Caught in the Middle
— Hood's Campaign —
In September 1864, after Union Gen. William T. Sherman defeated Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood at Atlanta, Hood led the Army of Tennessee northwest against Sherman's supply lines. Rather than contest Sherman's "March to the Sea," Hood moved north into Tennessee. Gen. John M. Schofield, detached from Sherman's army, delayed Hood at Columbia and Spring Hill before falling back to Franklin. The bloodbath here on November 30 crippled the Confederates, but they followed Schofield to the outskirts of Nashville and Union Gen. George H. Thomas's strong defenses. Hood's campaign ended when Thomas crushed his army on December 15-16.
Randal McGavock, a prominent Nashville resident and a friend of Andrew Jackson, built Carnton in 1826. After McGavock's death in 1843, his son John McGavock inherited the property and soon improved the house. Late on the afternoon of November 30, 1864, John McGavock, his wife, Carrie, and their two young children were caught up in one of the monumental conflicts of the Civil War, the Battle of Franklin. The McGavocks were trapped between almost 40,000 Confederate and Federal soldiers. At 4 P.M., the Confederate Army of Tennessee launched a massive frontal assault, at least as large as Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, and waves of soldiers smashed into the Federal defenses south of Franklin. In the face of withering Union artillery fire, the Confederate right wing swept past Carnton. Five hours later, 9,500 American soldiers on both sides were dead, wounded, or missing.
Carnton became a field hospital for Confederate Gen. William W. Loring's division. By the middle of the night 300 suffering men jammed the house while hundreds of others spilled across the lawn and into outbuildings. Carrie McGavock's sheets towels, tablecloths, and John McGavock's shirts were torn up for bandages. Wounded men bled and died on the floors and under the stairs. By dawn, the bodies of four dead Confederate generals were laid out on the back porch: Patrick R. Cleburne, Hiram B. Granbury, John Adams, and Otho F. Strahl.
In 1866, John and Carrie McGovock established what became known as the McGavock Confederate Cemetery nearby and reburied the remains of 1,481 Southern soldiers from their temporary graves south of town. The McGavocks maintained the cemetery until their own deaths in 1893 and 1905, respectively.
Carnton, back porch where the generals' bodies were laid Courtesy Carnton Plantation
John McGavock Courtesy Carnton Plantation
Carrie McGavock Courtesy Carnton Plantation