The Battle of Franklin Trust is gearing up to commemorate the Battle of Franklin, 155 years after soldiers clashed where sites such as the Carter House, Carnton and the Lotz House Museum are preserved today.
The organization will honor those who died in the brutal, five-hour fight by placing luminaries at Carnton and holding a ceremony at dusk on Saturday. The names of those lost in the battle will be read aloud.
Additionally, Battle of Franklin Trust CEO Eric Jacobson and historical interpreter Olivia Munsch will lead two special tours on the day of commemoration at the Carter House — one at 5 a.m. and one at 8 a.m. — focused on the battle’s leaders.
“It is difficult to comprehend the immense loss that unfolded on Nov. 30, 1864,” Jacobson said. “Seeing the luminaries glowing at dusk and hearing the names of some of those who were killed, wounded or captured can make a profound impact and help better understand the Battle of Franklin.”
The Carter House and Lotz House will also conduct regular tours throughout the day.
Thomas Cartwright, recently named executive director of the Lotz House Museum, is a historian and general wealth of knowledge when it comes to the Battle of Franklin. He has learned the personal stories of Civil War soldiers through many outlets, including personally meeting with soldiers’ descendants.
He said it’s his passion to learn the stories of both sides, and he has built up a collection to keep him talking for hours upon end.
“If there’s such a thing as a good story in a terrible battle, it’s this one,” he said. “Col. M.D.L. Stephens, 31st Mississippi … he was bleeding to death. The Federals that most call Union were retreating that night. This man stopped by him, put a tourniquet around his leg, put a blanket over him, got him some food, a little bit of whiskey to keep him warm. He said, ‘I’m from the North. You’re from the South. I don’t hold anything against you, and I hope you don’t hold anything against me. I hope you make it, my brave man, and my name is H.H. Barr from Willow Springs, Nebraska. Today, they call that Bellevue.”
Barr saved Stephens’ life that night. Despite these moments, though, the battle was anything but heartwarming.
Speaking about tragedy of the war, Cartwright quoted a letter written by Sgt. Marquis Lafayette Bryan, who was later killed, to his wife: “How hard and ruthless is the fate that separates us. Two, whose affections are knitted by cords stronger than death, who if permitted to follow their destiny, would walk the journey of life with the same evenness and unvarying step with which two twin stars promenade the blue pavement of the skies.”
Cartwright said he believes that as long as the memory of these men live on, they’ll never die. He makes it his mission to learn about as many stories of the deceased soldiers as he can because their impact can still be seen today. He told the story of a Union soldier, Harry McCoy, who told his partner, John Whitecup, that, should he die in battle, he wanted Whitecup to take care of his wife.
Unfortunately, this scenario played out, and Whitecup ended up marrying McCoy’s widow. Cartwright said that a descendant of the Whitecups told him this story just two years ago.
“A big tear went down her cheek, and she said, ‘The only reason I’m alive is because McCoy died, and Whitecup married the widow. If McCoy would’ve lived, I wouldn’t be alive, and I feel guilty about it.’” he said. “I said, ‘Don’t feel guilty, please. It’s good to see goodness comes out of sadness, and also, I’ve heard the same story out of the Confederate side five times — people are alive today because these soldiers died in the battle.’”
The Lotz House will give a special battlefield walking tour at 10 a.m. Saturday for $30 per person. Reservations are required.
The illumination ceremony at Carnton will begin at 4 p.m., and free walkthrough tours will be held from 5 to 7 p.m.