Wednesday, April 09, 2008


(Town square with Unknown Soldier Statue)




Portrait of Carrie McGavock

Franklin is located about 15 miles away from Nashville and is one of the most charming towns I've ever been to. Like many families during the Civil War, mine sadly epitomized "brother against brother". My mother's family fought for the Union while my father's fought for the Confederacy. For History buffs like myself, Franklin is a dream destination. It is literally peppered with Civil War History from The Carter House to the Battle of Franklin and Carnton Plantation with its good Samaritan, Carrie McGavock, who has become immortalized in the novel, The Widow of the South. My MIL surprised me a couple of years ago with a copy of this book which she had autographed for me by the author, Robert Hicks, at a book signing in Lexington. Due to being overloaded with academic reading, I have yet to read it but plan on starting this weekend. My mother loved it and toured Carnton right after reading the novel. Seeing the cemetery and Carnton, where Carrie McGavock lived, always gives me a chill and the story behind this heroic woman is summarized below, as explained on the Carnton Website:


Carnton was built in 1826 by former Nashville mayor Randal McGavock. Throughout the nineteenth century it was frequently visited by those shaping Tennessee and American history, including American Presidents James K. Polk and Andrew Jackson. Randal's son John inherited Carnton upon the elder McGavock's death in 1843. John married Carrie Elizabeth Winder in 1848, who bore him five children, three of whom passed away before 1863 (Martha (1849-1862); Mary Elizabeth (1851-1858); John Randal (1854)).
Battle of Franklin

At 4 o'clock in the afternoon of November 30, 1864, Carnton was witness to one of the bloodiest battles of the entire Civil War. The Confederate Army of Tennessee furiously assaulted Union troops entrenched along the southern edge of Franklin. The Battle of Franklin was the bloodiest five hours of combat during the Civil War, a massive frontal assault larger than Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. Although it was short in duration, some 9,500 soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or missing. Nearly 7,000 of that number were Confederate. Carnton served as the largest field hospital in the area for hundreds of wounded and dying Confederate soldiers who were brought to the site for surgeries and medical care.

One soldier wrote, "the wounded, in hundreds, were brought to [the house] during the battle, and all the night after. And when the noble old house could hold no more, the yard was appropriated until the wounded and dead filled that...."

On the morning of December 1 the bodies of four Confederate generals killed during the fighting, Patrick Cleburne, Hiram Granbury, John Adams and Otho Strahl lay on the back porch. The floors of the elegantly restored home are still stained with the blood of the men who were treated here.

McGavock Confederate Cemetery

In 1866, John and Carrie McGavock designated two acres of land adjacent to their family cemetery as a final burial place for nearly 1,500 Confederates. John and Carrie McGavock maintained the cemetery at their personal expense until their respective deaths.

Today, the McGavock Confederate Cemetery is a lasting memorial honoring those fallen soldiers and is the largest privately owned military cemetery in the nation.

The McGavock family owned Carnton until 1911 when Susie Lee McGavock, widow of Winder McGavock sold it. In 1973 Carnton and 30 acres were listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1977 the house and ten acres were donated to the Carnton Association, Inc. by Dr. W.D. Sugg. By that time the the house had suffered from years of neglect and disrepair and since then the Association has been vital in restoring and maintaining the plantation through membership, special events, donations, tours, admissions, and museum store sales.

Part II of Franklin will feature The Carter House and more antiques....


DeeDee said...

Rebecca...I am completely in heaven when I read anything to do with history..mainly the people... This little town of Franklin Tennessee sounds like my kind of place to visit...I find it interesting that when we read about someone's life..they had a little bit of time and space to accomplish their existance. What did they do with it?..they loved, they had children..sometimes they made a difference or were famous....thank you for sharing your visit to Franklin...Dee Dee

willow said...

The civil war was so tragic. Brothers fighting against brothers. I have done quite a bit of family research lately. The war files that are available through The National Archives are amazing. They had a file of over 80 pages on my husband's gg grandfather, a Union soldier from Missouri. Amazing after all these years!

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Oh, a good long post, I will print off and read thoroughly at lunch, and will comment more later after that. Just wanted to say, for now, that the American south is an endless source of fascinating history, American presidents, authors of note, and some of the most refined, gracious ladies in the world. I look forward to reading this, and those photos speak volumes...Thanks for posting this today.


Rebecca said...


I'm glad you found the post interesting.I can't wait to begin reading Widow of the South and to get more insight into Carrie McGavock and her dedication to the wounded and dying. I think I'm going to have a Civil War Tea this summer for the Tea Society and have each lady bring in information about any of their ancestors that may have fought in the war and also have a book discussion of the novel. Period costume is always welcome,of course:)...We're having an Edwardian Picinic at the home of Cassius Clay in Richmond, KY towards the end of May. Clay was a great emancipationist and President Lincoln's Ambassador to Russia. He was a character, to say the least. I'm going to blog about him very soon. Being a border state, Kentucky has some very unique Civil War figures. I've always found it very ironic that Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were both born here and Lincoln was famous for declaring,
"I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky."

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Rebecca, I read your post last night at home and read it aloud to my daughter too. It's so important to be informed about history, and about the role that so many women played in history. I want to learn more about Miss Carrie, she should be remembered.

History is most fascinating when it comes alive through personal visits to historical places, I feel. One of my American uncles lives in a very old house that in fact General William T. Sherman stayed in, during part of the Civil war. They discovered this at the local library when they did research on the house before undergoing some renovations. The street the house is on is also named after Sherman, in honour of his sojourn there. When I was at the house, I was overwhelmed by the history of it....the fireplaces, the ancient chimney, the hidden staircase, the floors worn smooth by centuries of footsteps....gave me shivers.

Thanks again for sharing this.

Rebecca said...

Lavinia, I couldn't agree more with what you've written. The roles women like Carrie McGavock played must be celebrated. I can't wait to start the book about her this weekend.

Your uncle's house sounds fascinating. Do you have any pictures ot it? I'd love to see them.