Friday, August 16, 2019

Dad & Daughter Road Trip to ACW Battlefield Site

The Carter House, which was the epicenter of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

"Opdyke's Tigers" by Don Troiani depicts the desperate fighting in the back yard of the Carter House

This past weekend we took our daughter, Lelia, back to school iand because we had the whole weekend to kill and nothing to do, I suggested that we visit another Civil War ( or "ACW") battlefield site. Last year Lelia and I went on a road trip to visit Fort Donelson in Tennessee. So we decided that it would be fun to visit another ACW battlefield before school began.

We elected to go on the journey from Carbondale, IL to the Nashville, TN area to visit the Battle of Franklin. It is about a 3-hour journey one-way, which is about the same time and distance as Fort Donelson was, so this seemed like a trip that was doable for the full day.

Click on the link below, to the American Battlefield Trust's account of the Battle of Franklin. The organization was formerly known as the Civil War Battlefield Trust. The organization has expanded its commitment to battlefield restoration for all wars on American soil, including the American Revolution and the War of 1812, plus the Civil War.

The backyard of the Carter House, now much more serene than on that horrific day on November 30, 1864.

Lelia has developed a keen interest in the Civil War and wants to visit all the sites of battles with me on father-daughter road trips. I am really excited that she has developed a liking for history and battlefield visits. I hark back to my youth when my father took me on tours of Gettysburg, Antietem, Fort Donelson, Shiloh and Vicksburg. So the torch passes on to the next generation.

The drive was approximately 3.5 hours, nearly all of it on Interstate Highways (I57 and I24 from Carbondale to Nashville), so the driving was relatively easy until we passed through downtown Nashville, TN where the Saturday afternoon traffic was heavier than expected. We arrive at Franklin at around 3PM and we stayed there until the park closed at 5PM. The battlefield is owned by the State of Tennessee through a trust. However, the visitors' center and tours were every bit as good as those in the National Park Service.

Lelia was particularly fascinated by the bullet-riddled walls of some of the Carter House outbuildings and she said that this is the memory that she will take away from our visit. We also went on the tour of the Carter House and learned a lot about the history of the Carter family and how the battle impacted them. The family was largely huddled down in the stone cellar of the house as the battle raged all around them.

Lelia standing in front of the bullet riddled walls of one of the outbuildings of the Carter House.

Lelia's favorite memory is of the bullet holes in the wall.

Lelia poses in front of a 3-inch Rodman rifled cannon. A 12-pound Napoleon is in the background.

Dad poses for his obligatory picture in front of a Civil War cannon.

Another one of the outbuildings that still bears some battle damage in its walls.

The back porch of the Carter House.
For the return trip to Carbondale, we decided to avoid Nashville and take some back roads north to Clarksville, TN where we would pick up the I24 interstate highway. We didn't want to deal with Nashville traffic, but in retrospect, we probably added an hour to the return trip. Various roads led us north along the western side of the Cumberland River and we discovered how hilly the terrain was. I can imagine how difficult it would have been for armies to march back and forth through these seemingly endless hills.

We returned to our cabin in Carbondale around 9PM, after dark, and told Mrs. Fritz all about our trip and its various tales.  We can hardly wait for our next road trip.

A Brief Aside - Saving ACW Battlefield Land
A few years ago, the Franklin battlefield was deemed to be "lost" to development, as there are a number of residental buildings on the ground where the battle was fought. The Civil War Trust though, has been active in pursuing the purchase of available land in and around the battlefield so as to preserve it from developers. I think that it was about two years ago that CWT purchased a strip mall and a Domino's Pizza store that were located just west of the Carter House. The purchase was funded through a combination of private donations and matching Federal funding that is available for battlefield preservation.

The American Battlefield Trust purchased a strip mall and a Dominoes Pizza store, that were in front of the building in the background, and then razed the buildings to restore that portion of the battlefield.

The Confederate attack came up the Columbia Pike, from west to east, towards
where we are standing in the backyard of the Carter House.

Civil War Trust map of the battle of Franklin.
The areas shaded in brown and blue have been preserved from developers FOREVER.
Click on the link below to visit the Civil War Trust web site and learn about how the organization protects battlefield land (51,000 acres have been saved from development). I am a regular contributor to the CWT and I recall making a donation for the purchase of land in Franklin.

Future Road Trips

I would imagine that the Battle of Shiloh, TN will be the next destination in our father-daughter tours of ACW sites. Shiloh is a 4-hour drive from Carbondale and would probably have to be an overnight trip as there is a lot more to see at Shiloh - one could easily spend the whole day touring Shiloh. Maybe a side trip to Memphis and Graceland could be a part of the tour.


  1. An interesting write-up, Jim, with great photos. You must be very pleased that Lelia shares an interest in history & gaming. The pictures of you both posing by the cannons is great to give an idea of the size of these "beasts'. Cheers, Rohan.

  2. Looks and sounds like a fantastic-father-daughter outing. Is Lelia a junior or senior now? Where does the time go??!!

    Best Regards,


  3. I love the 'photo of the bullet ridden wooden wall!

  4. I remember being impressed with the single British musket ball that lodged in the wall of the Emerson house in Concord, Massachusetts, near the old North Bridge. The Carter House has them beat by a great number of long shots!