Tennessee Civil War Trails Program: Trail Markers in the Upper Cumberland

Drive the River Bluffs and Back Roads of the Upper Cumberland Civil War Trail 

Civil War Trail Marker in McMinnvilleIn commeration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, a group of organizations has recently installed Civil War Trail markers all over Tennessee. (263 markers in 73 counties.) Below you will find a listing of the markers in the Upper Cumberland, their locations, and a brief description of the event they depict.  More more information, click on the provided links below to view a PDF of each marker. 

The Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area partners with the Tennessee Departments of Tourist Development and Transportation to implement the statewide Tennessee Civil War Trails marker and signage program.  Special thanks to Spurgeon King, Ph. D., associate director of the Heritage Area, for providing the resources available on this page.

(You will need a free PDF viewer like Adobe Reader to view the PDFs of the Civil War Markers.)

CLAY COUNTY

Celina During the Civil War:
located at 145 Cordell Hull Dr., Celina, TN 38551.

During the Civil War, the residents of the eastern and Cumberland River sections of present-day Clay County (then part of Jackson and Overton Counties) were usually Confederate sympathizers, while those in the western section supported the Union. Men from this area enlisted in both armies. Oliver P. Hamilton organized one of the first local Confederate regiments in December 1862. He was elected major (and later became lieutenant colonel) of Hamilton’s Tennessee Cavalry Battalion. This partisan ranger band made its headquarters at Celina. Hamilton’s men patrolled the Tennessee-Kentucky line, enforced the conscript law, and guarded army stock and supplies between Celina and Gainsborough.

Donaldson Cemetery: A Cavalryman’s Resting Place:
located at Clay County Museum, 805 Brown St, Celina TN.

Capt. Jacob C. “Jake” Bennett, a native Kentuckian and noted Confederate partisan ranger, is buried in Donaldson Cemetery (four miles north of here). During the war, bushwhackers and guerrillas on both sides raided the sparsely populated borderlands of Tennessee and Kentucky. Confederate partisans clashed frequently with Federal soldiers and Unionists, and Bennett was among the more daring guerrillas. Captured at Fort Donelson in February 1862 and imprisoned, Bennett escaped and joined Confederate Col. Adam R. “Stovepipe” Johnson’s 10th Kentucky Partisan Rangers, which became part of Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s cavalry division.

 

CUMBERLAND COUNTY

Affair at Cumberland Mountain:
located at Pioneer Hall Museum, 10 East Main St., Pleasant Hill, TN 38578.

Less than half a mile west of here, on the Lewis Whitaker farm, the only engagement of the war in Cumberland County between regular Union and Confederate troops took place on December 9, 1863. Several companies of Col. Thomas J. Jordan’s 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry bivouacked there after Confederate forces dislodged them from Sparta. Ascending the Cumberland Plateau on the road to Crossville earlier that day, Jordan intended to cross the mountains and join forces with Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside near Knoxville. In the evening, Capt. Champ Ferguson’s guerrillas and a detachment of Col. John M. Hughes’s 25th Tennessee Infantry (totaling 450 men) attacked the Federals.

Cumberland County at War:
located 99 Municipal Ave., Crossville, TN 38555.

Divided loyalties in the county made things interesting — and dangerous — for its citizens during the war. County men served on both sides. Guerilla warfare was common here with operations conducted by Confederates Champ Ferguson and Col. John M. Hughes. The area was popular with foragers from both sides forcing some citizens to hide their produce.

 

DEKALB COUNTY

DeKalb County in the Civil War:
located at the DeKalb Co. Courthouse, One Public Square, Smithville, TN 37166.

DeKalb County differed from surrounding counties. A sizeable minority of its citizens opposed secession and voted against it in the June 8, 1861 referendum. Their champion was a slave owner, Congressman William B. Stokes. The majority followed former Congressman and Smithville attorney John H. Savage, who lost to Stokes in the 1859 election. The war intensified the already bitter rivalry between the men, who became colonels on opposite sides.

Morgan in Alexandria:
located at 112 West Main Street, Alexandria, TN 37012.

From late in 1862 to mid-1863, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg fortified his defenses in Middle Tennessee while Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans reinforced his army. To disrupt the extended Federal communication and supply lines, late in 1862 Bragg ordered Gen. John Hunt Morgan to attack the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. On this occasion, and again in 1863, Morgan initiated a cavalry raid into Kentucky from here in Alexandria. Alexandria offered well-watered areas near the fairgrounds sufficient to assemble thousands of mounted men, a road leading north to multiple Cumberland River crossings, and a supportive population.

 

JACKSON COUNTY

The Civil War in Granville:
located at 169 Clover St., Granville, TN 38564.

The Civil War experiences of Granville, an important Cumberland River port in the nineteenth century, were similar to many rural Upper Cumberland communities. When Tennessee seceded in 1861, most residents backed the Confederacy. Granville was a contested area for both Confederate and Union cavalry from 1863 to 1865. In the spring and summer of 1863, the 8th Texas Cavalry (CSA) was stationed in Granville while preparing to attack Union-occupied Carthage in neighboring Smith County. In the fall of 1864, the 1st Tennessee Mounted Infantry (USA) used Granville as a base and also camped across the Cumberland River from the town.

Cumberland River Campaign:
located at 1085 North Grundy Quarles Hwy, Gainesboro, TN 38562.

North of this marker lies the site of Old Columbus, once an important landing on the Cumberland River. In the winter of 1863–1864, the war had disastrous consequences for this river village. Late in December 1863, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant sent a naval convoy up the river from Nashville to Creelsboro, Ky., on a reconnaissance and supply mission. The U.S. gunboats Reindeer and Silver Lake No. 2 under U.S. Navy Lt. Henry A. Glassford accompanied three transports carrying a detachment of 140 sharpshooters from the 129th Illinois Infantry, under the command of Col. Andrew J. Cropsey.

 

MACON COUNTY

A Family Tragedy:
located at 1075 Old Highway 52, Lafayette TN 37083.

Thousands of Tennessee families were caught in the crossfire of the Civil War. Dempsey Parker’s family, which lived in the Hillsdale community here in Macon County, is one of many examples of a family sharply divided between North and South. Parker, a respected elder, had served his country in the War of 1812 and was an ardent Unionist. His son Isaac Newton Parker, however, served in Confederate Lt. Col. James D. Bennett’s 7th Tennessee Cavalry. Son Daniel Webster Parker joined Co. H, 5th Kentucky Cavalry (US). Another son, Alfred B. Parker, who did not enlist, was killed in March 1863 by unknown guerrillas.

Ambush at Meadorville:
located at 3784 Ferguson Hill Road, Lafayette TN 37083.

During the Civil War, Macon County experienced internal strife as did many other areas of Tennessee. In the spring of 1863, a Confederate partisan band established itself in this part of the county, where it harassed Federal units and threatened local Unionists. This rural hamlet experienced a serious firefight between Union cavalry and infantry and the Confederate irregulars on May 2, 1863. Confederate guerillas hidden in the brush of Goose Creek ambushed Union Cos. D and E, 11th Kentucky Infantry, and Co. I, 8th Kentucky Cavalry. The Confederate bullets found only one victim— a Federal cavalryman’s horse—while the Union troopers killed one guerrilla, captured another, and took five Confederate horses.

Epperson Springs:
located at 9695 Epperson Springs Road, Westmoreland TN 37186.

The Epperson Springs Hotel, built by local businessmen so that residents and visitors could enjoy bathing and soaking in a mineral springs, stood here. Most of the state’s early resorts grew up around mineral springs; physicians often touted the value of “taking the waters,” or hydrotherapy, to their patients. The springs resorts were as well known for their social life as for their alleged cures.

Gibbs Crossroads:
located at 5270 Carthage Road, Red Boiling Springs TN 37150.

Places once prominent in Tennessee’s antebellum transportation routes are sometimes almost forgotten places today. This road intersection was of significant strategic value in fighting the war in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland region. During the Civil War, countless soldiers and cavalrymen passed through Gibbs Crossroads. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg established a temporary headquarters at the crossroads in September 1862 during his Kentucky Campaign.

Macon County in the Civil War:
Macon County Courthouse, 201 County Courthouse, Lafayette TN 37083.

During the Civil War, about 500 Macon County men served on each side. The Highland Rim ridge, as well as family loyalties, generally separated Confederates from Unionists. Gibbs Crossroads, where Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg once had a headquarters, is among the county’s war-related sites. Enlistment centers operated at the Epperson Springs Hotel and at the Webb Hotel in Red Boiling Springs, which was also the site of a hospital.

Red Boiling Springs:
located in Palace Park at 316 Main St, Red Boiling Springs TN 37150.

Red Boiling Springs has long been a landmark in Macon County. It was a central crossroads for both Federal and Confederate forces during the Civil War. The war came home for local residents on September 24, 1861, when Capts. Ridley R. West and Joseph L. Bryant organized Co. H, 28th Tennessee Infantry (CS) at the Webb (later the Dedman) Hotel. Webb’s Hotel was the only one at the springs, but it was large enough to accommodate the soldiers and officers who passed through the village. On October 22, 1861, Cols. John W. Head and James J. Turner organized the 30th Tennessee Infantry regiment here. Within months, however, many recruits found themselves in a Union prison, after the Confederate defeat and surrender at Fort Donelson.

 

OVERTON COUNTY

Bethlehem Church:
located at Highway 84, Livingston, TN 38570 (going toward Monterey)

Heart of Controversy: In 1861, as the secession debate raged across Tennessee, Mary Catherine Sproul taught school here on the church grounds. She was excited to learn that pro-Union leader Horace Maynard would give a speech in Livingston. Then she overheard local secessionists claim they would “riddle his hide” if Maynard spoke. Sproul, shocked, wondered aloud to her students whether their parents were not “heathens and cutthroats? Surely a civilized nation will never tolerate such a course. My God! Are you going to prohibit the freedom of speech in this free, enlightened and blood bought land?” Residents branded Sproul a “Lincolnite,” and longtime friends abandoned her. Others threatened her, and a man offered to tighten the noose if local women decided to hang her. The secessionists prevented Maynard from giving his speech. Sproul’s school somehow continued, but she wrote that students were “casting reproachful glances at me as though I had committed a terrible crime.”

Camp Myers:
located at Monroe Fire Department, 3416 Byrdstown Hwy, Monroe, TN 38573.

Camp Myers, a Confederate training camp established early in 1861 in Overton County together with Camp Zollicoffer, was located nearby and named for Calvin Myers, a Mexican War veteran. After Tennessee seceded in June 1861, Camp Myers was used to train men recruited locally. It also became a permanent military post to help secure the border against Federal raids from Kentucky and to suppress the activities of Unionist residents of Overton and Fentress counties.

Camp Zollicoffer:
located at Bud’s Groceries, 714 Hilham Hwy, Livingston, TN 38570.

Camp Zollicoffer, a Confederate induction and training base, was established here in the summer of 1861 and prepared thousands of soldiers for military life. At the time, J.D. Goodpasture owned this land, and his house stood nearby. His farm was suitable for the training camp because it had a large spring and a thirty-acre field for drilling. Officers named the camp for Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer, a prominent Tennessee political leader and newspaperman, who died in Kentucky at the Battle of Mill Springs in January 1862.

John Hunt Morgan:
located at Mayhue Masters General Merchandise, 3252 Hilham Hwy, Hilham, TN 38568.

Confederate cavalry raider Gen. John Hunt Morgan frequently passed through Livingston, strategically located at a crossroads in the Upper Cumberland region. Morgan and his men first came here on July 7, 1862, as they approached the Kentucky line for a successful summer raid. Three weeks later, they returned, and Morgan decided to split his force. Col. Basil W. Duke took one detachment to Sparta while Morgan led the remainder to Knoxville.

Overton County Courthouse:
located at 100 Court Square, Livingston, TN 38573.

During the war, guerrillas supporting both sides operated in Overton County, and the residents experienced early the dangers of living in the borderlands. In October 1861, William E.B. Jones of Livingston wrote Tennessee’s Confederate governor Isham G. Harris, “We are in danger here of an invasion from the Lincolnite Kentuckians, because, by the order of Gen. [Albert Sidney] Johnston, all our troops here are now removed and we are left without troops, and constant invasion threatened.

 

PICKETT COUNTY

Affair at Travisville:
located at State Route 200, approximately 1.5 miles off State Route 127 (ten miles from Byrdstown, TN 38549).

The first military action of the Civil War in Tennessee occurred on September 29, 1861, at Travisville. The blood spilled in this brief engagement brought the reality of the conflict home to the people of the Cumberland Mountains. Confederate Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer had acted forcefully to establish control over the border region of Tennessee and Kentucky. When bands of mounted men took Federal forage and military supplies, Union Col. William A. Hoskins marched his 12th Kentucky Infantry to Albany, Kentucky.

 

PUTNAM COUNTY

Civil War in Putnam County A Divided Land:
located at at the Cookeville Depot Museum, 116 W Broad St, Cookeville TN 38501.

Putnam County was a divided land during the Civil War as local residents enlisted in either Federal or Confederate units. It also was a crossroads, as both armies passed through the county numerous times over such important historic roads as the Walton Road (east-west route) and the Old Kentucky Road (north-south route). Although no major engagement by army regulars took place in Putnam County, forage raids, conscript sweeps, bushwhacking, and small skirmishes were typical occurrences. During a reconnaissance expedition, Union Col. Henry K. McConnell’s troops killed 23 Confederate partisans and captured another 40 near Cookeville. The Battle of Dug Hill on February 24, 1863, was the most famous engagement in Putnam County. Confederate Col. John M. Hughs’s rangers ambushed a detachment of Col. William B. Stokes’s 5th Tennessee Cavalry along the Calfkiller River and killed more than 40 men.

 

SMITH COUNTY

Battery Hill:
located at 570 Carthage Bypass, Carthage, TN 37030.

Union Gen. George Crook and his infantry brigade occupied Carthage in March 1863. To protect the garrison, defend the town, and secure the Cumberland River crossing for troops and supplies, he constructed a small fortification here for an artillery battery. Crook described the works in a letter to Gen. James A. Garfield on April 2, 1863: “The battery commands all the ground from the town to right of the Gallatin Pike.

Tennessee Welcome Center, Civil War in Tennessee Partisan Warfare:
located at I-40 Buffalo Valley Tennessee Welcome Center.

The rugged landscape of the Upper Cumberland experienced some of the most vicious guerrilla fighting of the war, as residents were about evenly divided between the Union and the Confederacy. North of Exit 258 is Carthage, where part of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s army passed during its 1862 Kentucky invasion. A large Union garrison there occupied the Battery Hill fort overlooking the town, the Cumberland River, and the roads. Federal troops burned the county courthouse in Cookeville (Exit 287), a major crossroads for both armies, in 1865 just before the war ended. South of Exit 288 is Sparta, where in 1864 a Federal commander, frustrated by guerrilla Champ Ferguson and other partisans, ordered his troops to plunder local homes. Sparta native Confederate Gen. George Dibrell served with Gen. Nathan B. Forrest’s cavalry.

Rome Ferry:
located at 750 Lebanon Hwy, Carthage, TN 37030.

After Union Gen. Ebenezer Dumont’s troops surprised Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s command at Lebanon on May 5, 1862, Morgan’s men escaped north and rushed toward the Cumberland River. Hotly pursued, the Confederates succeeded in reaching Rome first. Luckily for them, they found the ferry was anchored on their side of the Cumberland River. In their haste to escape, they left many horses behind, including Morgan’s favorite mount, Black Bess. Dumont was pleased with his victory in Lebanon but disappointed that Morgan and his troops escaped.

Smith County Courthouse Square:
located at 211 N. Main St., Carthage, TN 37030.

Carthage’s historic courthouse square was the control center of a major Federal base from 1863 to 1865 in the fight to control the Upper Cumberland River region. When Union Gen. George Crook arrived in Carthage to stay in 1863, he commandeered the courthouse for his headquarters. From here, Crook and subsequent commanders directed the work necessary for the construction of the earthworks on Battery Hill and organized excursions into the countryside. In June 1863, Col. William B. Stokes, 5th Tennessee Cavalry (US), replaced Crook and waged a determined war against the many partisan units in the region. In September 1864, Stokes asked permission to “clear the country” of Confederates so “to prevent them from bush whacking.”

Upper Ferry:
located at the Smith Co. of C., 939 Upper Ferry Rd., Carthage, TN 37030.

As a major Cumberland River port with three landings, Carthage was strategically important to both Confederate and Union forces. The Upper Ferry and landing was located near the present Corps of Engineer boat ramp near Upper Ferry Road. During Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s 1862 Kentucky invasion, part of his army crossed the Cumberland River at Carthage. Early in 1863, to make it more difficult to cross the river, Union commanders ordered a naval excursion “to destroy every ferry-boat, barge, or other means of crossing as high up as Carthage.”

 

VAN BUREN COUNTY

War on the Plateau Raids in Van Buren County:
located at Burritt College, 427 College Street, Spencer, TN 38585.

The Civil War first touched Van Buren County in 1861 when Confederates under James Randals began mining Big Bone Cave’s saltpeter deposits. By 1863, 4,017 pounds of nitre—essential to the manufacture of gunpowder—had been produced. During Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Kentucky campaign in September 1862, 2nd Lt. Carrol H. Clark and Sgt. Darius Clark of the 16th Tennessee Infantry wrote in their diaries for Sept. 1: “We marched all night and on the second day we struck Cane Creek near the mouth in Van Burian (Buren) County and camped at the Bija Crane Place. The distance we marched that night was 20 miles.” Later that month, Confederate Col. Joseph Wheeler reported a “slight skirmish” at the farm of Mrs. John Fleming, a widow, where the Spencer-to-Dunlap road crossed Harrison Road.

 

WARREN COUNTY

Cumberland Caverns:
located at 1437 Cumberland Caverns Road, McMinnville TN 37110.

Even before Tennessee joined the Confederacy in 1861, officials examined the state’s caves for the nitrogen-containing compound called saltpeter, an essential ingredient in gunpowder. The soil at Cumberland Caverns was ideal—saltpeter had been mined there in Henshaw Cave during the War of 1812. Nashville’s Sycamore Powder Mills, the larger of two major gunpowder mills in the South, used saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur to make gunpowder.

A Railroad Town:
located at Pepper Branch Park, Old Morrison Road near North Chancery Street, McMinnville, TN 37110.

McMinnville’s location at the end of the Manchester and McMinnville Railroad shaped the town’s Civil War experiences. Strategically important industries here included pork and mule breeding, fruit and apple brandy production, a textile mill, and saltpeter works at nearby caves. During the war, the opposing sides occupied McMinnville, which changed hands at least five times.

Occupation of McMinnville:
located at the Warren County Courthouse, 610 W Main St, McMinnville TN 37110.

Early in 1861, when the state first voted on secession, Warren County residents, like many Tennesseans, opposed it. When balloting next occurred in June 1861, however, sentiment overwhelmingly favored secession, and county residents voted nearly 100 to 1 to leave the Union. Young men flocked to Confederate enlisting offices, quickly forming the 16th Tennessee Infantry under John Houston Savage. Benjamin J. Hill organized the 5th Tennessee Infantry, later renumbered the 35th; it trained just south of town at nearby Camp Smartt.

 

WHITE COUNTY

Civil War Around Sparta:
located at the White Co. Courthouse, One East. Brockman Way, Sparta, TN 38583.

“Brother against brother” sums up the divided loyalties families faced in White County during the Civil War. In 1862, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s troops marched through the Sparta town square en route north to invade Kentucky. Later, an estimated 600 Confederate guerrillas operated in the area, and Sparta served periodically as a Federal base under Union Col. William B. Stokes, 5th Tennessee Cavalry. In February 1864, Stokes wrote that “It will take some time and continued scouting to break up these bands, but you may be assured no time will be lost and no effort spared to rid the country of them.”

France Cemetery:
located at France Cemetery, 11140 Monterey Hwy (Hwy 84) Sparta, TN 38583.

Champ Ferguson (1821–1865) was born in Kentucky, the oldest of ten children. He moved to White County, Tennessee, in the 1850s. During the Civil War, he showed passionate loyalty to the Southern cause and extreme hatred for the Union. The alleged reasons for his zeal range from a desire to settle longstanding grudges with local Unionists to revenge against the Union soldiers who raped his wife and daughter and killed his son. Regardless of his motives, Ferguson was one of the most notorious Confederate guerrillas to roam the Upper Cumberland.

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