Can you imagine what it would be like to have a massive army camped out on your front lawn? Now imagine another one in your back yard. This is the story of the Carnton Plantation home and the McGavock family who lived inside.
Carnton Plantation is located in beautiful Franklin, Tennessee. It is literally built in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sprawling fields. It was built in 1826 by former Nashville mayor Randal McGavock. Upon his death, his son John inherited the farm. John married Carrie Elizabeth Winder in 1848 and they had five children, three of whom died at very young ages. There were two small children living in the home at the time the battle began. There names were Hattie, who was 9, and Winder, who was 7.
The Confederate Army of Tennessee attacked the Federal Army at 4pm on November 30, 1864. What resulted was a massive frontal assault and one of the bloodiest battles of the entire Civil War. The majority of the combat occurred in the dark and within very close range. For that reason it’s believed that both sides killed some of their own soldiers just because it was so pitch black and they couldn’t see.
The battle lasted barely five hours. Casualties numbered 9,500 soldiers being killed, wounded, captured, or counted as missing. Nearly 7,000 of that number were Confederate troops.
On November 30, 1864, Carnton became the largest temporary field hospital for tending the wounded and dying after the Battle of Franklin. The McGavocks opened their home to as many as 300 soldiers although it’s believed that at least 150 died the first night.
The upstairs bedrooms were used for surgeries and the floors of the restored house are still stained with the blood of the men who were treated there. Amputated arms and legs were tossed right out the window and lay in the yard in a heap. Hundreds of dead bodies were spread out all over the property.
Carrie McGavock donated food, clothing and supplies to care for the wounded and dying. Witnesses said her dress was blood soaked at the bottom. The children witnessed the carnage and even helped provide some basic assistance to the surgeons.
On December 1st, 1864 the Union forces headed to Nashville leaving all the dead and wounded behind. It was then that the residents of Franklin were left with the daunting task of figuring out what to do with over 2,500 dead soldiers.
The McGavock’s designated approximately 2 acres of their land to be used as permanent graves for the soldiers. In 1865 many of the Union soldiers were moved to the Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Carrie oversaw the care and maintenance of the cemetery until her death in 1905. Her son Winder inherited the property but died just 2 years later. His widow moved out of the home and sold it in 1911 ending a century of family ownership. It passed through several hands and was purchased by Dr. and Mrs. W.D. Sugg in the 1950’s. The property fell into disrepair in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
In 1977 the Carnton Association was formed to raise money to buy, restore and maintain the mansion. In 1978 Dr. and Mrs. Sugg gave the house and ten acres to the Association. The Association acquired an additional 38 acres and began restoring the home and grounds. The restoration was completed in the 1990’s and today the home and property are open to the public.