There is not many places you can go in the Southeast and not see remnants of the Civil War. This is especially true for Tennessee. Tennessee is second to Virgina in the number of actual battles fought in a state during The War Between the States. The pictures in this post are plantation homes and cemeteries located in Franklin and Murfreesboro, Tennessee. All of these pictures were shot on film which is the perfect medium for this subject. All commentary below is from my wife. I hope you enjoy.
If you visit Franklin, Tennessee you may notice a red flag hanging in various places from residents, to businesses, even churches. The flags mark the known locations where hospitals were established after the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864. The flag in this picture represents one of forty-some known hospital locations.
When I worked at Carnton Plantation, you were encouraged to have a seat and wait for the next tour, with the tour beginning while seated. After the tour, many sat just to enjoy the breeze! I assume this is still a delightful tradition!
You may notice the ceiling painted blue. While there are many explanations and beliefs as to why this is, I will only name two. Some say they are painted blue to encourage the birds into believing it’s the sky, and they will fly by without making a nest, same with insects. Not true. Some believe they are painted sky blue to trick the haints into thinking it is day. This kept them from haunting your doorstep at night! I’ll let you be the judge of that one!
Carnton Plantation was built by the slave labor of Randal McGavock in 1826. Based on the definition of a plantation, Carnton was a modest plantation. McGavock named Carnton after his father’s birthplace in Ireland. Carnton is not just a plantation site, it is also known for the Confederate Cemetery located on the property. It’s fitting that the plantation is named Carnton, as cairn in gaelic means “mounds of stones,” often these were built over shallow graves to help keep the animals away. It can also mean a “memorial,” or a “place of burial,” which it certainly is.
Have you ever wondered what the coins on the graves mean? The oldtimers say that a penny left meant you visited. A nickel left meant you served in boot camp together. A dime meant you served together at some point. A quarter is the most profound of them all, you were there when they died. Many leave whatever they have in their pocket. Some leave rocks, which has various meanings as well. My favorite explanation of leaving money is, some soldiers say it’s a down payment to buy their fallen comrade a drink when they reunite.
Fountain Branch Carter’s house was built in 1830, known as The Carter House. The Battle of Franklin (November 30, 1864) was fought around the house. The family and others, including some slaves, hid in the basement, a common hiding place during battles. Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking stories to me is that of his son’s death.
Fountain’s son, Tod, was mortally wounded during the battle not far from his own home. He was brought to his home and later died there on December 2, 1864. I can’t imagine the dead and dying surrounding my home after some of the bloodiest hours of the War Between the States. But to have my son be part of the dead and dying in my home!
On March 29, 1864 Major General George H. Thomas ordered the 111th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops to disinter bodies from the battles of Stones River, Murfreesboro, Franklin, Shelbyville, Tullahoma and Cowan to be brought here for burial. They began in 1865 and completed the task in roughly 1867. They brought more than 6100 soldiers here for their final resting place.
Many do not realize, after the War Between the States, most Confederates were not buried in National Cemeteries, or no where near the number of Union Soldiers. A local Historian once told me, “They lost! It’s not uncommon for those who lost to be responsible for their own dead, especially during this time period and before. And there was still a lot of hard feelings. Northerners and Union sympathizers believed they did not deserve to be buried in a National Cemetery.” Some families or friends retrieved the bodies for the family cemeteries, many were taken to the nearest town to be buried, and many were buried in mass community graves (Spring Hill, Tennessee Cemetery is a great example of this!) Some men we will never know where they lie, no matter what side they fought for. Evergreen Cemetery, not far from this location, have some Confederate men buried in what is known as the Confederate Circle.
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