Defending the River
These are the remnants of Union Fort Bruce.
In September 1861, the Confederate defense line
in the western theatre extended from Columbus
Kentucky, to Cumberland Gap in East Tennessee.
It included most of the Cumberland River and
protected the Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville
Railroad, as well as the major supply base at
Nashville. The three small forts constructed at
Clarksville were integral parts of this perimeter.
Confederate Gen. Albert S. Johnston
ordered West Point-trained engineer Maj. Jeremy
F. Gilmer to "arrange the works for the defense...
at Dover, Clarksville, hired an experienced
civilian, Edward Sayers, to execute the
construction. Sayers constructed Fort
Sevier on a hill overlooking the Cumberland and Red rivers, Fort Clark south of here where the two rivers merged, and Fort Terry northeast of
here on the Red River. In January 1862, Sayers
reported, "work progressing very well now;
200 slaves and 50 soldiers at work; 24-pounders
mounted; one 12-pounder also mounted."
After the fall of Fort Donelson on February
16, 1862, the Union navy headed upstream for
Clarksville. Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote found
the fort deserted and flying a white flag. Gen.
Ulysses S. Grant ordered the other earthworks
destroyed but spared Fort Sevier. In December
1862, Col. Sanders D. Bruce's brigade command.
expanded the fort and occupied it for the rest of
the war. Renamed Fort Bruce, it provided a safe
haven for local freedmen, many of whom joined
the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT). Later called
Fort Defiance, the origin of the name is unclear.