Confederate Women and Confederate Hospitals

John & Amy Harper

On Nov 4, 1864, Confederates led by Gen. John Bell Hood went up against Fed. Gen. Jacob Cox in the Battle of Franklin. The battle started around 4:00pm- the fighting became brutal- the Federal army left the field around midnight. The result was some 10,000 American soldiers became casualties at Franklin and about three-fourths of that number were Confederates. About 2,300 men died, some 7,000 were wounded, and roughly 1,000 were taken prisoner. When recollecting the battle years later one man said simply, “It was as if the devil had full possession of the earth.”In the middle of the fighting, the largest Confederate field hospital was established at Carton Plantation, the home of John & Carrie McGavock. As many as 300 soldiers were brought inside the house for treatment, hundreds more filled the yard. At least 150 soldiers died inside the house that night, with more to fill their places.

Carrie McGavock, her husband John, and their two children helped care for these soldiers after the battle. As confederate surgeons began to run out of supplies Carrie gave her household linens, shirts, and undergarments to be used as bandages.

The battle of Franklin resulted in 1,750 Confederate dead. Soldiers were buried by state, with headboards marking each grave with their name and regiment. These soldiers were buried where they fell or on two adjoining properties. As the wooden markers began to rot, the McGavock family donated 2 acres of land near their family cemetery to relocated these soldiers to one location, together.

The reburial began in 1866. George Cuppett, along with a team of men, underwent the task of reburing almost 1500 men. As each one was moved- their information was carefully recorded in a book. After the 10-week project was competed Cuppett turned the book over to the McGavocks.

In 1896 the wooden markers were replaced with granite. Carrie looked after these graves, talking walks the cemetery every day, until her death in 1905. A prayer offered after her death said, “We thank thee for the many hearts she comforted, the needy ones she supplied, the sick she ministered unto, and the boys she found in abject want and mothered…”

Like the McGavocks, the war came to the doorstep of another family- John & Amy Harper. On March 19, 1865, Sherman’s army met Johnston’s in what would be the largest battle in North Carolina.

Carrie McGavock ca. 1895

During the fighting on the 19, the Harper House is taken over by the Union XIV Corps, after the initial location of their hospital is hit with artillery shell. The home would serve as hospital for 600 wounded soldiers.

For the three days fighting, the Harper family sheltered upstairs with their family (six of their nine children, and two grandchildren), until the fighting stopped.

When the Union army left, around fifty Confederate soldiers were left in the care of the family. Their daughter Mary, who writes an account of the hospital in 1905 notes that her mother, along with her two daughters, took care of these wounded until they were nursed to health, or died. Mary only names one soldier, Willie Reid, who served with the NC 13th Battalion Light Artillery- who died in May. Mary remarked that he was “laid beneath the sod, one lovely morning in sunny May. We praised the Lord for his triumphant death; but our hearts are wrung even unto this day…”

Around twenty of these fifty soldiers died, and were buried alongside the Federal soldiers that died in the hospital in March 1865. In 1866 the Union dead were moved from their resting place near the Harper House to the Raleigh National Cemetery.

In 1895, the Confederate soldiers were moved to their final resting place, near the Goldsboro rifles monument. Behind the Harper family cemetery, where John & Amy are buried, as well as some of their children and grandchildren.

Five years after the monument was dedicated and the soldiers were moved, Amy died. Her obituary made note of these soldiers that she had so dutifully cared for, “For three months, their home was a hospital, and they acting as nurses, commissaries, chaplains, physicians to some extent, and undertakers”

Through the years, the wooden grave markers disappeared. It was not until 2010 these twenty individual graves were rediscovered. The soldiers were given permanent markers in June 2011, so that they, like the soldiers in Franklin, and battlefields throughout the country will not be forgotten. Let us not forget the price these soldiers paid, the price that nearly 620,000 soldiers paid during the Civil War.