Sunday, May 15, 2011

Postcards from the Trip - Day Three - Pam

An explanation to everyone that has been following this.  Blogspot went down for about a day and lost Pam's entire Day 3.  Pam was devastated, as she had worked for several painstaking hours the night before in a medium that is new to her in order to share what, for her, has been the most profound experience of the trip so far.  What she had written was beautiful and heartlfelt.  Here is the best we could do to pick up the pieces and move on:


I'm feeling a bit confused this morning.  It might be the time change - we entered the Eastern Time Zone just before Knoxville, TN - but even as we're about to turn up the Blue Ridge Parkway, heading in a different direction, I feel the direction of the trip changing.  Not in a bad way, maybe it's even South to North - a different "feel" - just as good, but better.

So why the confusion?!  Mike qualified it yesterday, in the car on the way to Knoxville he said, "I'm exhausted, but not physically. I feel emotionally exhausted." And well we should.  We'd just heard about one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War - in Franklin, TN.

The Franklin Battle was considered to be the worst one of the Civil War, and pretty much the determining factor in the war's end, as well as one of it's greatest military blunders. Long story short. The Union and Confederate troops were trying to beat each other up to the state capital of Nashville, the Union to join forces with the rest of their troops who'd already taken the capital, the Confederacy to overtake and reclaim it as their own.  But, spring flooding had washed out one of the two bridges and the Union army could not get their equipment across the remaining one, the narrow railroad bridge. Basically, there was a huge traffic jam, and an unplanned, disastrous battle was the result.

One of the worst battles was fought on the front lawn of the Carter House (pictured below).  You can still see the trench dug by the Union army to the left of where Derek, our tour guide, stands.

As the Carter family emerged from their hiding place in the cellar below, their eyes met with the brutal devastation and loss of life - 57 bodies strewn across their front lawn, as well as a massacre across the entire area as far as the eye could see.

On the other side of town lived John and Carrie McGavock, owners of the Carnton Plantation.  Shortly, before the battle, Carrie was asked by a chaplain friend if they could use the house as a hospital.  She readily agreed and the house quickly filled to the brim.  The family was relegated to the only room left in the house, assumed to have been the kitchen. 

John and Carrie were not perfect, but what a sacrifice they made in turning their home into a hospital to nurse the barely living back to life. Carrie used everything from linens to tablecloths, even the bottom of her own dress, to bandage the wounds of the nearly 300 soldiers under her care.  Consequently, she became known as, "The Good Samaritan of the South."

Pam under the tree in Carrie's garden
 where overflow surgery was performed.


Mike standing on the porch where 4 dead generals
 were laid in honor before burial.

The McGavocks also portioned out a large part of their own family cemetary to bury the approximately 1,500 soldiers who died there, and Carrie kept pristine records on those interred from that time until the time of her death at the age of 80

No one really knows what spirited Carrie on. Perhaps it was the death of 3 of her 5 children early on, perhaps simply the heart of compassion and kindness in an area of great need. Perhaps it was her own call from the Divine.   Whatever the reason, the entire area bears a peace that transcends all human understanding for what happened there.

I'd often just thought of the Confederacy as stubborn, rebellious, and wrong, but as I walked through the house and grounds of the Carnton Plantation, and especially after reading the book which inspired this journey, the "Widow of the South" - I've gained a new appreciation for these farmers and landowners who were simply protecting their own.  As our tour guide, Derek, so eloquently stated, "who was right or wrong in this did not matter. These were brave men who were willing to lay down their lives for what they believed in and for the survival of their families."

After the Civil War ended, Union soldiers received pensions and aid from the Federal government, but they also dealt with the usual war traumas, coupled with the weight of having fought their own, including sometimes their own families.

Confederate soldiers, on the other hand, had to depend on their own States for pension and aid.  Their own post-war trauma included rebuilding their lives, the agony of defeat, and the difficulty of rejoining The Union.

With the need to talk about and heal their experiences, the first Veteran groups were formed, one for the blue and one for the gray.  Eventually, the two sides merged, and this famous quote was born::

"Whether blue or gray it makes no difference to us; we are friends and brothers now."

Let us not soon forget...

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