For years growing up in Nashville I passed the Fannie Battle Day Home at the top of the hill on Shelby Avenue and I never thought much about it. I did think that Fannie Battle was a funny name for a daycare center until one day I was reading about the occupation of Nashville by Union forces in the Civil War and I read about a 19 year old Confederate spy named Fannie Battle. Mary Francis Battle or "Fannie" as she was called was born in the Cane Ridge community near Lavergne in 1842. Her father Joel Allen Battle was a Confederate Captain that commanded the 20th Tennessee Infantry. The unit was made up primarily of men from the Nashville area. Her father was seriously wounded and captured at Shiloh. He was sent to the Union prison camp at Johnson's Island. Two brothers were killed at Shiloh and another brother fought at Stones River and would be wounded late in the war.
Nashville fell to Union Forces on February 25, 1862 and was occupied until the end of the war. Military Governor Andrew Johnson dealt harshly with anyone in Nashville that he considered disloyal. Fannie was an attractive 18 year old when she became a Confederate spy in 1862 smuggling medicine and letters out of Nashville to Confederate Forces. On April 7, 1863 she, along with her future sister-in-law Harriet Booker, were arrested and sent to Camp Chase in Columbus Ohio. She would later be released in 1864. From 1870 until 1886 she taught at various local schools including Howard High School. In 1881 the Cumberland River flooded and she became concerned about the plight of poor people affected by the disaster. She helped organize United Charities and also became concerned about the plight of children left to their own devices by poor working families. Fannie rented a room and began taking care of many of these children until in 1891 she opened the first Fannie Battle Day Home which is the second oldest daycare center in the country. In 1916 the yearly tradition of Christmas caroling was begun by the center. The center is still taking care of poor inner city children in the tradition of Fannie Battle. She died in 1924 and is another of the famous local and national people buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.