Defiance offers glimpse at Civil War in Clarksville
by Heather Donahoe
Preservationists hope to bring fort’s battlefield back to life
Brian Hughes hoped to encourage his 8-year-old daughter’s budding interest in history by taking a stroll at Fort Defiance Saturday afternoon.
“I’m a huge Civil War buff”, Hughes said, “Growing up, I was always into history, and I want to pass that along to her – because history is how we learn. It’s how we learn to correct our mistakes.”
Hughes, daughter Skylar and dozens of others attended a picnic fundraiser sponsored Saturday by Friends of Fort Defiance, a board formed in May to bring awareness and money to the Civil War site that over looks the Cumberland River in New Providence.
“We thought if we could draw more attention to the fort, and people could see what a gem it is, they would be more inclined to get involved in improving it,” said Phyllis Smith, Friends of Fort Defiance president.
Visitors toured the fort and enjoyed Civil War-era music played by the local groups Stringed Legacy. Re-enactors performed in period clothing.
Liz Thomas, a fifth-grade history teacher at Ringgold Elementary, said she wants her students to grasp the significance that a Civil War battle happened in Clarksville.
“We’re about to start studying the Civil War,” she said. “It’s important for them to understand the part Clarksville played in the war.”
Preserving and enhancing this piece of Clarksville history could be lucrative for local tourism, said John Leckrone, board member.
“Our goals are to put in walkways, a canon and when the time comes, a visitors center”, Leckrone said. “We believe it will bring in tourism – because Civil War sites generally bring in visitors – visitors who will also be buying gasoline and eating in local restaurants. It could be a great thing for this area.”
Promoters of the effort to maintain and improve Fort Defiance have projected that – with upgrades to the city-owned site – the fort could generate about 45,000 visitors each year and generate $11.3 million in tourism revenue.
About $265,000 of the city’s $2.73 million capital projects budget has been earmarked for upgrades and maintance at Fort Defiance.
Saturday’s picnic was the organization’s first fundraiser, and board members say more will come.
“We’re looking into the possibility of putting on a re-enactor camp – setting up stations that would teach Civil War soldiering skills and giving people the chance to learn different things”, Smith said.