Extreme Hospitality

Tips on Tuesday…Hospitality

For history last week, we went on a field trip to the historical battlefield of Franklin, one of the last and bloodiest civil war battles.  When I think of hospitality, I think of pretty dishes on my table, a warm meal to serve, and pleasant company to pass the time, not blood and the horror of war.  

Well, that is just what Carrie McGavock had to do the evening of November the 30th, 1864.

She was once a beautiful young woman with her life ahead of her.  She was born in 1829 to a very wealthy family who owned a sugar plantation in New Orleans.  She never lifted a finger.  She had slaves in those days to do all the things that required any sort of effort.  

In December 1848 she left her childhood home to marry her cousin John McGavock, a planter from Franklin, Tennessee.  For the next 16 years she resided on this lavish plantation in all the luxury of that era, raising a family.

She had beautiful carved furniture which was the most expensive and finest you could buy.  The china was hand painted and imported from some exotic place half way around the world.  Chandeliers and hand painted wall paper were among the fashion and class of her home.  They owned 12 slaves that kept the grounds in tip top shape.  She had help pulling on her gorgeous Southern Bell styled dresses, and fixing her long black hair.

As we walked through the old historical home, things were put back into place and we found out there were few original pieces left to adorn this home.  The reason was because that fateful night, her life turned upside down in a matter of 5 hours.  

Out in her own fields raged one of the bloodiest battles.  There were some 40,000 troops of either Union or Confederate lining up.  You could hear the canons blaring from her pleasant home.  Gun shots sounding almost continually.  That night the home had to transform from luxury to catastrophe.  10,000 lay dead  that night while thousands of others had parts of their bodies blown off.  

One by one, by the hundreds, these wounded and bleeding soldiers were hauled into Carries home.  Blood covered the floors, furniture was tossed out the back door, dishes shoved and most of them broken so quickly.  Everything was thrown aside so that the soldiers could be plopped onto her tables for immediate surgery.  

There were 12 surgeons there that night and for some time after.  They had it down to a science that they would administer some liquid chloroform to the patients as they were screaming in pain, to numb them enough to saw off their limbs.  They told us it would take 20 minutes each limb.  Stacks of limbs were in the corners of her dining rooms and parlor and if she was faint for the sight of blood, she would have not survived it.  

She was a mother of 5 children, yet buried 3 of them before that point, so she had to get the other 2 ready to help get anything needed.  The only surviving accounts are diaries written by the soldiers who stayed there.  The last of the patients left some 7 months later.  Her home was turned into a hospital. 

What was Carrie doing?  From all the accounts of her, she was ministering to these screaming, dying men, praying with them, consoling them, getting anything they needed.  She quickly went from pampered princess to ministering angel of the Lord.  They said her dress was dipped 5 inches high in blood from attending one after the other all day and all night for months.  The men were stacked shoulder to shoulder laying on the floor waiting for help.  She never left her post.  

I call that extreme hospitality.  

We cringe to think of what transpired because, really, what one of us would want 36 bleeding men stuffed into each of our beautiful room, screaming in pain, and sawed off limbs rotting in the corners?  None of us, I reckon.  These stories about Carrie so inspire me.  

This wasn’t where Carrie stopped.  Oh no.  She never stopped helping with this cause until the day she died in 1905.  Right after the war, she allowed the dead to be buried 2 feet under all around her home.  Limbs were sticking out every which way you looked and the smell of death could be smelled for miles.  Animals would dig up corpses and drag them out into the open some days.  Her lovely home was never the same.  Others who resided in Franklin said that during this time, just the smell of death made it feel ominous for years.  

She allowed families to come and exhume bodies to identify them.  She even had people staying in her home and corresponded with these people for years after with hand written letters.  She poured her heart into this.  She never gave up on helping those people find closure.  

She probably didn’t even know any of them.  Yet, 1500 of them were later buried by her request, with marked graves, in her private family cemetery.  

It is just an example to me of LOVE.  True love.  Thankfully, the war ended, and so did slavery.  We toured some of the slave quarters and it still gives you that horrible feeling of why this custom was practiced.  We looked in those rooms with silence honoring those that were bought and sold.  

Here is one of the slave rooms…

Walking through the manor, you see blood stains that still remain on the floors after all these years and after sanding and scrubbing over and over.  

We were all changed by going through this precious piece of our American History.  

The next time you feel overwhelmed because you have a house full of guests, think of Carrie.  What she did was nothing short of miraculous.  If she could care that deeply for those people without complaining, we can joyfully serve our family and our guests as the Lord allows.

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