Tour Stop #6 – Historic Carnton House

Battle of Franklin Tour – You Are Here – Stop #6 – Historic Carnton House

Stop #5 – Fort Granger |  Stop #7 – McGavock Confederate Cemetery

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Another must-stop site on the battlefield, the Carnton farm sits just a mile southeast of downtown Franklin and was a vital part of the Franklin story. After the battle, hundreds of wounded Confederate soldiers were taken to Carnton which served as a field hospital. The bodies of four Confederate Generals were laid on the back porch. A tour of the home is a must to understand the battle from the civilian perspective. The McGavock family cemetery and the McGavock Confederate Cemetery are close by the home.

Tickets, souvenirs and a museum are inside the Fleming Center (below) at Carnton.

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Carnton was built in 1826 by former Nashville mayor Randal McGavock (1768-1843). Throughout the nineteenth century it was frequently visited by those shaping Tennessee and American history, including President Andrew Jackson. Carnton grew to become one of the premier farms in Williamson County, Tennessee. Randal McGavock’s son John (1815-1893) inherited the farm upon his father’s death. John McGavock married Carrie Elizabeth Winder (1829-1905) in December 1848 and they had five children during the subsequent years, three of whom died at young ages – Martha (1849-1862); Mary Elizabeth (1851-1858); and John Randal (1854). The surviving children were Winder (1857-1907) and Hattie (1855-1932).

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Beginning at 4 p.m. on November 30, 1864, Carnton was witness to one of the bloodiest battles of the entire Civil War. Everything the McGavock family ever knew was forever changed. The Confederate Army of Tennessee furiously assaulted the Federal army entrenched along the southern edge of Franklin. The resulting battle, believed to be the bloodiest five hours of the Civil War, involved a massive frontal assault larger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. The majority of the combat occurred in the dark and at close quarters. The Battle of Franklin lasted barely five hours and led to some 9,500 soldiers being killed, wounded, captured, or counted as missing. Nearly 7,000 of that number were Confederate troops. Carnton served as the largest field hospital in the area for hundreds of wounded and dying Confederate soldiers.

Bloodstains on the floor at Carnton. Used by permission.

Bloodstains on the floor at Carnton. Used by permission.

A staff officer later wrote that “the wounded, in hundreds, were brought to [the house] during the battle, and all the night after. And when the noble old house could hold no more, the yard was appropriated until the wounded and dead filled that….”

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On the morning of December 1, 1864 the bodies of four Confederate generals killed during the fighting, Patrick R. Cleburne, Hiram B. Granbury, John Adams, and Otho F. Strahl, lay on Carnton’s back porch. The floors of the restored home are still stained with the blood of the men who were treated here.

Next Stop #7 – McGavock Confederate Cemetery

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