By DESSISLAVA YANKOVA
A West Meade site significant in the 1864 Battle of Nashville, first preserved with historical markers and a greenway in 2001, is now vandalized with trash and is not safe, some residents said.
Kelley’s Point Battlefield is a greenway and the site where Confederate
and Union soldiers clashed in the Battle of Nashville that represents the end of large-scale fighting west of the coastal states. The last significant military offensive of the Civil War by the South, the major part of the battle took place on Dec. 15-16, 1864, marking its 152nd anniversary this month.
On the evening of Dec. 2, 1864, Confederate Army of Tennessee initiated a two-week siege of Nashville. In one of the largest victories of the Union Army, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas leading the Federal forces largely destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood. The Union victory at Nashville shattered the Army of Tennessee that suffered about 10,000 casualties and effectively ended the war in Tennessee. For 10 days after the battle, Confederate soldiers retreated south.
Kelley’s Point is in Brookmeade Park on six acres off the 7000 block of Charlotte Pike near Bell’s Bend on the Cumberland River. Kelley’s greenway is somewhat hidden, uniquely located right between the river and a fully urbanized area with major stores, restaurants and roads within walking distance. The park is now polluted with trash and is home to about 30 homeless campers, who engage in their own battles. Incidents include a stabbing, shootings and intentional fires, some local residents said.
Rescued from development
In 2001, Battle of Nashville Preservation Society members rescued what they described as a “long-forgotten portion of the Nashville battlefield” from development. Although some had written off the site as “too late to save,” society members negotiated for three years with the property developer and Metro Nashville Parks administrators to incorporate six acres of the site into Nashville’s expanding greenway system, according to the society’s website.
The American Civil War Roundtable of the United Kingdom and society member Phil Van Steenwyk donated $2,000 for interpretative historic signs along Kelley’s greenway. Kelley’s Point was completed in 2003.
Kelley’s Point Battlefield is a noteworthy site rarely mentioned in historical accounts of the battle. The battle is one of the most significant encounters between the Confederate cavalry and the U.S. Navy, according to site researched by Robert W. Henderson II.
Hood anchored his left flank at Kelley’s site while advancing toward Nashville after the bloody Battle of Franklin, where the South suffered about 7,500 casualties, according to site history and Tracy Harris, educator and programs specialist at Fort Negley.
More than 25,000 Confederate soldiers established a line from Kelley’s Point arcing more than 12 miles east in an attempt to hem in Nashville south of the river. This made Nashville the most extensive geographical battlefield of the war distance-wise. Col. David C. Kelley commanded about 300 Confederates, beginning a two-week blockade of the river at the site.
A century and a half later, the entrance of the picturesque walkway is hidden between several businesses in a busy shopping area. About 20 parking spots often stay empty. Trash, including food wrappers, cans and glass bottles, overflow a can by the entrance with garbage spread on the concrete and forest area around. Much trash is also visible at another entrance behind Lowe’s, where sits an abandoned, littered homeless site. Although not as much, garbage, including alcohol cans and bottles, is visible throughout the trail. Shopping carts are seen across the park and in the river.
Cari Plunk, who has worked in the area for five years, used to walk on the greenway with friends until there was a shooting several years back. Plunk said she has heard of four shooting at the greenway. She saw a person who had been stabbed there and was “seriously bleeding,” she said.
“After the first shooting, I stopped going,” Plunk said. “Other than the homeless people coming in and out, I don’t see anyone. You can see so much trash and it has gotten worse. I wouldn’t go there and I definitely would not go there alone. It can use some work.”
For years, West Meade resident Teresa Thomas said she has come to Kelley’s every afternoon “rain or shine” to walk her rescued border collie Bentley.
“This is my park” Thomas said. “This is where my dog gets his exercise. It’s convenient. We’d sit on the overlook and watch the barges come through and people standup paddling. But if you asked me if it is safe, I’d say you don’t need to be coming here walking by yourself. I wouldn’t come here without my dog.”
The trail, Thomas said, has become less safe within the past few years with the number of homeless people increasing from four to about 30. There used to be benches all around the main entrance, where the homeless gathered. In attempts to run them out, the benches were removed.
“If you started walking down, there would be tents everywhere,” Thomas said. “It’s just in the last month they have made them tear all that down. The police give them eviction notices.”
Although, she had heard of some homeless people setting each other’s tents on fire and have “their own wars,” Thomas said she has not had problems with them. On Saturday, Dec. 17, a woman living in the park gave Thomas a picture she drew her as a Christmas gift.
“Another (man) was there and she said he contributed to (the picture) because he did a burn spot with his cigarette,” Thomas said. “They’re one big family. They fight. They love. They love to give.”
Officials with Nashville’s West Police precinct and the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation maintenance department did not return calls and emails, seeking comment.
Learn more about the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society at bonps.org
Learn more about the Battle of Nashville at facebook.com/battleofnashville/
Reach Dessislava Yankova at 865.384.1973. Follow her on twitter @desspor.