The landscape shapes the battlefield

This map of the battlefield (on an interpretative marker on the Eastern Flank) is very helpful for one to orient oneself to the Battle of Franklin. There is so much to appreciate from studying this map. Here are a list of questions any good student of the Battle of Franklin would know, or at least want to know. The map below can answer each question.

  1. How far east-west was the Confederate Army spread out while positioned at Winstead Hill?
  2. Once the CSA Army got to the main Union earthworks, centered at the Cotton Gin, how far east-west was the army spread out then?  Why is this important?
  3. What are the three main arteries the CSA Army traversed to get to ground zero (i.e., the Carter grounds)?
  4. What were the primary obstacles (i.e., man-made and natural) that the Union Army used to defend itself?
  5. What were the ‘high spots’ (natural and man-made) that both sides attempted to leverage?
  6. How far was Fort Granger and her guns from the McGavock farm? From the CSA Army as it approached the Union defensive main line?
  7. How does the landscape and important items noted impact the chances of a successful cavalry flanking maneuver by Forrest?
  8. How and why was the Harpeth River an important advantage to the Union Army?

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Granger gun range.pngBoth images from interpretative markers on the Eastern Flank

Telegrams: pre-attack, trains sent to Brentwood

 

(Telegram.)
NASHVILLE, November 30, 1864.
MAJOR-GENERAL SCHOFIELD, Franklin:
Your despatch of 3 P.M. is received. Send back your trains to this place at once, and hold your troops in readiness to march to Brentwood, and thence to this place as soon as your trains are fairly on the way, so disposing your force as to cover the wagon train. Have all R. R. trains sent back immediately. Notify General Wilson of my instructions. He will govern himself accordingly. Relieve all garrisons in blockhouses, and send back by railroad trains last over the road. Acknowledge receipt.
(Signed)
GEO. H. THOMAS,
Major-General U. S. Vols., Comd’g.
—–
(Telegram.)
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO,
FRANKLIN, TENN., November 30, 1864.
MAJOR-GENERAL GEO. H. THOMAS, Nashville, Tenn.:
GENERAL–Please send A. J. Smith’s division to Brentwood early to-morrow morning. Also please send to Brentwood to-morrow morning one million rounds of infantry ammunition, 2,000 rounds three-inch and 1000 rounds light twelve artillery.
(Signed)
J.M. SCHOFIELD,
Major-General.

 

Gen Featherston’s Mississippi boys (Loring’s Division) faced horrible artillery fire

Featherston’s C.S.A. Brigade has 68 boys known buried at McGavock Cemetery

“Near the Harpeth River, Major General William Loring’s troops could begin to see the looming Federal line protecting Reilly’s division. Buford’s dismounted troopers and Brigadier General Winfield Featherston’s Mississippians advanced between the river and the Lewisburg Pike, their line bisected by the Central Alabama Railroad. To their left, the Alabamians of Brigadier General Thomas Scott’s brigade had fallen behind as they guided on the pike, the enemy artillery in Fort Granger contesting their advance. Suddenly, at a range of two hundred yards, the Federal artillery supporting Reilly’s line exploded, followed quickly by riflery from Israel Stiles‘ and James Casement’s brigades, six regiments of battle-tested Indianans. In a blinding flash, the Confederate battle line shivered as Federal iron tore trough the rebel front. Of the carnage, one Confederate survivor remembered, “Our troops were killed by whole platoons; our front line of battle seemed to have been cut down by the first discharge, for in many places they were lying in their faces in almost as good order as if they had lain down on purpose.”

“Featherston’s boys recoiled from the impact then pressed for war, but fifty feet from the Yankee line they ran into the impenetrable hedge of osage. Grown to a stinging thickness by the locals to control cattle, the hedge line now provided a perfect barrier against the rebel assault, too high to surmount and too dense to winnow. The Mississippians came to a halt, searching frantically for a way through the natural abatis. As they did, they became little more than sitting ducks for the Indianans across the way. Only near the opening at the pike were the Yankees slightly tested. A pitifully small set of survivors planted two Mississippi flags on the earthworks, but they were almost immediately killed or captured. One survivor described it as “a tremendous deluge of shot and shell . . . seconded by a murderous sheet of fire and lead from the infantry behind the works, and also another battery of six guns directly in our front.” It was, he said, a “scene of carnage and destruction fearful to behold.”

“Featherston’s right-most regiments crawled along the ground trying to find another way through the obstructions, but when they curled into the railroad cut marking Stiles’ left, the 120th Indiana plastered their van with musketry. Farther north, Battery M, 4th U.S. Artillery, began to spray the cut with canister, while Cockerill’s gunners in Fort Granger added their own plunging fire. Even a battery east across the Harpeth weighed in. Caught in the maelstrom were Buford’s troopers, belly down on the banks of the Harpeth trying to escape the murderous sweep.”

– Patrick Brennan, The Battle of Franklin, North & South magazine, January 2005, Vol. 8., No.1: pages 39-40.