The Myth of the Six Dead Generals
My buddy Seab Hunter and I in behind the Carnton Plantation. The bodies of the generals were laid out on the lower back porch to the right.
The bodies of the generals were laid out on the far end of this photo.
I often hear about the six Confederate generals that were killed at Franklin. When people hear that I'm a Civil War historian and especially that I've written a book about the Battle of Franklin, they tend to tell about the bodies of the six Confederate generals that were laid out on the back porch of the Carnton Mansion. I'm not the type person to correct people, so I usually just listen politely.
In truth, there were only four generals brought to Carnton the morning after the battle. Major General Patrick Cleburne and Brigadier General John Adams were brought back in the same wagon. Brigadier General Otho Strahl and Brigadier General Hiram B. Granbury were also brought to Carnton. Brigadier General John C. Carter was mortally wounded, gut shot to be exact and lingered for about a week at the Harrison Home south of Winstead Hill. Brigadier General States Rights Gist was mortally wounded, shot in a leg and the chest and died during the night at a field hospital. He would be buried in the yard of a resident named William White the next day.
So how did the legend of six Confederate generals being laid out on the back porch of the Carnton Plantation get started. Usually, when a legend begins, it is based on some fact. That is the same in this case. As the bodies were brought in, they were laid out on the lower back porch of the Carnton plantation. Strahl, Adams, Cleburne, and Granbury were placed gently on the porch. So how could four bodies be mistaken for six generals?
There were two more officers laid out on the porch with the generals. Lieutenant Colonel Robert B. Young of the 10th Texas was found near his commander Brigadier General Hiram B. Granbury and also brought there. He lay on the porch next to his commander. Lieutenant John Marsh, one of Brigadier General Otho F. Strahl's staff officers was carried back to Carnton with his commander and placed on the porch. So we know there were six bodies placed side by side on the back porch at Carnton and there is where the rumors began.
Me at the grave of Colonel Robert B. Young, one of the bodies who lay with the generals at Carnton. Cleburne, Strahl, and Granbury would have been buried beside him here until removed to their homes. Lieutenant John Marsh still rests here beside Young.
Somewhere down the line, knowing there were six generals killed during the Battle of Franklin and hearing veterans talk about seeing the six bodies laid out on the back porch, people jumped to the conclusion that all six were generals rested there momentarily that morning.
People enjoy telling this story because it makes for a much more interesting tale. It has just become one more myth produced from that war. The truth doesn't take anything away from the heroism that occurred on that field of battle. Below are the pictures of the generals killed at Franklin and the officers laid out beside the generals at Carnton.
Brigadier General John C. Carter died a week later at the Harrison home.
Brigadier General States Rights Gist was buried at William White's house.
Major General Patrick R. Cleburne was carried to Carnton.
Brigadier General Hiram B. Granbury placed on the back porch at Carnton.
Brigadier General John Adams was brought to Carnton.
Brigadier General Otho F. Strahl was brought to Carnton.
Lieutenant John Marsh, aide to Strahl was brought back to Carnton. I have yet to find a photograph of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Young who was also laid out on the back porch with his commander General Granbury.