Fort Defiance explodes with historical education

Re-enactors demonstrate weaponry, daily living

by Chantal Escoto
The Leaf-Chronicle

The grassy mounds of Fort Defiance became a teeming site of exploration and explosion Sunday as Civil War re-enactors and visitors converged on the New Providence historical park.
Built by Confederate soldiers in November 1861 as a earthen works defense against Union troops, Fort Defiance lives on only in deep trenches and depressions. But instead of holding hunkered-down troops and piles of cannon, it now offers visitors an education in Clarksville’s heritage at the meeting of the Cumberland and Red Rivers.
Phyllis Smith, president of Friend’s of Fort Defiance, which sponsored the “March To The Past”, said Civil War demonstrations take history to a new level because much of it is hands-on.
“It’s extremely important to keep the history right in front of people to keep it alive and keep it from being lost and forgotten.” Smith said.
Friends Of Fort Defiance formed in May of last year because not many people know about the former stronghold that was taken by Federal troops in 1862.
Soldier re-enactors dressed in Civil War-era clothing shot off replica rifles and cannon as women and children quilted and cooked.
Wearing a blue plaid cotton dress typical of what a 14 year old would wear more than 140 years ago, Elizabeth Courtney said she liked playing her role as a farmer’s daughter.
“We get to learn a lot about the Civil War, and we get to play a lot of cool games,” she said. One of those games called “graces”, involves tossing ribbon-laced hoops back and forth on stick. They also played checkers and blind man’s bluff.
Gregg Perry went to the event with his wife and five children thinking it was going to be a full-on battle reenactment, but he wasn’t too disappointed.
“We’ve always been interested in the old ways of doing things. You’re able to come out here and see it for yourself,” Perry said, adding that he came across Fort Defiance almost by accident one day when he was working in the area.
“I never knew this place existed and that it was a fort built out of mounds of dirt instead of one built of wood. It’s amazing. I hope there will be more interest in expanding this.”
Fort Defiance park is run by the city of Clarksville and is awaiting a government grant to help improve the site and bring more tourism to the area.