The metro Atlanta region is no stranger to Civil War history. We literally live amid it, courtesy of the movements of Gen. William Sherman’s Union army and its battles with Gen. Joseph Johnston’s Confederate forces. In this 150th anniversary year, however, more attention is being paid to those events.
Just to our northwest in Franklin, Tennessee one of the most horrendous actions of that war took place on November 30, 1864. The Battle of Franklin will be remembered, but won’t be celebrated by anyone.
From the standpoint of casualties compared to the number of men involved, especially for the Southerns, it was by far the bloodiest affair of the war. Gen. John Bell Hood and his Confederate Army of Tennessee numbered 22,000 men at the start of the action.
But, after attacking Gen. John Schofield’s 23,000 entrenched Union troops, the rebel army number only 15,000. Among the more than 7,000 killed, wounded or captured were 13 generals (six killed, one captured and six wounded) along with 65 regimental commanders.
After Franklin, the Army of Tennessee was little more than an armed mob. They had lost the bulk of their veteran officer corps.
Today the town of Franklin offers a self-guided driving tour of the village’s history. Seven of the locations on the 26-stop tour are at sites pivotal to the battle.
The Confederate Sentry Statue
The Confederate Sentry Statue is the focal point of the downtown square in Franklin, honoring the memory of the Southern soldiers who served in the battle.
Franklin Visitors Center
You can pick up a free self-guided driving tour brochure from the Franklin Visitors Center at 400 Main Street. The 26 sites include most of Franklin's Civil War history, with 14 of them dealing specifically with the Battle of Franklin.
The Winstead Hill Overlook is a park just south of town that is maintained by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Gen. John Bell Hood watched the battle unfold from his headquarters on the hill. Today it contains a diorama of the field and monuments to the six Confederate general who perished in the fight.
The Carter House
The Carter House sat at the epicenter of the battle in 1864 and contains more than 1,000 bullet holes. Confederate Capt. Tod Carter grew up in this house, was wounded nearby during the battle and died three days later in the house. Today the house is open for tours for a fee.
The Carter Gin Park
This small park is near the site of the Carter Cotton Gin. The area was referred to as the "Slaughter Pen" during the Battle of Franklin. Confederate Major General Pat Cleburne and Brigadier Generals Hiram Granbury, John Adams, Otto Strahl, John Carter and S.R. Gist all died in battle near this site.
The Lotz House
The Lotz House sits near the site where the Confederate charge broke the Federal lines, resulting in hand-to-hand fighting as Union Col. Emerson Opdycke's brigade rushed to fill the gap. The house now serves as a museum, open for tours for a fee.
This Federal fortification was built to protect the Alabama & Tennessee Railroad bridge over the Harpeth River and overlooked the battlefield. The fort's heavy artillery bombarded the Confederate right flank during the battle.
Major General William Loring's division formed the right flank of the Confederate line and attacked across the Carnton Plantation fields. More than 300 of his wounded soldiers were brought back to the plantation house that was turned into a temporary hospital. The plantation grounds are open for tours for a fee.
The Confederate Cemetery
This burial ground on the property of the Carnton Plantation contains 1,498 graves of Confederate soldiers killed in the battle. It is the largest privately-owned military cemetery in the nation. The graves are organized by states, with unknown soldiers sharing a common monument.