In 1864, the Union Army, headquartered in Nashville, needed an alternate supply route. Boats coming up the Cumberland River were frequently attacked and often lost. So a depot for riverboats was built on the Tennessee River and named for military governor Andrew Johnson. In November, Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked the depot from across the river under Pilot’s Knob. In the battle, the depot was lost and gunboats were sunk in the river. The remains are there today under the water of Kentucky Lake and both banks are preserved as state parks.
Today, at New Johnsonville, industry has located their plants near this still important shipping hub. Remnants of the long railroad crossing from old Johnsonville to the west have become islands. This crossing was built after the war. The first construction on this rail line was done during the Civil War to connect Nashville with Johnsonville. The work was accomplished and the line protected mainly by former slaves serving in the Union Army. The present railroad bridge is adjacent to US Highway 70, sometimes known as the ‘Broadway of America’.
It is interesting that sites that play a vital role in today’s economy also attracted ancient people. The Eva Beach is a part of NB Forrest State Park and has been found to be an important site for Native Americans 8000 or more years ago. The river is the focal point of many events in history and will no doubt be the scene of more in the future.