Reports of Maj. Frederick A. Atwater, Forty-second Illinois Infantry, of operations November 20-30, 1864.

No. 58. 

Reports of Maj. Frederick A. Atwater, Forty-second Illinois Infantry, of operations November 20-30, 1864.


Nashville, Tenn., December 5, 1864.

I have the honor herewith to transmit to you a report of the operations of the Forty-second Regt. Illinois Volunteer during the battles of Spring Hill and Franklin, Tenn., November 29 and 30, 1864, including a list of killed, wounded, and missing.

On the morning of the 29th of November, at 6 o’clock, we marched to Spring Hill, arriving at 2 p. m., and were soon placed in position on the extreme right of the Third Brigade and entirely separated from the balance of the brigade, and distant to the right about 150 yards, and, by order of Gen. Bradley, we threw up a barricade of rails in our front as best we could with one line of rail fence, and sent out a line of skirmishers, which was very soon driven back by the enemy advancing in force; we were ordered to hold said line as long as possible, but having 350 entirely new recruits, who had no drill at all and never were under fire, I did not except to hold such a line very long. The enemy soon struck us very in our immediate front, he having three lines of battle plainly visible and moving well to my right. I ordered my men to reserve their fire until the enemy came within very short range, which they did; then we poured a deadly volley into them, which caused them to retire their first line and reform, the second line advancing while the first line moved by the flank and under cover of a hill completely past the right of my of my regiment, when they commenced firing rapidly into our right and rearm and being advised twice by my superiors, the field officers of the Sixty-fourth Ohio, I finally ordered my regiment in retreat, and while doing so the colors of the regiment became separated and the sergeant and all the color guard with one of them were killed and the flag was captured by the enemy. We retreat about half a mile, when we reformed the regiment with only one flag, and the loss of some 110 in killed, wounded, and missing, as per inclosed list.* After dark the Forty-second Illinois was placed on picket and I was detailed as officer of the day, and before daylight of the 30th, the army all having passed, I withdrew the pickets an rejoined my brigade, and arrived at Franklin at noon, where we were soon placed in position on the left of the Columbia pike, with orders to throw up works and to hold them. Not having many told we could not built very good works, and consequently could not hold them long after the enemy came upon us, although we did not leave them until the right and left both gave away, and we were obliged to fall back over a level ground a distance of at least 600 yards and the enemy in very strong force closely following us and continually firing upon us; upon arriving at a main and strong line of works in our rear I halted and formed the regiment and fought as well as possible until long after dark, with a loss of 55 killed, wounded, and missing. During the fight of the 30th one of my recruits shot down a rebel color-bearer and took his flag from him, but was soon ordered by a colonel in the Twenty-third Corps to turn it over to him, which he did and during the night two more of my regiment went out in front of the works and found three rebel flags, which they brought in with one of the rebel soldiers, who was on picket, as a prisoner, but as soon as they came into our lines an officer of the Twenty-third Corps ordered them to give him the colors, and like good soldiers they obeyed the order. So far as the conduct of the officers and, men of the regiment is concerned I have only to speak of it in the highest terms.

About midnight of the 30th we quietly retired from Franklin to Nashville, where we arrived at 10 a. m., very nearly tired out.

I have the honor to be, sir, your very obedient servant,


Maj. Forty-second Illinois, Cmdg. Regt.


Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., 3d Brig., 2d Div., 4th Army Corps.

1 thought on “Reports of Maj. Frederick A. Atwater, Forty-second Illinois Infantry, of operations November 20-30, 1864.

  1. Sunny Gates

    Thank you for posting this personal account of the Battle of Franklin. Maj. Frederic Augustus Atwater (1830-1906) was my Great Grandfather. I have a lot of genealogical material on him but had not seen this article before. I would like to find out more about his Civil War days. Frederic enlisted 09 August 1861 as a Sergeant; promoted to full 2nd Lieutenant on 15 April 1862; promoted to full 1st Lieutenant on 20 September 1862; promoted to full Captain on 11 May 1863; promoted to Full Major on 20 August 1864; mustered out on 15 June 1865. He served as a surveyor where he rose to the rank of Major. He was shot and wounded by sniper on the first day of the battle of Chickamauga, 19 September 1863. The ball struck a metal ring in his vest pocket, causing a large contusion. The “rebels” captured his hospital area and twice he was operated on by the enemy. He received a war pension in 1890.

    Thanks again for publishing this article.


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