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The Widow of the South

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Tennessee, 1864. On a late autumn day, near a little town called Franklin, 10,000 men will soon lie dead or dying in a battle that will change many lives for ever. None will be more changed than Carrie McGavock, who finds her home taken over by the Confederate army and turned into a field hospital. Taking charge, she finds the courage to face up to the horrors around her and, in doing so, finds a cause.

Out on the battlefield, a tired young Southern soldier drops his guns and charges forward into Yankee territory, holding only the flag of his company's colours. He survives and is brought to the hospital. Carrie recognizes something in him - a willingness to die - and decides on that day, in her house, she will not let him.

In the pain-filled days and weeks that follow, both find a form of mutual healing that neither thinks possible.

In this extraordinary debut novel based on a true story, Robert Hicks has written an epic novel of love and heroism set against the madness of the American Civil War.

436 pages, Paperback

First published August 30, 2005

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About the author

Robert Hicks

44 books215 followers
Robert Hicks has been active in the music industry in Nashville for twenty years as both a music publisher and artist manager. The driving force behind the perservation and restoration of the historic Carnton plantation in Tennessee, he stumbled upon the extraordinary role that Carrie McGavock played during and after the Battle of Franklin. He is the author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country.

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5 stars
4,302 (26%)
4 stars
6,203 (37%)
3 stars
4,309 (26%)
2 stars
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1 star
417 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,785 reviews
Profile Image for Fred Shaw.
562 reviews43 followers
July 23, 2020
This novel is based on the true story of Carrie McGavock who gave of herself for the benefit of others selflessly her entire life. Carrie and her home were unfortunate to end up sitting only a few hundred yards from the Civil War Battle of Franklin Tennessee. The Confederate army used her home as a hospital. Hundreds of soldiers were cared for by the family and the army orderlies and surgeons. Today Carrie’s preserved home is the site of the largest private cemetery in the country where over 1400 souls are buried. Their graves were tended by Carrie until she passed away in 1905, and are now cared for by the Daughters of the Confederacy. All Confederate dead, laid out by state and unit, with each of their names listed for their families to visit the grave their loved one.

In the current political climate, I didn’t have any trouble getting a copy of the book from the library. I don’t imagine the book will be sought out much this summer. This historical novel tells a story of a southern woman who later became an American. It is well written and is based on historic events. However, 155 years later that war’s memory is still divisive. I believe that while some want to erase history it cannot be done. Removing a few statues and changing the names of schools and their mascots will not erase what happened. We need to take lessons from history and use them to better our lives and our ability to live together.
Profile Image for Amy.
Author 2 books149 followers
January 24, 2012
I absolutely LOVED this book. I was reading it when I went up to Rabun County once for some respite from my goofy household. A whole week by myself. It was heaven. But the thought of driving 5 hours was overwhelming, so I took the book out on tape and listened to it on tape while driving, then would read on the back porch in the cabin. I kept trying to figure out if I could drive to the Franklin in the book and see the actual setting. (Though this is historical fiction, it's based on the true story of Carrie McGavock whose plantation home was used as a hospital during the battle of Franklin between the Union and Confederate armies.)

Maybe because I live in the south, maybe because I am a nurse, or maybe because I am a romantic at heart, this book really resounded with me. I just pulled the copy we own off the shelf this morning, and promised it I would re-read it again someday. I thought the author did a brilliant job at drawing the characters and describing the brutal nature of life during the Civil War, for both civilians and soldiers. The interweaving of the various tales was so well done. This one's a keeper.
Profile Image for Tara Chevrestt.
Author 26 books293 followers
March 4, 2010
This is a little weird. The beginning is fantastic, opening with the Confederates on their way to Franklin where they meet the Union army and a bloody battle ensues. What I love about this is the alternating narratives. In the beginning, it isn't just Carrie, but also Zachariah's narrative on the Confederate side and a Union soldier gets his two cents in as well. When the battle is over, the book goes downhill for me.

Carrie is more... gothic southern belle than widow of the south. She is obsessed with death to the point that she has worn nothing but black since she was sixteen and spends all her time mourning her three dead children while neglecting her live ones. Naturally, when over a thousand wounded Confederate soldiers are literally dumped on her porch, she is right in her element. She seems to thrive on the death and suffering around her and takes a strange and unexplained liking to Zachariah. This is where I really started getting "bugged." The basis for their strange, morbid romance is never made clear to me. Why do they love each other? What do they see? Despite their constant analyzing of each other and themselves and conversations about death, I never did understand the connection between the two of them.

In the last quarter, Carrie tries to save the remains of the dead from a very angry, bitter landlord. Will she succeed? If so, at what cost?

Carrie was too weird for me to like or relate to. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if it had been narrated from Mariah's (Carrie's slave/maid) viewpoint.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,818 reviews494 followers
October 10, 2018
I had previously read A Separate Country by Robert Hicks and struggled with it. However, many reviewers of that book mentioned the superb quality of this one. They were right. Our book begins with two women walking through a cemetery and discussing the men buried there. Who are these women? What is so significant about this cemetery? Robert Hicks unveils the story of a Southern woman long forgotten in American history who desired to remember the men that had taken part in a bloody civil war and lost their lives because of it.
Profile Image for Camie.
885 reviews187 followers
May 23, 2017
The premise of this book had great potential, as it's based on the true story of Carrie McGavock whose plantation home Carnton was confiscated as a battle hospital during the Civil War's bloodiest conflict the "Battle of Franklin" in 1864. Through the tragedy Carrie, who was already having hardships of her own including the deaths of three children and a marriage slowly eroded by grief finds strength in offering aid to dying soldiers, love by caring for Zachariah Cashwell, who has received a grave injury, and purpose by spending her after-war life having 1,500 soldiers exhumed from the battlefield and buried in her family plot which she maintained until her death. With such great material and a strong heroine who surely deserves recognition, I expected more from this book which is still a worthy read. 3.5 stars June Selection On The Southern Literary Trail.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,168 reviews541 followers
February 6, 2016
This book has stayed with me for years. Today I am writing reviews for many of the best I've read in the last 15 years and for those I remember to this day. And I am a eclectic reader. For work and for pleasure I read about 15 or 20 books a week.

This is one of my most remembered of the Civil War. So much so that I have highlighted Franklin TN for a visit.

Addition to reaction above! 2016 experienced the three docent lead tours for Carnton Plantation, Carter House +Lotz House. 3 tours over two days of two hours plus each. Only two of us as audience. These were the best tours I have experienced in long traveling years, including Europe and other hemisphere of lengthy days.

November 30, 1864 starting just before sunset. Not in a field but around and in dwellings- a last pitch and desperate effort. At this very time development is pushing in and the center of the 117 acres becoming artefact for preservation. Too much to tell. Never omit the Carter House experience if you ever have a chance to do it.

Another entire skeleton and a jaw bone found by a tourist near Lotz House went into Carrie's cemetery recently.


Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
October 13, 2021
SOLID 3 STARS - Audio CD

Compared to Gone with the Wind

I decided to discontinue my venture back in time to 1864, or after completing nearly all of Disc 6 of 13.

There are plenty of reviews that denote the strengths of this story, none compared it to Gone with the Wind, I will very briefly share my thoughts on that.

The author focuses mostly on the bloody aftermath of war and the patchwork methods of the hospital near the Battle of Franklin, TN in a large antebellum home. The lady of the house has found her life's purpose in tending to the very basic needs of the sick, dying and dead. Having previously been in mourning over the loss of several children, she has dispensed with the two remaining to stay with relatives further south, having perceived greater safety from battle and she seems to have forgotten them. Her husband, who is a general for the Confederacy is present but each is very disconnected from other. She is a bit captivated by one of the wounded soldiers as is he with her but no indication is given as to why they are attracted and their conversations are merely flirtations...

The story is overly long in its prose with a tendency to take rabbit trails on uninteresting details. I felt this was done to make a point, war is hell and there is lots of down time. Lots of talk about playing cards and dice while in recovery, meanwhile many others are dying from gangrene. Basically, most died from infections from their wounds. The hospital was a chop shop. Limbs cut off as though they would grow back, etc. No new ground was plowed on this land except for graves.

The author did a mediocre job with showing us the "widow" and her slave, Moriah, who had potential to be interesting but her thoughts were modestly explored. Likewise, the widow's husband lost interest in her because she had been so altered by their loss of children, but insights into him were barely covered. He was barely a side note. Little mention of the battle itself is mentioned except for the extreme level of casualties. I felt there was great potential in these various plot points that seemed to be only mentioned in passing, while boredom and the need to draw water to service the bedridden was discussed in detail.

I longed for deeper insights, especially a greater look into the "widow's" passion but it didn't show up in the first 50%. It was about this time I noticed structure was modeled after "Gone with the Wind" (GWTW), which produced phenomenal character studies and inherent disconnect with "owning" another person, some who are so brainwashed that they are loyal to their captor (like Mammie) and the brutality of battle on the minds and bodies of the soldiers and this falls so far short. Even though GWTW is more than double in length, I never was bored as I saw the dynamic characters react to new situations. I have read this 1000 page opus 5 times, that's how marvelously written it was. I wonder how many readers would agree if they had read GWTW and then saw how this pales in comparison!? It is very evident to me that Hicks drew his novel on many aspects of GWTW and fell far short in my opinion.

Recommendation-

If you like historical fiction, particularly the war between the states, this is an okay read. If you are looking for the politics of the war, this has nearly no focus on that. If you have read Gone with the Wind, skip it. It doesn't measure up though it aspires to do so and you will wonder when the author is going to up his game.
Profile Image for Tom Mathews.
645 reviews
January 30, 2018
A touching story that addresses the aftermath of the Civil War in terms of the loss of so many young men for reasons that no longer seemed as compelling as they once did. It is told largely from the points of view of Carrie McGavock, the owner of a home that was turned into a hospital during the tragic battle at Franklin, Tennessee, and Zachariah Cashwell, a Confederate sergeant who was taken there after the battle. Most of the characters are very well developed. I was particularly taken by the descriptions of this senseless battle and its immediate aftermath but the story did tend to lag a bit in the middle. Overall, it is still a good read and I recommend it for fans of southern literature and historical fiction.
My thanks to the folks at the On the Southern Literary Trail group for giving me the opportunity to read and discuss this and many other fine books.
Profile Image for Michelegg.
1,104 reviews58 followers
February 5, 2009
This was one of the best books I've read this year. It was a beautifully written book about a woman in the south whose home is commandeered and turned into a hospital. It wakes her up from a deep depression and changes her life. In the end, her acreage becomes the cemetary for the thousands of soldiers killed in Franklin, Tennessee. She cared for their graves and mourned for them the remainder of her life. I loved this book and the value the story placed on the lives of those soldiers who fought for their beliefs, and the woman who would never forget them. Beautiful!
Profile Image for C.W..
Author 20 books2,264 followers
April 27, 2015
In Robert Hicks's gorgeously written story of Carrie McGavock, a real-life woman whose plantation's proximity to the deadliest encounter of the Civil War, the Battle of Franklin, caused her home to be commandeered as a hospital and thrust her into importance as she cared for thousands of wounded and dying Confederate soldiers, we are given a searing look at our savagery against each other and the transformative effects it wreaks on our souls.

Hicks does not take the easy path as a writer; alternating his multifaceted story between the viewpoints of Carrie, a wounded soldier, Zachariah, whom she befriends, her slave and companion Mariah, as well as several other characters, he presents an all-encompassing portrait of the South's disintegration into the final hours and aftermath of the war - a time when the past is torn apart and the nation struggles to comprehend what has happened to it. Hicks's novel is based on research into actual historical events, and it shows: his careful attention to detail and the haunting, tragic circumstances his characters face are masterful. However, it is his ability to render the depths of their sundered hearts which proves most riveting.

In Carrie, he has created an allegory of grief and resilience, a woman already crushed by loss who unexpectedly discovers purpose in the chaos and unimaginable suffering delivered at her door. She is not the archetype of the Southern belle so popularized in our minds. Neither feisty nor particularly gifted, she struggles for solace in a desolate existence, a nascent core within her awakened only by her unexpected rapport with the soldier Zachariah, who has survived the battle due to one reckless act that he himself doesn't understand.

In Zachariah, Hicks depicts an unforgettable character: every downtrodden, aimless Southern man conscripted into duty without recognizing the price he will pay, someone who has never been much of anything, now swept up in circumstances that require him to rise above himself. Zachariah commands the narrative when he's present, as he overcomes his plight and embarks on a journey into the devastation and opportunism of a new world rising from the cinders. Likewise, Hicks embeds the soul of his story in the character of the slave Mariah, whose devotion to her troubled mistress renders her both enigmatic and courageous, the one person who realizes that the sudden emancipation of her people will not change her. Other characters such as Carrie's husband, John, are equally well-rendered, people whose gutted lives will either liberate or destroy them.

Though not a simple or comforting read, particularly in its portrayal of the horrors of battle, "The Widow of the South" is a masterpiece of American literature, its searing truths about our human condition and the depths to which we can descend, as well as the seemingly-impossible heights we can achieve, lingering long after the final page is read.


Profile Image for Jodi.
1,763 reviews26 followers
May 13, 2008
May 7, 2008 - I went to the Carnton Plantation 2 years ago and have been wanting to read this book since then. The visit was amazing and seeing all of the headstones in the cemetary was unbelievable - 1500 (I believe) of them on the property all from one brief battle. The wood floors in the house still contain the bloodstains from this battle that lasted a short time ( a few hours I believe). The floors were completely destroyed by all of the injured and dying soldiers that were brought into this estate to be cared from by the owners. What a shock it must have been for them to realize that this deadly battle was going to be fought right off of their front porch. The tour guide made the history of the place come alive, and I can't wait to see how the book compares to my visit!
May 12, 2008 - I finished the book while on a trip to Tennessee this past weekend. Having been to the plantation really made it come alive for me. I would love to go back to the house again now that I have read the book. I did go to the Carter house on my trip and learned more about the Battle of Franklin. It lasted only 5 hours and in all about 9,000 men died (union and confederate)- more than any other battle of the Civil War! This house really helped me with my understanding of the book too. The Carnton Plantation was off to the side of the battle where as the Carter House was in the MIDDLE OF THE BATTLE FIELD!!!!! Thie Carter House is the most heavily bullet-damaged house still standing today from the Civil War!
As for the book, it was good, but I think the plot and the characters could have been a little better developed. It hinted that Carrie and her husband, John were not very happily married, and that he had had an affair with her slave, Mariah many years earlier. This was never really fully explored. Carrie's "mental" affair with the soldier Zachariah was not really well developed well either. Why did she beat him up at one point? I wish there had been more written about the family's feelings and thoughts as the battle approached and while the battle was raging on their land. The Baylor boy who died in the battle, and used the pen-name "Cotton Gin" seems to me to have been based on Ted (Tad?) Carter. This book is historical fiction, but the author did a lot of research, and so I am sure that he went to the Carter House and heard the story of their son who died fighting in this battle right on his own property where he grew up. Ted Carter also wrote political propaganda under a pen name during the war like the Baylor boy. This was an interesting insight that I gleaned of my visit this past weekend!!! Good book. Interesting slice of history.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Debra Glass.
Author 40 books100 followers
September 29, 2013
After Carrie McGavock beat a wounded soldier with a crutch, I couldn't bring myself to finish this book. If you want a good Battle of Franklin read, pick up one of Howard Bahr's books. The Black Flower is his best.
Profile Image for Diane .
36 reviews539 followers
January 2, 2013
Widow of the south takes place in Franklin, Tennessee during the end of the civil war, and is based on the life of Carrie McGovak. The book tells the story of an important, but almost forgotten piece of US history. Since there were a lot of gaps in the protagonist's known life, the author has given her a number of attributes (in order to add drama) that may or may not be true (and may or may not be really believable and may or may not cause McGovak to roll over in her grave). McGovak's home is made into a hospital and she subsequently becomes a nurse to wounded soldiers during this short, but bloody battle of the civil war. After the war, she takes steps to create a cemetery for 1500 soldiers who had been hastily buried in a mass grave in a nearby field. I have been to this town a few times and had no idea of it's history. Having read the book, I think I will have to make a road trip and visit her former home, which is now a museum. The soldiers' blood is said to stain the floors.

Pros: I think the story is an important one and has since caused much-needed recognition to both the heroine and the lost soldiers from the battle. It is an interesting piece of history that most people wouldn't know.

Cons: The kinda-romance between her and Zachariah was totally unnecessary, in my opinion. I think it was inserted in an attempt to make the story less dry and throw some romance into the mix. I seriously doubt that it ever happened.
The story was often disjointed and hard to follow. It could have flowed a lot better and been a bit shorter. There are a lot of unnecessary elements that could be edited out without detracting from the story.
Profile Image for Sherry Sharpnack.
795 reviews20 followers
January 31, 2021
For most of my time reading "The Widow of the South," I was annoyed w/ Carrie McGavock' navel-gazing and torpor, although I understand it. She and her husband had lost their first three children during their childhoods. That would leave any woman in a funk. I need to find a book where there AREN'T dead children, b/c I've read a few in a row now where mothers lose children.

On the fateful November, 1864, day when Confederate General Forrest showed up on her doorstep and told her that a battle would soon be fought nearby and he was therefore requisitioning her house as a hospital, she was quite displeased, as I would have been. I cringed at the descriptions of Carrie and her long-time slave/friend, Mariah, ripping up most of the linens in the house to make bandages, and the soldiers removing her doors to use as litters and ripping the moldings off her walls to use as firewood. Carrie takes a special interest in one wounded soldier w/ bright, piercing eyes, making sure that the surgeons remove his injured leg to keep him from dying. The soldier, Zachariah, is angry that she singled him out for life as a cripple. He had been prepared to die at the Battle of Franklin, even grabbing their colors and rushing over the top of the Union's battlements. Carrie "finds herself" by caring for the wounded men, and ensuring proper burials in her family cemetery for those who died in her house. She and Zachariah become close; he forces her to be honest w/ herself and her feelings for once.
The war was mostly lost by the Battle of Franklin, which turned out to be one of the bloodiest days of the war, which makes it interesting that we really have heard so little about it. Over 9,000 men died that day, not to mention all the wounded. Most were buried in the field where they fell. That field happened to belong to Franklin's rather rapacious businessman, Mr. Baylor. Mr. Baylor lost his son that day in battle as well. He thought the war was a foolish business, and really refused to acknowledge that his son had died in it.
Zachariah recovers and is taken by the Union as a prisoner of war. He promptly escapes and works across the South helping to restore the railroads, until the railroad men turn against him in an incident where he defends a chained-up negro. He and a friend escape that situation.
Years later, Zachariah and his friend end back up in Franklin, b/c they heard that an Indian burial ground was being dug up for "study." It turns out that the professor in charge of the dig was the Union Lieutenant who spared Zachariah's life when he topped the battlement during the fight. The circle is closing... Zachariah witnesses Carrie find her life's purpose when she appeals to Mr. Baylor to allow her to remove the bodies buried in his field to her house, b/c he simply plans to plow over the field, destroying the interred bones therein. Baylor has been shot by a boy who is close friends to the McGavock family, so he was forced to listen to Carrie at gunpoint. Thus began the giant undertaking of removing hundreds of bodies to Carrie's house. She meticulously recorded each name (if known) and grave number assigned to each of the removed bodies. She spent the rest of her long life tending this Confederate cemetery, and answering letters from families who learned that their sons had either died at her house or been buried there. She donned a mourning veil, along w/ her customary black, and became the "Widow of the South." Carrie is reunited w/ Zachariah once again when he returns to her home to die from consumption and to be buried at her house...finally.
As I said, there was a LOT of ruminating and anger from Carrie. I was only going to give the book three stars b/c if the navel-gazing wasn't going on, then horrid descriptions of the Battle and the soldiers' gruesome injuries were recounted. The book was saved for me by its ending - by Carrie finding her life's purpose - and then by the Epilogue which finishes the real-life story of Carrie. Pictures of the house, property, and cemetery, which have all been restored as a final resting place to nearly 1500 Confederate dead are included in the Epilogue.
I'm glad I finally read this one, especially since it's been at the bottom of a stack of books downstairs for many years.
Profile Image for Paisley Smith.
Author 22 books66 followers
January 6, 2013
DNF The real story about Mrs. McGavock is so much better than this purely fictional account by Robert Hicks. Upon visiting Carnton Plantation, I was enthralled by the history that took place there, and the events thrust upon the McGavock family by circumstances beyond their control. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction and Mr. Hicks, who brashly claims to have coined the phrase 'Never let the truth get in the way of a good story' should have stuck to the truth for his sprawling novel - which by the way, is not a good story. His characters were unlikeable, inconsistent, and I found it impossible to sympathize or relate to any of them. I can only imagine how the McGavock's descendants must feel about having the matriarch of their family engaging in an extra-marital affair. A forced mix of Gone With the Wind and Lady Chatterly's Lover (because of the grand dame and the gardener relationship between Carrie McGavock and Cashwell) Widow of the South fails on every level. Pretty writing. Little substance.
Profile Image for Sara.
165 reviews9 followers
July 7, 2007
Historical fiction - based on the true story of Carrie McGavock whose plantation home was used as a hospital during the battle of Franklin between the Union and Confederate armies. Interesting, but sometimes a bit obtuse I thought. Wasn't very crazy about the dialog which sometimes seemed confusing, as if the characters themselves didn't quite know what they thought or meant. Did like the character of Mariah, Carrie's slave who had been with her since childhood. Interesting to see their relationship, especially after the War ended and Mariah stayed on with Carrie. Didn't care as much about the mental love affair between Carrie and Zachariah, one of the soldiers she helps heal.

Overall, I think it just made me more interested to read about that particular battle and maybe something more along the lines of non-fiction regarding Carrie and her contributions to healing what men she could and preserving their memories.
Profile Image for Alison .
141 reviews12 followers
January 5, 2009
I loved this book...I think because I am a Native Southerner and because I work with veterans. A vivid description of how one wealthy family was impacted by the Civil War, and the compassionate and dedicated efforts of Carrie McGavock to nurse over 1,500 dying and wounded soldiers at her antebellum home. Based on a true story, the Carnton plantation was turned into a veteran's cemetery, and is a historical attraction today in Franklin, TN. This book gave me a new depth of compassion for the war veterans I encountered daily at the VA.
Profile Image for heidi.
278 reviews18 followers
May 2, 2011
the only thing that garnered the 2nd star for me was the characters mariah and theopolis, the interesting battle scene and some of the historical context. i thought everyone else was too weird, too boring, too blah. i couldn't read any faster. i had 50 pages to go for 2 days. it was like running in quicksand. i found carrie to be so obsessed with herself and her grief and how everyone else around her seemed to owe her something emotionally. the majority of this book was drawn-out, uninteresting conversation and then ridiculous analyzation and then re-analyzation of said boring conversation. and the mental love affair between carrie and zachariah pained me. how did they fall in love? because he didn't stare at her like everyone else? i'm getting worked up about this just writing about it. waste of time.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,832 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2019
This book is Civil War Historical Fiction. I read this while on the beach and I have to admit that this wasn't exactly a beach read. I liked that there were a few different narrators for this. Scott Brick was one of them and it was a little weird for him to add a bit of a southern drawl into his narration.....but he managed to pull it off.

I liked the start of this one more than the rest of the book. The attraction between two of the characters left me with many questions. I was told what happened but I didn't feel it. "Why" and "How" were two common questions....often followed by "Really?".

I enjoyed the history in this. However, at times, this seemed on the long side (especially during the last part. That wasn't my favorite. So 3 stars.

Profile Image for Karen.
490 reviews46 followers
May 17, 2013
I recently visited the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, TN, which inspired me to read this book. I very much enjoyed The Widow of the South. I was unaware of this battle during the Civil War and this is why historical fiction is my favorite genre. I learn as I read :) If you enjoy reading about the Civil War I recommend this book,
Profile Image for Debra .
2,128 reviews34.9k followers
November 8, 2013
Really enjoyed this book. It is based on a real life battle - one of the bloodiest in the Civil war. It tells the story of how a real woman, Carrie McGavock's home becomes a hospital for the injured and dying after the battle of Franklin, Tennessee. Her land becomes the cemetery of roughly 1,500 men. The book alternates between various people's voices telling their interwoven stories.
Profile Image for Suzanne Moore.
630 reviews113 followers
January 13, 2014
I lived for several years in middle Tennessee and actually visited Stone River Battlefield for a candlelight cemetery tour ... listening to readings of actual letters written by soldiers buried there. I even lived in Franklin, TN and drove past the Carnton Plantation on a regular basis, never knowing the story of Carrie McGavock until reading this book. Carrie was a true heroine of the Civil War and her story should heard so that everyone can recognize the bravery and strength she had. Carrie's days were spent mourning the lives of her children who had succumbed to illness when her town became the scene of a major Civil War battle. Her home was taken over by the Confederate Army and used for a makeshift hospital and her land became the burial grounds for the men who fought and died that day. When a neighboring landowner wanted to plow under graves of soldiers on his own land, Carrie had the corpses moved to her property and worked to identify and record those names of those buried, preserving the honor of those whose lives were lost.

9 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2009
I have to say that I didn't like this book very much. The story was flimsy, the characters were confusing, and in the rush to give some details, others are compeltely left out. This is not to say that I don't enjoy an unfolding story and an air of mystery, but eventually I want the story to unfold. I have to say that I listened to this book, and at the end was an interview by the author. This was the absolute best part of the book. If the author had a forward, discussing the book, the historial documents used, and the house itself, then I would have been more engaged. The method was very interesting, the product was not.
Profile Image for John Yelverton.
4,179 reviews34 followers
March 5, 2012
I really thought that this book was going to be a whole lot better than it was.
Profile Image for Nanette.
310 reviews7 followers
November 24, 2020
3.5*
Historical fiction based on the real civil war battle in Franklin, TN. This was a slow moving novel, yet it held my interest enough to keep reading. What added to my enjoyment was the author's note included at the end of the story with actual photographs of the home of Carrie McGavock and the cemetery on her property. The story really came alive for me after having actually visited that same home and cemetery, having seen the actual family portraits hanging on the house walls, and the bedrooms with actual bloodstains on the floors that were used as operating rooms during the war. I can see why the percentage of visitors visiting this part of Tennessee has increased after this book was published. History should not be forgotten nor misrepresented. This was one of Spectre's top reads a few years ago, better late than never :), and happy it has an "Awesome" sticker on the book as well. I do believe it was worth reading. I will most likely pick up other titles by this author because of this book.
Profile Image for Erik Rostad.
307 reviews115 followers
May 14, 2019
I've always enjoyed historical fiction as a way to start learning about an area and a time in history. I live near Franklin, TN, where this novel takes place, and I've met the author, Robert Hicks. I loved this book. Hicks uses the Battle of Franklin to tell a very human story of lives crashing into one another - Union/Confederate, master/slave, victor/victim, living/dead. It's a very real story with a lot of shades of gray and with the heroine battling her own demons. This made me want to learn more about the real people and the real places depicted in this book.
Profile Image for Janice.
1,138 reviews65 followers
July 15, 2011
I'm not sure what I expected with this novel. It wasn't what I got, that much I know.

I had to listen to the prologue about three times before I got into the swing of the story. Once that was achieved, I had no further problems in that regards.

The book is based on the true story of Carrie McGavock whose home was turned into a hospital during the battle at Franklin, Tennessee in November 1864. After the war was over, Carrie & her husband donated some of their land as a cemetary for the men who lost their lives in the bloody battle. Bodies were exhumed, identified where possible, and reburied in individual plots in the McGavoc Cemetary.

I don't know how accurate Robert Hicks was in portraying this woman and the events surrounding the completion of the cemetary. I suspect that the only factual parts were the battle at Franklin, the use of Carnton (the McGavock home) as a hospital and the existance of the cemetary. I could find very little about Carrie on the internet other than the occasional mention.

At the beginning of the book, Robert Hicks painted her as a rather weak woman. She isolated herself from the world as she secluded herself in her room, mourning the death of three of her children. I wondered how this woman could be the same woman who would see the horrors of war spilling over in her own home, and who would assist in caring for these dying boys and men. I wondered if Hicks was doing her memory a disservice. Perhaps he was striving for the contrast between Carrie before the war, and Carrie because of the war. Perhaps he wanted to demonstrate that she pulled an iron strength from deep within her to care for the dying, that being the pivotal thing that made her the strong woman she must have been.

There was an unlikely romance that had to be purely fiction. However, it served to be the crux of the issue between wanting to live or wanting to die. The second half of the book examined this issue in detail. In fact, I rather tired of it, but I perserved. It picked up towards the end when the idea of reburying the soldiers at Carnton.

I do know that Hicks' portrayal of the exhumation, identification, and reburial of the bodies was not accurate to what really happened. Unfortunately, some audiobooks leave off the author's note so I don't know his reasoning for rewriting history.

There were a couple of things that were presented and not explained.

Overall the three narrators did a good job in breathing life into the characters and giving them voices.
Profile Image for Mandy.
3,103 reviews261 followers
April 4, 2018
The novel is set in Tenessee during the American Civil War. Carrie McGavock lives on her plantation Carnton with her family. 3 of her children have died and her grief has made her ill and withdrawn. The running of the household and the care of her remaining 2 children is left to her Creole slave Mariah, while Carried hides away in her bedroom. But her days of seclusion come to an abrupt end when one of the fiercest battles of the Civil War, the Battle of Franklin, takes place almost literally on her doorstep. The house is taken over by the Confederate army as a military hospital and gradually Carrie is drawn back into life as she feels impelled to care for the wounded. Not least because she is inexplicably attracted to one of the soldiers, Zachariah Cashwell, who awakens feelings in her that she thought long dead. But this is no romantic love story. The relationship between Carrie and Zacahariah can never develop, given the social conventions of the time, and yet their feelings for each other become the backdrop to much of the novel. As a result of the war Carrie engages in life once again and dedicates herself to the memory of the fallen.
Although this is a novel, it is based on a remarkable true story. Carrie McGavock was a real person. The Battle of Franklin really happened. It was one of the bloodiest of the War, with over 9,000 wounded and 1,500 dead. Carnton was indeed taken over as a hospital. And today you can still visit it - I only wish I could. But there is a website - www.carnton.org - and it's well worth a look.
The title of the book is what Carrie came to be known due to her actions after the war. And if you don't want to know how the book ends STOP reading this now....
Some time after the war Carrie learns that the owner of the land where the 1,500 soldiers lie buried is to be ploughed over and used for crops. Appalled by this, she arranges for the bodies to be re-buried on her own land, in an extension to the graveyard where her 3 children lie. She meticulously records each dead soldier and writes to their families. Many come to Carnton to visit the graves, and Carrie is there with her notebook and her compassion. Today the cemetery is still there and maintained and can be visited. Now known as "The Widow of the South" Carrie's legacy lives on.
I loved this book. It's a compelling story of love, loss and self-discovery, with a hauntingly sad ending and it gripped me from the first page. It has a "Gone with the Wind" flavour to it, but I especially loved the fact that there are pictures of Carrie and her house, and of the beautiful cemetery she made. The mixture of fact and fiction is delicately handled. Robert Hicks at no time sentimentalises the story, and his style is measured and evocative. A great read.
Profile Image for Chana.
1,575 reviews140 followers
March 5, 2009
I am in awe of what this woman, Carrie McGavock, the woman called the Widow of the South, did for nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers killed in the Battle of Franklin. She nursed a lot of them while they were dying, and saw them reburied on her own land when the field they were buried in was to be plowed. She named and kept records for every one and wrote to families about their lost loved ones. The cemetery that she made for them still exists and is kept up by The United Daughters of the Confederacy. She gave a gift to the men and boys, the families and the people of the South that just can't be measured for it's importance. I think that the respect that we give our dead is part of what makes us human beings. In my mind the importance of the burials just can't be overstated. And I believe she was able to help repair her own soul which had been damaged by the deaths of her children by giving to all those boys burial and remembrance. She returned dignity to people who had lost near everything. I was very moved by the book, thought the writing did good justice to the phenomenal heartbreak of the subject and brought respect and honor to all those who fought on either side.
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