Fort Gillem

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Fort Gillem (1862-1865) - A Union U.S. Civil War Fort established in 1862 in present day Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. Named Fort Gillem after Union Brigadier General Alvan C. Gillem, (Cullum 1504), who supervised construction of the fort. Renamed Fort Sill in 1863 probably after Brigadier General Joshua W. Sill, (Cullum 1581), who was killed on 31 Dec 1862 at the Battle of Stone's River. The fort was abandoned by Union troops in 1865 after the end of the war.

Fort Sill (Gillem) Plan from the Tower Report

History of Fort Gillem

The beginning of the U.S. Civil War found Nashville under Confederate control with Fort Henry and Fort Donelson providing external protection. With the loss of Fort Henry (6 Feb 1862) and Fort Donelson (16 Feb 1862) the Confederate position in Nashville became untenable and they surrendered the city on 25 Feb 1862.

Union forces occupied the city and turned Nashville into a Union logistics hub for the region. Work on the fortifications for the city began in August 1862 using large numbers of conscripted contrabands (runaway slaves) and free Blacks.

Fort Gillem was built as a strong earthworks fortification with a strong central blockhouse by Union forces under the command of Brigadier General Alvan C. Gillem, (Cullum 1504), in 1862. An inspection report dated 25 May 1865 by Brigadier General Zealous B. Tower, (Cullum 1059), Inspector General of Fortifications, Military Division of the Mississippi, included the following: "Fort Gillem (now called Fort Sill).-Gen. Gillem, while in command of the Tenth Tennessee Regiment, built this fort. It was a redoubt about 120 feet square, with narrow ditches, walled with dry stone, six feet high, having emplacements for eight guns in barbette, but without magazines or bombproof, and not defiladed from hill (ref. 210) looking into it. It was neatly constructed and was a good redoubt. I modified its interior arrangements with a view to increased strength and protection to its defenders. The parapet toward hill (210) has been raised two feet for defilement; two service magazines, which also serve as traverses, constructed on the faces, which would naturally be subject to ricochet from attacking batteries; thirteen embrasures, finished mostly with gabions, and a block-house keep set up. This structure has not been covered for lack of timber. Much blasting was required for the magazines, the drains, and of the terreplein to prepare the site of the block-house. It is proposed to finish this block-house, set up a gate at the entrance, and build a suitable bridge across the ditch. When thus completed the work will be ready for a small garrison and should be kept in repair."

The Battle of Nashville

The Battle of Nashville began on 15 Dec 1864 south of the city and away from Fort Gillum. The battle pitted the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lt. General John Bell Hood, (Cullum 1622), against Union forces under Major General George H. Thomas, (Cullum 1028). General Hood had been a student of General Thomas at the United States Military Academy, received instruction in artillery from him. The Union forces prevailed and the Confederates fell back with heavy losses.

Fort Gillem was abandoned in 1865 at the end of the war and eventually the fort site became a part of Fisk University and some of the fort buildings were used by the school for a time. Fisk University was founded in 1866.

Current Status

The site is now part of Fisk University's Jubilee Hall.

USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 1680783

Location: Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee.

Maps & Images

Lat: 36.16889 Long: -86.805

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 515'

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