Book Review Johnsonville, Union Supply Operations on the Tennessee River & Battle of Johnsonville, November 4-5, 1864

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Author Jerry T. Wooten of Johnsonville, Union Supply Operations on the Tennessee River & the Battle of Johnsonville, November 4-5, 1864 is unusually qualified. As a rule, researchers spend their time digging through dusty archives, reading books & spending a few days wandering the ground before writing their book. Wooten, on the other hand, was the superintendent of Johnsonville State Historic Park. His relationship with the Johnsonville supply depot was hands on in the extreme.

The first time I went to Johnsonville, it was all but impossible to get any idea of went on there. It was little more than a huge impenetrable second growth thicket. Under Wooten's supervision, the cultural landscape is both accessible & comprehensible. It is really something to stand on the circular berm where the steam engines from Nashville were turned around & gaze out at the Tennessee River landing. It is a rare place where the vast flow of supplies that fueled the Union victory in Tennessee is on such unambiguous display. <tnstateparks.com> Johnsonville State Historic Park

Johnsonville is a unique Civil War site. The least important thing that happened there is the only reason most folk have ever heard about it. It is Nathan Bedford Forrest's November 4, 1864 raid on the Johnsonville depot is chapter 9 in Wooten's book. His description of how & what was done on that day is detailed & very accurate. There is a deep irony in that the raid was both the last great example of Forrest's tactical genius & the end of Johnsonville's reason to exist. The Battle of Nashville, a few weeks later, effectively ended the war in Tennessee. The unknown story of the creation & operation of the Johnsonville depot was much, much more than a single day of violence.

The El Niño current in the Pacific Ocean was the driving force behind the creation of the Johnsonville Depot, 71 miles west of Nashville. Due to the lack of rainfall in the Cumberland River watershed, people waded across the river at Nashville. As a result, the Union army occupying Middle Tennessee dangled at the end of the rickety Louisville & Nashville Rail Road. It was subject to almost daily interruption by man & nature. If they were going to be able to hold Nashville & move on Chattanooga, another supply artery had to be found. Fortunately, a significant start on the solution lay at hand. Recognizing the same limitation that seasonal low water & the tenuous rail service that kept Union commanders up at night, Nashville citizens had already started to build a rail road westward to touch on the Tennessee River.

The engineering triumph is the story of the men who built , ran & attempted to destroy the Nashville & Northwestern Rail Road is like a three strand rope. Nameless men who were requisitioned along with wheelbarrows, shovels & six day's rations began the work. Self liberated men drove the line to the bank of the Tennessee & manned the Johnsonville Depot. Free men joined United States Colored Troops to protect it. Confederate regular cavalry & "banditti" under Alexander Duval McNairy repeatedly attacked the railroad. Wooten does a masterful job wrapping the three narratives into a cohesive strand much stronger than any one of them could have been.

Johnsonville is on my bookshelf right next to Autumn of Glory, The Supply for Tomorrow Must Not Fail, & my Tullahoma Campaign books. Wooten's book is one of the fingers that has allowed me to grasp the many threads that made up the Union victory in Tennessee.
 

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Author Jerry T. Wooten of Johnsonville, Union Supply Operations on the Tennessee River & the Battle of Johnsonville, November 4-5, 1864 is unusually qualified. As a rule, researchers spend their time digging through dusty archives, reading books & spending a few days wandering the ground before writing their book. Wooten, on the other hand, was the superintendent of Johnsonville State Historic Park. His relationship with the Johnsonville supply depot was hands on in the extreme.

The first time I went to Johnsonville, it was all but impossible to get any idea of went on there. It was little more than a huge impenetrable second growth thicket. Under Wooten's supervision, the cultural landscape is both accessible & comprehensible. It is really something to stand on the circular berm where the steam engines from Nashville were turned around & gaze out at the Tennessee River landing. It is a rare place where the vast flow of supplies that fueled the Union victory in Tennessee is on such unambiguous display. <tnstateparks.com> Johnsonville State Historic Park

Johnsonville is a unique Civil War site. The least important thing that happened there is the only reason most folk have ever heard about it. It is Nathan Bedford Forrest's November 4, 1864 raid on the Johnsonville depot is chapter 9 in Wooten's book. His description of how & what was done on that day is detailed & very accurate. There is a deep irony in that the raid was both the last great example of Forrest's tactical genius & the end of Johnsonville's reason to exist. The Battle of Nashville, a few weeks later, effectively ended the war in Tennessee. The unknown story of the creation & operation of the Johnsonville depot was much, much more than a single day of violence.

The El Niño current in the Pacific Ocean was the driving force behind the creation of the Johnsonville Depot, 71 miles west of Nashville. Due to the lack of rainfall in the Cumberland River watershed, people waded across the river at Nashville. As a result, the Union army occupying Middle Tennessee dangled at the end of the rickety Louisville & Nashville Rail Road. It was subject to almost daily interruption by man & nature. If they were going to be able to hold Nashville & move on Chattanooga, another supply artery had to be found. Fortunately, a significant start on the solution lay at hand. Recognizing the same limitation that seasonal low water & the tenuous rail service that kept Union commanders up at night, Nashville citizens had already started to build a rail road westward to touch on the Tennessee River.

The engineering triumph is the story of the men who built , ran & attempted to destroy the Nashville & Northwestern Rail Road is like a three strand rope. Nameless men who were requisitioned along with wheelbarrows, shovels & six day's rations began the work. Self liberated men drove the line to the bank of the Tennessee & manned the Johnsonville Depot. Free men joined United States Colored Troops to protect it. Confederate regular cavalry & "banditti" under Alexander Duval McNairy repeatedly attacked the railroad. Wooten does a masterful job wrapping the three narratives into a cohesive strand much stronger than any one of them could have been.

Johnsonville is on my bookshelf right next to Autumn of Glory, The Supply for Tomorrow Must Not Fail, & my Tullahoma Campaign books. Wooten's book is one of the fingers that has allowed me to grasp the many threads that made up the Union victory in Tennessee.
Good review. On a minor point (the effects of the El Nino) I would recommend Ken Noe's new Howling Storm book on weather and climate during the war and their influence on operations,
 

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