HISTORICAL FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE
(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....