Franklin Tennessee is located just a few short miles from Nashville. It was where the former mayor of Nashville, Randal McGavock, chose to make his home in 1826 and he named it Carnton. While he entertained many famous people in his home including Andrew Jackson, it is what happened on November 30, 1864 that has made this house a must visit destination for anyone coming to this part of Tennessee.
By 1864, Randal had died and it was his son John who was running Carnton along with his wife Carrie Winder McGavock. The events of that day and the days after have been portrayed in the book "The Widow of the South " by Robert Hicks. This book is suggested reading for anyone who is planning to visit here.
Carnton Plantation is not just any southern plantation, there are many of those. While that alone would be of interest, the fact that this house was literally in the middle of the battle of Franklin and turned into an army hospital by the Confederacy, has changed this family and the house forever.
Today, you begin your visit in the visitor center where you can purchase the above mentioned book or one by local author Eric A Jacobson called "For Cause and For Country". We were lucky enough to have Eric as our tour guide on a recent visit to Carnton Plantation and to say that it enhanced the visit greatly would be a gross understatement. Eric is a font of knowledge about the battle, the cemetery and the house and family. He has an easy style that makes appreciating the significance of these events much easier. While our tour was unique, the casual visitor will be guided through the home by one of the staff who will also answer question and be happy to tell you as much as you would like to know about the McGavocks, Carnton and the Battle of Franklin.
The Plantation is two stories so you need to be able to walk upstairs to get the full effect of this house. Every room in it was used as a hospital. Every building on the property became part of the hospital. It is hard to imagine where they could have possibly put the three hundred and even up to 700 wounded who passed through here. On November 30, 1864, 40,000 men surrounded Carnton Plantation. The family had no warning; no time to get away, the battle just rose up around them. This was a battle of violent hand to hand combat and the carnage was appalling. It was a 5 hour battle that left 2500 dead and 7000 wounded with 1000 missing.
All the dead were buried on the McGavock property. Later the Union dead were moved to another cemetery but Carrie McGavock took on the task of the upkeep and record keeping of the Confederate dead. You can still visit this cemetery today, it is located near to the entrance to the property. The book that Carrie kept of the dead in the cemetery is in the house.
One thing that will touch your heart when you visit here is the blood stains that remain on the floor. There was so much blood from all the wounded and the surgery that took place here that it soaked through the carpet and left marks that remain to this day over almost 150 years later. One can only imagine what it was like for the family to have lived here for 70 years after the battle with those reminders always there.
Allow a couple of hours to visit here. There is a charge for entry of $15 for adults. The plantation is open every day and tours take about an hour.
You enter through the rear of the property. Be sure to go around and look at the front to get a real idea of what the house looks like.