Tuesday, January 6, 2015

November 30, 1864

November 30, 1864

Battle of Franklin

--In one of the simplest and most devastating battles of the war, which only lasted a few hours on the evening of Nov. 30,  The C.S. Army of Tennessee broke its back on a smaller Federal army.  Maj. Gen. John Schofield, with about 28,000 men, have (overnight) dug out and erected earthworks that stretch from riverbank to riverbank of the Harpeth River, as it bends to cover the town of Franklin on two sides.  He decides to defend with the river at his back, because he does not have pontoon bridges sufficient to cross his army to safety before the Rebels catch up, and he needs time to repair the existing bridges.  The Federals await what surely will turn out to be a disastrous attack over two miles of open ground. 

In the morning after Spring Hill, as Gen. Hood discovers how the Yankees have escaped in a most spectacular and unlikely fashion, he berates his generals and orders them to prepare an assault over open ground against the Federal positions.  Many of his officers felt as if Hood ordered this assault as a punishment for his derelict officers and men.  Gen. Forrest argues with Hood that if he had an infantry division to supplement his cavalry corps, he could cross the Harpeth and outflank the Yankees.  Hood refuses to consider it. 
Modern re-enactors commemorate Schofield's march past Hood at Spring Hill
After Hood arrives on Winstead Hill, south of town, at 1:00PM, he decides to send in Stewart’s corps, plus much of Cheatham’s corps.  Altogether, he has six infantry divisions, a bit more than 20,000 troops, detailed for the attack.  They are supported by two divisions of cavalry on each flank.  But Gen. Lee’s corps, and most of the army’s artillery, is still on the road from Columbia.  Hood will not wait: with only two batteries to support the attack, his troops step off at around 4:00PM, less than an hour before sunset.  The Confederate lines unfold themselves “as if for dress parade,” according to one witness, with 125 regiments and their colors adding to the scene.  The brass bands in the gray ranks play song after song as the lines moved forward. 

from a contemporary print: the two-mile route from Winstead Hill to Franklin

As the gray lines cross the field, they attack and overwhelm a forward line held by Gen. Wagner’s Federals, the remains of which retreat to the main line.  Three divisions of Union infantry hold the line which centers on the Carter plantation and cotton house.  A Union soldier describes the sight:

Soon we noticed the right of Stewart’s command wrapping around Conrad’s left, and then our men rose up and the break commenced.  It was a grand sight!  For the moment we were spellbound with admiration, although they were our hated foes. . . . the afternoon sun, like a ball of fire, was settling in all its southern splendor in a molten sea of bronze, over the distant hills, and in the hazy golden light. . . .
The Confederate advance

As the Confederates near the main Federal line, the first Federal volley fires, “and the long line of gray went down like over-ripe grain before a blast of wind and hail.”  Blasts of artillery firing canister from the Union works do ghastly work on the once-fine Southern ranks.  At one point, the Rebels breach the blue line, and several defending regiments break and flee: the Federal line is broken.  Two Union regiments, formed from Unionist Tennessee and Kentucky men, counterattack and stem the gray tide. 
Re-enactors stage the Battle of Franklin.
Behind the Carter House, where the focus of the struggle was, Col. Opdyke and his brigade of Illinois men charge forward into the gap, and break the back of the Confederate break-through for good.  
Bullet holes that remain in the buildings at the Carter House

The climax of the Confederate attack, with Opdyke's counterattack

As the Rebels are pressed back, hundreds are caught on the Union side of the fortifications, and surrender.  At this point, the Rebels cannot retreat, but are trapped on the outside of the earthworks, while Federal rifle fire is too dense to allow a retreat.  In addition, the structure of the Union earthworks allow enfilade fire on any Rebels sheltering on the outside of the walls.  So, both sides fight each other from each side of the same earthen wall.  Many of the Southerners have it tougher: as they tried to approach the Federal lines, heavy clumps of cheval-de-frise (sharpened stakes) impeded their advance, and along a large portion of the line, dense hedges of thornsome Osage Orange bushes grow, nearly impenetrable.  The deep ditch in front of the earthworks becomes filled with dead and wounded Confederates; their comrades stand on top of them, loading and firing, or handing up rifles to those at the top.  

Detail of the fighting in the Union center, around the Carter House

D.H. Patterson remembers that “two lines of men fought with but a pile of dirt between them.  In firing, the muzzles of the guns would pass each other, and nine times out of ten, when a man rose to fire he fell back dead.”  Another soldier noted that many men had both hands shot off.  The fighting goes on until long after dark, and finally stops around 9:00PM. 

Confederate commanders are shot down in large numbers.  Gen. Cleburne, the most celebrated battlefield commander in the Army of Tennessee, is dead, and fourteen of his regimental and brigade commanders are down.  In Brown’s division, he has been wounded, in addition to all four of his brigade commanders: Generals States Rights Gist, Otho Strahl, John C. Carter, and George Washington Gordon.  Entire formations of infantry are blown down by point-blank canister fire from the Federal artillery. 

Hood’s last resort is to take the only reserves he has on hand---Edward “Alleghany” Johnson’s division from Lee’s corps, just arrived---and to send them forward in a bid to break an already-strained Union line.  But the Union line is not in the least strained, and Johnson comes back after one attack with heavy casualties.  

Fourteen Confederate generals are casualties:  6 dead, 7 wounded, and one captured.  The six dead generals were Cleburne, Adams, Gist, Carter, Granbury, and Strahl.  The field is a dreadful sight: the dead are packed so thickly along one portion of the earthworks, the corpses were all standing upright, including one dead officer on his dead horse.  It remains one of the most harrowing stories of war. 

After dark, as the Confederates are gathering and burying the dead, Schofield has finished the bridges, and he and his troops withdraw quietly and safely across the Harpeth River and march up to Nashville.  Union Victory.

Losses:     Dead    Wounded   Capt/Missing       Total

U.S.            189        1,033             1,104              2,326       

C.S.            1,750     3,800               702              6,252

November 29, 1864

November 29, 1864

--- Franklin-Nashville Campaign:  Maj. Gen. John Schofield is expecting reinforcements, namely A.J. Smith’s corps fresh from the disastrous Red River campaign.  Also, Jacob Cox’s division is being sent from Nashville by Thomas.  Hood, with Cheatham and Stewart’s corps, crosses the river and marches for Spring Hill, between Schofield and his base at Nashville.  Schofield receives messages from his cavalry and others that Hood is behind him, north of Columbia, but does not believe it under after noon, when he starts to send his troops northward.

Major General John Schofield, USA

Battle of Spring Hill:  Schofield first sends his 800-wagon supply train up the Columbia Pike, along with Gen. Stanley and a division of his corps, to protect the wagons and also to hold the crossroads at Spring Hill so that the rest of Schofield’s troops can pass through, and avoid being trapped by Hood’s sweep around the rear of Columbia.  But it is not until 3:00 PM that Schofield orders the rest of his troops to start marching north to Franklin.  Stanley quickly arrives and deploys Wagner’s division into lines around three sides of Spring Hill.  Forrest, with his dismounted cavalry, strikes at the Union lines but finds them solid; the Rebel cavalry are driven off with losses.  Later in the afternoon, Hood and the infantry begin to arrive, moving north along the Rally Hill Pike.  Hood gives orders to deploy and conduct a right wheel into the Columbia Pike, thus isolating Stanley and blocking the rest of Schofield’s force.  

Afternoon at Spring Hill

But the orders are muddled, and units go astray.  Gen. Cheatham sends Cleburne and Granbury from his corps to advance, and intends that Bate’s division shall accompany this advance, shielding the left flank.  But Hood then orders Bate to advance straight forward to the Columbia Pike.  Cheatham does not know of the change.  As Bate approaches the Columbia Pike, his skirmishers encounter Gen. Thomas Ruger’s troops from the Federal XXIII Corps, marching up the pike.  At this moment, messengers from Cheatham arrive and re-direct Bate to turn north and go with Cleburne in the original sweep.  Bate later tells his superiors of the presence of Union columns on the Pike, but Cheatham does not consider it to be a significant force.  By a little after 4:00 PM, Cleburne’s advance strikes Bradley’s brigade of Federals, but the brigades go in piecemeal, and heavy artillery fire from the Yankees slows them down.  Cheatham wants to attack with Brown’s division, but Brown informs him that Federals are posted out on their flank.  By 11:00PM, after desultory fighting and after more orders go awry, the Confederates stop where they are and bivouac in the field.  Bate’s division and that of Edward Johnson, of Lee’s corps, camp right along the Columbia Pike, many of the tents less than 20 yards away from the road.  

Confederate divisions in bivouac as Schofield's troops slip by

But the bulk of Schofield’s army, over 20,000 men, marching with muffled equipment, pass silently up the road to Franklin, unnoticed by the slumbering Confederates, who were sure that they had Schofield trapped.  The Federals slip by, and Hood loses his greatest chance to inflict a heavy blow to the Union forces in Tennessee.  Union Victory.

November 28, 1864

November 28, 1864

-- Franklin-Nashville Campaign:  Having pulled his supply trains and artillery north of the Duck River, Schofield is avoiding a major clash that he assumes will come from the south.  Meanwhile, ten miles west of Columbia, Hood prepares to cross northward with most of his army, thus flanking the Federals.  The only cavalry Schofield has is 4,300 riders under James Wilson, who is hard-pressed to hold off Forrest and his 10,000 gray troopers.  Wilson is pushed back toward Spring Hill, and is unable to cover Schofield’s flank as he should.

---Gen. Thomas Rosser, of the Confederate Cavalry, raids up into Maryland, destroying a B&O railroad bridge, and then retreats back down the Shenandoah Valley.

---George Templeton Strong writes in his diary of the latest news about Sherman’s March, which is beginning to attain notoriety up North:

Our news from Sherman through rebel channels indicates that he is marching on---ploughing a deep furrow many miles wide through Georgia and destroying a vital nerve-system of railroad; that he has passed by Macon, has harried Milledgeville [Georgia’s state capital], and is threatening Savannah. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

November 25, 1864

November 25, 1864

New York City:  Southern arsonists, under orders from the C.S. Secret Service, set fire to ten New York City hotels, Barnum’s museum, and a few theaters.  Contrary to the Rebel agents’ wishes, the fires do not spread to the rest of the city, and none of the fires does very much damage, and are put out rather quickly.  Among the targeted hotels are the Astor House, the Saint James, the Belmont, and the Metropolitan.  But the incidents rouse up a tide of Northern paranoia about Confederate agents and what they might do.  A man named R.C. Kennedy ends up being arrested for setting the fire at Barnum’s Museum, and is executed for the crime.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

November 27, 1864

November 27, 1864


Franklin-Nashville Campaign:  Hood’s 39,000 men, consisting of three corps, under Stephen D. Lee, Benjamin F. Cheatham, and Alexander P. Stewart, are able to concentrate.  Also attached to Hood’s army is Nathan B. Forrest’s corps of cavalry, but there is bad blood between Forrest and Hood, and the two generals do not communicate well.  Hood orders Lee to concentrate south of Columbia as a feint, while he marches Stewart and Cheatham to cross the river west of Columbia.

November 26, 1864

November 26, 1864

-- Franklin-Nashville Campaign:  After having abandoned Atlanta, Gen. John B. Hood, commanding the 39,000 troops of the Army of Tennessee, knows he cannot stop Sherman’s march on the battlefield.  As Sherman begins his March to the Sea through Georgia, Hood sidesteps into northern Alabama to cross the Tennessee River and invade Tennessee in an attempt to disrupt Sherman’s plans and draw him back north to defend Federal-occupied Tennessee, and his supply lines.  Hood does not fully yet realize that Sherman has no intentions of turning back, and has abandoned his supply lines, to live off the land, thus punishing even more the state of Georgia as he marches through.

Hood’s army remains in Palmetto, Georgia for much of September.  Early in October, he makes a march toward Chattanooga, beating Yankee forces in a few insignificant engagements, and finally captures the Federal garrison at Dalton.  The Rebels destroy railroads and supplies, doing their best to discomfit Sherman.  Hood then turns west, into Alabama.  Sherman sends troops to chase Hood, but he finally gives up and determines to abandon his supply line for the upcoming campaign to Savannah.  Sherman detaches Thomas and Schofield with the 55,000 men to keep watch over Tennessee.  Thomas arrives in Nashville, and begins to beef up its defenses.  He assigns Schofield to move south into central Tennessee to block Hood’s moves.  As Hood advances, he passes up Schofield’s force at Pulaski, hoping to cut off the smaller Yankee force from its base in Nashville.  At the last moment, on Nov. 24, Gen. Schofield abandons his post in Pulaski and speeds north to block the Rebels from crossing the Duck River at Columbia. 

Opening moves: After leaving Florence, Alabama, Hood's army moves swiftly into central Tennessee

By this date, Nov. 26, Hood has marched his battered army up into central Tennessee, and approaches Columbia, finding Union troops entrenched south of the city, blocking all roads north.  Forrest’s cavalry provides excellent screening, so that the Federals are clueless as to where Hood is, as skirmishing all around the Federal lines flares up. 

---March to the Sea:  Sherman’s troops continue sporadic fighting with Confederate troops near Sanderson, Georgia.

November 22, 1864

November 22, 1864

Battle of Griswoldville, Georgia:  A Federal brigade under Brig. Gen. Charles C. Walcutt advances to assist Kilpatrick’s cavalry being attacked by Wheeler’s gray cavalry.  Walcutt drives the Rebels back, but is then counterattacked by three successive brigades of Georgia militia, who suffer heavy casualties.  Walcutt digs in and retains his position.  The Federals capture nearly 600 Rebels.  Union Victory.

Losses:   U.S., 100    C.S., 1,100