As the debate over the memory of the Civil War and the status of memorials and statues rages on, I have been encouraged to hear of efforts to find common ground and reach compromises on these contentious issues. My latest post suggested that the placement of a statue of Arthur Ashe on Richmond’s Monument Avenue near to statues of Lost Cause stalwarts Lee, Davis, Stuart, and Jackson is one of the earlier examples.
A recent example took place in Franklin, Tennessee, where a series of historical markers were unveiled on October 17, 2019 on and near that city’s central square. This followed a series of public meetings over two years seeking ways for, as the group’s creators put it, “telling a fuller story.” (Until recently Franklin had given the appearance of being a “Confederate town,” with only a large statue of a Confederate soldier in the middle of the square and many streets named after Confederate generals — and none after Union generals). The result was a series of plaques added to the square and in front of the nearby courthouse about the U.S. Colored Troops, the 1867 Downtown Riots, Reconstruction, and the Courthouse and Market House. In addition, the group is raising funds to have a statue of a U.S. Colored Troops soldier placed in a designated spot on the square near to the monument to the Confederate soldier — who is nicknamed “Chip” because part of his hat is chipped.
The Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, was a key to the ultimate success of the Union army on the western front. The Battle of Franklin Trust has has made a herculean effort to create a battlefield park which memorializes the battle and the men who fought there. The Trust is also a key partner of the group which has changed the face of Franklin’s square, a step which one hopes will be an example of how compromise and broader vision can tell a fuller story without diminishing anyone’s memory or memorialization.
Below are my pictures of the new plaques and Franklin’s square before these additions: