150 years ago, in 1864, following the Atlanta campaign, Confederate General John Bell Hood moved north into Tennessee in an attempt to draw General William T. Sherman away from Georgia. Hood marched to Nashville to capture the Union supply depot. Unfortunately for the Henry L. Norvell family, their plantation “Leafy Lot” lay in the path of both armies. From late November until mid-December 1864, the Battle of Nashville raged near the Norvell farm. The area around the farm was lush and the cottage built by the Norvells sat on a ridge overlooking the plantation. The Sevier family had given the new couple 2,000 acres of prime farm land when Henry and Laura Jane Sevier were married in 1842. On December 3, 1864, Hood and his army encamped around the cottage, which became a field hospital, and the farm became breastworks for the southern army.
December 1864 was bitterly cold, with rain and sleet. Many confederate soldiers lacked shoes; some estimates placed the shoeless at one-third of the army. According to information from the Nashville Battlefield Preservation Society:
“A Mississippi colonel said his heart almost bled seeing the traces of blood on the ground, left “from the barefoot feet of our brave soldiers.” A Georgia lieutenant said, “Not a man in that company had shoes on his feet, and many were without a blanket.” A Tennessean said, “We bivouac on the cold and hard-frozen ground, and when we walk about, the echo of our footsteps sound like the echo of a tombstone. The earth is crusted with snow, and the wind from the northwest is piercing our very bones. We can see our ragged soldier, with sunken cheeks and famine glistening eyes.”
To keep warm Hood’s troops cut down trees for firewood, decimating the farm. As a result, the farm became known as “Hood’s Waste.”
This story was told in the Nashville American by Octavia Zolicoffer Bond, herself the daughter of a Confederate general, in a 1909 column: Through necessity of war Confederate breastworks had been thrown up in uncompromising line directly across the site of the generous smokehouse and the surrounding negro cabins. On neither place could one brick be found upon another after the passing of the two armies.
Leafy Lot was left a wasteland and the northern army occupied its grounds for several years during the Reconstruction period. After Henry’s death in 1874, his widow decided to sell the property. Evidently, Laura Sevier Norvell was still receiving payments for the property at the time of her death, as in her will, dated 1893, she specified “All the proceeds from the place ‘Hoodwaste’ must be equally divided between my six children.”