12 March 2007 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 18 comments

We got up early on Sunday morning and drove down to Franklin. We arrived at the Carter House about 9:30, where we met David Fraley, the very accomplished staff historian there. David opened things up early for us, and then took us on a battlefield tour.

I had never seen any of these sites, and I was absolutely flabbergasted by the number of bullet holes and the amount of battle damage to the Carter buildings. David quite correctly pointed out that those five hours of fighting at Franklin were probably THE bloodiest five hours in American history. We saw the damage to the farm office building and to the summer kitchen. David’s telling of the stories of Emerson Opdycke’s men attacking through ankle deep pools of blood and fighting their way through the Carter farm buildings was incredibly compelling and incredibly moving at the same time.

We then went inside the house, and David took us upstairs. Few visitors ever see the upstairs, which is not presently open for tours. He also permitted Susan to take a few pictures inside the house (without the flash), even though they usually don’t allow it. We saw where the blood of the wounded literally ran down the steps like a cascade. He showed us the bed where Tod Carter was born and died, and his brother Moscow’s room. And we went down into the cellar, where 28 civilians rode out the storm while rivulets of blood from wounded poured down on them and hell raged right outside the windows.

From there, we visited the site of the former Pizza Hut, which now boasts a handsome new monument erected by the City of Franklin. That’s my wife Susan on the left, our friends Greg and Karel Lea Biggs, and David Fraley in the hat. The spot where Pat Cleburne fell is right across the street from there, and we saw that spot. The house that occupies that spot will be torn down in a couple of years when the lease expires, and the Carter cotton gin will be reproduced on the spot. I think it’s absolutely amazing that Cleburne made it to within ten feet of the Union before falling to the bullet that claimed his life.

We then went out to Winstead Hill and saw the group of Confederate monuments there. There are monuments to each of the Confederate generals killed as well as a couple of state monuments and one to Nathan Bedford Forrest’s artillery. There is also a 3-D topo map out there that shows the terrain features. Sadly, the entire valley below has been developed, including an ugly new shopping center. Apparently, the developers lied to the city fathers and told them that nothing happened on that ground–it was fought over heavily and turned up a lot of relics when the ground was broken. It’s really sad.

From there, we went to Carnton Plantation. The golf course across the road–which saw fighting since the Confederate right passed right over that ground–was recently purchased by the city, and will now be preserved. We visited the McGavock Confederate Cemetery (which is two acres in size, and is the largest privately-owned Confederate cemetery) and had a good long-distance view of the plantation house where four of the six Confederate generals killed in the battle were laid out on the back porch that you can see in the photograph the next day. Most of the dead in the cemetery were never identified.

The battlefield is very compact, and almost none of it is preserved. It’s a classic example of what happens when city fathers don’t care about the preservation of history; a new library was built on one large open parcel of land right across from the Pizza Hut site, which makes good interpretation largely impossible. It’s really tragic that so much of the battlefield is gone. Folks are finally starting to get the message and trying to promote Civil War tourism, and we saw a number of folks prowling around the McGavock Cemetery.

Sadly, it was now noon, and time to hit the road. I was very happy that I finally got to see this incredibly bloody battlefield after all these years, and I look forward to my next visit. I have to admit that I am a little bit surprised that there are no Union monuments there, particularly considering how lopsided of a Union victory this battle was. There’s not a single Union monument there, which may help to explain why so little of the battlefield has been preserved. The best news is that David Fraley has agreed to a volume on Franklin for Ironclad’s Discovering Civil War America Series, which should be a very valuable tool for battlefield stompers.

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Comments

  1. Dewey Pratt
    Mon 12th Mar 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Dear Eric,

    I always enjoy reading your thoughts. Hope we can see you again some time on Study of the Civil War.

    Hope you are writting something else about the cavalry too.

    Keep in touch

    Best Wishes,

    Dewey

  2. Craig A. Warren
    Tue 13th Mar 2007 at 2:24 am

    I visited Franklin a few years back, but arrived too late in the day to have access to the Carter House. Thanks for posting these images.

    Eric, did David Fraley have anything new (at least new to you) to say about Cleburne? It strikes me that he is a general whose popularity among modern Civil War students far outstrips their familiarity with his character, background, and leadership capabilities.

  3. Dave Kelly
    Tue 13th Mar 2007 at 9:30 am

    I’ve made several treks to Franklin since 1974. In a sense the fate of this site has constantly improved, even as Nashville’s booming suburbia has demolished the countryside.

    Don Troiani has a painting of the moment of impact at the Carter House when Updyke’s Tigers staunched the breech. The perspective is narrow, and it is classically bloodless; not indicative of the hand to hand slaughter that transpired at the point of the sprear.

    I think Franklin’s interpretation center equals/excells the many of the NPS sites. (Same for the new Port Hudson state site).

    Glad you enjoyed. (Gheesh, talk about your secret handshake, preferential treatment… :). )

    Sorry you were under the weather.

  4. Tue 13th Mar 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Guys:

    I first visited Franklin while on my honeymoon. I thought it best to let my bride know early on what she had gotten herself into ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’ve been back several times since, and I’ve always left impressed with the folks there. You know there are still blood stains upstairs at Carnton as well.

    This also gives me the opportunity to recommend Howard Bahr’s novels, especially The Black Flower and The Judas Tree. Both revolve around Franklin, and for money they’re the best Civil War themed novels on the modern market.

    “Come on boys, we’re almost home,”

    Ken

  5. Stan O'Donnell
    Tue 13th Mar 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Eric and Susan,
    Thanks for sharing the photos and adding the descriptive words.
    As a Franklin virgin I truly appreciated seeing and reading the above.
    Now, to work on my vexing Tennessee battlefield virginity problem.

    Thanks!
    Stan

  6. Tue 13th Mar 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

    Craig, no, he didn’t. I can tell you, though, that I’m sure he will when he does his history of the battle.

    Stan, you need to get there. It’s definitely worth seeing, and so is the Nashville battlefield.

    Ken, I definitely appreciate where you’re coming from. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Dave, Franklin is going to be getting a new, much larger interpretive center. It’s either going to be the old YMCA building right next to the Carter House, or it will be the clubhouse from the golf course that the City of Franklin just acquired. The question is which one.

    Eric

  7. Karel Lea
    Tue 13th Mar 2007 at 9:02 pm

    Eric, the pictures came out great! It sure was a great day to visit battlefields, wasn’t it???

  8. Tue 13th Mar 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Karel,

    Indeed it was, and we hated to have to up and leave like that, but there really weren’t many other options. We had to get home….

    We will just have to visit again soon.

    Eric

  9. Wed 14th Mar 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Eric,
    An Ironclad volume on Franklin sounds good. There certainly remains more ground to cover with that battle.

    I think that series is perfect for small to medium sized battles. A great fit would Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, with the added bonus of being the first book length history. Curtis Milbourn would be a good choice as author.

    Drew

  10. Wed 14th Mar 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Drew,

    I agree on Franklin. I’ve been reading the Jacobson book, and I’m not especially impressed. For one thing, it’s desperately lacking in maps.

    As for Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, I readily admit that I know absolutely nothing about them. My issue is this: there are plenty of good topics out there, but we are in business to make money, and I can’t even consider a title without knowing that there will be a market for it and that there are ready outlets. As I know nothing at about these battles, I can’t comment on sales outlets or interest. What’s out there?

    Honestly, I’d be more inclined to do something like Westport of Mine Creek, as I know there’s interest and there are sales outlets available.

    Eric

  11. Wed 14th Mar 2007 at 9:31 pm

    I know nothing of your business requirements, but I can’t imagine the outlets or interest would be less than some others in the series like Averasboro. I get asked about book recs for those battles alot, but none exist. If you were ever interested, Art Bergeron would probably be as good a person as any to ask about likely outlets.

    It’s unlikely Lumir Buresh’s Mine Creek book could be improved upon much, but Westport would be incredible. Who to write it? Good question. I’d like to see what Sinisi comes up with in his study of the entire raidl

  12. Thu 15th Mar 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Drew,

    If I can’t count on selling at least 2000 copies of a title in the first 24 months, I can’t consider publishing it.

    I doubt that there would be this type of market for these books, interesting as they might be.

    Eric

  13. Fri 16th Mar 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Eric,

    Sorry to hear you are not impressed with my book. Perhaps you might want to elaborate on what you think the shortcomings are. The response to the book simply has been phenomenal so I am interested in your perspective, especially as a fellow author. Even Thomas Cartwright at the Carter House believes the book is among the most balanced and authoritative books on the battle.

    Eric A. Jacobson

  14. Mon 19th Mar 2007 at 8:19 am

    Great pics! I continue to enjoy your writing.

  15. Fri 23rd Mar 2007 at 10:45 am

    Eric,

    I’m glad you made it to Franklin. It’s a great town. It’s sort of ironic that Franklin destroyed their battlefield, but has worked hard to save their historic “town” buildings. Murfreesboro is just the opposite. We’ve destroyed many of our historic buildings, but saved part of the battlefield early on. (Now they’re working on destroying that too!)

    When you make it to Murfreesboro, don’t forget to look into the sites of Forrest’s July 13, 1862 raid. If you can find it, Kenneth Hafendorfer’s “The Distant Storm” is by far the best writing on the subject that I’ve come across. He says he has new info and plans to release an updated version of the book at some point. I can’t wait because I can’t afford the $200 current copies are going for! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Darrin

  16. Sun 25th Mar 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Darrin,
    That is good news that Hafendorfer is looking to revise and reprint his older books. I have hopes that KH will see fit to revist “They Died by Twos and Tens” as well.

    Drew

  17. Daniel (formeryank)
    Wed 31st Oct 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Sir,

    What a pleasure to stumble across your site today.

    As a student of the Battle of Franklin for over twenty years it’s now my privilege to live but 15 miles away from the Carter House. I take my wife and children there often. They are amazed and fascinated with the Carter House, and why shouldn’t they be!

    My little four year old is very impressed and says, “it’s so sad”. and it is.
    She talks about General Adams, with his horse on the works, often. I say, “let’s go see where all the hero’s were,” and she knows that we are on our way to Franklin.

    Franklin is a stunning place. Haunting, devestating. It’s a fantastic thing that folks in Franklin are now taking pains to recover the battlefield. The new cannonball pyramid monument for Pat Cleburne is so fitting and especially a victory of history and culture over consumerism and short-sightedness.

    Thank you for your excellent site, and keep up the good work!

    Best Regards,
    Daniel
    A Former Yank – Happily now a Nashvillian

    PS. It’s also a real treat to see you and your historian/writer colleagues in open debate and discussion. Bravo.

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