Every year on the Sunday before the anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, two groups organize re-enactment marches that end at the Carter House.
This year was no exception.
On Sunday, a few of days before the 152nd annivesary since the Nov. 30, 1864 battle, two camps – a Confederate and a Union – marched out around 4 p.m. to meet at the Carter House just like on that fateful day when nearly 9,000 men lost their lives.
For the past 20 years, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have met at Winstead Hill, where Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee was on that afternoon. They hail from the Sam Davis Camp 1293. It is where Tractor Supply Company, roughly, is now.
From there, the four or five dozen re-enactors marched north toward Carter House.
For the past six years, the Sons of Union Veterans have had a lesser number of Union soldiers gather at what is now Pinkerton Park but used to be Fort Granger. They hail from Camp 62 Fort Donelson and Camp 64, the Army of Tennessee.
Union Maj. Gen. John Schofield, who had his Army of the Ohio set up in a defensive ring south around Franklin, met Hood’s assault around sundown. The nexus of the battle on Columbia Pike – the only weakness in the Union line – was Carter House.
The Union re-enactors marched, also starting at 4 p.m., from Pinkerton to Carter House.
“It is a patriotic organization with membership limited to descendants of U.S. soldiers from the Civil War,” Bill Heard, uniformed as an infantry sergeant, said. “We meet and memorialize with the Confederate troops, to honor all those who fought in one of the bloodiest blows to the South.”
The Union marchers, varying in age from 83 to their 10-year-old flagbearer, Eliza Hill, in her fourth year participating in the march, grouped up in Pinkerton park and marched with a police escort down Murfreesboro Road into Franklin, turning left on Margin Street then up Columbia Avenue.
There they formed up in front of the Carter House and waited while the Confederates came from the south as darkness fell.
“They fought in the dark, hand to hand, and probably could hardly see who they were grappling with,” Heard said.
Sam Gant, 83, is one of those Union re-enactors which hail from the Friends of Fort Donelson Camp #62. His story reminds one how much closer the Civil War is than it feels much of the time.
“My grandfather was a Union soldier and I have about 15 collateral ancestors in the Union army,” he said. “Believe it or not, my mother’s half brother died in the Civil War.”