Battle of Franklin documentary debuts at Franklin Theatre

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"The Battle of Franklin and the American Experiment"

Ethan Castelo, a historic interpreter with the Battle of Franklin Trust, speaks during a panel before the screening of "The Battle of Franklin and the American Experiment" on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.

A few dozen people sat down inside the Franklin Theatre Thursday night to watch the premiere of a documentary on the battle that shaped Franklin's history and the war that remains culturally relevant 150 years later.

"The Battle of Franklin and the American Experiment" was created by The Battle of Franklin Trust, a nonprofit committed to reclaiming Franklin's battlefield and telling stories of the Civil War. The organization held a panel discussing the reasons for its creation before the first showing.

CEO Eric Jacobson asked viewers to keep in mind a line from the Declaration of Independence that gives insight into the founders' intentions for what kind of nation the United States was to become: "All men are created equal."

"The Civil War put that premise, that promise, to its greatest test," Jacobson said. 

From the nation's founding, the lead up to the Civil War and its battles and turning points, and the Reconstruction Era through the present, the film looks at how the struggle for that ideal has shaped the nation.

Jacobson said to make no mistake about the war's ultimate cause.

"We should call it what it was,” he said. “It was African slavery, it was Negro slavery. It was based solely and exclusively on one race."

On the eve of the Civil War, Williamson County had around 22,000 residents, 12,000 of whom were enslaved. 

"It was a Southern institution," Jacobson says in the film, "but an American problem."

The audience was warned: images shown graphically portrayed the cruelties of the war, abuses of slavery and violence against black people in a post- Civil War era. This uncomfortable truth, panelists said, is important to understand and acknowledge.

The film was directed by Jacobson's daughter, Braxie Jacobson, 21, a visual and musical artist.

Though she grew up with a father enthralled by stories of the Civil War, Braxie Jacobson said she was interested in the broader challenge of telling stories in a unique and compelling way. She doesn’t claim to be a "Civil War geek" like her father and members of the Trust.  

"Too many Civil War documentaries are made by people who are in love with the subject," Eric Jacobson said.

The first public showing for the 74-minute film on Thursday, Feb. 13, is already sold out. Though another showing has not yet been scheduled, the Trust hopes to find other avenues for screening and distribution.

(1) comment

I'm saddened and shocked to read the historic interpreter for the Trust presenting an emotional issue of today as the reason for war instead of politics in play at the time of the conflict. Yes, slavery was and is bad. Only a fool would say otherwise. But the core cause of the war was states rights vs. overreaching federal control. It boils down to simple pride and greed by both sides. That needs to be remembered. Emancipation can't even be truthfully used to prove a righteous act by the Union as its motive was little different than Sherman's burning of Atlanta...the ban on slavery was wielded as a proper tool of war. Both actions hastened an end to the conflict. True cause forgotten or denied will rise again damning all to suffer without a care for any race or creed. Pray that doesn't happen.

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