Floods Mostly Spare West Tenn. Historic Sites
By Gregory L. Wade
(June 2011 Civil War News)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While at presstime the Mississippi River and its tributaries were still to crest from heavy rains, Memphis Civil War parks and other West Tennessee Civil War sites appear to be have been mostly spared from the rising waters.
Flood waters rose to levels not seen since the 1927 deluge that took the lives of 246 people and covered parts of seven states.
Jefferson Davis Park, built up on dredge material taken from the river in the 1930s, was named after the former Confederate president who resided in Memphis from 1869-1878. It and nearby Confederate Park were spared damage while sitting well above the river.
Confederate Gen. Gideon Pillow fortified the city blocks now including Confederate Park early in the war. In June 1862 these works witnessed a naval battle between Confederate vessels protected with cotton bales against heavily armored Union gunboats. Several Confederate boats were destroyed.
Forrest Park, the burial location of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife, Mary, lies a few blocks away from the river and was not threatened.
Fort Donelson, located near Dover on the Cumberland River, had water rise to the level of its riverside batteries, but the park suffered no major damage.
The Dover Hotel, also known as the Surrender House, where the fort was surrendered by Confederates in February 1862, was sandbagged while pumps kept water out of its basement.
The biggest disruption in the park was the loss of a “bee tree” which fell during the storms, creating a stir for several days from agitated bees, according to Bonnie Lill of Dover. “For a few days no walkers were allowed on the park road,” she noted.
Clarksville’s Greg Biggs said the Cumberland River was up but nowhere near Fort Defiance. “It would require an ark if Defiance flooded” Biggs observed.
Shiloh Battlefield and Pittsburg Landing on the banks of the Tennessee River escaped without significant damage other than some downed trees. There was no flooding according to Shiloh Ranger Chris Mekow.
The Island Number 10 monument, located just a few miles from Tiptonville, escaped Mississippi River flooding thanks to efforts to raise the levee height in the days before the expected crest, according to Lori Long of the Tiptonville Banner. “Heroic work was done to raise the levee an additional two feet which was enough to protect the monument and that area of the county,” she said.
Island Number 10 was a Confederate position under siege from Union gunboats in the spring of 1862. The strongpoint was eventually captured opening a critical part of the Mississippi River to the Federals in Northwest Tennessee.
In other parts of the community, citizens are assessing flood damage and hoping to dry out and begin the recovery process.
The West Tennessee floods came exactly one year after historic Middle Tennessee flooding claimed 23 lives and over $2 billion in damage. Middle Tennessee’s Stones River Battlefield, itself ravaged by tornados in 2009, received minor damage from this year’s storms according to Ranger Jim Lewis.
“We had a few trees knocked down and one just missed hitting the Regular Brigade Monument in the National Cemetery,” Lewis said.