By Colleen Creamer , The City Paper
This article originally appeared on the website of 'The City Paper, Nashville, Tennessee', and is reproduced here by kind permission.
A local developer has donated the site of an ancient Indian burial ground - also a site of one of the most important Civil War battles in Nashville history. The site will soon be commemorated.
Bob Henderson, who heads the local group the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society, said a 13-acre parcel of land nine miles west of town in Bellevue was deeded by JDN Realty Corp. to Metro's Department of Parks and Recreation and will be turned into a greenway in the near future. The property is part of a larger 60-acre tract of land just off the Charlotte exit, which is owned by JDN and is where Lowe's and Wal-Mart now exists.
Henderson added that his group is funding an historical placard that will tell the story of the siege of the site along the Cumberland River by Colonel David C. Kelley. Attorney for JDN Tom White said he played a part in the original plan by the realty company to move approximately 100 graves from the Wal-Mart footprint to where the new historical greenway will exist.
"In the process of doing the construction of the location of the Wal-Mart, they came across Indian burial grounds," White said. "I went to court for the property owner to disinter those bodies and reinter them at the site. There's always a preference to relocating them on the site."
Henderson said he believed the age of the burial ground to be approximately 1,400 years old. Some 1,200 years after the days of the Indian graveyard, the site was the launching ground for a siege by the Confederate Army of Tennessee that initiated a two-week-long siege of Nashville that was, according to Henderson, the last significant offensive military operation of the Civil War by the South.
According to Henderson, Dec. 3, 1864, Confederate Colonel David C. Kelley commanded the blockade of the Cumberland River at the site some 12 days before the Battle of Nashville commenced Dec. 15, 1864. Known as the Fighting Parson, Kelley later played a role in the formation of Vanderbilt University in 1875, eventually running unsuccessfully on the prohibitionist ticket for governor in 1890.
"I guess felt like they needed to make a positive gesture towards the community," Henderson said of the land's donation. "I'm surprised that it happened because on a handshake."
The rally to have the site commemorated was begun by Henderson's group, but an international Civil War group based in Britain called the American Civil War Round Table of the United Kingdom (ACWRT- UK) provided the funds.
"They came over with about 20 people in November and toured the site. It kind of highlights the need for doing more to protect these sites and interpret the history we have here from a tourism point of view," Henderson said.
Henderson said he had been researching the battle long before the JDN bought the land roughly four years ago to build the Wal-Mart. "At the time the neighborhood went berserk," Henderson said, "for a lot of reasons because it was a burial ground and because they were afraid of what was going to happen with the traffic. And from an environmental standpoint, they didn't want the land developed." White said about 5 acres of the 13 acres have been designated for a soccer field, which is nearly complete. The remaining acreage will comprise the historical greenway.
Director of Greenways Shain Denison said the acquisition was still in the works, but she was thrilled to get a property with such significance.