The large hill immediately to the south, which rises more than 900 feet above sea level. played an important role in the Civil War. Used as a signal station by Union troops, Roper’s Knob was a key communications link between Nashville and points south and between Franklin and Murfreesboro. After Middle Tennessee was occupied by Federal troops in early 1862, the hill was crowned with entrenchments and an octagonal log blockhouse. A sophisticated pulley system helped lift artillery to the summit. The knob, along with nearby Fort Granger, helped guard the Tennessee & Alabama Railroad. Roper’s Knob was not occupied at the time of the Battle of Franklin.
Roper’s Knob (right), looking north, viewed from the intersection of Liberty Pike and Mack Hatcher
The 78th Illinois Infantry was used significantly in the spring of 1863 to construct fortifications on Roper’s Knob. Roper’s Knob and Winstead Hill were both used as observation posts by Union forces from 1863 til the end of the war.
Scot Butler, a 33rd Indiana soldier with the U.S. Signal Corps, writes about an observation post, probably either from Roper’s Knob or Winstead Hill.
By 1863 he was in the Signal Corps and stationed in Franklin, Tennessee. The following account is taken from “Affectionately Yours: The Civil War Home-Front Letters of the Ovid Butler Family.” Edited by Barbara Butler Davis. 2004.
“The Signal Corps holds communication from one wing to the other of Rosecran’s army. The station which I am on is situated on a hill near Franklin, several hundred feet above the surrounding country and its warlike occupants. From here we command one of the most beautiful landscape views I ever beheld. This is called the ‘Garden Spot’ of America. Away off to the north stretches a valley of unrivaled beauty. Alternate patches of meadow and woodland, its dashing streams, shining through the mist of morning like threads of silver, and the hills, ranged on each side, clothed with towering trees and stand like eternal sentinels over this scene of seeming quiet beauty and content. What a beautiful place was Franklin & its surroundings of elegant country mansions and extensive plantations before the hearts of the people were corrupted by political leaders, in their lust for power. Franklin is war worn. The shattered glass in her churches and school houses, her lonely streets and the closed shutters of her store houses, the battered doors and ruined machinery of her manufactories, and above all that deathlike, breathless silence, that absence of all sound, that can be felt no where but at the desolate hearthstone, here reigns supreme. Here and there a lounger attired in the butternut garb of chivalry, with hate gleaming in his eyes.” p: 27-28