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HARDTACK and HARD TIMES: TCCWRT Presents "Johnsonville: The End of the Line", Leadership of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

May 10th, 2014 6:00 pm by Ned Jilton

HARDTACK and HARD TIMES: TCCWRT Presents "Johnsonville: The End of the Line", Leadership of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Jerry Wooten, left, will speak this Monday, May 12. His topic, "Johnsonville: The End of the Line" the Significance of the Federal Supply Depot and the Battle of Johnsonville, Nov. 4, 1864; focusing on the leadership of Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

This just in from the telegraph lines, i.e. e-mail, and is of special interest to those who study the career of Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The Tri Cities Civil War Round Table (TCCWRT) is bringing in another gifted and knowledgeable speaker, Jerry Wooten, this Monday, May 12.His program topic is "Johnsonville: The End of the Line" Interpreting the Significance of the Federal Supply Depot and the Battle of Johnsonville, November 4, 1864; and, focusing in on the leadership of lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Wooten is a native of Clarksville, Tennessee, receiving his Bachelor's degree in American History from Austin Peay State University and his Master's Degree from Murray State University in Public History in 1995. In 1996, he was hired by Civil War historian A. Wilson Green to open the Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg, Virginia, where he served as Park Historian and wrote the initial interpretive plan for the Park's current Civil War programs. He then worked for TVA as an historical interpreter; and later, as director of South Union's Shaker Museum which during his tenure was successful in winning the National Historic Preservation Award for the Stewardship of Historic Sites.

Currently, Wooten is finishing his Ph.D. in Public History at Middle Tennessee State University concentrating in heritage tourism and Civil War battlefield preservation. His dissertation topic focuses specifically on Union army operations on the Tennessee River and the Union supply depot at Johnsonville, Tennessee during the Civil War. Wooten's current residency project is the restoration of Fort Johnson, also known as the upper redoubt at Johnsonville. The fort was built by a variety of USCT troops and men of Union General John Schofield's Division in November 1864 just days before the Battle of Franklin.

One of the critical routes used to supply the Federal forces in Tennessee was the Tennessee River, supplies were offloaded at Johnsonville, and then shipped by rail to Nashville. In the fall of 1864, the supplies were principally meant for the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Thomas. Meanwhile, Hood's army was marching through northern Alabama on its way to an invasion of Tennessee. In late September 1864, Hood's army departed northwest from the vicinity of Atlanta, Georgia hoping its destruction of Union supply lines would lure Major General William T. Sherman's Union army into battle.

On the evening of November 3, 1864, Forrest's artillerist, Capt. John Morton, positioned his guns across the river from the Federal supply base at Johnsonville. On the morning of November 4, the Confederate batteries were attacked by three Union gunboats from Johnsonville and by six Paducah gunboats. The Confederate land artillery was completely effective in neutralizing the threat of the Federal fleets.

Capt. Morton's guns bombarded the Union supply depot and the 28 steamboats and barges positioned at the wharf. The Union garrison commander ordered that the supply vessels be burned to prevent their capture by the Confederates. Forrest observed, "By night the wharf for nearly one mile up and down the river presented one solid sheet of flame. ... Having completed the work designed for the expedition, I moved my command six miles during the night by the light of the enemy's burning property."

Forrest caused enormous damage at very low cost. He reported only 2 men killed and 9 wounded. He described the Union losses as 4 gunboats, 14 transports, 20 barges, 26 pieces of artillery, $6,700,000 worth of property,and 150 prisoners. One Union officer described the monetary loss as about $2,200,000. An additional consequence of the raid was that the Union high command became increasingly nervous about Sherman's plan to move through Georgia instead of confronting Hood and Forrest directly.

To learn more about the battle, Forrest and the action between the gun boats, check out the TCCWRT sponsored program on Monday, May 12, 2014, beginning at 7:00pm in the Eastman Recreation Center, Room 219.The program is free and open to the public.

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