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  • Writer's pictureJanette Frawley

War is hell

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

Site of the Franklin Battlefield

I've been staying in Franklin for a few days and since it's my last full day here, I set out to try to understand some of the details of the Battle of Franklin, which occurred on the 30th November, 1864.

It was the one of the worst disasters to occur for the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War and in order to gain an insight to the significance of the battle, I drive to the Carnton Plantation. I am not going to attempt to describe the events that led to the slaughter that happened on that day. Reliable texts and Wikipedia can provide this information much more accurately than I.

I buy a combination ticket, which provides a tour at both the Carnton Plantation and Carter House, and whilst I wait for the next tour to start, I wander around the extensive grounds surrounding the house. I know that the tour will not include the cemeteries, so I walk toward the family cemetery a hundred metres away.

I enter the family graveyard and wander through the family graves, before moving toward the Confederate cemetery. Inside here are approximately 1,500 graves for the confederate victims of the Battle of Franklin. This is not the original cemetery. They were originally buried in the original battleground, but were re-interred in this location in 1866 after two acres of the plantation was donated by the McGavocks. Records had been meticulously kept and are still used to reference graves to this day.

McGavock Confederate Cemetery

I quickly return to the rear of the house to meet the tour guide. Carnton Plantation was owned and built by Randal McGavock in 1826. Facing south so the front of the house receives the maximum amount of light the two-storey house had been built of red brick in the Federal style. The Greek Revival portico was added by Randal's son, John in 1847.

We enter the house. Most of the furniture is original, and the items that don't belong to the Franklin Trust have been lent to the house by the owners. As we tour the house, we are not only given a history of the family, but what happened on the day of the Battle of Franklin and the aftermath. Carnton Plantation was not involved in the events leading up to the battle. The location of that is a little further up the road at Carter House.

This house, however, was used as a field hospital, and the family, children included, was immediately engaged as nursing staff. After the five hour battle, the Confederates lost 1,750 soldiers and 3,800 were injured. Injured soldiers remained at Carnton until they were well enough to leave months later.

Carnton Plantation House

I scoot over to the Carter house to meet the last tour of the day, and am immediately immersed back into the Battle of Franklin; this time from the perspective of this house.

The modest Carter house was completed by Fountain Branch Carter in 1830. The federal-style home also has a number of outhouses, such as the smokehouse, office, and kitchen.

On that fateful day, the Carter house was requisitioned as a headquarters of the Twenty-Third Army Corp commanded by Brigadier General Jacob D Cox. As the soldiers began to advance in the darkening skies at 4pm on the 30th November, 1864, the family fled to the cellar, barricading themselves inside whilst gunfire surrounded them. For five straight hours, guns were loaded and fired, many hitting the house. I cannot imagine how they felt as the battle raged around them.

The Carter House

After the guns were quiet, the Carter family slowly emerged from the cellar, looking around at the devastation around them. Fountain was advised that his son, Tod, was outside in the field. Fountain immediately went out to find his mortally wounded son, bringing him home. Surrounded by his family, Tod died the following day.

To this day, the bullet holes in all the buildings are apparent. As the tour ends, our guide opens the door to the smokehouse. Here, stark and horrifying reality sets in as the light shows the hundreds of holes in the back of the building.

As i leave the Carter House, shaken to the core from that last image of the bullet-shattered building, I realise that this battle had been an absolute massacre of the greatest degree.


TITLE QUOTE: William Tecumseh Sherman

ACCOMMODATION: Private Homestay

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