By Kevin Walters • THE TENNESSEAN • August 28, 2009
FRANKLIN — When the bones of a Civil War soldier were found at a construction site on Columbia Avenue back in May, the discovery brought out small groups of onlookers, archaeologists and news crews.
But the soldier’s reburial in October will likely be a different story.
Thousands of visitors, including groups of Civil War re-enactors from throughout the U.S., are expected to participate in the soldier’s reburial on Oct. 10.
Franklin aldermen gave their clearance this week to re-inter the skeleton in Franklin’s Rest Haven cemetery as part of a full military ceremony that will include a horse-drawn caisson through downtown Franklin.
“Certainly we will have hundreds if not thousands of re-enactors here in Franklin,” said Robin Hood, member of the city’s Battlefield Task Force. “I think it’s going to be a significant event for all of Franklin and all of Tennessee.”
Workers accidentally unearthed the soldier’s lone, unmarked grave while digging a trench at the Through the Green development on Columbia Avenue. Along with the skeleton, archaeologists also found brass buttons with a Union insignia, tacks from his boots and a bullet as part of the excavation.
The discovery of the soldier’s remains gives Civil War buffs a rare chance to honor the dead killed in a war fought more than a century ago.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said J.T. Thompson, task force member and Lotz House owner. “It’s a very unique, wonderful opportunity to participate in history.”
It is not known exactly when the man died, but officials speculate that it occurred in late 1864, sometime around the Battle of Franklin.
Since being unearthed, the bones have been kept by the state Department of Environment and Conservation until city staff and Civil War historians could work out plans for the reburial.
In the interim, Hood and other task force members say they’ve fielded numerous calls and e-mails from Civil War groups and others throughout the country interested in the discovery and coming to Franklin to participate in the re-burial.
While the reburial has city clearance permission, aldermen must still give their permission for a permit to allow the ceremony and to close several streets on Oct. 10. They will likely discuss the ceremony at their Sept. 8 meeting.
“I think the long-range return for our investment in this event is immeasurable,” Hood said. “It will be a catalyst for future events and for future recognition of Franklin as a historic tourism destination.”
No cost estimates for the funeral accompanied information to city aldermen.
According to the task force’s plans, the soldier’s body will lie in state at
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, beginning Oct. 8 and remain there through the morning of Oct. 10. The church was a Union barracks during the Battle of Franklin.
After a ceremony in the church that morning, Union and Confederate re-enactors will accompany the horse-drawn caisson to Rest Haven cemetery. Streets along the route would be closed for the ceremony.
The funeral procession will head north on Main Street, circle the city’s Public Square, then head north on Third Avenue before turning west on North Margin and into Rest Haven Cemetery.
The task force is asking that three stages or scaffolding be erected along the funeral route for media and camera crews to be able to better photograph the event.
At the cemetery, the tomb will be marked with discarded limestone columns formerly used in the old state Capitol building in Nashville, Hood said. He said there will be no cost to create the monument.
Through the Green developer Wesley Wolfe is covering the costs of the reburial, including a new coffin while Williamson Memorial Funeral and Gardens donated the grave digging.