That Vacation Trip, Day 2-A: The Battle of Franklin

Diamondqueen's favorite breakfast.

Diamondqueen’s favorite breakfast.

Since they served a good-looking breakfast buffet at the hotel, that’s where we started our day. For some odd reason (can’t imagine why), J.Hooligan decided to eat alone at one of the counters. Diamondqueen was thrilled to find they had pretty good biscuits and gravy, probably her favorite part of Southern culture. I can’t remember if S.Hooligan ate anything.

We had a long day ahead of us. We planned to see some sites of the Franklin battlefield, then drive to the Shiloh Battlefield several hours away. From there we’d drive to Memphis where we’d spend the next two nights. It sounded manageable, but it turned out to be a very long haul.

Since no one but me was interested in seeing the interior of the Carter House, I said I’d settle just for a quick visit to the grounds. Since even just that would cost admission and we wouldn’t be there very long, we skirted the periphery enough from the parking lot so I could get a look at various points, particularly the hilltop where the 175th OVI had fought. I knew my 3rd great-grandfather James Conover had been captured before the battle started, but I figured some of his friends and neighbors from Brown County, OH must have been involved.

I did get a glimpse; but, frankly, everything about the Franklin “battlefield” was hard to picture because the area has been so heavily developed for so long. Although downtown Franklin reflects an 18th century feel, the surrounding area does not. The Carter House grounds seemed shoehorned among more modern buildings, even though it was there first. I simply couldn’t get a sense of how it had been the way I still can in Gettysburg, even with all the tourist attractions. (Besides Baptism of Fire, I’d also read The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville by Wiley Sword,  so I had a good sense of what had happened and where; I just had trouble picking up the vibe.) However, there are folks in Franklin working to recover and restore the battlefield. Someday I want to go back and see the results.

The Cotton Gin Assault Park. The pyramid of cannonballs marks where Patrick Cleburn fell. In the background is the newly cleared land for the next round of battlefield restoration.

The Cotton Gin Assault Park. The pyramid of cannonballs marks where Patrick Cleburn fell. In the background is the newly cleared land for the next round of battlefield restoration.

We wound around to get back onto Columbia Pike. As we started down the hill, I turned around to gaze at the Carter House, then turned back just in time to see us whiz by some kind of memorial park. Diamondqueen found a place to turn around and dropped me off so I could take a look; she and the Hooligans stayed in the van and vanished down the side road to find a turnaround.

It turned out to be the Cotton Gin Assault Park, a postage stamp-sized site that includes a monument where Confederate General Patrick Cleburn was killed as well as other markers and interpretative plaques. Across the street was a plot of cleared land that I’ve since learned was purchased for further restoration of the battlefield around the location of the cotton gin. (This was all a big yawn to Diamondqueen and the Hooligans, who pulled into the cleared land to pick me up.)

I knew Carnton Plantation was supposed to be nearby, but we’d lost track of the signs showing the direction. During the winter/spring I’d also read The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks and became very invested in the story of Carrie McGavock and the role of Carnton during the Battle of Franklin. However, it was taking too long to figure out where to go. I said we should continue on. However, Diamondqueen knew I’d really wanted to visit, so she switched on bossy Mrs. Garmin, got the directions, and backtracked to the plantation.

Heading back toward Franklin (in the distance) along the Columbia Pike on Winstead Hill.

Heading back toward Franklin (in the distance) along the Columbia Pike on Winstead Hill.

The Carnton back porch where four Confederate generals were laid out.

The Carnton back porch where four Confederate generals were laid out.

A diorama of Carnton on display in a Franklin shop window.

A diorama of Carnton on display in a Franklin shop window.

Typically, the Hooligans stayed in the van. Because of our time constraints, Diamondqueen and I agreed to buy tickets to see the grounds only. It gave me everything I wanted: the infamous back porch where the four Confederate generals lay dead, the front walk depicted so often in the novel, the garden, and the cemetery with both the family plot and the Confederate graveyard Carrie McGavock maintained all her life. It was blistering hot, but Diamondqueen and I took a thorough walk around the grounds, although it could have been a day-long visit, especially if the house was included.

We knew we’d better get the kids to use the bathrooms before we set off. I went first and had one of those blinding reactions that made me grit my teeth and nearly hyperventilate. In memory, the stinging heat and the stinging of my wound are merged into one big misery. I had to ask J.Hooligan for about the third time on the trip so far not to speak to me right then until the pain let up. It always did–until the next bathroom visit.

As I said in yesterday’s post, our original plan was to stop briefly in Thompson’s Station, but we took a wrong turn and ended up on the highway we needed anyhow, so we moved on. In researching links for this post, I discovered there is a battlefield tour of Thompson’s Station (although this probably has more to do with the 1863 battle than the prelude to the Battle of Franklin). Someday I’ll have to return to the Franklin area–to see how they’ve improved the battlefield, to visit Thompson’s Station more thoroughly, and to see the interiors of the houses I skipped this time around. In other words, I need to spend more than an evening and a morning in Franklin.

 

 

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