Friday, May 31, 2013

Battle of Franklin - Part 2 - The Carnton Plantation

On the morning of November 30, 1864 Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest arrived at Carnton Plantation to do some reconnaissance work.   The lady of the house, Carrie McGavock, watched as thousands of soldiers marched past the house on their way to nearby Franklin. 
 Wounded soldiers began to arrive at Carnton almost immediately as the fighting started.
Every room was filled, every bed held two men, every spare space, niche, and corner under the stairs, in the hall, and everywhere except one room where the McGavock family stayed.
When the house could hold no more, the yard was filled with the wounded and dying.
As the bodies of 4 generals lay on the back porch, Carrie McGavock began giving her linen, towels, napkins, sheets, tablecloths, her husband's shirts, and, finally, her own undergarments to be used as bandages.
Even after the Army of Tennessee retreated to the south, following the Battle of Nashville in mid-December, at least 29 badly injured soldiers remained at Carnton.
After the war, Carrie's husband, John, continued farming at Carnton recovering his fortunes by 1868.
African-Americans continued to make up much of his workforce as they toiled under the new banner of sharecroppers and hired hands.
Frustratingly, no pictures were allowed inside the big house.
In the early months of 1866 John McGavock donated land near his family cemetery to move the Confederate dead from where they had been buried following the Battle of Franklin.
The burial team moved the remains of 1,481 soldiers to Carnton.
The Confederate dead were buried as nearly as possible by State and a complete record of all the graves were kept by the family.
Eventually, Carnton went out of the family name.  In April 1909 an entire wing of the house was badly damaged by a tornado and removed.  Restoration began on the house in the mid-1980's and it is beautifully decorated in the style of the time period.  However, blood still stains the wood floors in most of the rooms.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Battle of Franklin - and the Plantations Involved (Part 1)

A couple weeks ago Hubby and I traveled to Franklin, Tennessee, where the bloodiest five hours of the Civil War took place on November 30, 1864. 
However, the story really begins to the south at Spring Hill where Confederate troops were encamped at Rippavilla Plantation. 
They were hoping to smash the Federal troops headed toward Franklin
Inexplicably, the Union army sneaked past General Hood's troops during the night, enraging Hood.
We got to tour this beautiful home but, once again, no pictures were allowed inside the house.  However, our tour guide did take one photo for us.
Union and Confederate troops were converging on the small town of Franklin.  The Albert Lotz family were hard-working immigrants who didn't even have any family member in the war, but had to seek shelter across the street at the Carter House.  (No photos allowed inside!)
Fountain Branch Carter had three sons who enlisted to serve the Confederate State of America, but on this day the house was located just inside the center of the Union defensive perimeter.
Concerned for his family, Carter asked the Union commanders whether they should leave.  Assured that the fighting would not come near the house, the Lotz and Carter families decided to take refuge in the basement of the Carter house.
Not long before sunset, two Confederate divisions overran the Union line just south of the Carter home.  As the families huddled below, the yard soon became the epicenter of vicious hand-to-hand fighting.
Carter's son, Tod, led a charge against the Federal works and was hit by enemy fire nine times.  He was found alive on the field the next morning and brought back to his home where he died.
The house is scarred by more than 1,000 bullet holes, still visible today.
The fighting lasted just five hours and resulted in some 9,500 casualties.  The ground around the Carter House and stretching for hundreds of yards both east and west was a horrible spectacle.
When the families emerged, they found the bodies of dead and dying men heaped in piles.  Screaming and crying wounded were found pinned beneath other bodies and some soldiers had died standing up because there wasn't room to fall down.  When the bodies were finally moved they had to use shovels to clean up the piles and piles of spent bullets.
Next up:  The Carnton Plantation

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Historic Donnell House in Athens, Alabama

A couple weeks ago, Hubby and I toured the former home of Presbyterian minister Robert Donnell.  He finished the house in 1851, dying in 1855.  However, he was spared seeing his home invaded by Union soldiers.

This was one of the few homes we have visited that has allowed us to take pictures inside.
The spiritual life of all those around Rev. Donnell was more important than the physical and he furnished his house plainly compared to other antebellum home.
Our tour guide was a direct descendant of Rev. Donnell.
Prayers were held in the dining room twice a day for the family, guests, and laborers.  The overseer complained, in vain, that prayers were taking time away from the laborer's work.
So many mirrors in a home served to reflect light.
The Donnell House is not normally open for tours but today was a special occasion.
This was the anniversary of the invasion of Union troops in May, 1862.  Col. John Turchin, a Russian Cossack, quartered his soldiers on the Donnell property.
On this day we were treated to a re-enactment of an actual event that happened while the troops were camped on the lawn.  Upstairs, a family member lay dying.  Soldiers were asked for peace and quiet but when they did not comply.........
.....the lady of the house dumped a chamber pot on the unlucky trooper stationed below.  On this day the "lady" was our tour guide and the "soldier" was a direct descendant of the soldier who had the chamber pot dumped on him.  Fortunately, on this day it was just water.
Up until the invasion by Union troops in 1862, Athens had been largely pro-Union.  However, Col. Turchin "closed his eyes for two hours" - allowing his troops to sack and plunder the town of Athens as they pleased.  Even today you really shouldn't boast to anyone in town that you are a Yankee!
We are immersing ourselves in Civil War history or, as it's called around here, the War Between the States.  Last weekend we learned all about the Battle of Franklin (Tennessee) and the families and homes involved.  Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shiloh National Military Park

A couple weeks before Ceekay came to visit, Hubby and I visited the site of the Civil War battle that took place at Shiloh.
We started out at the visitor center to get an overview of the battle.
We discovered that there were quite a few participants that later became famous.  Union General Ulysses S. Grant became President of the United States, Rebel soldier Henry Morton Stanley became famous for "finding" Dr. David Livingstone in Africa, and Union officer Ambrose Bierce became one of America's best known writers (Ben Hur).
We found out that drums were used to signal such things as "assembly," "attack,"  "retreat," "chow," "officers' call," and similar messages in camp or on the battlefield.  Drummer boys were most often in their teens, but not always.  The youngest drummer boy at Shiloh was only 10 years old!
Next stop was the National Cemetery where many of the Union dead were re-buried after a hasty burial on the battlefield.
The cemetery is a sobering reminder of the sacrifices made by so many men.
Next up was a driving tour of the battlefield.  How appropriate that this bald eagle would make this hallowed ground a nesting place.
Lots and lots of cannon and monuments dot the landscape, marking places where important parts of the battle took place.
In case you don't know - the North very nearly lost this battle.  If not for last minute reinforcements from Grant and Sherman the Union army would have been defeated.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this battle is that both sides realized this was not going to be a quick and easy war and there would be a terrible toll.
In contrast to the neat orderly Union cemetery, the Confederate dead remain in five burial trenches, like this one, around the park  To avoid disease, the dead were piled by the hundreds into trenches and covered up.  Later, when the Union dead were re-interred, the Daughters of the Confederacy refused to have their dead disturbed electing, instead, to erect monuments in their honor.
And how did the Battle of Shiloh get its name?  From the Shiloh Church of course.
This is a re-creation of the original church where the floors were stained with the blood of the wounded, and dying, soldiers.  After the battle the church was literally picked apart by souvenir hunters.
Tomorrow, Hubby and I head off to Franklin, Tennessee to learn about the important Battle of Franklin and tour plantations that survived being in the midst of the fighting.  There might be, just a little, shopping involved too.