• Mark Zimmerman

Fort Negley News

Nashville's historic Fort Negley has been designated as a “Site of Memory” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as part of its Slave Route Project, according to Krista Castillo, museum coordinator, who addressed two dozen members of the Nashville Civil War Roundtable on May 21, 2019.

She said the application for status was filed by Dr. Angela Sutton of Vanderbilt University.

The designation will bring heightened awareness worldwide of the fort’s significance. The fort was built by more than 2,700 African-Americans following the Federal capture of the city in 1862. It is estimated that 600 to 800 workers died during the project due to disease, exposure, and malnutrition.

Fort Negley from western approach

Plans to build condos and offices at the park, located just south of downtown, were recently scrapped after it was determined that the graves of the impressed blacks are located on-site, the exact locations still unknown. Adjacent to the fort, the old Greer Stadium has been torn down, the iconic guitar-shaped scoreboard due to be relocated in the near future.

Castillo said the ballpark acreage will be developed into a city park, with funding for a master plan study yet to be allocated. It was noted that the Civil War fort, designed by Capt. St. Clair Morton as the masterpiece of Nashville fortifications, is now readily visible from the western approach, following the recent elimination of much of the foliage. It now appears much as it did during wartime.

Castillo gave an informative presentation on the roles of women during the Civil War and World War One, noting that women stepped into non-traditional jobs in industry and other trades as men fought in the front lines.

Many displaced women, wives and mothers, black and white, during the Civil War were forced into menial labor, prostitution or became refugees seeking shelter. The building of federal forts such as Negley greatly increased the number of contrabands, or former slaves, seeking protection from the occupiers. By 1863, the number of contrabands seeking Federal protection had reached an average of 500 per day.

Castillo also noted that 50,000 civilians died in Nashville during the Civil War from non-combat causes. This number includes refugees and contrabands.

Women’s newfound freedom during the First World War, during the “progressive” era, directly led to the passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in the U.S., she noted.

Fort Negley is open daily dawn to dusk at no charge to the public. The Visitor’s Center offers information about the fort and the war, and a self-guided walk among the ruins is enhanced by interpretive signage.

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