Cowan in Franklin County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
Passing Through Cowan
Cumberland Mountain Tunnel
— Tullahoma Campaign —
After the Battle of Stones River ended on January 2, 1853, Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans occupied Murfreesboro. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg withdrew south to the Highland Rim to protect the rail junction at Tullahoma, Bragg’s headquarters, and the roads to Chattanooga. Bragg fortified Shelbyville and Wartrace behind lightly defended mountain gaps. After months of delay, Rosecrans feinted toward Shelbyville on June 23 and then captured Hoovers and Liberty Gaps the next day. A mounted infantry brigade captured Manchester on June 27. The Confederates concentrated at Tullahoma. Rosecrans planned to attack on July 1, but Bragg retreated. By July 7, the Confederates were in Chattanooga.
When the Union army outflanked Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s army at Tullahoma in June 1863, Bragg ordered a retreat south. On July 2, Confederate units arrived in Cowan. Bragg considered forming a defensive perimeter along the Cumberland Plateau to maintain possession of the Cumberland Mountain Tunnel (southeast down the track), since whoever controlled the tunnel controlled the vital Nashville and Chattanooga
Confederate Gens. Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joseph Wheeler had provided rearguard defense throughout the Tullahoma Campaign. According to local tradition, as the last Confederate cavalry unit passed through Cowan on July 3, an elderly woman stepped from the Franklin Hotel (300 feet to your left) and shouted to a passing cavalryman on horseback, “You big cowardly rascal, why don’t you turn and fight like a cur? I wish old Forrest was here. He’d make you fight.” The cavalry man was in fact Forrest.
The Union army controlled Franklin County for the rest of the war, and a garrison occupied Cowan with the sole mission of protecting the railroad and the Cumberland Mountain Tunnel. The nearby mountains provided sanctuary for bands of guerrillas. Some supported the Confederacy, while others were merely gangs of robbers. Union troops skirmished constantly with them for the duration of the war, making civil life in Cowan almost impossible.
(lower center) Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad entering Cumberland Mountain Tunnel, 1885 with Tracy City Branch Line overpass - Courtesy Cowan Railroad Museum
(upper right) 21st Michigan Infantry,
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Railroads & Streetcars • War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Tennessee Civil War Trails series list.
Location. 35° 9.836′ N, 86° 0.635′ 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 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. Tullahoma Campaign (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Tullahoma Campaign (here, next to this marker); Cowan Railroad Museum (a few steps from this marker); Goshen Cumberland Presbyterian Church (approx. 3.2 miles away); Peter Turney (approx. 4.1 miles away); Army of Tennessee (approx. 5.2 miles away); The Blind Knight (approx. 5.4 miles away); Mary Sharp College (approx. 5.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Cowan.
Also see . . . 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 445 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on July 11, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. 4. submitted on July 12, 2014. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.