Monday, November 30, 2009

Battle of Franklin, TN Unknown Soldier is reburied

Back in May of this year, the news broke that the bones of a Civil War soldier had been found at a construction site in Franklin. It really came as no surprise to me, I'm more surprised that it doesn't happen more often. It probably does, but most people don't seem to care and dirt is hauled away from construction sites daily without nary a bother to look for anything historical. And I'm still rankled by the thought of the mass grave underneath the Dominoes Pizza across from the Carter House, but that's a whole other story.

On this day in May, workers uncovered the bones and a few artifacts while digging for the foundation of a new condo complex. The location is next to the new Target shopping center, which sits near the base of Winstead Hill. It was never determined whether or not this soldier was Union of Confederate, though most of the fabric found was of a blueish hue. There were Southerners who wore blue, and the area was decidedly an area where Confederates would have died. But there were skirmishes in the years leading up to the Battle of Franklin, which took place on November 30, 1864. Skirmishes everywhere from Columbia to Nashville. And on the day of the battle, there were Union forward pickets who possibly could have been this far south of the main lines of battle.

But it matters not for who this soldier fought. It matters that he died fighting for his country, whether it be to keep the Union whole or for the rights that Southerners so dearly wanted. He was someone's son, possibly someone's husband, father or brother. He was surely missed when he did not return home. And he deserved to be buried an honorable burial, just as any other soldier who does his duty deserves. And admirably, the City of Franklin gave that to him. He becomes the Unknown Soldier of Franklin, buried at the foot of a new memorial to all of the unknown soldiers who died in the area.
The morning of the funeral was a fittingly moody gray, chilly, windy day. And the crowds were much larger than I expected. The morning began with a service in honor of the soldier, and all soldiers really, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church near Five Points in Franklin. At the conclusion, the casket was laid onto a horse drawn caisson, covered in both the flags of the Union and of the Confederacy, and led through the steets of Franklin.
I was amazed to learn that attending the funeral were two actual sons of Civil War veterans. On the left is Harold Becker, 91, son of Charles Becker who fought in the 128th Indiana Infantry, and on the right is James Brown, 97, son of James H. H. Brown who fought in the 8th Georgia Infantry.
Following the caisson were the women mourners dressed in the period clothing.
Many reenactors also attended and marched in the procession. They represented many of the states that fought during the Civil War.
At Rest Haven Cemetery, the crowd was quite large. I was somewhat surprised to see so many.
The casket being brought through the cemetery by Union and Confederate pall bearers.
At the end of the graveside service was a twenty-one gun salute.
Reenactors from the different states that were represented at the Battle of Franklin brought some soil from their home states to be buried with the unknown soldier. They took turns placing the dirt onto the grave and giving a respectful salute.
This is the memorial to the Unknown Soldier of the Battle of Franklin. This was the best shot I could get of it that day. I will certainly get back to get better photographs of it one day. It was created from the limestone columns that once graced the Capitol building in Nashville. The old columns were replaced in the 1950s. There is a memorial to the stonecutters on the Capitol grounds now. Most of the rest of the columns sit in a field near the old Tennessee State Prison off Briley Parkway.
The pine box, lowered into the ground, covered with the soil of the possible states he could have called home.
I didn't want to be negative at all in this column that is dedicated to someone who died 145 years ago, but I spent a bit of time at the memorial being a bit ticked off. There are far too many people out there with absolutely NO respect for the dead. How much I would loved to have gone over and smacked this guy upside the head. But he wasn't the only one. I saw people on the opposite side of the crowd who could not have actually been 10 feet tall-and I doubt were sitting on someone's shoulders, unless that someone was a weightlifting champion. And the conversations I overheard from many made me wonder why they bothered to come out for this. But then again, there are far too few people these days who have any respect for the dead or for the past. At least my daughter won't be one of them when she grows up.