After the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, the Union Army withdrew into Nashville. Casualties of over 8,000 Union and Confederate soldiers lay upon the field. In pursuit of the withdrawing Union forces, Confederate General John Bell Hood left a burial detail in Franklin for two days. Confederate soldiers were buried near the Carter House breastworks with the graves arranged in plots according to the states from which the soldiers came. As winter wore on, many of the headboards were fading or were used as firewood by the poor. Seeing the great need, John McGavock and family donated two acres of land adjoining the family graveyard, to be used for a final resting place for the soldiers.
In April, 1866, McGavock and other citizens formed a committee and began raising money to remove the bodies. Again, each soldier was laid to rest by state and each known name was registered in the Book of the Dead. John McGavock's wife, Caroline Winder McGavock continued to maintain the official Register of the Dead and welcome families and comrades of the fallen who wished to pay their respects. At the same time, the John L. McEwen Bivouac of Veterans assisted in maintaining the graves and in 1890 appointed a committee to maintain the cemetery and raise funds to replace the wooden headboards with the markers you see today. In 1911 Mrs. Winder McGavock and Carnton owners, Mr. and Mrs. W.D. Shelton, presented the trustees of the newly chartered McGavock Confederate Cemetery Corporation the deed to the cemetery and the right-of-way thereto. As the noble McEwen veterans passed away, the care of the cemetery devolved upon their wives who were active in the Daughters of the Confederacy, In 1926 the trustees of the corporation voted to authorize the members of Franklin Chapter #14 United Daughters of the Confederacy also to serve. They do so to this date.
Trustees serve today as they did in 1911. The corporation has been designated by the State of Tennessee as the official caretaker of the cemetery. Donations for the 1990-1996 restorations were provided by descendants, Civil War Round Tables, the Franklin and Murfreesboro Re-enactments, Sons of the Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, local banks and businesses, the City of Franklin, the Tennessee Historical Commission, and interested persons. In 1994 the Franklin Memorial Association received a matching grant from the State of Tennessee and continued to raise funds for repair to the markers, the iron fence, gate and grounds.
A booklet, written by UDC members, on the history of the cemetery, with a list of the soldiers buried here, is available at Carnton and Carter House. We encourage all visitors to remember the fallen soldiers that gave their lives for their homeland, and we trust all will show proper respect for the dead.
1890 Photograph courtesy of the Carter House archives, David Rowland collection