Cowan in Franklin County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
June 24-July 4, 1863
— Philip Henry Sheridan —
It was fitting that Sheridan should be in the advance. He had risen dramatically to Major General. A West Point graduate who had lived an impoverished childhood, Sheridan became not only a talented leader, but a commander notable for his ruthless approach to fighting. In 1864, Sheridan moved east and was named by General Ulysses Grant chief of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac. There he concentrated on destroying the farms, livestock, and homes in the Shenandoah Valley that provided much-needed supplies to Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
In the 1870s Sheridan would unleash his merciless view of waging war on the Plains Indians. As Commander of the Department of Missouri from 1869 to 1883, Sheridan was an unapologetic supporter of vanquishing Native American tribes. In 1875, he addressed a Texas legislature
A Railroad War
By the late 1840s, politicians and businessmen across the country understood the potential power of the railroad. As improved technology made trains faster and more dependable, it became apparent that rivers and roads were increasingly inadequate as transportation corridors for trade. Thus, town “boosters” worked feverishly to bring the railroad to their communities and not be left behind by the power of the “iron horse.”
Nashville, the state capitol, was no exception. Promoters of Tennessee’s first railroad, the Nashville and Chattanooga, labored in the late 1840s and early 1850s to connect the city to the major east-west line, the Memphis and Charleston, at Stevenson, Alabama. Construction, however, meant blasting a 2228-foot tunnel beneath the Cumberland Plateau, just south of Cowan, in an era before modern high explosive. In 1854, Samuel F. Tracy, a New Yorker, created the Sewanee Mining Company to extract coal from the plateau. In the process a spur line was constructed just north of the tunnel, up the plateau, to the town that today bears the company founder’s name, Tracy City.
With the railroad complete in the mid-1850s, Chattanooga was a junction to four major railroads. During the war the Union Army of the Cumberland and the Confederate Army of Tennessee essentially fought for control of the line from late 1862 through late 1863. Even after the Union Army captured Chattanooga in November 1863, the line continued to attract attention from both sides. Only Union Commander William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea” from Atlanta to Savannah in late 1864 secured the railroad against constant guerilla and cavalry activity.
(upper left) Major General Phil Sheridan
(upper right) Rosecrans and his Staff. Sheridan is seated on the far right.
(lower right) Railroads accelerated the pace of the war. This steam locomotive is stationed at Nashville.
Erected by Tennessee's Backroads Heritage.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Railroads & Streetcars • War, US Civil • Wars, US Indian. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #18 Ulysses S. Grant series list.
Location. 35° 9.837′ N, 86° 0.638′ W. Marker is in Cowan, Tennessee, in Franklin County. Marker is at the intersection of Front Street South and Cumberland Street West (U.S. 41A), on the left when traveling south on Front Street South. The marker is located on the grounds of the Cowan Railroad Museum. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 108 Front St S, Cowan TN 37318, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named Tullahoma Campaign (here, next to this marker); Passing Through Cowan (here, next to this marker); Cowan Railroad Museum (a few steps from this marker); Cowan, Tennessee (within shouting distance of this marker); Goshen Cumberland Presbyterian Church (approx. 3.2 miles away); Peter Turney (approx. 4.1 miles away); Army of Tennessee (approx. 5.3 miles away); The Blind Knight (approx. 5.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Cowan.
Also see . . .
1. Tennessee's Backroads. (Submitted on July 12, 2014.)
2. Cowan Railroad Museum. (Submitted on July 12, 2014.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on July 11, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 381 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 11, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.