History along the Natchez Trace Parkway: The Battle of Franklin Sesquicentennial

Trace Blog

History buff? The Natchez Trace Parkway is your key to Civil War history, and you can be a part of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, which took place 150 years ago on November 30, 1864.

History buff? The Natchez Trace Parkway is your key to Civil War history, and you can be a part of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, which took place 150 years ago on November 30, 1864.

The Battle

The clash, which involved nearly 60,000 Union and Confederate troops, took place in the late afternoon as Confederate forces commanded by Lieutenant General John Bell Hood conducted a massive, yet ill-fated, frontal assault on the Union army of Major General John Schofield which had recently erected defensive positions around Franklin, Tennessee. Both armies had marched many miles over the preceding days, as the Confederate Army of Tennessee attempted to prevent Schofield’s army from successfully joining Union forces in the stronghold of Nashville. As it became clear that Hood’s Confederates could not prevent the withdrawal, the general elected to attack the Union at their hastily-fortified position at Franklin.

Hood decided that he would rather attack the Union at Franklin than at Nashville, where the enemy’s forces would have the benefit of greater numbers and three years of preparation for defense of the city. Known as “Pickett’s Charge of the West,” the Confederate attack required that 20,000 men charge across two miles of open ground, in full view of the Union defenders and their complex earthen defenses. Confederate General Patrick Cleburne addressed fellow General Daniel Govan, “Well, Govan, if we are to die, let us die like men.” General Cleburne was later killed in combat that day.

On the Union side, General Schofield’s army held its ground against the withering attack. Union Colonel Opdycke displayed uncanny valor as he led his troops in a counter-charge to reinforce a failing section of the Union lines, preventing the charging Confederates from exploiting the breach and turning the tide of battle. The fighting was immensely intense. In the heat of the struggle, brave young men fought with picks, bayonets, axes, shovels and bare hands in the depths of the Union defenses.

As night fell over Franklin, over 10,000 men were killed, injured or missing in battle- the majority of which were charging Confederates. Under the cover of darkness, the Union Army crossed the Harpeth River and continued on to join their forces in defense of Nashville. The Confederates took control of the town of Franklin, but their real objective had escaped. General Schofield’s Union Army survived and Hood’s Army of Tennessee suffered the overwhelming majority of casualties that day, including the loss of six southern generals. After the Battle of Franklin, the Army of Tennessee was greatly weakened. Hood’s Confederates continued their campaign, but were later defeated at the Battle of Nashville and forced to retreat South into Mississippi.

The Battle of Franklin Sesquicentennial

Now 150 years later, you can be a part of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Franklin. The Franklin Home Page and the Battle of Franklin Trust partner to honor and support The Battle of Franklin Sesquicentennial and they’d love for you to join in the celebration.

This year is packed with one-time events surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin and plenty of old favorites that in some way recognize or remember the city’s role in the Civil War. Click here to see Franklin Home Page’s calendar to help you plan and take part in the commemoration.

The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial has everything you need to explore this exciting celebration. Learn about generals, leaders and soldiers in the conflict, as well as eyewitnesses to daily life and major events. Explore nearby Civil War sites, read about battlefields, historic sites and museums and people related to these locations. See hand-drawn maps of towns and battlefields and photos of people, historic battle flags, uniforms, arms, and memorabilia. Find out about Sesquicentennial Commission events, tours, exhibits, living history events and Civil War-related activities. Click here to learn more.

Sesquicentennial Events

It’s amazing to think 150 years ago, a last-gasp charge at the Battle of Franklin spelled the end of the Army of Tennessee. Aside from the military heroics, the human story is one you can only try to imagine: Among the 10,000 casualties in five bloody hours is the young Captain Tod Carter, shot down in his own yard after fighting all over the South. The aftermath is indescribable: The burden of the dead and dying, Carrie McGavock’s beloved Carnton Plantation home a makeshift hospital for months afterward, her yard soon a Confederate cemetery.

Franklin’s preserved Civil War landmarks, antebellum homes, and cemeteries have their own stories to tell. Stories of tragedy and rebirth that shaped the landscape, the people and the heritage of this Southern town.  The Natchez Trace Parkway holds much of these history and you will be fascinated to attend these Sesquicentennial special events to commemorate something so utterly historic and memorable.

Click the links below to see events you can attend:

Like “Battle of Franklin” on Facebook and “Franklin 150!”

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