Carnton Plantation and the "Widow of the South" – The True Story

When Civil Struggle historian and preservationist Robert Hicks launched his e-book The Widow of the South in 2005, he fictionalized the story of Carrie McGavock, who turned acres of her household’s dwelling, Carnton Plantation, right into a cemetery for the Accomplice useless after the second Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. A best-seller, Hicks’ novel introduced a long-forgotten chapter within the story of the Civil Struggle to a brand new era of readers. Hicks’ novel is a piece of fiction, however the true story of Carnton Plantation, Carrie McGavock and the cemetery she helmed is simply as fascinating.

Carnton Plantation, positioned at Franklin, Tennessee, was constructed between 1815 and 1826 by former Nashville mayor Randal McGavock. Presidents James Polk and Andrew Jackson had been each guests to Carnton, which McGavock constructed the plantation on the positioning of a Revolutionary Struggle land grant belonging to his father. Carnton initially consisted of round 1,420 acres.

Following Randal McGavock’s loss of life in 1843, Carnton was handed to Randal McGavock’s son, John. In 1848, John wed his first cousin, Carrie Elizabeth Winder. The couple had 5 youngsters, however misplaced three of them in childhood, leaving solely two, Winder and Hattie, to outlive into maturity.

Carnton was the essence of a affluent antebellum plantation; earlier than the Civil Struggle, the web value of the McGavock household was $339,000, which adjusted for inflation, could be a number of million {dollars} in immediately’s forex. The plantation produced wheat, oats, corn, hay, potatoes, however was primarily a livestock plantation, elevating cattle, hogs, and thoroughbred horses.

When the Civil Struggle started, John McGavock, like many different planters, was exempted from service within the Accomplice Military. He, Carrie, their two surviving youngsters, and a handful of slaves – the remaining 30-odd slaves having been despatched South to household plantations in Louisiana and Alabama – remained at Carnton. John was given the honorary title of “Colonel.”

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The conflict got here to Franklin, and close to Carnton, twice; first in 1863, after which in 1864, throughout the second Battle of Franklin, the battle that may immortalize the McGavocks and Carnton as a shrine to the Accomplice useless.

The second Battle of Franklin was fought proper within the McGavock’s yard – lower than a mile from the home – on November 30, 1864. Accomplice Common John Bell Hood’s troops met these of Union Common John McAllister Schofield in a bloody battle that dealt the Confederates a extreme blow; Hood’s Accomplice Military of Tennessee counted 7,000 males as casualties, amongst them 1,700 useless, whereas Schofield counted 2,300, with solely round 200 useless.

Like many houses within the space, Carnton was used as a hospital after the battle. Nonetheless, Carnton’s dimension meant that the plantation was host to extra casualties than every other dwelling within the space. Because the battle wound down, a whole bunch of wounded males had been dropped at Carnton.

It has been estimated that not less than 300 males had been cared for contained in the Carnton dwelling, and that numerous many extra had been cared for on the in depth grounds exterior the home, in tents or in slave quarters, and in lots of circumstances, on the chilly floor.

It was a horrific scene for Carrie McGavock and her youngsters to witness, and to change into part of; McGavock and her youngsters assisted within the care of the lads dropped at their dwelling, a house that’s stained immediately with the blood of the lads who had been introduced there, blood that was soaked up by the luxurious carpets, solely to stain the wood flooring beneath. Carrie McGavock’s attire had been reportedly stained with blood on the hem for days to come back, and the nursery turned an working room, with amputated limbs thrown out the window to stack a narrative excessive in opposition to the home.

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Some 150 males died that first night time at Carnton, for months, the McGavock household cared for others who remained of their dwelling. Carrie McGavock nursed the lads herself, altering bandages, tending to fevers, and writing letters dwelling.

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