What is Happening In Franklin, Tenn.
By Julian L. Bibb
(August 2010 Civil War News - Preservation Column)

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Over 146 years ago, the Southern forces of Gen. John Bell Hood engaged Union troops commanded by Gen. John Schofield in what became one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. In the years following the 1864 Battle of Franklin, the battlefield on which it took place largely disappeared.

Instead of an area that would provide generations of Americans the opportunity to understand the importance of the battle, as well as larger questions about the Civil War, the battlefield became populated with retail strip centers, pizza parlors, golf courses and housing developments.

The battlefield disappeared so substantially that in the 1990s it was rated as “lost” by the Civil War Preservation Trust.

That is, until 2003, when a group of dedicated preservationists led by New York Times best-selling author Robert Hicks, developed a vision to restore substantial portions of the “lost” battlefield.

The vision was three-fold: (a) restore the battlefield for all to enjoy, (b) develop educational programs, and (c) increase heritage tourism.

Efforts to accomplish the vision began in earnest when Franklin’s Charge, a §501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, brought together civic and community leaders to purchase a 112-acre golf course site adjacent to Carnton Plantation. The site was the Eastern Flank of the battle. The City of Franklin, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) and the American Battlefield Protection Program joined with the private sector to successfully complete the acquisition.

The land, which now has become a public battlefield park, is in the process of being returned to its 1864 appearance. Jim Lighthizer, president of CWPT, called this effort something just short of a miracle. The cost of the acquisition efforts exceeded $5 million. All of those monies have been raised.

The restoration and battlefield development costs will be funded by the City of Franklin over time.

Following its successful initiative, Franklin’s Charge began focusing on several acres located close to the Carter House. That area was the location of the Carter Cotton Gin and related outbuildings.

It became “ground zero” of the battle. Its historical significance is immeasurable. But instead of having been preserved, it had been developed into housing, pizza restaurant, and a retail strip center.

The cost of purchasing this acreage and returning it to its 1864 appearance, complete with a replica of the Cotton Gin, will be approximately $3.5 million. Already a Pizza Hut site has been reclaimed and three house sites have been purchased.

At present, Franklin’s Charge, in a partnership with the Civil War Preservation Trust, is negotiating a contract to acquire the strip center site. As we proceed through this process, we are excited about other opportunities the future may hold.

For this stage of reclamation, this $3.2 million effort is in need of help from the private sector. With governmental funding badly stretched, successful battlefield preservation in Franklin turns on donations from individuals and businesses.

To those of you reading this article, we need your help. Pledges and gifts for this effort need to be in hand by Sept. 30.

Join us and help us reclaim the site of Franklin’s “high-water” mark at www.franklinscharge.com or Franklin’s Charge, 604 West Main St., Franklin, TN  37064

 

Julian L. Bibb is an attorney and long-standing advocate for historic preservation, open-space protection and Civil War battlefield preservation. He is a founder, past president and current board member of Franklin’s Charge. Bibb is a past president of The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County and a past officer and board member of the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Trust. He also is general counsel and a past board member of the Land Trust for Tennessee.