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Carnton historian and author Eric Jacobson talks about C.S.A. General Patrick R. Cleburne’s proposal in early 1864 to arm the slaves to fight for the Confederacy. It was very poorly received by the military brass, and probably cost him any further major advancement in rank or position in the Confederate army.

What if Patrick Cleburne had been promoted instead of Hood?

I’m sure I’m not the first to think of this question, but, what if Jefferson Davis had promoted Patrick Cleburne to corps command as head of the Army of Tennessee instead of John Bell Hood in July 1864, or even earlier, perhaps even preceding Johnston?

Playing mental ping-pong with what-if-scenarios are highly conjectural, have the advantage of hindsight vision, and can be very unfair to some participants, especially of ones who made big blunders. Well . . . so. It’s still fun.

I postulate this. Had Davis promoted Cleburne instead of Hood to lead the Army of Tennessee, I think the Western theater results might have been very different. Imagine how Cleburne might have approached the Atlanta campaign differently, or especially the Franklin-Nashville campaign.

Though a certain sense of inevitability sets in at some point, meaning, one wonders if anyone on the Confederate side – at the level of Corps commander – would have made any difference having to report to Jefferson Davis, one still wonders what might-have been had someone like Cleburne been able to lead a Corps during the most desperate need for abled-body leadership on behalf of the Confederacy.

If Hood and Cleburne were in the ring together for ten rounds, I score it a knock-out by Cleburne in four!

Ding!

How do you call it?

[Scroll to the very bottom to see comments]

Franklin, Tenn.
Nov 12th 1864

Dear Sister,

It has been a long time since we have had any thing like regular mail communication and consequently I have not attempted to write to you. I am now on the cars some thirty miles from Nashville. We have stopped to wait for another & then we go on to Pulaski. Hood’s old army is up here some where & part of Sherman’s army is here to watch him while Sherman himself with the main force is advancing from Atlanta to Savannah or Charleston. He will destroy the entire railroads of the Confederacy and then they will be reduced to still greater straits than before. Old Abe is elected & if Jeff Davis wishes to try his hand for four years longer let him do so. The Southern Confederacy will by that time be effectually destroyed while the North will be flourishing as the rose. If southern traitors wish desolation and destruction of their entire country Abolition of Slavery included let them have it.

Your Brother

A.M.Weston

(Asa M. Weston enlisted on 8/11/62 as Sergeant in Company K, 50th Ohio Infantry, 3/4/65 promoted to Sgt Major, 4/22/65 promoted to 2nd Lt, 6/26/65 mustered out at Salisbury, NC)

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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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