We recently had the opportunity to spend a long weekend in Nashville, TN. While the music scene and Grand Ole Opry are terrific, there’s a lot of Civil War history in the Nashville area as well. These sights are well-maintained and highly recommended. Here are a few sights we had a chance to visit.
Carter House, Lotz House and Carnton Plantation (The Battle of Franklin)
One of the bloodiest and most monumental battles of the Civil War (1861 – 1865) occurred at the edge of the small town of Franklin, about 20 miles south of Nashville. This was a prelude to the Battle of Nashville which occurred about two weeks later. Today Franklin is a beautifully restored historic town.
On the southern edge of the town is where the Battle of Franklin (November 30, 1864) occurred, with ground zero being near two homes still standing, called the Carter House and the Lotz House.
The Union army, enroute to Nashville, wanted to slow the advancing Confederate forces and decided make a defensive stand near the Carter House, which had a commanding view of the rolling fields to the south, and the approaching Confederate Army. They built the earthwork defenses around the Carter home and then extending in both directions in a U-shape. The Confederate Army was on the south side of these defenses and in a very exposed position. The Confederates attacked and engaged in a frontal assault that resulted in a slaughter. The battle raged for 5 hours and the Carter family hid in the basement of their home during the battle and managed to survive.
About 9,500 casualties occurred during this battle with the Confederate Army suffering the majority of those casualties. There were about 63,000 soldiers engaged in this battle. The total American casualties were about 1.5 times the number of American casualties in D-Day (June 6, 1944). A poignant story: One of the wounded Confederates was a soldier by the name of Tod (Theodrick) Carter, who happened to be part of the attack on the Union forces at Franklin. He ended up fighting literally in his backyard, and was shot 9 times, with one bullet lodging in his brain behind an eye, only 500 feet from his boyhood home. On the morning after the battle, his family found him on the battle field and brought Tod into the family home where he died one day later. Given the severity of his wounds, I don’t know how he survived even that long.
The Carter House and several nearby buildings on the property can be visited (kitchen, farm office, smokehouse, and an example of slave quarters).
The Lotz House is just across the street from Carter House and can be visited as well. The Lotz family also hid in the Carter basement during the battle. Being constructed out of wood, the Lotz home suffered significant battle damage, and today you can see evidence of where cannon balls crashed through the ceiling and destroyed portions of the beautiful floors (Mr. Lotz was a skilled carpenter).
The interior of the Lotz House is beautiful, with many ornate pieces of period handcrafted furniture. The Lotz family eventually lost most everything and had to move out of Franklin, making their way to California via covered wagon.
Just a mile or two south of Carter House is Carnton Plantation, which served as a field hospital for the Confederate Army during the Battle of Franklin.
With thousands of wounded soldiers needing attention, the Carnton Plantation home was requisitioned as a field hospital. The floors of the home still have visible bloodstains in several rooms. Carrie McGavock and her husband tore up every piece of cloth they had (bedding, drapery, table cloths, etc.) to make bandages and dressings for the wounded.
Bodies of several Confederate generals killed in the battle were laid out on the back porch so that the soldiers could pay their final respects.
Also on the grounds of the plantation is the largest private military cemetery in the U.S., containing almost 1,500 graves of Southern soldiers who died on the battlefield during the Battle of Franklin.
There is a visitor center here too, as well as several other buildings to see, along with a signposted path explaining parts of the battle.
Each site above provides a guided one-hour tour with a very knowledgeable host. A wealth of information about the battle and the families whose homes and lives were changed forever is shared during the tour. Photos were not allowed inside these residences although as shown above I managed to take a photo or two inside the Carnton Plantation home.
In my next Post I will review The Hermitage and Stones River National Battlefield.