Battle comes to life at Parkers Crossroads
Posted: Friday, November 9, 2012 5:00 pm
By SANDY KOCH
Special to the Press
It’s a stop that many travelers from Northwest Tennessee make on their way to Nashville. About an hour away from Martin, Parkers Crossroads has become a modern crossroads, a stop on I-40, a place to get gasoline and dairy treats for the journey ahead.
But almost 150 years ago in December 1862, Parkers Crossroads was the site of a small battle that almost put an end to a cavalry officer of the Confederacy, General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
After tearing up some of the Union’s supply and railroad lines in West Tennessee in places like Union City and Trenton, capturing artillery pieces and Federal soldiers, Forrest was on his way back south to slip over the Tennessee River. But Union forces surprised him near Parkers Crossroads, now a battlefield park in which about 350 acres have been purchased and set aside for living history demonstrations, walking and driving tours.
On Saturday and Sunday, about 147 re-enactors and more than 500 spectators gathered around various sites looking towards the split rail fence off of I-40. Dotted around the field on the edge of the woods were white tents and smoldered campfires, evidence of the cold campout the night before.
Many of the re-enactors had packed two sets of uniforms for the event, one Union and one Confederate, depending on the cast demands for the day. At least 10 horses and their riders in gray cantered around the site as soldiers on both sides advanced on the field and cannon smoke hung in the air.
A narrator related the planned re-enactment of the day, the famous escape made by a trapped Forrest when he is said to have ordered his men to “Charge ‘em both ways, boys!” and made it out to the Lexington Pike.
On this day spectators view Union Col. Cyrus Dunham’s troops negotiating a surrender but then re-engaging in battle.
The crowd of spectators view an exchange of gunfire as several Union and Confederate soldiers tumble to the ground. “Fighting became fierce,” the narrator on microphone tells the onlookers.
“It’s like improvisation,” said 9-year-old Joseph Baker from Memphis who has been following Civil War events in West Tennessee ever since he and his family discovered an ancestor who had been in Forrest’s troops in a church cemetery in Memphis. “I didn’t know I was going to die in the battle.”
“Yesterday I was shot off my horse and fell very carefully off,” says the re-enactor portraying Confederate Col. Napier on Saturday. “But today I was more fortunate and lived through the battle.”
Young Baker and others around the field expressed a common interest in living history and talked about future events commemorating the Civil War in which they will be participating.
The following are some of the Tennessee sesquicentennial events scheduled near Weakley County in coming weeks.
“The Civil War at 150” a free lecture at 7:30 p.m. in Watkins Auditorium at UT Martin by Dr. David Coffey, chair of UTM’s Department of History and Philosophy. Coffey is the author of many works on the Civil War including John Bell Hood and the Struggle for Atlanta.
Book Discussion: Fort Donelson National Battlefield Visitor Center. 6p.m. “They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War.” Contact 931-232-5706 Ext. 108
Nov. 30 – Dec. 1:
4oth Annual Carter House Candlelight tour in Franklin,TN. Historic homes in downtown Franklin are open and decorated for the holidays. Guests are greeted with visions and stories of the past as they progress through the tour.
Civil War Comes to Homeplace, Land Between the Lakes. 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. The land between the rivers was occupied by federal troops and under martial law since the fall of nearby Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in February 1862. Learn how women on family farms kept the farm running and family fed and clothed without the help of the menfolk and with foraging parties taking needed clothing and animals. Also visit a confederate encampment.
Hands on History: Saturday at Carnton Plantation, Franklin, TN. 9:30-10:30 a.m. ($10). 1860s Christmas and the making of Victorian Christmas decorations in the attic.
Dec. 26 – Jan. 2
150th Anniversary Programs at Stones River National Battlefield, Murphreesboro to include living history demonstrations, visits in interpretative camps, ranger talks, walks and caravan tours commemorating the Battle of Stones River. Young visitors can gather at the Family Activity Tent each day and complete activities to earn a special 150th anniversary Junior Ranger badge.
Published in The WCP 11.8.12