Local Tourism: A Battlefield and A Waterfall

Only one cannon still stands at the Spring Hill battle site, at the top of the hill

I wish I could explain (even to myself) where my interest in the Civil War comes from, and why it’s enough to make me want to visit every battlefield and historical monument I come across. All I know is that if I find a place related to the Civil War, I want to see it and understand what happened there.

This past Saturday, when our visit to Shiloh had to be cancelled once again, Brett and I decided we still wanted to get out and see something because the weather was so nice, so we headed south to the Stillhouse Hollow State Natural Area to check out the waterfall there and enjoy a hike.

The battlefield as seen from the parking lot. The trail through the battlefield is a cut in the grass up the hill, but then goes off to the right and around and down to a creek where the Union forces gathered for their retreat to Franklin.
At Spring Hill I was doubly rewarded with both a site to explore AND a historical marker!

On the way I spotted a sign along the highway for the Spring Hill Battlefield site and off we went. It took us a few minutes to locate the site as the parking area was so small, and the site looked like nothing more than a large field on the side of the road – we actually drove past it before we figured out where it was. We noticed when we arrived that besides a historical marker there was a trail cut up the hill, and a couple of signs so we decided to get out and see what it was all about.

The Spring Hill attacks took place on November 29, 1864, and lasted only a few hours. The most notable person involved at Spring Hill was Confederate cavalry general Nathan Bedford Forrest. He began the attacks but backed off when the Union forces initially gave back more than expected. Other generals continued the fight and the Confederates eventually defeated the Union forces that day. However, it might be said the fight actually ended as a draw: Union losses were less than those of the Confederates, and they were allowed to fully retreat during the night. The Union troops set up in Franklin, and the following day handed a heavy loss to the Confederate soldiers when they arrived from Spring Hill.

At the top of the hill – to the left is the trail to the creek. This part of the walk reminded us of our fall hikes in England. Everything was still mostly green with just a hint of leaves starting to turn.

Saturday’s weather was perfect for walking, and our hike through the battlefield was lovely, about a mile to and from the car, with five boards erected along the way containing maps and other information. We left with a good understanding of what had happened there in 1864, and were glad we had decided to stop.

It took another 25 or so minutes to drive a bit further south to the Stillhouse Hollow State Natural Area. The parking lot there was larger than at the battlefield and was nearly full (cars were parked down on the highway), but we managed to find one open spot. The trailhead to the falls was well marked and we set off.

The trail started off fairly level but soon changed into a somewhat steep descent down to the streambed.

The trail started off fairly level, but it quickly turned steep and somewhat treacherous as we headed down to the stream – it appeared there had been several recent washouts with large rocks and plenty of tangled roots left uncovered. Because of my knee injury, downhill hiking can be difficult and painful, and in no time on this trail my knee was throbbing. But, we were determined to see the falls and kept going. In a couple of places bridges had been erected over the stream as well as a plank walkway where the trail had washed out beside the stream. The walk through the woods was lovely, cool, and we were accompanied by the sound of the stream flowing nearby the entire way.

We arrived at a point where the trail diverged – one way led to an overlook of the falls, the other led down to the bottom of the falls. We happened to meet another couple of hikers at that point and they said that while they were glad they went to the bottom it had been quite a strenuous hike. My knee was practically screaming at me at that point so we decided to stick to the overlook instead knowing that I would probably pay a heavy price for any further downward hiking. Several other hikers had made the same choice we did and were at the overlook when we arrived, but we could also see many people at the bottom.

Our decision turned out to be the correct one because the climb back up to the car from the overlook was just as difficult as the one coming down and just as steep, only in the other direction. Thankfully uphill climbs don’t bother my knee but I was gasping for breath by the time we got to the car. We still agreed that we want to try the hike again, when there was more water and we are in better shape (and I remember to wear a knee brace of some sort)! Kaipo turned out to be a great little hiker on this trip, and got along well with the many other dogs we met along the trail.

The Stillhouse Hollow Falls and splash pool at the bottom. The stream, an unnamed tributary of the nearby Duck River, falls 75 feet to the splash pool. The trees were unfortunately too thick for us to enjoy this view from the overlook (photo courtesy of Tn.gov).

It was a great day to get out and be a local tourist. The weather was perfect, the drive easy, we saw nature at its best, and we learned something new. It doesn’t get better than that.

10 thoughts on “Local Tourism: A Battlefield and A Waterfall

  1. Beautiful! I have two terrible
    knees and walk mostly on flat land because of them.

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    1. After my knee repair I understood why gangsters alway went for the knees. I wish knee injuries or bad knees on anyone! I was told at the time of my surgery that I’d eventually need a knee replacement by the surgeon’s repair is still going strong!

      We just discovered a great walking loop through our apartment complex, not flat but the next best thing: gentle hills. Flat is best for me though.

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  2. I love old historic sites like that. When I traveled for work, I ended up in Eastern Kentucky and came across the Blue Licks Battlefield. It turned out to be Revolutionary War site, which was quite interesting. I have always said it would be intriguing to tour Civil War sites, but haven’t gotten to it. Thanks for sharing your local travels. 😊

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    1. I’ve never heard of Blue Licks, but then again I know almost nothing about the Revolutionary War! Same for WWI other than the names of a few battles.

      One of our ideas for future travel was a road trip visiting Civil War battlefields. We’ve been to a few already (Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Shiloh, Bull Run/Antietum), but there are many more I’d like to visit, including Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. The Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary is what really got me interested, I think – I learned a lot but knew there was more.

      It’s amazing how much there is to discover just in this area. We’re looking forward to heading down to Chattanooga one of these days not only to visit the city (which we’ve heard is charming) but also to visit the Lookout Mountain battlefield.

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  3. Walking downhill is perfect agony, and I have to use ramps now. People could never understand why I preferred to struggle up and down stairs. A long road trip would be Vicksburg. Have you ever heard of the Natchez Trace? You could also travel part of it, but not maybe the full length. Eventually I will need a knee replacement, but I am 76, so it should last me as long as I need a working knee…lol.

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    1. We would very much like to visit Vicksburg and the Natchez Trace while we are here, but those will have to wait until 2024 because we’d like to spend a couple of days in Vicksburg – there is so much to see there.

      It took three years before i could alternate steps going down; I still need to hold a railing or hold onto Brett or otherwise do one step at a time. But all that is easier than a downhill slope on my knee. We have some hills in our apartment complex but they are gentle enough that they don’t bother my knee but still require a bit of of effort.

      I remain hopeful that I won’t ever need a replacement – the surgeon that put my knee back together did an amazing job. Before the surgery he told Brett and me that there was a good possibility I might never walk again but I’ve been walking on this knee for nearly 25 years now and it’s still going strong. My greatest fear is falling and breaking it again.

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  4. If you drove down highway 31 from Spring Hill to Columbia on your way to Stillhouse Hollow, you passed within a mile of my grandparent’s farm. The land is still owned by relatives, the fourth generation. Unfortunately, the old house was struck by lightning and burned to the ground about 15 years ago. If you are down that way again, take a slight detour to drive by Rattle and Snap Plantation. https://www.rattleandsnapplantation.com/ It is one of the most impressive plantation houses around there. My mom said that she fantasized about living there when she was a girl.

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    1. I looked up Rattle and Snap and I think I’d like to check it out. My one issue with plantation visits is that if they don’t mention or have an indication of slavery right up front then I lose interest quickly. None of those plantation homes, let alone the entire plantation, could have existed without the slaves’ efforts. One thing I enjoyed about visiting Carter House was that a slave cabin was the first building visitors encounter, even though the slave cabins were actually located elsewhere on the property.

      And yes, we drove down highway 31, so passed close by your grandparent’s farm!

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      1. Yes, it is appalling that some still want to ignore or gloss over the ugly parts of our history. We’ll grow as a society if we all face the truth and learn from it.

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      2. Agree on both points. I’ve heard stories of some visitors getting upset if slavery is brought up, but wonder how they think plantations were built and operated? I want to hear about it before anything else – start at the foundation. We need to know the truth of our history – slavery was America’s “original sin” and until we can face it and learn from it, it’s a wound that will continue to fester, one that will never heal.

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