1345 Eastern Flank Circle, Franklin, TN

(615) 794-0903

Status: Historic Plantation



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Carnton Plantation:
Tennessee’s Most Haunted House
By Cailin McGlory


The road to Carton is rather deceiving. Coming out of downtown Franklin you’ll turn right onto Carnton Lane. You can’t miss it. What they don’t tell you is that Carnton Lane is at least a half mile long with trees lining both sides of the road and in the middle. The houses are all modern, save for one white one at the end of the trees. When you emerge from the trees you have a choice: follow the paved road left to the McGavock Family Cemetery, with the adjoining Confederate Cemetery, or bear right onto a gravel road that forces you to slow down to a crawl for to go any faster will envelope you in a cloud of dust.

As you follow the curving driveway, the side of the house comes into view, as does the visitor center. A parking lot sits between them. After purchasing tickets, you approach the back of the house through a white gate. To the right of the house, a hundred feet away, is Mrs. McGavock’s garden which is being reclaimed and rebuilt to its former glory. Identical porches run parallel to each other on the upper and lower stories of the house, extending past the edge of the house on the right side. In the days before air conditioning, family and guests would sit on that part of the porch to enjoy the breeze that would blow though, unobstructed. During the Civil War, the upper porch and extension were used as a lookout point by Gen. Nathaniel Forrest. The lower porch extension held the bodies of four Confederate Generals (Cleburne, Stahl, Adams, and Granbury) while the survivors paid their respects. Generals Cleburne and Forrest have been seen on the lower and upper porches respectively.

As you near the house, its sadness reaches out to embrace you. The amount of death and suffering has left a lasting impression on the house and grounds and with each new visitor the energy seems to come alive. Carnton has earned its reputation as Tennessee’s most haunted house. From the moment you step foot on its lawn, the history and tragedy of the home draws you in. The sprawling landscape saw much bloodshed from thousands of dying and injured. Guests to the property have reported hearing phantom cannons, rifles, and the thundering hooves of horses. A police officer one night was investigating a person pacing the lower porch after hours only to realize it was the long dead General Cleburne.

General Forrest is not alone on the top balcony. An unknown woman nicknamed the widow of the South is often seen in the center, crying for her unknown husband or lover who was killed in the battle. Mrs. McGavock herself has been seen roaming her former home.

While most of the hauntings can be traced to the Civil War, not all stem from that traumatic event. Carnton’s plantation house wasn’t the first building on the property. To the left of the house is the original detached Kitchen. Between the kitchen and the current building is a gaping hole where Mr. McGavock’s father built a much smaller home. When John took over the property, he built the plantation house which still stands today. The original house was destroyed in 1905 during a tornado but the outline of that house can be seen on the wall of the plantation house. Two doors that used to connect the two houses are still there. It was in the original house where one servant (as the family referred to their slaves) murdered another by loping his head off. The spirit of the headless servant can still be seen in the dining room of the current house. Another servant, Maria, worked for the family before and after the war as is also seen throughout the house.

The McGavock’s suffered a great deal of personal tragedy during their time at Carnton. They lost three of their five children in childhood; one died and was buried in Louisiana where Mrs. McGavock was originally from. People have seen the McGavock children in the house, sometimes peering out the windows, and sometimes playing outside. Guests have felt the children push past them and looked around for living children, only to find none present. Their mother, Carrie McGavock, is frequently seen throughout the house, grounds, and wandering the cemetery. She and her husband John donated two acres of land adjacent to their family cemetery for the burial of the Confederate dead. The names were written down in a “Book of the Dead” which Carrie watched over for the remainder of her life. Carrie is also said to have hidden the personal effects of General Cleburne under her mattress until she could ensure they would be sent to his next of kin. She is remembered for the care she gave to the wounded and dying who littered her house. Amputations and surgeries took place in the upstairs bedroom and the blood of the soldiers seeped through the carpets and stained the wooden floors. These stains are still visible today. She played the piano at night, not only to drown out the cries of pain and grief to calm her children, but also to try to comfort the soldiers. The next morning she prepared breakfast for those still alive, and it was noted that her dress was soaked with blood. Carrie not only opened her home to the fallen, but also her heart. She cared for the wounded, mourned the dead, and guarded their memories for the rest of her life. In death she continues to watch over their final resting places.

The extreme emotions and the violent trauma experienced at Carnton scared it’s walls and grounds with intense emotional energy that is still strong 148 years after the Battle of Franklin (II) 30 November 1864. In five hours, 10,000 Confederate soldiers were dead, wounded, or missing. Many of the wounded ended up at Carnton. Many of them never left Carnton.