During the latter part of the cold days of November 1864, General Hood's Confederate Army of the Tennessee was challenging two retreating Federal Army corps under the command of General John M. Schofield. With support from Nathan Bedford Forrest in command of the Southern cavalry, Hood's army outmaneuvered Schofield, and at Spring Hill had a chance to cut off the Federals from their retreat to Nashville. Although Confederate forces outnumbered the Federals, Hood was unsure of the enemy's strength and did not give orders for a full-scale engagement. The Federals slipped past during the night and took refuge behind the fortifications in Franklin.
As was his practice to make a thorough personal reconnaissance of the enemy's position, General Forrest arrived on the morning of November 30 at the Carnton plantation. Forrest was greeted by the lady of the house Mrs. Caroline McGavock. Bounding up the stairs of the beautiful home, the general went to the balcony to glass the enemy fortifications. It was clear from this observation post that the enemy was far too strong for an assault at this position.
Mounting his horse, King Phillip, Forrest left the home in haste with his Adjutant General J.P. Strange. General Forrest turned his spurs to the south to find General Hood and report what he had found. At one o'clock in the afternoon Forrest informed Hood that the Federal position could not be taken by a direct assault. General Hood replied "I do not think the Federals will stand strong pressure from the front; the show of force they are making is a feint in order to hold me back from a more vigorous pursuit." Forrest remarked, "General Hood if you will give me one strong division of infantry with my cavalry, I will agree to flank the Federals from their works within two hours' time."
At four o'clock the gray lines got the given sign to move forward in a frontal attack. The rank and file of 18,000 men swept like a wave across the battlefield. The attack was as spectacular and as hopeless as Pickett's charge. For 5 hours Hood sent wave after wave of southern boys to their deaths. The Carnton home served as field hospital for hundreds of dying and wounded soldiers. An officer wrote, "the wounded, in the hundreds were brought to the house during the battle, and all the night after. And when the noble old house could hold no more, the yard was appropriated...." The next morning the bodies of four great Confederate Generals killed during the battle were brought to the home. Generals Patrick R. Cleburne, Hiram B. Granbury, John Adams, and Otho F. Strahl were placed in a row on the back porch. When General Forrest returned to the home and viewed the bodies of his friends and fellow officers, it was said he galloped back to Hood's headquarters with fire in his eyes.
Many a brave man's spirit departed that autumn day at Carnton. And many say their spirits have never left.