Monday, November 25, 2013

Carnton Confederate Cemetery

Carnton Confederate Cemetery / 1866

  In 1860 the town of Franklin had a population of 900 people. On the morning of December 1, 1864 Franklin faced a gigantic problem of what to do with the bodies of 1,750 Confederate soldiers, and hundreds of dead Union soldiers. Burial squads placed Union soldiers by two's in unmarked graves that were later dug up by black soldiers of the 111th Colored Infantry of the Union Army and re interred at Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro. Since the Confederates held the battlefield they buried their men in individual graves on the Fountain Carter and James McNutt land along the length of the Union trenches. Each grave was marked with a wooden headboard which listed the names, regiments, and pertinent information about each soldier. In time the headboards and graves began to deteriorate. Because of the number of poor people and shortage of firewood the headboards began disappearing at an alarming rate. In the spring of 1866 John McGavock of Carnton began raising money to create a Confederate Cemetery. He donated two acres adjacent to his family graveyard. Whenever soldiers could be identified they were buried together by states. Seven hundred and eighty are positively identified. Five hundred and fifty eight are unknown. There is one Chinese and one Jewish soldier buried there.
The Aftermath

  McGavock paid George Cuppett five dollars per body to re inter them. His brother Marcellus and two other workers completed the work in ten weeks. Marcellus took sick and died on April 26, 1866 and is also buried in the cemetery. When archaeological research was being done on the property during the 1990's I ran into one of them working in the cemetery. We struck up a fascinating conversation and he told me that Marcellus contracted an illness while digging up the bodies. He said that as an archaeologist he refused to work around graves because you can contract whatever illness that person died of if it was contagious. Each soldier was given a wooden head board and foot board. These were replaced by granite markers in 1896. George Cuppett wrote the names of every soldier in a cemetery book that was given to the McGavock's for safekeeping. Soldiers from every Southern state except Virginia are buried there. In 1905 the Franklin chapter of the United Daughter's of the Confederacy took over the financial care of the cemetery. Until her death Carrie McGavock took care of and maintained the cemetery. 

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