By EMILY R. WEST
I remember reading the fictionalized version of the “Widow of the South” when I first moved to Franklin, telling the accounts of those who dealt with the most gruesome battle in Williamson County.
But it wasn’t until I saw those stand on the stage in Jamison Hall that I felt the raw emotion – the racial divide, a family unsettled.
Picking up the pieces of characters once in this town, Studio Tenn’s host of actors displayed the Carter family, and a tear between father and son.
The Battle of Franklin, without a shadow of a doubt, ripped thousands of loved ones apart. I’ve walked through the cemetery at Carnton Plantation 152 years later. The remnants of the carnage are a reminder in every tombstone.
But perhaps what we often forget in history is how the people felt – how they felt when they said they considered African American slaves a part of their family; the tug African American slaves felt when they didn’t believe that and wanted freedom; the complete silence of finding a loved one so close to home but only finding his body lying in state outside the door.
This play, if nothing else, is about the relationships. It’s not about the strategic art of war. It’s not about how the Union snuck by the Confederacy to dig a trench line to really defend Nashville. It’s about the love, the sorrow, the pain left behind by a country marred in unrest.
“Battle of Franklin: A Tale of a House Divided” addresses these topics, one by one, either through the spoken word of the character or directly through the lyrical melancholy of a song.
We are approaching the 152nd anniversary of the bloodiest battle in our backyard, what could be considered the Gettysburg of the western cannon in the devastating fabric of the Civil War.
Those who represent the lives of many characters on stage capture a piece, if not mostly that essence to bring it to life. I am not going to spoil or leak every detail of what those actors can do in bringing this tale alive on stage.
But as I was walking out of the door of The Factory Thursday night, I started talking with one of Franklin’s top preservationists.
“I am afraid after your generation, no one will believe this happened,” she said.
I felt an obligation to her in that moment. And I only had a simple reply.
“I hope not,” I said back to her.
We cannot forget. In fact, we must not forget.
And if Studio Tenn does nothing else with this play until Nov. 13 when it closes in The Factory, it made sure that I never will.