Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review--The McGavock Confederate Cemetery

Jacobson, Eric A. The McGavock Confederate Cemetery: "A Revised and Updated Compilation". Self Published, 2007. 168 pages, index, bibliography, color and b/w photos. No ISBN.

In late November 1864 a vicious five hour battle took place in Franklin, TN. In these short hours nearly 10,000 soldiers were killed (including six Confederate generals), wounded, or missing, making the Battle of Franklin one of the Civil Wars most bloody battles and a further blow to the Confederacy.

Eric A. Jacobsen has written a short but informative book dealing with the carnage left on the battlefield and the people who helped bury the dead with the dignity they deserved. On December 1, 1864 burial details were sent to the field to bury the dead and bring the wounded to care. In total around 1,750 Confederates were buried in makeshift plots, many only a couple of feet deep. Most burials were arranged by state and when details were known they were carved into boards and placed at the head of the burial. By the fall of 1865 any Union dead had been removed with the majority being buried at Stones River National Cemetery.

With the war over a need to return to normalcy came over the country. For those in the Franklin area this was difficult with Confederate dead being buried in yards and farmlands. Enter John and Carrie McGavock.

John McGavock*
John and Carrie became the driving force in establishing a cemetery for the Confederate dead, even going so far as to donate two acres of land next to their own family cemetery. A burial association was formed to help raise the needed funds to find and rebury the soldiers. Funds were requested from each state with men who would be reburied. Money was also raised privately with many soldiers donating to the cause. Through a bidding process George Cupett was awarded the contract to find, exhume, and rebury the bodies of dead soldiers. For this he was to be paid $5 per body. As bodies were found records were made so they could be marked at reburial, the body placed in an oak coffin, and reburied in the new cemetery.

Once burials were completed the cemetery fell to the McGavocks to maintain. Each faithfully upheld this service until their deaths. John dying in 1893 and Carrie in 1905. Around 1925 responsibility for the cemetery was taken over by the Franklin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Carrie McGavock*
Jacobson has the book broken into two parts. The first which is briefly told above runs a mere 30 pages or so. The remainder is a listing of the dead buried at McGavock Confederate Cemetery.

The cemetery is broken into 103 sections and here Jacobson outlines what is known about each burial. Where known he provides name, rank, regiment, company and brigade. Notes are provided for burials where there may be further information.

Jacobson has written a short but interesting, and in some senses vital, book for anybody interested in the Battle of Franklin or for those who are doing genealogical work and find they have a relative who fought and perhaps died there. He has used primary sources including the heavily relied upon original McGavock Cemetery Book (which itself has a unique story that Jacobson passes along to readers). Newspapers and original soldier letters, one of which proves to be an excellent example outlining a "good death"** are also used, along with a selection of secondary sources.

If you are interested in this book I would recommend purchasing through the Battle of Franklin Trust website.

*Photos of John and Carrie McGavock are used from the Battle of Franklin Trust, Carton Plantation, Images website.

**For further information on "good death" I highly recommend Drew Gilpen Faust's book This Repulic of Suffering. Please see my review here.

1 comment:

  1. Really nice review, Robert. It looks like our FB friend Eric Jacobson has done a really good job with this!

    I just finished reading a book called "The Last Prison" which had some great info on a Union POW cemetery about an hour from my house.