New York Times’ headlines for December 5th, 1864 – coverage of the Battle of Franklin

Heavy Skirmishing in Front of Nashville.
A Reconnoitering Expedition No Rebels Across the River.
Surrender of a Blockhouse to the Rebels.
Rebel Views of Hood’s Movement.
Gen. Stanley’s Wound The Chattanooga and Nashville Railroad.

Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.
NASHVILLE, Saturday, Dec. 3. After two days of wet weather, the clouds disappeared this morning, and the day has been magnificent. I have been on our right all day. Our line of battle extends around the suburbs of the city, our right and left, respectively, resting on the Cumber land River. The enemy’s line of battle is just two miles from the city. Quite heavy skirmishing in front of Gens. A.J. SMITH and WOOD has been going on all the afternoon by sharpshooters on both sides. On the right of our centre, near Widow ACKLIN’s place, the enemy’s skirmishers became troublesome, taking refuge behind houses on Franklin, Granny White and Highborn pikes. Two houses were burned, several injured and ruined by our artillery. We used considerable artillery this afternoon on our right and right centre, but elicited no reply from the rebel artillery. The supposition is that they are short of this kind of ammunition. Several of our men were killed to-day by their sharpshooters, including two members of the Sixth Ohio Battery. The enemy’s line can be seen quite plainly with the naked eve. All railroading south of this city has ceased to exist. Murfreesboro, Bridgeport and Chattanooga are deemed safe. Events of some moment are anticipated to-morrow. It may be considered an impossibility for the rebels to cross the river either on our right or left, as Commodore FITCH is here with a fleet of gunboats. Johnsonville has been evacuated. Everything was removed from all the railroads in safety. Thirty-three locomotives and trains were sent North this morning. Nashville and the surrounding country for miles has been converted into a huge fortress. The destruction of rebel property in deface of the city will be almost incalculable. As almost all the rich property-owners hereabouts are rebel sympathizers, the rage manifested by this portion of the community at the approach of the rebel army, necessitating the destruction of their property, is unbounded. Gen. FRANK CHEATHAM, commanding one of the rebel corps, has his headquarters at the house of Mr. EDMONSON, on the Murfreesboro pike, four miles from the city. He told EDMONSON that HOOD had orders to go to Nashville or to hell. There is plenty of water in the river for boating purposes Vague rumors are afloat about FORREST crossing the river, and BEECKINRIDGE joining HOOD, all of which are untrue. The situation of our forces is considered perfectly satisfactory. BENJ. C. TRUMAN.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sunday, Dec. 4. No new developments have taken place to-day, except that our army still encircles the city on the southeast, its wings resting on the Cumberland River. The enemy’s lines are clearly to be seen from high points in the suburbs and from the capitol. They are in trenching themselves in a southwestern direction, about three miles from the city. During the day heavy skirmishing occurred on our left and progressed along the line to the centre. Many persons witnessed the cannonading. Along the right of our lines nothing of importance transpired to-day. The general opinion is that HOOD will attack the Federal forces in front of Nashville. A Federal cavalry force has patrolled the north bank of the river at the fords to prevent cavalry from crossing, as numerous unsuccessful attempts have been made by them to cross since the 1st inst. Johnsonville has been evacuated, and the road has been uninterrupted, and part of the trains from there are advancing to this point by land. It is rumored here to-day that FORREST has placed a pontoon bridge across the river above the city, and that MARMADUKE has occupied Johnsonville. Both are without foundation. The first block-house on the Chattanooga road, four miles from the city, defended by negroes, commanded by Col. JOHNSON, of the colored infantry, who surrendered Dalton, Ga., and was paroled, held out unit this afternoon, when they surrendered. Col. JOHNSON and a portion of his men escaping on a train. The remainder were captured. The train was fired into. Several jumped from the train into the river and escaped. Col. JOHNSON among them, who is in the city tonight. A reconnoitering party sent Thursday returned today, having gone eighty miles up the river. They report that no rebels were seen or heard of crossing the river, and none appeared upon the banks. A rebel deserter, who came in to-day, reports that Gen. S.D. LEE published an order to his men Friday morning, complimenting them on their bravery, devotion, & c, thanking them for the victory won at Franklin, and assuring them that if true to themselves now in front of Nashville, they would be soon enabled to enter and take possession of a vast amount of stores contained there. Two prisoners were brought in to-day, Lieut. HICKMAN, Ninth Tennessee Cavalry, four miles from the city, and C.H. GARDY, of FORD’s Forty-eighth Georgia Infantry. The water on the shoals is nine feet deep, and still rising. REBEL VIEW OF HOOD’s CAMPAIGN. From the Sentinel. The news from Tennessee through United States papers, is of further retrograde without fight on the part of the Federal General This means, of course, further advance of the army of Gen. HOOD. By previous reports. Gen. FORREST was upon a flank movement. The next day tells the result. THOMAS fell back from Columbia to Franklin, twenty-five miles in twenty-four hours, a rapidity of movement which is a complement to his celerity, and evidence of the fright which hurried him. It was appropriately celebrated in New-York by a rise in gold. Franklin, at or near which point we are to suppose that HOOD had arrived. is only nineteen miles by rail from Nashville. Another flanker by FORREST, will send THOMAS behind the fortifications of the latter city. What may be HOOD’s further movements, we can only conjecture, so can the enemy. It would be a small thing for FORREST to do, to swing around Nashville and cut its Northern connections. HOOD has probably but to place the city in his rear to frighten THOMAS out of it. It would seem very clear that HOOD has already ccomplished enough to restore almost the whole of Tennessee to our side of the military lines. He has but to march upon East Tennessee to regain complete possession there without a blow. Lost by the treachery of the Commander at Cumberland Gap, it may soon be ours again. Isolated, cut off and unsupported, Chattanooga would then become utterly untenable by the enemy. This would restore to us our line of railway through Knoxville and Chattanooga to the Southwest. The campaign would indeed be glorious that should close with such an advantage to our cause; and yet it is a consummation which seems within our grasp. It may be that HOOD iS striving for still more. It may be that Nashville is to be regained, and that the feet of his soldiers will press the soil of Kentucky here halt is called. We cherish large hopes from his enterprise, but trust that what is now in our-grasp will not be too much imperiled in an effort at more. If it shall please Heaven to favor us with the success which it now seems reasonable to expect in Tennessee, it will be an overwhelming rebuke of the braggart SHERMAN, and hundredfold compensation for the pigs he may steal, and the corncribs he may burn, while running the gauntlet in Georgia. We watt with solicitude and yet with cheering anticipations, for further tidings. Gen. Stanley’s Wound — The Chattanooga and Nashville Railroad. LOUISVILLE, Dec. 3. Maj.-Gen. D.S. STANLEY left here by the mail-boat for his home at Yellow Springs, Ohio, this afternoon. His wound is rattier painful but not dangerous, and Col. SCOTT, the Surgeon-General of Kentucky, expresses the opinion that he will be able to reenter the service within fifteen or twenty days. Yesterday the rolling stock of the Chattanooga and Nashville Railroad, consisting of large numbers of trains, was ordered to Louisville. The order was countermanded to-day. The passenger train from Nashville has arrived three hours behind time.

Dec 3rd, 1864 letter by 104th Ohio soldier offers grisly detail of Rebel casualties

Nashville, Tenn
Dec 3rd, 1864

There is a mail going out in a few minutes and I must write a few lines to tell you of my safety. You have heard of the fight at Franklin day before yesterday and will be anxious to hear particulars.

I was sent with several others of the Co. after rations about an hour before the charge was made and the fight was almost over before we could get to our works. Tho we started immediately, I tell you, it was a hard battle but our boys stood their ground like heroes, tho a part of the 4th Corps left their works which almost lost the day for us. Our Corps has now, at last, a name which we may be proud of. The enemy’s loss was awful, you can have no idea of it unless you could see the field. The nearest fighting in our Brigade line was directly in front of our Co. We were the left center Co., next to the Colors, and they seemed determined to capture them, but our boys stuck to them. The rebels came up on to our works, some of them jumping clear over them. The ditch in front was piled with dead and wounded and for rods in front, a man could hardly put his foot down without stepping on them. Our loss was comparatively slight, 5 wounded in our Co . . . .

We don’t fear the enemy here. We are well fixed.

Source: (p. 125)

“Burning Rails as We Pleased”: The Civil War Letters of of William Garrigues Bentley, 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. McFarland, 2011.

December 3rd, 1864 letter by Indiana officer reveals interesting post-Franklin detail

My Dear Wife,


December 3, 1864 letter written by Captain Addison Lee Ewing, 63rd Indiana Infantry

I am all of a flutter of joyous excitement. Evening before last I received your long but very interesting letter and papers also, one from brother bearing good news from home. Then last evening I received the coat and contents of its pockets. Then again today one of Company C came up from Knoxville and brought my old valise I thought I would never get again. It came just in time for the Rebs captured our . . . . . [rest of sentence is unreadable, holes in the letter at the crease].

All is good here! Coming in on the heels of the great victory we won over the enemy at Franklin on the 30th Nov makes us feel good. I have no doubt you have heard all about what we accomplished but you must want to know how I came out which was all right. The Rebs fought desperately.  Colonels and Generals rode right up to our faces bringing their men up in fine style but “blue coats” wouldn’t budge back one inch and they fell victims of their own mad actions. A person could walk over several acres of ground passing from one dead body to another. It was a terrible slaughter. We took almost 3,000 prisoners and 12 colors. Many more could have been taken up but it was dark & our forces fell back to this place inside its fortifications, where we can use the Rebble army up if they come on to us. There is no quicker way of suffering this war than by having the Rebs charge our works, when they invariably get whipped.

Well the coat fits a little loose but I suppose it will shrink some so I will keep it. The other one shrank up so I had to sell it.

[Ewing stops writing for the 3rd and picks back up on Sunday, the 4th of December.]

Source: A.L. Ewing, 63rd Indiana Infantry,  The Kraig McNutt Civil War Collection

Diary entry for November 30, 1864 by 63rd Indiana soldier who served at Franklin

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 A.L. Ewing with wife Marysafely 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.

Written by Addison Lee Ewing, Captain, Co F, 63rd Indiana Infantry
(Previous posts related to Ewing)

Source: Ewing Mss. Manuscripts department, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

“Must reading” on the Battle of Franklin

Jacob Dolson Cox, The March to the Sea, Chapter Five: Battle of Franklin (Download in PDF)

The Battle of Franklin Tennessee November 30, 1864, by Jacob D. Cox, 1897 (Entire book in PDF)

Jacob Dolson Cox, (Jr.) (October 27, 1828 – August 4, 1900) was a lawyer, a Union Army general during the American Civil War, and later a Republican politician from Ohio. He served as the 28th Governor of Ohio and as United States Secretary of the Interior. (Wikipedia)