Thanks to surviving eyewitness accounts of numerous Franklin residents and civilians we can have a sense of what they thought and experienced about the battle. I took numerous actual eyewitness accounts and created the following word cloud. It’s quite revealing.
Turn of the century historical photos of Franklin battlefield discovered
Historical photos provide a better understanding of Franklin’s history
(Franklin, Tenn.)— The Battle of Franklin Trust Chief Operating Officer Eric A. Jacobson announced today the findings of turn of the century photographs of the Franklin battlefield, which provide a never before seen look at the historic area.
In making the announcement, Jacobson said, “We are happy to announce that thirty previously unknown images of the Franklin battlefield, The Carter House, and the Confederate Cemetery have been discovered. Most were taken in June 1904, but several were taken in 1899. Photographer Albert Kern apparently made two trips to Franklin where he photographed the battlefield in 1899 and again in 1904.”
Jacobson added, “One image was taken at a point just outside where the Federal line of defense was located and the orientation is toward the southeast. A stone structure, known as the Cleburne cenotaph, is clearly visible and it is the clearest image of the monument that I have ever seen. This particular photo was taken in 1904, just two years before the cenotaph was torn down by a man who built a house on the property. There are also bricks and stones visible in the foreground, which appear to be remnants of the original Battle Ground Academy (BGA) that burned in 1902. BGA was then rebuilt west of Columbia Pike, and that building is visible in another photograph. Another image includes the Bostick home, which was known as Everbright. Several photos were taken from the crest of Privet Knob and offer sweeping and stunning looks at the battlefield.”
Several photos of the Carter House offer truly incredible views of the historic property, including a picket fence along Columbia Pike. The pictures also shows the obvious changes that Moscow Carter made to the house in 1880, including moving the bullet riddled smokehouse to the west end of the house and attaching it as an extra bedroom. A photo of the Confederate Cemetery shows it just prior to Carrie McGavock’s death and before the 1909 tornado which destroyed most of the beautiful trees that once graced the cemetery.
The photos were discovered in a house in Ohio many years ago and were subsequently stored away. Only recently were they re-evaluated and high resolution scans made. A few images have been posted on the Carter House Facebook page, and the Battle of Franklin Trust is planning to conduct a public forum which will allow interested parties to view the photos in early 2013.
The Battle of Franklin Trust is a 501 (c) 3 management corporation acting on behalf of Franklin’s battlefield sites to contribute to a greater understanding and enrich the visitor experience of the November 30, 1864 battle. It’s organized for the charitable and educational purposes of preserving, restoring, maintaining and interpreting the properties, artifacts and documents related to the battle so as to preserve an important part of the nation’s history.
The Andrews Agency
Battle of Franklin Trust
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Tod Carter March 24, 1840 – December 2, 1864
Tod Carter was returning home to his native Tennessee and native Williamson County with the Army of Tennessee in the fall of 1864, with his fellow soldiers in the 20th Tennessee Infantry (C.S.A.).
He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Franklin (30 November 1864) on the very land his father owned. He was carried from the field and died on December 2, 1864 in his own home.
Image credit above: The Williamson County Historical Society
Tod Carter’s grave site at Resthaven Cemetery in Franklin.
I recently purchased a nice Confederate letter from Major William J. Crook, 13th Tennessee Infantry. It is dated December 10, 1864 and is written from Nashville. Crook wrote several letters during the Civil War. Several of them are on file at the University of Tennessee Knoxville library.
In his Dec 10, 1864 letter Crook recounts the casualties his unit and division saw at Franklin. Fortune had smiled on the Major, who fell sickly in Columbia just a couple days before the Franklin action, thus missing the horrible Franklin action.
Major William J. Crook, 13th Tennessee Infantry, was lucky enough to survive the Battle of Franklin. The 13th was part of Vaughan’s Brigade, under Brig Gen George B. Gordon. The 13th TN fought with the 11th, 12th/47th, 29th and 51st/52nd TN Infantries at Franklin.
The 13th TN was on the furthest right of the advancing Gordon Brigade, just west of the Columbia Turnpike. Gordon’s men overtook Wagner’s (Union) men as they retreated back behind the Federal line in the opening battle sequence. Once reaching the Federal line in front of the Fountain Branch Carter farm, Gordon’s Brigade and he 13th TN met fierce resistance from Opdycke’s and Strickland’s Briagades. There was brutal hand-to-hand fighting here.
The University of Tennessee Knoxville library states this about William J. Crook:
William Jere Crook was born to Jeremiah and Mary (Arnold) Crook on October 20, 1836. He enlisted in Company I of the 13th Tennessee Infantry (CSA) as a Corporal on May 30, 1861 and was promoted to Captain on August 14 of the same year. Crook was seriously wounded and captured in Murfreesboro on December 31, 1862 and was exchanged in early 1863. He returned to his regiment and was promoted to Major on November 18, 1863. Crook was captured again near Athens, Georgia on May 8, 1865 and apparently released at the end of the war. He returned to Tennessee, where he married his cousin, Hattie Crook. William J. Crook died on January 10, 1881.
Here is a complete transcript of Crook’s letter. It is copyright protected and cannot be used without permission.
Sam Watkins, Company Aytch
“The death-angel gathers its last harvest.”
Kind reader, right here my pen, and courage, and ability fail me. I shrink from butchery. Would to God I could tear the page from these memoirs and from my own memory. It is the blackest page in the history of the war of the Lost
Cause. It was the bloodiest battle of modern times in any war. It was the finishing stroke to the independence of the Southern Confederacy. I was there. I saw it. My flesh trembles, and creeps, and crawls when I think of it today. My heart almost ceases to beat at the horrid recollection. Would to God that I had never witnessed such a scene!
I cannot describe it. It beggars description. I will not attempt to describe it. I could not. The death-angel was there to gather its last harvest. It was the grand coronation of death. Would that I could turn the page. But I feel, though I did so, that page would still be there, teeming with its scenes of horror and blood. I can only tell of what I saw.
Our regiment was resting in the gap of a range of hills in plain view of the city of Franklin. We could see the battle-flags of the enemy waving in the breeze. Our army had been depleted of its strength by a forced march from Spring Hill, and stragglers lined the road. Our artillery had not yet come up, and could not be brought into action. Our cavalry was across Harpeth river, and our army was but in poor condition to make an assault. While resting on this hillside, I saw a courier dash up to our commanding general, B. F. Cheatham, and the word, “Attention!” was given. I knew then that we would soon be in action. Forward, march. We passed over the hill and through a little skirt of woods.
The enemy were fortified right across the Franklin pike, in the suburbs of the town. Right here in these woods a detail of skirmishers was called for. Our regiment was detailed. We deployed as skirmishers, firing as we advanced on the left of the turnpike road. If I had not been a skirmisher on that day, I would not have been writing this today, in the year of our Lord 1882.
It was four o’clock on that dark and dismal December day when the line of battle was formed, and those devoted heroes were ordered forward, to
“Strike for their altars and their fires,
For the green graves of their sires,
For God and their native land.”
As they marched on down through an open field toward the rampart of blood and death, the Federal batteries began to open and mow down and gather into the garner of death, as brave, and good, and pure spirits as the world ever saw. The twilight of evening had begun to gather as a precursor of the coming blackness of midnight darkness that was to envelop a scene so sickening and horrible that it is impossible for me to describe it. “Forward, men,” is repeated all along the line. A sheet of fire was poured into our very faces, and for a moment we halted as if in despair, as the terrible avalanche of shot and shell laid low those brave and gallant heroes, whose bleeding wounds attested that the struggle would be desperate. Forward, men! The air loaded with death-dealing missiles. Never on this earth did men fight against such terrible odds. It seemed that the very elements of heaven and earth were in one mighty uproar. Forward, men! And the blood spurts in a perfect jet from the dead and wounded. The earth is red with blood. It runs in streams, making little rivulets as it flows. Occasionally there was a little lull in the storm of battle, as the men were loading their guns, and for a few moments it seemed as if night tried to cover the scene with her mantle. The death-angel shrieks and laughs and old Father Time is busy with his sickle, as he gathers in the last harvest of death, crying, More, more, more! while his rapacious maw is glutted with the slain.
But the skirmish line being deployed out, extending a little wider than the battle did—passing through a thicket of small locusts, where Brown, orderly sergeant of Company B, was killed—we advanced on toward the breastworks, on and on. I had made up my mind to die—felt glorious. We pressed forward until I heard the terrific roar of battle open on our right. Cleburne’s division was charging their works. I passed on until I got to their works, and got over on their (the Yankees’) side. But in fifty yards of where I was the scene was lit up by fires that seemed like hell itself. It appeared to be but one line of streaming fire. Our troops were upon one side of the breastworks, and the Federals on the other. I ran up on the line of works, where our men were engaged. Dead soldiers filled the entrenchments. The firing was kept up until after midnight, and gradually died out. We passed the night where we were. But when the morrow’s sun began to light up the eastern sky with its rosy hues, and we looked over the battlefield, O, my God! what did we see! It was a grand holocaust of death. Death had held high carnival there that night. The dead were piled the one on the other all over the ground. I never was so horrified and appalled in my life. Horses, like men, had died game on the gory breastworks. General Adams’ horse had his fore feet on one side of the works and his hind feet on the other, dead. The general seems to have been caught so that he was held to the horse’s back, sitting almost as if living, riddled, and mangled, and torn with balls. General Cleburne’s mare had her fore feet on top of the works, dead in that position. General Cleburne’s body was pierced with forty-nine bullets, through and through. General Strahl’s horse lay by the roadside and the general by his side, both dead, and all his staff. General Gist, a noble and brave cavalier from South Carolina, was lying with his sword reaching across the breastworks still grasped in his hand. He was lying there dead. All dead! They sleep in the graveyard yonder at Ashwood, almost in sight of my home, where I am writing today. They sleep the sleep of the brave. We love and cherish their memory. They sleep beneath the ivy-mantled walls of St. John’s church, where they expressed a wish to be buried. The private soldier sleeps where he fell, piled in one mighty heap. Four thousand five hundred privates! all lying side by side in death! Thirteen generals were killed and wounded. Four thousand five hundred men slain, all piled and heaped together at one place. I cannot tell the number of others killed and wounded. God alone knows that. We’ll all find out on the morning of the final resurrection.
Kind friends, I have attempted in my poor and feeble way to tell you of this (I can hardly call it) battle. It should be called by some other name. But, like all other battles, it, too, has gone into history. I leave it with you. I do not know who was to blame. It lives in the memory of the poor old Rebel soldier who went through that trying and terrible ordeal. We shed a tear for the dead. They are buried and forgotten. We meet no more on earth. But up yonder, beyond the sunset and the night, away beyond the clouds and tempest, away beyond the stars that ever twinkle and shine in the blue vault above us, away yonder by the great white throne, and by the river of life, where the Almighty and Eternal God sits, surrounded by the angels and archangels and the redeemed of earth, we will meet again and see those noble and brave spirits who gave up their lives for their country’s cause that night at Franklin, Tennessee. A life given for one’s country is never lost. It blooms again beyond the grave in a land of beauty and of love. Hanging around the throne of sapphire and gold, a rich garland awaits the coming of him who died for his country, and when the horologe of time has struck its last note upon his dying brow, Justice hands the record of life to Mercy, and Mercy pleads with Jesus, and God, for his sake, receives him in his eternal home beyond the skies at last and forever.