Battle of Franklin Tour – You Are Here – Stop #3 – The Carter House
Image courtesy of Historic Foundation of Williamson County
Fountain Branch Carter (1797-1871) was born in Halifax Co. VA. and came with the Francis and Sarah Carter family to Williamson County in 1806, settling in Waddell Hollow. F.B. came to Franklin as a young man to make shoes, boots. In1830, he had the Carter House built on Columbia pike south of Franklin, which became the center of the Battle of Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864.
The Carter House
The action around the Carter House as can only be told by Thomas Cartwight.
Map below shows the Federal line directly south of the Carter house.
The Carter Garden area
Casting the larger significance of the Carter garden section of the battlefield, historian Eric Jacobson captures it best:
“The significance of the western edge of the Carter garden cannot be overstated. Around 4:30 p.m. on November 30, 1864, elements of Gen. John Brown’s Confederate Division ripped through the main Federal line of defense west of Columbia Pike. Among the units forced to withdraw was the 72nd Illinois Infantry, which held the section of the line which cuts through the garden property. The Illinois troops fell back to a reserve line held by the 44th Missouri Infantry. Only a firm stand by the Missourians prevented Brown’s troops from collapsing more of the Federal defensive position. The garden property was enveloped by a hail of relentless fire for hours and three separate charges made by Federal troops to retake the main line were unsuccessful. The Confederates held the outside of the main line until they started to withdraw around 9 p.m.”
The Federal or Union defensive line lay basically across an East-West diagonal line on the western side of Columbia Pike, just 50-60 feet in front of the present day Carter grounds. That line was an entrenchment that was dug by Union soldiers probably in the early morning hours of November 30th, 1864.
The Carter family had a small family vegetable garden that is believed to have originally been a two acre parcel of land, about 50 feet south west of where the slave cabin is presently located.
Many Union soldiers’ letters and diaries record men having spent several hours the morning of the 30th hastily and hurriedly digging trench works along this line. This defensive line, also known as earthworks, or breastworks, was a significant reason why the Union side at Franklin saw modest casualties-killed (about 150), while the Confederates suffered a staggering amount, (around 1,700), according to Fred Prouty. Historian Eric Jacobson says those numbers are probably even too low. He believes there were probably 300 Federal killed at Franklin.
72nd Illinois Infantry re-enactors defend the Federal trench line (below) in the Carter garden area, near the present-day visitor’s center.
View looking South of the Carter garden area.
- Carter house grounds, garden was left (west) of the man standing
An army that fought behind defensive earthworks had a distinct advantage against assaulting troops, especially if the defending army also had artillery support. The Union armies at the Battle of Franklin had the advantage of both. Thus, as Jacobson says, the ” . . . cards were stacked against them [the Rebels] almost from the start”.
View probably just 20 feet northeast of the original Carter garden location.
The Carter Office building
Thomas Cartwright paints the picture of fighting by the Carter farm office in this video.
More relevant content to the Carter House story
- The fatal wounding of Tod Carter
- Tod Carter’s best friend, James L. Cooper
- George Washington Allison, Company K, 50th Ohio, saw action in Strickland’s Brigade near Carter House
- Civil War son Harold Becker visits Carter grounds at Franklin
Next Stop #4 – The Lotz House