Franklin is one of my favorite cities in the Tennessee–and, actually, in the world! Founded in October 1799 and named for none other than Benjamin Franklin, its history goes back further than the U.S. Civil War. But if I can speak frankly (haha), the town’s Civil War history defines it, even today. If you fancy yourself a history lover or Civil War buff, here are the best things you can do on a trip to one of my favorite historic towns!
Tour Carnton Plantation
If you’ve driven around the Nashville area, you may have come across McGavock Pike… named for Carnton’s original owner and Nashville Mayor Randal McGavock! The grand, antebellum (meaning pre-Civil War) home was built in 1826 and played host to the 16th state’s elite, such as President Andrew Jackson.
Randal’s son, John McGavock, and his family were living in the home when the Battle of Franklin began on November 30, 1864. In just five hours, 9,500 soldiers were killed, wounded, captured, or missing. Seven thousand of them were Confederates, and Carnton became the largest field hospital in the area. When the house was full, they used the porches and the yard to address the dead and dying. The home’s floors are still stained with their blood.
The Battle of Franklin was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, so Carnton Plantation is a must-visit for your trip! Click here for their selection of tours, as well as hours and admission.
More here: The Ultimate Guide for How to Plan a Trip
Walk Through McGavock Confederate Cemetery
While you’re at Carnton, you can’t miss the opportunity to walk through the Confederate Cemetery on the property. The soldiers interred here were originally buried on the battlefield, but their makeshift grave markers began to deteriorate after just a couple of years. So the people of Franklin banded together to have them exhumed and re-interred on property donated by the McGavock family. The 1,480 soldiers have rested here ever since.
Visit Carter House
Fountain Branch Carter built this home in 1830, as a business owner in town. Soon after, he acquired more land and began a farming business as well. In the early hours of November 30, 1864, Federal Brigadier General Cox woke the family and declared Carter House his headquarters. The Battle of Franklin raged outside by that same afternoon. Fountain Carter’s son Tod was mortally wounded in the battle while the remaining Carter family, their neighbors (the Lotz family), and slaves took cover inside the home.
Keep reading: A Brief History of Flight
Tour Lotz House
This home was built by German immigrant Johann Albert Lotz, beginning in 1855. He had purchased five acres from Fountain Branch Carter, just down the street, and three years later the master carpenter and piano maker’s home was complete. Nine years later, the Federal troops had established their front line through his front yard in anticipation of the Battle of Franklin. The Lotzes sought refuge with their neighbors the Carters, as their home was brick, but the Lotz house was entirely made of wood. Remarkably, the Lotzes and their wooden home survived.
When they emerged the next morning, they found that dead soldiers lay six feet high across the road and their front yard. The hand-to-hand combat in front of their home was some of the most brutal and bloodiest of the War. The home quickly became a hospital for soldiers from both the Union and Confederacy from December until the following summer.
Another trip to take: Hawaii for History Lovers
Stop by the Site of Fort Granger
If you think this is a Confederate fort, or one that came as a result of the Battle of Franklin, I’m about to surprise you: This is a Union Civil War fort, built in 1863 and named for Union Major General Gordon Granger. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, and is accessible via a trail through Pinkerton Park. It’s a lovely park for a stroll or perhaps a morning run. You’ll find historic markers here explaining the fort’s construction, purpose, and history.
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Pay Your Respects at
Confederate Memorial Park, Winstead Hill
This 61-acre park marks the place where General Hood’s Confederate troops formed just before the Battle of Franklin. The monument on the hill memorializes the Army of Tennessee, and the overlook gives visitors views of a military map of the battle, as well as memorials to the Confederate Generals who died as a result of the Battle of Franklin.
Go Inside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Though the church closed during the Civil War (the Rector went off to join the Army of Tennessee), that didn’t stop the Union soldiers from using it as their barracks while they occupied Franklin beginning in 1862. After the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, both Union and Confederate soldiers used the former church as a hospital (not at the same time).
After the War, it eventually became a place of worship again. The congregation even won a lawsuit against the United States government for the damages caused during the Union occupation. It has survived through thick and thin, and I think it warrants a visit!
Another trip to consider: Washington, D.C., for History Lovers
Take a Walking Tour
Franklin on Foot offers a variety of walking tours, but if you’re reading this post, you’re probably most interested in their Civil War Walking Tour! This 10-block, two-hour walking tour includes significant sites, little-known history, remaining damage to historic architecture, and personal stories from those who fought in or lived through the Civil War and the Battle of Franklin.
Want to walk on your own schedule? Stop by the Williamson County Visitor Center for a FREE brochure that includes a self-guided walking tour.
More here: 7 Things to Expect on Your First Solo Trip
Pick up a Local History Book at Landmark Booksellers
Whether you’re looking for a book about local Civil War history or a book written during the Civil War, this is the place for you! They have plenty of used, new, rare, and local books, as well as quite a selection about the Battle of Franklin and the Civil War. Also, ask about the books by Whitney O’Halek—that’s right, they also carry my Princess Culture and Lost and Found books!
Want more? Check out my United States Page for all things Franklin and all my Tennessee posts!
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