Bob’s Gap and Improvement Woes | Pith within the Wind


In essentially the most thrilling little bit of Nashville Historical past Information to develop since I found the positioning of the Jackson/Dickinson duel by examine, journey and asking an area, Stephen Elliott over at our sister publication the Nashville Put up is reporting on a petition filed by AJ Capital to take away a few our bodies they discovered whereas digging their basis. AJ desires to place these stays within the Nashville Metropolis Cemetery. They’re digging this basis on the land between the cemetery and Chestnut Road.

As Stephen studies:

Archaeological displays employed by AJ Capital recognized human skeletal stays and fragments of wooden, probably from related coffins, on each Might 16 and June 7, in response to a submitting by Kelly Hockersmith, one of many archaeologists employed by the developer. The stays have been positioned between 14 and 18 ft beneath floor degree whereas digging for basis work was underway.

Hockersmith decided that the stays are estimated thus far to the early Nineteenth century and will not be of Native American origin.

I emailed Hockersmith and requested how she decided that the stays have been from the early Nineteenth century and never the mid-Nineteenth, when a lot of that space was a large graveyard for Civil Struggle troopers. As of this writing, she has not replied.

Nevertheless, if I have been AJ Capital and I discovered bones on my worksite, I might certain need them to be from civilians and never from troopers the Military may need an curiosity in. In any other case, who is aware of what sort of pink tape is perhaps concerned with shifting them?

Which brings me to Bob’s Gap.

There are three prevailing tales about Bob’s Gap, all with sufficient similarities that AJ Capital needs to be frightened about discovering extra stays.

The one I heard, again after I was writing about Fort Negley, is that after all of the Union stays had been eliminated to the Nationwide Cemetery up in Madison, a forlorn, dilapidated cow pasture stuffed with poorly marked Accomplice graves stood on the nook of Fourth and Chestnut. There was discuss of shifting them out to the Accomplice Circle at Mount Olivet Cemetery, however earlier than that would occur, a large sinkhole opened up and swallowed all the Accomplice graves. Sort of just like the sinkhole that opened up underneath the Nationwide Corvette Museum in 2014. On this story, Bob was the man they tied a rope round and dangled into the opening to see if he might discover backside and get well the caskets. Bob declared the opening had no backside that he might see. The Confederates have been left down there.

There are two fundamental issues with this model. One is that the United Daughters of the Confederacy has had an extended and energetic historical past right here in Nashville. If there was some sinkhole stuffed with the Accomplice useless in South Nashville, there can be three generations of historic markers stacked up beside it. The opposite — in all probability extra damning — indictment of this story is that the Decatur rail depot went up on the positioning virtually instantly after the warfare, and by the mid-1870s, there was an enormous warehouse and a cotton compress to associate with the depot. It will be fairly a feat of engineering to droop all that over a bottomless gap. And but these buildings went up with little discover within the native papers and no discover within the nationwide and worldwide papers — virtually as in the event that they have been bizarre buildings positioned on common floor.

The second model of the story is what introduced Military Capt. G. Maury Cralle to Nashville in 1911 to see if Union stays might be recovered. This story appeared within the Oct. 8, 1911, Nashville Tennessean and is relayed by an ex-city councilman, Charles A. Marlin, who was “the acknowledged authority on Nashville historical past.” Judging by the information, he was additionally the one who introduced Captain Cralle to city. Right here’s Marlin’s story:

The primary discovery of this nice system of underground passageways, in response to Mr. Marlin, was through the warfare, about 1862. “Bob,” an previous negro slave, was digging a grave for a Federal soldier within the southern a part of the cemetery. Whereas at work and with no earlier warning the underside of this grave fell out and “Bob” got here close to dropping his life. The positioning was directly deserted, however the gap was not stuffed up. A short while after this Bob himself died, and the troopers, not being so explicit about an previous slave as they have been of their messmate, put some planks throughout the gaping pit and buried the previous negro within the grave of his personal digging.

“A couple of weeks after his burial,” mentioned Mr. Marlin, “an enormous freshet got here and the underside once more fell out of Bob’s grave. Bob’s physique and the our bodies of twenty-nine Federal troopers who had been buried in shallow graves have been washed into the opening collectively and no hint of them was ever seen once more. It’s supposed that Bob’s bones and the bones of these courageous males have lengthy since intermingled and been washed into the muddy waters of the Cumberland. The troopers are alleged to have died at Howard’s faculty which was used as a Federal hospital from 1862 to 1865.

“In these days town cemetery comprised all the territory between Oak and Chestnut streets, however towards the shut of the warfare the burying floor was minimize down on the south aspect and Burr’s compress positioned on part of the positioning, whereas the Tennessee & Alabama or the Previous Decatur street was placed on the opposite half. Burr’s compress burned down within the eighties, however the previous depot nonetheless stands and is now utilized by the Nashville Warehouse and Elevator Co.”

We all know that Black Nashvillians and individuals who had fled into city from their enslavers have been conscripted into service to fortify town in 1862. If Bob was an actual particular person, Bob was a kind of folks. It additionally means that Nashville had a civic reminiscence of throwing the employees who died in a gap on website. However would Bob have been buried with “twenty-nine Federal troopers” close to sufficient to him that they’d have washed down the opening with him? In 1862? I type of don’t suppose so. That’s assuming quite a bit much less racism in white Union troopers than I really feel snug granting. Nonetheless, in case you had pulled two units of human stays out of the bottom there, you is perhaps sweating about the potential of the opposite two dozen or so.

The larger drawback with this story is spelled out by John Allyn in a publish he made a decade in the past on the Battle of Nashville Belief web site: “Later burials — which would come with casualties from the Battle of Nashville — have been in a separate cemetery created and maintained by the Federal authorities. The U.S. Authorities Burial Floor (with 8,593 burials) prolonged south from the Metropolis Cemetery between Fourth Avenue South (Cherry Road) and the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad (now CSX) to the previous N & C depot (positioned roughly on the northwest nook of Fourth Avenue South and Chestnut Road) and probably picked up once more throughout Chestnut Road.” If Bob died in 1862, he and the 30 Federal troops who may need been with him wouldn’t have been buried close to Bob’s Gap, as a result of the Military didn’t begin utilizing the prolonged burial grounds till later within the warfare. You’d suppose Captain Cralle would have recognized that, however possibly he did and simply needed a visit to Nashville anyway.

However the paper has yet another model of the story, informed to them by a person who had buried folks in that location through the warfare and who had labored for the cemetery on and off for the remainder of his life — William T. Perry, who lived at 1061 Second Ave. S., simply two blocks from the cemetery:

“Whereas the Yanks had possession of Nashville,” mentioned Mr. Perry, speaking slowly and as if the incidence was solely yesterday, “we weren’t allowed to bury any soldier within the metropolis cemetery except we had his identify and the variety of his regiment. So we put Bob (we gave him that identify) within the device home to await identification. Although the physique was stored on this device home for 3 or 4 weeks it didn’t decompose however appeared to dry up or petrify, no scent in any respect being perceptible. The boys used to sit down on Bob’s coffin and eat their midday lunches, speaking to the corpse as they did so, asking Bob to have a few of this or that, whereas a number of the different fellows would discuss again for him. Lastly, not studying who he was and having nothing else to do with him, we buried Bob in a shallow grave within the southern a part of the cemetery. William Davis, now useless, dug the grave.”

“A short while afterward, an enormous freshet got here and the very first thing we knew the water had lined Bob’s grave and was swirling spherical and spherical like a whirlpool. The suction grew to become higher and higher till there was an enormous gap within the heart of the pool and the roar of the water might be heard for a number of yards. With no second’s warning the entire thing, Bob and all, fell in. This place has since been referred to as Bob’s Gap, and I’ve little question in any respect however that it’s the entrance to quite a few caves which run underneath Nashville.”

This, I imagine, might be the true story. It simply sounds so gross and hilarious and like one thing that will occur throughout wartime, that younger males would make a mascot out of a mummy and eat lunch with it and discuss to it.

The good a part of all this, although, is {that a} image from the Civil Struggle that backs this up, taken by George Barnard within the spring of 1864 at Fort Negley. God bless the element in these previous albumen prints. Should you take a look at the TIFF, you may see all of the cemeteries within the center distance. (Truthful warning, it’s over a gig in dimension — discover some detailed screenshots under.) Beginning within the center left, you may see the entrance entrance to town cemetery, roughly the place Oak and Fourth intersect now. Hold coming proper till you see a lone man going through proper with an enormous rifle over his shoulder. The headstones closest to us because the viewers, those on this aspect of the prepare tracks, contained in the stone fence are within the Catholic cemetery. On the opposite aspect of the tracks is extra of town cemetery. Hold going proper.

You’ll see a reasonably dramatic drop within the metropolis cemetery after which, nearer to us, exterior the fence of the cemetery, you may see the troopers’ graves. There look to be fairly a number of within the metropolis cemetery simply on the opposite aspect of the fence too.

This brings us to the nook of Fourth and Chestnut. The brick constructing within the background, with the three home windows, is at that nook. In entrance of that, on the backside of the hill the cemetery sits on, is the large empty subject the place AJ Capital is discovering our bodies.

What’s curious is that there aren’t any grave markers there. That’s a big open space proper by the prepare tracks and close to many hospitals. Why wouldn’t they put stays there? We heard the tales, and now I believe we are able to see why. I believed the light-gray bit coming down from Chestnut to the nook of the cemeteries and the entrance of the one prepare was a path at first. However y’all, the extra I examine it, the extra I believe it’s water. It’s spring within the image. We are likely to have moist springs. If we think about Bob’s Gap much less as a dramatic, bottomless pit and extra as a floor collapse that opened right into a cave — which matches William Perry’s description — then what occurs is simple sufficient to see. It’s like a tub. If the water coming into that low level is a trickle, it flows into Bob’s Gap no drawback. You may bury somebody like poor nameless Bob in that good backside soil and suppose all was properly. However when an excessive amount of water flows into the “tub,” Bob’s Gap can’t deal with it and it backs up and saturates the bottom and up pops stuff you thought was buried. Then, one thing provides means contained in the cave, and identical to water down the drain, a large whirlpool begins and sucks Bob down with all of the water.

For the reason that cemetery did previously stretch all the best way to Chestnut after which was shrunk all the way down to its present dimension someday earlier than the warfare, I believe we are able to guess that Bob was not the primary decedent to be buried in that space after which washed away. It will need to have occurred incessantly sufficient that they stopped utilizing that a part of the cemetery.

May both set of bones that popped again up be the stays of poor nameless Bob? Simply going by union guidelines — final one in is first one out — it appears believable. And it appears potential that the stays might predate the warfare, as AJ Capital’s archaeologist states. But when there’s an opportunity these are the stays of Civil Struggle troopers, it will be good to determine that out and transfer them as much as Madison with their comrades.

However Nashville, if we’ve discovered Bob and he’s reinterred within the metropolis cemetery nonetheless someway unknown besides by the nickname we gave him, then by God, let’s do proper by him. Let’s go have our lunch whereas sitting on him, and we are able to inform him tales about what’s occurred since we final noticed him. And he can quietly ponder how he got here to be such part of town’s historical past. If that is Bob, let me be the primary to say, “Welcome again.”

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