Tennessee's Civil War Trail Leads to Wilson County

Apr 12, 2010

Wilson County is inviting visitors to get to know its legacies and landmarks from a nation divided on the Tennessee Civil War Trail.

Lebanon, TN (April 5, 2010) Tennessee was the last to secede in 1861 and the first to rejoin the Union in 1865 during the War Between the States. Nearing that 150th anniversary next year, Wilson County is inviting visitors to get to know its legacies and landmarks from a nation divided on the Tennessee Civil War Trail.

"I got so involved in the history of the Civil War because my family was over the years. My grandmother told me many stories about it when I was just a boy," said Jack Cato, one of the 78 members who belong to the Sons of Confederate Verterans General Robert H. Hatton Camp 723, which meets monthly at his offices in Wilson County. "My great-grandfather Sergeant William Cato fought with Confederate General Hatton in the 7th Tennessee Infantry Regiment on the Square in Lebanon, and my great-uncle Joe Cato ran away at the age of 16 to join the 4th Tennessee Cavalry in Nashville."

Wilson County officially enlisted in the Civil War on May 20, 1861, when 600 volunteers in six Rebel companies began marching with the 7th Tennessee Infantry Regiment under Confederate General Robert E. Lee of Virginia. A number of men from Wilson County also pledged their allegiance to the Union where they fell in step with the Yankee troops.

Within the year, the Battle of Lebanon was fiercely waged on May 5, 1862 on the Square. Union General Ebenezer Dumont made a surprise attack with his unit on Confederate Colonel John Hunt Morgan, who fled, while many of his men were killed and interred at Cedar Grove Cemetery. Seven months later, Morgan led 2,000 of the Union troops he captured on Dec. 7, 1862, in Hartsville through the Square in Lebanon as they headed for Murfreesboro.

The Sesquicentennial of the Civil War will begin in 2011 in the U.S. Four permanent markers now stand on the Tennessee Civil War Trail which leads through Wilson County:

  • The Square, where Confederate General Robert H. Hatton's statue is also located
  • Seawell Hill (at the site of the former Castle Heights Military Academy), where Confederate General Joseph Wheeler camped with his soldiers during their raid in Middle Tennessee
  • West Main Street, at General Hatton's former residence
  • Cedar Grove Cemetery, where General Hatton, Robert Caruthers, the only elected Confederate governor of Tennessee, and James Barry, the last surviving Confederate War veteran in Tennessee, are buried along with 150 other Confederates

Martin Frost of Lebanon has been interpreting the life of Confederate General Robert H. Hatton for about 12 years. He makes appearances on the Candlelight Walking Tour of Historic Cedar Grove Cemetery, which will be held this November around Veterans Day, and occasionally at Fiddlers Grove during special events at the WIlson County Fairgrounds.

"When I was asked to portray General Hatton, I grew a beard and got fitted for the uniform so I could take on the role," explained Frost, whose great-great grandfathers were both in the Confederate army. "I usually tell how General Hatton came to Lebanon to attend Cumberland University as a junior and graduated two years later. He stayed in Wilson County, where he practiced law and was elected as a U.S. Representative."

Wilson County also recalls the sacrifices of its forefathers through the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) Robert H Hatton 329, which has 18 members. Like the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, the UDC gathers mothly with its hostess Ruth Cato--who is Jack's wife--around their library of Civil War books. Preservation projects are undertaken by both organizations in the community during the year.

The Civil War Trails of Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and West Virginia have been identified by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as among the most successful and sustainable heritage tourism programs in America. For more information, visit www.civilwartrails.org

Schedule an interview: Jack and Ruth Cato, 615-444-9273 or rmcato@charter.net; or Martin Frost, 615-449-5442 or mwfrost@peoplepc.com.

About Wilson County Convention & Visitors Bureau: The mission of the Bureau is to maximize the economic impact of visitors to the community and position Wilson County as a premier destination to select target markets. The hospitality and tourism industry accounts for $102 million in travel-related expenditures and $9 million in state and local tax receipts, and employs 10 percent of the workforce.

To learn more about the hospitality industry and various events occurring in the area, visit the Bureau online at www.visitwilsoncounty.com.