Battle Aftermath: The Wounded
Even as the November 30, 1864 battle raged, Franklin began its transformation into a city of hospitals. With casualties topping six thousand killed, wounded, and missing in action, the entire landscape of the town and country, not to mention the daily lives of the people who lived in and around Franklin, altered in an attempt to resolve this problem.
While the battle continued into the night, orderlies loaded injured soldiers onto litters and mule-drawn ambulances and rushed them off the battlefield to field hospitals. Public buildings, residences, outbuildings, stables, and barns became field hospitals minutes after the fighting started. The most well-known of the Confederate field hospitals was Carnton Plantation, home of John and Carrie McGavock and field hospital for Loring’s Division. The McGavocks received about three hundred wounded soldiers into their home. Hundreds more were treated outside, on the grounds.1
Though the story of the McGavocks is the best-known, most Franklin residents found wounded Confederate soldiers crowding their floors during and after the battle. Overnight, caring for wounded and dying men became not the exception, but the norm. When asked whether the Masons of Hiram Lodge No. 7 had consented for their building to be taken for a hospital, Dr. Daniel B. Cliffe said succinctly,
“Don’t think the Lodge was consulted. It was an act of war, and was taken as nearly every house in town was.”2
This paradigm shift from Federal to Confederate control was a dizzying switch for Franklin residents who had spent the past two years persuading Federal officers of their allegiance to that cause. By the November 30 battle, Franklin had been under Federal occupation for just under two years. A number of townspeople had fraternized with, aided, and benefited from Federal troops. During Federal occupation, Dr. Cliffe had treated sick Federal soldiers at the Masonic Hall on numerous occasions. As the Federal army withdrew from Franklin on the night of November 30, Dr. Cliffe left with them. Dr. Joseph L. Parkes, another Franklin physician, stayed behind. Dr. Parkes had been in charge of a hospital for Federal soldiers in the town. On December 1, however, he found himself caring for wounded Confederate soldiers in his own house.3
Though Confederates account for roughly two-thirds of the Battle of Franklin casualties, Federal wounded numbered a staggering 2,000. Teenager Fannie Courtney recounted shots flying as she ran out into the yard of her house, at the southeastern edge of town, and stanched the bloody shoulder of a wounded Federal soldier before he was loaded onto an ambulance and carted to a hospital somewhere in town. In the days after the battle, the wounded were largely segregated into different hospitals, with the Presbyterian Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church serving as the primary Federal hospitals. Many of the Federal wounded were left behind in the town after the Federal army withdrew.4
On December 1, the sun rose in east and illuminated the vast extent of the carnage and destruction of the Battle of Franklin. Many unfortunate wounded remained suffering on the battlefield until morning, casualties of a battle fought in the dark. Marcus Stephens of the 17th Mississippi Infantry lay on the battlefield all night, unable to move because of a shattered thigh. As the Federal army withdrew from Franklin, two Federal soldiers stopped to wrap him in blankets, light a fire at his feet, and build a makeshift barricade from the wind. Owing much to the kindness of strangers, Stephens survived the night and was located by his regiment in the morning. Others did freeze to death. On December 1, Franklin’s organization into long-term hospitals began in earnest. At least forty-four buildings in and around Franklin–including all the town’s public buildings–were transformed into hospitals.5
Making a Hospital – Dr. Deering Roberts and the 20th Tennessee Infantry (CSA)
After three and a half years of war, both armies had the hospital-making process down to a science. The morning of December 1, Dr. Deering Roberts of the 20th Tennessee came to Franklin to make hospitals for Bate’s division. His retinue consisted of one steward, ten men, and two wagons. Once in Franklin, Roberts set about requisitioning buildings and transforming them into hospitals. His description reveals a surgeon’s criteria for what made a good hospital, as well as preparations that went into transforming the structure before the first wounded man arrived. In Franklin, Roberts:
“…found an old carriage- and wagon-shop about sixty by one hundred feet, two stories high. It had a good roof, plenty of windows above and below, an incline leading up to upper floor on the outside, and a good well. This I immediately placarded as “Bate’s Division Hospital,” and put part of the detail to work cleaning out the work-benches, old lumber, and other debris.”6
He also claimed an empty brick store on the corner of the square and the session room of the Courthouse. By mid-afternoon, the three buildings were clean enough to satisfy Roberts, and he had straw strewn twelve inches deep across the floors, and the wounded men from Bate’s Division began to be collected from the battlefield and other field hospitals and brought to the three division hospitals. Even as the hospitals were in use, Roberts had carpenters make wooden bunks for the more severely wounded. Bate’s Division shared the Courthouse with other companies. Dr. Quintard, a chaplain in the 1st Tennessee’s Rock City Guards, found all the wounded from his regiment in one room of the Courthouse. He, like many chaplains in the Civil War, doubled as minister and medical attendant.7
Like Franklin’s other public buildings, Masonic Hall was seized for a hospital after the battle. Evidence suggests a Federal presence in the hospital. In the Court of Claims, however, all depositions recount the building was used by Confederates after the battle, with no mention of Federal wounded. According to Dr. Parkes,
“It [the Masonic Hall] was not used for any
purpose [by the Confederates] except that of a hospital for the wounded. The Confederate used it as a hospital after the retreat of the Federal troops to Nashville after the battle of Nov. 30th 1864. This use continued until the return of the federal troops when Hood retreated south, this was only a short time, a little over two weeks. At the time just after the battle, all public buildings in Franklin were used in caring for the wounded, such as churches and other public buildings.”8
Confederate physicians remained in charge of the building until Hood’s retreat in mid-December 1864, at which time Federal surgeons took over the building and its Confederate inmates. The building continued to be used in this capacity into Spring 1865.9
Providing for the wounded
By November 30, 1864 the Confederate army was no longer able to adequately clothe and feed its soldiers. Federal soldiers noted that many of the Confederates they encountered had no shoes. Confederate soldier James Frederick Anthony of the 28th Tennessee Cavalry described his unit’s uniforms as ” “uniformly ragged…There was no two suits alike.” And now it was faced with providing food for not only its own wounded, but around 2,000 wounded Federal prisoners as well. Dr. Ferdinand Petway, chaplain for an Alabama regiment, said after the Battle of Franklin, “We have captured six thousand prisoners; I would much prefer they were dead; we have no rations to spare the poor devils.” Petway grossly over-estimated the number of Federal prisoners they had taken, but the sentiment still rings true. 10
The commissary left Dr. Deering Roberts with just three days of rations for each wounded man. Fortunately, Roberts was never wanting for food in his hospitals because “the good people of Franklin and vicinity brought in an abundance of everything that sick, wounded, and attendants could want from day to day–well-cooked bread, beef, mutton, chickens, turkeys, milk, butter, eggs, and other food.”11
Ultimately, feeding and caring for the Federal wounded was also left up to the people of Franklin. The majority of the Federal wounded were cared for at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church. Fannie Courtney, her mother Eliza, and the family’s enslaved people cared and cooked for the wounded at the Presbyterian Church, who numbered about 120. In 1865, Fanny wrote a letter to the Sanitary Commission detailing her experiences after the Battle of Franklin:
“When we first went to the hospital, the wounded men told us they had nothing to eat for two days. We first furnished them with bread, meat and tea, and coffee, every little luxury we could prepare, for several days. Then they drew scanty [very little] rations from the Rebels, flour the color of ashes and a little poor beef not suitable for well men, much less for wounded. All the cooking was done, and in truth, everything eatable furnished, at our house. We fed the men twice a day. Sometimes at 10 o’clock at night we would carry them something prepared with our own hands. Many had been robbed not only of their blankets and overcoats but of their coats, and were lying on the floor upon handfuls of straw, with nothing else to protect or cover them. We furnished them all the bedding we could spare, and made cotton pillows for all. There were no bandages to be had, and I made what I could out of my own underclothing. We would get up at daylight and with the help of servants commence cooking their breakfast. We never had time to rest, only as we sat down to eat something hurriedly, for as soon as we had finished feeding our patients in the morning, we had to return home to prepare the next meal…”12
The Confederates’ other solution for Federal prisoners was to parole them as soon as they were well enough to travel. Willis Hansford of the 12th Kentucky Infantry (USA) was forced to leave his injured father in Franklin when the Federal Army withdrew to Nashville. He wrote to his mother from Nashville, reassuring her that her husband would get better and probably be home soon, saying: “The Rebs is payrolling (paroling) all the (Federal) wounded as fast as they get so (well enough) they can travel.” His final words in the letter are a reminder that even those who did not fight or live on a battlefield still suffered because of the Civil War:
“I don’t know when I will get to come home, but I will come as soon as I can. You do the best you can till I get to come, and get some body to get wood for you. So I will close for this time, but remain your son till death.”13
Next: Battle Aftermath: The Dead
1 – Battle of Franklin Trust, “History,” boft.org/history, accessed 19 Dec. 2019.
2 – Court of Claims, Hiram Lodge No. 7, Free and Accepted Masons, D.B. Cliffe deposition (1905), NARA, 30.
3 – Court of Claims, D.B. Cliffe deposition, 27.
Rick Warwick, ed., “Diary of Dr. Charles Todd Quintard,” in the Williamson County Historical Journal, no. 29 (1998), 74.
Court of Claims, J.L. Parkes deposition, 8.
4 – Fanny Courtney, “A View From the Other Side (1865),” The American Battlefield Trust, accessed 19 Dec. 2019.
5 – Keith S. Bohannon, “The War In Their Words: I Was Rapidly Bleeding To Death,” HistoryNet, accessed 21 Dec. 2019.
6 – Francis Trevelyan Miller and Robert S. Lanier, The Photographic History of the Civil War, vol. 7 (New York: The Review of Reviews Co., 1911), 258.
7 – Ibid, 256-258.
Warwick, “Diary of Dr. Charles Todd Quintard,” 71-2.
8 – Court of Claims, J.L. Parkes deposition, 14.
9 – Court of Claims, Green Williams deposition, 43.
10 – Rick Warwick, comp., Letter from Adam Weaver to Charlotte Weaver, Nov. 30, 1864, in The Civil War Years Revealed Through Letters, Diaries, & More (Nashville: Panacea Press, 2006), 94.
Gustavus W. Dyer and John Trotwood, comp., Tennessee Veterans Questionnaires, Vol. 1 (Easley: Southern Historical Press, 1985), 217.
Lyman B. Pierce, History of the 2nd Iowa Cavalry (Burlington: Hawk-Eye Steam Book and Job Printing Establishment,1865), Archive.org, accessed 21 Dec. 2019, 162.
11 – Miller & Lanier, Photographic History, 270.
12 – Rick Warwick, ed., Letter to Sanitary Commission (1865), in Williamson County: The Civil War As Seen Through the Female Experience (Nashville: Panacea Press, 2008).
13 – United States, War Department, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. “Willis Hansford’s letter home from Nashville on the whereabouts of his father after the battle of Franklin.”