Homestead

  • Homestead Manor

    Homestead Manor

    The home originally had unusual fold-away beds in its upstairs bedrooms.

  • Cannonball Memento

    Cannonball Memento

    Former owner William Darby holds a cannonball found in a tree in the yard.

  • Alice Thompson

    Alice Thompson

    She rushed from the basement to rally the Southern troops.

  • Basement quarters

    Basement quarters

    Homestead Manor\'s kitchen slaves\' lived in the baement.

  • Safe viewpoint

    Safe viewpoint

    Alice, the Banks family, and their slaves watched the Battle of Thompson’s Station through the basement windows.

Teenage Girl Rallies Soldiers

(From Tennessee Antebellum Trail Guidebook, by David R. Logsdon)

This home is significant in Tennessee Civil War history for something a 17-yer-old girl did during the Battle of Thompson’s Station. On the morning of March 5, 1863, Alice Thompson had just started off on foot to visit a neighbor when Confederate and Federal troops collided in the community. Alice dashed for the nearest safe place, the half-basement under the south side of Homestead Manor, then known as the Banks place. The Thomas Banks family was already in the half-basement, which was the kitchen slaves’ quarters. The slaves, the Banks and Alice watched through the small windows on either side of the fireplace as Confederates charged past the house, retreated, charged past again and retreated. It was too much for Alice when she saw the Confederate color-bearer fall. She ran out, snatched up the flag and began waving it to rally the Southern troopers. Col. S.G. Earle of the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry saw Alice and hollered to his troops that a girl had their banner. With that, the Confederates charged again and took the position. A cannonball smashed to earth near Alice, showering her with dirt, but she was unharmed.

After the battle, many of the wounded were taken into the Banks house, and Alice helped tend them. She tore strips from her dress to make bandages. Among the wounded was Lt. Banks, whose family was in the house; Alice’s brother; and Alice’s sweetheart, David H. Dungan, a military surgeon.

Alice later married Dungan. She died in 1869 at the age of 23 and is buried with two of her children at the home of her parents, Elijah and Mary Ann Thompson. Their  home was just north of Homestead Manor and on the opposite side of road. Thompson’s Station was named for Alice’s father.

In 1887, Thomas Banks sold his home, and it passed through several hands. A member of the family bought it back in 1959, but ten years later it had passed out of the family again. Former owner William Darby said a cannon ball found lodged in a tree in the front yard was used as a doorstop for years by the Banks family, and it became a tradition to pass the ball to subsequent owners.

About the house

Work began on Homestead Manor/The Banks Place in 1809. The basically Georgian-style brick house was completed about 1819 and was the home of Francis and Mary White Giddens, who had moved from Virginia into Williamson County about 1800. Twelve-foot high ceilings were the rule throughout the house, which was warmed by nine fireplaces.
The third story’s two large rooms were kept ready for overnight accommodation of stagecoach travelers.
The two-story front porch and columns were added later, giving the house a Greek Revival look.
Giddens apparently borrowed some design ideas from the Mitchie Tavern in Charlottesville, Virginia, in designing his home. He built fold-away beds into the upstairs bedrooms. The beds at some point were removed and the cavities converted into closets, another novel feature for a house in early Tennessee.

Homestead Manor is not open to the public.

Sources:
A Heritage of Grandeur, by James A. Crutchfield; 1981

A Visitor Guide to Historic Williamson County, Tennessee, published by the Williamson County Tourism Committee

Confederate Veteran magazine, Vol. 8 (1900):  Fannie May Laws, page 263; Col. William S. McLemore, page 262

Historic Williamson County: Old Homes and Sites, by Virginia McDowell Bowman; 1971 (reprinted in 1989)

The Scenic Parkway Through Williamson County, published by Williamson County Tourism

William Darby interview, 1995

 

Background on the Battle of Thompson’s Station

 

Victor M. Rose’s account, in Ross’  Texas Brigade, 1881:

“The (Confederate) army of General Bragg was encamped at Tullahoma and Shelbyville. His left flank was threatened by a force of about 10,000 men, under General Granger, at Franklin. The object of  (Gen. Earl) Van Dorn was to confront this force, and prevent … its further advance in the direction of Duck river. … Several skirmishes were had with the enemy in the neighborhood of Franklin; when, finally, about March 5, 1863, General Granger determined to put a period to Van Dorn’s annoyances, and … dispatched Colonel (John) Coburn, with 3,000 infantry, a battery of artillery, and about 500 cavalry, to drive the audacious rebel across Duck river.

“Van Dorn met the … column at Thompson’s Station, near Spring Hill; and, while engaging him in front with the Texas Brigade, dispatched General Forrest – who had reported to him for duty – to gain the enemy’s rear. … The engagement continued … about five hours, and, so deadly and stubborn was the nature of the contest, that at times bayonets actually clashed, and hand to hand fights to the death were not uncommon. … Outnumbered, surrounded, … (Coburn)  finally raised the white flag, and surrendered to General Van Dorn. … The prisoners numbered about 3,000, as the cavalry and artillery escaped.”

Editor’s note: Coburn lost 48 killed, 247 wounded, 1,151 captured or missing. Confederate losses were about 357, killed, wounded and missing; of the dead, 14 were officers. Van Dorn had about 5,300 men when the battle started at about 10 a.m.; another 700 men arrived later in the morning. Coburn reported his strength at 2,837. — They died to make men free: A history of the 19th Michigan Infantry in the Civil War, by William M Anderson, Chapter 6

Account of D.M. Stegall, 4th Tennessee Cavalry, in Confederate Veteran magazine, (1913) Vol. XXI, page 487:

“At the battle of Thompson’s Station, … our cavalry fought on foot in front of the enemy while our mounted commands flanked them. Our method of attack was this: While number one sat on his horse, numbers two, three and four dismounted. I, being orderly sergeant, was number one, placed in command of the horse company. Those dismounted formed a line of battle about fifty steps in front of the horse holders. While waiting for orders to move forward, our captain, A.A. Dysart, came back to me and said: ‘Dug, I’ll be killed today and I want you to take my watch and pocketbook and give them to Uncle Jim Dysart.’ He was killed that day, the only one in our company. … A cedar tree in the yard of Dr. Hiram Laws of Thompson’s Station marks the spot where Captain Dysart was killed.”

“One Man’s Prisoners,” by James E. Morris, The Nashville Daily News, June 14, 1904, page 20. (Morris was 15 at the time of this incident.)

“I and my father, C.B. Morris, were at Jock Fitzgerald’s, our neighbor, on March 5, 1863, when Gen. Van Dorn’s Cavalry Corps attacked Gen. John Coburn’s brigade of Federal infantry at Thompson’s Station, Williamson County, Tennessee.  …

“Soon after the surrender father and I were standing in Uncle Jock Fitzgerald’s door looking toward the battle field when a Federal captain came hopping along towards the house, wounded in the leg. As he came near he made some distress signs which I did not understand, but my father, who was a Mason, seemed to recognize. He said the Rebels had killed nearly all of his men and that he wanted father to protect him from harm. He said his name was Brown and that he belonged to the Twenty-second Wisconsin Regiment.

“Father told him to go in the house and do as he directed and he would guarantee that the Confederates would not kill him. Captain Brown burned all his letters and papers, and begged father to take his fine gold watch and keep it for him. Father refused, telling him the Confederates would not take his watch.

“About this time a lieutenant and twelve Federal soldiers with Enfield rifles came running along near the house trying to escape to Franklin. As they came up Capt. Brown hailed them, telling them he was wounded and could go no further and advised them to come into the house and stay with him – that Forrest’s men had them cut off from Franklin.

“The lieutenant and his men wanted to go on and try to escape. Father told them they could not get away, and that they had better go in the house and stay with the captain.

“Capt. Brown then gave the Lieutenant some Masonic signs  …  and satisfied the Lieutenant that father would protect them. … The Lieutenant appealed to my father to ‘protect their lives if the Rebels caught them,’ which my father agreed to do. They all then went into Mr. Fitzgerald’s brick house.

“After they all got in father looked across the field and saw a Confederate soldier coming at full speed following the way the Yankees were retreating. Father motioned to him to come by the house. He turned toward the house and he was getting pretty close when a … soldier grabbed his gun and said: ‘I can kill the dam Rebel,’ and started to shoot through the window. My father told Capt. Brown if he shot the Confederate they would all be killed and we would not protect them. Capt. Brown ordered the Dutchman to stop and lay down his gun.

“My father then met the Confederate in front of the house and told him that a captain, lieutenant and twelve privates, armed with Enfield rifles, were in the house and scared that he would capture them. The Confederate, …  John Hugh McDowell, of J.G. Ballentine’s regiment, … realizing his danger, rushed his horse through the front gate right up to the front door, with his gun cocked. This cut him off from the window view and prevented his being shot from that point, and with his gun pointing in the open door he yelled out … in a commanding tone: ‘Come out and surrender. Come out and surrender.’

“Capt. Brown came to the door, but seeing the cocked gun jumped back. McDowell yelled again: ‘Come out and surrender. I won’t hurt you.’

“The captain at last ventured to the door and handed Sergeant McDowell his fine sword; all of the men then following the lieutenant marched out and laid down their arms. About this time two more Confederates belonging to Pinson’s First Mississippi Regiment seeing so many Yankees around one Confederate galloped up and helped carry the prisoners back to the main army at Thompson’s Station.

“In the summer after this battle, a Federal colonel come out one Sunday with some soldiers on a train and spent most of the day on the battlefield. They sent for my father and Fitzgerald and questioned them closely as to Capt. Brown and thirteen men surrendering to one Confederate and said they were going to court-martial him for cowardice. Before they got away from the depot Col. Starnes’ Regiment of Confederates charged in on them and they stampeded, taking to the woods in every direction, throwing away clothes, blankets and guns, while the train they came on ran backwards to West Harpeth and escaped capture. I have never heard what was the result of Capt. Brown’s court-martial.”

Editor’s note: Larry Ligget, of the Civil War in Indiana Web site, identified Brown as Capt. George H. Brown, Co. B, 22nd Wisconsin, in an e-mail 1/19/01. Ligget added that Brown was seriously wounded at Dallas and “eventually forced to resign.”