Author Archives: TellingHistory

90th Ohio chaplain writes about battles of Franklin and Nashville, Hood’s Retreat

William C. Holliday, Chaplain in the 90th Ohio Infantry, Co. S
Battle of Franklin detail
Dec 7-8th, 1864
The 90th Ohio was next engaged during the Franklin-Nashville Campaign in late 1864. In a letter spanning 7-8 December 1864, Holliday writes to his wife about a skirmish preceding the Battle of Nashville, and also about a young girl,
“…A black Negro woman apparently 26 years old with a little girl about as old as Lama and just about as white. As about the same color and as curly as long as used to be. She is very smart. Ask her who her father is. ‘His name is Jones. He is a white man. In the rebel Army.’ And so it is. That’s the kind of children they sell in the South. Great God! What an institution is slavery…It is about 2 p.m. I went to the regt this morning. Had not been there more than an hour until the rebels advanced their skirmish lines and drove our skirmishers back more than 1/4 of a mile. Then our boys rally and drove them back. From where our regiment is we could see the whole thing. I looked fine to see our boys all along the line driving the rebel skirmishers. They would shoot and run. It appeared to be in advance of the rebels all along the line. One of the boys of my regiment was shot, poor fellow. I am afraid he will die. Shot in back, the ball coming out of the side of bowels. I rode down in the ambulance with him to the hospital…The rebels I think intended it as a faint, to cover some other movements. The day is quite cool. Coming in the ambulance the wounded boy was cold. I took off my overcoat and put over him…”
Battle of Nashville detail
(Writing on Dec 15th) . . . he briskly describes the Battle of Nashville where the regiment lost 5 killed and 15 wounded, “Ma, A terrible battle today. We are victorious. About 20 casualties in my regt. Many of whom are yet to be cared for to night. I am well. God be praised.”
On 21 December 1864, he writes about the Battle to his brother James, “…Our regiment Brigade Division and Corps, did nobly in Nashville. On the one day of the fight the 21 Indiana and 81, 101 Ohio and our regiment charged to fortified hill and took it. We lost about 25 Men. I think there were five killed and 25 wounded. Probably six or eight of them mortally. Killed – Jo Bond Co. C, Emmerich D, Sylvester Smith E…Segt. Harris shot through both thighs, one amputated. Must have died same night. Perry Edward H shot through face, tongue merely shot into. Could neither talk nor eat. Must Die. Walker H shot through side, fear he must die. There are several others who may die. Sergeant Thurman arm fractured…Dave. C. Connor leg amputated above knee. …Sergt. Parsons escaped death narrowly. Ball struck the plate on his belt. Would have gone through him but for that. The regiment added new Laurels to its name…On the second the rebels were completely flanked and were charged from several points. On the one day they were so flanked on the right that they had to fall back on the left and Centre leaving to very strong lines of works. There were nearly 60 pieces of artillery taken, about an equal number of each day. On the second day our Court took 13 pieces. I saw a nine of them. They left thousands of small arms. There were a few unsuccessful attacks or charges made. The rebels in fact left everything and went or rather were driven like a drove of cattle, for it is a strange fact that  these mounted officers rode between the rebels and our men with drawn swords and compelled them to retreat. Was ever such a thing heard of before?…”
Hood’s Retreat detail
He continues to describe the Battle of Nashville in a letter to his mother dated 18 December 1864,      “…Yesterday morning we moved early in the AM. Our troops had moved rapidly after the panic stricken and fleeing rebels about four miles. It was night. They slept on the mud and under the rain. It rained all day, but this army is so flushed with victory that they did splendid marching though tired and worn from two days incesent fighting and almost sleepless nights. We came about fifteen miles. Rebels are still going. It is the greatest victory of the war. About fifty pieces of artillery captured. Rebels have but three or four cannon left. We have now over three hundred wounded who were left here at the battle of Franklin. Fifteen hundred Rebel wounded all here and have fallen into our hands. We have only lost about three thousand or four thousand in the battle at Nashville. I saw about 200 of our dead lying on about one acre of ground. They were our men…”
And also on 18 December, in a letter to his wife, “…In Franklin I had an opportunity of riding over the battlefield. The rebels suffered terribly. They assaulted our works and were killed by the hundred. I counted on one side of the pike 350 graves. There were as many on the other side. I never saw a more joyful set of men then were our prisoners who had been in the hand of the Rebels for two weeks. The rebels came through Franklin and a great hurry. Our cavalry captured 5 pieces of artillery there. Quite a number of rebels have been captured…There were 30 casualties in our regiment. 5 killed, five or six mortally wounded. The regiment came off well in view of what they pass through. They and our whole army are in fine spirits. The rebels were badly whipped…”
(Writing 12/26/64 . . . The day after Christmas, Holliday writes from Pulaski, Tenneesse, where he describes skirmishing and the destruction of the city, “…The rebels are being closely followed and fighting occurs with our cavalry and theirs every day. They do not get time to burn bridges over the large streams. At Pulaski there is a large bridge which they fired in several places, but our cavalry was so close on to them that they prevented its destruction. At Pulaski we left our sick and stored about half our hospital stores and then struck out on a mud road. Emphatically such mud I never went through before…Where we are going I cannot tell. To the Tennessee River no doubt, but what point I know not. We follow the rebels. I saw great destruction that the rebels made yesterday which shows their desperate state. In Pulaski they piled up 18 wagon loads of ammunition and burned it. This side of town there were the remains of about 15 burned wagons with shot and shell, grape and canister scattered all around. They have destroyed in all near here nearly 50 wagon loads of fixed ammunition…I rather think we will return back after the rebels are pursued across the Tennessee…”

December 2, 1864 New York Times stories about Franklin

Hood’s Advance at Spring Hill, Tenn., Thirty-two Miles South of Nashville.

Franklin, the scene of the great victory over HOOD on Thursday, is the capital of Williamson County, Tenn., and is situated on the south bank of Big Harpeth River, about 18 miles from Nashville, on the line of the Nashville and Decatur Railroad. Before the war it was a beautiful village, with a population of about 2,000 people. Franklin has changed hands several times during the war. After VAN DORN’s success in capturing a Union brigade at Spring Hill, near Franklin, in March, 1863, that rebel Commander moved upon the latter place, which he attacked on the 10th of April. Major-Gen. GORDON GRANGER was in command of the village. His forces comprised two infantry divisions of 1,600 men, 2,000 cavalry under SMITH and STANLEY, and eighteen guns. The only artificial defence was an uncompleted fort, which mounted two siege guns and two three-inch rifled guns. VAN DORN’s force was estimated at nine thousand infantry and two regiments of cavalry. The rebels were handsomely repulsed, losing three hundred, while GRANGER’s total loss was only thirty-seven. The town proper is built upon an open, level spot; but circling round to the west and south of it are the Harpeth Hills. Big Harpeth River has its source in Bedford County, and flows northwest through Williamson, past the town of Franklin, enters Davidson County, and falls into the Cumberland River thirty-five miles below this city, after a general comparative course of sixty miles.

NASHVILLE, Wednesday, Nov. 30 — Midnight RECEIVED Dec. 1 — 9 A. M. Heavy skirmishing for the past few days, and still going on between our troops and FORREST. There was a sharp fight yesterday at Spring Hill, twelve miles south of Franklin. Our cavalry was driven back on our infantry lines which checked the enemy. A squad of rebel prisoners were in charge of these troops, when the rebel cavalry made a dash on them, releasing their men and capturing ours. A train was attacked near Harpeth River. The engineer detached the locomotive, and both are supposed to be captured. The rest of the train was saved. A squad of rebel cavalry dashed across the Chattanooga line yesterday, near Cheshire, tearing up the track. The train was detained all night, but came in next morning. Our troops have fallen back around Franklin. The main part of HOOD’s army is across Duck River. Every indication of a heavy battle in a few days, but we are confident of the result.

Most Desperate Attack

NASHVILLE, Thursday, Dec. 1. Parties who have arrived from the front, and who witnessed the battle of yesterday, describe the attack of the rebel forces as desperate. Four charges were made upon the Federal masked batteries in columns four lines deep. Each time the rebels were repulsed with fearful loss. The fort is on the north bank of the river, opposite the town, extending up the river, and encircling the town was the line of masked batteries. Eye-witnesses say that this engagement, in desperation and furious fighting, was hardly equaled by the battle of Stone River. FORREST in person was on the field rallying his men. A rumor is in circulation that he was killed, but it lacks confirmation. About 7 o’clock last night heavy reinforcements reached SCHOFIELD, which caused a complete rout of the rebel forces. The city to-day is full of fleeing residents of Williamson and other counties south. They state HOOD it gathering up all the horses, hogs and mules that he can find, and sending them south. There is great panic among the negroes in the counties south of Nashville. Numbers are fleeing to the city for protection.

Tennessee — A Severe Battle

WASHINGTON, Thursday, Dec. 1. The following official dispatch concerning the report of the victory in Tennessee, has been received at headquarters: FRANKLIN, Tenn., Wednesday, Nov. 30. FRANKLIN, Tenn., Wednesday, Nov. 30. Major-Gen. Thomas: The enemy made a heavy and persistent attack with two corps, commencing at 4 P.M., and lasting till after dark. He was repulsed at all points, with heavy loss — probably of five or six thousand men. Our loss is probably not more than one-fourth of that number. We have captured about one thousand prisoners, including one Brigadier-General. (Signed,) JOHN SCHOFIELD, Major-General.

The Fierce Battle in Tennessee

The one-legged rebel HOOD has again put in practice the system of quick, furious, persistent and desperate assault by which he and Stonewall JACKSON have been distinguished on the rebel side; and he has met with the same bloody luck which befell him when he tried the same thing at Atlanta. The battle between HOOD and THOMAS, on Wednesday afternoon, at Franklin, Tenn., eighteen miles south of Nashville, regarding which we have both official and unofficial dispatches, was indecisive. Only two of the four corps of the enemy are reported as being engaged, and so far as their repulse is concerned, it is eminently satisfactory. There is no difficulty, after reading the vivid dispatches of our special correspondent, in crediting the statements as to the enormous and disproportionate losses of the rebels in this battle. The gallant and conservative SCHOFIELD, who commanded on the occasion, states the rebel loss at five or six thousand, and our correspondent puts it at a still higher figure, while our own casualties were under a thousand. This disparity is accounted for by the circumstance that our men fought behind breastworks established in an open field, and by our wholesale use of grape and canister upon the enemy. It is reported that the rebels made four successive charges in columns four lines deep; but their furious assaults resulted in failure to carry the position. They were permitted to dash themselves against our works, and HOOD threw them forward with a recklessness of life equal to anything he has ever displayed during the four months he has had command of the rebel army in the Southwest. In the course of the evening after the battle, Gen. THOMAS retired his army to the vicinity of Nashville. This we judge to be a strategic movement, very like what might have been expected from the imperturbable and far-seeing Gen. THOMAS, who looks to the final result and general summing up of a campaign more than to partial and brilliant victories. He knows HOOD of old, and understands his style thoroughly. He will effect two, and perhaps, three or four objects by planting himself behind the works of Nashville. He will combine his forces in a compact body, with the corps of Gen. A.J. SMITH, which has just arrived at Nashville. He will get into a position of far greater natural and artificial strength than Franklin — Nashville being one of the most elaborately fortified cities on the continent; and he may be able to draw HOOD up there and induce him to dash his army to pieces against our works. Thus we view the situation in Tennessee, after reviewing carefully all the facts that have thus far come to hand.