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Battle Of Franklin: Civil War Sites - Carnton, Carter House, Lotz House

By Gerald D. Swick 
Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: November 17, 2010 
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Carnton Plantation, where 1,500 unidentified dead from the 1864 Battle of Franklin are interred.
Carnton Plantation, where 1,500 unidentified dead from the 1864 Battle of Franklin are interred.

Account of the Battle Of Franklin, a western theater Civil War Battle during the American Civil War

Battle Of Franklin Summary

Location

Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee

Dates

November 30, 1864

Commanders

Union: John M. Schofield
Confederate: John Bell Hood

Soldiers Engaged

Union Army: 27,00
Confederate Army: 27,000

Outcome

Union Victory

Casualties

Union: 2,300
Confederate: 6,200

In Franklin, Tennessee, a small community about 20 miles south of Nashville, three buildings stand as monuments to five of the bloodiest hours in all of American history. Two witnessed the epicenter of fighting during the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. The third, a Southern mansion southeast of town, was a field hospital; the bodies of four Confederate generals were laid on its porch until they could be taken for burial.

The battle occurred when Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, frustrated that his Confederate Army of Tennessee had let a large Union force escape from Columbia the night before, ordered an all-out frontal assault against the Union fieldworks at Franklin, despite the protests of his subordinate commanders. The Southerners advanced across an open field, enfiladed in places by artillery in Fort Granger across the Harpeth River. Many of their Union opponents were armed with repeaters. Yet, they nearly broke through near the center of the Union line, only to be repulsed.

The Carter House stood at the epicenter of the Battle of Franklin.
The Carter House stood at the epicenter of the Battle of Franklin.
Some 10,000 Americans died in the five-hour battle, the vast majority of them Confederates. Eyewitness reports say that near the fieldworks some men died standing up, the dead bodies stacked around them too tightly to permit them to fall. More generals were killed than at any other battle of the war.

During the night, the Federals withdrew to Nashville where the fortifications were second only to those around Washington, D.C. Hood pursued and, on December 15–16, Union troops under Major General George H. Thomas attacked the outnumbered Confederates, shattering what remained of their army and forcing it to withdraw to Tupelo, Mississippi. It is often said that the Battle of Nashville was won at Franklin.

Today, the town of Franklin is a poster-child example of Main Street restoration of a historic downtown, its streets lined with boutiques and crowded with tourists. But just a few hundred yards beyond its charming shops stand two witnesses to the carnage that once occurred there.

The Carter House 1140 Columbia Avenue Franklin, TN 37064 (615) 791-1861 Bullet holes are still plainly visible in the walls of the farm office building and the brick home where Fountain Branch Carter, his family and numerous neighbors huddled in the basement while the battle raged overhead. An interpretive center with artifacts and a film about the Battle of Franklin is located behind this 1830 house.

The parlor of The Lotz House, 110 steps from The Carter House.
The parlor of The Lotz House, 110 steps from The Carter House.
The Lotz House 1111 Columbia Avenue Franklin, TN 37064 (615) 790-7190 Just 110 steps from Carter House is the Lotz House, built in 1858 by German immigrant Johann Albert Lotz, a master carpenter and a piano maker. His home served as his "show house" to demonstrate his carpentry work to potential clients. During the battle he and his family were among those taking shelter in the basement of the brick Carter home. A cannonball crashed through the roof of Lotz's house and a second-story bedroom before landing and rolling on the first floor, leaving a charred indentation that is still visible. The Lotz House today houses what Wendell Garrett at The Magazine Antiques called, "by far the finest private collection of American Victorian Furniture in the Southeast."

Carnton Plantation 1345 Carnton Lane Franklin, TN 37064 (615) 794-0903 A few short miles south and east of Franklin, Carnton Plantation stood near where some Confederate units formed up for the assault. As the battle wore on, wounded, combat-shocked men drifted back to the mansion. The lady of the house, Carrie McGavock, opened her home as a hospital. Bloodstains are still visible in places on it floors. In 1866, Mrs. McGavock and her husband, John, gave two acres near their home as a burial ground for 1,500 unidentified dead from the battle. Carrie McGavock and Carnton were the inspiration for Robert Hicks's New York Times bestselling novel, Widow of the South.

Hours of operation: (Carnton Plantation, The Carter House and Lotz House) Monday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday Noon – 5 p.m. Closed most major holidays.

For more information, see www.battleoffranklintrust.org.

Click here for information on the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial and HistoryNet's Partner Page of the Sesquicentennial.

Read more articles about the battle of Nashville


4 Responses to “Battle Of Franklin: Civil War Sites - Carnton, Carter House, Lotz House”


  1. 1
    kyguy says:

    To state that Gen Hood was "frustrated" and then ordered the assault at Franklin implies that his decision to attack was influenced by emotion rather than reason. Although the early morning breakfast at Spring Hill was described as contentious, there is no evidence whatsoever that Hood was in any way other than composed and contemplative during the march to Franklin and when pondering whether to attack Schofield's army at Franklin, or allow them to escape to the more fortified Nashville.

    Sgt. Sumner Cunningham, standing near to Hood on Winstead Hill immediately before the attack wrote:

    "While making ready for the charge, General Hood rode up to our lines, having left his escort and staff in the rear. He remained at the front in plain view of the enemy for, perhaps, half an hour making a most careful survey of their lines." Cunningham continued "…but I was absorbed in the one man whose mind was deciding the fate of thousands. With an arm and a leg in the grave, and with the consciousness that he had not until within a couple of days won the confidence which his army had in his predecessor, he had now a very trying ordeal to pass through. It was all-important to act, if at all, at once. He rode to Stephen D. Lee, the nearest of his subordinate generals, and, shaking hands with him cordially, announced his decision to make an immediate charge."

    A member of A.P. Stewart’s staff, B.L. Ridley, wrote in his 1906 publication, Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee:

    "It has been charged that he (Hood) gave the order to attack at Franklin because of chagrin at his failure at Spring Hill. This supposition does Hood great injustice. A Federal courier had been captured bearing dispatches between Thomas and Schofield of the Federal army. The tenor of the dispatches led Hood to believe that Franklin was not in a defensible position, and that therefore, as he expressed it, he thought his ‘time to fight had come’."

    Col. Virgil S. Murphey of the 17th Alabama Infantry recorded in his diary:

    "Had Hood succeeded, Nashville would have opened her gates to the head of his victorious legions and the throat of Tennessee released from the grasp of remorseless despotism. It was worth the hazard. Its failure does not diminish the value of the prize."

    "Cato" (anonymous member of the 125th O.V.I.) from an account of the Battle of Franklin, as published in the Cleveland Herald, December 8, 1864:

    "Hood saw his opportunity, and true to his combative proclivities availed himself thereof. From a high hill he could easily see our position, and saw our forces gradually withdrawing to the opposite bank of the Little Harpeth. Military men will not condemn Hood's generalship in launching heavy assaulting columns, as he did upon our line."

    Gen John Schofield wrote after the war:

    "Hood's assault at Franklin has been severely criticized. Even so able a general as J.E.Johnston has characterized it as ‘useless butchery'. These criticisms are based on a misapprehension of the facts, and are essentially erroneous. Hood must have been aware of our relative weakness of numbers at Franklin, and of the probable, if not certain, concentration of large reinforcements at Nashville. He could not hope to have at any future time anything like so great an advantage in that respect. The army at Franklin and the troops at Nashville were within one night's march of each other; Hood must therefore attack on November 30 or lose the advantage of greatly superior numbers. It was impossible, after the pursuit from Spring Hill, in a short day to turn our position or make any other attack but a direct one in front. Besides our position with the river on our rear, gave him the chance of vastly greater results, if his assault were successful, than could be hoped for by any attack he could make after we had crossed the Harpeth. Still more, there was no unusual obstacle to a successful assault at Franklin. The defenses were of the slightest character, and it was not possible to make them formidable during the short time our troops were in position, after the previous exhausting operations of both day and night, which had rendered some rest on the 30th absolutely necessary."

    "The Confederate cause had reached a condition closely verging on desperation, and Hood's commander-in-chief had called upon him to undertake operations which he thought appropriate to such an emergency. Franklin was the last opportunity he could expect to have to reap the results hoped for in his aggressive movement. He must strike there, as best he could, or give up his cause as lost."

    Hood wrote in his Official Report: "

    I learned from dispatches captured at Spring Hill, from Thomas to Schofield, that the latter was instructed to hold that place till the position at Franklin could be made secure, indicating the intention of Thomas to hold Franklin and his strong works at Murfreesboro. Thus I knew that it was all important to attack Schofield before he could make himself strong, and if he should escape at Franklin he would gain his works about Nashville. The nature of the position was such as to render it inexpedient to attempt any further flank movement, and I therefore determined to attack him in front, and without delay.”

  2. 2
    MarkJ says:

    It's always a pleasure to read such a well written and referenced rebuttal. I'm surprised the author has not retracted his statement or at least modified the article to include the opposing point of view.

  3. 3
    Kyguy says:

    It never happens MarkJ.

  4. 4
    Dmos says:

    Kyguy,

    I just discovered this post (NOV 2014) while reviewing Battle of Franklin accounts prior to the 150th Anniversary. Though I do not know if you will ever see this text, considering the period of time since your post, I must say – WELL EXECUTED!

    I am a Field Grade US Army combat arms officer originally from the Frankin/Brentwood area. I have studied Franklin, Nashville, and all actions in middle Tennessee for the better part of 25 years. What I have learned in the course of that time is that historians largely miss the human dimension of the conflict when summarizing. They miss the fog of war and the intensity of military analysis at the time prior to battle. You bring those dimensions to life through words of critical participants. Impressive and necessary for true context.

    We must remember that these men were tired. Psychologically drained and tired of the horrors of a war that produced what would average out to be around 500 KIA Soldiers per day…every day…for years. In context, if we saw today the same percent of total Civil War military deaths compared to total population, we would have an average of about 5000 KIA per day…for 4 straight years.

    The political environment and psychological fatigue in the mind of Soldier and Commander was intense, to say the least. When we take these points into account, we begin to see the pressure for success that weighed upon Hood and the entire Army of Tennessee.

    Frankin was it. It was the very last of all fleeting opportunities to defeat Schofield before he joined Thomas. Hood had to act. He had no choice but to fight, lest he be judged a hesitant commander like Bragg or worse, a cowardly commander. I am not saying he was a genius, but I see where he was in his mental calculus.



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