Three Civil War Battlefields to See near Nashville

By Blankenship, Janie | VFW Magazine, June/July 2002 | Go to article overview
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Three Civil War Battlefields to See near Nashville


Blankenship, Janie, VFW Magazine


Stones River, Franklin and Nashville saw a great deal of bloodshed during

this divisive war. Here's a look at some of the remaining landmarks.

America's South is rich in history. The Civil War divided the country, and battle scars scattered about the southern states tell the story best. From Stones River to the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee saw more than its fair share of the bloody war. Landmarks and monuments dot the landscape to serve as reminders of the bitter conflict.

If you're heading to Nashville for VFW's 103rd National Convention, be sure to visit some of these historic sites. If the convention isn't on your summer agenda, planning a future trip to Tennessee would be worth the time.

VISITING 'HELLS HALF-ACRE'

On Dec. 31, 1862, and Jan. 2, 1863, one of the bloodiest battles of the war occurred near Murfreesboro. The Battle of Stones River pitted Maj. Gen. William Rosencrans' 44,000 Union troops against Lt. Gen. Braxton Braggs' nearly 38,000 Confederate forces. Some 3,000, men were killed in this battle, which reportedly turned Stones River red from the blood of the dead and wounded.

Though the Confederates took a severe blow and Bragg retreated after the second day of fighting, he claimed a victory, as did Rosencrans.

Today, the National Park Service manages 600 of the 4,000-acre battlefield. One of the nation's oldest Civil War monuments-Hazen Brigade Monument-marks "Hell's Half-Acre" where Union soldiers held ground against Confederate attacks in a bloody standoff. In the Stones River National Cemetery, established in 1865, some 6,000 Union soldiers are buried.

A self-guided auto tour begins with an 18-minute slide presentation at the visitor center. A museum features uniforms, field equipment, photos, ordnance and personal documents, to name only a few items. In addition to the monument and cemetery, remnants of Fortress Rosencrans, one of the largest earthen forts constructed during the war, are visible.

'THE BLOODIEST HOURS' OF THE WAR The Battle of Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864, holds many unique distinctions. Among them, the clash was one of the few night battles of the Civil War. It also was one of the smallest battlefields-only two miles long and 1.5 miles wide. It lasted only five hours, but historians call it "the bloodiest hours of the American Civil War."

Under the leadership of Confederate Gen. John Hood, the Army of Tennessee-some 38,000 strong-moved up through Georgia and Alabama to Tennessee. Hood's goal was to stop the 4th and 23rd Federal Corps before they reached Nashville.

But, Maj. Gen. John Schofield's Union troops-numbering 32,000-were waiting for Hood at Franklin. Schofield commandeered the Fountain Carter farm for his headquarters. During the five brutal hours of fighting, the family took refuge in their basement. Some 23 men, women and children went unharmed during the battle.

Hood's troops knew the attack was a risky one, but undeterred they faced their foe. Bayonets and clubs were used extensively in the fighting and it's been said the smoke from the cannons was so thick it was difficult to make out friend from foe.

One of the Carter boys, Tod, hadn't been home in three years and called out to his fellow soldiers "I'm almost home." He died two days later on his front lawn from battle wounds. The home was converted into a Confederate field hospital.

At battle's end, Schofield's troops retreated to Nashville to join forces with Maj. Gen. George Thomas. The Confederates suffered 2,000 dead, a number greater than their losses in the two-day Battle of Shiloh, the two-day Battle of Stones River and the seven-day campaign in Virginia. About 200 Union soldiers died at Franklin.

In the spring of 1866, the McGavock family donated two acres near their home, Carnton, to establish a Confederate Cemetery where 1,481 soldiers are buried today.

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