Alpheus Truett Place 1846-2012

Site design and placemaking where details make a difference
Role: Master Planning, Design, Construction and Investment Advisory
Photo: Heritage Foundation of Williamson County (undated)

Story of the Alpheus Truett Place, by Charles Rulick and Lara Hall

Edwin Campbell Truett was only fourteen years old when his family’s home was commandeered by Union Major General John Schofield. Pushed aside by soldiers from asouth-facing window as he attempted to watch battle formations on his own backlawn, Schofield gently pulled the boy back to the window, handing the youngster his own personal binoculars. “Never will you ever have the chance again towitness such a magnificent spectacle,” the General said to the boy. 

What followed those words was the 1864 Battle of Franklin, one of the bloodiest engagements of the Civil War. Fought on and around the property of the Alpheus Truett house in Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864, almost 20,000 Confederate forces, led by Confederate Lt. General John Bell Hood, attacked well-fortified Union lines. With Carter’s Creek Pike on the west, the Harpeth River on the east and a rampart of tree branches and shrubs on the southeastern front, these natural barriers created a funnel through which all of Hood’s men were squeezed, essentially taking away any advantage Hood had in numbers by wedging his battalions into smaller-sized attack fronts. The Rebels were forced into close contact with the Union soldiers who had slipped out of their clutches the night before, after Schofield’s northern forces had been divided by Hood’s men. Hood, believing that the divided soldiers were trapped, had allowed his men to sleep for the night. This opportunity was seized upon by Schofield, whose soldiers used the cover ofdarkness to escape and set themselves up well for the ensuing skirmish right onthe Truett property and others surrounding it.

The Battle of Franklin lasted less than a day, but the results were more devastating than the chargeon Gettysburg, leading some to name it ‘Pickett’s Charge of the West.’ Hood’s rash decision to charge the areas around the Alpheus Truett home all but destroyed the efficacy of the Army of Tennessee, which reported over 6,000 losses from that battle, and ruined Hood’s own military career. The damage to the area was undeniable, but the Union soldier’s appropriation of the home was just as destructive as the battle itself had been. 

Before the fight began, Union paymasters hid mounds of cash in Truett’s greenhouses, to use as pay-stations for Yankee troops who had been rushing northward to the Franklin-Nashville Pike; after the cannon fire turned the surrounding orchards into rubble, the paymasters retrieved the plentiful stacks of money from underneath broken flower pots and shrubs, and fled into the night, leaving a bloodied andscarred battlefield in their wake.

Fifty one years later, a Federal Committee on War Claims would consider the briefs brought forward by the Truett estate lawyers, for repayment of the damage incurred to their property during the Civil War. The Session of the 61 st Congress would reimburse the Truetts in the amount of $395, but the money was paid only because the person making the claim was found to have been ‘loyal tothe Government of the United States through-out said war.’ 

Alpheus Truett could not have known what part his small home would play in the future war when he decided to build his home in Williamson County, Tennessee in 1846. Already an established nurseryman from another county, Alpheus used glass brought from Philadelphia by horse and buggy to construct rows of greenhouses for his nursery business, which continued on for 125 years, thanks to Alpheus’s son and granddaughter’s efforts. The Alpheus Truett house is one of the best examples of two-story vernacular I-houses, and to be classified as such, all such I-houses must be built with at least two rooms in length, one room deep and two full stories in height.

Sources: listed below
Photos: Union Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield (1864), Map of Battle of Franklin by Hal Jespersen

CURRENT OWNERSHIP (1994-present)

The property passed through several different hands and fell into a slight state of disrepair until its purchase in 1994 by its current owners. After a tornado cut a wide path of destruction through the entire property in 2003, massive restoration and clean-up efforts were required, the most important of which was to restore function and circulation to the home. This was accomplished by adding the guest house and garage that year, along with new car paths and walkways, all of which formed connections with the existing points of entry to the home itself. 

Although the buildings could be restored, what could not be replaced were the beloved groves full of large, old-growth trees that were demolished by the storm. This loss was felt acutely by the owners, as it left their land wide-open, taking away the peace and privacy they had once felt. Large-scale replanting of trees occurred in 2007 and 2008, when a brick wall was also constructed, to enclose the private gardens and terraces. This wall, along with the new vegetation, provided a significant buffer from the outside traffic along Liberty Pike, Franklin Road and the bustling historic Factory at Franklin.

But the trees were not the only growth during that period. To accommodate a growing family, the house underwent a major renovation and expansion in which a 2000 square foot addition was built on the rear of the home, which was intended to be a juxtaposition of past and present. The house took shape largely at the direction of the owner and was crafted into its final form by the contractor. The front and south facing facades and landscape were preserved and are historically accurate. The finished product, although not necessarily historically sensitive, is respectful of the intent of its original design, and the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. 

This exceptionally beautiful home may best be known publically for the small role it played during a dark time in our Nation’s history, but it is its recent history that truly sets it apart from others in its class, due to the love and care that its current owners have infused into it in the last two decade. They have succeeded in creating a place where family and friends are always welcomed with arms wide open, making it easy to imagine why a young man stopped his cart, pulled out an axe and built his house on that spot many years ago.
Photography by Lynsey Waddill

Photography by Kerri McKeehan Houlihan


United States Congress, “Letter from the Assistant Clerk of the Court of Claims, Transmitting a Copy of the Findings Filed by the Court in the Case of Alpheus Truett against the United States.” Congressional edition, Volume 5836, from the 2 nd Session of the 61 st Congress, 1909 – 1910. (27 May, 2012).

Smith, Reid, “Truett Place: A Bird’s Eye View of Hell.” Majestic Middle Tennessee. 1976 (27 May, 2012)

Multiple contributors, “Battle of Franklin (1864).” Wikipedia. Last updated on 19 May 2012. (27 May, 2012)

Multiple contributors, “Alpheus Truett House.” Wikipedia. Last updated on 22 November 2011. (27 May, 2012)

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