By DAN WHITTLE
It was during research for accurate history about Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest that I discovered wife Pat's great grandsons, Beckett and Emerson Nelson, ages 6 and 4 respectively, are descendants of prominent Giles County farmer John Lafayette Nelson who donated the land where the remains of nine of Forrest's fallen soldiers are resting into eternity.
J.L. Nelson is the boys' great-great grandfather in family lineage. Beckett and Emerson are sons of Patrick and Amanda Amick Nelson, who reside on the historic Nelson farm today. Patrick and family are former residents of Rutherford County.
Notable author/historian Bob Wamble, of Pulaski, shared the documentation about the small cemetery that is viewable from Highway 64 south of present-day Pulaski.
"On Oct. 26, 1912, J.L. Nelson, a former Confederate soldier, and his wife, Mary Mason Nelson, deeded this 20 feet by 52 feet plot to the United Daughters of the Confederacy," historian Wamble confirmed.
The fallen soldiers' remains rest in the small cemetery located behind a historic highway marker depicting Forrest's "Southern Raid" designed to destroy rail lines, trestles and bridges to hinder the Union Army's march through Tennessee to Atlanta and the sea.
The late J.L. Nelson's own words convey the former Confederate soldier's sentiment: "The consideration for this conveyance and for this deed of Gift is set out as follows: (During) September 1864, General Nathan Bedford Forrest in an engagement at and near Tarpley with the Federal Forces stationed at Pulaski, lost about nine soldiers killed, chiefly of Confederate Colonel V.Y. Cook's command, and they are buried by the road side in my field and on the lot of land now herein conveyed - and it is for the love and respect I have for the memory of my dead Comrades, and the reverence I bear for the CAUSE for which they fell, that I now donate this spot of hallowed land, and commit it to the loving care and protection of the Giles County Chapter #257, United Daughters of the Confederacy, as a spot sacred to the Memory of the Comrades buried here ..."
Patrick Nelson acknowledged subsequent generations of Nelsons had heard rumors that farmer J.L. Nelson had donated land for Forrest's fallen soldiers. Patrick's parents, Dave and Sulynn, and brother Nathan and family, continue to reside on historic Nelson farm acreage in the Tarpley community.
A monument to the fallen soldiers was paid for by Confederate Colonel V.Y. Cook which is inscribed: "Died in the performance of a faithful service, on the morning of September 27, 1864, the Seventh Kentucky Mounted Infantry, Forrest's Cavalry, Confederate States Army, engaged the enemy on this field, and the following is a list of its dead whose remains repose near this stone: Captain Joel T. Cochran, Captain David L. Nowlin, Sergeant Jack Waddell, Private Thomas Handberry, Sergeant James Hatchell, Private John Hanelin, Private John Oliver, Private John Wilson and one unknown Mississippian.
"Known today as Forrest's 'Southern Raid' on the west side of the Elkton Pike is the small cemetery which is the final resting place of nine Confederate soldiers who gave their lives in battle as General Forrest approached Pulaski," Wamble documents. "The remains of these young men were removed from their original battlefield graves and placed in this plot some years after the war."
Patrick Nelson, who recently retired from public school education to enter the property development business with brother Nathan, said his grandfather, John Nelson, was age 10 in 1912 when his Great Grandfather J.L. Nelson deeded the property over for a permanent resting place for Forrest's soldiers who died in the now famous "Southern Raid" when Forrest and troops temporarily recaptured the railroad from occupying Union military units.
It was wartime control of railroads between Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Atlanta that first brought Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest to Pulaski, Tenn.
"To understand why there was so much War Between the States' activity in Giles County," accounts historian Wamble, "one must understand the importance of the Central Southern Railroad Company which crossed Giles County, beginning at Columbia and ending at the Alabama state line.
"Three separate railroad companies linked together to complete a railroad from Nashville to the Tennessee River in northern Alabama," Wamble confirmed. "The Tennessee and Alabama Railroad Company spanned from Nashville to Columbia. The Alabama and Tennessee Central Railroad Company completed the link from the Alabama/Tennessee state line to the Tennessee River.
"Sometime before the War Between the States a railroad was built somewhat parallel to the Tennessee River in northern Alabama, so that goods could be transported around the shoals when river transportation was not possible," Wamble records. "...the railroad from Columbia to Pulaski was completed in January 1860. A turntable and switching rails were built near Pulaski so that the locomotive could be turned around to pull the train back to Nashville."
Wamble records the "momentous arrival" of the first train to Pulaski, as described by Pulaski citizen (the late) G.W. Woodring in 1895: "An immense crowd congregated on the spot where the depot stands to witness the arrival of the first train to Pulaski ... I went to Nashville in the first coach that ever left Pulaski. It took five hours to make the trip."