Friday, November 13, 2009

aside from stitching...a history lesson?

Thursday a friend and I went to Carnton Plantation in Historic Downtown Franklin where the Battle of Franklin took place during the height of the Civil War. It was one of the most intense, yet shortest (lasting only 5 hours) and bloodiest wars fought during the Civil War taking place the evening of November 30, 1864. Carnton Plantation was owned by a wealthy and well-known family named McGavock. There are roads named after the family and 3-4 other plantation homes surrounding Nashville. President Andrew Jackson was a very close friend of the McGavock family and even stayed at their home many times during his travels. [The Hermitage (located east of Nashville) is another town/plantation, tourist spot which is the home of Andrew Jackson.]

This entire area is one giant battlefield. It’s quite extraordinary really. Historical societies and private organizations are still excavating the grounds and finding Civil War relics. The history that Nashville and the surrounding area has to offer is amazing. A lot of people don’t know, and I didn’t either until now, is that Nashville was one of the more important cities back then for supplying the Union army with whatever they needed which was a pretty big army. Everything was sent through Nashville for the entire south – pretty amazing stuff.

Photos are not allowed taken inside the home, but we are free to take ones outside. I only took a few. This photo is actually of the back of the house. Funny how the door is off center. In the main living room I noticed a ball of yarn and sheets of paper on a table. Naturally, I had to check it out. It was counted cross stitch from the 1850s. The tabletop had a removable lid and inside was more sheets of cross stitch. I guess these girls drew cross stitch patterns for themselves. It was so neat!

A view from the back porch. It’s a breathtaking view looking out into open fields with trees here and there. I can just imagine no trees at all during the 1800s. Seeing as far as the eye can see and poor Carrie McGavock (pictured above at her engagement) coming onto her porch the morning of November 30 and witnessing two giant armies, each 20,000 strong lining themselves for battle, one in the south and one to the north, on their property. Can you imagine? This family had nothing to do with what was about to take place. It just so happened that their house was right in the middle of this battle and it served as a hospital for the wounded and dying Confederate soldiers. Four generals died on this back porch.

The 2-story brick house with 2 doors was the slave quarters. One side was for sleeping and cooking. The other was for wool making and textiles. I wished I had photographed in there and am slapping myself for not. The McGavock family owned a total of 39 slaves. Some field slaves and some house slaves. Interestingly, there was a slave named Mariah (I think). She had been with the family for decades. After the war and after the Emancipation Proclamation she made the decision to stay with the family instead of being a free woman. In fact, she stayed with the family until her death. Even though slaves were not taken well care of, the slaves of the McGavock family, especially Mariah, had it better than most in the south. The small white brick house on the right was the family’s smoke house. We all know what a smoke house is, but they also made candles and other supplies in there as well. This is where they stored meat and other goods through the winter.

Here is inside the smoke house and this is just one of two giant dug out logs the family used to house meat and other goods. What’s amazing about the inside is that it still, after all these years, smells like smoke and a hint of meat. The roof is blackened and ash still remains on the walls and on the floor.

In the end, neither side won this battle in Franklin. The battle at Carnton Plantation was completely unnecessary and it was never about or for the Village of Franklin. It was about taking Nashville (about 20 miles north of Franklin) which the Union finally did win. The Confederate suffered more loss than the Union at Carnton but no one won. Each suffered great loss. The McGavock family literally went through hell this evening on the 30th of November 1964 doing all they could to sooth, mend, “put down,” house, and give peace to wounded and dying Confederate solders, and forever changing their own lives.

They continued to live at Carnton until the early 1900s. The entire McGavock family, cousins and extended, are buried just steps away from their home in their private cemetery along with the thousands of known and unknown Confederate solders that died in and around their home. I can’t imagine this battle being fought in their front yard. They owned the 600 acres surrounding their house which was the battleground and the land that encroaches downtown Franklin. Forty-thousand plus men on foot and horse, along with cannons and wagons and other supplies traipsing across the landscape at 4:00 pm. Amazing!

For those wondering what “Carnton” means it is derived from a Gaelic word cairn that means “a pile of stones”. A cairn is sometimes a pile of stones marking a grave. It’s fitting for a place like the Carnton Plantation.

Well, that’s all for the agonizing history lesson - LOL. I had a fabulous time there and always do and even though this was my third tour in 16 years I learn something new each time I go. I’ll probably go again sometime in the future and really study the graves next time around. Thanks for listening to how my Thursday went. Our dinner tonight was roasted lemon chicken, baked beans, and macaroni and cheese – Kraft style. ;-) Dessert? Pumpkin Coffee Cake! (More on that later.) Talk soon!


Tanya said...

Wonderful pics - I love history, esp that kind. Looks like you had a terrific time!


Dora said...

I enjoyed the history lesson, Julie. Nice pics, too.

Shari said...

very interesting Julie! Thanks for the lesson!!! I am going to let my husband read this post, as I KNOW it will interest him.
The pictures are so neat to go along with the story.

Siobhan said...

Thanks so much for sharing the pictures and the history behind the plantation, Julie! My younger daughter loved reading it, too. It was fascinating!