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Carnton, a Thriving Plantation to Civil War Hospital

Violet Sky at Carnton Plantation, Franklin, Tennessee (Photo Credit: Violet Sky)
Violet Sky at Carnton Plantation, Franklin, Tennessee (Photo Credit: Violet Sky)
Carnton Plantation, Franklin, Tennessee (Photo Credit: Violet Sky)
Carnton Plantation, Franklin, Tennessee (Photo Credit: Violet Sky)
McGavock Cemetery, Franklin, Tennessee (Photo Credit: Violet Sky)
McGavock Cemetery, Franklin, Tennessee (Photo Credit: Violet Sky)

From its blood stained hardwood floors to its solemn back porch, Carnton Plantation will forever be immortalized by the tragic events of the Battle of Franklin. The McGavock family home looks out upon the hundreds of acres that became a bloody battlefield, killing many men and changing the lives of thousands.


Randal McGavock was a prominent man in the area of central Tennessee. Among his acquaintances included Andrew Jackson and James Polk. His place in society helped land him the role of Mayor of Nashville in the early 1820s.

In 1826, Randal built Carnton Plantation which was situated on 1,400 acres. He named it after his families home in Ireland. His wife Sarah and their children lived in the home. They grew crops, raised horses and socialized with neighboring plantations. When Randal passed away in 1843, he left the home to his son John.

John loved the plantation and to celebrate his new bride Carrie Winder in 1848, he remodeled the home and created an acre garden for her. Together John and Carrie had five children but only two survived to adulthood named Winder and Hattie.

When the Battle of Franklin broke out nearby Carnton, the McGavock family tried to keep their home and family safe. At the time Winder was only 7 and Hattie was 9 as a violent battle raged outside in the dark of the night. For nearly five hours, the most devastating losses at the Battle of Franklin took place on the grounds of Carnton. The Confederate Army attacked the Union forces and were seriously defeated.

On the night of November 30, 1864, the battle began and ended in many casualties. In the daylight hours on December 1, 1864. the bodies of victims of the Battle of Franklin were counted. Those who were still alive were escorted to Carnton house where it had quickly been converted to a hospital for Confederates that had been wounded. In fact, Carnton was one of the largest field hospitals at the Battle of Franklin. Even after restoration, blood stains still appear on the floors at Carnton house from its time as a field hospital.

The famous rear white porch displayed the bodies of the four Confederate generals who died in the battle. These men included Hiram Granbury, Otho Strahl, John Adams and Patrick Cleburne.

Following the battle the lost Confederate soldiers were buried in temporary graves. In 1866, John McGavock and his wife Carrie made an extension to their own private family cemetery at Carnton. They donated a two acre parcel to properly bury 1,500 men with appropriate stones.

For years the McGavock’s and their children lived with the tragedy that occurred on their land. They even maintained the cemetery. In 1911, Susie McGavock, the wife of the late Winder, sold Carnton. It was not until 1977, that Carnton and ten acres surrounding the home were donated to the Carnton Association for its preservation.

Violet Sky’s Visit

The first thing I noticed driving up to Carnton Plantation was the rolling grassy hills that are very characteristic of central Tennessee. These hills are very important in this location as they served as one of the main battlefields during the Battle of Franklin in 1864.

Carnton Plantation house sits strategically on the edge of the field as it once looked over the hundreds of acres that created its existence. Also from the parking lot visitors will notice a cemetery to the left. This cemetery not only holds the McGavock’s of Carnton Plantation but also over a thousand Confederate soldiers who died in the Battle of Franklin. It became the largest privately owned Confederate cemetery in America.

This home offers a lot of history about the battle. The rear porch and the blood stained floors shed light on the tragic events that took place here in 1864.

How to Visit 

Carnton Plantation is located at 1345 Eastern Flank Circle in Franklin, Tennessee. To closely tour the home and accompanying grounds an admission ticket is required. The tour is led by experienced guides who understand the history behind this house.

For more information about admission prices and hours please visit the official website here.

Thanks for reading and as always, keep on truckin’.

-Violet Sky

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