Kelley’s Point Battlefield at Brookmeade Park Greenway
The Battle of Nashville • December 2-15, 1864
In 2004, historian Ed Bearse reviewed this authors historical research, and dubbed the site Kelley’s Point. In cooperation with the Metro Nashville Bill Purcell mayor’s office, metro parks and former Councilman Bob Bogan, the site was dedicated as a new Nashville Greenway park. It is now listed as Kelley’s Point Battlefield at Brookmeade Park.
Signage Copy at the Cumberland River Overlook at Kelley’s Point:
Signage Funded by the Civil War Roundtable of the United Kingdom
“On this site, the evening of December 2, 1864, the Confederate Army of Tennessee initiated a two-week siege of Nashville. This was to be the last significant offensive military operation of the Civil War by the South. It was also one of the most significant battles between the Confederate cavalry and the U.S. Navy.
Advancing here after the bloody Battle of Franklin, Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood anchored his left flank at this point. More than 25,000 Confederates began an investment line running from this position, arching more than 12 miles east, in an attempt to hem in Nashville on the south side of the Cumberland River. This made Nashville the most extensive geographical battlefield of the Civil War in terms of distance.
Detached from Maj. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest’s command in Murfreesboro, Col. David C. Kelley initially commanded approximately 300 Confederates, beginning a two-week blockade of the Cumberland River here. This included two artillery batteries, that were repositioned up and down the river bank. The U.S. Navy estimated up to fourteen artillery pieces emplaced between this site, and another position one half mile upstream. It is doubtful if more than 4-6 artillery pieces were employed by the Confederates here.
Kelley had previously fought the Navy in the battles of Fort Henry and Donelson, East Port, Mississippi, on the Ohio River, and the daring Johnsonville raid only weeks before Nashville.
Early on the morning of December 3, the Confederates captured two Union supply transports Prairie State and Prima Donna, including prisoners, livestock and supplies. They disabled a third supply ship the Magnet, which was later found four miles downstream. Shortly after partially unloading the vessels, the U.S. Navy arrived on the scene, driving away the Confederates who had depleted their ammunition. The Navy flotilla under the command of Lt. Cdr. Le Roy Fitch, subsequently recovered the vessels.
Between December 3 and 15, up to seven regiments of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee Confederate cavalry effectively blockaded all transportation along the Cumberland River against seven heavily armed Navy gunboats here. The U.S. Navy unsuccessfully tried to dislodge the river batteries in six separate engagements in the weeks preceding the Battle of Nashville.
Kelley’s artillery had the Navy uncertain about the force they were up against. By the deceptive movements of their mobile gun emplacements along the high ridges here, elements of the Kelley’s cavalry convinced the Navy that they were a force over four-times their actual strength. This was a military tactic that was characteristic of the Confederate cavalry under Forrest’s command.
By December 15, the Union combat forces in Nashville were increased to more than 49,000. By feinting an attack on the other end of the battlefield while dividing the Confederate left along Richland Creek, the Union would crush the Army of Tennessee in the center, in one of the decisive battles of the war.
Kelley’s artillery, along with five regiments from Chalmers’ cavalry, was one of the few Confederate units to hold its ground, and force the overwhelmingly larger Union cavalry into retreat on the opening day of the Battle of Nashville. Noteworthy in this counter-charge, near present day I-40 and Charlotte Pike, was the participation of the prominent seventy-five-year-old civilian Mark Robertson Cockrill. It is said that he led the charge and galloped into the fray with the use of only one arm, holding his father’s revolutionary war musket in one hand, and the reins to the horse in his mouth.
When it was learned that Federal forces had overrun the cavalry headquarters at the Belle Meade Plantation, 3 miles southeast of here, Colonel Kelley withdrew to rendezvous with the main force in retreat 6 miles to the east. The night of December 15, they abandoned their position here and reconnected with their main force near Hillsboro Road and the present day Old Hickory Boulevard. This was just in time to provide a critical rear guard that fought a delaying action from Brentwood, south more than one hundred miles, crossing into Alabama and then over the Tennessee river above Muscle Shoals, where the Union pursuit was called off. Thus ended the last great attempt by the South to reclaim the State of Tennessee, or advance to recover any of it’s lost territory. The once great Army of Tennessee would be surrendered by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston four months latter near Durham Station, North Carolina April 26,1865.”
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