the city. Perched on St. Cloud Hill 260 feet above the river, the fort’s imposing star-shaped silhouette, powerful guns and 1,000-man garrison deterred direct attacks. In December 1864, Fort Negley’s guns aided in the virtual destruction of General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee during the Battle of Nashville. Troops remained in Nashville occupying the fort until Tennessee’s return to the Union. In September 1867, the federal army abandoned Fort Negley’s limestone skeleton.
By the early 20th century, the once grand limestone structure slowly decayed in obscurity. Following World War I, several activists led by Representative Joseph Byrns approached ngress’ first rejection in 1926, the City of Nashville began preparations to purchase the 47-acre property from the Fargason family of Memphis for $20,000. In 1935, the Works Progress Administration, established under the New Deal, put 1,150 men to work rebuilding Fort Negley. By 1938, Fort Negley Park included baseball diamonds, a playground and boxing rings.
During World War II, Metro Parks’ labor force dwindled and the fort once again fell into disrepair. Deemed unsafe, Fort Negley closed to public by the early 1950s sparking controversy over the site’s fate. Throughout the mid-20th century, the city considered placing a vocational school, a military academy and even a children’s zoo on St. Cloud Hill. Ultimately, renewed preservation efforts in the 1990s sealed the site’s destiny as a public park. In 2004, Fort Negley, stabilized and interpreted, reopened to the public after nearly 60 years. Three years later, the city added thae Fort Negley Visitors Center making the combined project the largest expenditure of city funds on a Civil War park in U.S. history. Today, Fort Negley Historical Park receives thousands of visitors and hosts hundreds of programs and events each year. Fort Negley Visitors Center serves as the home base of the Nashville Civil War Roundtable and Fort Donelson Camp #62, Sons of Union Veterans.
Contributed by: Krista Parks
Fort Negley is located in Nashville, Tennessee. This is considered a easy/moderate hike; due to the hills and the distance, approximately 2.2 miles. The hike is entirely on sidewalks and paved trails.
Suggestions for what to bring and wear:
- Sturdy shoes or boots
- 1 Liter of water
- Pen or Pencil with question sheet
- A camera for taking pictures
- Comfortable clothes
Questions to be answered on the hike:
For students that are under 9 years old, you may submit answers from this sheet:
Fort Negley <9 Question Sheet Download (note, these questions may be answered throughout the park, and do not necessarily follow the tour stops!)
The Trail Map:
More info about Fort Negley