FranklinThe Battle of Franklin Often referred to as "Five Tragic Hours," the battle was fought on November 30, 1864. After his narrow escape at Spring Hill, General John M. Schofield stopped his army at Franklin, intending to stay there only long enough to get his army across the Harpeth and hurry on to Nashville. But General John B. Hood was determined to not allow his enemy to reach the safety of Nashville's fortifications, and so ordered a frontal assault, knowing the stakes were high. In terms of casualties, it was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, with the Confederates suffering 6,261 casualties, the Federals 2,326.
What made it even more costly was the loss of six Confederate generals. In thirteen separate frontal assaults that lasted well into darkness, against a well entrenched foe, their deaths, and the loss of so many among the gray ranks, would forever be written in history as the death knell for the South's great army in the West. The ghastly carnage at Franklin would make even the most hardened veteran weep and for years was avoided by many of them. General Frank B. Cheatham would finally summon up the courage to return in 1880, but was unable to recount the events without turning away from the memory of it in tears. Colonel Virgil S. Murphy would write in his diary: "...an unholy ground that exemplified man's inhumanity to man." Under cover of darkness, Schofield withdrew his forces across the Harpeth, leaving his dead and wounded at the mercy of his enemy. The Confederate Army would linger long enough to bury their dead before following the enemy on to Nashville. But among the carnage and the slain at Franklin lay the broken spirit of the Army of the Tennessee...another casualty of war.
The Battle of Franklin is depicted in this painting by Don Troiani
The Battle of Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864 was the bloodiest six hours of combat during the Civil War, a massive frontal assault larger than Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. Six Confederate generals were killed leading their men against the Union fortifications in what many have called a suicidal mission.
The self-guided battlefield driving tour covers 15 miles and 29 sites, including three house museums (The Carter House, Carnton Plantation,and the Lotz House), and takes a minimum of 30 minutes to drive (without stops).
The sites also include a hillside park, Confederate cemetery, the remains of an eathern fortification, churches, the county courthouse, several private residences, and other homes and buildings used as field hospitals after the battle.
Confederate casualties totaled 7,250 (1,750 killed), compared to 2,325 (189 killed) for the Federals. Generals Patrick R. Cleburne, States Rights Gist, Hiram B. Granbury, John Adams, and Otho F. Strahl were killed outright, while Gen. John C. Carter was mortally wounded. Gen. George W. Gordon was captured, and five other generals wounded. Among the casualties were 53 regimental commanders.
On Nov. 29, the previous night, Union forces under Gen. John M. Schofield had escaped the Confederate trap at Spring Hill and advanced north to Franklin, where they dug in and built field fortifications perpendicular to the Columbia-Franklin Pike. The defensive works swung in an arc from one bend of the Harpeth River to the other, enclosing the Federal army and the town of Franklin. Not wishing to provoke a fight, Schofield and his army were stuck in Franklin because the bridges over the Harpeth River had been damaged and the pontoon bridge he had requested from Nashville had not arrived.
Gen. John Bell Hood, incensed that the Yankees had escaped, ordered a frontal attack against the fortifications despite the protestations of his subordinates. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest urged an attack against the Federal flank. But Hood could not be dissuaded. Propped up on his crutches, the one-legged Hood scanned the Union line with field glasses and proclaimed, "We will make the fight!" The infantry corps of Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham and Gen. Alexander P. Stewart would charge the Union line. Hood's other corps, under Gen. Stephen D. Lee, and his artillery were still to the south and unavailable.
"Boys," one Confederate general told his men, "this will be short but desparate."
The assault, beginning at Winstead Hill in late afternoon, was in full martial glory as 18 brigades of Southerners (18,000 men) crossed the two miles of open fields toward the Union line.
The house of Fountain Branch Carter sat along the pike just behind the fortifications and served as headquarters for Gen. Jacob Cox. Gen. Schofield watched the battle from Fort Granger, where siege guns lobbed shells into the advancing Confederate infantry. Artillery on the east bank of the Harpeth River also shelled the Confederate right flank.
Two brigades of Gen. George Wagner's bluecoats formed an advanced line on the pike and were swept back by the advancing Confederates. The Federals back in the main line dared not fire for risk of hitting their retreating comrades.
The Rebel assault breeched the Union line at the turnpike, and soon fierce hand-to-hand fighting surrounded the Carter House, where frightened family members huddled in the basement.
A reserve Union force under Col. Emerson Opdycke rushed in to close the breech. The Confederates were slowly forced back. Along the main fortifications the attackers were being mauled by relentless Federal fire.
Despite the carnage, the Rebels mounted 12 attacks against the works, repulsed each time. The fighting died down about 9 o'clock that night.
Confederate Capt. Tod Carter, son of Fountain Branch Carter, had been at war and away from home for two years. He had returned that day but was mortally wounded. His family found him not far from the house. They carried him back inside, where he died.
On the morning of Nov. 31, the Confederates found that the Federals had left the field, retreating back to Nashville. But it was a hollow victory for the decimated Southerners. They had gained very little and at a terrible price. Two weeks later, they would be fighting again, this time at Nashville.
Website: Save the Franklin Battlefield, Inc.
Leaving Spring Hill, following both armies on their trek northward, you'll be on Highway 31 North, or the Columbia-to-Franklin Pike. The first place of note you'll see is Laurel Hill
Laurel grew on the lawn and nearby woods. The house was erected in the early 1800s, additions were made as late as 1854. It has thick floors of ash, walnut, and poplar. The front door is solid walnut and the mantels are handcarved. The outstanding feature is the sweeping staircase. It is said that 100 slaves were ordered onto the steps to prove its strength.
Hood's officers stopped briefly here on their way to Franklin on November 30, 1864.
Laurel Hill is a private residence and not open to the public. It is located on U.S. Hwy. 31 south of Franklin, 3.4 miles from Mack Hatcher Parkway.
This private residence, located just south of Winstead Hill, served as Gen. Hood's headquarters during the Battle of Franklin. A bitterly contested council of war was held here prior to the battle. The house can easily be seen from Columbia Pike. The house and property are privately owned and not open to the public; located on U.S. Hwy. 31 (Columbia Pike) south of Franklin.
Marker at site:
The Civil War touched this house. Here, Sept. 2, 1864, the mortally wounded Brig. Gen. John H. Kelly, CSA, was brought after the affair between his cavalry division and Federals under Brig. Gen. James D. Brownlow. He was buried in the garden; in 1866 reinterred in Mobile. Here Gen. Hood held his last staff conference before commiting his army to the Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30, 1864. Here the wounded Brig. Gen. John C. Carter was brought after the battle. He died Dec. 10, 1864, and was buried in Columbia, 16 mi. south.
Source: Williamson County Historical Society
Winstead Hill Memorial Park:
A small roadside park has been built at Winstead Hill on Columbia Pike south of Franklin, the staging area for Confederate forces at the Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30, 1864.
Here is where Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood watched the battle unfold as two corps under Gen. B.F Cheatham and Gen. A.P. Stewart marched in martial splendor the two miles north to the Union fortifications.
The park features an overlook with a relief map of the conflict, memorials to Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne and Cockrell's Missouri Brigade, along with Brigadiers' Walk—monuments to five of the Confederate generals (John Adams, John C. Carter, States Rights Gist, Hiram B. Granbury, and Otho F. Strahl) who died in the battle leading their men.
Winstead Hill Park
Columbia Avenue (Hwy. 31 South), Franklin, TN
Memorial park open daily to the public. Free.
From I-65 South, take Exit 65 (Hwy. 96), travel west to Mack Hatcher By-Pass and turn left, travel to end of by-pass and turn left onto Columbia Ave. (Hwy. 31 South). Winstead Hill is first hill on your right.
The Carter House
Storm center of the Civil War Battle of Franklin:
The Carter House and its cotton gin (no longer standing) on the Columbia Pike south of Franklin were the focal point of the bloodly Battle of Franklin during the late afternoon of Nov. 30, 1864. More Confederate soldiers died here than at Shiloh, Stones River, or Chancellorsville.
Confederate assaults under Gen. John Bell Hood broke through the entrenched Union forces under Gen. Jacob Cox at the Columbia Pike here. Ferocious hand-to-hand fighting ensued. Federal reserves stormed into the gap and staunched the offensive. All the while, the Carter family huddled in the basement of their home, praying for an end to the bloodbath.
The house was built in 1830 by Fountain Branch Carter. Confederate Capt. Tod Carter, the youngest son, was fatally wounded near the fortifications during the battle and died the next day in the house.
The original house and outbuildings have more than a thousand bullet holes, ricohet marks, and one cannonball hole still showing.
Open to the public since 1953, The Carter House is a Registered National Historic Landmark. The house underwent extensive renovation in late 1994, and plans call for the recreation of breastworks around the house.
The Carter House is the interpretive center for the Battle of Franklin and features a video orientation, extensive museum, gift shop, and guided tour of the house and grounds.
The museum contains the iron coffin of Col. William Shy, a Franklin native killed at the Battle of Nashville. In the 1970s vandals dug up his grave and broke open the coffin. The body found at the gravesite was thought to be a recent homicide victim until tests proved that it was Col. Shy himself, very well preserved throughout the years. The colonel was reburied with honors, but his damaged coffin now sits at the Carter House museum. The graverobbers have never been caught.
The Carter House
1140 Columbia Ave., Franklin, TN
Call (615) 791-1861 for more information.
Admission charged. Group Rates Available
Open April through October: Mon.-Sat., 9-5; Sun., 1-5
Nov. through March: Mon.-Sat., 9-4; Sunday, 1-4
From I-65 South, take Exit 65 (Hwy. 96) into Franklin.
At Courthouse Square turn left on Main St., turn left on Columbia Ave.(Hwy. 31 South). Entrance on right off W. Fowlkes St.
Website: Save the Franklin Battlefield, Inc: http://www.franklin-stfb.org/
Carnton: the McGavock Mansion
Witness to bloody battle:
Carnton was built in 1826 by Randal McGavock, a former Mayor of Nashville. This late neo-classical plantation house became a social and political center in its early years. Frequent visitors were Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Sam Houston.
Late in the afternoon of November 30, 1864 Carnton was witness to one of the largest and costliest battles of the War Between the States.
The Confederate Army of Tennessee, 20,000 men strong, repeatedly charged Union forces entrenched in an arc around the southern edge of nearby Franklin. The Confederate right wing passed by Carnton on its way to battle.
Carnton, by then the home of Randal's son, Col. John McGavock, and his wife, Carrie, served as a hospital. Blood stains can still be seen on the wooden floors.
The spacious back porch of Carnton held the bodies of four Confederate generals killed in battle--Cleburne, Granbury, Strahl, and Adams.
1345 Carnton Lane, Franklin, TN 37064
Call (615) 794-0903
Admission charged. Group Rates Available
Open April through October: Mon. thru Sat., 9-5; Sun., 1-5
Nov. through March: Mon. thru Sat., 9-4; Sunday, 1-4
From I-65 South, take Exit 65 (Hwy. 96), turn left on Mack
Hatcher By-Pass, turn right onto Lewisburg Ave. (Hwy. 431),
and turn left onto Carnton Lane.
Website: Carnton Plantation: http://www.carnton.org/
Confederate Cemetery at Carnton.
The graves are laid out by state, with separate areas for unknown. General Johnson K. Duncan, who died of fever in Knoxville, TN in 1862, while serving as Bragg's chief of staff is also buried here.
In 1866 the McGavocks designated two acres at Carnton for the reinterment of the Southern dead killed at Franklin. Mrs. McGavock kept meticulous notes on each burial in her "book of the dead" so that she could answer the many inquiries from families whose soliders never returned home.
With some 1,500 graves, the McGavock Confederate Cemetery is the largest private Confederate cemetery in the country. Mrs. McGavock's book and an original photograph of the 1866 cemetery dedication can be viewed at the mansion.
After years of neglect, a non-profit corporation was formed in the 1970s to rescue and restore the plantation, which now includes a landscaped garden and several outbuildings.
The Lotz House
Franklin's Civil War Museum and Native American artifacts:
Located in the house that witnessed the bloody Battle of Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864, the museum showcases one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Civil War artifacts, including weapons, photos, uniforms, flags and much more. In addition, the Old West Collection features rare Native American clothing, photos and other related items.
The house itself was built in 1858 by Johann Albert Lotz, a German immigrant and master carpenter. His fine woodworking and carving can be seen throughout the structure.
During the Battle of Franklin, the Lotz family sought refuge in the basement of the nearby Carter House. After the battle, the house served as a hospital for both sides.
Lotz House Museum
1111 Columbia Ave., Franklin, TN 37064
Call (615) 791-6533
Admission charged. Group Rates Available
Open Mon. thru Sat., 9-5; Sun., 1-5. Closes 4 p.m., Nov. thru March
From I-65 South, take Exit 65 (Hwy. 96) into Franklin. At Courthouse Sq. turn left on Main St., then turn left on Columbia Ave. (Hwy. 31 South). Located 0.25 mile on the left.
Union fort overlooking Franklin, river:
Fort Granger is located on a bluff overlooking the Harpeth River in the northern section of Pinkerton Park. It is one of the best preserved eathern Civil War forts in the country. The 12-acre site features wooden walkways and interpretive markers but none of the war-era wooden structure or weapons remain.
Fort Granger was a Union earthwork fortification, was built by Federal forces shortly after Middle Tennessee was captured from the Confederacy in early 1862.
It was the southwestern link in the Union system of fortifications which included Fort Negley (and other forts) in Nashville, unnamed fortifications in Triune, and Fortress Rosecrans in Murfreesboro.
Named for Gen. Gordon Granger, commander of Federal forces in Franklin in 1863, this earthen fort was constructed between March and May of that year by laborers working 24 hours a day.
Fort Granger was approximately 781 feet long and 346 feet wide, encompassing 11.76 acres and contained two fortified fronts on the northern and eastern sides. The walls surrounding the fort, or rampart, were of packed dirt supported from within by rough timbers. The defensive wall placed on top of the rampart where the troops stood is called a pararpet.
The outer walls were 16 feet wide and ten feet deep. Three bastions provided flanking fire in case of attack.
The Union fort guarded the Nashville Pike, the Harpeth River, and the Nashville & Decatur Railroad.
By April of 1863, Fort Grangerheld 18 field guns and two 30-pound seige cannons. With 314 officers and 5,494 men, most of the artillery fired through embrasures (openings in the parapet walls). At full capacity, the fort housed 5,194 infantry troops, 2,728 cavalry, and 24 artillery pieces.
Fort Granger played an important role in military actions of April 10, 1863 and June 4, 1863. It was attacked by Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest but not taken.
Shells form the fort landed in some Franklin homes during the Battle of Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864, during which it served as the headquarters for Federal Gen. John M. Schofield. During that engagement the fort fired 163 rounds and held 8,500 soldiers and 24 pieces of artillery.
The area south of Franklin was a no man's land of guerilla warfare and reprisals. Fort Granger was attacked several times by Confederate cavalry units.
Long neglected after the Civil War, Fort Granger was purchased by the City of Franklin in the 1970s.
The powder magazine at Fort Granger was made from the basement of a house which stood on the site before the war. It was lined with bricks from the nearby Harpeth Academy, which at that time stood west of Hillsboro Pike.
The magazine was capable of holding 1,200 rounds of artillery ammunition. In 1864, a shed was built over the magazine to keep the ammunition dry. The ammunition was frequently taken out and aired because of dampness.
The magazine was used as a commissary storehouse and held over 70,000 rations.
Also in this area was a cistern, belonging to the home which stood here. The cistern held up to 9,000 gallons of water.
Open all year, dawn to dusk. No admission fee. Accessible through Pinkerton Park.
From I-65 South, take Hwy. 96 toward Franklin, turn right into Pinkerton Park at Harpeth River bridge. Fort accessible from rear of park.
Call (615) 791-3217 or 790-0378
Franklin Chamber of Commerce at (615) 794-1225
Earthen wall of Ft. Granger near the sally port
Confederate monument at Franklin's town square
The Confederate Monument in the center of Franklin's town square was erected in 1899 through the efforts of the Franklin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The Italian marble statue is that of a Confederate infantryman at parade rest. It stands six feet six inches tall atop a granite shaft rising from three supporting bases. Nearly 10,000 people witnessed the unveiling of the monument on Nov. 30, 1899, the 35th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin. Many notable figures and Confederate veterans attended the gala event. The main speaker was Gen. George W. Gordon, who himself had been wounded in the Battle of Franklin and escaped death only by being pulled by the hair over the breastworks and out of the line of fire.
Other sites to see Around Franklin
Refuge and hospital during Civil War battle:
Built between 1809 and 1819 by Francis Giddens, Revolutionary War gunsmith from Virginia, this private residence (1809-19) north of Spring Hill was the home of Thomas Banks and served as a refuge during the Battle of Thompson's Station on March 5, 1863 between John Coburn's Union infantry and Confederate cavalry under Gen. Earl Van Dorn and Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The Confederates won the battle and took 1,200 prisoners. During the battle, a neighbor girl, Alice Thompson, age 17, rushed from the Banks house and retrieved the fallen Rebel colorbearer's flag. Seeing such bravery, the Southern cavalrymen regrouped, charged, and retook the contested position.
The home, which also served as a hospital during the battle, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The home is privately owned and not open to the public. Located on U.S. Hwy. 31 in Thompson's Station.
Battle of Thompson's Station: (March 5, 1863)
In the spring of 1863 the Federal Army operating out of Nashville made several foraging expeditions into this area collecting food and hay. At this site, General Earl Van Dorn's Confederate Cavalry Corps defeated a Federal task force under Col. John Coburn; he along with 1220 officers and men were captured. The outcome was decided by Forrest's Brigade which overran the Federal left several hundred yards northeast in a flank attack, In this action Forrest's famous horse "Roderick" was killed.
Marker at U.S. 31, Williamson County, at Thompson Station Road
Source: Williamson County Historical Commission
Thompson's Station was the scene of a battle on March 5, 1863. The principal commanders were: US Col. John Coburn and CS Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn. During the period of inactivity following the Battle of Stones River, Coburn's forces left Franklin to reconnoiter south towards Columbia. Coburn attacked what he presumed to be two Confederate regiments.
Restored Railroad Depot at Thompson Station
Van Dorn seized the initiative, sending Brig. Gen. W. H. "Red" Jackson's dismounted to make a frontal attack while Nathan B. Forrest's Division swept around Coburn's flanks. Jackson carried Coburn's hilltop position and Forrest captured Coburn's wagons as well as blocking the road to Columbia in his rear. Coburn was forced to surrender, resulting in 1,906 Union casualties (most captured) and 300 Confederate casualties. Much of the hard fighting took place around the brick residence of Homestead Manor, and casualties were buried on the property. Thompson's Station is also where Ross's Texas Brigade attempted to halt Schofield's wagon train on November 30, 1864, by attacking and burning some of the wagons before being repulsed by Union artillery.