Library to Be Built on Historic Battleground

One hundred thirty-eight years later, the reminders of the "Battle of Franklin" are quickly fading.

"We have 10 years left and it'll all be gone," said historian Thomas Y. Cartwright.

The battlefield is the victim of sprawl. A Pizza Hut now stands where Gen. Patrick Cleburne Fell and a Domino's marks the spot where many of his men died.

Now, the Williamson County Library is claiming the last piece of open battlefield, a decision that has critics questioning the town's commitment to what's left of its legacy.

Franklin, Tenn., is the site where soldiers clashed on a scale that even Civil War re-enactments can't fully capture. On Nov. 30, 1864, more than 10,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died or were wounded in the deadliest five hours of the Civil War.

Only 11 acres remain of the battlefield as development inches in and profit defeats pride.

"What would happen to the property if the county hadn't purchased it?" said Williamson County Executive Clint Collicot.

Collicot said the county administrators were hoping to preserve their piece of history by creating a lucrative, taxable real estate base. But preservationists say the move to bring in income has taught the town a hard lesson in balancing history with economy.

"We thought we were doing something to preserve the area," Collicot said.

County commissioners say the library will at least be a learning center, and tours to the Confederate cemetery will continue.

Preservationists say that still misses the mark.

"The Civil War is a tremendous heritage tourism draw. People come from all over the country to see Civil War battlefields and they bring money," said James Lighthizer of the Civil War Preservation Trust.

But in Franklin and other Civil War towns like it, finding a pizza may soon be a lot easier than finding the past.