Genealogy Road Trip 2021 Vol 11
Coming to Nashville for a week with Janice had some emotional baggage. I got married there in 1978 and again in 2006. New York City was home until I moved to Tennessee in 1998. By 2005 I was ending my marriage where it began. The Gods have a sense of humor.
I left the “Athens of the South” (Nashville’s nickname before “Music City”) in 2012 after raising my two boys there and attempting a second (though unsuccessful) marriage. The Nashville phase of my life gave me lifelong friends, an introduction to great music, southern cooking, and some interesting politics. I also discovered that at least one of my ancestors fought there in the battle of Franklin slogging down the very same roads in 1864 I was taking to work every day in 2004.
My old Nashville friends Dan and Aileen welcomed us into their home with a loving embrace. Since this was the first real taste of a great Southern city for Janice, I wanted to show her a good time. As we pulled into Dan and Aileen’s driveway we were immediately warned not to park under the Black Walnut tree. The walnuts are encased in a softball sized hard green shell. When the tree sheds them in the fall, they crash to the ground like cannon balls denting automobiles and knocking unsuspecting Yankees senseless. Throughout our stay the loud bang of a black walnut off the carport’s tin roof made the point.
Animals have played a big part in this trip. Every morning we were greeted by the happy-faced enthusiasm of Teddy, their Shiatzu mix.
Once settled, we lost no time in digging into Nashville’s history. During the Civil War, a major battle happened here to retake Nashville by a Confederate Army in December of 1864. The troops were led by General John Bell Hood who was severely wounded at Gettysburg. He sustained a leg and partial arm amputation and was in chronic pain. Because of this he developed a serious opium addiction which clouded his judgement, led to some bad tactical decisions, and ultimately lost the south’s last hope in the west at the battle of Franklin, mentioned below.
It turned out that Hood’s headquarters was the old southern mansion next door to Dan and Aileen! We were sleeping yards from the battle lines of Fall 1864. Cool!
Ghost stories follow the Civil War. It seems a caretaker had turned off the lights as he was locking up and, mysteriously, the lights turned themselves on. We were having dinner with perfectly sane and grounded friends, Alan and Laura, when Laura mentioned both she and her daughter felt certain they often saw a confederate soldier sitting on their garage stairs, holding a musket across his lap. Both the Carter House and Carnton Plantation (mentioned below) served as military hospitals, and it is said they have spirits. We regretted the ghost-hunting dowsing rods we ordered from Amazon were on back-order otherwise we would have sought out their ethereal presence. (reference to ghost hunting in Gettysburg)
The campaign to retake Nashville began in the town of Franklin 30 miles to south. Franklin was our first stop. I’ll let Janice tell you what affected her about that site.
The Carter House and the Battle of Franklin
If an assault was to be made by Hood, General Cleburne said it would be a “terrible and useless waste of life.” General Patrick R. Cleburne would soon lose his own life during the assault.
We took a tour of the Carter House. Built in 1830, the Carter House was at the center of the 1864 Battle of Franklin. The house and grounds served as a federal command post before the battle and as a hospital afterwards.
The Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864. It lasted a mere 5 hours and was one of the worst disasters of the war for the Confederate States Army.
During the battle the Carter family hid in the earthen basement waiting for the 5 hours for the hell and carnage to end. We got to see the cramped quarters where 21 people huddled. Here’s a link to an eyewitness’ report”:
The fighting spilled onto the porch and yard of the house. (see brick wall pic), (see door -bullet exit damage). The Carter’s home and outbuildings were riddled with bullets. (see slave cabin pic). Eyewitnesses later said you could walk across the lawn and never have your feet touch the ground, there were so many dead and wounded. Standing on that ground felt different than being on the much larger battlefields of Gettysburg and Antietam. There, I could only speculate that I was standing at a spot of such pain. At Franklin, I KNEW I was standing where someone had fallen. I really felt it in my heart.
The Carnton Plantation and the Battle of Franklin
We took a tour of another Civil War site, the Carnton Plantation. This typical antebellum home was turned into a hospital after the battle of Franklin. The owners, John and Carrie McGavock, found themselves with over 600 dead and wounded soldiers in their yard beginning the night of the battle. They nursed both federal and confederate soldiers for up to year after the battle and established a Confederate graveyard on their property to bury the dead. The McGavock’s had 44 slaves to run the plantation and slave cabins are part of the site. During the war they sent them further south to prevent their “property” from escaping as union troops occupied Tennessee. We could not help but have sorrow for what occurred here.
The Science of Medicine, circa 1864
One bedroom of the Carnton home had been turned into a surgical suite. There remained blood stains on the wooden floors as if an amputation happened yesterday. Ninety five percent of operations performed during the Civil War were done with the patient under some form of anesthesia, usually chloroform or ether. The most common amputation sites on the body were the hand, thigh, lower leg, and upper arm.
You can see in this picture where the surgeon plied his trade and the horizon of blood around where he stood.
A Civil War minie ball (lead bullet) was huge and would expand to shatter any bone into pieces. Removing the limb was often the only way to save a life. If you were lucky enough to be discovered on the battlefield, taken to a makeshift field hospital, survive the blood loss and the procedure, you were especially fortunate to avoid a horrendous infection. Microbe theory had yet to reach the front lines and bloody instruments were wiped off with soiled towels. Of the approximately 30,000 amputations performed in the Civil War there was a 26.3-percent mortality rate.
Pity the man who sustained a wound to the head or torso. Rules of “triage” were in place and complex abdominal surgery was not an option when so many others could be saved in the time it took to explore a belly wound. This is a big reason why there were so many causalities.
The Lane Auto Museum
We stopped at the Lane Auto Museum, a collection of the weirdest cars you will ever see. There are one person cars, 2 wheeled cars; amphibious, cloth covered, propeller, and racing cars and ones with skis. There are foldable motorcycles for your trunk. They are all in running condition.
If you ever get to Music City and enjoy laughing until you cry you must go on the “Trash Nash” tour. This tour has been led by two actress/ comedians as “The Jugg Sisters” for the past 20 years. It’s also a great way to learn about Nashville’s sites before you descend on the clubs and listen to music at the Honky Tonks down on Broadway.
here’s a video clip:
Because of COVID’s Delta surge, we did not go club hopping, but as soon as this beast is under control, we’ll be back. You need no other reason to come to Nashville. In normal times there are at least a dozen clubs featuring great singer song writers and bands of all genres. That doesn’t even count the big venues like the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ol’ Opry.
We took a walk down a 4-block area of downtown. At 3 pm on a Thursday, the street was packed. Every 20 feet there was a “honky-tonk” bar with live music (and not a mask in sight) blasting onto the street through open windows. We found a 3-story super-spreader event (I mean bar). The neon signs were fabulous.
Back to Neal:
Seeing my old friends again was sweet. I’m especially grateful to Dan and Aileen for arranging a dinner with Alan and Laura our last evening in town. These friends along with Jamie Collins (who we also breakfasted with) have been my support and council in the toughest times and some of the best times of my life. A special CONGRATULATIONS Jamie. We think his new love, Valerie is a keeper!
Janice: The Battle of Shiloh was so named after a small, wooden church named “Shiloh”, Hebrew for “place of peace.” The original church burned but has been replaced by an exact replica.
On April 7, 1862, the Civil War's Battle of Shiloh ended with a Union victory over Confederate forces in Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. The two-day conflict, with more than 23,000 dead and wounded, was the bloodiest engagement of the Civil War up to that point, with nearly twice as many casualties as the previous major battles of the war combined.
One famous fight was “The Hornet’s Nest” where union troops were surrounded on three sides and sustained terrible casualties. It was so named because of the buzzing sound of Minie balls that flew thick in this sector of the battlefield. I imagined and felt the percussion of the cannons and muskets experience the sounds, smells, and sights as we walked where it happened.
General Albert Sidney Johnston-a side, but important note
After launching his surprise attack on Union forces, commanding Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, a West Point graduate with more than 30 years of active military experience, found himself in the thick of the fighting at what became known as the “Peach Orchard.” Johnston was shot behind his right knee when he rode too far ahead of his troops. Because he’d suffered nerve damage from a prior dueling wound, he didn’t realize the severity of his injury until his boot filled with blood. He quickly bled to death on the battlefield. It is said that he had a tourniquet in his pocket, which would have saved his life, when he died.
Despite the severity of his wound, Johnston would likely have survived had he not sent his personal doctor to the front to care for a group of captured and wounded Union soldiers. Instead, he was dead within an hour, the highest-ranking officer—on either side—to be killed in action during the war. (We got to stand near where he was shot and where he is rumored to have died. See Johnston death marker pic).
Why does this matter? Johnston was such a competent general and was very respected by his troops. He was better than most of the north’s generals. If he had survived, it may have changed the war’s outcome.
Former Confederate President Jefferson Davis later said Johnston’s death was “the turning point of our fate.”
Onto Mississippi and Louisiana….
Still very much in love,
Neal and Janice
Nashville Neon Signs
The Carter House
The Carnton Plantation
The Lane Museum