Dressed in a period costume, a festival attendee lays flowers to honor the fallen at the monument. CATHERINE RAGSDALE
As a circle of Confederate flags filled Franklin’s Public Square Thursday, some participating in the event said they were there in protest while others said they were there to honor their ancestors who fought in the Battle of Franklin 142 years ago. The Nov. 30, 1864, battle, fought at dusk and into the evening, is said to be one of the bloodiest of the Civil War. Organizers of the event had 10,000 luminaries at the base of the Confederate Monument to represent every soldier reportedly killed, injured or missing at the Battle of Franklin.
Volunteers had struggled to light the 10,000 luminaries encircling the Confederate Monument as winds picked up and a drizzle fell off and on, but as dusk fell, their light shown through the white bags and organizers termed it a success. Prior to the official start of the program, reenactors and others flooded the Square with Confederate flags after walking more than three miles from Winstead Hill on Columbia Avenue, which served as Gen. John Bell Hood’s command post during the Nov. 30, 1864 battle.
Michael Bradley, Tennessee commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, roused the crowd with a retelling of the history of the flag, repeatedly saying, “I am their flag.” The flags held by reenactors were of many varieties, but mostly that familiar red background, crossed by a white “X”, with blue stars.
He said the group had been invited by city officials to form a “ring of honor” around the Square and that for more than 30 years, the Battle of Franklin anniversary had been observed by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Leon Dodd of Franklin said he was there because of Franklin Mayor Tom Miller’s comments earlier this fall which many interpreted as the mayor’s desire to not have Confederate flags at the event. Miller has said he did not ban the flag, only strongly encouraged the committee staging the event to be careful in how it was used.
“I am here because of the mayor,” Dodd said, dressed in his reenactment clothes, carrying a flag and a rifle. “The mayor said we couldn’t bring our flags and there are people here from Alabama, Virginia and Tennessee and everywhere else.
“My great grandfather fought for this flag and he is very proud of what he did and I am too,” Dodd said. “We are proud of our heritage.”
Devereaux Cannon of Sumner County was present Thursday to honor his great grandfather.
“My great grandfather was here 142 years ago. I thought it was fittin’,” Cannon said. Tucked inside a band on the outside of his hat was a photo of his great grandfather, who lived through the battle.
Mayor Tom Miller kicked off the official celebration with a speech before bands representing the Confederacy and the Union entered the Square and played music representing their sides. The bands then united and played three songs, “Home Sweet Home,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” and “America.”
“Nearly 10,000 American soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing,” Miller said of the Battle of Franklin. “More Americans were killed at Franklin in those five tragic hours than perished on the beaches at Normandy on D-Day.
“What transpired here in Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864 was critically important to our nation’s history. It spelled the end of fighting in the war’s Western Theater and barely four months later the war itself was mercifully over.
“At Franklin, Tennessee history was made,” Miller said. “Men from both sides struggled and died here, in those final bitter months of war which nearly destroyed the fledgling United States. Part of our destiny, what we became and who we are today, was forged in fire at Franklin.”