The McGavock Confederate Cemetery is a real place one can visit in Franklin, TN, just a few minutes south of Nashville. It is the largest privately owned military cemetery in the United States. There are nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers resting at McGavock.
Almost 150 years ago some 60,000 American Civil War soldiers—North and South—met close to downtown Franklin on a beautiful Indian summer evening, November 30, 1864. The carnage resulting from this late autumn clash would have a devastating impact on Franklin and the Confederacy.
By late 1864, the South was in desperate need of a victory to maintain their way of life and their cause. It seemed that a Confederate victory in Nashville would revive the hopes of the Southern Confederate States, and maybe even turn the tide of a nearly four year old war. A war that had already costs hundreds of thousands of lives for both sides. Many thought that the Confederate Army of Tennessee, coming home to their native State, just might infuse the Southern cause with new energy and purpose.
So when Confederate John Bell Hood’s troops clashed with Union General John M. Schofield’s forces around the Fountain Branch Carter farm some 10,000 men became casualties of the blood-bath. The battle was fought from four to nine that day resulting in nearly 2,000 killed outright. The amazing thing is that the battle was completely unexpected because the Federal army was held up at Franklin, due to bridges being out, that delayed them from actually getting to Nashville.
Most of the battle was fought after dark, and also with rare hand-to-hand combat. Historians say it was the “bloodiest five hours of the American Civil War”.
The entire town of Franklin only had some 2,000 residents at that time. Imagine a town having to deal with battle casualties ten times its own size. The after-battle scene, caring and tending to the wounded and dying, dragged this sleepy little middle Tennessee town into a story of unimaginable horror. Every available home and business was used as a field-hospital to tend to the thousands of casualties.
The most famous Franklin field-hospital was the John and Carrie McGavock residence—Carnton. Carrie McGavock became famously known as the ‘Good Samaritan of Williamson County’ as a result of caring for the hundreds of wounded and dying in her own home. She would later be immortalized in Robert Hicks’s novel as the Widow of the South.
The scars would heal and the screams would subside but the memories would never fade nor the bloodstains be completely washed away from the floors of many Franklin homes. The ripple-effects of this battle can still be felt almost 150 years today. The recent story of how the preservation community in Franklin successfully reclaimed over 100 acres of original Franklin battlefield land—formerly a country club– is evidence that the Battle of Franklin has become the Battle FOR Franklin.
The plan is to use this newly reclaimed land as the main base for the future official National Franklin Battlefield Park. This newly reclaimed land is the largest, most successful battlefield reclamation project in the history of Civil War preservation in the United States.