A House Divided - The Courtneys of Franklin, Tennessee

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luinrina

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Courtney family_Battle of Franklin.jpg

Chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison
from
Library of Congress


On November 30, 1864 the Battle of Franklin raged across the Carter farm. Nearby was the house of the Courtney family.

Before the war, the Courtneys were off well enough to own three houses and several domestic slaves. Head of the family was Robert T. Courtney, born approx. 1809. He moved from Richmond, Virginia to Franklin, Tennessee in 1825. The 1850 census lists him as a house carpenter, and he is said to have been a tradesman.

His wife was Eliza Jane Haynes Courtney, born on November 19, 1814. She belonged to one of the founding families of Franklin. She would bear Robert seven children – four boys and three girls:
  • Florence Octavia "Octie" or "Octa", born about 1840 in Franklin, Tennessee
  • Virginia "Jennie", probably born 1841 [1]
  • William Wirt "Will", born on November 16, 1842 in Franklin, Tennessee
  • Frances "Fannie", born on January 14, 1845 in Franklin, Tennessee. She is probably the best-known family member.
  • Robert "Bobbie", born about 1848, died in 1857, aged 9
  • John, born about 1852 in Franklin, Tennessee. He became a lawyer after the war, married Elizabeth Graham and had four children. He died on December 8, 1930 in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
  • Philip, born about 1856

Robert died on December 1, 1859 and is buried in the Franklin City Cemetery.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, tensions ran high in Tennessee. Fannie saw her family split over differing allegiances: Will and a cousin joined the Confederate army, and Jennie (had) married a man who became a Confederate officer. Octie, on the other hand, was an ardent Unionist.

Fannie, her mother and younger brothers would ultimately support the Federal army, but at the beginning of the war, Octie recorded that "for a time I was the only member in my family devoted to the Union cause" and that her sister Jennie "was on the wrong side."

Will (then 18 years old) was mustered into the Confederate army on October 28, 1861 as a private in Company D of the 32nd Tennessee Infantry. On September 19, 1862 he was promoted to Orderly Sergeant.

Because of her being outspoken about her loyalties, Octie was arrested and tried for treason, "because of innate patriotism and fearless expression of loyal sentiment." She escaped her captors and fled behind Union lines. There she met Lieutenant James H. Cochnower [2] of the 74th Ohio. The two married in early 1862.

On February 15, 1862 Will was captured at Fort Donelson and sent to Camp Morton in Indiana.

Octie eventually returned to Franklin to her family. When the Federal troops arrived in Franklin in March 1862, she enthusiastically welcomed them with a "Hurrah for the banner whose loveliness hallows the air."

In September 1862, Will was paroled and subsequently returned to his regiment.

When skirmishes raged through Franklin’s streets in 1863, the Courtneys sought safety in Fort Granger, the garrison the federal forces had built on a bluff overlooking the Harpeth River at the edge of town. Here, Fannie met Lt. Col. George Grummond [3] of the 14th Michigan who briefly served as temporary commander of the fort.

Will was recommended for gallantry during the Battle of Chickamauga. At the end of November 1863, he received a promotion to 2nd Lieutenant.

When on November 30, 1864 the Battle of Franklin was fought near the family's house, the Courtneys hid in the cellar with some neighbors. Octie was well advanced in pregnancy at the time. Wounded soldiers were brought into the house and cellar and the women administered what aid they could give. When the fighting ceased at night, the Courtneys tried to get some sleep, but more cannonading sent them back to the cellar for refuge. At one point, Fannie was almost killed by an exploding artillery shell.

When the Union army left for Nashville and the Confederates moved into town, the family joyously greeted Will after not having seen him for three years. Only a few hours earlier, Octie’s husband had left with the Union army, no one knowing whether they’d see each other again.

After the battle, many wounded soldiers lay in town and on the battlefield. Fannie, her mother and brother John (aged 12) selflessly nursed the wounded soldiers for more than two weeks both at their homes and in the Union hospital that had been established in the Presbyterian church until the Federal army returned from Nashville. Octie assisted the servants with the cooking, unable to take on a more proactive role due to her pregnancy.

After the Union victory at Nashville and the army’s return to Franklin, General Thomas and the U.S. Sanitary Commission officially recognized the Courtneys for their work.

Will was once again captured on March 19, 1865 in Bentonville, North Carolina and was sent to Johnson’s Island, Ohio via Point Lookout, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

In March 1865, Fannie wrote a report about her experience of the Battle of Franklin and its aftermath to E. Root, Esq., U.S. Sanitary Commission in Nashville which was published in April. The Courtneys were invited to the Chicago Sanity Fair and remained friends with General Thomas after the war was over.

William swore his allegiance on June 2, 1865 and was released from imprisonment. He subsequently worked at the State Pension Board and became a brigadier general in the Tennessee Confederate Veteran organization. Either before or after the war (the sources I found differed greatly on this), he married Anne Neely. They would have six children, one of which died in infancy. One son would become a politician and a member of the House of Representatives during World War II.

On September 3, 1865 Fannie married Lt. Col. Grummond. Her brother Will signed the bond. With Grummond deciding to stay in the army, he and Fannie soon moved out west to Fort Phil Kearney where he was stationed. There Fannie met Col. Henry B. Carrington [4] and his wife Margaret. The two women would become good friends.

Fannie was pregnant when Grummond was killed in the Fetterman Massacre on December 21, 1866. She gave birth to a son after her return to Tennessee where Grummond was buried.

After Margaret Carrington died in 1870, Fannie struck up correspondence with Henry B. Carrington. The two were eventually married in 1871. She would bear him three children, and he adopted Grummond's son. At Carrington’s urging, Fannie published a book of her story at Fort Phil Kearny in 1910.

Eliza Courtney died on June 23, 1896 at the age of 81 and is buried in the Franklin City Cemetery.

According to her Recollections, Octie had two children and was a widow by 1879. She died in 1902, possibly in Massachusetts.

Fannie died on October 17, 1911 in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, aged 66. She is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Boston, with her second husband Henry B. Carrington.

Will died on December 20, 1928 in Franklin, Tennessee and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.



[1] In the 1860 census, the record lists a Jennie DAVIS as living with Mrs. Courtney and her children. Triangulating it with the other sources that mention an older sister Jennie for Fannie, and considering the age given for Jennie as well as the note of "M" (= "married within a year"), the Jennie Davis in the census record could very well be the daughter of Robert and Eliza Courtney. Also, given that the other children listed with Eliza Courtney are mostly listed with their nicknames (Octa, Fannie), I strongly believe Jennie to be the daughter Virginia. I was, however, unable to find Jennie's husband's name by the family name given in the census record and place of living (Augusta, Georgia, provided by Octie in her Recollections).

[2] James H. Cochnower was born in 1841 to John Cochnower and Lutitia Dow Gavin. His father was a well-off merchant / banker in Cincinnati. When Lincoln first called for 75,000 volunteers in April 1861, Cochnower enlisted for 90 days in the 6th Ohio Infantry as Sergeant in Company D. After his service expired, he reenlisted in the 74th Ohio Infantry. In December 1861 he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant of Company K. The regiment was commanded by Colonel Granville Moody; it went to Nashville where it joined the Army of the Cumberland. Cochnower served as adjutant and regimental quartermaster. In December 1862, General Rosecrans detailed him for duty with the Engineer Corps. According to Octie's Recollections, Cochnower was at Franklin maybe during, but definitely after the battle and, together with a comrade, moved to Nashville with the army. In March 1865, Cochnower was mustered out when his term of service expired.

[3] George W. Grummond was born about 1834 in Marine City, Michigan. He was a sailor on the Great Lakes, like other members of his family. At the beginning of the war, he enlisted as Sergeant of Company A in the 1st Michigan, a three months unit, then reenlisted as Captain of Company I of the 1st Michigan for three years on May 1, 1861. Because of illness, he had to resign the commission in 1862, but after recuperation he reenlisted in March 1863 as Major of the 14th Michigan. The regiment under command of Col. Henry Mizner served in middle Tennessee and made Fort Granger in Franklin their base of operations. In October 1863 Grummond was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He participated in the Atlanta Campaign and marched with Sherman to the Sea. He was discharged on July 18, 1865 and applied for a position in the regular army where he received the commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 18th U.S. Infantry. He was killed on December 21, 1866 in the Fetterman Massacre. Fannie accompanied his body back to Franklin, Tennessee where he was buried in the Rest Haven Cemetery.

[4] For Carrington, you might be interested in checking out the biography I wrote on him: Administrator, spymaster - Henry B. Carrington


For war-time pictures of Octie and Cochnower, see worthpoint.com (link below).
For pictures of Fannie and Will, see their Find a Grave entries (links below).
For pictures of the Courtneys’ house in Franklin, see this link.



Sources:
- Give me 80 Men – Women and the Myth of the Fetterman Fight by Shannon D. Smith
- My Army life and the Fort Phil. Kearney massacre by Frances Courtney Carrington
- Recollections awakened by the unveiling of the Thomas statue! by Florence Octie Courtney Cochnower
- A View from the Other Side by Fannie Courtney – report given to the U.S. Sanitary Commission in March 1865
- 1860 census, P024-33 for the Courtney family
- A history of Tennessee and Tennesseans, Vol. VI, by Will Thomas Hale
- History of Montgomery County by H.B. Beckwith
- Find a Grave: Robert T. Courtney, Eliza Jane Haynes Courtney, William Wirt Courtney, Frances Courtney Carrington
- William's Fold3 entry, courtesy of @ucvrelics : https://civilwartalk.com/threads/looking-for-william-courtney-forrests-command.154475/#post-1982616
- https://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/graham/11417/ (see "2) Elizabeth Graham")
- http://sortedbyname.com/pages/c170933.html
- https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Grummond-2
-
worthpoint.com
 

luinrina

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I realize this is different from other biographies I’ve written before. I’ve always been interested in families that were split from differing loyalties during the war; it’s these families that really bring home how much the Civil War was a war between brothers.

The Courtneys of Franklin first captured my interest when writing the biography of Fannie’s second husband, Henry B. Carrington. The longer I researched them, the more captivated I became by the individual members’ involvement in the war and the close encounters they experienced (no, I’m not talking about the transcendent kind :wink:).

One of these encounters happened shortly after the Battle of Franklin. Shortly before midnight, Octie said goodbye to her husband who left the town with the Union army, not knowing whether they’d see each other again. Only a few hours later, the family greeted their son and brother Will who fought for the Confederates, overjoyed after not having seen him for three years.

Another such close encounter was at Bentonville. Will fought with the 32nd Tennessee in D.H. Hill’s Corps on May 19, their attack in the afternoon almost surrounding Brig. Gen. James D. Morgan's 2nd Division of the XIV Corps – in which Fannie’s future husband Lt. Col. Grummond fought with the 14th Michigan. Even if not exactly face to face, the two men were facing each other on the battlefield. And only six months later, Will would sign the bond that married his sister to Grummond.

In some families that split over the war the ruptures never healed (General Thomas comes to mind). The Courtneys seemingly came out of the war unscathed in that regard (at least I never read anything that indicated ill feelings post-war between the siblings or brothers-in-law). IMO, the two close encounters I mentioned above make that pointedly clear, especially when looking at Fannie and Octie who ardently supported the Union soldiers and cared for the wounded, yet they were still able to warmly greet their brother after the battle, knowing full well he too in a way was responsible for so many dead and wounded in more or less the family’s front lawn. I wish I knew what became of Jennie and their relationship to her.

I often wonder how different the family’s leaning throughout the war would have been had Robert Courtney not died in 1859. Would he have remained loyal to the Union and dismissed the son and daughter that went with the Confederacy? Or would he have favored secession and forbidden his daughters to marry Union officers?

What I found interesting in my research was how Robert Courtney is described: He was a slave-holder, but he apparently knew that the system of slavery "was wrong and that the nation would never realize its highest prosperity until freedom became general." He supposedly taught his children these precepts. Octie wrote in her Recollections that their slaves were their friends and that they were loyal and wouldn’t betray the Courtneys.

Truth or an attempt to whitewash the fact that the family owned slaves, like Shannon Smith argues in her book Give me 80 Men when saying that Fannie’s second husband "Henry Carrington — a fervent abolitionist — later rationalized her father’s slave ownership"? I suppose we’ll never know…
 

DBF

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I don't know how you kept all the moving parts of this family together - but you did a good job. How difficult it must have been for families that we so divided. Octie was a pretty girl - it's worth clicking the link to see the pictures. Thanks for posting.
 
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James N.

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… On September 3, 1865 Fannie married Lt. Col. Grummond. Her brother Will signed the bond. With Grummond deciding to stay in the army, he and Fannie soon moved out west to Fort Phil Kearney where he was stationed. There Fannie met Col. Henry B. Carrington [4] and his wife Margaret. The two women would become good friends.

Fannie was pregnant when Grummond was killed in the Fetterman Massacre on December 21, 1866. She gave birth to a son after her return to Tennessee where Grummond was buried.

After Margaret Carrington died in 1870, Fannie struck up correspondence with Henry B. Carrington. The two were eventually married in 1871. She would bear him three children, and he adopted Grummond's son. At Carrington’s urging, Fannie published a book of her story at Fort Phil Kearny in 1910...

[3] George W. Grummond was born about 1834 in Marine City, Michigan. He was a sailor on the Great Lakes, like other members of his family. At the beginning of the war, he enlisted as Sergeant of Company A in the 1st Michigan, a three months unit, then reenlisted as Captain of Company I of the 1st Michigan for three years on May 1, 1861. Because of illness, he had to resign the commission in 1862, but after recuperation he reenlisted in March 1863 as Major of the 14th Michigan. The regiment under command of Col. Henry Mizner served in middle Tennessee and made Fort Granger in Franklin their base of operations. In October 1863 Grummond was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He participated in the Atlanta Campaign and marched with Sherman to the Sea. He was discharged on July 18, 1865 and applied for a position in the regular army where he received the commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 18th U.S. Infantry. He was killed on December 21, 1866 in the Fetterman Massacre. Fannie accompanied his body back to Franklin, Tennessee where he was buried in the Rest Haven Cemetery...
@luinrina may already know this, but a little additional information about Grummond's untimely end: The garrison of Fort Phil Kearny (named for the one-armed Union general killed at the Battle of Chantilly, Virginia, Sept. 1, 1862) was made up of both infantry and cavalry. A favorite Sioux tactic was to ambush the wood-cutting parties that operated in the creek bottoms. When one such attack occurred in December, Captain Fetterman, who had supposedly boasted earlier that with a single company he could ride through the entire Sioux' Nation, led out a small company in pursuit. His orders were to NOT cross the ridge (where he couldn't see or be seen from the fort) and only chase away the small party of attackers; at the same time, Grummond led out a similar party of infantrymen. Fetterman's blood was evidently up, and he ignored Carrington's orders and continued to pursue Crazy Horse's decoys over the ridge and into Red Cloud's trap. Meanwhile, Grummond's men toiled through the deep snow, vainly trying to keep up with Fetterman's cavalrymen. The Sioux engulfed both parties, individually consisting of only 30-40 men, killing all, and horribly butchering the bodies. Below is Frederick Remington's The Last Stand which is frequently incorrectly said to represent Custer's; in fact, it's supposed to be Fetterman's party of cavalrymen - note the greatcoats which Custer's men weren't wearing in June, 1876! - though Remington still got the uniforms wrong, portraying them in those of the 1890's instead of the 1860's.

s-l1000.jpg
 
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luinrina

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Thanks for that addition, James N. ! I had read that there was cavalry and infantry at the fort and that Fetterman went out of sight of the fort against Carrington's orders, but not that there were two isolated groups of soldiers that were attacked. I had always assumed they were one group when the trap was sprung on them. Then again, my focus was more on the Courtney family and not so much on the details of the massacre.

And it's a nice picture, even if the uniforms aren't correct. Someone like me not having a clue about uniforms will not notice that mistake. :laugh:
 
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