Civil War  |  Historic Site

John McCline & Clover Bottom Farm


2941 Lebanon Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
United States

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This heritage site is a part of the American Battlefield Trust's Road to Freedom: Tennessee Tour Guide app, which showcases sites integral to the Black experience during the Civil War era. Download the FREE app now.

View of the Clover Bottom property
View of the Clover Bottom property Theresa Montgomery/ State of Tennessee

John McCline was one of sixty people enslaved on the 1500-acre Clover Bottom Farm when he escaped during the Civil War and went on to gain an education and write his autobiography.

McCline lived here with his three brothers and his grandmother. His father, Jack McCline lived in an adjacent county enslaved on another plantation. His mother and sister were dead. Among other tasks, he cared for horses and cattle. He was familiar with the slave cabins (ca. 1858), carriage house (c. 1850s), and mansion preserved on the grounds.

Slave dwellings at Clover Bottom Farm
Slave dwellings at Clover Bottom Farm State of Tennessee

McCline saw soldiers camped here twice during the war, Confederates in July 1862 and Federals in November 1862. On December 18, the 13th Michigan was returning from a foraging expedition when the men encountered the ten-year-old McCline and shouted to him, “Come on, Johnny, and go with us up north, and we will set you free.” McCline jumped aboard an ambulance wagon and joined them. Two weeks later he experienced the battle of Stones River. He spent the rest of the war observing its horrors, driving the regiment’s wagons eventually for wages, and enjoying the adventure “as the happiest of boys,” while also learning to read and write.

Clover Bottom Mansion
Clover Bottom Mansion State of Tennessee

After the war, McCline lived in Michigan with several of the soldiers' families, worked in Chicago, returned to Nashville to attend Roger Williams University in 1877, and taught school in Trousdale County. Beginning in 1878 he went west first to St. Louis and ultimately to Santa Fe, where he worked for the New Mexico territorial governor. In the 1920s, McCline wrote about his experiences on the road to freedom, including detailed information about names, family relationships, and occupations of a majority of those enslaved alongside him, in a manuscript later published as Slavery in the Clover Bottoms.


John McCline & Clover Bottom Farm: What's Nearby

Nashville, TN
Tennessee State Museum and State Capitol
Nashville, TN
Slave Markets, Colored Troops, Freedman’s Bank and Exodusters
Nashville, TN