Dan Snow’s visit to Franklin, Tennessee

April 8, 2013 - Dan Snow

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Dan Snow and Robert Hicks beside the most battle damaged building in the USA.

Dan Snow and Robert Hicks beside the most battle damaged building in the USA.

To my enormous shame I had only heard mention of Franklin in passing. After the fall of Atlanta I had treated the rest of the war in the west like an epilogue. How wrong I was.

The description of the long, suicidal charge across a wide, open, slowly sloping hill, with Union forces entrenched along the top, is as appalling as any World War One battlefield. The bloodiest five hours on US soil was the result. General Hood’s decision to throw the Army of Tennessee at the Union men at dusk is bizarre.

There’s something about the Civil War, the stories, and they way they’ve been preserved and transmitted, are like no other conflict. From the boy who fought across the south, ordered hither and thither, only to be mortally wounded in his own back yard. He was dragged inside where he eventually died in his sister’s arms, to Douglas MacArthur’s father who remembers killing a good looking Confederate officer who had just run him through with a sword and somehow missed all his vitals.

I had the finest guide in Tennessee, author, historian and ambitious battlefield restorer, Robert Hicks. He is attempting something I have never seen on battlefields from Korea to Ireland, he and his team are buying up retail lots, houses, state buildings, and demolishing them. Restoring the battlefield subdivision by subdivision. It was an inspiration to travel the battlefield with him.

It was a day immersed in the terrible history of Franklin, rediscovering my love of and fascination for the US Civil War, as well as enjoying the charming hospitality of Tennessee. What could be better?

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