The Germantown Museum

A project in the making

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In Times Past………..
By Andy Pouncey
April 13, 2006

Everyone loves a secret.  Secret places are often those you believe no one else knows about, only everyone has been there but you.  They can also be those places that you thought everyone knew about and you were amazed when they said, “really?  in Germantown?”  In the next two articles, I will focus on two of the most well kept secrets. Upon hearing about them, more people than not say, “Are you serious, where?” 

 If you have been a member of the Leadership Germantown program or a resident of Germantown East Subdivision, 2nd Addition, you have found the first place…..Fort Germantown. 

The Germantown Redoubt or Fort Germantown Park is a well-preserved example of the very fragile, small unit field and garrison post widely used during the Civil War.  Its importance lies in the fact that little information, from an archaeological context, is available regarding smaller fortifications relatively early in the war.  The redoubt has provided data on earthwork construction, and local garrison armament and daily life, in addition to Union supply effectiveness to a relatively minor outpost.  Such research provides a rare opportunity to study virtually intact structural and daily living deposits at a garrison outpost.  This gives us a balanced understanding of military occupation life well behind the front lines.  

At the outset of the war, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad and its connections across northern Alabama to Chattanooga, Knoxville, Lynchburg and Richmond represented the only effective rail connection in the Confederacy between the Mississippi River and the east coast.  This was thus a vital Confederate supply route across the nation as well as a means of shifting troops in response to threats at various points. 

 The capture of both Corinth and Memphis by Federal forces in May and June of 1862 effectively ended the strategic utility of the railroad for the Confederates.  The Federal troops, now in control of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, used the tracks as an important part of the transportation for Grant’s siege of Vicksburg in the spring of 1863. 

 The first measure of follow-up by the Federal army to its winter and spring victories was the occupation of western Tennessee during June and July of 1862.  Germantown was sacked and burned on July 23, 1862.

 The Union Army was dispersed into a large number of small, scattered garrisons with severe supply and coordination problems in the face of escalating Confederate guerrilla warfare.  Regiments from the 16th and 17th Armies were deployed in January 1863 to secure the Memphis-Charleston railroad line and protect it from these guerrillas. 

 In an effort to keep the railroad line running and communications open between Memphis and Moscow, 39 miles to the east, Major General James B. McPherson ordered on January 13, 1863, “at all the points to be guarded, defensive stockades must be constructed to render the command safe against a sudden cavalry dash” (e.g.Germantown Redoubt).  General Ulysses S. Grant followed with Special Orders No. 15 on January 15, 1963, stating in part that, “it is regarded of primary importance the line east from Memphis to Corinth should be maintained”.

 Fearing rebel attacks, the Union established picket lines in Germantown.  No attack by Confederate forces was ever attempted here. 

 By the end of October 1863, Confederate scouting reports indicated that all Federal infantry were gone from the Memphis and Charleston Railroad and a series of cavalry raids were launched against it.  The removal of most infantry units from railroad guard duty during the fall of 1863 was followed quickly by attempted destruction of the redoubt.  All headquarters were moved to Memphis, along with at least a major portion of the troops by June 1864.

 Fort Germantown, a 4.95 acre site, may be found by going south on Honey Tree Drive (third street east of Hacks Cross Road) off Poplar Pike, across from Hugh Frank Smith’s Horse and Pony Farm.  Go south on Honey Tree Drive to the railroad tracks.  Wait for the first train to go by and you will better understand this Civil War redoubt.

 And the location of the second secret?  That is a secret until the next column.     


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