Franklin, Tennessee; November 30, 1864

Franklin, Tenn.
NOV. 30TH, 1864

Franklin, Tenn., Nov. 30, 1864.

4th and 23rd Army Corps.

After Gen. Hood, commanding the Confederate forces at Atlanta
was compelled to evacuate that city he started northward with
the main body of his army, in the hope that by cutting Gen.
Sherman’s line of communications he could draw that officer
after him and thus transfer the war to Tennessee. Sherman did
follow until everything was in readiness for the march to the
sea, when he suddenly changed front and started for Savannah,
Having previously divided his army and Sent Maj.-Gen. George
H. Thomas to Nashville with a sufficient force to take care of
Hood. During the first half of November Hood confined himself
to operations around Florence, Ala., where he was joined by
about 10,000 Cavalry Under Forrest, Giving him a compact army
of from 50,000 to 60,000 men of all Arms. Thomas had a
movable army of 22,000 infantry and 4,300 cavalry, in addition
to which he had the garrisons at Chattanooga Nashville,
Murfreesboro, and some other points. On Oct. 29, Gen. A. J
Smith was ordered to report to Thomas at Nashville with three
divisions of the 16th corps, then operating in Missouri, and
Thomas hoped for the arrival of these troops in time to give
Hood battle south of the Duck river. To delay the Confederate
advance he sent Hatch’s cavalry to obstruct the roads crossing
Shoal creek and send rafts down the Tennessee River to break
Hood’s pontoon bridges. He also ordered Gen. Schofield, with
about 20,000 men, to Pulaski to hold Hood in check until Smith
could join the army at Nashville. On Nov. 20, Gen. Beauregard
telegraphed Hood from West Point, Miss., to “push an active
offensive immediately.” Pursuant to this order Hood placed
his army in motion, defeated the Union troops at Pulaski,
Lawrenceburg and in some minor engagements, and on the 29th
forced Schofield to evacuate the line of Duck river and fall
back to Franklin, which Place the Head of the column reached
about daylight on the morning of the 30th. Franklin is located
on the south side and in a big bend of the Harpeth River.
Thomas had ordered Schofield to fall back behind the river,
but when the latter arrived at Franklin he found no wagon
bridge across the river and the fords in such bad condition
that it would be impossible to get his train across before
Hood’s forces would be upon him. The railroad bridge was
quickly floored for the passage of the trains and a foot
bridge constructed, which also proved available for wagons.
Three turnpikes-the Lewisburg, Columbia and Carter’s
Creek-entered the town from the south, and as fast as the
troops came up they were placed in position to cover These
Roads. Cox’s division of the 23rd corps formed on the left,
extending from the river above the town across the Lewisburg
Road Ruger’s division of the same corps joined Cox on the
right, extending the line to the Carter’s creek pike and
Kimball’s division of the 4th corps was formed facing West,
completing the line from the Carter’s creek pike to the river
below the town. Opdyke’s brigade of Wagner’s division (23rd
corps) was placed in reserve West of the Columbia Road, and
the other two brigades (Lane’s and Conrad’s) occupied a
barricade across that road about 800 yards in advance of the
main line. On the north side of the river, opposite the upper
end of the town, stood Fort Granger, which had been erected
about a year before. Part of the artillery of the 23rd corps
was placed here, so as to command the railroad and the
Lewisburg pike on the other side of the River. Wood’s
division of the 4th corps was stationed on the north bank of
the river as a reserve and a guard for the trains after they
had crossed. At 1 p.m. heavy columns of Confederate infantry
were reported advancing on the Columbia Road. Croxton, with
his cavalry brigade, held back the enemy’s infantry until 2
o’clock, when he learned that Forrest was crossing the river
above, and fell back to the north side, where he joined Gen.
Wilson’s Cavalry on Wood’s Left, to operate against Forrest.

By 3 p.m. the trains were all on the north side of the
Harpeth and Schofield Gave Orders for the army to Cross at 6
o’clock, unless attacked sooner by the enemy. About 3:30
Hood’s main line of battle advanced against Conrad and Lane in
the outer barricade. Wagner had been directed to check the
enemy without bringing on a general engagement, but he had in
turn ordered Lane and Conrad to hold their positions just as
Long as possible. As soon as the Confederate advance came
within range the two brigades opened fire. The enemy in front
was checked for a moment, then sweeping round on either flank
drove Wagner’s men back to the main line in disorder. In the
Race for the parapets they were so closely pursued by the
yelling Confederates that it was impossible for those in the
trenches to fire on the enemy for fear of killing some of
their own comrades. Lane’s men succeeded in gaining the
trenches without disturbing the lines behind the works, but
Conrad’s brigade came over the parapet to the right of the
Columbia Road with such impetuosity that the troops at that
point were carried back by the fugitives, leaving about 300
yards without any protection whatever. Toward this gap Hood’s
heavy lines now commenced to converge and for a brief time it
looked as though Schofield’s army was doomed to annihilation.
But Col. White, commending Reilly’s second line, and Col.
Opdycke, whose brigade it will be remembered was stationed in
reserve, were equal to the emergency. Without waiting for
orders they hurled their commands into the breach and not only
checked but repulsed the mad rush of the enemy. Opdycke’s men
recaptured 8 pieces of artillery that had fallen into the
hands of the enemy, and with the guns took 400 prisoners and
10 battle flags. Behind Opdycke and White Wagner’s
disorganized brigades were formed, Strickland’s brigade
rallying with them, and the Confederates were driven back at
all points. While rallying the Men Gen. Stanley was severely
wounded in the neck and compelled to leave the field. This
attack in the center was made by Cleburne’s and Brown’s
divisions of Cheatham’s Corps. Cleburne was killed within a
few yards of the Federal works as he followed Conrad’s Men on
their retreat.

Although the first attack in the center was the most
determined and the fighting there resulted in heavy losses to
both sides, the battle was not all there. Cox’s Line on the
left was heavily assaulted by Loring and Walthall’s divisions.
Cox’s Men were partly screened by a hedge of Osage Orange,
behind which they waited until the enemy was within easy
range, and then opened a fire that fairly mowed down the
advancing lines. The brunt of the attack fell on Casement’s
brigade, but his men were well seasoned veterans who had
learned to “fire low.” They held their ground against
superior numbers and repulsed every attack. It was here that
Confederate Gens. Adams, Scott and Quarles were killed, the
first named mounting the parapet, where his horse was killed
and he fell mortally wounded inside the works. The carnage
among the Confederate officers was so great at this point that
Walthall Says in his report: “So heavy were the losses in his
(Quarles’) Command that when the battle ended its highest
officer in rank was a captain.” The batteries of the 4th
corps, stationed on an eminence near the railroad rendered
effective service in driving Back Loring and Walthall by
enfilading their lines with a murderous fire of canister. To
the West of the Columbia Pike Brown’s division gained and held
the outside of the Federal parapet, but the troops inside
threw up a barricade within 25 yards of their old works, and
across this narrow space the battle raged fiercely until a
late hour, the men firing at the flash of each other’s guns
after darkness fell. In this division Gens. Strahl and Gist
were killed, Gordon was captured and Manigault wounded and
left on the field. Still further to the West Ruger’s Right
and Kimball’s left were assaulted by Bate’s division but the
attack was neither so fierce nor so persistent as in the
center or on the Federal left. Firing continued at various
places along the lines until nearly midnight, Hood’s object
being to prevent, or at least to embarrass the withdrawal of
the Union troops from the field.

While this infantry battle was going on the south side of
the river the cavalry was not Idle. Forrest had crossed the
Harpeth above Franklin and made a desperate effort to get at
Schofield’s trains. Hatch Croxton and Wilson United their
forces to resist the movement, and the result was Forrest was
driven back across the river. During the Night Schofield Drew
Off his forces and retired to Brentwood in obedience to orders
from Thomas. The Union losses in the battle of Franklin were
189 killed, 1,033 wounded and 1,104 missing. In his history
of the Army of the Cumberland Van Borne Says: “Gen. Hood
buried 1,750 men on the field. He had 3,800 so disabled as to
be placed in hospitals, and lost 702 captured-an aggregate of
6,252, exclusive of those slightly wounded.”

Source: The Union Army, vol. 5

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