National Geographic Magazine Online
for National Geographic News
Robert Hicks sees a different Franklin, Tennessee, than most people who visit the Nashville suburb.
Instead of a Pizza Hut, he sees the fiery center of a deadly U.S. Civil War battle. From the local tire store, he can imagine the Union line. Where others see a golf course, he envisions a battlefield.
Fellow residents are starting to share Hicks's vision for the land that saw the bloody November 1864 Battle of Franklin, which dashed the South's last, small hope for victory during the U.S. Civil War. (See the related article "Civil War Battlefields" in the April 2005 National Geographic magazine.)
A report by the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States, ranks Franklin's battleground among the ten most endangered Civil War battlefields in the country.
That new endangered status is a small victory for preservationists like Hicks. For many years preserving the battleground site was considered a lost cause. By comparison, endangered status signals a ray of hope for the historic ground.
Public, Private Investment
A 110-acre (44.5-hectare) golf course sits on a key part of the Franklin battlefield, land that could have become a housing development. But Hicks convinced private donors to buy the property for five million dollars (U.S.).
Once he raises enough money, Hicks plans to buy back the land from the investors, restore the fairways and putting greens to their past battleground incarnation, and open the land to the public.
Franklin Mayor Tom Miller and the city's board of aldermen have committed 2.5 million dollars (U.S.) of taxpayer money in matching funds toward the effort.
Those steps prompted the CWPT to reassess its outlook for the Franklin battlefield, bumping it from its list of "lost" battlegrounds to the somewhat more hopeful status of "endangered."
"It's such a shocking thing to be back on the list," said Hicks, who founded Franklin's Charge. The coalition of preservation groups is raising private and public dollars to buy land.
"This is a model for other communities to show that a private/public partnership can work to preserve our nation's history," Hicks added.
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