Belle Meade Plantation – The Mackinac Connection

A lavish plantation house in Nashville, Tennessee and the Wood Quarters at Fort Mackinac may not seem to have much in common at first glance, but they both served as homes for the same man, William G. Harding.



William’s father John Harding began constructing the Belle Meade plantation in 1820. Unlike other plantations focused on growing cotton and other crops, the farm became a center of the thoroughbred horse racing industry, especially after William assumed management duties in 1839. Racing brought Harding wealth and fame, which he used to support the secession of Tennessee as the Civil War approached. When Federal troops recaptured Nashville in 1862, they arrested Harding as a Confederate sympathizer.

Along with two other prominent Confederate supporters, Harding was sent to Fort Mackinac as a political prisoner. A special unit, the Stanton Guard, was raised in Detroit to guard the prisoners and garrison the fort, which had been abandoned after the war broke out in 1861. Following a summer lodged in the Wood Quarters at Fort Mackinac, Harding returned to Belle Meade in late 1862 after pledging loyalty to the United States. Although a skirmish took place on the plantation during the Battle of Nashville in 1864, the occupying Federal army never seized the farm’s thoroughbred race horses, finding them unsuitable for use as cavalry mounts. The horses allowed the plantation to quickly recover after the war, but financial mismanagement squandered the Harding family fortune and forced them to sell Belle Meade in 1906.

Today Belle Meade has been preserved as a museum by the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities.

Belle Meade Plantation Belle Meade Plantation Belle Mead Plantation Belle Mead Plantation Belle Meade Plantation Stables Harding Family Crypt Belle Meade Plantation

One Response to “Belle Meade Plantation – The Mackinac Connection”

  1. Thom Scott

    I had to set them straight at Belle Meade last April. The docents were telling people that Mr. Harding was imprisoned at Grand Hotel. It took some convincing, but they finally agreed that he could not have been imprisoned at Grand Hotel since the hotel was not built until 1887. as a former Mackinac Island resident who now lives in the Nashville area it was important to me that they get their facts straight! Belle Meade Plantation is a beautiful place and well worth visiting.


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