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Fort Defiance at Clarksville was named by Union Soldiers after its capture. It was formerly Fort Bruce, and then Fort Sevier. You see remnants of the  dirt embanked fort with few cannon and not even a reasonable shot at ships in the Cumberland River. In other words, little protection was offered by this fort.

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It is unique because no great battle occurred here and the interpretive center and park preserve is a story of a city then of 5,000 to 8,000 people during the occupation of Union Troops. Clarkrsvillians certainly joined the war, some on both sides. Many  Kentuckians who were Confederate sympathizers joined in Clarksville since Kentucky was a Union stronghold.

But, back to the fort. While the Tennessee Governor was making speeches about providing 50,000 men for the Confederates to defend their honor and  chosen way of life, the City Fathers quickly made haste to put up a white flag to surrender as soon as they knew forces were marching on their city, a smart decision for two reasons.

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First, they were the richest most successful city in Tennessee, and they were industrialized. They had a concentration of 8 great pig iron furnaces and abundant timber to keep them firing. They had the river and the railroads to ship to the  industrialized north their finances were tied more to the North than their slave holding farms were tied to the south.

Serepta Mildred Jordan

Much of the information about what occupation was like comes from diaries. Serepta Jordan above…Private Robert Branch Tarpley

…and Private Robert Tarpley kept extensive diaries. Union soldiers tried their best to keep commerce flowing, but war has few friends and the people suffered deprivation, lived on hope and made do with little as much as they could. The role of women in this war is extensive. The Union advertised for women and  their ad read like this: “….past thirty, maternal, healthy, plain almost to repulsiveness in dress, and devoid of personal attractions.” They didn’t want young women attracting men away from the war. 20,000 women served in the Civil War on both sides, making blankets and bandages, working as unskilled nurses, cooking and providing food and supplies and so on. Four hundred women disguised as men served in the fields of battle on both sides.

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A new business resulted in the need for prosthesis’  Local residents were slowly registered and made to take a loyalty oath to the Union. Many resisted. Some avoided it for as long as possible. Women, too, were required to take the oath and would cross their fingers hidden in the folds of their skirts  so it wouldn’t count.

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The war dragged on for what seemed like forever. Slaves rushed to leave and the farmers hands went missing affecting the economy. Everything, including food was in short supply. Plus, oath takers were considered traitors by some guerrilla types hanging out in the woods who would come into town and punish those who “changed” loyalties by burning their house down. Farmers suffered also because the marauders stole their chickens and turkeys. They were difficult times for everyone and risky for all.

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And, it was a great stress for people who had to register in order to move about, and get food and other needed privileges, to be overseen by black enlistees.

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An aside about Virgil Earp. From the area, he served in the Civil War along side Marion Morrison, John Wayne’s great-grandfather. The interpretive center did a great job in humanizing the civil populations reactions and sufferings during an occupation.

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It rained the night through and morning was still wet and threatening when we went out. We decided to try the River Walk and Museum.  The barges were floating on a full river.

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The little museum was closed and the river walk flooded.

DSC05414 (Copy)We drove away and looked back at an old bridge with a high water mark.


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