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Jacob Dolson Cox, The March to the Sea, Chapter Five: Battle of Franklin (Download in PDF)

The Battle of Franklin Tennessee November 30, 1864, by Jacob D. Cox, 1897 (Entire book in PDF)

Jacob Dolson Cox, (Jr.) (October 27, 1828 – August 4, 1900) was a lawyer, a Union Army general during the American Civil War, and later a Republican politician from Ohio. He served as the 28th Governor of Ohio and as United States Secretary of the Interior. (Wikipedia)

The 4th and 23rd Corps (U.S.), respectively served at Franklin.

Here’s some background the 23rd Corps during the Civil War:

Lenoir; Blue Springs; Campbell’s Station; Knoxville; Mossy Creek; Dandridge; Walker’s Ford; Strawberry Plains; Rocky Face Ridge; Resaca; Cassville; Dallas; Pine Mountain; Lost Mountain; Culp’s Farm; Kenesaw ; Chattahoochie; Decatur ; Siege Of Atlanta; Utoy Creek; Lovejoy’s Station; Columbia; Spring Hill; Franklin; Nashville; Fort Anderson, N. C.; Town Creek; Wilmington; Kinston; Goldsboro.

General Burnside was assigned to the command of the Department of the Ohio in the spring of 1863, his district including Kentucky and East Tennessee. The Ninth Corps left Virginia at this time and was assigned to his command; but, having planned an active campaign in East Tennessee, and needing additional troops, he organized the Twenty-third Corps from the regiments then stationed in Kentucky.

This new corps was formed April 27, 1863, with Major-General George L. Hartsuff in command. Generals Julius White and Milo S. Hascall were assigned to division commands.

The proposed campaign in East Tennessee was postponed, as the Ninth Corps was ordered to Vicksburg, to reinforce Grant’s army; but in August, the Ninth Corps returned to Kentucky, and the advance of the Twenty-third commenced. The Second Division (White’s) made its rendezvous at New Market, from whence it marched on the 19th, arriving at Loudon, Tenn., on the 4th of September. General Longstreet’s Corps had been detached from Lee’s Army, and, in October, 1863, marched into East Tennessee to drive out Burnside’s Army of the Ohio, as the united forces of the Ninth and Twenty-third Corps were then designated. The fighting was continuous, minor engagements occurring almost daily, and on November l6th a spirited battle occurred at Campbell’s Station, in which White’s Division was actively engaged. Burnside moved next to Knoxville, which place was invested and finally assaulted by Longstreet, but without success. At Campbell’s Station, and at Knoxville, the corps was commanded by General Mahlon D. Manson.

In August, 1863, Mahan’s Brigade of Indiana troops was assigned to the Third Division. These regiments were recruited for six months’ service only, and returned to Indiana in February, 1864. They served in East Tennessee, and were present at Blue Springs and Walker’s Ford.

On the 4th of April, 1864, Major-General John M. Schofield was assigned to the corps, and he commanded it during the Atlanta campaign, which was the most eventful period of its existence. In the spring of 1864, Hovey’s Division of Indiana troops, newly recruited, joined the corps at Charleston, Tenn., and was designated as the First Division. The Second Division was commanded by General Henry M. Judah, and the Third Division by General Jacob D. Cox, with which organization it started on the Atlanta campaign. But on June 6, 1864, the First Division was broken up and divided between the other two divisions. While on the Atlanta campaign, General Judah was succeeded by General Hascall in the command of the Second Division. The greatest loss of the corps during that campaign was sustained May 14, 1862, at the battle of Resaca. It also encountered some hard fighting near Kenesaw and at Utoy Creek.

After the fall of Atlanta, and while Sherman’s Army was wending its way to the Sea, the Twenty-third Corps joined Thomas’ Army in the Tennessee campaign against Hood. The corps was still under the command of General Schofield, while the two divisions, Second and Third, were commanded, respectively, by Generals Ruger and Cox. These two divisions contained 30 regiments of infantry and 4 batteries of light artillery. Their returns for October 31, 1864,–just before starting on the Tennessee campaign–show 10,624 officers and men present for duty. The corps was actively engaged at the battle of Franklin, but at Nashville it was largely held in reserve. In the latter action, Ruger’s (2d) Division was commanded by Major-General Darius N. Couch.

In January, 1865, the corps moved from Nashville, via Washington, to North Carolina, Cox’s Division landing at Fort Fisher, February 9, 1865. Moving up the river, the corps fought at Fort Anderson, and at Wilmington, February 21st, capturing the latter place. In the meantime, another division was formed, and designated as the First Division, with General Ruger in command. This division was actively engaged in the victory at Kinston, N. C. (Wise’s Forks), which resulted in the occupation of Goldsboro. General Cox succeeded Schofield, the latter having been promoted to the command of the Army of the Ohio, which, since the arrival of the Twenty-third Corps in North Carolina, comprised two corps–the Tenth (Terry’s) and Twenty-third. On the 10th of April, 1865, the Twenty-third Corps numbered 14,293 present for duty, and was composed of three divisions –Ruger’s, Couch’s, and Carter’s. It remained in North Carolina while Sherman’s Army, with which it had made a junction at Goldsboro, marched northward to Washington. The corps was discontinued on August 1, 1865, many of the regiments having been mustered out before that.

“The shame, the folly, the outrage, seemed too great to believe, and we half hoped to wake up from it as from a dream.”
- Jacob D. Cox, fought at Franklin at General rank.

Gen. David StanleyMajor-General Stanley (right), commanding the Fourth Federal corps, in his official report stated that:

“In view of the strong position we held, nothing appeared so improbable as that they would assault. I felt so confident in this belief that I did not leave General Schofield’s headquarters until the firing commenced.”

Major-General Cox, (bottom right) commanding the Twenty-third corps, and in active command of the Federal line of battle, undertakes to account for the attack made by General Hood thus:

Jacob Dolson CoxHis exasperation at what he regarded as a hair’s breadth escape on our part from the toils in which he thought he had encompassed us at Spring Hill had probably clouded his judgment. He blamed some of his subordinates for the hesitation which he seems himself to have been responsible for, and now, in an excitement which led him astray, he determined to risk everything upon a desperate assault.”

The same eminent author, referring to the assault made by Cleburne and Brown on the Federal center, says:

“They were seen coming in splendid array. The sight was one to send a thrill through the heart, and those who saw it have never forgotten its martial magnificence.”

Source: Confederate Military History Volume 8:
Tennessee Chapter X

Also read:

  • Wikipedia article on Jacob D. Cox

Maj.-Gen. B. F. Cheatham.

“On the morning of the 4th of December,” says General Cheatham, “I went to the headquarters of GenBenjamin F. Cheathameral Hood, and referring to his note and the criticism that had evidently been made by some one, I said to him, ‘A great opportunity was lost at Spring Hill, but you know that I obeyed your orders there, as everywhere, literally and promptly.’ General Hood not only did not dissent from what I said, but exhibited the most cordial manner, coupled with confidence and friendship.”

At daylight Cheatham’s corps passed through the village of Spring Hill, and between 1 and 2 o’clock p.m. the army reached the vicinity of Franklin, and Stewart’s and Cheatham’s corps were put in positions. The enemy was heavily intrenched and was superior in numbers and equipment. On the morning of the battle, General Schofield, commanding the Federal army, had behind his works 23,734 infantry and artillery, and his cavalry numbered 5,500. Maj.-Gen. J. D. Cox, U. S. A., upon whose authority these figures are given, states in his history of the battle of Franklin that Hood delivered the assault on the Federal lines with “two or three hundred less than 24,000″ men, and gives Forrest’s strength at 9,000. Maj.-Gen. John C. Brown reported that on the morning of November 29, 1864, he had not exceeding 2,750 men in his division, the largest in Cheatham’s corps, and the three divisions did not exceed 6,000. Smith’s brigade of Cleburne’s division was not present. Stewart’s corps after Allatoona was less than 7,000, and with Johnson’s division of Lee’s corps, the assaulting column did not exceed 16,000 men. General Forrest stated in his official report that the entire cavalry force under his command was about 5,000.

Bate’s division was on the left, Brown’s in the center, Cleburne’s on the right. General Bate says his line “charged the works of the enemy. http://www.campchase.com/WEBlibrary/WillSmith/theocarter.jpgMy right got to the works (the second line) and remained there until morning;’the left was driven back. The enemy’s works were strong and defiant, constructed on a slight elevation, with few obstructions in front for several hundred yards. The works to the left of Carter’s creek turnpike were not strong, and with a vigorous assault should have been carried; a fact, however, not known until next day.” Bate’s division sustained a loss of 47 killed and 253 wounded. Capt. Todd Carter (right), on staff duty with Smith’s Tennessee brigade, fell mortally wounded near the enemy’s works and almost at the door of his father’s house.

No more magnificent spectacle was ever witnessed than the advance of the two divisions commanded by Cleburne and Brown; no two divisions of the army were ever led with greater skill and gallantry; no generals of division were ever supported with better ability by brigade, regimental and company officers. The troops were veterans who had never failed to respond to orders, although discouraged by recent and frequent disasters; and fully alive to the desperation of the assault about to be made, they advanced with noble courage. Before troops of equal numbers in the open field they would have been irresistible, but to attack intrenched troops, superior in numbers, advancing over an open plain without cover, was a disregard of the rules of war, a waste of precious lives, and a wrecking of an army once the pride and hope of the Southwest.

Source: Confederate Military History Volume 8:
Tennessee Chapter X

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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.

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