Fort Negley was a military fortification built in 1862, and used by the Union forces after the capture of Nashville, Tennessee during the American Civil War, It was also the largest of it's kind built in the United State during the war. Fort Negley is a star-shaped limestone structure on St. Cloud hill, south of the city. The fort spans 180,000 square feet and cost $130,000 at the time of construction. Captain James St. Clair Morton oversaw the construction of the fort, while the fort itself was named after the Union Army General James S. Negley. The Fort was constructed predominately using labor from local slaves, the freed slaves migrated to Nashville once it was taken by the Union forces, where they worked for the Union forces understanding that their status as slaves would change if they worked for the Union and . Records say that 2768 blacks were officially enlisted in the construction of the fort. However, impressive in appearance and size, never played a prominent military role in the Battle of Nashville. After the war the abandoned fort fell into ruin. It is said, during the reconstruction time, the area was utilized as a meeting place for the Klu Klux Klan, this was confirmed by former Klansman Marcus B. Toney.
In 1930, the Works Progress Administration or WPA issued a project for the restoration of Fort Negley; however, after completion of the project came the United States entry into World War II. Lacking funds, initiative and, man power, and interest, the goal to reopen the fort as a historic center. The site then became a location of vandalism and crime until entry was eventually prohibited. The surrounding area and grounds would eventually become a site of a municipal park first as baseball and softball fields, and later the site of Herschel Greer Stadium, a Minor League Baseball ballpark. The now Adventure Science Center was built on the northwestern slope.
Historic preservation gained sufficient funding in the early 2000s after years of discussions and negotiations for another restoration project. The park was then reopened to the public on December 10th, 2004. The restoration project was not geared to restore the fort to its Civil War condition but rather to preserve the ruins and make them more accessible; what stands today is a combination of original fortifications and WPA restorations. A visitor center was built in 2007 using an additional $1 million in city funds, furthermore, more work on the site is planned for the future.
Fort Negley Visitors Center and Park
The visitors center and park offers historical education and outdoors recreation, on the main website they layout the core mission behind the site, "It is the mission of the Fort Negley Visitors Center to promote a greater understanding of the social, political, and military forces central to Nashville and Middle Tennessee during the era of sectional conflict in American history."
- Interactive exhibits and two 20-minute videos covering the 1862 surrender of Nashville and the building of Fort Negley
- Education panels along paved paths for self-guided walking tours
- Educated staff and volunteers available to answer questions
- Programming for school field trips and scout groups, history and nature education events, tours for scheduled groups, and living history events
- A great place to walk and bring a leashed dog
- A great view of the city during park hours
Home of the Nashville Civil War Roundtable and Fort Donelson Camp 62, Sons of Union Veterans
The Battle of Nashville Preservation Society accurately illustrates the experience visitors can look forward to while exploring the site grounds, "Visitors can read about the roles of the conscript laborers, the United States Colored Troops, and ordinary citizens. Learn about the design and construction of the fort through interactive exhibits. See the effects of a sudden occupation on Nashville’s citizens. Hear about the strength and bravery of the men who built the fort, hear stories and see photos of life in the occupied city, and experience the heartbreak of the Battle of Nashville."
"Fort Negley Visitors Center, opened in December 2007, features two films, access to the Civil War Soldier and Sailors System maintained by the National Park Service, and interactive touch screens highlighting occupied Nashville and Fort Negley.
Fort Negley Visitors Center partners with history and preservation groups, presents educational programming, and serves as the home of the Nashville Civil War Roundtable and Fort Donelson Camp 62, Sons of Union Veterans." (https://www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Historic-Sites/Fort-Negley/History.aspx)