The central Tennessee town of Franklin is similar to Gettysburg in many ways… population, rural farming folks, generally spared by war… that is until November 1864 when two armies fought in the fields south of town (also like at Gettysburg) in five hours of conflict during which the ferocity and casualties far-exceeded Pickett’s Charge. Yet, most people have never heard of that battle.
While President Craig Breneiser’s program did discuss how the competing armies came to Franklin, the focus of the conversation was less about strategy and tactics than what ensued following the war which was… nothing! Despite a century-and-a-half of battlefield development that saw dozens of federal, state and local preservation efforts, the sacrifices that occurred on that late fall day at Franklin have been largely overlooked. Until recently.
Bit by bit, half-acre by half-acre, pieces of the Franklin past are being reclaimed for generations yet unborn to visit and understand. While the scene of such carnage will never be reasonably pristine in the manner of Gettysburg, the areas of the most significant action…the Carter House and Carnton Plantation…are being preserved and interpreted.
Beyond the Civil War battle, local efforts have also focused on telling the “fuller story” in an effort to bridge traditional history and memory with current, deep-held concerns about how the War has often been represented in the Old South. Like many towns in the Confederacy, Franklin has its Civil War soldier statue…”Chip”… that has been a subject of concern. But, three Franklin pastors and a local historian have produced a plan that has been enthusiastically accepted by much of the community to add four interpretative signs around the town square dominated by “Chip” that will tell the story of Franklin’s Black residents who were bought and sold, who went off to war and, in a few cases, died to change their country into something better.
The “second battle” of Franklin continues on today according to Breneiser, both to provide and understanding of what happened when the armies came to town long ago and to tell the Civil War story in a way with which the modern generation can identify and understand its central role in the history of the United States.