Caroline Elizabeth “Carrie” <I>Winder</I> McGavock

Caroline Elizabeth “Carrie” Winder McGavock

Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi, USA
Death 22 Feb 1905 (aged 75)
Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee, USA
Burial Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee, USA
Plot Mc Gavock Family Plot
Memorial ID 8313208 · View Source
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Civil War Civilian Figure. Revered in her lifetime for her devotion to the almost 1,500 Confederate war dead buried on her Tennessee plantation, her celebrity during the Victorian era inspired English author Oscar Wilde to express a wish "to meet the Widow McGavock, high priestess of the temple of dead boys" during his 1882 American tour. Born Caroline Elizabeth Winder in Natchez, Mississippi, she had been the archetypal "Southern belle". Eschewing the name Caroline in favor of "Carrie", went against contemporary social mores with her penchant for wearing black even as a very young girl-a curiously prophetic choice that dismayed the artist who painted her as a debutante. In December 1848 she left her childhood home, a sugar cane plantation near New Orleans, Louisiana, to marry her cousin John McGavock, a planter from Franklin, Tennessee. For the next sixteen years her life centered on her duties as mistress of "Carnton", the couple's large plantation, and the raising of their five children, three of whom died in early childhood. During the Civil War her husband acquired an honorary colonelcy by funding the local Confederate regiment, but remained safe at home. It wasn't until November 30, 1864, when Union and Confederate armies clashed at Franklin, that the McGavocks felt the impact of battle, and the experience became the defining event of her life. With Carnton commandeered as a field hospital, she tended to the wounded and the dying during the fighting and for months afterwards. The bodies of four of the six Confederate generals who were killed in the battle – Major General Patrick Cleburne and Brigadier Generals John Adams, Otho F. Strahl and Hiram B. Granbury, were laid out on the family’s back porch after the conclusion of the fighting When it became apparent that a cemetery to accommodate more than a thousand Southern casualties was needed, the McGavocks responded by donating their land and supervising the transportation of the dead from the battlefield to the new burial ground. The private establishment and maintenance of so large a cemetery was unprecedented at the time, and this work, in addition to the care of war orphans, consumed Carrie McGavock and the remnants of the family fortune until her own death at age 76. Although an iconic figure who was widely eulogized by her contemporaries, she had been largely forgotten until a the 2005 historical novel "The Widow of the South" by author Robert Hicks renewed interest in her story.

Bio by: Nikita Barlow

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: kimshockey (reb)
  • Added: 24 Jan 2004
  • Find a Grave Memorial 8313208
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Caroline Elizabeth “Carrie” Winder McGavock (9 Sep 1829–22 Feb 1905), Find a Grave Memorial no. 8313208, citing McGavock Family Cemetery, Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .