“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Waverly in Humphreys County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)

Fort Waverly

Protecting Vital Federal Supply Routes from Confederate Raids

Fort Waverly Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Darren Jefferson Clay, July 10, 2021
1. Fort Waverly Marker

Building a Fort
Specialized units, called pioneers, were used to construct the fort. They first cleared the land to prepare for construction. Following instructions of engineer officers, these soldiers used a variety of construction materials and techniques that varied according to location and availability of materials. The exact construction techniques of Fort Waverly are not known at this time.

The Union Army seized the abandoned city of Nashville in February 1862. By January 1863, work began to extend the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad line westward to the Tennessee River depot at Johnsonville. The purpose of this rail extension was to provide a transportation, communication, and supply line for the Federal armies between Nashville and Johnsonville.

Free blacks, as well as former slaves who sought freedom in Union occupied Nashville, were commandeered by the Federal army and ordered to undertake the majority of construction work to complete the railroad line. U.S. Brigadier General Alvin C. Gillem of the Amry of the Cumberland organized nearly 1,000 black men to begin laying track that would
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run through Waverly en route to Johnsonville. At the completion of the 78 miles of railroad track, in May of 1864, black laborers were inducted into official U.S. military units. The 12th and 13th U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiments (USCT) now helped guard the trestles, bridges, and blockhouse along the railroad line they had constructed as contraband. The 8th U.S. Iowa Cavalry, and the 1st Kansas Battery also spent time as garrison troops stationed at Waverly.

The Nashville and Northwestern Railroad was a necessary line of support that transported rations, quartermaster supplies, medical equipment, and other materials of war. U.S. General Sherman stated "The Atlanta campaign would simply have been impossible without the use of the railroad." Severing these lifelines would have been a major priority for the Confederacy. Two skirmishes took place in Waverly during the war. The first skirmish was on October 22-25, 1862, between a group of Napier's Confederate Guerillas and a detachment of the 83rd Illinois Volunteers who, after three days of fighting, forced the Confederate guerillas to surrender. Another skirmish of January 16, 1863, involved a raid on Waverly that resulted in the capture of Confederate soldiers along with their horses and weapons. The town served as headquarters for Confederate guerilla forces during th early years of the war. Fort Hill served as
Fort Waverly Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Darren Jefferson Clay, July 10, 2021
2. Fort Waverly Marker
an ideal structure for the Union Army in protecting the railroad from a Confederate invasion.

This field fortification consists of an irregular shaped redout that was constructed between 1863-1864. The term redoubt applies to an earthwork fortification that is enclosed on all sides. The redoubt is located on the military crest of the hill overlooking Waverly and a section of the original route of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad.

The circumference of the walls is over 25 feet and the interior encompasses approximately one acre. The walls of the redoubt are surrounded by an outer ditch that measures seven feet to eight feet from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the wall. The interior of the fortification is about three feet lower than the top of the rampart wall with a slight rise in the center.

An irregular projection, or bastion, from the main work on the northeast corner of the redoubt would have been used for th replacement of a cannon. Is it uncertain at this time if the artillery piece would have been firing through an embrasure in the fort wall or over the crest of th eparapet wall, called firing in barbette, that would allow the gun a wider range of fire.

An opening in the east wall of the fortification was used as the main entrance or sallyport in and out of the redoubt.

Earthworks were constructed in association
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with offensive and defensive operations throughout Tennessee during the Civil War. Many of these were built along transportation routes to defend railroads and bridge crossings. Redoubts, such as Fort Hill, were often relatively small, detached works used to fortify hilltops or strengthen main transportation lines. The redoubts location was ideal for Federal troops to guard and defend this important supply and communication route.

The period drawing to the right, shows details of a Civil War earthen fortifications under construction. Note the timber frames guides that help establish the profile of the fort grade, stakes marking the corners, and the soldiers placing sod onto the rampart. The domed structure is the powder magazine.

Freed slaves, called contrabands, helped build the earthworks, and were later enlisted, as soldiers to garrison the fort. The troops here were from the 12th and 13th USCT, the 8th Iowa Cavalry, and the 1st Kansas Battery.

The earthworks here at Fort Waverly were probably much like those seen in this Civil War period photograph. Notice the parapet wall to the left and lower interior of the fort to the right.

Fort Waverly guarded a vital rail link between the port and warehouses at nearly Johnsonville. The rail line carried supplies to strategically important Nashville some 80 miles to the east. The position high on the hill here gave the artillery positions a commanding advantage over the valley below.

The wives and mothers of soldiers of both sides played critical roles in maintaining the morale of the men they loved. For the first time, soldiers could carry photographs, such as this ambrotype, to the front with them to remind them of their loved ones. Letters from home also made their way to soldiers serving in distance places.

Soldiers, such as the above, Confederate cavalryman, participated in frequent raids and guerillas activities along the Nashville & Northwest Railroad.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Forts and CastlesWar, US Civil.
Location. 36° 4.876′ N, 87° 47.51′ W. Marker is in Waverly, Tennessee, in Humphreys County. Marker is on Fort Hill Road north of Hillood Drive, on the left. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 201 Fort Hill Road, Waverly TN 37185, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Fort Hill at Waverly (a few steps from this marker); Welcome to Fort Waverly & The Humphreys County and Civil War Museum (within shouting distance of this marker); The Butterfield House (within shouting distance of this marker); Fort Hill (about 800 feet away, measured in a direct line); Reynoldsburg (approx. 0.2 miles away); Humphreys County War Memorial (approx. 0.2 miles away); Battle of Johnsonville (approx. 0.2 miles away); Humphreys County (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Waverly.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 17, 2021. It was originally submitted on October 12, 2021, by Darren Jefferson Clay of Duluth, Georgia. This page has been viewed 299 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on October 12, 2021, by Darren Jefferson Clay of Duluth, Georgia. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.

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Feb. 24, 2024