From the Cottage to Carter House: Preserving Our History

By Elizabeth Atkinson

The experience I gained in my seven months at President Lincoln’s Cottage as a museum store assistant has carried me six hundred miles away and “behind enemy lines”– back into the south where I grew up. After finishing my degree in Washington D.C., I moved back to Nashville, Tennessee, and currently am working at a non-profit historic site that shares some of the values I cherished at the Cottage, namely the preservation of our nation’s priceless history. The Carter House and Museum in Franklin, Tennessee, stands on some of the last of the Franklin battlefield, and remains a monument to the Carter family and the Battle of Franklin.

Like Lincoln and the rest of our nation, the Carter family endured the war with myriad hardships. The worst of these would come on November 30, 1864, when the Battle of Franklin raged around their modest farm home. Today, the house and three outbuildings still bear the scars of the battle– over one thousand bullet holes are visible in the buildings making them the most battle damaged buildings still standing from the Civil War. The house also sits on an eight-acre lot of an unpreserved battlefield that is now covered with strip malls and gas stations.

In the memory of our nation’s history, some things have been lost. Unfortunately, most have never even heard of the Battle of Franklin. Many had also never heard of President Lincoln’s summer cottage. Yet, the visitors who do seek out these sites are what made working at them both so rewarding. By having a chance to share the stories and experiences of the past–whether it be one of our greatest presidents or a farmer and his family–I have found a job I truly enjoy (and I count myself lucky). The overwhelming response to President Lincoln’s Cottage since its opening in February 2008, and the continuing support for The Carter House (now open 55 years to the public) is inspiration to anyone concerned with our nation’s history.

You can find more information about The Carter House at

Ms. Atkinson is the Education Coordinator and Administrative Assistant for The Carter House in Franklin, TN.
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