Two cannon sit aside a trail at the Franklin Battlefield in Franklin, Tenn.

Franklin Battlefield, Franklin, Tenn.

Michael Byerley

Taking Back Tennessee One Parcel at a Time: 3 Acres Saved!

Tennessee’s Franklin Battlefield is a unique testament to the power of preservation. Where once a Pizza Hut stood, now there are cannons and battlefield, lined with historically accurate rail fence that perfectly mirrors 19th-century photos of the land where the Battle of Franklin raged November 30, 1864. What better way can we tell the story of the fierce fighting at Franklin than through the incomparable power of place. And every acre counts, which is why we are excited to share two more victories in Tennessee, saving over three acres that reclaim battlefield land at the Battles of Franklin and Davis Bridge.

‘Lost’ under concrete

In November of 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood and his Army of Tennessee sought to bring a decisive blow to Union General John Schofield. After a month of sparring, the Federals had dug in at Franklin forcing Hood to make a frontal assault over two miles of open ground against a numerically equal foe entrenched behind three lines of breastworks. Confederate forces were immediately assailed by cannon and small-arms fire but managed to splinter the Union center briefly. After nearly three hours of intense combat, the Army of Tennessee pulled back, decimated.

For decades, the battlefield at Franklin was considered “lost” under the concrete and asphalt of development, but recent and gallant preservation activity has reclaimed the site one small parcel at a time and restored a growing battlefield park. We and our partners are currently working to save an important tract near the Carter House, and we are pleased to report that two more acres along the Lewisburg Pike, where Confederate General Thomas Scott’s brigade of Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee troops made a final push towards the left flank of the Union line, are now saved forever.

Described by Battle of Franklin Trust CEO Eric Jacobson as “one of the last available, most important unpreserved properties in Franklin,” the site was a high priority for acquisition. When it went up for auction, representatives of Battle of Franklin Trust, the Friends of Franklin Parks, Franklin’s Charge and Save the Franklin Battlefield — buoyed by a $25,000 grant from the American Battlefield Trust — were ready to pounce. Victorious at auction and now with the monies all raised, the Trust can now proclaim more than 180 total acres saved at Franklin.

Saving the Epicenter of the Battlefield

On the night of October 4, 1862, Union Maj. Gen. Edward O.C. Ord camped near Pocahontas, Tennessee. In the morning, a division of Illinois and Indiana regiments in the area under Maj. Gen. Stephen A. Hurlbut discovered Confederates in their front, two miles south of town. Ord took command of the combined Union forces and pushed Confederate Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s advance line, General Sterling Price’s Army of the West, back about five miles to the Hatchie River and across Davis Bridge. Price and Van Dorn put up a stubborn defense of the bridge to protect their line of retreat. During the action, Ord was wounded and Hurlbut assumed command. While Price’s men were hotly engaged with Hurlbut’s force, Van Dorn’s scouts found another crossing of the Hatchie further south at Crum’s Mill and Van Dorn led his army back to Mississippi. Ord had forced a Confederate retreat, but they escaped capture or destruction. Now, one acre of land, the epicenter of a key portion of the Davis Bridge battlefield, has been saved and transferred to the Shiloh National Military Park.

Bringing back Tennessee battlefield one parcel, one acre at a time, is arduous work, but work that’s worthy of our efforts. With your commitment and ours, we can and will continue to claim victories such as these that help us tell the stories of these great battles in a way that only the power of place can do.

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