Save 1.07 Acres at the Franklin Battlefield
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, CWPT President
“The ground from Lewisburg Pike to the Carter gin was like hell.
The concussions from the guns caused men’s ears to bleed
and the dead and wounded actually “piled up like snowdrifts in winter time”
before the mouths of the guns.”
— From "For Cause and For Country:
A Study of the Affair at Spring Hill and
the Battle of Franklin" by Eric Jacobson
Dear Committed Member,
There were many horrifying scenes of carnage throughout the Civil War, but there aren’t many that testify to the ferocity of battle more than the very graphic descriptions left by those who endured the Battle of Franklin.
Let me warn you now: there will be several graphic quotes in this letter, as I intend to let the men who fought in the hell that was the Franklin battlefield tell you just how important it is that you and I act now to save yet another crucial part of this hallowed ground.
The Battle of Franklin, fought on November 30, 1864, was one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the war.
As nearly 8,500 casualties “literally piled up” in just five hours, you can bet that many times during that fight, men on both sides of the entrenchments sent out desperate calls for help.
Today, once again, friends from Franklin are calling for CWPT’s help.
The fantastic local preservation group there in Tennessee, Franklin’s Charge, is taking the lead in an historic effort to reclaim this supremely hallowed ground. They are moving forward on a long-range plan that, literally, inch-by-inch seeks to purchase, preserve and restore the actual ground where the maelstrom of battle happened.
CWPT has been on the forefront of the effort to reclaim Franklin, helping to purchase 110 acres near the historic Carnton Plantation, and then another ½-acre adjacent to the Carter House, land that saw some of the worst carnage ever inflicted on the North American continent.
Today, however, our focus is just a few hundred yards away from the Carter House, on property associated with the battle’s other major landmark, the Carter Cotton Gin.
Currently, CWPT is partnering with Franklin’s Charge to preserve forever a small (1.07 acres) but crucial portion of land adjacent to the historic Cotton Gin property. (And the plan is to purchase the final few acres or so, currently occupied by a small strip shopping center, in another year or two, allowing for a near-complete restoration of this part of the battlefield.)
The main Federal line of defense ran across this property, and was thus the scene of almost incredible slaughter. This is also within a few yards of the main Confederate breakthrough on Columbia Pike, and the timely heroic Union counterattack by “Opdycke’s Tigers.” This was the bulls-eye of this battlefield.
After the war, a Confederate soldier wrote that at Franklin, it seemed “as if the devil had full possession of the earth.” The men who fought there all seem to agree.
One of the first units to hit the Union defensive line in the area we are seeking to preserve was Francis M. Cockrell’s Confederate Missouri Brigade. The Union commander on this part of the line described the action as “terrible slaughter.”
Cockrell himself, after having two horses shot out from under him was hit four times by the relentless fire. Confederate Captain Patrick Canniff got to within ten yards of the Union line before he was blasted from his horse, bleeding profusely from his right shoulder. As he tried to raise his head, another bullet crashed through his skull and exploded out near his chin.
As historian Eric Jacobson has noted in his recent book, “Everyone was being shot down . . . entire companies almost ceased to exist as the inferno continued . . . In one particularly horrible scene, a Missouri drummer, no more than 15 years old, jumped in front of one of [the Union] Napoleons and shoved a fence rail into the smoking tube. What he did not know was that the gun had just been loaded. As the boy strained to jam the rail in as deeply as possible, the gun suddenly went off. In a split second, the young boy, who had run forward with his drum still strapped to his back, simply vanished, his body blown away in shreds ‘so that nothing was ever found of him.’”
Stories abound of men recalling how they were “covered in corpses,” how amazing it was that “any of them escaped death,” the entire area described as the “most desperate fighting imaginable.”
Confederate General Frank Cheatham, corps commander, said, “The dead were stacked like wheat and scattered like sheathes of grain. You could walk on the field on the bodies without touching the ground. I never saw a field like that, and I never want to see a field like that again.”
One soldier said, “The dead were piled up in the trenches almost to the top of the earthworks.” Another: “At the gap in the works where the pike road went through [right near the land we are trying to save] were lying a Confederate and a Federal soldier, both with bayonets sent through their bodies. It was plain to see that they were each other’s victims.”
I could go on, but I know you understand the important point: this ground witnessed some of the most intense, savage, brutal, close-quarters combat – charge and heroic countercharge – ever experienced by this nation, and thousands of men lost their lives there in a very brief time.
As I mentioned before, Franklin’s Charge is taking the lead to reclaim the battle site, and their plan is to eventually restore it to the way it looked in 1864, recreating the breastworks, entrenchments, Cotton Gin and other features. At one time, dreams like these would have been met with derision.
But just as CWPT worked with a coalition of tremendous local groups and the City of Franklin to save 110 acres of this battlefield near the storied Carnton Plantation in 2005 . . .
And just as the infamous Pizza Hut, which once profaned the ground where Confederate General Patrick Cleburne was killed, has now been torn down, and is now the site of a small but appropriate park . . .
And as we helped save another crucial half-acre of the Carter House Garden in 2007 . . .
Inch by inch, square foot by square foot, you and I are helping to restore one of America’s most important forgotten battlefields.
This purchase and restoration of the property around the Cotton Gin is just the latest step in the reclamation of the Franklin Battlefield. Think of it as you and me restoring a priceless work of art, one portion at a time . . . methodically, we are putting this long-neglected chapter of the Civil War back into the book of our nation’s history . . .
. . . so that it will be there for future generations to appreciate.
Quickly, here are the numbers for this transaction (the property is expensive because the land is zoned for commercial use, is right on Franklin’s “main street,” and there is currently a home on the land that has been divided into four business suites. The foundation stones of this house were taken from the original Cleburne cenotaph!):
|-$281,000||Already raised by Franklin’s Charge|
|-$ 44,000||Still to be raised by Franklin’s Charge|
|-$475,000||Federal matching grant, applied for by CWPT|
|-$150,000||Amount requested of CWPT|
|$ 0||LAND IS SAVED FOREVER!!|
It is a lot of money for one acre. Reclamation of developed property is always more expensive than buying open farmland. But with the array of matching funds available for a limited time, and given the extraordinary significance of this land, this truly is a once in a lifetime chance.
This also means that any gift you make today will be multiplied by these many matching sources by a factor of 6.33, turning every $1 you give into $6.33!
As our friends at Franklin’s Charge are counting on me for help, now I am turning to you. I ask you to be a part of not just saving our history, but of retrieving our history.
I know the economy is still not good. And I know that there are only so many requests that you can respond to. But as you consider sending a gift of any amount to help take advantage of this great $6.33-to-$1 match, please think about this:
When I think of Franklin, I paraphrase a line from the old hymn, Amazing Grace: “It once was lost, but now is found.” It is not often that you and I get a chance to reclaim part of a “lost” battlefield, especially one as significant as the blood-soaked hallowed ground at Franklin.
Please know that any gift you can make to CWPT today will earn you not only the gratitude of the CWPT Board of Trustees, as well as the good folks in Franklin, but also the eternal thanks of a grateful nation.
There is literally no one else who these dedicated local heroes can turn to for help. No one but you and I, through the CWPT, are doing this work. If we don’t do it, no one else will. Unfortunately, not nearly enough Americans know or even care about the Battle of Franklin – that is what makes our preservation and education mission all the more important, especially as we head into the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, beginning next year.
Please see the ground for yourself on the enclosed map, and please make your decision to help save a crucial part of this important battlefield by sending your generous gift today.
Very sincerely yours,
P.S. I will always be grateful for everything you have done for battlefield preservation. Please let me hear back from you today, so that I can tell the good folks at Franklin’s Charge that we will be able to honor our $150,000 commitment. Thank you again!
P.P.S. If you want to learn even more about the Battle of Franklin and understand how it unfolded in all its fury better than ever before, I urge you to do two things today:
First: watch our exclusive animated battle map at www.civilwar.org/franklinmap.
Second: order a copy of Eric Jacobson’s recent book on the battle, For Cause and For Country, by clicking on the book cover on our Franklin battlefield appeal page at www.civilwar.org/franklin10. By ordering your copy through the Amazon link on CWPT’s website, a full six percent of your purchase will come back to CWPT for preservation! You can also make your donation to this effort there, with a secure credit card gift, saving yourself the cost of a stamp and the trouble of writing a check.