Union Cavalry Commander
Philip Sheridan














Though two separate towns closely connected by geography, Estill Springs, in Franklin County, would gain a brief notoriety as a summer resort, as many as six to seven hundred people visiting every season.  However, in the harsh competition for survival among various southern vacation spots after the war, Estill Springs lost out.  The town was also the site of Camp Harris, a Confederate training center developed when the war broke out.  The camp was named for Isham Harris, Tennessee’s governor before the war.  A native of Franklin County, he was a staunch secessionist. 

During the Tullahoma Campaign, however, the Bethpage Bridge at Allisonia represented a key crossing of the Elk River by the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad.  Bragg decided to abandon Tullahoma, in part, because the swollen Elk at his back might trap him.  He retreated to the Cowan area.  Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk’s Corps defended the crossing area until ordered to withdraw to begin the evacuation across the Cumberland Plateau.

Historic Civil War Resources:

Bethpage Bridge – The site of a skirmish by Union and Confederate troops on July 2nd

Camp Harris A state historical marker designates the general area of this Confederate enlistment camp.  Named for Isham Harris, he led, as Tennessee's elected governor, the state into secession in June of 1861.  Today, the site is an open field.
 Isham Harris


The portions of Franklin County along the Elk River line became, at the earliest settlement, an important part of the cotton boom of the early nineteenth century.  By 1815, there were a dozen operating cotton gins in the county.  As a result, it was no accident that Decherd, three miles southeast of Estill Springs, was founded by a planter family.  When the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad brought its line down through the area, Peter S. Decherd, owner of the “Decherd Plantation,” provided a right of way for the road provided that the company put a depot convenient to his estate.  The result became the town named for him.  The little community prospered in the usual manner of the small rail town.  Cotton eventually receded in importance in the area, being replaced by mixed farming, and by a specialty in crimson clover.  Decherd was a shipping point for these products.  As well, Terrill College was established here in 1890, though it closed in 1903 and became a county high school.

During the Tullahoma Campaign, Decherd was the site of a raid by Colonel John T. Wilder’s mounted Union infantry.  As part of the effort to disrupt Bragg’s communications south, Wilder was sent on a mission to tear up the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad (this while the Southern army was still in Tullahoma).  His men tore up about 300 yards of track between Decherd and Cowan, until pursued by Nathan Bedford Forrest.  The damage was “not” (to continue the exercise in semantics) permanent, but it did help to convince the Southern commander to abandon his Tullahoma entrenchments.  Finally, while Bragg rallied briefly in the Cowan area, the Southern general stationed his headquarters here.

Today, the town covers the engagement site between Forrest’s and Wilder’s Cavalry units.  The Main Street area was destroyed by a tornado in 1952 and only one building remains standing from before the tornado hit, Powell Hardware (still in business), a late 19th century structure.

Bell Buckle, Fairfield, Beech Grove, Wartrace, Shelbyville, Tullahoma, Manchester, Estill Springs/Allisonia, Decherd, Winchester, Cowan, Sewanee