To the editor:
About 25 years ago I walked the Franklin battlefield as best I could. I had to maneuver around a Pizza Hut, a Domino’s Pizza, a strip mall, a golf course, a flower shop and other modern intrusions. I also took notice that six streets were named after six Confederate generals. I also learned that time really and truly had fragmented the story of the Battle of Franklin.
Several years later, on another visit, I noticed that six wooden posts had popped up along Columbia Avenue. Each had the name of one of the six generals who had streets named after them. These were in addition to six busts of the same six generals that were on display at the Carter House. I was confounded. I knew that the posts did not properly denote where the generals had fallen or where they had died. I asked around to learn if anyone knew who had put the posts up and no one seemed to know.
Through the years the questions about the posts have been almost endless. We regularly heard from visitors, especially at Carter House, who were more than confused by the posts. The responses we have had to provide have been about as endless. “No, General Strahl did not die next to the Carter House mailbox.” “No, General Adams did not die on Columbia Avenue. He died close to Adams Street.” “No, that post is not for Tod Carter, it is for General John Carter.” And on and on.
Even the Cleburne post, which was on Cleburne Street and was about as accurate as to location as any of the other five, disappeared a couple years ago. No one seems to know what happened to it.
A few years ago, the Civil War Historical Commission (formerly the Battlefield Commission) began looking at the disparate signage all around Franklin and discussions ensued about how to make everything more uniform and historically accurate. Since we had spent years working to save the battlefield, we also talked about how we owed it our guests and to the future to make sure that we did the best job possible on all fronts. This included looking at the wooden posts which were never accurate in any sense of the word other than the spelling of a last name.
Recently the posts were removed. They were not removed because of a whim or as the result of some ulterior motive. They were removed as part of an overall effort to be as accurate as we can be with a story that has long deserved to be told. In addition, interpretive signs have been placed on the battlefield detailing the story of what happened on Nov. 30, 1864 in a way that did not exist 20 years ago. As a matter of fact, three dozen interpretive markers have been installed in the last decade.
One of those markers, currently located south of Cleburne Street near a beautiful magnolia tree, details who Pat Cleburne was and denotes approximately where he fell. This is far more appropriate than a wooden post. Another marker not far away notes the approximate location of where Hiram Granbury fell. A marker detailing the death of Otho Strahl and the fighting that raged in the Carter garden is in the works. Another marker is planned to detail the incredible charge led by John Adams and his death. The deaths of States Rights Gist and John C. Carter are being discussed for another marker. It might be noted that neither Gist nor Carter died where they fell so marking any location is problematic because one can potentially outweigh the other.
All in all, the new interpretive markers detail the stories of the Battle of Franklin as a whole. Change is hard, and sometimes emotions can blur the facts, but the goal is to use facts and truth as guideposts.
Eric A. Jacobson
Chief Executive Officer
The Battle of Franklin Trust