Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Battles of Franklin, and Nashville

(with a side trip to Stones River)

PHOTO: Barnard, George N., 1819-1902, photographer. Created/Published: 1864 December 16. Photograph of the War in the West. These photographs are of Hood before Nashville. Continuing his policy of the offensive at any cost, Gen. John B. Hood brought his reduced army before the defenses of Nashville, where it was overthrown by Gen. George H. Thomas on December 15-16, in the most complete victory of the war. If the date borne on this photograph is correct, it was taken in the course of the battle. [From Library of Congress, Selected Civil War Photos]

Every late March or early April, before the crowds of summer are unleashed, before the lines of sight and sweeping views are obstructed by new spring foliage, three or four dozen members of The Civil War Forum gather for a few days of battlefield tramping.

We drive and fly to the chosen destination from far and wide, from Canada and the U.K., from California, the Eastern Seaboard, from the Midwest and the Deep South. This year will mark our 10th annual get-together, and the featured fields will be Franklin and Nashville.

Many of those in attendance are regulars – veterans of all of our battlefield conferences – some are occasional participants, and a handful each year are newcomers who chanced upon the Forum, or who saw the event listed on an events calendar somewhere. All are welcome, but seats are limited. We always restrict the registration to one full bus, since two is unwieldy, and because so much is missed if you’re not on the bus with the tour guide, who narrates events and relates stories from one stop to the next.

Every year we alternate between Eastern and Western/Trans-Mississippi venues. We round up the best local guides and speakers, find a clean, comfortable hotel as our headquarters, and enlist a much-recommended caterer for our evening banquets.

These yearly gatherings are effectively intensive seminars on a given battle or campaign (about which we read for weeks or months in advance). Because we aren’t trying to make a profit, we’re able to hold the costs to bare bones, though our raffle of donated items usually generates enough for a modest donation to the Civil War Trust.

I invite anyone reading this to join us. We have around 20 people signed up so far, and another half dozen committed to coming. That leaves approximately 20 seats available on the bus, most of which I expect to be snapped up after the the Feb/Mar issue of Civil War News ships this month, which has a listing in the calendar and a small ad regarding the event.

All registration details and itinerary can be found here, and in the Forum. This year we’ll start off at noon on March 23rd for our optional Thursday outing: 4 hours on the Stones River battlefield with the incomparable Jim Ogden, historian at Chickamauga/Chattanooga but no slouch when it comes to Murfreesboro. Thursday night we’ll formally inaugurate the meeting at our hotel with a reception/cocktail hour, dinner, and a presentation by Carter House director Thomas Cartwright, who will set the stage for the first full tour. All day Friday we’ll be on the bus with Tom to cover Franklin sites, before retiring to the hotel for more evening events. Mark Zimmerman, author of Guide to Civil War Nashville, will conduct the Saturday tours of Nashville sites, and will deliver the presentation at the Saturday evening banquet. Arrangements for the optional Sunday morning outing are still being ironed out.

Over at Mike Koepke’s Civil War Musings, the blog entry for January 2 quotes from and links to a Brian Wills essay recalling Patrick Cleburne, and championing preservation efforts at Franklin. We can all be thankful for their perseverance. This will be my first visit to Franklin since the Pizza Hut, reputed to be on the site of Cleburne’s death, has been torn down. It’s a small, but meaningful victory in an area where so much of the 1864 landscape has been irrevocably lost.
I hope to meet some of you at Franklin in March.

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