I’ve always enjoyed living in a small town but within easy driving distance of a large city. 



When I lived in Chicago, I always felt if I walked off a curb and was flattened by a bus nobody would blink an eye. 



I never liked the impersonal, hectic pace of city living.



But in small towns like Chillicothe or Henry you get to know your neighbors. And, when I had the chance to visit Franklin, Tenn., (20 miles south of Nashville), I found out why Southern Living Magazine ranked it in its Top 10 Best Small Towns.


I’ve always enjoyed living in a small town but within easy driving distance of a large city. 

When I lived in Chicago, I always felt if I walked off a curb and was flattened by a bus nobody would blink an eye. 

I never liked the impersonal, hectic pace of city living.

But in small towns like Chillicothe or Henry you get to know your neighbors. And, when I had the chance to visit Franklin, Tenn., (20 miles south of Nashville), I found out why Southern Living Magazine ranked it in its Top 10 Best Small Towns.

My initial interest in Franklin was to visit its Civil War battle sites.

The Battle of Franklin (sometimes referred to as the Gettysburg of the West) was first brought to my attention in a Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War and it remains the bloodiest battle no one, other than Civil War buffs, have ever heard of (more on that later). 

But when I visited in September, I found Franklin to be a delightful combination of comfortable, contemporary living while preserving its historic past.  

My ultra modern, hi-tech room at the Courtyard by Marriott, just off Interstate 65, caters to the corporate road warrior but after my breakfast of Bubba’s Benedict (Eggs Benedict on a Biscuit) at Puckett’s Restaurant and Grocery downtown, I began to explore the charming, historic roots of Franklin’s Great American Main Street.

My guide for the walking tour was historian/author Margie Thessin, who explained the history of the many well-preserved antebellum buildings while we passed by several new townhomes integrated flawlessly into the same neighborhoods. 

We finished our tour in historic Rest Haven Cemetery where she showed me the gravesite for the “Unknown Civil War Soldier” whose body had been recently found during a construction project.

His identity (Yankee or Rebel) was still undetermined and fittingly the town had decided to have him reinterred here with both Union and Confederate color guards providing full military honors.

Go to www.franklinonfoot.com for other walking tours including nighttime ghost tours of “haunted” Franklin.

After a delicious family style lunch at Monell’s (a charming converted mansion), I had the privilege of touring Carnton Plantation and the McGavock Cemetery with Civil War expert Eric Jacobson. 

It was here that the “five bloodiest hours of the Civil War” occurred and Carnton Plantation, converted to a field hospital by the Confederates, still retains the bloodstains of the wounded on its wooden floors. 

The New York Times best selling book “Widow of the South” by Robert Hicks mixes fact and fiction to provide a riveting, romantic story of the events that transpired here and has contributed to the increased numbers of visitors.

The next morning I was scheduled for a private tour of another part of the battlefield, but for now, I was whisked off to dinner at the Red Pony Restaurant, featuring “sophisticated Southern dining.”  

This upscale restaurant provided new twists on Southern classics like catfish while providing a varied menu and wine list with excellent service.

The next morning found me enjoying breakfast at Merridee’s, a favorite downtown eatery among the locals.  Try their fresh baked sticky buns like I did for a special treat.

Now it was time to walk in the footsteps of some of the bravest men this country has ever known as I arrived at the historic Lotz House, near the “epicenter” of the Battle of Franklin.

My private “Battlefield Walking Tour” would begin here and would be conducted by Thomas Cartwright, one of the foremost experts on the Civil War and, in particular, the Battle of Franklin.

His unique recount of the battle utilizes maps and graphic descriptions from soldiers and townspeople themselves and his riveting style of storytelling is like hearing a first hand account of the battle from the participants which included 12 regiments from Illinois. 

When we visited the Carter House, the savage ferocity of the battle became even more evident as he pointed out the hundreds of bullet holes in the wall of the most heavily damaged building of the
Civil War still standing. 

What makes it even more surreal was the battle was fought at night on November 30, 1864. 

Cartwright offers tours to the public on Thursdays and Saturdays beginning at Lotz House (www.lotzhouse.com), which is beautifully preserved and features one of the finest private collections of period antiques and decorative arts in the South.

Now that I understood the details of Franklin’s historic past and promising future, I ventured out into the countryside of Williamson County. 

In the tiny town of Nolensville, I found Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, named one of the Top 10 Best
New barbeque restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit magazine. 

After trying their signature Redneck Taco (meat served open faced on a cornbread tortilla), I chomped down on some of the most flavorful pulled pork I’ve had anywhere.

Of course, Williamson County has its share of Country Western celebrities with its location so close to Nashville.  Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn has chosen to open his new winery, Arrington Vineyards, on 75 acres of beautiful Tennessee rolling hills just 25 minutes from downtown Nashville and 10 minutes from Franklin.

Complimentary tastings of his 14 different wines are available along with “Music in the Vines” each weekend April-October.

For more information on Franklin go to www.VisitFranklin.com.

For more about Mark Bradley, click here.