Launch Party for Lizzies’ War at Gallery 202 on Tuesday, Oct. 23

On Nov. 30, 1864, the ground ran red. Often called the bloodiest five hours in the history of America, the story of the Battle of Franklin has been recounted through textbooks and works of fiction—but it’s never been told like this.

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, the public is invited to celebrate the release of Lizzie’s War, a new historical novel by Franklin on Foot Owner Margie Thessin (Downtown Franklin Association member) that focuses on local children’s lives during the Civil War. The book launch will be held at DFA member Gallery 202 in downtown Franklin from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the author will be on hand during the event to sign copies of the book and speak to guests.

In a moving tale based on true stories, Lizzie’s War explores life under Union occupation through one young girl’s perspective. Many of the names—the Carters, McGavocks, Lotzes, McEwens and Courtneys—will be familiar to locals.

“After reading documents written by Franklin children who lived during that time, I was struck by the level of detail years after the battle,” Thessin said. “For them, it was like 9/11 was for us—except I watched 9/11 on television, and they lived through it. I think incorporating real eye witnesses will help demonstrate the powerful tragedy and compound the emotional impact on readers.”

The novel follows eight-year-old Lizzie Courtney’s early life, from her idyllic childhood all the way through that “day of days,” when her world became wrought with chaos. In a thoroughly engaging story of fear and loss, Thessin shows how the War Between the States affected the civilian population of the South.

“At last, Margie’s given us a literary masterpiece, written on Franklin’s Civil War story from the necessary perspective of a child,” said Battle of Franklin Trust Associate Historian Rob Cross. “Lizzie’s War gives readers of all ages—especially children—a remarkable, tangible story that arrests the imagination and never lets go.”

Illustrator Sam Whitson, a retired colonel in the United States Army, used detailed drawings to help portray the heart-wrenching circumstances many Americans found themselves in at the time, how the war divided families and split communities.

“Sam’s drawings perfectly depict the book’s characters and action,” Thessin said. “Though he had never done a project like this, his talent is incredible. The finished project includes the cover art, seven drawings and a Franklin map with familiar landmarks.”

Thessin’s background has lead to a career as an expert storyteller, and she brings a unique narrative to life as vividly on paper as she does in person. A history major in college and an attorney by trade, she stopped practicing law 25 years ago and co-founded the walking tour company Franklin on Foot in 2003.

Thessin spent three years as the director of group tours and special events at historic Carnton Plantation, and served as its interim executive director in 2008-2009. She also serves on the City of Franklin’s Battlefield Preservation Commission.

“Telling Franklin’s history and the stories entrenched in it has become my life. It’s what I love to do,” she says. “It’s captivating how rich and wide-ranging our heritage in this area is.”

Thessin drew from years of working with children to complete Lizzie’s War.  From 1998 to 2004, she helped introduce thousands of school children to Franklin’s story as a teacher for the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County’s Heritage Classroom program. She recently returned to that position. She has also created I Spy Franklin, a self-guided workbook that acts a learning tool for children by engaging participants in a discussion of the town’s history.

For more information about Thessin or Franklin on Foot, visit or call 615-400-3808. Lizzie’s War retails for $12 and is a 140-page trade paperback. It may be purchased through the website or at local bookstores.