Foster’s Map of the Franklin battlefield

On November 30, 1864, under the command of General John Bell Hood, the Confederate Army of Tennessee attacked Union troops just south of the small town of Franklin, Tennessee. Union General John Schofield, having passed by the Confederate troops in the dark of night, was attempting to unite his forces with Union forces positioned in Nashville. The process of moving troops and supplies was slowed in Franklin due to the destruction of the county bridge over the Harpeth River. Recognizing this delay could give Confederate forces an opportunity to attack, Schofield directed his troops to dig earthworks and fortify a strong defensive position along a hill on the southern edge of Franklin. This hill was known as Carter Hill and at its apex was the Carter House.

Hood was disappointed that Union forces slipped away, but he recognized that the Union troops had no quick way to cross the Harpeth River. A full frontal assault was launched against the fortified Union position. The attack was sent forward despite Hood’s troops (including the bulk of his artillery) not fully arriving on the field. The rebels charged and suffered horrific losses. Despite significant casualties, portions of the Union earthworks were taken near the Carter House. Confederate troops outnumbered Union troops and this break in the Union Lines was a strategic advantage that could have changed the outcome of the battle except for a counterattack from General Emerson Opdycke that pushed the Confederates back once more and decided the day.

In only five hours, some 1,750 Confederate soldiers and another 200 Union soldiers were killed. There were a total of nearly 9,000 casualties including those killed, wounded or captured, which earned the Battle of Franklin the distinction of the bloodiest five hours of the Civil War. The costs for the Confederate Army were felt beyond just the loss of soldiers. Six confederate generals were killed, another five were wounded, and one was captured. This loss of leadership was pivotal in the sound defeat of the Confederate Army at the Battle of Nashville some two weeks later and effectively ended the western theater of the Civil War.

The story of the Battle of Franklin is both horrible and fascinating. But it has not been without significant preservation efforts that the Carter House and the Franklin Battlefield have been saved from the pressures of adjacent development. More recently, significant sites have even been purchased and structures have been removed to restore the battlefield. The charge of this master plan is to continue these efforts, to direct future reclamation of the Battlefield from development pressures, and to create a plan to tell the stories of the battle that occurred at Carter Hill and of the people that lived in the simple home that became a crucial Civil War battlefield.

Text credit: Carter House Master Plan (n.d.): p. 4

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

36th Illinois soldier is killed on Carter House lawn, story comes full-circle more than 150 years later

One of our Facebook members – Kendyl Wallis – recently shared this story with us:

“The Colonel of my G-G grandfathers regiment, Colonel Porter Olson, 36th Illinois, was killed on the Carter House lawn. A shutter was torn from the house to use as a litter to carry him to the rear. About 10 years ago I was at Carnton, and I met a descendant of Fountain Branch Carter. We had a pleasant visit, and I pulled out my wallet and offered to reimburse her family for the shutter. We had a good laugh about that!”Lieutenant-Colonel Porter C. Olson, 36th Illinois Infantry

 

The 36th Illinois was in Odycke’s Brigade and in reserve about 500 yards north of the Carter House. These Opdycke troops were called into action to stem the Confederate breech around the Carter House when some CSA units broke through the main and interior Federal lines during the battle.

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The Carter House | Franklin, Tennessee

 

 

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.

Just how intense was the action around the Carter cotton gin at Franklin?

Just how intense was the fighting around the cotton gin at the Battle of Franklin? The pictures below shows a general area of roughly two square acres, where the cotton gin was on 30 Nov. After studying the casualties and battlefield accounts, and many other records – over many years – I have concluded that there were at least 100 Confederate dead (possibly 150-200) in this small two acre section, and another 800-1,000 wounded, lying on the field, waiting for assistance. After the battle, the Confederate soldiers who were not injured began walking among areas of the battlefield like this, where the action was hottest. Comforting their wounded. Confirming the dead. Carrying the wounded to local ‘hospitals’ in the homes of residents and the local churches. With some 800-1,200 casualties (just wounded and killed) in this two-acre section a person attending to the wounded after the battle could attend to one comrade, then turn in any direction and walk 8-10 feet and attend to another. The another . . . and another. And don’t forget, right in front of the Federal line, in the trench, the dead were likely piled 4-6 high. Imagine 1,000 people today, lying down in this two acre section, symbolizing the casualties around the Carter cotton gin.