Monday, September 13, 2010

Carnton Plantation

A few weeks back we stumbled upon Carnton Plantation while running some errands in the Franklin area. We decided to get out and poke around. This was another one of the moments like the train tracks. Only in the South do you "stumble" upon old plantation houses. So, I could not pass up the opportunity to look around. I should mention that it was also another one of those moments that I realized as we were climbing out of the car that I had taken my camera inside the nightbefore...meaning it was not in my car. Therefore, all of the pictures had to be taken on my iPhone and don't quite capture the building and its surroundings the way that a normal camera would have. Like most monuments, museums, historical sites, etc, one has to pay to see the coolest parts of these things, such as the inside. Maybe one day I will fork over the overpriced tour tickets to peak inside.

As we walked up to what we thought was the front porch we saw a group of people forming for what we assumed was a tour. We hung back from a bit reading signs about the history of the plantation to not bring too much suspicion to ourselves. The bits that I took away as historically interesting were that this plantation was the scene for one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War and the house served as a hospital during the barely five hour battle. This was also haunting:
"On the morning of December 1, 1864 the bodies of four Confederate generals killed during the fighting, Patrick R. Cleburne, Hiram B. Granbury, John Adams, and Otho F. Strahl, lay on Carnton’s back porch. The floors of the restored home are still stained with the blood of the men who were treated here."
(Credit to
As I finished reading the biggest sign, the tour entered into the house. As we walked up to it, I have to admit, we were a little confused. The front of the plantation was just not that impressive. It was definitely not what I was imagining a plantation to look like. But we looked at the rockers and the house and wandered into the garden.
 I am sure that the plantation is pretty in any season, but seeing the summer flowers in bloom and all of the butterflies flying around with the hot air seemed perfect to me. It was as we were leaving the garden that we realized that we had walked up to the BACK of the plantation, not the front! Those teal chairs we were looking at were the chairs on the back porch that the dead generals had been in. I was no longer disappointed in this plantation.
Above you can see the front of the plantation. If I had been standing farther back with my phone you could have seen that there is a brick drive that was lined with tall trees. The front of the plantation house looked much more like I was expecting, with pillars and a porch and a neat old wooden door.
As we ventured around to the side of the house I found what I guess I was really looking forward to seeing: the slave quarters. And where all of the hard work was sweated out. We found the curing room for the meat, the room that cotton was separated and spun, wheat was worked with and the rooms that the slaves lived. These pictures do NOT give the living quarters must justice. These buildings sat a good distance from the house. So much that I have read about slavery on plantations was that much easier to picture in my head.
 And of course the whole house was surrounded by, well, just fields of grass. There was so much land. That was all worked on by slaves. It's still something that just makes me angry to think about, especially because the history of slavery in the South almost seems to have lost the heaviness that I heard about it in the West. It may just be the people that I am around, but it breaks my heart to hear the things that I do. Not to ramble on about it too much more, but it was quite the experience for me to see my first plantation and I hope to go to another one... with my REAL camera.

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