Category Archives: Jacob Cox

A great opportunity was lost at Spring Hill, Cheatham.

Maj.-Gen. B. F. Cheatham.

“On the morning of the 4th of December,” says General Cheatham, “I went to the headquarters of GenBenjamin F. Cheathameral Hood, and referring to his note and the criticism that had evidently been made by some one, I said to him, ‘A great opportunity was lost at Spring Hill, but you know that I obeyed your orders there, as everywhere, literally and promptly.’ General Hood not only did not dissent from what I said, but exhibited the most cordial manner, coupled with confidence and friendship.”

At daylight Cheatham’s corps passed through the village of Spring Hill, and between 1 and 2 o’clock p.m. the army reached the vicinity of Franklin, and Stewart’s and Cheatham’s corps were put in positions. The enemy was heavily intrenched and was superior in numbers and equipment. On the morning of the battle, General Schofield, commanding the Federal army, had behind his works 23,734 infantry and artillery, and his cavalry numbered 5,500. Maj.-Gen. J. D. Cox, U. S. A., upon whose authority these figures are given, states in his history of the battle of Franklin that Hood delivered the assault on the Federal lines with “two or three hundred less than 24,000” men, and gives Forrest’s strength at 9,000. Maj.-Gen. John C. Brown reported that on the morning of November 29, 1864, he had not exceeding 2,750 men in his division, the largest in Cheatham’s corps, and the three divisions did not exceed 6,000. Smith’s brigade of Cleburne’s division was not present. Stewart’s corps after Allatoona was less than 7,000, and with Johnson’s division of Lee’s corps, the assaulting column did not exceed 16,000 men. General Forrest stated in his official report that the entire cavalry force under his command was about 5,000.

Bate’s division was on the left, Brown’s in the center, Cleburne’s on the right. General Bate says his line “charged the works of the enemy. https://i0.wp.com/www.campchase.com/WEBlibrary/WillSmith/theocarter.jpgMy right got to the works (the second line) and remained there until morning;’the left was driven back. The enemy’s works were strong and defiant, constructed on a slight elevation, with few obstructions in front for several hundred yards. The works to the left of Carter’s creek turnpike were not strong, and with a vigorous assault should have been carried; a fact, however, not known until next day.” Bate’s division sustained a loss of 47 killed and 253 wounded. Capt. Todd Carter (right), on staff duty with Smith’s Tennessee brigade, fell mortally wounded near the enemy’s works and almost at the door of his father’s house.

No more magnificent spectacle was ever witnessed than the advance of the two divisions commanded by Cleburne and Brown; no two divisions of the army were ever led with greater skill and gallantry; no generals of division were ever supported with better ability by brigade, regimental and company officers. The troops were veterans who had never failed to respond to orders, although discouraged by recent and frequent disasters; and fully alive to the desperation of the assault about to be made, they advanced with noble courage. Before troops of equal numbers in the open field they would have been irresistible, but to attack intrenched troops, superior in numbers, advancing over an open plain without cover, was a disregard of the rules of war, a waste of precious lives, and a wrecking of an army once the pride and hope of the Southwest.

Source: Confederate Military History Volume 8:
Tennessee Chapter X

I advised not to leave the house unless it should become certain that a battle was imminent

“Early in the day Mr. F.B. Carter had asked me, with some anxiety,whether he had better remove his family from the house and abandonit. Without knowing how large the family in fact was, I advised not to leave the house unless it should become certain that a battle was imminent; for whilst my headquarters tents were in his door-yard, there was no danger of annoyance from the men of my command. If the house were abandoned, it would be impossible to answer for the safety of its contents. But if there were to be a battle, the very focus of it would certainly be there, and it would no place for women and chidren. I thought it most probable at that time that Hood would not attack in front. The very thoroughness of our preparation to meet an assault was a reason why he should not make it. It seemed wise for the family to remain as they were till they saw that a battle was about to open, and then to hasten to the village.”

– U.S. Brig.-Gen. Jacob Cox

Citation source: Eyewitnesses at the Battle of Franklin, Logsdon, p. 3.

Current look of Fountain Branch Carter’s Civil War era home,
looking east toward Columbia Pike, Franklin, Tennessee.

“Located in historic Franklin, the Carter House was built in 1828 and completed in 1830 by Fountain Branch Carter. The Carter property included a farm of 288 acres, where Carter, a gentleman farmer, raised cotton, corn, wheat, and rye. He owned twenty-eight slaves who lived in the seven slave cabins on the property. In 1860, at the beginning of the Civil War, Carter’s worth was sixty-two thousand dollars.

The house is constructed of bricks, glass, and squarehead nails, which were all made on the farm. The wood in the house is mostly tulip poplar, said to deter termites. The house contains many decorative elements, including ashlar treating, graining, marbling, and wall paper. The house represents the home of a wealthy planter of the mid-1800s. The kitchen, smokehouse, slave cabins, and farm office still stand.”

Citation source: The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture (online)

December 3rd New York Times account of the Battle of Franklin

FROM NASHVILLE

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The Position of the Opposing Armies.

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NO FIGHTING SINCE WEDNESDAY

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Hood Demonstrating Toward Murfreesboro

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Further Details of the Battle of Franklin

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THE REBEL GENERAL CLEBURNE KILLED

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The Rebel Loss Fully Six Thousand — Our Loss One Thousand

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GEN. THOMAS MASTER OF THE SITUATION

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Nashville, Friday, Dec. 2

I have received full accounts of the late battle at Franklin, and its antecedents, which was one of the the most brilliant in its general results of the war. For three days sharp skirmishing was kept up during the retirement of our army from Duck River to Franklin, during which time a multiplicity of exploits and successes resulted to the Federal arms.

Gen. Cox conducted the rear guard, and on the 29th ultimately achieved a splendid victory over the rebels at Spring Hill, while General Wilson’s cavalry gained a series of important successes over Forrest’s advance, under Roddy, on the pike between Turner’s and Spring Hill.

During the afternoon of the 30th ultimately the rebel army was sorely pressed under Hood, who had Cheatam’s and Stewart’s corps, and a portion of Dick Taylor’s command, numbering in all over 22,009 men. Owing to Cox’s gallant check at Spring Hill, and portion of the Fourth and Twenty-third Corps were enabled to gain Franklin early in the day, where they threw up a line of breastworks, extending from one end to the other of the curve in the river, behind which our entire infantry command took position.

At precisely four o’clock (afternoon) the entire rebel force made a charge, and succeeded in making a temporary break in our centre, commanded by Wagner. With characteristic impetuosity the soldiers composing Cheatham’s Corps dashed into the breastworks, and cooperating with the attacking party on their left, attempted to envelop and destroy our right. In the nick of time the troops of Wagner were rallied, and throwing their whole force on the rebel column, drove back the storming party in great disorder, capturing several hundred prisoner. Four hours after the rebels charged on these lines, but were repulsed as often with great slaughter.

The rebels numbered at least two to our one, as nearly half of the Fourth and Twenty-third Corps were in reserve. The rebels loss in killed is three times ours, while their wounded is at least six times as large as ours. The wounded of our men are mostly in the head, arms and body.

The artillery fire of the enemy was great precision, but their ammunition consisted chiefly of shot and shell, while for two hours immense quantities of more murderous missles were hurled with fearful fury into the rebel lines. All the attempt of the rebels to gain a permanent advantage were frustrated, and at dark the Federal position was uncharged, while the rebels retired, under cover of the woods, south of the Columbia pike.

The rebel loss, as before stated, is fully 6,000, including over 1,000 prisoners, an unsual number of whom were officers. Our loss reached a total of about 1,000.

An artillery duel was kept up till nearly midnight, when our troops commenced crossing Harpeth River, bringing all our trains and paraphernalia over in safety before daylight.

The army then retired to within four miles of this city, at which point our frontline confronts the enemy. The falling back of the army is in accordance with the programme, and the battle at Franklin, although of the most brilliant kind, was an impromptu affair, and brought about owing to the necessity of checking the rebel advance to secure a safe crossing of the river by our troops.

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LATER

Nashville, Friday, Dec. 2

Additional reports received increase the magnitude of the late victory at Franklin. Thirty stands of colors were captured by our forces. The Forty-ninth Indiana captured five, the Eighty-eighth Illinois three, Reilly’s old brigade eight, and the Twenty-third Corps captured four.

Gen. Stanley, commanding the Fourth Corps, had a very narrow escape, having had a horse killed under him, and was shot in the right shoulder, the ball travelling the back and going out of the left shoulder. He is in the city, and though suffering considerably, is still attending to duty.

It is confirmed that Gen. Cleburne, of Tennessee, is killed.

Gen. Kimball, commanding the Second Division of General Stanley’s Corps, in the heat of the battle passed a rebel Major-General, who told him he was mortally wounded. His men succeeded in carrying off his body.

It is believed that Hood’s main army is threatening Murfreesboro. Forrest’s rebel cavalry is demonstrating on our front and right flank.

Commander Fitch is here with a fleet of boats and Iron-clads. Sufficient forces have arrived to insure not only the safety of Nashville, but another Union victory, is case of a battle, under any circumstances.

The military men all unite in the opinion that Gen. Stanley and Schofield conducted the retirement from Pulaski in the face of the enemy with admirable skill, and crowning all with a magnificent Union victory at Franklin.

Background to the Battle of Franklin

Background to the Battle of Franklin (Wikipedia, 12/3/06)

Franklin followed the Battle of Spring Hill of the previous day. The Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, had failed to destroy part of the Union force in Tennessee, allowing the Union Army of the Ohio, commanded by Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, to escape. Hood had hoped to destroy Schofield before he could link up with the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas, farther north in Nashville, Tennessee. That combined Union force would be over 60,000 men, almost twice as large as Hood’s army. As the armies met at Franklin, however, Hood had approximately 38,000 men to Schofield’s 32,000.


Rippavilla Plantation in Spring Hill

Schofield’s advance guard arrived in Franklin at about 6:00 a.m., after a forced march north from Spring Hill. Brig. Gen. Jacob Dolson Cox, a division commander temporarily commanding the Union XXIII Corps (and later governor of Ohio), immediately began preparing strong defensive positions around breastworks originally constructed for the First Battle of Franklin in 1863. The defensive line formed approximately a semicircle around the city, from northwest to southeast; the other half of the semicircle was the Harpeth River.

Schofield’s decision to defend at Franklin with his back to a river seems odd. The reason was that he had insufficient pontoon bridges available to cross the river; the bridges had been left behind in his advance to Spring Hill due to lack of wagons to transport them. Now he needed time to repair the permanent bridges spanning the river and calculated that the breastworks were well positioned and adequate to delay Hood’s inevitable assault.

By noon the Union line was ready. Counter-clockwise from the northwest were the divisions of Maj. Gens. Nathan Kimball (from the IV Corps), Thomas H. Ruger (XXIII), and Cox (XXIII). Two brigades of the IV Corps division under Brig. Gen. George D. Wagner were forward, screening the Confederate approach. Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood’s division of the IV Corps was posted north of the Harpeth. Schofield planned to withdraw across the river by 6:00 p.m. if Hood had not arrived by then.

The Union Army size at Franklin

The Federal (Union) Army consisted of 22,000 infantry / approx 5,000 cavalry

  • 23rd Corps (Army of Ohio) commanded by Jacob Cox
  • 4th Corps (Army of the Cumberland) commanded by David Stanley

The Federal Army had arrived in Franklin around 1:00 that morning. Major General John M. Schofield led the operation and woke up the Carter Family, commandeering their home as his headquarters. At that time, the Carter Farm consisted of 288 acres on the south edge of town bordering the Columbia Pike.

Their cotton gin was located 100 yards from the house where eventually the main line of Federal breastworks were constructed. The Federal line commander was Cox who supervised his army in a defensive position surrounding the southern edge of town. He used the existing breastworks built in 1863 and constructed others on the west side of Columbia Pike. About 60 feet from the Carter House, near their farm office and smokehouse, were the inner breastworks.

Content source: The Carter House Museum