Description of the Battle (Wikipedia, 12/3/06)
Hood’s attack initially enveloped Wagner’s forward brigades, which fled back to the main breastworks. Blue and Gray troops were intermingled, which made the Union soldiers defending the line reluctant to fire on the approaching masses. This caused a weak spot in the Union line at the Carter House as an inexperienced regiment, just arrived from Nashville, broke and fled with Wagner’s troops. The Confederate divisions of Maj. Gens. Patrick Cleburne, John C. Brown, and Samuel G. French converged on this spot. An heroic counterattack by the brigade of Emerson Opdycke and two of Cox’s regiments sealed the gap after thirty minutes of fierce hand-to-hand combat.
Over and over the Confederates smashed headlong and futilely into the Union line. Just before dark, the division of Maj. Gen. Edward “Allegheny” Johnson arrived and it had no more luck than its predecessors. By 9:00 p.m. the fighting subsided. The overall attack had been awesome, described by some as a tidal wave, and known as the “Pickett’s Charge of the West.” But it was actually much larger than the famous charge at Gettysburg. In the East, 12,500 Confederates crossed a mile of open ground in a single assault that lasted about 50 minutes. In Franklin, some 20,000 marched into the guns across two miles and conducted seventeen distinct assaults lasting over five hours.
Across the river to the east, Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest attempted to turn the Union left flank, but the Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson repulsed his advance.
Schofield, who spent the battle in Fort Granger (just across the Harpeth River, northeast of Franklin), ordered an overnight withdrawal to Nashville, starting at 11:00 p.m. Although there was a period in which the Union army was vulnerable, straddling the river, Hood was too stunned to take advantage of it. The Union army reached the breastworks at Nashville on December 1.