Franklin, Tennessee doesn’t get the attention that a lot of Civil War battles get, places like Gettysburg and Antietam. That’s probably because of its brevity; the battle was over only hours after it began. Relatively speaking, though, it was the most brutal and bloody battle of the entire Civil War. On November 30, 1864, just a few months before the War’s end, Union and Confederate troops were both trying to get to Nashville. The Union occupied the town. In late evening, Confederate troops attacked. The light soon faded, with the result that fighting transitioned from shooting at a distance to up close and very personal. Men used bayonets, clubs, anything they could grab, and their bare hands to kill each other. It was a bloodbath. By the next morning, reports state that the dead were piled five and six bodies high.
There are three beautiful old houses located at the heart of the battle: the Lotz House, the Carter House, and Carnton Plantation (above). Miraculously all three are still standing, but not without bearing the scars of that night. I visited all three recently, as well as toured the battlefield—which is everywhere. Much of the town of Franklin is built on top of it. When a Chic-Fil-A was constructed a few years ago, the body of a soldier was unearthed. The dead are literally everywhere, and in more ways than one.
If you get the chance, I wholeheartedly encourage you to visit Franklin. But please maintain an attitude of respect. There is a patina of grief in the air like static electricity before a thunderstorm. You can almost imagine you still hear the cannons firing.