Standing under the gazebo, you can see straight through to the shops (to the west, north and east) and to the railroad tracks both active and inactive (to the north).


Remember when I took you to Collierville this spring?

“Whispers of Collierville date to 1835, though it’s not until 1852 – when the Memphis-Charleston Railroad lays tracks here – that the village makes a name for itself. Ironically, the railroad quickly delivers as much development as destruction: As the “vertebrae of the Confederacy” (Jefferson Davis’ words), the Memphis-Charleston line – and Collierville, in particular – were coveted by both sides during the Civil War. The Union wrangled control of the railroad in 1862, and in 1863, it seized Collierville, too.

During the October 11 Battle of Collierville, 3,000 Confederates attacked 600 Union soldiers along the rail line. During battle, a train pulled in – carrying General Sherman himself (turns out he was en route from Memphis, already marching to the sea). The Confederates inflicted damage, killing some 100 Union soldiers and stealing Sherman’s favorite horse, Dolly. Yet, the railroad remained under Union control, and Sherman ordered much of Collierville burned.

Collierville rose again, pretty as a picture – greenery leading to a lively town square. But its history is never far – conjured by historic markers, preserved structures and remembrances of war. As October marks the Battle of Collierville’s sesquicentennial, the town prepares to remember. The Morton Museum of Collierville History will serve as the epicenter.

Collierville Christian Church, constructed in 1873, today serves as the town history museum. Outside, gables and a tower define its Frame Vernacular Gothic Revival style… Inside, it’s all stained glass and spindles:

Collierville Christian Church, constructed in 1873, today serves as the Morton Museum of Collierville History.

  • Aug. 21 and 28, use the museum’s Civil War Library Collection to research your Civil War ancestors. Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. both days, research assistance will be provided.
  • Fridays in September, catch the Civil War Movie Series at 10:30 a.m. Movies explore secession; the wartime role of women; Civil War songs and stories; and the Battle of Shiloh. Following each movie, museum staffers will make a Collierville/Civil War connection by spotlighting artifacts from the museum’s collection.
  • Oct. 4 from 5-7 p.m., storyteller Judith Black will share Our Heritage to Save: The Battle of Collierville, a research-based imagining of a 17-year-old named Hanna Jean witnessing the town’s battle. The 52nd Regimental String Band will perform 19th-century songs.

    Standing under the gazebo, you can see straight through to the shops (to the west, north and east) and to the railroad tracks both active and inactive (to the north).

    The battle marker on Collierville’s town square

  • Oct. 5, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the museum will host the Perspectives on the Civil War in West Tennessee Symposium. Following a continental breakfast, keynote speakers include Dr. Timothy Smith of University of Tennessee, Martin, author of Difficult and Broken Ground: The Terrain Factor at Shiloh. At 2 p.m. from the museum, join a guided walking tour illuminating the war and Collierville’s Historic District or a Civil War Veterans Tour of Magnolia Cemetery.
  • Oct. 6 at 1 p.m., my favorite local historian, Jimmy Ogle, will speak on “Modern Memphis and the Civil War.” This guy knows everything Memphis and then some. Don’t miss a chance to hear him speak.

For questions regarding any of these Battle of Collierville commemorative events, contact the Morton Museum at (901) 457-2650.

East Tennessee Bonus

The truest Civil War buffs already know, but here’s notice for the rest of you: The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event, Occupation and Liberation, is scheduled for Oct. 9-12 at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Seating is limited, so register early via email ( or phone (615-532-7520). Expect presentations, demonstrations and performances by historian/musician Bobby Horton, “living historians” from Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the U.S. Colored Troops. (As long as you’re in town, slip into the Tennessee State Museum and Tennessee State Library and Archives for an artifact-rich Sesquicentennial Civil War Exhibit on the Battles for Chattanooga.)

Wherever you are, get the app!

Download the free Civil War in Tennessee app here to access maps and artifacts as well as stories and images of citizens and soldiers.

What do you regard as Tennessee’s most solemn Civil War site? Tell us in the comments section below.

Hi! I’m Samantha Crespo, and I am Floridian by birth, Tennessean by heart. Growing up, I vacationed in East Tennessee, so I...Read on

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