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Also auctioned off in 2013 was this important letter from a Union cavalry soldier:

Pvt. Albert Swap, 7th Illinois Cavalry, Co C, Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 30, 1864

[The 7th Illinois was part of Hatch's Division, Coon's Brigade. They served with the 2nd IA, 6th & 9th Illinois, and the 12th TN Cavs.]

“…you said you suppose Chas Dewey would arrive before I received this message of yours, so he did, but I regret to say he is among the missing on our trip to this place. We left Memphis on the 17th and was 9 days on the River there was several men drowned before we arrived at his place and C. L. D. and John R. Chapman of Co. C are among the missing. The last I saw of them was about two miles above New Madrid, Mo….

It has now been 62 days since the Regt. went out on this scout, they are now about 40 miles from this place at Columbia where they are having some very hard fighting with Hood’s Army. Genl. Thomas is out there with two corps of Infantry but the rebs still drive him back. We could hear very heavy cannonading in that direction for about an hour this morning. There is going to be some very hard fighting about this city in a short time if they keep driving our men back. We are camped about two miles from the city and they are going to move us in towards the city as they think we are exposed to a raid from the Lebanon Pike…

There is considerable excitement here today the Rebel General Hood is still driving our men they are now within 20 miles of this place. Some of our men who have come from the front seem to think that Genl. Thomas is falling back to get the rebels where he can gain some advantage over them while others seem to think they are two strong for us, if the latter there will be some hard fighting and then we will either have to fall back or be gobbled but we must always look on the bright side of everything…

But alas how many of our Brave soldiers are falling hourly as I am penning you these poor lines, the sullen booming of the cannon that I can hear very plainly speaks of death…to the soldier…”

letter2

 

Notes:

  • Charles L. Dewey was from Mendota, Ill; he survived the war. A total of eight men with last named Dewey fought int he 7th ILL Cav; six in Company C, like Charles.
  • John R. Chapman, Co C., also survived the war.

This letter was auctioned off in 2013 and provides some interesting detail about rebel activity after the Battle of Franklin as well as casualty numbers for the 64th Ohio Infantry.

Private Frank Ashley

Co. H, 64th Ohio Volunteers

Camp Near Nashville Tenn

December 8 – 64

“…it is reported the railroad is cut between here and Louisville…it is also reported that the (rebels) are falling back in the direction of Franklin Tenn But they are visible in our front also hear cannonading up the river…I have not heard of W T Sherman for some time but he is alright with out doubt The non veterans of our Regt will be mustered out soon which will make it Small having a heavy loss in the late Battle of Franklin our loss is 121 men killed wounded and missing…”

letter

I just discovered an auction lot being offered by Cowan’s with items belonging to Daniel H. McArthur, 24th WI Infantry and later in the Signal Corps.  While in the Signal Corps later in the war he passed through Nashville in early December, which would have been just after the Battle of Franklin. He records the following in a letter about what he saw in Nashville:

You who are in your comfortable homes in the north can form but a small idea of the amount of suffering caused by the war aside from the soldier’s life. In this town are hundreds of families (refugees) who have no place to live except in the tents furnished them by the government and they all draw rations just the same as the soldiers. A great many of them are women with children whose husbands and other friends are dead or in the rebel army. One night week before last it was very cold, and a train came in loaded with refugees and they had no place to go to for shelter from the cold and there was seven children froze to death, and who knows at this moment how much suffering there is in different parts of the south!

What must have it been like to have been able to sit down with a first-hand participant of the Battle of Franklin, within minutes after the battle, and to get his observations?  Fortunately, we don’t have to imagine.  All we need to do is to read the authentic accounts from those who lived through it themselves to know.  One such lucky soldier was Lee Ewing from the 63rd Indiana Infantry.

It is these kind of first-hand accounts that far surpass accounts recorded in official reports, newspapers, and post-war recollections (some decades later).

Captain Addison Lee Ewing (Co I, 63rd Indiana) was on the far left Union flank at Franklin, serving in Stiles’ Brigade.  I have blogged on Ewing many times in the past.  Ewing was from Haubstadt, Indiana – near Evansville – and served throughout the entire war. He kept a personal diary faithfully, recording his observations and reflections every day. He also wrote home a lot.

Several years ago I was very fortunate to acquire a large collection of personal letters and documents that belonged to Ewing. I say fortunate, because there were many times when his personal papers and correspondence, that he kept with him while in the field, was nearly lost or destroyed.  I have three dozen or so letters by him and numerous documents like muster in/out rolls.

I also have a copy of his entire war time diary.  His current living descendants have been most gracious and magnanimous in providing me access and info on their ancestor.

I have examined and studied Ewing’s diary entries and letter content in which he specifically commented or described what took place at Franklin (30 Nov 1864) from his perspective.  For our purposes here I have distilled my comments by using a simple web tool called TagCloud to determine what words (or word clusters) were most prominent in Ewing’s diary and letters as he was commenting on his experience at Franklin.  One of the key values of this type of analysis is that it is fresh, unfiltered and as authentic as it gets.  Ewing recorded nearly 1,000 words related to his account and observations of the Battle of Franklin.

The main word cluster or semantic domain for Ewing was line or works.  This makes perfect sense.  The 63rd Indiana was on the far left Union flank, as one can see on the map. They were sandwiched between the 128th and 120th Indiana Infantries, respectively.  All part of Stiles’ Brigade, these Hoosier boys protected the far left Union flank, buttressed up against the railroad track and the Harpeth River. Stiles’ men would be assaulted by Loring’s Division, hundreds of Confederates from Scott’s and Featherston’s Brigades.

When Ewing and his men first arrived in Franklin in the early morning hours of the 30th he says that, “We drew rations and made coffee and was lined up in position where we proceeded to throw up temporary works as we often had done.”  Part of that temporary works, besides typical head logs, was the resourceful use of osage orange branches along this line.  Osage orange branches are very hard and prickly. They were often used as natural “barbed wire” for fencing and containing cattle at the time.  Ewing continues, “Our lines was extended from the Harpeth River above town to the river just below, and of a horse-shoe shape.”

Several hours before the battle started (about 4pm on the 30th), Ewing and several of his men were placed several hundred yards in front of the main federal line on picket duty. Ewing wrote in his diary on the 30th, “Myself and company however were placed out on picket and had dug some rifle pits to spend the night.”  However, the skirmishers of the 63rd Indiana did not have the opportunity to engage in typical pre-battle skirmishing action, as Ewing recounts, “There was no skirmishing by us, for the Rebs formed two lines of battle and came dashing out of the woods in fine style, a skirmish line in front and one in the rear.  I yelled to my skirmish line to fall back to the works and started myself.”

It probably took between 15-20 minutes for Loring’s men to reach the Federal position where Stiles’ men were.  Four Federal infantry units under Israel Stiles awaited the advance from Scott’s and Featherston’s units.  Ewing and his men made it back behind their works before the first Confederate charge from Scott-Featherston took place. Ewing describes the exact moment when that clash between the two armies took place, “When the advancing line came up within range the infantry behind the works, a sheet of flame leaped forth with death and wounds in it for hundreds of the brave men fighting for an ignoble cause.”

What took place for the next 3-4 hours in this area of the field can hardly be described as anything short of hellish. But let Ewing’s words serve as an authentic account of what took place, “The whole scene of action was soon covered with smoke that but little could be seen in detail.  For about a dozen times the Rebs was led to charge, only to be repulsed with great slaughter.  Many of their banners were planted upon our works with the most heroic determination but was met with as determined resistance.”

Pvt. Albert Swap, 7th Illinois Cavalry, Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 30, 1864, reading, in part:

“…you said you suppose Chas Dewey would arrive before I received this message of yours, so he did, but I regret to say he is among the missing on our trip to this place. We left Memphis on the 17th and was 9 days on the River there was several men drowned before we arrived at his place and C. L. D. and John R. Chapman of Co. are among the missing. The last I saw of them was about two miles above New Madrid, Mo….It has now been 62 days since the Regt. went out on this scout, they are now about 40 miles from this place at Columbia where they are having some very hard fighting with Hood’s Army. Genl. Thomas is out there with two corps of Infantry but the rebs still drive him back. We could hear very heavy cannonading in that direction for about an hour this morning. There is going to be some very hard fighting about this city in a short time if they keep driving our men back. We are camped about two miles from the city and they are going to move us in towards the city as they think we are exposed to a raid from the Lebanon Pike…There is considerable excitement here today the Rebel General Hood is still driving our men they are now within 20 miles of this place. Some of our men who have come from the front seem to think that Genl. Thomas is falling back to get the rebels where he can gain some advantage over them while others seem to think they are two strong for us, if the latter there will be some hard fighting and then we will either have to fall back or be gobbled but we must always look on the bright side of everything…But alas how many of our Brave soldiers are falling hourly as I am penning you these poor lines, the sullen booming of the cannon that I can hear very plainly speaks of death…to the soldier…”.

From Raynor’s auction

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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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