Friday, January 15, 2010

Britton's Lane

Yesterday I received the new issue of Tennessee Historical Quarterly and the first article is about the battle of Britton's Lane. Britton's Lane is one of the smallest battlefields I have ever visited, on the way there I was sure I was lost but I found the little park. The park is located east of Denmark, Tennessee which is southwest of Jackson (I mention that because Denmark is a very tiny town).

The article actually has little to do with the battle and more about where the battle was fought. The available maps, the reports in the Official Records and the few available letters and diaries are pretty vague on location, basically six miles from Denmark. In the article King Wells Jamison argues that the real location is northeast of Denmark, pretty close to present day Jackson.

And he has some compelling evidence, things like Britton does not appear on the list of Denmark inhabitants, but does appear on a list of inhabitants of District No. 6 and No. 7 of Madison County, which is north of Denmark. And that Shedrick Pipkins, a local man who helped with the dead and wounded, is listed in District No. 7.

But not once does Jamison deal with the fact that there is a preserved park over 8 miles, as the crow flies, to the south. There is a state historical marker there as well as other modern interpretive markers, cannons and monuments (including one to the mass grave on site). He doesn't say one word about the park, not to explain why its wrong or anything else. In fact the preserved land is on a road named Britton Lane.

Jamison's new site has an old lane in nice condition. He has scoured part of the area looking for artifacts that would indicate a battle had taken place there but has not yet found anything besides some slag lead which might indicate that bullets were cast there. Some parts of that proposed location though have been developed so artifacts may have been lost.

I was disappointed with this article. At first I was intrigued by the possibility that the battlefield might be this far wrong. But Jamison's points were not that convincing and he didn't attack the placement of the current park. For one I'd like to see sort of attack on the mass burial site, use ground penetrating radar to determine if there is a mass burial there. If there isn't then some questions creep in. If there is then Jamison needs to explain why its there. Is it from a different battle? Did the men move the dead over 8 miles instead of burying them where they fell? Why would they do that? I thought the article had a good start but when it ended I was left wondering what the point of it all had been.


Kevin McCann said...

Thank you for post on Britton Lane. Unlike many other Civil War bloggers, I appreciate that you write about the smaller engagements and obscure battlefields in Tennessee.

Nick said...

Thanks, I was excited that the Tennessee Historical Quarterly had the article. I don't agree with it but its good they do things like that. At battle does not have to be big to be interesting.