Remembering Franklin 2020

Today, November 30, is the anniversary of the 1864 battle of Franklin. When I visited the battlefield in September, I was struck by this sign outside Carnton Plantation. It serves as an invitation to all of us, as students of the Civil War, to remember the people at the heart of our studies.

My thanks to Greg Wade of the Franklin Civil War Roundtable for showing me around the battlefield. You can see our adventures on the ECW YouTube page.

To read more about the battle of Franklin, check out Lee White’s Let Us Die Like Men, part of the Emerging Civil War Series, published by Savas Beatie.

14 Responses to Remembering Franklin 2020

  1. There were places throughout this country where individuals were enslaved or mistreated or oppressed. There was extensive slavery in colonial Lebanon Connecticut. What makes this place unique is the hideous slaughter that took place. We cannot and should not try to turn every civil war battle site into a lesson on slavery. It diminishes the tragic uniqueness of places like Franklin.

    1. Amen. More and more historic sites around the country have been hijacked by woke cultists. Carnton Plantation is just another example.

    2. How in the world does mentioning slavery diminish “the tragic uniqueness of places like Franklin?” If anything, it should make it even more tragic-a place where human beings treated other human beings as if they were no different than cattle and a place where human beings slaughtered other human beings as if they were cattle.

    3. I thought the sign at Carnton was especially relevant because it was specifically a place where people were held in bondage. It’s an extremely site-specific message.

      1. “We cannot and should not try to turn every civil war battle site into a lesson on slavery.”

        We absolutely should. Slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War, regardless of the past 160 years of bellyaching from Lost Cause proponents who wish it weren’t true. Every Civil War site could should make it abundantly clear that slavery played a direct role in the conflict, and the sign at Carnton does a great job of also humanizing that conflict.

    1. Why would it NOT be appropriate to make mention of the enslaved people there? If we’re also remembering the soldiers who fought there–as I think we should–then why not also remember the people held in bondage? Their situation lasted a lot longer than the battle did. Recognizing both does not diminish either.

      1. The sign doesn’t actually say anything about slavery or the slaves that were there. Who doesn’t realize that slaves existed on plantations? It does tell people what they should think about and how they should act while there. I think’s that is what sticks in some peoples’ craw.

      2. The sign explicitly says “human beings were enslaved here for several decades.” It does not get into details about those slaves, although a pair of wayside signs out front does talk about some specifics.

        I don’t mind if a sign reminds visitors to show some respect (and invite them to contemplation). I guess I’ve been in national cemeteries too often when people have shown no respect and have needed to be reminded how to behave appropriately.

      3. The sign doesn’t actually bother me although I would just put up as much information as possible about the lives of those (census records and whatever else) who made the plantation go and then let people take it all in or not. People can think for themselves or not.

        Certainly, thanks to the Lost Cause or whatever else, some people don’t want to talk about slavery and the Civil War, so I’m all for discussing slavery on Civil War battlefields. I just think it should be done in a way that is not lecturing or demands it of visitors.

        I’m rarely in any national cemeteries. I just lately have been visiting local cemeteries. Behavior in such places is a matter of opinion I guess. I can imagine some people could care less about who is there and why, and act it. Most people don’t give a dang about the past and treat it accordingly.

  2. I am not objecting to the partial expropriation of the Battlefield/Plantation out of fraudulent Lost Cause sentiment. I believe that tells an inaccurate story in the context of the war. Secession took place in 1860 because of the Deep South’s fear that the restriction of the spread of slavery would doom the institution where it existed. The vast majority of the Unionist states had no desire to eliminate the system where it existed. If this were not true, then Lincoln would have counted or driven Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri into the enemy camp in 1861. The Unionist states wanted free labor in the territories and the new states; beyond that, many loathed both the slave and the extension of the system. Lincoln’s First Inaugural is more Conservative than broadly egalitarian, and clearly expressed a willingness to accept the social status quo, save that it essentially denied the validity of Dred Scott’s analysis of Congressional power. The War broke out not over slavery, but because of Lincoln’s refusal to grant secession, on any grounds, constitutional validity, and the South’s assault upon a Federal fort. The destruction of slavery where it existed was a natural consequence of the passage of the Union armies. The concept of a loyal slave force proved an absolute fallacy. As great a fallacy is focusing on the destruction of slavery, or it’s existence in places like Franklin, Tennessee as the cause celebre of the Unionist war effort. It was not. The heavy social lifting should have taken place after 1865 if slavery and it’s lingering effects were of significant interest to most Unionists. It did not, because it was not. To point out the obvious fact of its existence in Franklin is to reinforce the black and white easy triumphalism of the Union in its short term victory.

  3. I wish more signs like this existed, especially on plantation estates that have been preserved for public touring. With some exceptions, many don’t tell enough about the enslaved population at the site. Just a mention here and there in the house tour or one small cabin with a single interpretation sign. Whitney Plantation and Oak Alley in Louisiana are great examples of what should be included to tell the entire story of antebellum life in the south. I think this is great. Thank you for sharing, Chris.

  4. It is a sad reflection that there is a need to put such a reminder at a Civil War site. I blame the whole education system for doing such a lousy job of not teaching American history for the last few generations.
    Looking back at my education, I have a B.A. in History, American history, let alone the American Civil War, wasn’t pushed or rarely offered. I credit my parents for encouraging American history by giving me history books and going to places like Gettysburg and Williamsburg.

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