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Letter from John D. Messinger of the 104th Ohio Infantry, Company D.

Pulaski, Tenn.
November 20th 1864

Letter reads in part:

We are just getting the particulars of the Election, and as an old ‘darky’ in ‘Alabam’ said one day as we were passing a plantation where about ‘five thousand’ were congregated along the road side. One of the boys ask him what he thought of the music (our comet band was playing) – his answer was ‘dunno suh, but pears like tis getting mity glorious Shuah’ – it pears like the election news from Sherman, begin to make things look ‘mity glorious’ for the Union cause. As the particulars are brought out – the frauds on the part of the copperheads – their total everlasting defeat, it surely is encouraging to all. I believe the end is nigh. ‘Hood’ with his rebel hart is supposed to be on the southern shore of the Tenn. River, about making an attempt to get into East Tenn. I hardly think he will win for we have the army of the Cumberland and Ohio here to whip him with in case he wishes to fight or make a forward movement. I am longing to have this war play out that we may return home to the social haunts in our native town. I rather fear that all the young ladies will have taken the ‘oath of allegiance’ ere our time expires and we will be obliged to ‘migrate’.

Messinger mustered into Company D on 30 August 1862 and was later promoted to First Sergeant. He was reduced to Private at his own request on 7 April 1865 and mustered out on 17 June 1865 at Greensboro, North Carolina. The 104th Ohio saw action at Resaca, Dallas, New Hope Church, Kennesaw, Atlanta, Jonesboro, Franklin and Wilmington.

Source: Nate Sanders online auction

Kingston NC
December 5 1864

My Dear Lizzie,

[In part.....]

I receive a letter last week from Joab dated 25th November; he was well and in comfortable winter quarters. He still desires a transfer to our Co. and I have today fixt up some transfer papers and sent them up to him. He will forward them up through the proper channel, but I have but little hope they will be approved. I don’t know indeed whether Joab will want to come here when he finds that Will intends leaving the Regt. Will says he going to tender his resignation l… as he is returned to duty and I think it highly probable that I will have to ask to be retired or resigned one of the two. I am pronounced unable for active service in the field by our Surgeons and I suppose I will have no difficulty in getting out, but I will try it a while longer, and I do not improve I will seek and easier birth.

We will try to get Joab here however and in case Will and I both leave we will try to get him out too, if he desires it. Will is having a good time. Nothing to do and no responsibility. He is engaged today in making a pot of soap and a barrel of …..beer. I can’t tell hoe he will su… but I guess Very Well. Dr Lyle came down Saturday last and stayed with us until this morning when he returned to Raleigh. The Boys were glad to see hem and I think much pleasured with his visit. He told us of the affair at Franklin before I received your letter. I was a bold affair that those fellows ought to have been killed, guess they will re… and try it again. I fear trouble has just Commenced in that locality. I look for more trouble in …, has yet been…Sherman’s grand march thorough Georgia will develop more disloyalty in the mountain district than exists before.

But I hope to the present gloom will soon be dispelled by Sherman’s defeat. We have nothing reliable from Sherman. Can’t tell what they are doing in Georgia but my opinion is Sherman will plant himself in Savannah before Christmas and in that even what will be the result is a question of time. I will not venture any prediction as to what will be the end of our troubles.

My kindest regards to all,

God Bless you,

goodbye

John

Written by JB Cunningham (from Macon NC) a commissioned officer with the 6th & 7th (65th regiment) North Carolina Calvary.

Joab Moore (from Macon NC) a Srgt with the North Carolina 16th infantry

Source: eBay, June 2007

Following the evacuation of Atlanta, Confederate General John Bell Hood formulated an elaborate plan to draw General William T. Sherman away from that city and place his own army in position to recapture Middle Tennessee. Hood planned to march his army north, capture the vital Union supply depot of Nashville, and take the war into Kentucky and Ohio.

Initially Hood’s plan worked. Sherman withdrew from Atlanta and followed the Army of Tennessee into North Georgia. There, Sherman realized the numerical superiority of his forces and detached a portion of his army to stay ahead of Hood’s advance north, while he returned with the main force to implement his March to the Sea. General John Schofield, Hood’s West Point classmate, was placed in command of the Fourth and Twenty-third Army Corps and given the task of slowing the Confederate advance to Nashville.

On the afternoon of November 29, 1864, the Army of Tennessee managed to get between Schofield’s command and the federal stronghold at Nashville at the town of Spring Hill. When the Confederate forces failed to cut the road north, the Union troops marched by their enemy in the middle of the night. By the next morning, they had entered Franklin and occupied a series of earthen fortifications on the southern edge of town. During the day, Union soldiers strengthened their already formidable position as Schofield made plans to evacuate Franklin and march to Nashville.

When Hood awoke on November 30 and found that the Union army had escaped, he blamed everyone but himself for the missed opportunity and immediately marched the Army of Tennessee to Franklin. Arriving at Winstead Hill (two miles south of Franklin), Hood determined to make a fight despite the warnings from Generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and Benjamin Cheatham to avoid a frontal assault. The Confederate commander accepted no counsel and ordered his subordinates to prepare for the assault.


Cannon sitting on present-day Winstead Hill, facing north toward downtown Franklin.

At 4:30 in the afternoon, as the sun began to set, the Army of Tennessee stepped off in a three-mile-long battle line to launch the last grand charge of the war in Tennessee. Marching forward in near-parade formation, the leading elements of the Confederate line overwhelmed the advanced Union position one-half mile in front of the main line. Chasing the fleeing Federals, the men of Generals Patrick Cleburne’s and John C. Brown’s divisions smashed into the Union earthworks along the Columbia Pike. Driving the Federals through the front and back yard of Fountain B. Carter’s house and into the front yard of Albert Lotz’s home, the advancing Confederates met a counter charge by Colonel Emerson Opdycke’s brigade. In fierce hand-to-hand fighting, the Federal soldiers forced the Confederates back to the outer ditch of the main earthworks.

Present-day view of Albert Lotz house, adjacent (east) of the farm belonging to F.B. Carter. The Lotz house sits right on the east side of Columbia Pike.

The Confederates made as many as eighteen separate charges but failed to make a significant breach in the Union defenses. Some Confederate attacks occurred so late at night that the soldiers used torches to guide their lines forward. The fight lasted until ten o’clock, leaving Union troops inside the works and Confederates in the outer ditches only a few feet apart. Many soldiers sat with their backs against the works and held their muskets over their heads to fire them into the opposing ranks.

After five hours of bloodletting, the small arms fire died away. Schofield wasted no time pulling his men out of their positions and marching them toward Nashville. That night, as the temperature dropped, the wounded Union and Confederate soldiers left on the field suffered terribly. The dead and dying lay in heaps sometimes five or six deep in the outer ditch. Field hospitals in the Carter and Lotz houses and the Carnton Mansion, treated the seemingly endless stream of wounded.

The battle exacted a disastrous toll on the Confederate forces. Hood sent approximately 23,000 soldiers against a fortified line protected by 15,000 Union soldiers and incurred 7,000 casualties, while the Federals lost approximately 2,500. Of the one hundred Confederate regimental commanders, sixty-three were killed or wounded. The casualty toll among Confederate generals was also high–six killed, five wounded, and one captured. As the Army of Tennessee moved north toward Nashville, a colonel commanded General John C. Brown’s division, and a captain led General Hiram Granbury’s brigade. At the battle of Nashville, two weeks later, the Army of Tennessee was not effective, having left a sizable number of hardened veterans and officers on the field of Franklin.

Source citation: The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture (online)

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.

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