Uniforned sentries stand guard while mourners exit the gates of Rest Haven Cemetery. Photo by Robin Hood
FRANKLIN – The sons of two Civil War veterans who fought for separate causes will meet for the first time over the unearthed remains of an unknown soldier, whose body never made it home from the battlefield 145 years ago.
Harold Becker, 93, of Grand Rapids, Mich., and James Brown, Sr., 97, of Knoxville, Tenn., will join together to help re-inter the unknown soldier’s remains, discovered in a shallow grave during a commercial construction project on the field where 10,000 casualties fell in five hours at the Battle of Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864.
Becker’s father, Charles Conrad Becker, fought through the horrific battle at Franklin with the 128th Indiana Infantry, U.S.A., while Brown’s father, James H. H. Brown – 8th Georgia Infantry, C.S.A. – saw his regiment cut in half at Gettysburg. On Saturday, Oct. 10, they will shake hands over the new grave of an American soldier.
“Most folks don’t consider the sacrifice that these soldiers made, certainly on both sides,” said Robin Hood, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who is chair of the City of Franklin’s Battlefield Task Force. “And his family was left alone, to eventually come to closure with the fact that he was killed in action in some field a thousand miles from home.”
Thousands like him were buried with simple gravestones marked Unknown, including approximately 750 in Franklin.
It is not known for which army the Unknown Soldier fought. A coffin containing his remains will lie in state at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 510 West Main Street in Franklin – the circa 1827 sanctuary which served as barracks for Federal troops during their occupation of the town in 1864 – from 8 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8 until the funeral ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10. One Federal and one Confederate honor-guard sentry will be posted at the front doors of the church during the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. visitation period each day and prior to the ceremony on Saturday morning.
The soldier will receive full military honors from re-enactors representing brothers-in-arms from both the United States and the Confederacy. On Saturday morning, a Union and a Confederate Chaplain will conduct a brief funeral service in the church. Following the service, the flag-draped casket will be borne from the church by uniformed pallbearers (Confederate and Federal) and placed on a waiting, horse-drawn caisson in front of the church.
Accompanied by a color guard, honor guard, period musicians, and hundreds of uniformed re-enactors, the caisson will travel down Main Street and around the Public Square to the Rest Haven Cemetery gates.
As the procession leaves St. Paul's and continues up Main Street, townspeople and visitors are invited to fall in behind the ranks of the marching re-enactors.
After arriving at Rest Haven Cemetery, a brief eulogy will be delivered by the chaplains, and will conclude with period-appropriate military honors including a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps” by a uniformed bugler.
Active participation in the ceremonies at Rest Haven and at St. Paul’s will be restricted to uniformed re-enactors, but the public is encouraged to view the ceremonies. Re-enactment units that wish to participate should contact Robert Huff at (615) 500-8211, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit www.franklincivilwar.com.