This past Saturday morning my wife and I took some time to go and tour Carnton Plantation in Franklin, TN. We have lived in Franklin for several years now but we've yet to visit this historical site. My wife had a project for school that required her to visit a historical place, and since I was in the process of reading The Widow of The South which was set at Carnton it was perfect timing for our visit.
Carnton Plantation became a field hospital during the U.S. Civil War at The Battle of Franklin. The battle was one of the deadliest and bloodiest battles of the entire war. It even carried the nickname, "Gettysburg of the West". The battle was fought at night and in a period of 5 hours. There were over 9,000 casualties. More men fell on this day than on the invasion of Normandy in WWII. The plantation was packed with wounded and dying men and boys. Every room was filled with wounded. It got to the point where even men were laid out in the yard. Keep in mind the battle took place on November 30, 1864. It was cold.
There were a lot of things about the tour that I learned but there are two things I want to share in particular. First, we made our way upstairs to the guest room as our tour guide told us all about the room. She then looked over at my feet and said, "you can even see the blood stains left by the wounded where you are standing." I looked down and sure enough - there it was. Then as we walked around the house it became eerie as we saw stain after stain.
Second, a good friend of mine who is a part of the Franklin Civil War Round Table, went with us and recommended that we take the tour with Michelle. Now, I can't say anything about the other tour guides but Michelle was incredible. It didn't take long to see her passion for history. Her love for the story played out in her tone and energy. It was one of the best tours that I can remember taking in a long time. She ended the tour with showing us the book that Carrie McGavock kept. It contained all of the names of those who died at Carnton and where they were buried in in the cemetery next to the home. Michelle shared a few stories about Carrie and how she became known as the "Widow of the South". The stories Michelle shared and the way she shared them brought tears to everyone in the group. It was simply inspiring.
I recommend that you take the tour of Carnton. It is well worth the trip. In fact, if you'll plan to go in the next several days, you can see the pistol and kepi of General Patrick Cleburne (Stonewall of the West) on display. Cleburne was one of the four generals of the Confederacy that were killed in the battle - something that was rare. This is the first time the pistol and kepi have been together since the battle. The story of the pistol's travels in the last 100 plus years is fascinating. You can read about the story here.