Johnsonville State Historic Park is a day-use park named for former President Andrew Johnson who also served as the Union Military Governor of Tennessee during the Civil War. This 1,075-acre park located in Humphreys County commemorates the site of the Johnsonville Depot, the Battle of Johnsonville and the historic town site of Johnsonville that existed from 1864-1944 prior to the formation of Kentucky Lake.
During the Civil War, Johnsonville was the location of a Union supply depot that moved food, guns, uniforms and everything else needed to supply an army. Steamboats brought supplies up the Tennessee River to the Johnsonville Depot. The supplies were transferred on to railroad cars and transported along the 78 mile Nashville & Northwestern Military Railroad to Nashville, Tennessee and on to General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army in Georgia.
The Johnsonville Depot was attacked by Confederate forces under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest on November 4th of 1864. It is believed that a local Confederate sympathizer, Jack Hinson, guided Forrest and his troops so that they were able to position their artillery pieces right under the noses of the Union defenses without being detected. Union gunboats and soldiers from the 43rd Wisconsin Infantry, 1st Kansas Artillery, and the 12th, 13th, and 100th United States Colored Troops fought to defend the depot, but the battle was a Confederate victory. Following the Battle of Johnsonville, Forrest and his troops joined Confederate General John Bell Hood on his Tennessee Campaign which ended with the Battle of Franklin and the Battle of Nashville in the late autumn of 1864.
What remained of the Johnsonville Depot became the thriving railroad town of Johnsonville. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) dammed the Tennessee River in the 1940s creating Kentucky Lake. The lake now covers much of the historic town of Johnsonville. Because of the area’s historical significance to the State of Tennessee, the land became part of Johnsonville State Historic Park in 1971.
Surviving from the Civil War are two large earthen fortifications, the upper and lower redoubts of Fort Johnson that are open for visitors. Original Union breastworks (rifle pits), remnant railroad bed and railroad turntable are preserved throughout the park in various areas. The Crocket Cemetery serves as a final resting place for some of the former residents of Old Johnsonville. Interpretive wayside exhibits are found throughout the park and the reproduction soldier’s huts similar to the type that Union soldiers stayed in who were once stationed at the Johnsonville Depot are not to be missed.
Johnsonville State Historic Park Rangers offer a variety of interpretive programs for the public throughout the year. These programs include guided hikes, a Junior Ranger Camp, and a number of living history programs such as the annual Battle of Johnsonville Commemorative Living History Event which is held in early November. Additionally on November 4th, the anniversary of the Battle of Johnsonville, a Park Ranger leads a walking tour. The tour includes an interpretive talk focusing on the Battle of Johnsonville and leads visitors to various areas of the park related to the historic 1864 Civil War battle.
In 2012, the park opened a new welcome center which features a museum, theater and gift shop that offers visitors an opportunity to learn more about the Johnsonville Depot and the 1864 Battle of Johnsonville. There is also information about the 80 year history of Old Johnsonville, the town that grew up around the Union supply depot in 1864 and was flooded by Kentucky Lake in the spring of 1944. Touring groups, school groups, and home educators are encouraged to contact the park welcome center to arrange a guided visit including free Ranger lead interpretive programs.
The park also has some great recreational opportunities for those who just enjoy being in the outdoors. Approximately 10 miles of well-maintained trails meander through this historic area and are enjoyed by hikers and recreational walkers alike. Besides hiking and walking, birding, geocaching, swimming, fishing from the bank, and picnicking are all popular with visitors to the park. Picnic tables and grills are available on a first come, first serve basis and dogs are welcome so long as they are kept on a leash. All park visitors must exit the park by the posted closing time.
Johnsonville offers three hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult.
The park is located on the Tennessee River near mile marker 96.0. The Tennessee River is known for great sport fishing and other water recreation activities.
A wooded trail that begins at the entrance follows Trace Creek and includes an observation deck from which gulls, sandpipers and occasional bald eagles are seen in winter when mudflats are exposed.
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