9th TN Cavalry (partisan ranger) writes of action at Franklin

Transcription provided by Cowan’s auction:

“As November 1864 marches on, so do the Confederate troops led by Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood. Battle remarks about the excitement building among citizens in Tennessee as they anticipate Hood’s moving towards Nashville. “All in high spirits about the rebels coming half again into our old country,” he writes on November 27th. He hears the arms at the Battle of Franklin, on November 30, 1864, and writes that “The fight was terrific beyond description.”

On December 1st as the Yankees retreated towards Nashville, Battle is chased by the Yankees again, only to elude capture. Despite the Rebels devastating losses at Franklin, Battle and the men are “overjoyed” with the presence of the Confederates and “delighted at the idea of being in the rebel lines….”

Finally able to move freely in his home town of College Grove without the fear of capture, Battle begins recruiting young men for the CSA.  “The citizens of conscript age all anxious to join me. Travel around in the afternoon for recruits. Get a good many….”

Cowan’s description of the diary:

Confederate diary of Robert I. Battle, CSA surgeon turned Morgan’s Raider and Confederate spy. Diary measures 3.5 x 5.5 in., black cloth, 75 pp, in pencil. Entries are dated April 26, 1864, to June 18, 1864, then September 27, 1864, to January 4, 1865, with near daily entries during these periods during which Battle served as a scout and spy. Fascinating content details his movements through enemy lines, skirmishes with Union soldiers, the hospitality of Southern sympathizers, Union efforts to apprehend him, references to the Battles of Franklin and Nashville, and more.
Robert Irvine Battle (1842-1921) was born near Nashville, Tennessee, to Col. William Mayo Battle and Sarah Jane Smith Battle. After graduating from the Nashville Medical College in 1860, he enlisted in the Confederate Army on 6/1/1861 as a surgeon in Company B, Tennessee 20th Infantry Regiment. Sometime after the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862), Battle was captured and taken prisoner in West Tennessee. Records list him as a POW on 5/1/1862, and indicate he was confined at Johnson’s Island prison camp in Ohio on or around 5/10/1862.
After six months in prison, a prisoner exchange landed the young surgeon in Richmond, VA, where he then joined General John Hunt Morgan’s forces as part of the Tennessee 9th Cavalry. Battle’s 1921 obituary indicates that he was with General Morgan on his famous summer 1863 raid into Ohio, and that he was among the men of Co. C led by Captain J. D. Kirkpatrick who escaped capture at Buffington Island. These men then made their way on foot through West Virginia and back to the Confederate Army. The obituary then states that upon reaching the Confederate Army, Battle was made headquarters scout for General Benjamin J. Hill, assuming the role with a hand-picked group of men of whom he was made captain. In the summer and fall of 1864 and 1865, General Hill served various roles in the CSA, but remained in the Tennessee region. Like Robert Battle, General Hill was a Tennessee native, and no doubt the General selected Battle as a scout in part because of his familiarity with the territory in which they were fighting.

The Battle of Franklin seen through the eyes of a Union soldier in Stiles’ Brigade

What must have it been like to have been able to sit down with a first-hand participant of the Battle of Franklin, within minutes after the battle, and to get his observations?  Fortunately, we don’t have to imagine.  All we need to do is to read the authentic accounts from those who lived through it themselves to know.  One such lucky soldier was Lee Ewing from the 63rd Indiana Infantry.

It is these kind of first-hand accounts that far surpass accounts recorded in official reports, newspapers, and post-war recollections (some decades later).

Captain Addison Lee Ewing (Co I, 63rd Indiana) was on the far left Union flank at Franklin, serving in Stiles’ Brigade.  I have blogged on Ewing many times in the past.  Ewing was from Haubstadt, Indiana – near Evansville – and served throughout the entire war. He kept a personal diary faithfully, recording his observations and reflections every day. He also wrote home a lot.

Several years ago I was very fortunate to acquire a large collection of personal letters and documents that belonged to Ewing. I say fortunate, because there were many times when his personal papers and correspondence, that he kept with him while in the field, was nearly lost or destroyed.  I have three dozen or so letters by him and numerous documents like muster in/out rolls.

I also have a copy of his entire war time diary.  His current living descendants have been most gracious and magnanimous in providing me access and info on their ancestor.

I have examined and studied Ewing’s diary entries and letter content in which he specifically commented or described what took place at Franklin (30 Nov 1864) from his perspective.  For our purposes here I have distilled my comments by using a simple web tool called TagCloud to determine what words (or word clusters) were most prominent in Ewing’s diary and letters as he was commenting on his experience at Franklin.  One of the key values of this type of analysis is that it is fresh, unfiltered and as authentic as it gets.  Ewing recorded nearly 1,000 words related to his account and observations of the Battle of Franklin.

The main word cluster or semantic domain for Ewing was line or works.  This makes perfect sense.  The 63rd Indiana was on the far left Union flank, as one can see on the map. They were sandwiched between the 128th and 120th Indiana Infantries, respectively.  All part of Stiles’ Brigade, these Hoosier boys protected the far left Union flank, buttressed up against the railroad track and the Harpeth River. Stiles’ men would be assaulted by Loring’s Division, hundreds of Confederates from Scott’s and Featherston’s Brigades.

When Ewing and his men first arrived in Franklin in the early morning hours of the 30th he says that, “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.”  Part of that temporary works, besides typical head logs, was the resourceful use of osage orange branches along this line.  Osage orange branches are very hard and prickly. They were often used as natural “barbed wire” for fencing and containing cattle at the time.  Ewing continues, “Our lines was extended from the Harpeth River above town to the river just below, and of a horse-shoe shape.”

Several hours before the battle started (about 4pm on the 30th), Ewing and several of his men were placed several hundred yards in front of the main federal line on picket duty. Ewing wrote in his diary on the 30th, “Myself and company however were placed out on picket and had dug some rifle pits to spend the night.”  However, the skirmishers of the 63rd Indiana did not have the opportunity to engage in typical pre-battle skirmishing action, as Ewing recounts, “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.”

It probably took between 15-20 minutes for Loring’s men to reach the Federal position where Stiles’ men were.  Four Federal infantry units under Israel Stiles awaited the advance from Scott’s and Featherston’s units.  Ewing and his men made it back behind their works before the first Confederate charge from Scott-Featherston took place. Ewing describes the exact moment when that clash between the two armies took place, “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.”

What took place for the next 3-4 hours in this area of the field can hardly be described as anything short of hellish. But let Ewing’s words serve as an authentic account of what took place, “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.”

December 20th, 1864 Officer’s diary describes Hood’s fleeing army from Nashville

We started in good time over frozen ground and ice though the pike was tolerable good only in spots. All day we have passed the wrecks of Hood’s fleeing army, signs of hot pursuit. We reached Spring Hill at 4 p.m. and go in camp just before it commences to rain again. The little village is very much dilapidated to what it was when we first saw it. It was near that the Rebs came near cutting off our retreat up to Franklin. Made a search to find commissary wagons but fail and have to crumb it scantily at that. Rain increases and our bed is wet as has been for sometime.

A.L. Ewing (63rd Indiana Infantry) diary for Dec 20th, 1864

Source: The Eli Lilly Library, Indiana University

Indiana officer remarks about fresh graves in Franklin as Federals chase Hood to Alabama in retreat

Oh what a night for any but veterans. The weather drizzled til about 3 p.m. when it set in to rain in earnest and continued to pour down till late this afternoon. The first thing I saw on waking up was a sea of mud and water all around me, and when I got up water soon ran into the depression where I had slept. As soon as the men began moving around, the soft earth became a perfect lob, which we had to cook, eat and stand around near 4 p.m. when we moved over to Franklin and camp on the old battleground which is dotted with many graves of the slain of 18 days ago. I went up to see the old works where we lay during the fight. We are camped on solid grassy ground. The night is cool and I think freezing but we are made comfortable by our camp stove which my boy carries and we have a plank to sleep on. Crossing the bridge a man fell off but was near enough to shore to scramble out safe but was bad scared.

A,L. Ewing diary entry for Dec 19, 1864

Source: The Eli Lilly Library, Indiana University

Indiana officer writes about Hood’s retreat on December 18, 1864

We came about eight miles yesterday and last eve could hear cannon ahead. But now this morning the enemy is reported to be beyond Franklin where they suffered some yesterday trying to check out advance. We move about a mile across farms and get on the Franklin Pike where we find the commissary wagons and draw rations. Some captured wagons and 300 captured prisoners pass to our rear. Some of them barefooted. It is reported we have captured Gen Cheatham.

Source: A.L. Ewing Civil War Diary, Eli Lilly Library