Hood woke up “wrathy as a rattlesnake.” Within twenty-four hours, the Tennessee general had palmed the heavy weight of victory, grasped it tightly through his sleep, and awoken to find that it had slipped quietly through his fingers overnight.
John Bell Hood had marched into Tennessee days earlier with the intention of diverting Sherman’s bloody March to the Sea, and though the notorious Union general had dismissed the threat with little more than a blink (he would go off the grid and live off the land until he reached Savannah), Hood’s approach had set Sherman’s rear guard, General John Schofield, scrambling to beat the Tennessee army to the Union stronghold of Nashville.
It was anyone’s race until the night of November 29, when Schofield’s forces crept into the lead, passing within earshot of the slumbering Confederate army. Furious at the clumsily missed victory, Hood accused his men of cowardice and thrust his army east towards the last chance to stop Schofield before Nashville: Franklin, Tennessee.
And so it was that on the evening November 30, 1864, 20,000 Confederate soldiers lined in undefended ranks against Franklin’s setting sun. The men, backed by a single battery, marched for two miles across open ground toward the entrenched Union army, and for three hours, they tangled in a chaotic swirl of shovels, bayonets, sabers, and pistols. When the smoke cleared, Franklin would have the unhappy honor of being the site of the largest, longest, and bloodiest battles in Civil War history.
Though today, the city of Franklin has healed around many of its battlefield scars, it has preserved a number of historic sites; places of sanctuary, refuge, or remembrance that pay homage and honor its solemn badge.
- Carter HouseTom Carter, who had left Franklin to join the Confederate army three years before, returned to fight in the Battle of Franklin, only to be mortally wounded just outside of his childhood home, Carter House (photo courtesy of VisitFranklin.com)To say that the Carter House was in the thick of the Battle of Franklin would be an egregious understatement; it was the nucleus around which the battle churned. Not only did Hood and Schofield’s forces come face to face in the home’s gardens, an opportunistic Union general made the home’s parlor his headquarters. The Carter family miraculously survived, hidden safely in the basement as the battle raged overhead, but when they emerged, they found their world gravely altered. Visitors today can experience some small measure of what awaited them; the Carter House has been preserved and is still riddled with the over 1,000 bullet holes left from the battle.
- Carnton PlantationCarnton Plantation served as the largest temporary field hospital in the area, attending to thousands of wounded Confederates following the Battle of Franklin (photo courtesy of VisitFranklin.com)Less than two miles down the road from Carter House, Carnton Plantation saw its fair share of casualties. Over ten thousand men met their end during the Battle of Franklin, and Carnton Plantation served as the temporary field hospital where many of them drew their last breaths. So great were the numbers of dead and wounded that they overflowed from the rooms and halls of the house, filling the porch, yard, and slave quarters beyond. Visitors today can still see the ominous stains that mark the floorboards of the home.
- McGavock Confederate CemeteryIn 1866, John and Carrie McGavock designated two acres adjacent to their property to serve as a burial spot for 1,500 Confederate soldiers. Carrie McGavock carefully recorded the names and identities of all those interred there. (photo courtesy of VisitFranklin.com)For the town of Franklin, the burden of war did not end when the troops pulled out; the battle’s staggering casualties created, if nothing else, a logistical nightmare for the small, war-ravaged town. General Hood’s burial detail stayed behind two days, burying most of the fallen where they lay and marking their plots with crude wooden markers, but within two years, many of these headstones had either begun to rot or had been carted away to be used as firewood. John and Carrie McGavock, the owners of Carnton Plantation, once again rose to the occasion, designating two acres of their property to be used as a burial plot and uniting the citizens of Franklin to raise the money to exhume and re-inter the scattered bodies of 1,500 Confederate soldiers.
- Lotz House Lotz House, a masterfully wrought testament to its original owner’s carpentry skills, is now a museum of Civil War era antiques and Victorian-era furniture (photo courtesy of VisitFranklin.com)Directly across the street from the Carter House and only one-hundred yards south of the Union line, the Lotz House also bears the scars of its proximity to battle. Though its owner, carpenter Johann Albert Lotz, used his home as an exemplum of his craft and did his best to erase evidence of the war’s damage, there are some things that defy the best of intentions. Today, among the home’s impressive collection of Civil War era antiques and Victorian furniture, visitors can still make out the charred, rounded indentation left in the floor by a cannon ball that crashed through the roof and the residual dark pools left from the home’s brief life as a field hospital.
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