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Archive for August, 2007

Most of the Confederate (and Union dead) were buried “near and along the length of the Federal breastworks, which spanned the Southern edge of what was then Franklin,” according to Jacobson; The NcGavock Confederate Cemetery, p. 21. Union dead were placed by twos in shallow grave in long rows by their comrades without marking the identities. Many of the Union dead were later removed either by family or loved ones or by the military and relocated in graves at home or buried at the Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro, TN. The Union soldiers interred at Stone’s River were placed there by the 11th United States Color Troops, according to Jacobson: McGavock, p. 22.

However, the identities of the Confederate dead at Franklin, some 1,750, were mostly identified by burial teams the next day (December 1st). They were not buried in mass graves. Rather, soldier burial teams took great care to collect and identify their fallen comrades placing makeshift wooden markers at the head of the graves, identifying the men by name, rank, Regiment and the Company they served in.

Most of the Confederate dead found initial rest on the property of Fountain Branch Carter and James McNutt. Carter had the largest section of land with killed. He also lost his own son, Todd Carter, in the Battle of Franklin. The Carter-McNutt land would be but a temporary rest until the bodies were transferred to their permanent home some eighteen months later, in June 1866.

Source: excerpted from the Wikipedia article (authored by Tellinghistory, the owner of this blog site)

This image is a stereoview of citizens burying their dead after the battle of Fredericksburg

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By the time the Spring of 1866 arrived the condition of the graves and markers of the fallen Franklin Confederate were in bad condition. Many of the wooden markers were beginning to be hard to read and some had been used as firewood unfortunately. The identities, names and stories of these brave men were in danger.

The McGavocks of Carnton donated two acres of their property to be used as a permanent resting place for the soldiers. Citizens of Franklin began raising funds to exhume and re-bury nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers, from where they lay on the field to the quiet field just northwest of the Carnton house. Enough money was raised to get started and a citizen named George Cuppett was placed in charge of the re-burial operation. He was paid $5.00 for each soldier. The work was “done in order to have removed from fields exposed to the plow-share, the remains of all those who were buried,” according to Col. John McGavock (quoted in Jacobson: McGavock, p. 24-25).

George was assisted by his brother, Marcellus, and two others. The entire operation took ten weeks and was completed in June 1866. Sadly, Marcellus, just 25 years old, fell ill during the process and died. He is buried at the head of the Texas section in the cemetery today. George Cuppett wrote, “My hole (sic) heart is with the brave & noble Confederate dead who fell whilst battling for their writes (sic) and Libertys (sic).” (Jacobson: McGavock, p. 25)

Soldiers from every Southern State in the Confederacy, except Virgina, are represented in the cemetery. Wooden headboards with the soldier’s personal identification were installed, as well as footboards in 1867.

Source: excerpted from the Wikipedia article (authored by Tellinghistory, the owner of this blog site)

Photo courtesy of the Carnton Foundation

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The Col. John and Carrie McGavock home – Carnton – was situated less than one mile from the epicenter of the action that took place on the Union Eastern flank at Franklin. Because of close proximity geographically, and the compassion of Carrie McGavock, hundreds of Confederate soldiers were tended and cared for immediately after the battle at Carnton. As many as 300 soldiers found care inside the home and possibly hundreds spread out on the plantation grounds. Confederate surgeons worked tirelessly to save as many boys as possible.

Source: excerpted from the Wikipedia article (authored by Tellinghistory, the owner of this blog site)

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The 6th MS was part of Adams’s Brigade, which has 43 known dead buried at McGavock.  The 6th MS has 3 known buried dead at McGavock.

“During the movement of this division the Federals had a battery planted on the right of Harpeth River that we could not reach, dealt great destruction to our forces, using grape and canister shot to great effect. Mowing down the Confederate troop, killing and wounding by the thousands, at the same time suffering from the galling fire from the Federal troop entrenched in front. I saw on the battlefield men lying in piles three deep, dead and wounded.
-The Civil War Years Revealed Through Letters, Diaries & Memoirs.  Warwick, p. 57.

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Featherston’s C.S.A. Brigade has 68 boys known buried at McGavock Cemetery

“Near the Harpeth River, Major General William Loring’s troops could begin to see the looming Federal line protecting Reilly’s division. Buford’s dismounted troopers and Brigadier General Winfield Featherston’s Mississippians advanced between the river and the Lewisburg Pike, their line bisected by the Central Alabama Railroad. To their left, the Alabamians of Brigadier General Thomas Scott’s brigade had fallen behind as they guided on the pike, the enemy artillery in Fort Granger contesting their advance. Suddenly, at a range of two hundred yards, the Federal artillery supporting Reilly’s line exploded, followed quickly by riflery from Israel Stiles‘ and James Casement’s brigades, six regiments of battle-tested Indianans. In a blinding flash, the Confederate battle line shivered as Federal iron tore trough the rebel front. Of the carnage, one Confederate survivor remembered, “Our troops were killed by whole platoons; our front line of battle seemed to have been cut down by the first discharge, for in many places they were lying in their faces in almost as good order as if they had lain down on purpose.”

“Featherston’s boys recoiled from the impact then pressed for war, but fifty feet from the Yankee line they ran into the impenetrable hedge of osage. Grown to a stinging thickness by the locals to control cattle, the hedge line now provided a perfect barrier against the rebel assault, too high to surmount and too dense to winnow. The Mississippians came to a halt, searching frantically for a way through the natural abatis. As they did, they became little more than sitting ducks for the Indianans across the way. Only near the opening at the pike were the Yankees slightly tested. A pitifully small set of survivors planted two Mississippi flags on the earthworks, but they were almost immediately killed or captured. One survivor described it as “a tremendous deluge of shot and shell . . . seconded by a murderous sheet of fire and lead from the infantry behind the works, and also another battery of six guns directly in our front.” It was, he said, a “scene of carnage and destruction fearful to behold.”

“Featherston’s right-most regiments crawled along the ground trying to find another way through the obstructions, but when they curled into the railroad cut marking Stiles’ left, the 120th Indiana plastered their van with musketry. Farther north, Battery M, 4th U.S. Artillery, began to spray the cut with canister, while Cockerill’s gunners in Fort Granger added their own plunging fire. Even a battery east across the Harpeth weighed in. Caught in the maelstrom were Buford’s troopers, belly down on the banks of the Harpeth trying to escape the murderous sweep.”

– Patrick Brennan, The Battle of Franklin, North & South magazine, January 2005, Vol. 8., No.1: pages 39-40.

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“Our loss of officers in the battle of Franklin on the 30th was excessively large in proportion to the loss of our men. The medical director reports a very large proportion of slightly wounded men.”

John Bell Hood, writing two days after the battle to Confederate Secretary of War, James A. Seddon.

The bodies of several dead Confederate Generals (Cleburne, Granbury, Strahl, and Adams) were laid out on the porch at Carnton (see above) after the battle on November 30, 1864.

The South lost 53 of 100 regimental commanders in the field at Franklin. Granbury’s brigade alone lost 70% of their regimental commanders. Undeterred, Hood would unmercilously throw his beleaguered Army of Tennessee against Thomas in another suicidal attack just two weeks later, effectively destroying his army. He would be replaced within weeks of the loss at Nashville, having led the Army of Tennessee for roughly six months.

“Following the battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, the house became a Confederate field hospital. During the night following the five-hour battle, the McGavocks and their two children Hattie (age nine) and Winder (age seven) assisted the surgeons and tended to the needs of the wounded. Several hundred eventually came to Carnton and 150 died that first night. Bloodstains are still visible in several rooms. They are heaviest in the children’s bedroom, which was used as an operating room. The bodies of Confederate Generals Cleburne, Granbury, Strahl, and Adams were brought to Carnton’s rear porch and placed on its lower level awaiting removal to their final burial places. Most of the over 1,750 Confederate dead were buried on the battlefield, their graves marked by wooden headboards inscribed with the soldier’s name, company, and regiment. Over the months, the writing faded, and the markers began to disappear. ”

The Carnton Plantation is a historic house museum located in Franklin. Randal McGavock (1768-1843), builder of Carnton, emigrated from Virginia in 1796 and settled in Nashville. He was involved in local and state politics and eventually served as mayor of Nashville, 1824-25. Around 1826 McGavock moved his family to the recently completed Carnton to farm and raise thoroughbred horses until his death in 1843. After his death, his son John inherited the plantation and continued to farm the land until his own death in 1893. The McGavocks grew wheat, corn, oats, hay, and potatoes, in addition to raising thoroughbred horses”

The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture

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Robert Hicks, author of Widow of the South

“The setting for Hicks’ novel is Carnton Plantation, home of the McGavock family. The house was used as a field hospital in the days and weeks after the battle, and though many other homes in the area were used for the same purpose, it was at Carnton that, as legend has it, at least four dead generals were laid out on the back porch during the battle itself, and where the discarded arms and legs of wounded soldiers made a pile that reached as high as a second floor window. More importantly, Carnton was the home of the legendary “Widow of the South.” Rather than let the original battlefield and its shallow graves be plowed over, Carrie and John McGavock donated two acres of land adjacent to their own family cemetery for the reburial of the nearly 1,500 Confederates’ remains. Until the day she died, Carrie McGavock tended to the cemetery, taking care to mark the graves, record the names of the dead, and give some closure to those left behind.”
The Nashville Scene

As Hicks writes, “Those men were the chains that bound the living. They were the missing whose absence shackled the survivors in place, people afraid to move on for fear of being gone for their sudden return. They drew the living back to the war, back to that battlefield over and over and over again, reenacting its rituals and its skirmishes until they all would be dead.”

Visit author Robert Hick’s official web site.

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“Most of our battles from Virginia to Texas were fought by private soldiers, the generals trolling along ‘just to have it said,’ but Franklin was the general’s own, both in conception and execution. Franklin was no battle storm, but a cyclone, rather, which struck and seared the earth and left it red with blood and vocal with groans of dying men.”

Crownover, The Battle of Franklin, p.1

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McGavock Cemetery has nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers buried on the grounds in front of Carnton. There is no doubt that scores, if not hundreds of them, were casualties resulting from the mass formations and marching the Confederate Army of Tennessee made on open ground, for nearly two miles, as the Rebels came upon the defended Federal line entrenched near downtown Franklin as the battle opened up.

During the Civil War, mass formations, assaulting defended breastworks, often led to mass casualties for the assaulting army. Franklin was no different.

About 4pm on November 30, 1864, C.S.A. General John Bell Hood launched a frontal attack against the Federal troops of the 23rd and 4th Corps of General John M. Schofield. The Confederate Army of Tennessee marched in mass formation across open ground, mostly flat, for nearly two miles before clashing with the Federal line.

On a few battlefields, massed enemy formations could be seen at a considerable distance, at least before the firing began in earnest. Robert G. Carter of the 22nd Massachusetts wrote of the sight of oncoming Confederates on the second day of Gettysburg: “The indistinct form of masses of men, presenting the usual, dirty, greyish, irregular line, were dimly visible and moving up with defiant yells, while here and there the cross-barred Confederate battle flags were plainly to be seen.” Rebel lines also were fully visible at Antietam, Franklin, Bentonville, and a number of other engagements.
The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat. Earl J. Hess, p. 12

View of terrain, looking south, Confederate Army of Tennessee marched across for over one mile at Battle of Franklin

Confederate General John Bell Hood had this basic view of the (then) open ground between Winstead Hill and the entrenched Federal line near Fountain Branch Carter’s property in November 1864. The entire Confederate Army of Tennessee (about 20,000) was positioned here, facing north as in the picture, before they started the quick-step march toward the Federal army (about 22,000).

Original view


Picture credit: Historical Markers of Williamson County, Rick Warwick, p. 174

Contemporary view


Picture credit: author of blog

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John and Carrie McGavock’s describes the scene at Carnton after the Battle of Franklin.

‘Every room was filled, every bed had two poor, bleeding fellows, every spare space, niche, and corner under the stairs, in the hall, everywhere. And when the noble old house could hold no more, the yard was appropriated until the wounded and dead filled that.’

‘Our doctors were deficient in bandages and [Carrie McGavock] began by giving her old linen, then her towels and napkins, then her sheets and tableclothes, then her husband’s shirts and her own undergarments. … Unaffrighted by the sight of blood, unawed by horrid wounds, unblanched by ghastly death, she walked from room to room, from man to man, her very skirts stained in blood.’

Carnton is open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m.

$10 for adults

$9 for seniors

$5 for children 6-12

$3 for grounds tour

Carnton is off Highway 431 (Lewisburg Pike) south of Franklin at 1345 Carnton Lane. For more information, call 615-794-0903.

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