Sunday, October 23, 2022

Talking Civil War with a fellow Jew on the Franklin battlefield

Chuck Byrn and I on the Lotz House porch

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On a sun-kissed morning in Middle Tennessee, I power walk along Cleburne Street in Franklin, halfway to my starting point at Fort Granger on the north side of the serpentine Harpeth River. On Nov. 30, 1864, this ground — a residential neighborhood today — became a bloody hellscape during the Battle of Franklin.

I hang a right into a small park, passing cannons marking a U.S. Army artillery position, foundation stones of the old Fountain Carter cotton gin, and brilliantly colored trees just showing off. Then I spot a pipe-smoking dude in a vest, checkered shirt, and blue jeans.

“Hey, Chuck.”

Chuck Byrn often communes with the spirits 
in this park in Franklin, Tenn.
It’s my Civil War pal Chuck Byrn, a docent/tour guide at the historic Lotz House on Columbia Pike. He’s a proud Jew and a 110 percent colorful character. Byrn is eager to park himself on a bench, yards from the stony path marking U.S. Army earthworks of 1864. His back aches, the result of all that weightlifting from his high school football playing days long ago.

“I love this place,” he says as we stare at hallowed ground. This is where Byrn often comes to commune with the spirits.

Besides the Civil War, Byrn and I share a common heritage.

“You know I’m 2.6 percent Ashkenazi Jew,” I tell him as we walk to the Lotz House.” At least that’s what my 23andMe DNA test says. 

At the Lotz House, 75 yards or so behind the Union line, Byrn waves me inside. He shows off a six-pound solid shot unearthed in the side yard with several others and invites me to look around. In a corner, under Plexiglas, stands a large cooking pot containing 10,000 Minies, found years ago by a relic hunter. I wonder who counted ‘em. 

Outside, on the Lotz porch, Byrn and I shoot selfies and enjoy small talk. Then he greets guests from the comfort of a wooden bench and takes several tokes on his pipe. 

“Flip that sign around to ‘Open,’” he tells a man from Colorado. Then I bid Chuck goodbye.

“I need to get back to Fort Granger.”

“I love that place,” he says.


You might read more about Byrn in my book, “A Civil War Road Trip Of A Lifetime,” coming spring 2023. 🙏

Let’s keep history alive. 👊

In a small park along the Columbia Pike in Franklin, Tenn., a cannon marks a U.S. Army artillery position.
The stony path marks the line of Union earthworks.
Foundation stones of wartime Fountain Carter cotton gin — the site of intense fighting
on Nov. 30, 1864.

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