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OT: Premier Tennessee Civil War Site On Auction Block

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  • lilsteve68@aol.com
    Spring Hill Raped Again.. When Will it End! [Unable to display image] The Absalom Thompson House aka Oaklawn Civil War Interactive has learned that the
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 21, 2001
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      Spring Hill Raped  Again..
      When Will it  End!


      [Unable to display image]
      The Absalom Thompson House
      "aka" Oaklawn

      Civil War Interactive has learned that the Absalom Thompson House, also known
      as Oaklawn, has been put up for absolute auction on May 12 by its owner,
      Marvin Parker, owner of American Excavators in Columbia, TN. According to the
      auction site, the 273 acres surrounding the house have been subdivided into
      tracts which will be sold separately. Open house dates for the auction are
      May 4,5, and 6.

      The Oaklawn house was the home in Spring Hill where Gen. John Bell Hood spent
      the night of November 29, 1864, expecting to wipe out the Union forces of
      Gen. John Schofield the next morning. Instead, Schofield's troops evacuated
      the town via an unguarded road, setting the stage for the Battle of Franklin
      the next day.

      The mansion was built in 1835 by Absalom Thompson, and at that time contained
      only one floor with ceilings towering sixteen feet high. Although Thompson
      was one of the largest slaveholders in Maury County, he gained the reputation
      of being what was then called a "slave spoiler", noting his kinder attitude
      towards his slaves.

      The rooms of the original home were large, averaging twenty by twenty feet.
      Over the next 15 years, the house began to take the form that visitors see
      today. A second floor was added, along with a front porch, a second floor
      balcony, and the four majestic columns that can still be seen today. During
      these renovations, the estate was flourishing. In 1843, for example, records
      show that it produced 25,000 pounds of cotton.

      Three of Absalom's son's served the Confederacy. Thomas died in battle, while
      his brother Elijah succumbed to TB shortly after the end of the war. It was
      the third son, James, that thrust the home into history's limelight by
      inviting General Hood to spend the night there on the evening of Nov.29,
      1864. James had served as a doctor on the staffs of both Joseph E. Johnston
      and J.B. Hood.

      The Oaklawn house has long been a source of fascination for students of
      Hood's disastrous campaign to recapture Nashville for the Confederacy. Rumors
      have abounded that Hood, who had lost a leg and the use of one arm from
      earlier war wounds, was under the influence of laudanum, an opiate, for the
      pain. Some sources suggest that he might also have had whiskey with or after
      dinner that night, further disordering his judgment.
      He was infuriated to learn that Schofield's troops had escaped, since his
      entire plan of attack was based on destroying these forces before they could
      link up with Gen. George Thomas' forces at Nashville. He left the Absalom
      Thompson house and rode to another Spring Hill residence, the home of Col.
      Nathaniel Cheairs. There he determined, not so much of a battle plan, as
      simply a determination to catch and destroy Schofield by any means necessary.
      Catching him at Franklin, Hood ordered a suicidal charge over two miles of
      open ground, more than twice the distance of Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg.
      Six Confederate generals were killed that day.

      After the war, ownership of the house passed to Dr. James T. S. Thompson. It
      passed out of the Thompson family early in the 20th Century. After a string
      of owners, the house ceased to be used as a residence and was even used as a
      hay barn for a period of time.

      In the 1950s it was restored as a residence by the family of Allen Sloan, and
      they added such amenities as electricity, plumbing and a heating system. In
      1973, country singers George Jones and Tammy Wynette purchased the estate,
      but sold it after one year to the Tower Real Estate Development Corporation.
      Marvin Parker bought the property 10 years ago, and had always been regarded
      as friendly to Civil War causes, allowing several reenactments of such
      battles as Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville to be conducted on the
      property. 

      The sudden listing of the house, and perhaps more importantly the land, came
      as a shock even to those who are considered friends of the Parkers. Panoramic
      pictures of the site show a magnificent estate surrounded by pristine open
      fields, with only a few out-buildings in sight.

      According to authorities at the American Battlefield Protection Program,
      Oaklawn sits on the south end of the "core battlefield" associated with the
      battle of Spring Hill. The town of Spring Hill has been under increasing
      attack of late from Civil War enthusiasts and preservationists. 

      According to recent stories by reporter Gerry Regan, past events reveal a
      disturbing pattern in Spring Hill designed to downplay the significance of
      Spring Hill's Civil War history, even to the extent of denying that a
      "battle" took place there at all. (Regan alerted Civil War Interactive to the
      imminent sale of the Absalom Thompson house, and gave permission for material
      from his Spring Hill stories to be used in this report.

      Regan explored the Spring Hill situation in depth in recent stories at
      Office.com
      and in the March 31, 2001 edition of the Washington Times.)

      Mayor Ray Williams is the leader of these forces. First elected in 1999 and
      reelected last month, he favors continued industrial and commercial growth
      for the town. Since the selection of Spring Hill as the site for the premier
      plant of Saturn Motors Co., the town has seen population rise from about 1400
      to over 9000. The size of the city has expanded, through annexation of
      surrounding territory, as well.

      The amount of green space in Spring Hill has dropped from as much as 70
      percent a decade ago to less than 50 percent today. That figure may drop to
      35 percent by 2010 as the city's population more than doubles, Spring Hill
      City Administrator Ken York says. "The commercial growth is going to change
      the face of Spring Hill," he says.

      According to Regan's report, Mayor Williams, 44, who lists his occupation as
      "a semi-retired builder-developer", owns 211 acres of what a 1993 Federal
      commission described as "core battlefield" at Spring Hill.

      The situation recently came to public attention when the Nashville Tennessean
      reported that another developer, Ira Adams of Brentwood, TN, had requested
      rezoning on another 240 acre parcel he owns with his sons. This was also
      described as "core battlefield" by the same commission. The requested
      rezoning was to allow him to build an industrial park. Military historian
      Dave Stieghan, executive director of Spring Hill's Rippavilla Plantation
      historic site, says Adams' land is where, "the heaviest, concentrated
      fighting took place."

      "If they listen to us preservationists, then they won't be able to sell to
      whatever industrial company comes in," he quoted Effie Heiss, publisher of
      The Informer, a weekly newspaper in Spring Hill. "I guess they're afraid
      we'll stand in their way."

      Cindy Williams, listed as an independent appraiser in Spring Hill, noted that
      land prices there have increased about fourfold in the last decade, to around
      $20,000 an acre. Williams is also the wife of Mayor Ray Williams.

      The mayor denies that self-interest colors his position, noting in Regan's
      story, "I'm not against land preservation, but I believe if a man wants to
      preserve something, he needs to buy it, then he can preserve it."

      Williams says he has had a price tag on his 211 acres "ever since I bought
      it," most recently, says his wife, more than $2 million. In fact, he says,
      "Every piece of property I have is for sale."

      Stieghan agrees that "Adams is perfectly within his rights to develop it as
      he sees fit," though adding that developing it would be "a shame."
      Battlefields are a boon to communities, he says, generating tourists, income
      for local businesses, green space and jobs. "You don't have to provide
      schools and sewer lines for tourists, but you sure can use their money and
      take the taxes from it."

      "I am not trying to spit on the gravesites of anyone who died in that war,"
      says Williams. "It's (Adams') right to develop the land any way he sees fit."
      Williams notes also that Adams' land was rezoned from agricultural to
      industrial nearly 15 years ago and asked why preservationists didn't act then.

      Development pressure has pushed the price of a parcel like Adams' into the
      vicinity of $2 million, a virtually impossible sum for private Civil War
      preservation groups to raise. The State of Tennessee, in a perpetual
      financial crisis due to its reliance on sales taxes for virtually all state
      revenue, is not in a position to help out either. Regan quoted Justin Wilson,
      deputy to Tenn. Gov. Don Sundquist, as saying that the idea of spending state
      money on battlefields "is very new."

      Jim Campi of the Civil War Preservation Trust told CWi that this development
      comes at an extremely unfortunate time, since the CWPT has just begun to make
      inroads in the preservation of Civil War sites in Tennessee. All parties that
      would discuss the matter with CWi admit that the situation looks bleak,
      considering the value of the land in question, and the short time to act
      before the sale. 

      The house and land had been publicly listed for sale several years ago at a
      price of $2.7 million, but no sale resulted. Up until recently Stieghan had
      been in discussion with Marvin Parker about the possibility of both
      Rappavilla and Oaklawn becoming stops on a proposed tour of the areas stately
      historic homes. At the time of this writing, CWi's attempt to get a comment
      from the Tennessee Historical Commission have been unsuccessful.

      (A view of the house and grounds can be seen at Furrow Auction's website,
      www.furrow.com
      . Panoramic views of several rooms of the house, and the
      acreage outside, can be accessed. It appears to work best with versions of
      Netscape earlier than 6.0.)
       
      RELATED LINKS

      Tennessee Locals Fight New Battle of Spring Hill (Gerry Regan - Washington
      Times - search archives)
      A City Shuns Its "Battlefield" Designation (Gerry Regan - Office.com)
      The Second Battle of Spring Hill (CWI)

      The Rape of Spring Hill (CWI)

      © Civil War Interactive, 2001
      www.civilwarinteractive.com







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