Historic Civil War Town Commemorates the 150th Year Anniversary of Battle of Franklin and Battlefield Bourbon
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(photo, courtesy of Battle of Franklin Trust)
The Battle of Franklin
This November will mark the 150th anniversary of the battle of Franklin, a turning point in the Civil War, referred to as the sesquicentennial and there are several planned events, as well as guided tours at historic landmarks.
Franklin, Tennessee is an upscale, historic civil war town, a town that looks nothing as it did 150 years ago, yet it still echos the ghosts lost to a horrific war, and pays tribute to the bloody battle of Franklin.
It’s the town I live in and the battle took place seven miles from my house.
Main Street in Franklin is that perfect street everyone loves to stroll, filled with antique stores, , modern day boutiques, Southern food, a restored art deco movie theater, and historic churches with tolling bells. Many yearly events are held at the square and spill over into the street which often gets closed for events like Dicken’s Christmas, Pumpkin Fest, the Franklin Classic Race, and Wine Down Main Street. Even if you’re just going for coffee, you can bet you’ll run into the smiling face of a friend or two.
The joy and easy life of Main Street makes one forget anything bad ever happened here.
I never got caught up in Civil War history, yet as I began to discover the treasured memories and memorials of this town, I became enveloped in a new reverence for the lives lost, the passion of the battle and the compassion shown by historic figures as mansions were turned into hospitals.
Thanks to the Battle of Franklin Trust a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the memorial battlegrounds, one can tour three important sites, involving what has come to be regarded as the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, a mere 7 miles from my home. The Battle of Franklin Trust will take you to Carter House where the battle was fought in the backyard, as two families huddled in the basement and the Carnton Plantation which was turned into a hospital with a now adjoining cemetery.
The Lotz House Museum was included as part of my ticket (provided by the Battle of Franklin Trust), which is a real treat, as the Lotz House, a beautiful mansion, showcases the hand-crafted work of the original owner and German emigrant, Johann Lotz, who built his home without slaves.
The Lotz family was the other family that hid in the basement of the Carter House, as their lives forever changed.
Our first stop on this tour was at the Lotz House Musemm, which opened its doors to the public only six years ago yesterday. Congratulations!
We were greeted by the most passionate keeper of the keys, executive director, J. T. Thompson. He along with Robert Carlisle II wrote a book, The Lotz Family, that goes into detail about the craftmanship of a single pair of hands that built the house, and the family stories.
I took two little boys of 7 years old, a bit shy and unknowing about the civil war, and he brought it to life for them. The house itself is gorgeous, with feminine treats such as a pink hoop skirt dress and a finesse in showcasing items from the war such as a coffee pot and a tiny bible. But, make no mistake about the intensity one will feel, as you first gaze upon the cannon ball damage in the front room, and the many reminders of the war fought by many very young men, housed in this civil war museum. A red flag hangs from the balcony of this amazing house, designating it as a hospital.
As the story goes, the Lotz family hid in the cellar of the Carter House down the street. Upon returning upstairs and to the yard, everyone including a very young girl, Matilda Lotz discovered the horrors of the hundreds of dead bodies in what came to be known as the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the Franklin Battle.
Eventually, the Lotz House became a hospital home, as did the Carnton Plantation. Matilda Lotz grew up to be an incredibly gifted artist and you can see some of her early art hanging in the home. Perhaps this was her way of escaping the tragic scene that could never be erased from a young girl’s memory.
There is so much to see in the house. One of the hangings is artwork made from hair. This was how people chose to hold onto memories of loved ones lost. My favorite thing in the house was a replicated dress with a huge hoop skirt. Looking at the grave sites, I’m reminding me of how different the lives of women was back then. They lost husbands, fathers, brothers and sons in this war, and often became “nurses” overnight. They also lost many babies and small children. Sometimes, we don’t realize how good our life is until we look back and see the sadness so many had to endure in large doses.
When we think about a soldier making coffee on the battlefield, it becomes more personal, realizing it’s not a movie set, or just war memorabilia.
I never understood war re-enactments or the lure of the Civil War, until I started to think about how a war broke out pitting men against men who just as easily could have been best friends or even brothers.
Photos of Johann Albert Lotz and Margaretha Lotz hang in the Lotz House Museum. I was most captivated by this house, and highly recommend you read the Lotz Family book.
The Carter House
We ventured down the street to the Carter House, the actual location of what has become known as the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, with 6,252 casualties, including 1,750 killed and 3,800 wounded. The family, along with the Lotz family from down the street, hid in the cellar as the battle ensued. A tour guide, steeped in the knowledge of the battle and it’s implications will set the political and war strategy terrain. It’s easy to talk about war casualties in the past when there’s not a face to put it to.
One of the Carter boys, Captain Tod Carter, had finally made it home from war, and was found wounded in the yard. He was taken into the house and later died. Fountain Branch Carter, a widower had seen all three sons to go war. Walking through the house, their bedrooms, and the cellar in which the father and others hid stirred something in me about the foolishness and seriousness of war, and how important it is to not forget its pain and cost.
The Carnton Plantation
If the civil war is a story of brutality, as axes, picks, bayonetts, and rifle butts were used in hand to hand combat along with cannon balls, the story of the Carnton Plantation is one of humanity’s empathy, healing, caring and kindness.
Carnton, a stately mansion built in 1826 by Randall McGavock, is more like a “Gone with the Wind” plantation than the other properties. It was used as a hospital, and one can tour the room where many surgeries took place and the floors are still stained in blood.
The story of Carnton Plantation takes us beyond the story of the brutality of war and moves us to a story of compassion, as Carrie McGavock became known as the Good Samaritan of Williamson County, tending to hundreds of wounded. Confederate generals died on their back porch, and even the grounds became a hospital.
Nearly 1500 Confederate soldiers, killed in the Battle of Franklin, were buried on the property. As the markers deteriorated, the McGavock’s devoted two acres of land for a proper cemetery and moved the bodies. Today, the home has been restored and is a national landmark along with the family cemetery and the largest privately owned military cemetery in the nation.
A novel, Widow of the South, written by Robert Hicks who has recently introduced Battlefield Bourbon, recalls the life of Carrie McGavock and her devotion to the soldiers. She has a beautiful tombstone in the cemetery amid the many family members.
A man on a quest to create a bourbon in honor of a civil war battle is a clear demonstration of the passion that continues to surround this piece of history in this small historic civil war town.
Robert Hicks, author of New York Times best seller, Widow of the South, has just introduced Battlefield Bourbon. This is a small batch bourbon whiskey created with fresh spring water taken directly from the battlefield in Franklin, Tenn.
Battlefield Bourbon is produced with a cause, as a portion of all proceeds from the sale benefits Civil War battlefield reclamation and preservation. The first run will be a signed, limited edition, only producing 1,864 commemorating the year of the Battle.
Battlefield Bourbon is produced in association with and bottled by SPEAKeasy Spirits, LLC in Nashville and Best Brands is the distributor. SPEAKeasy Spirits is an artisan distillery nestled in the Historic West Town neighborhood of Nashville. It just came out this week so I haven’t had a chance to try it, but I’m a bourbon lover and I’ll be looking for it.
Battlefield Bourbon Events with Robert Hicks:
Moon Wine and Spirits – Nov 6th, 4pm-8pm
12th and Pine – Nov 20th, 4pm-6pm
Franklin Wine and Spirits – Dec 4th, 5pm-7pm
Battle of Franklin Trust Events
In addition to visiting these three Civil War Landmarks, there are many ways to participate in the upcoming 150th Celebration, sponsored by the Battle of Franklin Trust. You can find more information on the Battle of Franklin Trust website.
November 14-15, 2014 – Blue & Gray Days, where adults and children can meet civil war re-enactors and get up close and personal with clothing etc.
November 15-16, 2014 – The 150th Anniversary Battle of Franklin Re-enactment
Re-enactors from all over the country will come together to bring the Battle of Franklin to life. Scheduled re-enactments will take place both days, and admission will be charged. Tickets are on sale now through October 31.
November 30, 2014 – The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Franklin and Annual Illumination
To commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Franklin, 10,000 luminaries, representing the casualties of the battle, will be lit at dusk. Luminaries will be present along Columbia Pike, at Carter House, at Lotz House, and at several points on the battlefield in that area. Luminaries will also be present at Carnton adjacent to the Confederate Cemetery. Luminaries will be lit at dusk until approximately 9 pm.
December 16-20, 2014 – 42nd Annual Candlelight Tour
This is a yearly event. The theme of this year’s Candlelight Tour is “The Christmas That Never Was.” The Carter House and Carnton Plantation will be arranged as they were in December of 1864 just after the Battle of Franklin. Guests will walk through history as they hear stories of soldiers and civilians. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased online or at The Carter House and Carnton Plantation beginning November 1, 2014.
Ghost Tours and More…
If this isn’t enough you can take additional tours with Franklin on Foot. There are a few ghost tours, one centered around the Battle of Franklin held at the Lotz Museum at night, called the Ghost of the Battlefield Tour. The next tour is Halloween and again November 7.
Whether you’re a civil war buff or just curious, I promise you’ll be swept by the history that took place in this small, lovely town that redeemed it’s sorrow to be one the happiest towns in America.
Value Ticket for the three Historic Homes, Lotz House Museum, Carter House and Carnton Plantation available for $30. I received a complimentary ticket and visited each house on a different day, enjoying the grounds and guided tour. You save $10, and the ticket doesn’t have a time limit. You can spread the three tours out, as I did.
So tell me, are you a civil war buff, and have you toured any of these wonderful historic landmarks of the Battle of Franklin?