Saturday, January 26, 2019

Heartache on hallowed ground: Parker's Crossroads Stop No. 7

This large slab marks the burial site for Union soldiers who died at the Battle of Parker's Cross Roads. 
Nearly  all the remains were exhumed for re-burial elsewhere two years after the Civil War.
Interstate 40 slices through the heart of the Parker's Crossroads (Tenn.) battlefield.

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A massive highway billboard for the Bucksnort Inn ("Remodeled, Clean Rooms, Guaranteed!") stands 200 yards from where Confederate Lt. Colonel Thomas Alonzo Napier was mortally wounded at the Battle of Parker's Crossroads. Two brown Porta-Potties sit paces from the spot the 25-year-old officer took a bullet as he leaped atop a split-rail fence on New Year's Eve 1862.

Bucksnort Inn billboard near hallowed ground
at Parker's Crossroads, 100 miles west of Nashville.
In the near-distance, across six-lane Interstate 40, which long ago cruelly sliced through the heart of  Tennessee hallowed ground, we see the usual modern schlock: McDonald's, Knight's Inn ($36.99 a room) and an Exxon service station. Another large billboard nearby touts Loretta Lynn's Kitchen in historic Williamson. "Visit the Legend," it proclaims. On a nondescript, one-story building on Federal Lane, a tattered sign denotes the Parker's Crossroads Apostolic Church.

Welcome to Tour Stop No. 7, the final stop on your self-guided Parker's Crossroads battlefield tour. The large parking lot is nearly empty on this chilly winter day.

A marker denotes spot where 25-year-old Confederate officer
Thomas Alonzo Napier was mortally wounded.
On Dec. 31, 1862, Colonel Cyrus L. Dunham's Midwesterners -- soldiers from Indiana, Illinois and Indiana -- desperately clung to their position here for two hours  behind a split-rail fence. "A shell hit the fence near which I stood," 50th Indiana Private Joseph Hotz wrote his wife, "and the rail struck me down." He survived. At least 30 of his comrades did not. Confederates, including legendary cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest, won the day.

The Yankees who fell in the vicious fight were buried in small cemetery at the east end of the Union line. Among them probably were Lieutenant Pleasant L. Bristow, the married father of boys named Lowell, 3, and Samuel, three months, and fellow Illinoians Henry Opperman, Reuben Fletcher and Ernst Russell. The Union remains were exhumed two years after the war for reburial in a national cemetery in Corinth, Miss. Two decades ago, an archaeological excavation uncovered fragments of another poor soul, apparently forgotten.

A large, gray-granite slab in a strip of woods denotes the location of the graveyard. We try to imagine the scene on the cold night here 156 years ago. Spade meets earth. A body tossed into a trench. Perhaps a short prayer recited, a few tears shed. Or were they numb to it all?  Then the ugly roar of interstate traffic tips us back into the 21st century.

A scrawny, brown fox darts into the brush. We're off, too. A foot in the present, but one stuck in the past.

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1 comment:

  1. Well-written, sad... So many Civil War sites I want to visit, and this is one of them...