63rd Indiana soldier – Ewing – provides vivid diary-account of action on Eastern Flank at Franklin

Diary entry of A.L. Ewing, Captain, 63rd Indiana Infantry

November 30, 1864

Wednesday at Franklin, Tennessee

Early dawn found the head of our weary columns fleeing into Franklin.  Just after we passed Spring Hill our wagon train was attacked by Rebel cavalry   and several wagons burned.  The headquarter guards with the train had quite a little battle before the cavalry was driven off.   Cousin Shelley was Sergt-commanding.   Among the burnt wagons was one containing my valise. Otherwise came through safely though it seems a special providence that our rear was not captured consisting of detached portions of troops and artillery and many wagons. It was a terrible march over a narrow road which was one solid mass of moving trains, artillery and infantry.  I completely lost my company in the darkness and crowding. Just as we came in sight of Franklin, I dropped in a fence corner and not particularly caring what happened, I was so worn out. But after a short rest and hearing the firing of our rear guard which was approaching, I went and found a few of my company, and in a short time all of them turned up from various quarters.  We drew rations and made coffee and was lined up in position where we proceeded to throw up temporary works as we often had done.  Our lines was extended from the Harpeth River above town to the river just below, and of a horse-shoe shape.    We rested easy until about 3 pm. Myself and company however were placed out on picket  and had dug some rifle pits to spend the night  and providing the Rebs would let us.  Between 3 and 4 pm the Rebels began showing themselves and our cavalry falling back. There was no skirmishing by us  for the Rebs formed two lines of battle  and came dashing out of the woods  in fine style, a skirmish line in front and one in the rear.    I yelled to my skirmish line to fall back to the works and started myself. Finding I had to cross the range of one or other of two cannons that were planted at angles, I chose my chances to go between them.  The cannoneers were excited and not time for one man to get out of the way. When such a good mark as those advancing columns, I gave a leap at the instant. The pieces were discharged and repaired to my company and loaded guns while the men fired. When the advancing line came up within range  the infantry behind the works , a sheet of flame leaped forth with death and wounds in it for hundreds  of the brave men fighting for an ignoble cause . The whole scene of action was soon covered with smoke that but little could be seen in detail.  For about a dozen times the Rebs was led to charge, only to be repulsed with great slaughter.  Many of their banners were planted upon our works with the most heroic determination but was met with as determined resistance.  The fight lasted for three hours and while it was going on a Reb and Union battery were having a duel overhead with their shells and shot which sometimes passed distressingly low over our heads. At eleven o’clock we were withdrawn and crossed the river on a pontoon and railroad bridge.  The Enemy discovered our retreat and came crowding down the streets of the town. Our guns opened up on them and must have done them considerable damage. The bridges were burned by our forces and they started on their third night march towards Nashville, near which place cavalry firing again commenced . We arrived in range of its big guns and forts very very tired, though rejoicing in possession of 18 captured colors and near 3,000 prisoners.

Source: Lilly Library, Indiana University

Newly discovered letter from 63rd Indiana soldier details scene at Franklin after the battle

I recently attended the Civil War Show in Nashville and acquired several letters from a 63rd Indiana soldier named Addison Lee Ewing.  Ewing was from Haubstat, Indiana and enlisted on 5/1/62, mustering in to Company C of the 63rd Indiana Infantry with the rank of 1st Sergeant. He resigned on 4/6/65 due to disability.

During his service he saw three promotions: 2nd Lt on 10/2/86, 1st Lt on 6/24/64, and finally to Captain on 10/1/64 (As of Co. I). He transferred from Company C to I on 11/6/64.

The 63rd Indiana became part of the Army of the Ohio in December 1862, staying with that organization until February 1865 when it was assigned to the Department of North Carolina.

The 63rd Indiana saw action at Second Bull Run, East Tennessee, Rocky Face Ridge and Resaca; Dallas, Lost Mountain, the Atlanta Campaign, and Hood’s Tennessee campaign, including Franklin and Nashville.

At Franklin (30 November 1864), the 63rd Indiana served on the far left Union flank with Israel N. Stiles’s brigade, along with the 120th and 128th Indiana regiments. These three Indiana regiments faced the onslaught of the Confederates under Scott and Featherston that fateful day.

120thIN_Franklin_map copy by you.

I’ve written extensively on these Indiana regiments previously on this blog. Hundreds of Confederate soldiers from Alabama and Mississippi lost their lives trying to breach the Union left flank near the Nashville-Decatur Railroad as it buttressed up against the Harpeth River.

By the time of the Battle of Franklin, Addison Lee Ewing was Captain of Company I of the 63rd Indiana Infantry. I’ll say more soon, but here is a partial transcript of the letter Lee wrote to his wife on December 22nd, from Nashville (1864).

. . .  Day before yesterday [would have been the Dec 20th], we was up at Franklin where there are hundreds of new made graves filled by the enemy. I went up into the old Breastworks where we lay and all over the front of our Brigade which is pretty well doted with rebble graves at our place there is 14 of Co. K of Miss[issippi] laying in a row. I see one grave marked  Lt. J.P. See (sic), 55th Tenn. [This was J.P. Seed]. There are horses laying around almost on our works . . . .

I’m researching this more so come back soon to continue reading more about Lee’s accounts of Franklin and Nashville.

If citing this letter please use: Addison Lee Ewing letter (December 20, 1864). From the Kraig McNutt Civil War Collection.

December 2nd New York Times records carnage and killing at Franklin



TENNESSEE.

______

A Severe Battle at Franklin, Tenn.
________

HOOD DEFEATED BY THOMAS.
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The Rebels Desperately Assault Our Works.
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They are Repulsed with Fearful Carnage.
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Six Thousand Rebels Killed and Wounded.
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TWELVE HUNDRED PRISONERS CAPTURED
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Our Loss Less Than One Thousand.
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MAGNIFICENT BEHAVIOR OF OUR TROOPS
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Full and Graphic Account from Our Special Correspondent.
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OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT.
__________
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.

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.

__________

OUR SPECIAL ACCOUNT.
__________

Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.
FOUR MILES SOUTH OF NASHVILLE.
Thursday, Dec.1.

Gen. SCHOFIELD yesterday fought one of the prettiest fights of the war, resulting most disastrously to the rebels, with little loss to ourselves. After three days’ skirmishing, the rebels crowded our first line of works yesterday afternoon, and at 4 P.M. made a most desperate attack on our right and centre, forcing our lines to our breastworks, which were thrown up from river to river in an open field on the Cumberland Pike, which ran through the centre of the field.

At least half the rebel force engaged endeavored to pierce our centre, and come down viciously on WAGNER’S Division, which, after desperate fighting, fell back, and MANY’S rebel division, of FRANK CHEATAM’S corps, got inside our works and captured two guns. Our centre was not broken, however, and, better still, Gen. WAGNER successfully rallied our troops, who charged on the enemy, recaptured the two guns, and drove the division over the breastworks, capturing one entire brigade and its commander.

At 4:30 o’clock the battle was waged with unabating vigor, the enemy having made during a half hour several attempts to break our centre.

The Federal position was a magnificent one, and the result of these four days’ work were magnificently grand.

All this while the rebels had appeared in front of our right. The plan was to pierce our centre and crush our right wing before dark. A portion of our infantry were engaged three-quarters of an hour firing on the rebel columns who stood their ground like madmen. During the every charge made on our right and centre, volleys of grape and canister were hurled into their lines, and only darkness prevented their sacrifice being more awful. It is said that no canister shot was used by the rebels during the day, but fired shot and shell.

After the first break of WAGNER’S division and its recovery, our line never budged a step. All was quiet after 10 P.M. It was not only one of the prettiest but cleanest battles of the war. The excessive slaughter of the enemy was owing to our wholesale use of canister and grape, and our selection of ground. The battle was fought in an open field, with no trees or undergrowth, or other interruption. The enemy’s loss in killed and wounded approximates 7,000, and we have over 1,200 prisoners, and one general officer and several field officers. The Colonel of the Fifteenth Mississippi, a Northern man, of Illinois, was wounded and taken prisoner. Four-fifths of his regiment were killed, wounded or captured. Our loss does not reach a thousand, hors du cambat. Gen. Bradley, of Illinois, while gallantly leading his troops, was severely wounded in the shoulder. Our loss in field officers is very small. Our troops behaved handsomely. SCHOFIELD commanded on the field, STANLEY on the right, and Cox on the left. Gen. Stanley was wounded slightly in the neck, but remained on the field and is all right to-day.

I have told you all along the programme of Gen. Thomas would electrify you, and this is but the epilogue of the battle to come off.

After our dead, wounded and prisoners were cared for, our army fell back to this point, and are in line of battle while I write. Up to this time, 3 P.M., the enemy has not made his appearance. The Third Corps of Veterans are in readiness, and a battle is expected before daylight to-morrow. All Government work is suspended, and all are under arms, from Gen. DONALDSON down to the unscientific laborers.

The falling back of our troops was accomplished at 8 o’clock this morning, and bridges burned across Harpeth River to retard the transportation of rebel supplies. The cavalry was handled prettily by Gen. WILSON, between Spring Hill and Triune.

A.J. SMITH’s corps is in line of battle, and the situation is particularly grand. Forts Negley, Morton, Cairo and Houston are alive, and the infantry movement perfectly satisfactory. Something must immediately transpire, as Gen. THOMAS is ready to strike no matter how the rebels move.

BENJ. C. TRUMAN

Telegram: glorious news

 

(Telegram.)
NASHVILLE, November 30, 1864.
MAJOR-GENERAL SCHOFIELD, Franklin:
Your telegram is just received. It is glorious news, and I congratulate you and the brave men of your command. But you must look out that the enemy does not still persist. The courier you sent to General Cooper at Widow Dean’s could not reach there, and reports that he was chased by rebel cavalry on the whole route, and finally came into this place. Major-General Steedman, with five thousand men, should be here in the morning. When he arrives, I will start General A. J. Smith’s command and General Steedman’s troops to your assistance at Brentwood.
(Signed)
GEO. H. THOMAS,
Major-General U. S. Vols., Comd’g.

 

Telegram: persistent attack

 

(Telegram.)
FRANKLIN. November 30th–7.10 P.M.
MAJOR-GENERAL THOMAS, Nashville:
The enemy made a heavy and persistent attack with about two corps, commencing at 4 P.M. and lasting until after dark. He was repulsed at all points, with very heavy loss–probably 5,000 or 6,000 men. Our loss is not probably more than one-fourth that number. We have captured about 1,000 prisoners, including one brigadier-general. Your despatch of this P.M. is received. I had already given the orders you direct, and am now executing them.
(Signed)
J.M. SCHOFIELD,
Major-General.