Edward Johnson’s Division attack is overlooked

Author and historian Eric A. Jacobson (For Cause and Country) recently made this comment:

The attack by Edward Johnson’s Division is often overlooked or forgotten, or mentioned almost as a footnote, in studies of Franklin. Sadly through the years even the division’s formation as it attacked had been mangled. By studying what information is available (unfortunately Johnson nor any of his brigade or regimental commanders ever filed reports) the proper formation of Johnson’s Division is now known with near certainty. Like Brown’s Division, Johnson’s Division had four brigades and moved forward with a two brigade front and two in reserve. On the right front was Zachariah Deas; on the left was Jacob Sharp. In reserve was William Brantley on the left; Arthur Maniagult on the right.

As the division advanced Brantley was moved to the left front, giving Johnson a three brigade front. A similar effort was made to move Manigault to the left front, but everything fell apart before that happened. As a result Brantley was horribly exposed on his left flank (it was effectively up in the air) and his men suffered grievous casualties. His brigade alone absorbed forty percent of the division’s total casualties.

Manigault’s Brigade suffered the fewest casualties in the division, but may have had the most difficult time maneuvering. Manigault’s men were being shifted under fire and well placed bullets took out the brigade’s three ranking commanders. In the darkness and confusion, and with the rest of the division being pounded, there was little Manigault’s men could so.

Interesting to note that Henry Clayton, whose division was formed up and ready to attack following Johnson, but was subsequently ordered not to, said “night mercifully interposed to save us from the terrible scourge which our brave companions had suffered.”

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