Franklin, Tennessee - Civil War History and Southern Charm
I’ve always enjoyed living in a small town but within easy driving distance of a large city. When I lived in Chicago, I always felt if I walked off a curb and was flattened by a bus nobody would blink an eye. But in small towns like Chillicothe or Henry you get to know your neighbors and when I had the chance to visit Franklin, Tennessee, (twenty miles south of Nashville), I found out why Southern Living Magazine ranked it in its Top 10 Best Small Towns.
My initial interest in Franklin was to visit its Civil War battle sites. The Battle of Franklin (sometimes referred to as the Gettysburg of the West) was first brought to my attention in a Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War and it remains the bloodiest battle no one, other than Civil War buffs, have ever heard of (more on that later).
But when I visited, I found Franklin to be a delightful combination of comfortable, contemporary living while preserving its historic past.
My ultra modern, hi-tech room at the Courtyard by Marriott, just off I-65, caters to the corporate road warrior but after my breakfast of Bubba’s Benedict (Eggs Benedict on a Biscuit) at Puckett’s Restaurant and Grocery downtown, I began to explore the charming, historic roots of Franklin’s Great American Main Street.
Tours of the CityMy guide for the walking tour was historian/author Margie Thessin, who explained the history of the many well-preserved antebellum buildings while we passed by several new townhomes integrated flawlessly into the same neighborhoods.
We finished our tour in historic Rest Haven Cemetery where she showed me the gravesite for the “Unknown Civil War Soldier” whose body had been recently found during a construction project.
His identity (Yankee or Rebel) was still undetermined and fittingly the town had decided to have him reinterred here with both Union and Confederate color guards providing full military honors. For more information visit walking tours of Franklin.
After a delicious family style lunch at Monell’s (a charming converted mansion), I had the privilege of touring Carnton Plantation and the McGavock Cemetery with Civil War expert Eric Jacobson.
It was here that the five bloodiest hours of the Civil War occurred and Carnton Plantation, converted to a field hospital by the Confederates, still retains the bloodstains of the wounded on its wooden floors.
The New York Times best selling book Widow of the South by Robert Hicks mixes fact and fiction to provide a riveting, romantic story of the events that transpired here and has contributed to the increased numbers of visitors.
The next morning I was scheduled for a private tour of another part of the battlefield, but for now, I was whisked off to dinner at the Red Pony Restaurant, featuring sophisticated Southern dining. This upscale restaurant provided new twists on Southern classics while providing a varied menu and wine list with excellent service.
The next morning found me enjoying breakfast at Merridee’s, a favorite downtown eatery among the locals. Try their fresh baked sticky buns like I did for a special treat.
Now it was time to walk in the footsteps of some of the bravest men this country has ever known as I arrived at the historic Lotz House, near the epicenter of the Battle of Franklin.
My private Battlefield Walking Tour (but available to the public) would begin here and would be conducted by Thomas Cartwright, one of the foremost experts on the Civil War and, in particular, the Battle of Franklin. His unique recount of the battle utilizes maps and graphic descriptions from soldiers and townspeople themselves and his riveting style of storytelling is like hearing a first hand account of the battle from the participants which included 12 regiments from Illinois.
When we visited the Carter House, the savage ferocity of the battle became even more evident as he pointed out the hundreds of bullet holes in the wall of the most heavily damaged building of the Civil War still standing. What makes it even more surreal was the battle was fought at night on November 30, 1864.
Cartwright offers tours to the public on Thursdays and Saturdays beginning at Lotz House which is beautifully preserved and features one of the finest private collections of period antiques and decorative arts in the South.
Venturing into the Countryside of Williamson CountyIn the tiny town of Nolensville, I found Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, named one of the Top 10 Best New barbeque restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit magazine. After trying their signature Redneck Taco (meat served open faced on a cornbread tortilla), I chomped down on some of the most flavorful pulled pork I’ve had anywhere.
Of course, Williamson County has its share of Country Western celebrities with its location so close to Nashville. Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn has chosen to open his new winery, Arrington Vineyards, on 75 acres of beautiful Tennessee rolling hills just 25 minutes from downtown Nashville and 10 minutes from Franklin. Complimentary tastings of his 14 different wines are available along with “Music in the Vines” each weekend April-October.
For more information on Franklin go to VisitFranklin.com
More Articles on American (and Civil War) History
Mark Bradley has always had a pent up desire to see the world going back to the time he saw his first movie “travelogue” at the tender age of ten years old. At the turn of the new millennium when it suddenly dawned on him -- it was time to see the world. He says " I pledged to visit all 50 US states by my 50th birthday in 2005 and did so with my final four states coming into view as I followed the Lewis and Clark Trail on the bicentennial of their epic journey. With five continents and fifty states in my rearview mirror, I look forward to continuing to explore all this big, beautiful world has to offer."