Isham Harris’ report on the Spring Hill situation

The following communication, written by Governor (afterward Senator) Harris of Tennessee, then acting as aide to General Hood, is a valuable contribution to the history of this campaign. It is copied from Drake’s “Annals of the Army of Tennessee,” for May, 1877. A copy was furnished to General Hood:

Gov. James D. Porter:

Dear Sir:

In answer to yours of the 12th instant, I have to say that on the night that the army of Tennessee, under command of Gen. J. B. Hood, halted at Spring Hill on its march from Columbia to Nashville, General Hood, his adjutant-general, Major Mason, and myself occupied the same room at the residence of Captain Thompson, near the village. Late at night we were aroused by a private soldier, who reported to General Hood that on reaching the camp near Spring Hill he found himself within the Federal lines; that the troops were in great confusion, a part of them were marching in the direction of Franklin, others had turned toward Columbia, and that the road was blocked with baggage-wagons and gun-carriages, rendering it impossible to move in order in either direction. Upon the receipt of this report, General Hood directed Major Mason to order General Cheatham to move down on the road immediately and attack the enemy. General Hood and myself remained in bed. I went to sleep, and I supposed that General Hood did the same. At daylight on the following morning we learned that the Federal army had left Spring Hill and was being concentrated at Franklin.

On the march to Franklin, General Hood spoke to me, in the presence of Major Mason, of the failure of General Cheatham to make the night attack at Spring Hill, and censured him in severe terms for his disobedience of orders. Soon after this, being alone with Major Mason, the latter remarked that “General Cheatham was not to blame about the matter last night. I did not send him the order.” I asked if he had communicated the fact to General Hood. He answered that he had not. I replied that it is due to General Cheatham that this explanation should be made. Thereupon Major Mason joined General Hood and gave him the information. Afterward General Hood said to me that he had done injustice to General Cheatham, and requested me to inform him that he held him blameless for the failure at Spring Hill. And, on the day following the battle of Franklin, I was informed by General Hood that he had addressed a note to General Cheatham, assuring him that he did not censure or charge him with the failure to make the attack.

Very respectfully,

ISHAM G. HARRIS

Source: Confederate Military History Volume 8:
Tennessee Chapter X

Also see:

  • Isham G. Harris article in Wikipedia
  • The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture online edition, article on Isha, Green Harris

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