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Taking care of historys markers McGavock Cemetery headstones get facelift

From left, Nancy Bassett, chairman, McGavock Confederate Cemetery Corporation (MCCC), Susan Hardee, trustee MCCC, and Dallas Upchurch, owner of A&S Restoration, who is overseeing the owrk on the gravestones.

In 1864, while Union and Confederate soldiers were still fighting, E.M. Bounds was praying.

As a Confederate prisoner captured by the Union at the Battle of Franklin, Rev. E.M. Bounds was given the task of burying his fellow comrades in the days following the horrific Nov. 30 Battle of Franklin.

Nearly 1,500 mortally wounded men needed the sacred service of a loyal soldier, who also happened to be a man of the cloth.

Bounds was a chaplain in the Confederate Army’s Company B of the Third Missouri Infantry when he was sent to Franklin to serve under Gen. John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee.

Bounds, known in theological history for his writings about his unwavering belief in prayer, ministered to both friend and foe during the war.

When the fighting was over he was taken prisoner, but assisted in the mass burial of hundreds of fallen Confederate soldiers on the grounds of the Carter family farm.           

He would be called again to assist the families of the deceased, when he chose to work closely with the McGavock family, a group of Franklin citizens, and especially G.W. Cuppett, to give these men a permanent resting place.

Bounds, Cuppett and many others worked tirelessly to exhume these same soldiers’ bodies and re-inter them to the present day McGavock Confederate Cemetery, located off Carnton Lane.

In 1911, Mrs. Winder McGavock and W.D. Shelton generously turned the land deed to this two-acre property over to a newly chartered corporation comprised of veterans.

As the veterans passed away, the veteran’s wives from Franklin Chapter No.14 United Daughters of the Confederacy, took their place. 

Since that time, the ladies have been quietly steadfast in their care of the property, its monuments, and gravestones, receiving little attention for their efforts.

During a recent visit to the site to view ongoing restoration work on the headstones, an out-of-state visitor and history teacher from Louisville, Ky.’s Country Day Preparatory School inquired about the cemetery’s significance.

“I teach senior history at Country Day, and I had no idea this was the largest (privately-held) Confederate cemetery in the United States,” said David Apel, of Louisville. “I came here because I am interested in using this story with my students as we study the Civil War.”

Apel and his friend Rachel Daigh, of Chattanooga, are just an example of the hundreds of visitors that tour the McGavock Confederate Cemetery annually.

Children and adults come to pay their respects and to learn more about the men buried here.

The markers are organized by state with representation from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Alabama and Florida.

The surrounding trees and grounds are in wonderful condition, but there is work to be done to prevent the inevitable decay of hundreds of limestone headstones.

“The task of maintaining the cemetery since 1911 has involved much expense and dedication,” writes Nancy Bassett, chairman of the association and one-time executive director of The Carter House. “In 1996, a major restoration of over $60,000 for cleaning and repairing many of the damaged headstones and iron fence. Today, the trustees have undertaken the task of cleaning, sealing, and repairing the stones at a cost of $25,000 to $30,000.”

With the help of Dallas Upchurch, a longtime specialist in limestone and marble restoration, the McGavock Confederate Cemetery gravestones and obelisks are being improved.

Visitors will once again be able to read the names and other information on these markers because of the work of Upchurch’s A & S Restoration. 

Time and exposure to moisture and lichen has damaged the lettering, but this veteran stonemason is optimistic about his ability to restore them.

His company completed substantial improvements to the 23-acre Nashville City Cemetery two years ago.

“We use a deep penetrating sealant that keeps moisture from penetrating the stone. Limestone is a very soft stone, so you have to be very careful.”

Upchurch, a Nashville native, began his career as an apprentice, working on some of Vanderbilt University’s oldest buildings.

To walk through this cemetery is too see a spectacular “before and after.” The long path separating two sections of gravestones now offers a glimpse into what is possible for this cemetery.

“The (non-profit corporation) trustees are calling on the citizens of Franklin to recognize this important landmark and have approached descendants and organizations of interest,” Bassett explained recently. “Many times the trustees have dug into their own pockets when funds were not available.”

But during this restoration project, Bassett said the ladies are hopeful that individuals and community groups will honor the fallen brave soldiers by supporting this unique fundraising campaign.

The Battle of Franklin’s sesquicentennial will be observed in two years. Numerous groups are preparing for the public attention that this milestone will bring, as Franklin marks the battle’s 150th anniversary.

The cemetery is a breathtaking reminder of the impact this national conflict had on families of the entire region.

E.M. Bounds is not buried here. He survived the war and went on to become a prominent and influential pastor at Franklin’s First United Methodist Church, then called Franklin Methodist Episcopal Church.

His prayers for peace in the midst of suffering can be felt even today in the quiet of this sacred place.

For information on the McGavock Confederate Cemetery Corporation, visit or contact Chuck Isaacs at First Farmers Bank on McEwen Drive at


Posted on: 11/29/2012


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