Civil War  |  Historic Site

Kingston Springs and the 12th USCT


358 N Main Street
Kingston Springs, TN 37082
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.

Period photo of Big Harpeth No. 7 Bridge
Period photo of Big Harpeth No. 7 Bridge with a hand car on it. One of structures on a ridge just beyond the bridge appears to be a stockade. The original stone piers of the bridge are still present although the course of the railroad has shifted to the south. Today, the site is located near the canoe/kayak launch across from L.L. Burns Park in Kingston Springs. Tennessee State Library and Archives

As the Civil War began the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad (NNWRR) set aside plans to lay tracks west of Kingston Springs. After the Union seized the railroad and began extending the line to the Tennessee River in late 1863, the 12th United States Colored Troops (USCT) regiment headquartered here on and off through December 1865.

Many who joined the 12th USCT self-emancipated by running to Union lines around Nashville. Some of these men, along with enslaved African Americans who were leased to the Union by their masters or captured while supporting Confederate troops, were first pressed into service involuntarily as civilians or soldiers.

Upon arriving in Kingston Springs in October 1863, these soldiers joined Black and Irish laborers digging cuts, laying track, and building bridges. Today, you can see the remnants stone piers which held one of X bridges across the Harpeth River they likely guarded and built or rebuilt about a half mile away at L.L. Burns Park canoe/kayak launch.

They also protected the rails under construction and the critical military traffic which flowed between Johnsonville and Nashville beginning in May 1864. Soldiers of the 12th joined other units in pursuing Confederate raiders who in October 1864 repeatedly tore up tracks, burned woodpiles, derailed engines, and attacked train and repair crews between Kingston Springs and Mile Post 42. Today, you can see the abandoned railroad bed these troops built and defended along the Baker Cemetery Trail in Montgomery Bell State Park eleven miles west.

The 12th USCT left Kingston Springs to fight valiantly in the Battles of Johnsonville and Nashville, returning here in January 1865. Some survivors of the guerillas and the battles died of disease in the Kingston springs regimental hospital leaving no burial records. Others lived on as free citizens and veterans.

Kingston Springs and the 12th USCT: What's Nearby

Kingston Springs, TN