Sight of mass formations at Franklin must have been incredible

McGavock Cemetery has nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers buried on the grounds in front of Carnton. There is no doubt that scores, if not hundreds of them, were casualties resulting from the mass formations and marching the Confederate Army of Tennessee made on open ground, for nearly two miles, as the Rebels came upon the defended Federal line entrenched near downtown Franklin as the battle opened up.

During the Civil War, mass formations, assaulting defended breastworks, often led to mass casualties for the assaulting army. Franklin was no different.

About 4pm on November 30, 1864, C.S.A. General John Bell Hood launched a frontal attack against the Federal troops of the 23rd and 4th Corps of General John M. Schofield. The Confederate Army of Tennessee marched in mass formation across open ground, mostly flat, for nearly two miles before clashing with the Federal line.

On a few battlefields, massed enemy formations could be seen at a considerable distance, at least before the firing began in earnest. Robert G. Carter of the 22nd Massachusetts wrote of the sight of oncoming Confederates on the second day of Gettysburg: “The indistinct form of masses of men, presenting the usual, dirty, greyish, irregular line, were dimly visible and moving up with defiant yells, while here and there the cross-barred Confederate battle flags were plainly to be seen.” Rebel lines also were fully visible at Antietam, Franklin, Bentonville, and a number of other engagements.
The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat. Earl J. Hess, p. 12

View of terrain, looking south, Confederate Army of Tennessee marched across for over one mile at Battle of Franklin

Confederate General John Bell Hood had this basic view of the (then) open ground between Winstead Hill and the entrenched Federal line near Fountain Branch Carter’s property in November 1864. The entire Confederate Army of Tennessee (about 20,000) was positioned here, facing north as in the picture, before they started the quick-step march toward the Federal army (about 22,000).

Original view

Picture credit: Historical Markers of Williamson County, Rick Warwick, p. 174

Contemporary view

Picture credit: author of blog

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