The Cherry Mansion - Savannah, TN
The Cherry Mansion is located in Savannah, Tennessee on the Tennessee River. It's importance in the Civil War comes from its use as Grant's headquarters during the battle of Shiloh. The home, now a private residence, is located in Hardin County.
Thousands of years before the first white settler arrived in Hardin County, a race of Mound Builders built a line of 14 mounds, some covering 1/2 acre of ground and rising 30 feet in height, ran parallel between the mouths of two ravines nearly a mile apart. The Cherry Mansion was built on one of these mounds in 1830.
In 1821, James Rudd constructed a log cabin a few yards east of the Tennessee River and established a landing and ferry known as Rudd's Ferry. In 1823, a road was cut from Hardinsville, the county seat located 10 miles to the east, to Rudd's Ferry. By 1827, the proximity to the river and its importance to commerce prompted the move of the county seat to its present location and the name was changed to Savannah.
David Robinson, a wealthy landowner and planter, purchased Rudd's Ferry and land from James Rudd and played an active role in the settling of the town in its new location. His wife Elizabeth is credited with naming Savannah after her hometown of Savannah, Georgia.
Robinson built a stately, Federalist-style home overlooking the Tennessee River and near the ferry. The home was built using slave labor. The eighteen inch thick walls were built of bricks made on the banks of the nearby river and a rock wall was constructed surrounding the house.
The two story structure has twelve foot ceilings, eight fireplaces fitted with hand carved mantels of various designs and all the floors are of edge grain pine boards of varying widths. The open-well staircase was designed in an ornamental style and featured clustered turned wood balusters, carved newel posts and scroll cut wood spandrels. The door and window casings were made with recessed panels mounted with heavy, carved mouldings, and the poplar wood moulding, chair rails and wainscoting are hand carved.
The original structure consisted of three rooms upstairs and three rooms downstairs in an L-shape. An addition in the 1840s was reminiscent of the Greek revival style and added two additional rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs. The front of the house face the Tennessee River.
In 1842, the youngest daughter of the Robinsons, Sarah, married William H. Cherry and the house was given to them as a wedding gift. Mr. Cherry was one of Savannah's leading merchants, a cotton broker and operated a shipping line on the Tennessee River. One of the steamboats that plied the river for many years was named the William H. Cherry and, in later years, the steamboat Edgar Cherry was named for his only surviving child by Sarah. Sarah Robinson Cherry passed away in February, 1850 and, in 1855, William H. married Annie M. Irwin. His son, Edgar married Mary D. Irwin, the sister of his step-mother Annie. Another Irwin sister married Dr. Robert Hardin, the grandson of David and Elizabeth Robinson.
Before and during the Civil War, feelings ran high in the South and many families were in the same position as the Cherrys and found themselves with opposing views and loyalties. Although he was a loyalist, his wife Annie and her family were pro-Southern.
On the first of March, 1862 a group of Confederate infantry, Crew's Battalion, were camped on the banks of the Tennessee River near Cherry Mansion. A Union expedition, accompanied by the gunboats Lexington and Tyler and under the command of General William T. Sherman, landed at Savannah. The Confederates abandoned their tents and equipment and escaped. On March 15, the Army of the Tennessee under the command of Major General C. F. Smith occupied Pittsburg Landing, seven miles down the river from Savannah. Major Gen. U. S. Grant, Commander of the Military District of West Tennessee, and Smith's commanding officer, established his headquarters at Cherry Mansion in Savannah. His headquarters tent was set up in the yard and he slept in the house and took his meals there with the Cherry family. On the other side of the river a Union army was being assembled near a rural log church called Shiloh Church. Pittsburg Landing was used a landing point for these troops.
Plans were made for General Don Carlos Buell, Commander of the Army of the Ohio, to march to Savannah from Nashville and join forces with Grant. Their combined force would then advance 22 miles to Corinth, Mississippi and attack the Confederate railroad center. Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, Commander of the Confederate Department of the West, and 44,000 troops were concentrated there.
On March 13, Gen C. F. Smith, who was in charge of the expedition down the Tennessee to Pittsburg Landing, injured his leg while debarking from General Lew Wallace's headquarters boat at Crump Landing. He was taken to Cherry Mansion and placed in an upstairs room where the Cherrys could care for him.
About this time the Cherry Mansion became the headquarters of the Union forces. Mr. Cherry's home was selected for the headquarters because of his pro-union views. As a consequence numerous dispatches during March and April, 1862, originated from Cherry Mansion. A dispatch sent by Grant from Cherry Mansion on March 30 indicates his commitment to provide protection for the cotton of Union supporters in the area while it was being transported down the river north to Louisville. He further states that Mr. Cherry, a prominent citizen of Savannah and a strong supporter of the Union, had suffered the loss of some 60 bales of cotton. They were burned by secessionists because of his stand for the Union. They feared a large number of bales stored near Pittsburg Landing were in danger of the same fate.
Even during those troubled times, social life went on at the Cherry Mansion. The Union generals, among them Lew Wallace, W. H. L. Wallace and Grant, were welcomed and extended Southern hospitality by Annie and Marry Cherry. Hettie, whose husband Robert was serving with the Confederacy, and Sue Irwin, another sister, entertained the Yankees with songs at an old piano. The piano still sits today in the same corner of the downstairs room. The Irwin sisters made no secret of their feelings for the Confederacy and, out of respect for these Southern ladies, General Grant would remove his uniform coat while spending time with them.
Early in April 1862, General Albert S. Johnston began marching his Confederate troops from Corinth to Shiloh, with the intention of attacking and defeating the Federal forces camped there before General Buell's Army of the Ohio arrived with reinforcements. The attack was initially planned for April 4, but rain and confused marching orders delayed the Confederates. Buell arrived on the eastern edge of Savannah on the evening of April 5, but did not inform Grant of his arrival.
At daybreak on the morning of April 6, the Confederates under Johnston, stormed the Federal camps and fierce fighting raged around Shiloh Church. An excerpt from Grant's memoirs in reference to Cherry Mansion and the happenings on April 6 explains the morning events.
"I determined to take a very early breakfast. While I was at breakfast, heavy firing was heard in the direction of Pittsburg Landing and I hastened to send an hurried note to Buell informing him of the reason I could not meet him in Savannah."
Grant and his officers proceeded to Pittsburg Landing on a dispatch boat.
Cherry Mansion continued as the Union headquarters after the battle of Shiloh. A US military telegraph that advanced from Nashville with Buell, and on April 12, the last link from Columbia Tennessee to Savannah was in place and a telegraph station was set up in the yard of the Cherry home. It was the first telegraph in Hardin County and from Savannah it was run down the river bank to Pittsburg Landing. Major General Henry W. Halleck, Commander of the entire Western Theatre of the War and Grant's commanding officer arrived on April 10 to take personal command of the troops. He and Grant continued to make Cherry Mansion their headquarters until April 29, when the advance on Corinth began.
A field hospital was set up in the yard of the Cherry Mansion and, by April 9, hospital boats were moored below the house. The Cherrys joined other families in Savannah and Hardin County in caring for the wounded from the battle, both Confederate and Union.
Gen. W. H. L. Wallace, Division Commander on the field of battle for the Union was mortally wounded at the Hornet's Nest on the first day of the battle of Shiloh. He was transported to Cherry Mansion, where he died on April 10, 1862, with his wife by his side. On April 25, Gen. C. F. Smith died in an upstairs, where he had been confined since March 13. The leg injury he sustained on that day resulted in blood poisoning and complications, and was the cause of death.
(Source: The History of Cherry Mansion, Savannah Main Street, Accessed April 6, 2012)
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