Cockrell’s Missourians at Franklin suffered horrific casualties

BG Francis M. Cockrell

Brigadier-General Francis M. Cockrell led a brigade under Samuel G. French at Franklin. It was all-Missouri brigade: 1st-4th (Garland), 2nd-6th (Flournoy, Carter), 3rd-5th (Canniff), and 1st-3rd MO Cav dismounted (Gates). Of these, Garland and Canniff were killed, Carter and Gates were wounded. Cockrell himself was lucky, he had two horses shot out from under him and was wounded in the right arm, left leg, and right ankle.  Garland was shot while carrying the 1st Missouri flag. Canniff was within ten yards of the line when he was shot.

Cockrell’s men assaulted the Federal line just east of the cotton gin. Jacobson says it is likely that Cockrell’s Missourian’s were the first Confederate’s to hit the Federal line. They would have been warmly greeted by the 65th Indiana Infantry (Casement).

“The Federals obliterated the Missouri ranks, and a Confederate captain said the air “was all red and blue flames, with shells and bullets screeching everywhere…” The barrage was so intense that some of the Missourians actually turned their shoulders into the firestorm and bent down at the knees in the hope of getting through.” [Citation: Jacobson, Eric A.. For Cause and Country: A Study of the Affair at Spring Hill & the Battle of Franklin (Kindle Locations 5978-5980)]

Map excerpt from Eric Jacobson’s For Cause and For Country.

Years after the war Cockrell said the following about Franklin, “When I got these wounds I was at the front line right in the midst of the fight. I tried my right leg, and when I found out i couldn’t walk on it, I hobbled off the field. It was not until the surgeon was working on my right ankle that I found I had been wounded in my left leg.” [Citation: The Civil War Times, December 2017: p. 55]

After the war, Cockrell said this of his brigade at Franklin. “I lost two-thirds [at Franklin] having had every fourth man killed dead, or mortally wounded, and since died. This was by far the fiercest and bloodiest and hottest battle I have ever been in. My Brigade acted more handsomely, defiantly and recklessly than on any field of the war; and you know what it required to eclipse all former conduct on so many bloody fields.”

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Marker located at Winstead Hill Park in Franklin

“They march quietly, and boldly, and steadily through the broken and fleeing ranks of at least twice their own number, and no man wavered – all to the stop, with colors six paces in front, just like a drill, and never brought their guns from a ‘right shoulder shift’ until within thirty or forty yards of the enemy’s works. and then fired by order, and hurled themselves against the works. It was grand and terrible in the extreme.Almost all were killed and wounded very near the works, or in the ditches of the works. I have no language to paint the scene.” [Citation: The Civil War Times, December 2017: p. 55-56.]

Historian Gottshalk (In Deadly Earnest) says that Cockrell had 696 men who went into the fight at Franklin and they suffered 419 total casualties.

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The Missouri section at McGavock

Here are the known/identified Missourian’s from Cockrell’s brigade buried at McGavock Confederate Cemetery:

Garland: 1st MO – 8 and 4th MO – 6 for a total of 14 men
Flournoy, Carter:  2nd MO -13 and 6th MO – 7 for a total of 20 men
Canniff: 3rd MO – 15 and 5th MO 11 for a total of 26 men
Gates: 1st MO Cav dis – 10 and 3rd MO Cav dis – 11 for a total of 21 men

Of these 114 total Confederate known-dead at McGavock, Cockrell’s Missourian’s accounted for 81 of the 114.

[Citation: The McGavock Confederate Cemetery (2017): p. 187.]

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For further reading:


Tags: Battle of Franklin | Francis M. Cockrell | Missouri | Indiana | 65th Indiana Infantry | John Casement | Cotton gin | 1st Missouri Infantry | CSA | McGavock Confederate Cemetery | Ed Bearss

Hand-written account from 33rd Alabama Infantry regimental history tells of carnage around cotton gin

John Witherspoon DuBose wrote the original regimental history for the 33rd Alabama Infantry. Here is an excerpt of his hand-written account of the post-battle scene of carnage around the Carter cotton gin. I have estimated that between 1,000 and 1,200 Confederate casualties occurred in this two acre area, with somewhere near 200 Confederate’s outright killed.

Great description by 100th Illinois solider (Lane’s Brigade) at Franklin, and artifacts

Pvt. – Sgt. Andrew W. Johnson
100 Illinois Infantry co. D. His Residence Plain field Illinois Enlisted 8/1/1862 as a Private. Promotions Sergt. He mustered out on 6/12/1865
Here`s some great information about Sgt. Johnson at the battle of Franklin Tennessee,
“We arrived at Franklin about noon, the enemy closely following us. Schofields corps were then behind a good line of works, our division was placed in line in front of them, and some slight works thrown up hurriedly. We could see Hood`s army marching over the hills, south of us. and watch them form their lines. Then commenced the battle, the enemy charging us in great force about four o`clock. We were compelled to leave the first line, falling back to the second line of works. and there the battle raged till almost nine p.m. The enemy charged the works five times, some of them being killed close on them. Gen. Clayborne and his horse fell right on our works. The fighting was terrific. We were now behind the works, and the enemy in the open field, almost the first battle in which the 100th had this advantage. There was a small grove of young locust trees just in front of part of our line,  every tree of which was cut off by bullets. The enemy withdrew having been repulsed each time. Clayborne`s division was nearly annihilated. Our list of casualties was again a sad one, for we lost one of the most valued of our remaining officers. Maj. Rodney S. Bowen was wounded in the thigh, and was placed in the last ambulance that started for Nashville, and died at that place three days after.  Michael Murphy our brave color sergeant, Co. C. was shot down while planting the colors in the face of the foe. and when Murphy fell, Andrew W. Johnson of co. D. sprang forward and snatched the colors and saved them from capture, for which he was made color sergeant.”
Source for excerpt and image:

Young teenager – Fannie Courtney – writes about the Battle of Franklin

Fannie Courtney-A View from the Other Side (1865)

The following was written by nineteen-year old Fannie in March 1865, four months after the Battle of Franklin, at the request of E. Root, Esq., U.S. Sanitary Commission in Nashville. It was part of “The Sanitary Reporter,” U.S. Sanitary Commission, April 15, 1865, p. 181-182.

It has appeared in numerous newspaper over the years, including the Boston Gazette and the Cincinnati Enquirer, among others.

Fannie Courtney was a strong Union sympathizer despite having a brother and cousin riding in Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s regiment. Shortly after the war, she married Lt. Col. George Grummond, U.S. Army, and went with him to Fort Phil Kearny, where he was killed by Indians. Later, she married Colonel Henry B. Carrington and enjoyed the benefits of being the wife of a senior officer.

To: E. Root., U.S. Sanitary Commission, Nashville From Frances Courtney

Fannie Courtney, courtesy of the Williamson County Historical Society

Dear Sir:

I hasten to give you an account of the Battle of Franklin, together with a statement of the facts concerning the hospitals and the wounded during the stay of the Rebels, a period of seventeen days, after the Battle. The details of the memorable engagement of November 30th will, of course, be according to my opportunity for personal observation, while terror stirred my soul. The other facts transpired in calmer moments, when my heart was filled with a holy sense of duty toward the suffering.

On the morning of the 30th of November the retreating army arrived at this place, tired and many almost exhausted. But, notwithstanding this, they commenced immediately throwing up breastworks. You would have been astonished to see how quick the work was completed… We felt great uneasiness of mind, fearing that there would be a great battle….

But we were doomed to disappointment; about half past three o’clock I was sitting at the dinner table, when I heard the roar of artillery. I ran into the yard to listen. There was a yell, the Rebels made a charge along the whole line. The bullets were falling so thick it was unsafe to remain longer. I stood within the door, and in a few minutes all was in perfect confusion. Men, women, and children were running in every direction, together with unmanageable teams, loose horses and mules. My position was no longer safe. I hastened to the cellar with the rest of my family and neighbors who sought protection with us…

About 10 o’clock suddenly the firing ceased for a few minutes. I heard persons in the sitting room above. It proved to be some Federal officers off duty for a time, who stopped to let us know how the Battle was going…I heard an awful groan, and within a few yards of me lay a Federal soldier who, (I supposed, had been wounded a short time before the firing ceased.) I sent one of the soldiers out to look after his comrade and to give him water. But he did not have to remain long; the wound proved to be mortal, and the poor man soon expired.

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Lt. Col. George Grummond, Courtesy the WCHS

Another desperate charge! Such yells! I can never forget wounded Federal soldiers came in from the battlefield, and stopped in the yard, for they could go no farther. I called to the men outside to bring them into the cellar. Two were slightly wounded. The third was struck in the arm, and the main artery was cut. He was bleeding profusely. One of the neighbors ran up at the risk of his life and brought a bucket of water. My mother had some cotton near, I poured water on the wound for some time. I then put cotton on each side where the ball entered and came out, bound it up with my handkerchief, and with two others belonging to my sister and little brother, made for him a sling. He lay down to rest, but complained of being cold from loss of blood. I had nothing to cover him with. What was I to do? A thought struck me. I took off my woolen skirt and tucked it around him. His comrades decided to try to overtake an ambulance with him, and I suppose they did, as they did not return.

Soon a fire broke out in town… we thought of nothing else but being burned alive in the cellar, as there was no way of getting out if the fire continued to spread. The Rebels could see the

position of our forces, and consequently the fighting was more terrible. Several buildings were consumed, but thanks to a kind Providence, the fire was extinguished by the timely interference of soldiers, assisted by citizens. About thirteen charges in all were made by the Rebels.

At midnight the Federal Army began to retreat, the wagon trains being safe, and gradually the firing ceased. Oh! How grateful to God we felt that it was over… Then we emerged from our place of refuge. I dragged beds into my mother’s room for us to rest there, as we wished to spend the remainder of the night of terror together. I could not sleep, for I longed to go to the battlefield to alleviate [lessen] suffering [and] do all in my power to make the wounded more comfortable until they could be brought to hospitals.

At 3 o’clock, again, such cannonading! What could it mean? It shook the earth, the house; everything seemed in motion above and below. It was a farewell salute sent by the rebels to the retreating army, now far away. I was so frightened I sprang up and aroused everyone to get to the cellar immediately or we should be killed. I remained close to the house, to do which, though it took me not more than two minutes, seemed an age. Just as I reached the cellar door a shell exploded close by, and had I been three seconds later in passing, I should have been struck by some of the fragments, which flew about. How grateful we felt to God that we were spared! But amidst our joy we thought of the dead ones who had fallen to find graves in a strange land, and of the suffering ones lying exposed on the field; of the desolate [joyless] homes, and the many hearts stricken with sorrow when the sad tidings should reach them…

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General Henry B. Carrington, courtesy of the WCHS

Early the next morning after the Battle I went to the field. The sight was dreadful. It seemed that I could scarcely move for fear of stepping on men either dead or wounded. Some were cold and stiff, others with the lifeblood ebbing out, unconscious of all around, while others were writhing in agony, calling, “Water! Water!” I can hear them now.

… I could not look upon such sights long, but hurried back to care for the wounded. There were forty-four hospitals in total— three for the Federal wounded and the rest for the Confederates. Red flags were waving from unoccupied dwelling, the seminaries, churches, and every business house in town.

My Mother and I took charge of a hundred and twenty wounded men, who occupied the Presbyterian Church, it being the largest Federal hospital, and with what we could spare assisted at another which was in a house owned by my mother and near our own home. When we first went to the hospital, the wounded men told us they had nothing to eat for two days. We first furnished them with bread, meat and tea, and coffee, every little luxury we could prepare, for several days. Then they drew scanty [very little] rations from the Rebels, flour the color of ashes and a little poor beef not suitable for well men, much less for wounded. All the cooking was done, and in truth, everything eatable furnished, at our house.

We fed the men twice a day. Sometimes at 10 o’clock at night we would carry them something prepared with our own hands. Many had been robbed not only of their blankets and overcoats but of their coats, and were lying on the floor upon handfuls of straw, with nothing else to protect or cover them. We furnished them all the bedding we could spare, and made cotton pillows for all. There were no bandages to be had, and I made what I could out of my own underclothing. We would get up at daylight and with the help of servants commence cooking their breakfast. We never had time to rest, only as we sat down to eat something hurriedly, for as soon as we had finished feeding our patients in the morning, we had to return home to prepare the next meal…

Booknote: Twenty-five Hours to Tragedy; The Battle of Spring Hill and Operations on November 29, 1864: Precursor to the Battle of Franklin

Amazon states:

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.11.25 PM.pngTwenty-five Hours to Tragedy: The Battle of Spring Hill and Operations on November 29, 1864 – Precursor to the Battle of Franklin is a compilation of eyewitness testimony linked by narrative telling the story of the great missed opportunity by the Confederate Army of Tennessee on November 29, 1864. Led by General John Bell Hood, a Confederate envelopment around Columbia, Tennessee left Union Major General John McAllister Schofield’s Fourth and Twenty-third Army corps strung out and beyond supporting distance of their wagon train. One lone division that had been sent to Spring Hill to protect the Union Army’s wagon train found itself confronting nearly 25,000 Confederate soldiers by mid-afternoon. While Union Major General David S. Stanley did all in his power to stop the Confederate attack, it seemed nothing could save them. Suddenly the fog of war set in, and as the sun sank on the western horizon, the Confederate high command found itself paralyzed with inaction, indecision, poor judgment and finally darkness. This maneuver forced General Schofield to conduct a harrowing forced march to Spring Hill past nearly 22,000 highly motivated Rebel soldiers within a few hundred yards of Columbia-Franklin Pike as darkness cloaked the field. While the Federals marched into a set Confederate trap that was never fully sprung, Confederate commanders stumbled through the starlight, and the Union army slipped past the lion’s den. The next day brought about the Battle of Franklin – a direct result of Confederate inaction and miscommunication the night before at Spring Hill. Twenty-five Hours to Tragedy is the largest and most in depth account of the actions that took place at Spring Hill. This account adds more testimony and sheds even greater light on a night filled with confusion and disappointment for the Confederate high command. Told by over one-hundred-and-fifty eyewitness participants, the accounts are linked by narrative that place the reader on the field in the midst of enthusiastic Confederate and anxious Union soldiers. The events of November 29, 1864 sealed the fate of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Only twenty-five hours after the Confederate Army’s arrival on the battlefield of Spring Hill, the decision to assault the heavily defended fortifications at Franklin was made. It was a decision that would not have to be made had the Confederates followed through with their plans at Spring Hill. Follow the armies in their race to Spring Hill, the combat there and the critical decisions that led to the Federal escape and a total Confederate command breakdown in the most devastating blunder of the American Civil War.

Order on Amazon