O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME XLV/1 [S# 93]
NOVEMBER 14, 1864-JANUARY 23, 1865.–Campaign in North Alabama and Middle Tennessee.
No. 1.–Report of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, U. S. Army, commanding Department of the Cumberland.
[The following section of Thomas’ report relates specifically to the action at Franklin on 30 November, 1864.]
The withdrawal of the main force from in front of Columbia was safely effected after dark on the 29th; Spring Hill was passed without molestation about midnight, and making a night march of twenty-five miles, the whole command got into position at Franklin at an early hour on the morning of the 30th; the cavalry moved on the Lewisburg pike, on the right or east of the infantry.
At Franklin General Schofield formed line of battle on the southern edge of the town to await the coming of the enemy, and in the meanwhile hastened the crossing of the trains to the north side of Harpeth River.
On the evacuation of Columbia orders were sent to Major-General Milroy, at Tullahoma, to abandon that post and retire to Murfreesborough, joining forces with General Rousseau at the latter place. General Milroy was instructed, however, to maintain the garrison in the block-house at Elk River bridge. Nashville was placed in a state of defense and the fortifications manned by the garrison, re-enforced by a volunteer force, which had been previously organized into a division, under Bvt. Brig. Gen. J. L. Donaldson, from the employés of the quartermaster’s and commissary departments. This latter force, aided by railroad employés, the whole under the direction of Brigadier-General Tower, worked assiduously to construct additional defenses. Major-General Steedman, with a command numbering 5,000, composed of detachments belonging to General Sherman’s column, left behind at Chattanooga (of which mention has heretofore been made), and also a brigade of colored troops, started from Chattanooga by rail on the 29th of November, and reached Cowan on the morning of the 30th, where orders were sent him to proceed direct to Nashville. At an early hour on the morning of the 30th the advance of Maj. Gen. A. J. Smith’s command reached Nashville by transports from Saint Louis. My infantry force was now nearly equal to that of the enemy, although he still outnumbered me very greatly in effective cavalry; but as soon as a few thousand of the latter arm could be mounted I should be in a condition to take the field offensively and dispute the possession of Tennessee with Hood’s army.
The enemy followed closely after General Schofield’s rear guard in the retreat to Franklin, and upon coming up with the main force, formed rapidly and advanced to assault our works, repeating attack after attack during the entire afternoon, and as late as 10 p.m. his efforts to break our line were continued. General Schofield’s position was excellently chosen, with both flanks resting upon the river, and the men firmly held their ground against an overwhelming enemy, who was repulsed in every assault along the whole line. Our loss, as given by General Schofield in his report transmitted herewith (and to which I respectfully refer), is, 189 killed, 1,033 wounded, and 1,104 missing, making an aggregate of 2,326. We captured and sent to Nashville 702 prisoners, including I general officer, and 33 stand of colors. Maj. Gen. D. S. Stanley, commanding Fourth Corps, was severely wounded at Franklin whilst engaged in rallying a portion of his command which had been temporarily overpowered by an overwhelming attack of the enemy. At the time of the battle the enemy’s loss was known to be severe, and was estimated at 5,000. The exact figures were only obtained, however, on the reoccupation of Franklin by our forces, after the battles of December 15 and 16, at Brentwood Hills, near Nashville, and are given as follows: Buried upon the field, 1,750; disabled and placed in hospital at Franklin, 3,800, which, with the 702 prisoners already reported, makes an aggregate loss to Hood’s army of 6,252, among whom were 6 general officers killed, 6 wounded, and I captured. The important results of the signal victory cannot be too highly appreciated, for it not only seriously checked the enemy’s advance, and gave General Schofield time to remove his troops and all his property to Nashville, but it also caused deep depression among the men of Hood’s army, making them doubly cautious in their subsequent movements.
Not willing to risk a renewal of the battle on the morrow, and having accomplished the object of the day’s operations, viz, to cover the withdrawal of his trains, General Schofield, by my advice and direction, fell back during the night to Nashville, in front of which city line of battle was formed by noon of the 1st of December, on the heights immediately surrounding Nashville, with Maj. Gen. A. J. Smith’s command occupying the right, his right resting on the Cumberland River, below the city; the Fourth Corps (Brig. Gen. T. J. Wood temporarily in command) in the center; and General Schofield’s troops (Twenty-third Army Corps) on the left, extending to Nolensville pike. The cavalry, under General Wilson, was directed to take post on the left of General Schofield, which would make secure the interval between his left and the river above the city.