Civil War Cavalry exhibit comes to West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center

A cavalry and military commander in the war, Nathan Bedford Forrest is one of the war's most unusual figures. He was one of the few officers in either army to enlist as a private and be promoted to general officer and division commander by the end of the war.

The traveling exhibition “Hoofbeats in the Heartland: Civil War Cavalry in Tennessee” will open at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, in Brownsville, Tenn., Wednesday, August 24. The exhibit is organized by the Tennessee State Museum and funded in part by a grant from the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.

Hoofbeats in the Heartland will look at how Tennessee’s strategic location would make it a major battleground of the Western Theater. As both sides maneuvered, raided, fought, and occupied the state, nearly every community experienced the heavy hand of war. While few communities witnessed large battles, nearly every community experienced soldiers on horseback as part of a raiding force, occupying army, or as members of the numerous guerilla or partisan bands.

The exhibition Hoofbeats in the Heartland will introduce the soldiers and the evolution of cavalry tactics in the Civil War. Visitors to the exhibit will meet the leaders such as Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Wilder and learn how their personalities affected the mounted warfare. Learn about the typical cavalry trooper, the nearly one million horses and mules that died during the Civil War and the mounted spies and scouts used to gain intelligence about the opposition.

Throughout the state both sides dealt with small bands of guerilla or partisan fighters mounted on horseback. These groups, some holding legitimate commissions from their respective governments, manifested in nearly every Tennessee county.

Visitors will also learn how the homefront sometimes became the frontlines and the role of the African-American troops. Significant battles will also be discussed including Fort Pillow in West Tennessee.

Hoofbeats in the Heartland will remain on display at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center until October 31. The Center is a tourist information center and three regional museums located off of Interstate 40 at Exit 56 in Brownsville. The Center is open seven days a week and is free to the public. For more information, call 731-779-9000 or visit