Now whenever I’m out of town, I always make it a point to visit a cemetery. To me, they are better than any mountain range, skyline or other popular tourist attraction. They are hidden treasures containing a wealth of information about communities and the people who lived there.
Chances are you have visited a cemetery at some time in your life to pay your respects to a family member or friend, and perhaps you too appreciate the stories represented among the tombstones and monuments.
My travels take me to all over the South and Midwest – and sometimes further North – so I have decided to start documenting my cemetery visits with a series of photos in a Sunday feature.
This week’s cemetery is the McGavock Confederate Cemetery in Franklin, TN. The cemetery is located in a two-acre section of the Carnton plantation on land donated by the owners, Colonel John and Carrier McGavock. It’s the largest private military cemetery in the United States in terms of burials.
For those of you who aren’t history buffs, there was a huge Union and Confederate battle on November 30, 1864 called the Battle of Franklin. The conflict left nearly 9,500 soldiers dead, wounded, captured or missing.
The Carnton plantation was located less than a mile from the center of the action so the Colonel collected and buried the bodies of Confederate soldiers in temporary graves on his property. Teams assigned to the burials places makeshift wooden markers at the head of the graves to identify individuals by name, rank, regiment and company.
By 1866, the graves and markers were deteriorating. Many of the wooden markers became hard to read and the identities of the soldiers were in danger. That’s when the McGavock’s stepped in and donated a permanent two-acre plot. The bodies were exhumed from the temporary graves and reburied in the section of land adjacent to the plantation home. The wooden markers were replaced with ones made of stone.
Out of the nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers who were casualties, 780 have been identified but 558 are still unknown.
There are 13 sections to the cemetery organized by states. They include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and the Unknowns. Soldiers from every Southern state in the Confederacy, except Virginia, are represented in the cemetery.
Burial records were preserved by the colonel’s wife, Carrie, and the McGavocks spent the rest of their lives caring for and maintaining the cemetery. The cemetery is now maintained by the Franklin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Until next time….