Over the next two days, we are going to explore one of the lesser know battles of the American Civil War and the lasting legacy it left on two locations in the city of Franklin, Tennessee - just south of Nashville. While technically the second battle to be fought in the city in the duration of the war, it is often referred to in more definitive terms as The Battle of Franklin due to the size and scope of the battle, which was dramatically larger than the first smaller battle. It started at dusk and went into the night of November 30, 1864 and is one of the few rare night battles of the entire war.
The 15-acre property of Fountain Branch Carter and his family played a crucial role in the battle when the Union Army of Ohio showed up on their front doorstep early in the day. The troops were moving north in hopes of joining forces with the Army of Cumberland in Nashville, Tennessee. Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield led the troops who had fought with the Confederate Army of Tennessee, led by Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, in the Battle of Spring Hill the prior day. Schofield had utilized the road to Franklin that had been inexplicably left unguarded by Hood, who had hoped to prevent the two armies from combining forces.
The only major obstacle in the Union Army's path between Franklin and Nashville was the Harpeth River. The bridges crossing the river had been heavily damaged in the battle the year before and time was needed to make repairs. As result, Schofield commandeered the Carter's house to set up headquarters and quickly assembled a defensive front, while his engineers got to work on repairing the bridges. However, the Confederate forces were not far behind and arrived shortly thereafter.
Despite concerns over the Union's defensives from his generals, Hood felt that they were letting the Union Army slip away. After seeing the men on the bridges, he felt he had little time to stop Schofield's troops from escaping and joining forces with the Army of the Cumberland to the north. At dusk, he ordered a massive frontal assault that has since been dubbed "Pickett's Charge of the West," though in essence it was much larger than the ill-fated assault at Gettysburg. However, the overall result would be similarly devastating to his forces.
At the Carter's home, the family huddled in the basement for five hours as the battle raged around them. Right outside the basement's windows, Union and Confederate troops were engaged in hand-to-hand combat and men were literally dying only feet away from the family. Among the troops outside was their son Theodrick Carter, who had joined the Confederate Army and had been away from his family property for three years. The conflict raging around him marred his first sight of the family property in those years.
As night progressed, the bridges had been sufficiently repaired and the Union Army quickly retreated as the skirmishes lessened. The Army of Tennessee had been devastated and Schofield's generals felt a retreat was unnecessary and put the men on the bridges at a precarious risk. However, Hood had been stunned by the carnage and the amount of casualties his men had suffered and did not act. While technically a Confederate victory in forcing a Union retreat, they suffered three times the amount of casualties including ten times the amount of deaths. The Army of Tennessee would be completely wiped out at the Battle of Nashville later and Hood would resign his generalship.
The Carter family was equally devastated. Theodrick had been wounded in the battle and was finally reunited with his family who attempted to tend to his wounds. He died two days later in the same room he had been born. The various buildings on the property also had their war wounds with over 1,000 bullet holes riddling the wood, which are still evident to this day. According to some, they are not the only reminder of the battle. Guests and staff alike have reported seeing the apparitions of Civil War soldiers on the property, as well as sighted members of the family including Theodrick in the room he died. Other paranormal activity has been reported on the property as well.
Today the house is open to the general public as a museum and memorial to the various lives lost in the Battle of Franklin. Commercial development has overtaken some of the property, but the family home still exists as a stark reminder of a nation that was once at war with itself.
Visit the Carter House and read its stories.
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