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The battle began at 4 p.m. with roughly 20,000 Confederate soldiers moving forward toward a similar number of Federal troops. The attack itself was far bigger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. The two armies came into close contact shortly before 4:30 p.m. and the fighting soon became brutal and fiendishly savage. With the sun down shortly after the two sides fully engaged it was dark by just minutes after 5 p.m. When recollecting the battle years later one man said simply, “It was as if the devil had full possession of the earth.”
During the awful hours as the battle raged and swirled around them, the Carter family took refuge in their basement. Some two dozen men, women, and children, including Albert Lotz and his family from across the pike, waited as the horrors of war seemed to almost engulf them. Fountain Branch Carter had years earlier watched as all three of his surviving sons went off to fight for the Confederacy. The middle son, Tod, had not been home for three and a half years and was serving as an aide for General Thomas Benton Smith during the Battle of Franklin. He was mortally wounded during the fighting and his body was found the next morning and brought by his family back to the house. Surrounded by his father, one brother, sisters, and nieces and nephews, Tod died at home two days later.
At around midnight the Federal army began a careful withdrawal from the battlefield and in short order the Northern troops were en route to Nashville. Left behind was a small town and a battered Confederate army. Altogether, some 10,000 American soldiers became casualties at Franklin and about three-fourths of that number were Confederates. About 2,300 men died, some 7,000 were wounded, and roughly 1,000 were taken prisoner.