History Hitting Home: Franklin and the Four Faces

fourfaces_collage
Clockwise from top left: Fountain Branch Carter, his wife Polly Carter, Albert Thornton Edwards, Albert’s wife Martha Jane Brewer

In late November of 1864 bullet holes riddled the house of Fountain Branch Carter and his wife Polly. The shots were fired by thousands of men in a little known but significantly bloody battle that took place in Franklin, Tennessee during one of the final fights of the American Civil War.

One of the men on the firing side was Albert Thornton Edwards, Ms. Jeannie’s great great grandfather. At the time of this battle he was a young Union soldier of 24, serving in the Ohio cavalry.

The Confederate army was on their way to Nashville to recapture their state capitol. The Union Army was coming up from Atlanta to stop them from capturing the city. The small rural town of Franklin, and the plantation of Fountain Branch and Polly Carter happened to be on the way and consequently in the way.

Photo courtesy of franklintrust.org
The Carter House – home of Fountain Branch and Mary Armistead Atkinson “Polly” Carter. Photo courtesy of franklintrust.org

It was early morning on November 30th, 1864 when Union General Jacob Cox  knocked on the front door of Fountain Branch’s house, walked in and declared his intentions to set up headquarters. He told Fountain Branch that he and his family were free to go about the house as they liked and continue their usual activities of the day. He then laid down to take a nap in the front parlour while his aides shuffled in setting up field camp materials in the two front rooms of the house.

Union General John Jacob Cox
Union General John Jacob Cox

No one expected that a battle would take place that day in the backyard of this pretty plantation. Not General Jacob Cox, not Fountain Branch Carter and certainly not any of the residents of the peaceful town of Franklin. But of course, war has a way of surprising everyone.

By nightfall, Union soldiers would attack the Confederate soldiers and the Confederates would fight back. Within a five hour time time span from mid-day to sundown over 10,000 casualties would be sustained and 3,000 soldiers, both Union and Confederate, would lose their lives right there in the yard including one son of Fountain Branch and Polly.

Backyard of the Carter House where most of the fighting took place. Photo via pinterest.
Backyard of the Carter House where most of the fighting took place. Photo via pinterest.

When bullets were blazing fast and furious Fountain Branch took his family, house servants and some neighbors down to the basement where they waited out the warring in a dark, cold room made of brick and stone. On the outside, in the yard, Albert fought his battles for the Union cause on horseback, a select skill that took so much training the military almost deemed it pointless for the amount of  time it consumed and experience it required. As night crept across the sky it became harder and harder for  the soldiers to see who and what they were shooting at. Mayhem set in and men fell on both sides. Some piled two or three bodies high all around the plantation.

carterhouse5

Ms. Jeannie toured the Carter House last week unaware of the fact at the time that Albert had participated in the fighting there. Her sympathies that day definitely lay with the Carter family and the horrific hours they had to endure as the war raged all around their home. She was especially struck by the haphazard splattering of bullet holes still evident in the clapboard on the back porch.

Bullets holes in the walls of the back porch. Photo via pinterest.
Bullets holes in the walls of the back porch. Photo via pinterest.

It wasn’t until Ms. Jeannie was back at home herself going through the service records of Albert (one of her only ancestors to fight in the Civil War) that she discovered his involvement there at the Carter House. One of those back porch bullet holes could have come from Albert.

It is startling to know that an ancestor witnessed such a tragic day but even more so knowing that he actually played a hand in making it tragic.  Of course Albert was just doing his job – trying to be a  good soldier two years into fighting a war he believed in. But there he was nonetheless, shooting at a house with innocent people inside.  In looking back on that event and these two men of history who faced each other on opposites sides, Ms. Jeannie couldn’t help but think how similar they really were.

Fountain Branch and Polly were long-time loves, married for almost 30 years and had 10 children between them. Albert following the Battle of Franklin would muster out of the military 8 months later and head home to Ohio so he could marry his bride Martha and move west via covered wagon to Iowa. Albert and Martha would go on to have 11 kids and celebrate 56 years of marriage. Neither spouse in either family remarried after their significant other passed away. Both families knew the loss of young children, both were farmers, both revered citizens in their communities and both of course survived the horrors of the Battle of Franklin. Albert sustained eye injuries somewhere between Franklin and Nashville which he carried with him for the rest of his life. Fountain Branch lost his 24 year old son Tod in Franklin who had insisted on joining the fight that day to defend both his family’s land and the ideals of the Confederacy.

The one main difference of these two men living in 19th century America was their philosophies on equality for all people. While Ms. Jeannie isn’t excited that Albert could have potentially destroyed someone’s home and family she is proud that her great great grandfather was fighting for the very freedoms that she enjoys today, 150 years later. She’s also thankful that the Carter House has survived all these years so that she can see first-hand her family’s impression on history and walk in the footsteps of a man who lived four generations before her.

Read more stories about Albert and Martha here, here and here including pictures of Albert’s civil war inkwell and Martha’s honeymoon quilt handmade on her wagon trip west just after she was married. Read more about the Carter House and the Battle of Franklin here.

If you have any surprising stories in your family history, please share them in the comments section. You just never know what we might discover!

 

The Connection Between Kelly Clarkson and Ms. Jeannie

This past Tuesday marked the return of one of Ms. Jeannie’s most favorite shows…

Who Do You Think You Are on Tuesday nights at on TLC
Who Do You Think You Are on Tuesday nights on TLC

Now in its fourth season, Who Do You Think You Are is the pet project of actress Lisa Kudrow (from Friends fame) that follows celebrities as they trace and discover their own roots. Ms. Jeannie loves this show because everyone can learn from it – regardless if you are famous or not, everybody follows the same format.  You have to look back in order to look forward.

Lots of different types of celebrities from film stars (Susan Sarandon), to sports figures (Emmit Smith) to singers (Lional Ritchie) to comedians (Chris Rock) to models (Brooke Shields) have been featured on past episodes.

This week it was singer Kelly Clarkson, who Ms. Jeannie realized she actually had a few things in common with.  This is the trailer for Kelly’s episode…

http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/who-do-you-think-you-are/videos/kelly-clarkson-video.htm

Kelly’s great, great, great grandfather, Isiah,  was a Civil War soldier from Ohio who fought for the Union side. Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandfather was also a Civil War soldier from Ohio who fought for the Union side…

Ms. Jeannie's great great grandfather Albert
Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandfather Albert (1840-1921)

Kelly’s ancestor fought in the war for four years. He was captured and taken prisoner by the Confederate soldiers and sent to a prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia.  Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandfather also served for four years and fought in battles all over the Southeast – his last one was very close to Andersonville, GA and it was there that he suffered trauma to his eyes.

The prison camp at Andersonville was awful – holding over 40,000 soldiers in a barracked field open to the elements and left to their own devices for toiletry, food and shelter.

Camp configuration at Andersonville. Photo courtesy of mihp.org
Camp configuration at Andersonville. Photo courtesy of mihp.org
Andersonville Prison. Photo courtesy of old-picture.com
Andersonville tents. Photo courtesy of old-picture.com
Union soldier held at Andersonville Prison.
Union soldier held at Andersonville Prison.

Men were walking skeletons from mal-nourishment and disease, they were angry from being confined, and they were exhausted from fighting the war and then fighting to survive in a prison camp. Andersonville is the United States version of Holocaust camps in Germany. There was no regard for human dignity or for human life. Men were thrown together en masse and left to fend for themselves.  Over 13,000 soldiers died in camp at Andersonville during the Civil Wa,r and now the park serves as a memorial to the bravery of lost victims.  Thankfully Kelly’s great, great, great grandfather escaped the prison confines and re-introduced himself to civilian society. He carried on with strength and determination to lead a long and fruitful life.

Ms. Jeannie’s great, great  grandfather mustered out of the Civil War cavalry after his eye trauma in 1865. He went home to Ohio to collect his sweetheart, Martha, who lived in a neighboring county in Indiana…

Albert's wife, Martha. Ms. Jeannie's great, great grandmother.
Albert’s wife, Martha. Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandmother.

A month and a half later, in the summer of 1865, they married at Martha’s parents home in Johnson County, Indiana, and the very next day, they embarked via covered wagon on a journey to Iowa. Martha’s parents accompanied them.  Ms. Jeannie can only imagine what kind of “honeymoon” this was!  During the month and a half-long  trip, Martha made this quilt, which you might recall from a previous post…

Martha's churn dash style quilt, which Ms. Jeannie now keeps.
Martha’s churn dash style quilt, which Ms. Jeannie now keeps.

Martha made this quilt so that she would have a bed covering once they reached their new home in Iowa. It would be a reminder of their journey across country and also a symbolic token for the beginning of their marriage.  By the time this blanket was created, Albert, 24,  had seen all sorts of horrendous acts at war, he had defended his country, he had fought for his beliefs. Martha was a young bride, 18, leaving the only life she had ever known in Indiana to travel thousands of miles across country to begin anew. Neither knew Iowa nor what lay ahead for them.  They simply set out and hoped for the best.  Like Kelly Clarkson said in this past episode ” These are brave choices, made at this time – all these men and women.”

Kelly’s great, great, great grandfather went on eventually to serve a seat in the House Senate. Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandfather also went on to a career in the public arena.  When he and Martha reached Iowa, they staked their claim in Vinton where they became farmers and eventually, Albert,  became the town clerk and justice of the peace, a position he held for 25 years. He and Martha became parents to 11 children – 9 of whom lived to see their adult years…

Martha and Albert, center, at their 50th wedding anniversary with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren by their sides.
Martha and Albert, center, at their 50th wedding anniversary with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren by their sides.

Albert died in 1921 at the age of 80. Martha died in 1929 at the age of 82. Ms. Jeannie is so thrilled that there are two pieces in her family to remember them by.  The quilt from Martha and this civil war ink well from Albert…

Albert's inkwell that he carried with him throughout the Civil War.
Albert’s inkwell that he carried with him throughout the Civil War.

Both items are warm and hopeful pieces and Ms. Jeannie just loves that. Martha’s quilt kept the two of them warm for years. Albert’s inkwell may have aided in letters home while he was away at war. There is no documentation in Ms. Jeannie’s family of anything written using ink from this inkwell, but Ms. Jeannie thinks something special must have come from this font in order for it to have been passed down through the family for all these years. It could have been something as simple as an “I Love You” from Albert’s hand to his parents, James and Nancy in Ohio or a sweet “wait for me – I’m coming soon” sentiment to Martha in Indiana. Either way it was a valued vessel.

Kelly ends the episode by returning to Nashville and reporting to her mom all that she uncovered on her genealogy adventure. “Now we know…” she said to her mom. ” This is in our blood.”  This is what makes this show, and genealogy in turn,  so great. It is in your face history that has directly affected your life.   Had there never been Isiah there would never be Kelly and had there never been Albert there never would be Ms. Jeannie. And while we can’t sit down and have a face to face conversation with these past generations, we still know them, because we are them.

We are all, a lot more related then we realize!

Who Do You Think You Are airs every Tuesday night at 9:00pm (eastern) on TLC. Next week, it’s the actress Christina Applegate. If you are a fan of the show, please comment below, Ms. Jeannie would love to hear your thoughts.