Sep 08

Peace & War in Franklin, TN

Franklin DowntownA short side-trip from Nashville gave us an unforgettable day. The charming town of Franklin, 14 miles south of Nashville, lays claim to many “Best Of” awards including “Great American Main Street”, thanks to the efforts of the Downtown Franklin Association.

Their website states: “Working in partnership with property owners, preservationists, city and county government, local businesses and merchants in our historic retail district, the Downtown Franklin Association has helped create one of the nation’s Main Street success stories. We’ve earned national recognition as an authentic, eclectic place that offers something for everyone in an atmosphere that reminds locals and visitors alike of a simpler time in our history – a place where community matters.”

HincheyvilleWe spent a leisurely morning walking around the historic downtown area, admiring the brick sidewalks on Main Street, the impeccable Victorian buildings housing boutiques, art galleries, antique shops and coffee shops. We paused to read some of the many historical markers along the way. We then walked a couple of blocks off Main Street to the Hincheyville neighborhood of Historic Homes. Most of these homes were built between 1828 and 1935 and the styles run the gamut … Federal, Victorian, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival and Bungalow, to name a few. Many of the homes have plaques indicating when they were built. The sidewalks are lined with beautiful old trees (what would they tell us if they could talk?) the gardens are a blaze of color … these residents take real pride in their properties.

One house, built in a grand Italian style with Corinthian columned porches, caught our attention and we stood across the street to photograph it. As we admired the house and the grounds, a gentleman walked down the sidewalk next to the house and called us over. He introduced himself as the owner of the home and we stood talking to him for at least 15 minutes as he shared a little of the history of the home.

John McEwan

 We had read in our guidebook that it was “built around 1832 by John McEwan who was Franklin’s Mayor during the Civil War and surrendered the town to the Union forces as the Occupation period began. The family huddled in the cellar during the Battle of Franklin and opened the house to both Union and Confederate soldiers afterwards”)

Our new found friend told us that the house had sat empty and decaying for many years until he and his wife purchased it a few years ago. The major restoration project is still in progress. In fact, the reason he was out on the street was to see if the UPS truck was bringing some window parts he was waiting for! Thank goodness for people like this, willing to spend the time – and the money – to preserve beautiful historic homes for us to enjoy.

In the course of our conversation we learned that he, like Bill, was car crazy and he told us about an upcoming National Street Rod Association event in Louisville, Kentucky. As you can imagine, our intended itinerary changed immediately to incorporate this in our travels!

PuckettsWe stopped for lunch at the popular “meat & three” Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant which had a lively, noisy atmosphere! As we waited for a table, a friendly waitress brought us ice cold glasses of water “because you look hot”! According to Wikipedia, a meat & three restaurant  is popular in the South, particularly Tennessee, and one in which a customer chooses one meat and three sides from the “daily specials” usually written on a chalk board. The meal is often served with corn bread and sweet tea. Our meal was delicious … and the BBQ sauce was so good we bought a bottle to take with us!

It’s difficult to imagine that Franklin was once the location of what has been called “the Five Bloodiest Hours” of the Civil War. To learn more, we drove a short distance to the Carter House, site of fierce fighting as the Confederate forces attempted to prevent Union forces from advancing to Nashville. The battle of Franklin took place on November 30, 1864, with a horrendous loss of life on both sides.

Carter HouseOur excellent guide was able to combine the complicated battle tactics with the personal story of the Carter family and make us feel we were right there! Fountain Branch Carter built the farmhouse in 1830 and expanded it over the years to accommodate a growing family – eight boys and four girls! He was a very successful farmer and according to an 1860 census was worth $62,000 and owned 28 slaves. At the outbreak of the war, his three surviving sons enlisted in the Confederate Army and one of them was mortally wounded in the battle of Franklin, just a few yards away from his home.

During the battle, which started late in the afternoon, the family and some neighbors sought safety in the cellar and were unharmed as the bloody battle raged around them. Much of the fighting was “hand-to-hand” and, according to the official Battle of Franklin Trust brochure 

Carter House Battle

“The darkness and close nature of the combat only helped to intensify the horrors. The fighting lasted just 5 hours and resulted in some 9,500 casualties – 2,000 dead, 6,500 wounded and about 1,000 missing. The ground around the Carter house and stretching for hundreds of yards both east and west was a horrible spectacle. In places the bodies of the dead and dying were heaped in literal piles.”

As we listened to our guide and looked at the many bullet holes in the farmhouse and smokehouse, we were shocked into silence.

After his death, Carter willed plots to his family and slaves. The house and 19 acres was given to his son, Moscow, who sold it in 1896. Since that time it has changed hands many times, always remaining a residence and, fortunately, was saved by the State of Tennessee in 1951.

Retreat from GettsburgA few years ago we had followed Lee’s Retreat from Petersburg to Appomattox and found the experience very moving, however, at Carter House we were intimately involved with the family – felt their fear, saw the devastation and death … and understood, just a little, what a devastating blow the war was to ordinary people who lost fathers, sons, grandsons … some of them never knowing where or how they died. What a tragedy.

And the sad thing is we don’t seem to have learned our lesson yet. Wars continue to be fought around the world – brother against brother, religion against religion…

Brings to mind the song by Peter, Paul & Mary “Where have all the flowers gone?” 

Photos:  http://goo.gl/XnaVfn



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1 comment

  1. Mike

    Really enjoying your blog! Also, nice to see pictures of places I’ve only heard about…Mike 🙂

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