Southern History at Carnton Plantation
by Robin Fulcher, Spring Hill Tennessee
They say if you hold the railing all the way as you climb the petina concrete stairs leading into the graveyard you will see a ghost. How many times did I walk these steps, holding the railing all the way? The cold pipe would slide under my grip and as I walked into the green carpeted lawn with concrete growing and sprouting out of the ground. I would squeeze my eyes shut, hoping and praying that when I opened them I would see a figure from another time. I never did. I could smell the magnolias and fresh cut onions, see the dust in the rays of light, taste the sweat on my lips and feel the cold metal in my palm, but never once did I see the shadowy figures I longed for.
The caretakers of this plantation tell spine-tingling tales of sounds like heavy boots on the stairs, blood on the floor and porches and chilly, cold breezes on an otherwise humid, hot summer day in Franklin, TN. Carnton was a place of angels, not ghosts, to me. In the 70’s and 80’s, I grew up on these battlefields that became a part of Carnton Country Club. The trees in the lane leading up to the clubhouse have grown together to form a tunnel of lush greenery.
Oddly, this place would lighten my mood. It was as if all those boys and men that had died right on these grounds and were now buried in 1,493 unmarked graves, never to return to their families, seemed to become a part of mine. Perhaps this land, the field that hosted the bloodiest five-hours battle of the Civil War, has had enough perdition.
Carnton Plantation was built in 1826 and was home to the McGavock family. Its beautiful front yard became the venue for The Battle of Franklin at 4 P.M. on November 30, 1864. The home became the largest field hospital in the area and 6,500 souls left their bodies on the premises. You can visit and tour the home, gardens and gravesites today and even have your wedding there. It is a stately and elegant mansion that reminds me of a time when this country was trying to find its way. We aren’t there yet but take a tour and remember to close your eyes and hold the railing all the way.