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Capt. William F. Gibson, Co I, 8th Arkansas Infantry

A descendant of William F. Gibson sent me this picture of the Arkansas Confederate who served in Govan’s Brigade, Cleburne’s Division while at Franklin. The 8th Arkansas Infantry fought near the Cotton Gin.

According to family records and post-war accounts, Gibson was carrying the colors of the 8th Arkansas when the Confederate assault upon the Cotton Gin took place.  He was shot through the face with a ball, and in the stomach.  Lying on the field, and bleeding to death, a Union soldier noticed the wounded Confederate and was apparently going to finish him off when another Union soldier noticed Gibson was wearing a Masonic pin [see pic of an 1863 Masonic pin]. Despite being enemies on the field their Masonic fraternity rose beyond the blood of the battlefield.

The nearly fatally wounded Gibson was allowed to be carried to a local resident’s home, the Cummins’ – whose house was used as a civilian post-battle hospital. A local resident named Laura attended to Gibson and saved his life.  Mrs. Lucy Cummins attempted to disguise the Confederate soldier from Arkansas who wanted to escape from Franklin and take his chances of recovering further south.

However, his flight to Columbia took place the same time the Federal Army came back through Franklin in mid December as they were chasing Hood’s whipped Army of Tennessee that had just been decimated at Franklin and Nashville (Dec 15-16, 1864).  Gibson was captured and sent to Camp Chase in Ohio as a Union prisoner of war.

Gibson survived the war and moved back to Arkansas where he died in 1907. There is a lot more to this story. Stay tuned.

The Cummins’ home

A very nice crowd came out today to listen to Maury County historian Bob Duncan, talk about the history behind St. John’s Church, in Columbia, Tennessee. The church is rarely open to the public. The Franklin Civil War Round Table sponsored today’s event.

St. John’s is famous for what Confederate General Patrick R. Cleburne is supposed to have said about it in late November 1864 when he was passing it, on the way to Franklin just days later. He is supposed to have remarked to aides something to the effect, “This church is such lovely place. One would almost wish to die so one could be buried here.” Cleburne would indeed lose his life just days later at Franklin and his remains were initially interred here by Chaplain Charles Todd Quintard.

Cleburne was supposedly originally buried in this area (below) behind the church.

A memorial plaque was installed on the church exterior in 1947 and reads as follows:

Erected in 1842 for worship and spiritual instruction of white and negro people, built under
supervisions of the Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, Bishop of Louisiana, on land given by him and with labor and materials contributed by him and his brothers, R.K. Polk, G.W. Polk, L.J. Polk, and Dr. W.J. Polk. Delivered into care and custody of the Bishop of Tenn. as the property of the Diocese of Tenn.

Consecrated Sept 4, 1842, by Rt. Rev. James Hervey Otey, D.D., Bishop of Tenn., assisted by Bishop Polk.

Bishop Otey, whose remains rest in the church-yard, was born Jn. 27, 1800; consecrated in Christ Church, Philadelphia, Jan. 14, 1834; died April 23, 1863, in Memphis, Tenn.

At the Battle of Franklin in Nov. 1864, the following Confederate Generals were killed, and among others were buried in St. John’s Church-yard by Chaplain Charles Todd Qunitard, M.D., their bodies afterward being removed to their respective states.

Maj.-Gen. Patrick Cleburne   Brig. Gen. H.B. Granberry

Brig. Gen O.P. Strahl   Brig. Gen. S.R. Gist

Annual pilgrimages, held on the last Sunday in May with services led by Bishop of Tenn., were initiated in 1921.

Custody and upkeep of the property is in charge of St. John’s Association, organized May 25, 1924.

Rt. Rev. James M. Mason, D,D. President, Wm Dudley Gale, Treas.

This memorial erected 1947 by

Diocese of Tennessee

St. John’s Association

Tennessee Historical Commission

I took a lot of photos of the exterior (grounds and cemetery), the interior, and the exterior of the church itself. They are accessible from this Flickr gallery.

Historian Bob Duncan gave a very informative and entertaining talk about the church. The last regular meeting in the church was in 1915. Since then it only hosts an annual service on Whitsunday.

Vandals did a lot of damage to the church in 2001 but the community pulled together to clean it up and ready it for the annual service just a couple weeks later.

There has never been any significant restoration done to the church since its consecration in 1842. It is in remarkable condition. The bricks and wood used for the construction of the church, and its furniture, were all provided on site.

The Polk family of Columbia, Tenn., built the church as a family/plantation church.

March promises to be one of the most incredible hand’s on meetings we will have as we meet at St John’s Church just outside Columbia.  It was in this church’s cemetery that Patrick Cleburne, when passing it before the Battle of Franklin, noted its beauty and said it would be a good place to be laid to rest.  In a touch of irony, he was buried there after his death at Franklin until his removal to Arkansas in 1870.  Maury County historian Bob Duncan will speak at this event and show us some of the incredible gravesites of history buried there.  And for those who wish to explore more, the burial site of Sam Watkins (Company Aytch) is just a couple of miles away.  St John’s is not often open to the public, so you will not want to miss this incredible opportunity.

 

Dec. 7th, 1864
[Nashville]

Dear Bro,

I wrote . . . the other day after we reached this place but I was hurried so that I couldn’t write as much as I would have liked . . . .

I suppose you have heard the particulars of the Franklin fight by this time, as the papers of this place are full of it — but maybe you would like to hear the part that our Regiment took in it, so I will try to explain it. Tho I wasn’t in our works during the heaviest of the fight, as I stated before. I was sent back to draw rations but I saw it and I’m not particularly anxious to see such another battle, tho it was a great victory for us.

Gen Reilly’s Brigade was in position on the left of the Cumberland pike, our Regiment being 2nd in line on the right. We joined Gen Cooper’s 2nd Division, 23rd A.C. They connected with the 4th A.C. Col. Casement’s Brigade of our Division on our left. The enemy charged with 2 Divisions, Gen Cleburne of Hardee’s old Corps in our immediate front on the left of the pike. I forgot the name of the other General on the right, our skirmish line was about 1/4 mile in advance of the works, supported by Wagner’s Brigade of the 4th Co. The enemy advanced in two oblique lines, their left in our front — almost resting on our works, their right extended along the road joining on the right — which  was formed in the same manner except that on this side, their right was nearest our lines . . ..  They came up in splendid style, our artillery from across the river, throwing shell into their ranks without checking them in the least.  The Brigade of the 4th Corps were overpowered in a moment and came rushing back in the wildest confusion over our line  — almost breaking it.  The rebels kept close . . . on them, so that our men couldn’t fire until they were within a few yards.  When they did open on them, mowing them down by scores, we had several pieces of artillery in the line which poured grape and cannister into their ranks. At last, finding it too hot for them, they fell back one hundred yards, into a ravine, which they reformed and came up again. This time as steady as clock works. They charged right up to our ditch, many of them jumping over the boys heads. Some were shot while standing on the headlogs. Our Co. was the left-center of the Regiment and next to our colors and here the fighting was hottest. The line to our right was, at one time, driven back and the rebels came pouring over the works. I am proud to say, that not a man in Co. G flinched, tho every Co. to the right fell back. Gen.s Reilly, Cox and Schofield were in the most exposed places, trying to rally the men who had fallen back from a misunderstanding of orders. Up they went again, taking their old position and capturing many prisoners. Off to the right, the enemy held our line for sometime but after a desperate struggle, everything was retaken and the enemy fell back a short distance but still keeping up a heavy fire.  It was now dark and we expected another attack would be made but they had evidently had enough of it. After the firing had slackened the boys went out in front of the works to help any of our boys who were lying outside. Very few were wounded outside of the works, but you can’t imagine the appearance of the field. The ditch was literally piled with dead and wounded and for rods you could scarcely walk without stepping on a body. They laid in every position imaginable. Some were in the act of loading, some drawing the trigger. Our fire had been very effective, nearly all were struck below the breast. Several officers rode their horses right onto the works and horses & riders fell back into the ditch.

You can imagine how desperate the struggle was in front of our colors when 5 (stand0 of colors were captured in front of them, the color bearers were all killed. One of them planted his standing in our works and snatched at our colors which were floating there, but our color Sergeant was too quick for him, he pulled them off the works and the reb fell back dead. An officer, said to be Gen. Cleburne was killed in front of our Co. The rebels came over our works by scores, throwing down their guns, they were sent back to the rear and as men couldn’t well be spared just then to guard them, I suppose 1/2 of them made their escape as it was. We kept 1,700 of them, you may judge that they were terribly cut-up when after the fight was over several men came over the works with ammunition, expecting to find their men in possession, as they said, they didn’t meet any going back except a few stragglers. Officers, who were over the field after the fight estimate their loss in killed and wounded at from 500 to 600, which is a moderate estimate I think. It has been said by men who have witnessed some of the hardest fought battles of the war, that they never saw a more desperate fight. Cleburne’s Division we have always heard spoken of, as the flower of the Southern Army, and they boasted that they have never before been whipped. I don’t believe that braver men live than they were, but now there are but few left to tell the tale who will ever charge a Yankee line again.

About midnight we evacuated the place and fell back to this place. We had to leave some of our wounded in their hands as it was so dark that we couldn’t find them. Our loss was comparatively slight, about 700 in all, the 104th lost 62 mostly wounded. We had six of our best men wounded, none killed which is very fortunate . . .

I will enclose a little shred of our old flag which the Color Sergeant handed me the day after the fight. It is so ragged that it will scarcely hold together but we will prize it all the more for that.  We will never dishonor it, the little piece of red is part of a rebel flag we captured.

Source: (p. 125-127)

“Burning Rails as We Pleased”: The Civil War Letters of of William Garrigues Bentley, 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. McFarland, 2011.

Here’s a word cloud based on his letter:

“Our loss of officers in the battle of Franklin on the 30th was excessively large in proportion to the loss of our men. The medical director reports a very large proportion of slightly wounded men.”

- John Bell Hood, writing two days after the battle to Confederate Secretary of War, James A. Seddon.

The bodies of several dead Confederate Generals (Cleburne, Granbury, Strahl, and Adams) were laid out on the porch at Carnton (see above) after the battle on November 30, 1864.

The South lost 53 of 100 regimental commanders in the field at Franklin. Granbury’s brigade alone lost 70% of their regimental commanders. Undeterred, Hood would unmercilously throw his beleaguered Army of Tennessee against Thomas in another suicidal attack just two weeks later, effectively destroying his army. He would be replaced within weeks of the loss at Nashville, having led the Army of Tennessee for roughly six months.

“Following the battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, the house became a Confederate field hospital. During the night following the five-hour battle, the McGavocks and their two children Hattie (age nine) and Winder (age seven) assisted the surgeons and tended to the needs of the wounded. Several hundred eventually came to Carnton and 150 died that first night. Bloodstains are still visible in several rooms. They are heaviest in the children’s bedroom, which was used as an operating room. The bodies of Confederate Generals Cleburne, Granbury, Strahl, and Adams were brought to Carnton’s rear porch and placed on its lower level awaiting removal to their final burial places. Most of the over 1,750 Confederate dead were buried on the battlefield, their graves marked by wooden headboards inscribed with the soldier’s name, company, and regiment. Over the months, the writing faded, and the markers began to disappear. “

The Carnton Plantation is a historic house museum located in Franklin. Randal McGavock (1768-1843), builder of Carnton, emigrated from Virginia in 1796 and settled in Nashville. He was involved in local and state politics and eventually served as mayor of Nashville, 1824-25. Around 1826 McGavock moved his family to the recently completed Carnton to farm and raise thoroughbred horses until his death in 1843. After his death, his son John inherited the plantation and continued to farm the land until his own death in 1893. The McGavocks grew wheat, corn, oats, hay, and potatoes, in addition to raising thoroughbred horses”

The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture

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Kraig McNutt is the author and publisher of this blog. He has been blogging on Franklin for over five years and on the Civil War in general since 1995. Email him.

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Summary of the Battle of Franklin

The Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864 in Franklin, Tennessee; in Williamson County. John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee (around 33,000 men) faced off with John M. Schofield's Army of the Ohio and the Cumberland (around 30,000 men). Often cited as "the bloodiest five hours" during the American Civil War, the Confederates lost between 6,500 - 7,500 men, with 1,750 dead. The Federals lost around 2,000 - 2,500 men, with just 250 or less killed. Hood lost 30,000 men in just six months (from July 1864 until December 15). The Battle of Franklin was fought mostly at night. Several Confederate Generals were killed, including Patrick Cleburne, and the Rebels also lost 50% of their field commanders. Hood would limp into Nashville two weeks later before suffering his final defeat before retreating to Pulaski in mid December. Hundreds of wounded Confederate soldiers were taken to the John and Carrie McGavock home - Carnton - after the battle. She became known as the Widow of the South. The McGavock's eventually donated two acres to inter the Confederate dead. Almost 1,500 Rebel soldiers are buried in McGavock Confederate Cemetery, just in view of the Carnton house.

Make sure to check-out the Google Map of the Franklin Civil War Guide.
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