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Three Civil War battlefields to see near Nashville: Stones River, Franklin and Nashville saw a great deal of bloodshed during this divisive war. Here's a look at some of the remaining landmarks.

America's South is rich in history. The Civil War divided the country, and battle scars scattered about the southern states tell the story best. From Stones River to the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee saw more than its fair share of the bloody war. Landmarks and monuments dot the landscape to serve as reminders of the bitter conflict.

If you're heading to Nashville for VFW's 103rd National Convention, be sure to visit some of these historic sites. If the convention isn't on your summer agenda, planning a future trip to Tennessee would be worth the time.


On Dec. 31, 1862, and Jan. 2, 1863, one of the bloodiest battles of the war occurred near Murfreesboro. The Baffle of Stones River pitted Maj. Gen. William Rosencrans' 44,000 Union troops against Lt. Gen. Braxton Braggs' nearly 38,000 Confederate forces. Some 3,000 men were killed in this battle, which reportedly turned Stones River red from the blood of the dead and wounded.

Though the Confederates took a severe blow and Bragg retreated after the second day of fighting, he claimed a victory, as did Rosencrans.

Today, the National Park Service manages 600 of the 4,000-acre battlefield. One of the nation's oldest Civil War monuments--Hazen Brigade Monument--marks "Hell's Half-Acre" where Union soldiers held ground against Confederate attacks in a bloody standoff. In the Stones River National Cemetery, established in 1865, some 6,000 Union soldiers are buried.

A self-guided auto tour begins with an 18-minute slide presentation at the visitor center. A museum features uniforms, field equipment, photos, ordnance and personal documents, to name only a few items. In addition to the monument and cemetery, remnants of Fortress Rosencrans, one of the largest earthen forts constructed during the war, are visible.


The Battle of Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864, holds many unique distinctions. Among them, the clash was one of the few night battles of the Civil War. It also was one of the smallest battlefields--only two miles long and 1.5 miles wide. It lasted only five hours, but historians call it "the bloodiest hours of the American Civil War."

Under the leadership of Confederate Gen. John Hood, the Army of Tennessee--some 38,000 strong--moved up through Georgia and Alabama to Tennessee. Hood's goal was to stop the 4th and 23rd Federal Corps before they reached Nashville.

But, Maj. Gen. John Schofield's Union troops--numbering 32,000--were waiting for Hood at Franklin. Schofield commandeered the Fountain Carter farm for his headquarters. During the five brutal hours of fighting, the family took refuge in their basement. Some 23 men, women and children went unharmed during the battle.

Hood's troops knew the attack was a risky one, but undeterred they faced their foe. Bayonets and clubs were used extensively in the fighting and it's been said the smoke from cannons was so thick it was difficult to make out friend from foe.

One of the Carter boys, Tod, hadn't been home in three years and called out to his fellow soldiers "I'm almost home." He died two days later on his front lawn from battle wounds. The home was converted into a Confederate field hospital.

At battle's end, Schofield's troops retreated to Nashville to join forces with Maj. Gen. George Thomas. The Confederates suffered 2,000 dead, a number greater than their losses in the two-day Battle of Shiloh, the two-day Battle of Stones River and the seven-day campaign in Virginia. About 200 Union soldiers died at Franklin.

In the spring of 1866, the McGavock family donated two acres near their home, Carnton, to establish a Confederate Cemetery where 1,481 soldiers are buried today.

The Carter House was purchased by the state of Tennessee in 1951 and opened to the public in 1953. It is a registered historic landmark. The visitor center and museum contain exhibits that interpret the Battle of Franklin and others depict the lives of people who lived during the Civil War era.

Unfortunately, the Battle of Franklin has yet to be properly preserved. Other than the Carter House and a small plot where the most intense fighting occurred, there is nothing marking this battleground.


Despite his tremendous losses at Franklin, Hood led his remaining 23,000 men to Nashville on Dec. 15, 1864, where some 50,000 Union troops awaited him. Commanded by Maj. Gen. George Thomas, Union soldiers attacked with great force, bringing down the Southern lines.

Rather than retreat as expected, Hood regrouped and tightened his line of defense for the following day. On the morning of Dec. 16, Thomas sent troops in to the right and left of the line for a follow-up attack which virtually disintegrated Hood's forces. Approximately 4,000 Confederates surrendered or were captured.

Thomas reported 387 killed. Hood's losses were never officially tallied, but one estimate listed 1,500 wounded or killed.

The Battle of Nashville has been called "one of the most decisive battles of the entire Civil War." It was the Confederacy's last major offensive action.

To follow this battle today, a driving tour begins at the Cumberland Science Museum in Nashville. Sites included on the tour are the Belmont Mansion, Fort Negley and Travelers Rest.

Another reminder of this battle is the Peace Monument also located in Nashville. Dedicated on Nov. 11, 1927, it is a sculpture of a youth holding back two rearing horses, symbolic of the will of both sides.

Whether you're a Civil War buff or not, the Franklin/Nashville area is a piece of history you do not want to miss. So take full advantage of your free time at the convention and see the sites.


Stones River National Battlefield is a 30-minute drive south of Nashville on Old Nashville Hwy. For more information, call (615) 893-9501. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Carter House is located 20 miles south of Nashville in Franklin at 1140 Columbia Avenue. VFW members can receive a discounted tour rate. For more information, call (615) 791-1861. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Carnton Plantation and Confederate Cemetery also is located in Franklin at 1345 Carnton Lane. For more information, including programs and events, call (615) 794-0903. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on Sundays when tours begin at 1 p.m.

Peace Monument is located in Nashville on Franklin Road near Woodmont Boulevard. The Battle of Nashville driving tour starts at the Cumberland Science Museum at 800 Fort Negley Boulevard.
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Author:Blankenship, Janie
Publication:VFW Magazine
Geographic Code:1U6TN
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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