Franklin Does It: Makes $500K Goal For Battle Park Tract
By Gregory L. Wade
(July 2012 Civil War News)

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 Greg Wade, left, of the Franklin Civil War Round Table, presents a check for $1,000 to Franklin’s Charge President Paul Gaddis for the campaign to buy a critical piece of Franklin battle land. The round table is the educational arm of Franklin’s Charge.

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — The Fran-klin’s Charge (FC) preservation coalition met a May 30 deadline to raise $500,000 to match a Civil War Trust gift of $500,000 for the purchase of key battlefield acreage for the future Carter Cotton Gin Interpretive Park.

The fundraising success was announced at a gathering of supporters.

Historians say the tract includes the Carter Cotton Gin location which, along with the Carter House just across Columbia Pike, witnessed some of the most intense fighting of the Nov. 30, 1864, Battle of Franklin.

The total cost of the acquisition is $1.85 million, to be covered with the Trust gift and matching donations along with a 2010 Tennessee Department of Transportation grant of $960,000.

Since 2005, FC has raised over $9 million to reclaim key parcels of lost Franklin battleground. Until that time many of the most critical acres were commercially developed as the city had experienced significant growth as a Nashville bedroom community.

FC founder and board member Robert Hicks spoke to a group of supporters and preservation activists about the cooperation among all the partners. Franklin’s Charge is made up of preservation groups as diverse as the African American Heritage Society to the Harpeth River Watershed Association, he noted.

Hicks said, “We went from five people brainstorming about preservation on a front porch to the organization we are today.” In 2005 FC was successful saving what is now known as the Eastern Flank when it coordinated a fund-raising effort to pay $5 million for what was then an 18-hole golf course. 

Various entities, including the City of Franklin and Civil War Trust, participated in that project which is now evolving into an interpreted battle field park.

Since then Franklin’s Charge, often in partnership with the Trust, continues to seek opportunities to “reclaim” the battlefield.

“Once again I stand in awe of the incredible passion for preservation present today in Franklin, Tennessee,” said Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer.

Some 125 individuals made $1,000 donations, right up to the May 30 deadline, according to FC board member Mary Pearce. Significant donations included $200,000 from Calvin and Marilyn Lehew and a major contribution from Rod and Kay Heller who made acquisition of the Eastern Flank battlefield possible in 2005.

Many of those present at the announcement are even more excited about what this latest effort could spur. “I have been all over the country, to just about all the battlefields,” said Civil War enthusiast Sam Whitson, “and the potential here at Franklin is at the top.”

Lighthizer echoed those thoughts. “We at the Civil War Trust are confident that their [FC] successes are far from over,” he said, noting the Trust will “remain proud to partner with them on projects yet to come.”

Local preservationists believe as the pieces come together, there will indeed be more projects in the future.

Four parcels will comprise the new park. FC purchased a 2-acre plot with a house, since removed, in 2008 for $960,000. The debt on that parcel was retired last year. Two other parcels that will be part of the park are a house the Heritage Foundation of Franklin purchased in the late 1990s on the site of the Carter’s original cotton gin and a parcel the Civil War Trust bought that will be conveyed to Franklin’s Charge.

The newest property is occupied by a strip center with a Domino’s Pizza. It is across the street from the site of another pizzeria that the city purchased in 2005 and demolished to create a park in 2005.

The total costs for the entire gin-related properties will be in excess of $3 million, according to FC. 

Battle of Franklin Trust Chief Operating Officer Eric Jacobson told the gathering this “hallowed ground” is more than about the past, but about the future.

“The completion of the park will provide future Americans the opportunity to see why this battle is so important,” said Jacobson. People will not have to “imagine” what it must have been like when the Domino’s strip is removed and the gin is rebuilt. “They will not have to dream it, they can see it,” he said.

As far as the next steps for the park’s development, FC board member Julian Bibb said there are some details to tie down, but thanks to the patience of the strip center owners Donnie and Tim Cameron, “we are about there.”

“We have already begun the actual planning of a replica cotton gin based on exact records left by the Carter family,” Bibb said.

When completed the multi-acre park may include interpretive earthworks based on meticulous research by local historians and archeological studies. It was these works that protected the Federal lines when the Army of Tennessee made its disastrous two-mile charge that nearly broke the lines.

The Confederates lost about 2,000 men killed. Many of their veteran commanders, including six generals, were killed or mortally wounded.

“The remarkable people at Franklin’s Charge have risen to every challenge presented to them,” said Lighthizer, “reclaiming historic ground that conventional wisdom had given up for lost.”

To learn more visit www.franklinscharge.com