J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “Battle of Franklin”

The Fight to Reclaim America’s Battlefields

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150 years ago on November 30, 1864 — Union and Confederate soldiers fought their way across a Tennessee field in Franklin just as reenactors do today. But it was no spectator sport that day. A crippling defeat for the Confederacy; the Battle of Franklin came to be known as “Bloody Franklin.”

The casualties on both sides added up to almost 10,000. Nearly 1,500 of the Confederate dead are buried nearby in the McGavock Family Cemetery at Carnton Plantation.

“When you look today at the battlefield, what do you see? I see Targets and Hardee’s and businesses,” said bestselling author Robert Hicks. “We can over this next decade undo some of that.”

In 2005, if you stood in the cemetery and looked over the fence to where hundreds of the soldiers died, you saw a golf course.

“Hopefully, the day will come that it will be back to what it was,” said Hicks.

The golf course is a park now, and Franklin has become the poster child for something almost unheard of: a major victory in the war to reclaim Civil War battlefields.

“If we’d failed on the golf course, then we would never have gone on,” said Hicks.

“Parts of them disappear every day,” said James Lighthizer who heads the Civil War Trust, which raises money to save endangered properties. “We guesstimate at about 30-40 acres a day because of development, so it’s going pretty fast.”

Gettysburg, site of the bloodiest battle ever on American soil, became a National Military Park in 1895. But significant landmarks were left out, including Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters.Today, a motel stands next to Lee’s headquarters.

“It’s a sacrilege,” said Lighthizer. “I mean, it’s a destruction of a part of American history.”

For $120 a night, you can actually stay upstairs — that is, for a while longer. The Civil War Trust is raising $5.5 million to buy and restore the property and tear down the motel next door.

“When it comes to preserving land, it’s really all about money,” said Lighthizer. “There’s nothing else to it. Good intentions are just that — they get you nowhere.”

According to the Civil War Trust, 42 percent of the principal battlefields have been lost, or close to it —  casualties to development. The fights are not always black-and-white, and good guys against bad guys.

Last November, Franklin, Tennessee came one demolition closer to reclaiming another big piece of its battlefield. A decade ago, it had been written off as lost. But then Franklin had a change of heart – thanks in part to Robert Hicks and lawyer Julian Bibb.

“The battlefield, which had been looked at as forgotten or, ‘Gosh, it’s gonna be way too expensive to do what you all are trying to do,’ that took the convincing,” said Bibb. “And once that began to happen, it completely changed the support we were recognizing politically, locally and statewide.”

“This year we will probably have over 100,000 people come to Franklin [as] heritage tourists,” said Hicks.

The worst part of the fighting was around the site of the Carter House (now a museum) and a Pizza Hut when we first came to Franklin in 2005. Since then, It’s been “now you see it, now you don’t” — one property after another gone. Just like Dominoes, which will be going away in January. All to make way for a 20-acre park on the reclaimed land. The price tag: $14 million. So far, from private donations, the Civil War Trust, and the city, state and federal governments.

“This is hallowed ground” said Hicks. “I don’t know how to say it any other way. Something holy happened here.”

Who knew that people would still be fighting the Battle of Franklin today, 150 years after the fact? The front lines then . . . are the front lines now.

(Courtesy of General William Barksdale Camp 1220 Sons of Confederate Veterans, Columbus, Mississippi, January, 2015)

Haunted Houses and the Civil War

I previously mentioned a famous haunted house in Gettysburg known as the Farnsworth House, which stood witness to the battle in July, 1863, and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address the following November. So many other houses are reportedly haunted that the list is virtually endless, but a few host more Civil War ghosts than others.

One other house in Gettysburg is supposedly haunted by Jennie Wade, who resided there and was killed by a stray sharpshooter’s bullet during the battle. The Carter House and the Carnton House, both in Franklin, Tennessee, are still visited by ghosts who witnessed the horrible Battle of Franklin in 1864. The McRaven House in Vicksburg, Mississippi, as well as the Lee-Custis House in Arlington, Virginia, are also ghostly dwellings.

New Orleans entertains its share of Civil War ghosts, along with many other spiritual entities. The Beauregard-Keyes House is said to play host to its former owner, General P.G.T. Beauregard. On several occasions, witnesses have heard and/or seen Beauregard’s Confederates charge through the dining room, complete with yelling, screaming, gunfire, and cannonade.

I met a nice young man last weekend who, once he found out I was a Civil War author, proceeded to tell me about the house he grew up in near Nashville. When I asked if it was haunted, he nearly turned white as a ghost, and told me that he had witnessed strange, scary, unexplainable things. I can’t wait to hear more about what happened. Another friend lives in an old plantation house in Hernando, Mississippi. This house is haunted, too. Not long ago, he and another friend, (both Civil War reenactors) were sitting in the parlor area when a candlestick on the mantle rose up, floated over to the center of the room, and fell to the floor with a crash on its own accord. Skeptics once, they believe in the supernatural now.

Abram Joseph Ryan

One of my favorite poets of the Civil War was Abram Joseph Ryan. Father Ryan (February 5, 1838 – April 22, 1886) was a Catholic priest and a proponent of the Confederacy. He has been called the “Poet Priest of the South” and the “Poet Laureate of the Confederacy.” Father Ryan served as a freelance chaplain for Confederate troops, serving at First Manassas, the Battle of Lookout Mountain, the Battle of Missionary Ridge, the Battle of Franklin, and the Battle of Nashville. Below is one of his poems:

CONFEDERATE HEROES C.S.A.

Do we weep for the heroes who died for us,

Who living were true and tried for us,

And dying sleep side by side for us;

The Martyr-band

That hallowed our land

With the blood they shed in a tide for us?

Ah! fearless on many a day for us,

They stood in front of the fray for us,

And held the foeman at bay for us;

And tears should fall

Fore’er o’er all

Who fell while wearing the Gray for us.

How many a glorious name for us,

How many a story of fame for us

They left: Would it not be a blame for us

If their memories part

From our land and heart,

And wrong to them, and shame for us?

No, no, no, they were brave for us,

And bright were the lives they gave for us;

The land they struggled to save for us

Will not forget

Its warriors yet

Who sleep in so many a grave for us.

On many and many a plain for us

Their blood poured down all in vain for us,

Red, rich, and pure, like a rain for us;

They bleed — we weep,

We live — they sleep,

“All lost,” the only refrain for us.

But their memories e’er shall remain for us,

And their names, bright names, without

stain for us;

The glory they won shall not wane for us,

In legend and lay

Our heroes in Gray

Shall forever live over again for us.

We Need More Mystery Donations

Recently, a large sum of money was donated to the Franklin battle site in Franklin, Tennessee. The site includes 112 acres of protected land that was established in 2005. More land is being purchased for $1.85 million. The key property is located on Highway 31, and will protect it from being used for housing developments. 

The anonymous donor generously pledged to give $250,000, and the Civil War Trust will match the amount if local preservationists can raise $500,000 by May 1. The preservationists don’t know the identity of the donor, but do know that she is a woman. They are excited for the opportunity to hold a fundraising campaign to save the battlefield.

The Battle of Franklin took place on November 30, 1864, and was a Confederate loss. General John Bell Hood confronted Union General John M. Schofield. Two weeks later, Hood’s army was demolished at the Battle of Nashville.

For more information, or to make a donation, please visit www.franklinscharge.com

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