Battle of Franklin Federal Forward Line near Carter House

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 26

Jared Barrett
TRC Environmental Corporation

In 2016, the two properties located south of the Carter House known collectively as the Lovell properties were purchased in efforts to preserve the center of the Battle of Franklin. One of the groups that was part of this effort was The Battle of Franklin Trust (BOFT). The BOFT is a Tennessee nonprofit corporation that manages two historic sites in Franklin, the Carter House and Carnton. Before they could begin their preservation efforts, they needed to determine if any intact remnants of the main Federal fortification line remained on either property.

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Figure 1. Overall map of excavations carried out by TRC in 2017 at the Federal fortification line.

In 2016, The Battle of Franklin Trust contacted TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) to assist with this effort. In May 2017, TRC staff led by Jared Barrett picked up where they left off in 2009, 2014, and 2015 and conducted archaeological investigations focused on a search for the precise location of the Federal fortification lines associated with the Battle of Franklin (November 30, 1864). You can read about our previous work at the Battle of Franklin in a previous “30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology” blog post.

The effort focused on an area south of downtown Franklin in what is recognized as the general location of the center of the Battle of Franklin west of Columbia Pike and north of Strahl Street (Figure 1). Previous work carried out by TRC in 2009 west of this area searched for and found intact remnants of the Federal fortification lines. The 2017 excavations were guided by the results of the 2009 investigation, along with continued consultations with local experts and documentary sources on the Civil War in Franklin (Figure 2). The 2017 investigations were successful in finding and documenting well-preserved sections of the Federal fortification lines.

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Figure 2. Moscow Carter 1897 map of the Battle of Franklin showing the Carter House, Federal Fortification line (1864), and areas excavated by TRC.

The remnants of the line discovered in 2017 appear to match up with its location on the Moscow Carter map. Our excavations did find the turn in the line is more gradual than the sharp turn portrayed on Carter’s map. These remains consist of an apparently continuous ditch line of varying depths running east-west approximately 246 feet south of the Carter House, then curving to the northwest and ending where TRC found the line in 2009 (Figure 3). Mechanical excavation across the area exposed the top of the ditch in three sections. The TRC team carried out hand excavation of 16 Test Units (TU) within the three sections of the ditch feature.

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Figure 3. Segment of the Federal fortification line uncovered in 2017 located south of the Carter House (yellow flags outline fortification line).

The profile of the fortification line generally follows a shallow U shape with a relatively wide flat floor and general sloping sides (Figure 4). In some areas along the line there appears to have been a narrow step or ledge intentionally created near the top edges of the ditch (see Figure 4). Also uncovered along some areas of the line at its base appears to be a narrow drainage ditch feature. This feature was not found during our excavations of the line in 2009, 2014, or 2015.

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Figure 4. Segment of the Federal fortification line uncovered in 2017 shows it in profile and planview along with the step up feature and possible drainage ditch.

Most of these excavated segments yielded a scatter of fired and unfired (“dropped”) small arms ammunition and other military artifacts on the distinct hard-packed floor of the feature, reminiscent of finds within the fortification ditch excavated by TRC in 2009, 2014, and 2015. Two TUs excavated within one of the sections of the Federal fortification line excavated south of the Carter House recovered a canteen, a US cartridge buckle, buckles, and dropped ammunition on the floor of the trench feature (Figure 5).

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Figure 5. Canteen, US Cartridge buckle, buckles, and dropped ammunition uncovered at the base of the Federal fortification line south of the Carter House.

There is a notable difference in the number of fired vs dropped ammunition recovered from the three sections excavated in 2017. Excavations in Sections 1 and 2 recovered a greater number of fired ammunition than dropped ammunition. Excavations in Section 3 recovered a relatively even number of fired vs dropped ammunition. This difference in recovered fired vs dropped ammunition from these three sections of the ditch may be evidence of how quickly the fortification line in Sections 1 and 2 was overrun by the advancing Confederate Army at the beginning of the battle. The Union forces on either side and in back of the line would have naturally concentrated their fire on this position which may account for the higher number of recovered fired rounds of ammunition.

The multiple sections of a ditch feature with associated military artifacts discovered during the 2017 investigation is clearly a remnant of the Federal fortification line associated with the Battle of Franklin. The excavation results provide clear confirmation of the location and route of the line and helps fill in the gap between Columbia Pike and where TRC found the line 2009. Because of our excavations in 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2017, there is now an approximately 875 foot section of the center of the main defensive line preserved south of downtown Franklin.

Now that the Federal fortification line has been located, the plan is to leave the remaining unexcavated segments of the Federal fortification line and preserve it from future development. The preserved location will now be used to help tell the overall story of the Battle of Franklin.

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http://boft.org/

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