NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Saturday marked 155 years since the construction of Fort Negley, a Union stronghold in the Civil War-era that was built by conscripted African Americans.
Historians said they believe there were 2,771 men and women who helped construct the fort. Even though they were promised pay, many were forced to work in harsh conditions. Saturday, American flags could be seen planted into the grounds of the park's front lawn for every conscript.
"Estimates are between 600 to 800 who helped build the fort died, and it is hard to even estimate how many other contraband slaves died here," said Clay Bailey, President of Friends of Fort Negley.
Bailey said he believes there may be bodies buried at the site. Tennessee Valley Archaeological Research was conscripted to study the site. The Mayor's Office said they're waiting to see their complete survey.
"This is sacred ground. This is hollowed ground because it is a place where people made that journey from slavery to freedom and it's a place that needs to be honored as such," said Bailey.
Bailey said if there are bodies found at the site, it could strengthen preservationist arguments to keep development from nearby open space.
The Mayor's Office released the following statement Saturday:
"Tennessee Valley Archaeology was retained for the purposes of doing a survey of the site in order to determine what, if any, historical remains are on the Greer Stadium parcel next to Fort Negley. Once they have completed their work, we will review the report with the appropriate stakeholders to determine the best way to honor and preserve the history of the site in a way that activates this property for the betterment of the community today and into the future."