Civil War  |  Historic Site

Mile Post #42


100 Frank Clement Place
Dickson, TN 37055
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.

Mile Post #42 Interpretive Marker
Mile Post #42 Interpretive Marker Don Morfe/

The railroad found here follows the route of a vital U.S. Army rail line which African Americans constructed and guarded during the Civil War.

After occupying Middle Tennessee in the spring of 1862, the Union army needed a reliable transportation link between the steamboat dock at Johnsonville on the Tennessee River and its major base at Nashville. They seized the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad (N&NWRR) and made plans to extend the tracks west from Kingston Springs to Johnsonville. This area became known as “Mile Post 42,” because a nearby marker indicated it was forty-two miles west of Nashville.

Free, Freed, and enslaved Black men working alongside Irish laborers constructed the military railroad. The 12th and 13th U.S. Colored Troops defended the railroad from Confederate cavalry and guerrilla attacks. The line’s vital importance increased after Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan burned the south tunnel of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in Sumner County and delayed Federal supplies southbound to Nashville.

Clark Garrett, born enslaved in Dickson County, enlisted on December 15, 1863, here at section 42 (Milepost 42) of the N&NWRR. In February 1864, he mustered in with Co. G, 12th U.S. Colored Infantry at section 53 serving to complete and defend the N&NWRR. Within a year he likely engaged in the Battle of Johnsonville in November 1864 and fought in the Battle of Nashville a month later. After an honorable discharge in 1866, Garrett eventually settled in the Black community of Promise Land about 10 miles north of Dickson after the war.

After the war, Dickson (first called Smeedsville or Sneedsville) grew up around the former military rail line. The current track is a reminder of African Americans' significant contributions to Union victory and the economic development along this line in the decades that followed.

There is a permanent Civil War exhibit in the Clement Railroad Hotel that includes the story of the 12th and 13th as part of the “history of a community sympathetic to Confederate ideology while holding strong economic ties to the Union.”

Mile Post #42: What's Nearby

Dickson, TN