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Save history's 'holy places'
In Spotsylvania visit, best-selling author will describe how Tennessee town is restoring Civil War battlefield, healing community

 Carrie McGovack's engagement portrait at Carnton House.
BATTLE OF FRANKLIN TRUST
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Date published: 9/6/2011

By CLINT SCHEMMER

Robert Hicks admits he isn't a scholar.

As a young boy growing up in the South, he wasn't a Civil War geek, either, although you'd hardly think that, listening to him today.

Hicks calls himself a storyteller "from a family of storytellers," and his two much-praised, best-selling novels--"The Widow of the South" and "A Separate Country"--attest to that.

Tomorrow, he comes here to share the tale of Franklin, Tenn., the town that's been his home since 1974.

It's one he believes holds promise for the Fredericksburg area's quality of life, economic well-being and community spirit.

Acre by acre, the people of Franklin are reclaiming a Civil War battlefield lost to carelessness and suburban sprawl from Nashville.

Hicks and others think folks here could do the same sort of thing, starting with the old General Motors plant in Spotsylvania County, at the heart of the Fredericksburg battlefield.

"I want you guys up there to be competing with us for recognition as the community that does the most for these holy places," Hicks said during interviews late last week. "A friendly competition. And I won't be unhappy if you cream us."

That would be saying a lot, since Franklin has won national acclaim for its recent strides in saving what most had declared a "lost" battlefield.

The Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30, 1864, was a prelude to the Battle of Nashville. Its furious carnage made casualties of 15 Southern generals as commander John Bell Hood staged a frontal assault on entrenched Union troops. The "Pickett's Charge of the West," when compared to the Confederate attack at Gettysburg, involved more men, who advanced over a far greater distance and took much longer.

Nearly 9,000 men were killed, wounded or captured, with Confederate losses more than double the North's. Some have called it the "five bloodiest hours" of the war.

"The battle was viewed by many as an embarrassment," lawyer Julian Bibb told National Geographic for a cover story in 2005. "People thought of it as a huge Confederate debacle."

A PAVED-OVER PAST

Naturally, locals weren't keen on commemorating the loss. They rejected a National Park Service proposal to buy historic land. And Franklin's African- American community, disenfranchised after Reconstruction, had little interest in the battle.


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