Anniversary of the Battle of Franklin

1 Dec

It was an amazing commemoration, and an honor to have lived to be a part of it. Today was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, and the preservation efforts continue to unearth innumerable stories and the hallowed ground itself. I was fortunate enough to spend time with an individual who began studying the battle – and championing the preservation of its landscape – since 1954. The iconic Ed Bearss came to town, and he even marched the entire two miles from Winstead Hill to the battle’s epicenter at the Cotton Gin site, at the young age of 91. After speeches, the spectacle of 10,000 luminaries glowing on the Eastern Flank (each representing a casualty from the battle), and a moving song from William Radcliffe, a portion of us took part in the “Historian’s Dinner” hosted by J.T. Thompson and the Lotz House. Our keynote was none other than  Ed Bearss himself, fresh from his two-mile walk. Courage and tenacity take many forms.

Ed Bearss and Mike Skinner

(Myself, Ed Bearss, and Franklin alderman Mike Skinner)



Countdown to the Battle of Franklin – Four Days Out

26 Nov

One Hundred and fifty years ago, two massive armies were about to engage in Middle Tennessee, and reporters were waiting. Throughout much of the war, the nation’s 2,000-plus newspapers operated as morale officers as much as they reported events. This was especially true on the eve of the Battle of Franklin.

By then, it was evident that something great and terrible was about to happen, but partisans rags could not agree on where, or  which side was more foolish for trying.  Two quotes well represent this common battle before a battle.

“The fear and trembling of the Yankees at Nashville is so manifest in their telegrams from that place, and their efforts to keep their courage up so transparent, as to be quite amusing.”    –  Richmond, Virginia Examiner, November 1864

“A battle between the respective armies of Hood and Thomas, somewhere on the line of the railroad between Columbia and Nashville…is imminent and most inevitable. Our [Union] force is ample and well positioned. It is pre-eminently desirable that Hood should press on with his hair-brain campaign.”    – Louisville Union Press, Nov 28, 1864.


Countdown to the Battle of Franklin- 5 days out

24 Nov

November 25, 1864

All indications were that there was to be a massive battle – in Columbia, Tennessee. At the time, Columbia was a much larger and wealthier place than Franklin, positioned well on rail and road lines, and astride the navigable Duck River.

It was here that the armies of Union general John Schofield and Confederate commander John Bell Hood stared each other down for nearly three days. Both sides were near peak strength, able to concentrate their artillery, infantry, and cavalry as each force waited for the other to move. As it turned out, the Federals moved first, backwards. Schofield decided to retreat into Nashville, the second most fortified Union stronghold in the war.

Little did either commander know, bridges across the Harpeth River in Franklin had been destroyed. As fate would have it, this roadblock would cause both armies to stop just long enough to tear each other apart on November 30, 1864.


Silent auction raised $925 in 20 minutes

13 Nov


In our silent auction to fund more excavation of Franklin’s Cotton Gin site, we raised nearly $1,000 in just twenty minutes. We are one step nearer to the $10,000 needed to match public funding to find the epicenter of the Battle of Franklin and a place where African Americans labored enslaved and free for three decades.

Sept 12 2014 excavation Carter Hill and BGA foundation

In the coming weeks, we will be leading private visits to the site and foster greater public ownership (email me today at to book a tour). As Dr. David Thelen has wisely said, “Thomas, a historian’s first job is to listen.” I intend to do just that.


Silent Auction for Archaeology- Sunday, Nov. 9, Franklin

6 Nov

This Sunday, November 9, from 4 pm to 5pm

Community Room – Franklin, TN Police Station,    900 Columbia Avenue

Franklin station

Silent Auction to raise $7,000 for archaeology to find the Cotton Gin – the iconic epicenter of the Battle of Franklin and a site of African American History.

Carter House - Cotton Gin

Items for bid – Civil War relics, Original Artwork, Historic Memorabilia, Signed Books, Gourmet Food, and much more.

For more information, or if you would like to donate an item for bid, contact Thomas Flagel at or call 319-538-1829.

Many thanks for your support.

Help Us Unearth Your History

9 Oct

Carter House - Cotton Gin

Dear friends and readers,

We are currently excavating the main trench line at the epicenter of the 1864 Battle of Franklin, and we are also trying to find the base of the iconic Cotton Gin that stood nearby (See above image).

We need $20,000 to continue this invaluable work (images below), headed by archaeologist Dr. Larry McKee of TRC Solutions Archaeology. Please give a tax-deductable donation to this project, coordinated by myself through the preservation group Franklin’s Charge, or even just a letter of support to:

Franklin’s Charge (Memo: Archaeology)

604 W. Main Street

Franklin, TN 37064

You can also donate online through

BACKGROUND: Dr. Larry McKee and his team have been surveying the Cotton Gin site in Franklin, the iconic epicenter of the 1864 Battle of Franklin (see images below), where nearly 10,000 casualties fell in less than five hours. It is also the site where humans were enslaved before and during the war and sought freedom thereafter. By the 1880s, the gin site hosted a school for higher learning. In many ways, we are all connected to the story of this place, and nothing brought that home to me like Dr. McKee’s initial report:

“Thomas. Along with all the military artifacts…we did come across some small fragments of human bone, including what looked like fragmented but articulated (still together) elements from an ankle and lower leg, a fragment from the top of a femur (thigh bone) and a skull fragment. All of these were in the soil filling the ditch, rather than embedded in the floor. The attached page from the 2009 report supplies my thoughts on these fragments – body parts dismembered by gun and artillery fire during the battle, uncollected during the removal of the dead [in summer and fall 1866].”

Dr. Larry McKee, Sept. 28, 2014

His team found at least forty yards of the original Union trench line, and he is asking for two more weeks to complete his work in hopes of finding the old cotton gin foundation and more elements of the life and loss of that hallowed ground.

Below are images of the great progress made this far. Please support this, and ask me any questions you have.

Thanks in advance.

Thomas Flagel

Franklin’s Charge Board of Directors, and assistant professor of History at Columbia State Community College.

  Sept 12 2014 excavation Carter Hill trenchline Cotton Gin site June 2014Sept 12 2014 excavation Carter Hill and BGA foundationCotton Gin site sept 5 2014

News on the History Buff’s Guide Series

1 Sep

I am excited to report that the Kindle edition of History Buff’s Guide to the Presidents is doing very well. Not only is it currently #470 in the entire Kindle Store on, but it is #1 in the Presidents & Heads of State subcategory.

The book version is also doing well, and is #1 in the subcategories of Historical Study & Educational Resources>Reference, as well as Politics & Social Science>Politics & Government>United States>Executive Branch.

Thank you to all of you for your continued support and encouragement. It means so much.