The 150th anniversary of the “Battle” of Brentwood was waged 150 years this week, on March 25, 1863.
Late Brentwood historian Vance Little would be all over this story – the150th anniversary of the “Battle” of Brentwood, waged 150 years and a day ago on March 25, 1863. With the sesquicentennial of the Civil War being remembered throughout the nation these days, we turned to a few other local historians – and Little, through his book Historic Brentwood — to learn more.
WAKM-950 AM’s Tom Lawrence shared an excerpt reprinted from March 26, 1862 edition of The Nashville Daily Union. Brentwood native Preston Bain, who along with his father Williamson County Commissioner Tom Bain, is an avid Civil War buff and collector, put the battle into context for Brentwood residents of today.
Here’s the Daily Union’s account of the fighting:
“During yesterday, the city was in a considerable state of excitement in consequences to rumors or a battle raging at Brentwood, about nine miles from Nashville. From all we can gather upon the subject, it appears that a large force of Confederate cavalry, supposed to commanded by Gens. Forrest, Wheeler, and Wharton, crossed the Harpeth River about six miles above Franklin, and proceeded toward Brentwood, where they encountered a Federal force under Lieut.-Col. Bloodgood, consisting of parts of the 33rd Indiana, the 22nd and 19th Wisconsin, in all about 400 men. A sharp contest ensued, in which the Federals lost one killed and four wounded, when they yielded to superior numbers. All the Government property was also captured.
|Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest|
“While this was going on, Gen. Green Clay Smith was advancing from Franklin with a large force, and came upon the Confederates before they had time to get off with their prize, and pursued them some six miles, recapturing all the property, wagons, and ammunition; but a largely superior force coming up, Gen. Smith was compelled to destroy the rescued property and fall back until reinforcements reached him.
“It is impossible to obtain any accurate list of casualties, but we are informed that the Federal loss is one officer killed, and 15 men killed and wounded. Confederate loss 10 killed and wounded, and about 50 prisoners.
“We suppose Col. Bloodgood and his command were paroled.
“We may also state that it is currently reported that about 100 of the negro woodcutters have been captured by the Confederates.
“Rumor also says that Confederates made their appearance during yesterday within four or five miles from town at Brown’s Creek, on the Charlotte Pike, on the Lebanon Pike, and on the Hillsboro Pike.
“The bridge about two miles beyond Brentwood, across the Little Harpeth, has been destroyed.”
For context, Bain explained that during this period in the Civil War, Brentwood was occupied by a large force of Federal soldiers.
“At the time, Franklin Road was the only paved road in the state and for that reason troops, cannon, and supplies could be easily moved between the larger forces stationed in and around Nashville,” he said.
“The road was MacAdamized (paved with pitch and chip) which was the technology of the day,” Bain continued. “The main campsite for the Federal army was located near where the Baskin Robbins sits today (in the Brentwood House shopping center off Franklin Road, just south of Old Hickory Boulevard).
“On the morning of March 25, Forrest and approximately 400 troops performed a pincer maneuver whereby he split his troops and attacked the Federal campsite from two directions. One group led by General Forrest came from the West along the Johnson Chapel Road through what is Maryland Farms today. One group came from the East under General Starnes and waited near where the Hilton Suites is today, just east of I-65 off Church Street.
“There was a little confusion in timing but the pincer maneuver was executed and most of the skirmish took place behind the Shell station across from Wendy’s on Franklin Road where General Forrest captured approximately 15 Union wagons of supplies and 800 Federal soldiers.”
From there, Bain said, Forrest turned his attention to the blockhouse guarding the railroad along the Little Harpeth River on what is today known as the Cal Turner property.
“Once reaching the guardhouse, General Forrest demanded the Wisconsin Federal troops guarding the blockhouse surrender. They refused to surrender so one of General Forrest’s artillery pieces fired one shell over the top of the guardhouse and the Federal troops promptly surrendered. The Confederate forces then burned the bridge across the Little Harpeth and began their retreat back the way they had come through Johnson Chapel Road with their newly captures supply wagons and prisoners.”
Several Federal soldiers had escaped and managed to notify the Federal troops in Franklin who began to move north to attack Forrest, Bain said. Those troops met Forrest near where Scales Elementary School sits today.
This was the first time in recorded history that full companies of men went into battle fully armed with repeating rifles, according to Bain. “Repeating rifles had been around and dispersed throughout the Federal Army but never before had whole companies of men been so armed. The Confederates were caught by surprise and were left stunned by the repeating rifle fire.
“They burned the captured wagons and released the 800 prisoners. General Forrest then escaped around Franklin toward Spring Hill.”
|A portrait of T. Vance Little that hangs in the Brentwood Room at the Brentwood Library.|
While the Battle of Brentwood was nothing as compared to the battles waged to its north and south, it does have a small place in local Civil War history. It wasn’t the only skirmish recorded here, however.
Little, in his 1985 history of the city, wrote that more than a year before, on Dec. 4, 1862, a group of 300 Federal scouts met a contingency of Confederate troops along the Franklin Road, which they chased through Brentwood and two miles south on Wilson Pike. Just days later, the same Federal troops were chased by the Confederates through Holly Tree Gap to Franklin.
Throughout that month in 1862, little skirmishes took place throughout what is now Brentwood, including an attack on a large Federal wagon train near Primm’s Blacksmith Shop on what is now Concord Road.
“The Civil War also brought spikes and Yankee sympathizers to Brentwood,” Little wrote. “A Union officer wrote to his superior that he had learned from a ‘citizen named McCrary of Brentwood’ that 500 Rebel cavalry with artillery were camped on Mrs. Hamer’s plantation four miles from Brentwood. Mr. McCrary was no doubt a Yankee sympathizer.”
Little ends the paragraph with this: “That location is the farm now owned by T. Vance Little.” Little lived for years in Crockett House, c. 1850, located on the southeast corner of Concord and Crockett roads.
For more information on Brentwood History, click here.