The Widow of the South (2005)

by Robert Hicks

The Widow of the South is based on a true story. One of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles was fought in November 1864 in the small town of Franklin, Tennessee, south of Nashville. The Carnton Plantation, owned by Carrie and John McGavock on the outskirts of Franklin, was forced into service as a field hospital. Carrie McGavock, grief-stricken over the loss of three of her five children, was revived by the urgent need to care for the sick and the dying. Her mission didn’t end after a few weeks, however. Almost 1,500 Confederate soldiers, most of whom who had been hastily buried where they fell in the Battle of Franklin, were reburied on the Carnton Plantation. For decades until her death in 1905, Carrie McGavock tended to their graves. The cemetery, the largest privately owned burial grounds in the nation, is now part of a historic site that also includes the McGavock home and other plantation buildings.

That much is true, and it’s a great subject for a historical novel. But because little is known about the McGavocks’ personal lives, Widow of the South author Robert Hicks decided to embellish Carrie’s story by inventing an inexplicable attraction between her and a wounded Confederate sergeant. It’s hard to believe that Carrie, finding a purpose in service to the dying and the dead, would have felt that the gruff sergeant held answers for her. One wonders what the real Carrie McGavock would have thought about a love affair that was fabricated to make her story more interesting.


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