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Save history's 'holy places' page 2
In Spotsylvania visit, best-selling author will describe how Tennessee town is restoring Civil War battlefield, healing community

 Carrie McGovack's engagement portrait at Carnton House.
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Date published: 9/6/2011


Over decades, in a process rather like what happened to the plain below Fredericksburg's Marye's Heights, the town grew outward, consuming the battlefield.

Today, the Federal front line in Franklin lies beneath parking lots near a tire store.

The spot where Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne was killed--and more than 1,700 Southern troops were buried in a mass grave--was paved over, with a pizzeria placed on top.

"Shameful" is how Hicks describes that indignity.

But in the course of two lively telephone conversations, he made plain that he's not an unreconstructed Southerner.

The Civil War belongs to everyone, "North and South, black and white," Hicks said. " It's where all of us became Americans.

"It doesn't matter because my family fought for the South or your family fought for the North or someone else's family was freed from slavery. The Civil War is important if you just came over from Nicaragua. If you're throwing in your lot with this country, it's part of the reason why."


But Hicks came to this passion fairly recently.

Having moved to Franklin during his career as a music publisher, he volunteered on the board of Carnton, a historic home there. Hicks raised money to restore and refurbish it, consulting Monticello and Mount Vernon, and using them as standards.

Along the way, one could say that he fell in love with the former plantation's mistress, Carrie McGavock, the "Widow the South."

Not knowing the hostile paths of New York publishing, he resolved to write a book about her, then cold-called a top agent who landed him a deal. The book rose to No. 5 and spent eight weeks on The New York Times best-seller list.

Until the day she died, McGavock devoted decades to tending the graves of most of the Battle of Franklin's Southern dead, who were moved to Carnton from their temporary mass grave. Learning about her, Hicks came to understand why one of America's largest private military cemeteries lies in her backyard.


But it wasn't until a developer proposed to build a subdivision next door to Carnton, on the grounds of a country club, that Hicks became an activist.

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