The Battle of Nashville
— Hood's Campaign —
In September 1864, after Union Gen. William T. Sherman defeated Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood at Atlanta, Hood led the Army of Tennessee northwest against Sherman's supply lines. Rather than contest Sherman's "March to the Sea," Hood moved north into Tennessee. Gen. John M. Schofield, detached from Sherman's army, delayed Hood at Columbia and Spring Hill before falling back to Franklin. The bloodbath there on November 30 crippled the Confederates, but they followed Schofield to the outskirts of Nashvilleand Union Gen. George H. Thomas's strong defenses. Hood's campaign ended when Thomas crushed his army onDecember 15-16.
The family of William G. Harding, the owner of Belle Meade Plantation, had a front-row seat to the Battle of Nashville on December 15-16, 1864. Confederate Gen. James R. Chalmers, who served under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, had his headquarters inside the house.
On the first day of battle, Union Col. George Spaulding's 12th Tennessee Cavalry overran the propertyand captured Confederate supply wagons that were located near the house and at Belle Meade's race track (situated near the present-day Belle Meade United Methodist Church on Davidson Road). Federal forces captured at least fourteen wagons containing records, clothing, food, and a safe, as well as forty-three soldiers.
During the day's fighting, Chalmers sent a detachment under Lt. James Dinkins to check out the supply wagons, but Dinkins arrived too late to stop the Federals from burning them. Dinkins charged the Union troops, but his men immediately encountered Union reinforcements and gunfire from advancing Federal infantry. Then one of Harding's daughters, Selene, left the relative safety of the mansion to stand on the front steps and wave a handkerchief to urge on the Confederate cavalry. Dinkins, horrified at the danger of such exposure, rode up and urged her to go inside, but she refused and stood there until the Confederates retreated.
Bullet holes in the columns on the front porch serve as a reminder of the war's impact on Belle Meade.
Harding's Light Artillery, ca. 1884 - Courtesy Belle Meade Plantation
Gen. James R. Chalmers Courtesy Library of Congress
Supply train - Courtesy Library of Congress