The Works at Triune, a giant hiding in plain sight.

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Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Thousands of vehicles a day pass the Triune exit on I-840, half way between Murfreesboro & Franklin, Tennessee. It is also the exit for Arrington Vinyards. Sitting on the porch & sipping your wine, the view north across 840 is a vista of unbroken forested ridges as far as the eye can see. It is a lovely place from which to watch the sunset. It is almost impossible to imagine that 160 years ago, the ridge before you would have been a mile long scar of red clay.
After the Battle of Stones River, January 1863 saw a frenzy of earth movement. Along a triangle about 40 miles on a side, Union General William Stark Rosecrans put his army engineering skills to good use. With Nashville as its apex, the eastern leg of the triangle stopped at Fort Transit, a signal station atop a prominent hill. Ten miles westward, the triangle's base passed through Murfreesboro & the gargantuan Fortress Rosecrans. Fifteen miles further on, the Works at Triune capped an east west ridge. The western corner was secured by Fort Granger. The fortress complex that secured the Army of the Cumberland's base was the largest earthen complex in the world.

The Works at Triune are about a mile from east to west. Hold out your right fist. Your thumb is the gorge through which turnpike to Nolensville & Nashville passes. Your knuckles are where redoubts were constructed. The knuckle of your middle finger is a stone faced star shaped redoubt. There are three miles of rifle pits surrounding your knuckles. General Grainger's headquarters was in a brick house near your thumb. The Works were the home of the A.o.C.'s Reserve Corps. 10,000 men strong, the Reserve Corps anchored the center of the base of the Middle Tennessee fortress complex.

The Works are on private land, eight parcels, in fact. Franklin's Charge conducts tours led by the Tennessee State Archeologist. The earthworks are in remarkable condition. It is a lot like visiting a Mayan ruin. One reason the Works have not been disturbed is that it is a real goat climb to get up there. The tangle of sweet gum & Osage Orange trees will leave you bloodied from the needle sharp thorns that festoon every branch. Having served its purpose, the Works were abandoned & served no part in the Nashville Campaign in 1864.

Should you wish to tour Rosecrans' fortress complex without donating a pint of blood, several of the major works have been preserved. Fort Negley, in Nashville is a city park. A formal stone star fort, it is clearly visible from a major interstate intersection near downtown. A significant section of Fortress Rosecrans is part of Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro. Fort Granger is remarkably preserved. It overlooks the city of Franklin from the top of a river bluff. Ft Granger is in a city park. It is an excellent addition to a visit to Franklin Battlefield.

In the spring of 1863, the A.o.C. sallied forth from their fortress complex on a front spanning sixty miles from flank to flank. Massive volumes of men, equines & supplies flowed south. The Cumberlands did not stop until they saluted General Grant during the Grand Review. Their secure base in Middle Tennessee made that magnificent accomplishment possible.
 
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bdtex

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The Works are on private land, eight parcels, in fact. Franklin's Charge conducts tours led by the Tennessee State Archeologist. The earthworks are in remarkable condition. It is a lot like visiting a Mayan ruin. One reason the Works have not been disturbed is that it is a real goat climb to get up there. The tangle of sweet gum & Osage Orange trees will leave you bloodied from the needle sharp thorns that festoon every branch. Having served its purpose, the Works were abandoned & served no part in the Nashville Campaign in 1864.
Are those Franklin's Charge tours conducted regularly? Surely some times of the year are better than others for charging those works.
 
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A. Roy

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The Works are on private land, eight parcels, in fact. Franklin's Charge conducts tours led by the Tennessee State Archeologist. The earthworks are in remarkable condition. It is a lot like visiting a Mayan ruin. One reason the Works have not been disturbed is that it is a real goat climb to get up there. The tangle of sweet gum & Osage Orange trees will leave you bloodied from the needle sharp thorns that festoon every branch. Having served its purpose, the Works were abandoned & served no part in the Nashville Campaign in 1864.

Should you wish to tour Rosecrans' fortress complex without donating a pint of blood, several of the major works have been preserved.
I just came across this interesting post about the Triune works. Do you have any photos, especially of those works not in parks and public land? It would be interesting to see how they have held up over the years.

Roy B.
 

Rhea Cole

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Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Roy B., thanks for your interest. The entire Works at Triune site is on private land, specifically 8 individual plots of land. I personally do not have any photos because they are covered with trees & don't look like anything. Here in Middle Tennessee, the soil is heavy clay. As a result, earthworks of even modest size will survive if left undisturbed.

Until very recently, the only earthwork on Stones River Battlefield was on private land. In a curious way, its historic use as a trash pit conserved it. The cans & bottles inhibited erosion. As a result, now that the small earthwork is a part of the National Battlefield, the work is very clearly defined. I don't know if that answers your question or not.
 

A. Roy

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Roy B., thanks for your interest. The entire Works at Triune site is on private land, specifically 8 individual plots of land. I personally do not have any photos because they are covered with trees & don't look like anything. Here in Middle Tennessee, the soil is heavy clay. As a result, earthworks of even modest size will survive if left undisturbed.

Until very recently, the only earthwork on Stones River Battlefield was on private land. In a curious way, its historic use as a trash pit conserved it. The cans & bottles inhibited erosion. As a result, now that the small earthwork is a part of the National Battlefield, the work is very clearly defined. I don't know if that answers your question or not.
Thanks. Interesting to hear more about that. I had wondered about photos because I'd like to get better at identifying remains of works. In Raleigh, NC, where I live, some of us are interested in identifying some locations, and seeing if some archaeological research and possibly preservation can be done. One complication is that most of the locations are now on private land, so it's a delicate situation.

During the war, a ring of fortifications was built around the city, maybe about six miles in circumference. When Johnston's army left and Sherman's advanced, the city was surrendered, so there was no battle. There are some interesting stories connected with the works, though, so there could be some value in preserving selected locations, if they can be correctly identified.

BTW, the soil here is heavy clay also, so that's interesting what you said about it.

Roy B.
 
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Rhea Cole

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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Recently, here in Middle Tennessee, a large section of earthwork from Bragg's Shelbyville defenses was identified on private land. The family knew it was there, but for whatever reason had never said anything about it. The work is 2,500 feet long. From the description & photos, it would appear that the berms & ditches were in good shape. Unfortunately, that is the exception.

tennesseearcheologycouncil.wordpress.com Surprise! A Newly Discovered Civil War Earthwork in Bedford County, Tennessee 09/18/2018

Tullahoma works redan.jpeg

This image is from the article from Tennessee Council fro Professional Archeology

In many cases, the rifle pits weren't much to begin with. They really do not look like much. Matter of fact, it can be hard to distinguish an earthwork form a trail. All I can say is be skeptical & don't rely on anecdotal evidence. Everybody's uncle Clem was a Civil War expert.
 
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rpkennedy

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Carlisle, PA
When my wife was looking at jobs in the Columbia-Franklin-Nashville corridor a couple years ago, we were looking at houses in the Triune area. It is a very nice area.

Ryan
 
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A. Roy

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Raleigh, North Carolina
Recently, here in Middle Tennessee, a large section of earthwork from Bragg's Shelbyville defenses was identified on private land. The family knew it was there, but for whatever reason had never said anything about it. The work is 2,500 feet long. From the description & photos, it would appear that the berms & ditches were in good shape. Unfortunately, that is the exception.
Interesting photo and story about these Shelbyville works. I imagine some private owners might be cagey about revealing what they have, out of concern for outside parties limiting what they can do with their property.

Here in Raleigh, we have pretty good documentation of the locations of the original works -- they were designed and supervised by a Lt Col of artillery and engineering who was a civil engineer before the war and was involved in construction of works in other areas. His map of the works survived the war and has been a great resource.

Roy B.
 
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