Group tells ‘fuller story’ of Franklin’s Civil War history

Special Reports

Monuments and Middle Ground

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – For 120 years, the Confederate monument, locally-known as Chip, has stood at parade rest in the middle of Franklin’s town square. It was dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy of 1899. Etched in the base of the nearly 38-foot-tall granite fixture is a tribute to troops in grey who fought for the South in the Battle of Franklin.

Eric Jacobson, CEO of the Battle of Franklin Trust, explained the resulting conflict took place just two miles from downtown at the Carnton Plantation and Carter House. “Monuments only teach you so much,” said Jacobson.

An impassioned fight, the Battle of Franklin is believed to be the bloodiest in the Civil War. “We should not forget this was an effort by people not just to protect and defend slavery, but they were trying to break apart the United States,” Jacobson explained.

In five hours, some 10,000 American soldiers died, and about three-fourths were Confederates.

“The people of that era…I can understand why they did what they did as a historian. But understanding why people did what they did does not mean that they should be blindly defended,” said Jacobson.

“Monuments to some of the individual leaders of the Confederacy, whether people like it or not, are problematic.”

Eric Jacobson, CEO of the Battle of Franklin Trust

He, along with several pastors and local leaders, started an initiative called The Fuller Story Project. The group believes focusing on history should not involve shame, guilt, or rage, but rather reconciliation and redemption. “The other part of the fuller story we’re trying to tell here in Franklin is there were 180,000 Black men who served in the U.S. Army. Most of them were runaway or escaped slaves. They weren’t even citizens, and they were putting on the uniform literally fighting for their own freedom.”

Instead of working to remove ‘Chip’, the project installed five markers around the public square, describing the battle and sharing the experience of African American people during the war.  

“These Confederate monuments can help us serve a purpose. It helps us remember who these men were, but it can also help us remember what the Confederacy was,” said Jacobson.

And, while he believes all men are created equal, Jacobson doesn’t feel the same about monuments.
“Monuments to some of the individual leaders of the Confederacy, whether people like it or not, are problematic.”

Compromise comes, he says, when markers dedicated to a collective group are given context, allowing lessons from our past to focus conversations in America today.

“I think this is about getting right with history,” said Jacobson.

In the next phase of The Fuller Story Project, a statue of a U.S. Colored Troop will be erected outside the historic courthouse. Fundraising efforts for the statue are currently underway.

Recent social unrest has renewed debate over Confederate monuments and if they represent history versus hate. News 2 digs deeper into how Tennessee is coping with its Confederate past, present, and future. Read more on Monuments & Middle Ground here.

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