Tour Stop #2 – The Cotton Gin

Battle of Franklin TourYou Are Here – Stop #2 – Cleburne Park – Cotton Gin Site

Stop #1 – Winstead Hill / Harrison House | Stop #3 – Carter House

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Some of the most ferocious fighting took place around the Carter Cotton Gin during the Battle of Franklin. Confederate Generals John Adams and Patrick Cleburne both died in the vicinity of the gin.

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The Medal of Honor was awarded to Private John H. Ricksecker, Company E, 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry for capturing the 16th Alabama Infantry Regiment’s battle flag near Carter’s Cotton Gin. This was in the vicinity of where many surviving members of the 16th Alabama had surrendered, probably along with members of the Mississippi 5th, 8th and 32nd Regiments and 3rd Battalion.

Franklin story-teller Emeritus Thomas Cartwright talks about the action around the Cotton Gin.

Plans are for the Carter Cotton Gin Interpretive Park to be constructed on the exact ground on which it originally stood in 1864, when the Battle of Franklin took place (30 November 1864). The park will include a replicated cotton gin based on the detailed designs by the Carter family, as well as a partial replication of the original Federal earthworks on the site.

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Historians like Eric Jacobson have long-tenuated that the fighting that took place between Confederates and Federal units on this exact land during the battle was some of the fiercest ever waged in the Civil War. Much of the fighting took place at night, in hand-to-hand combat, and the outcome was in doubt to the very last hours of the action.  Confederate Generals Patrick Cleburne and John Adams fell mortally wounded within sight of the original cotton gin. There were nearly 10,000 total casualties within five hours at Franklin.

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More relevant stories and content related to the Cotton Gin:

  • Must-Know” facts about the Carter Cotton Gin.
  • William F. Gibson, 8th Arkansas Infantry, was severely wounded near the Cotton gin. He was saved by a Union soldier – and fellow Mason – and was carried to a nearby Franklin-resident’s house. He survived his ghastly wound.
  • Bentley’s 104th Ohio Infantry account of action around Cotton gin.

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Authentic first-hand accounts of the men who fought around the Cotton gin:

The 104th Ohio Infantry was placed right beside the Carter cotton gin at the Battle of Franklin.  The men in that area of the field saw some of the most horrific and intense fighting during the battle. One Union soldier in the 104th Ohio, who survived the battle, wrote a vivid detail of the action from his point of view.

“These rebel boys were ordered to advance and were led upon a death as certain and sure to be met with, as there was a God in Heaven. Right into the fury of a foe mostly concealed from their view and worthy of their valor,” Adam Weaver wrote.

“The shells from our rifled cannons located north of town, tore dreadful gaps, in the ranks of the rebels, with only the visible effects of causing them to close up the openings and press ever forward.”

The “shells from our cannons located north of town” were no doubt coming from the guns of Fort Granger on Figuer’s Bluff, just north of the Harpeth River.

“The salient of our (first) line was near the (Columbia) pike. There the opposing lines met in a hand-to-hand encounter. Our line, overwhelmed by the weight of numbers, quickly gave way…They were coming on a run, emitting the shrill rebel charging yell and so close that my first impulse was to drop flat on the ground and let them charge over me. But…I shouted to my company: ‘Fall back, Fall back!” and gave (them) an example of how to do it by turning and running for the breastworks…”
[Capt. John K. Shellenbarger, 64th Ohio]

“How grandly, how swiftly, they swept up that beautiful slope, after the flying fugitives (from our first line) in their breakneck race, and so close upon their heels, that by the time our boys were climbing the breastworks of our main line, many of the ‘Johnnies’ were there with them.”

[Private Nelson A. Pinney, Co. D, 104th Ohio]

“Our first line captured the first line of the Federal works, a ‘temporary.’ You claim that in your front the two lines of works were half a mile apart. In our front I think they were about one hundred yards apart. Our orders were not to stop at the first work, but to cross over the second line. A few of us obeyed orders. How many poor fellows never reached the second line.”
[Private Andrew Jackson Batchelor, Co. K, 33rd Alabama, Lowrey’s Brigade]

“As the confused mass of fleeing Federal soldiers approached the Union fortifications, Rebels close behind them, the defenders were in a quandary. They could not shoot at the approaching Confederates without hitting their own men. The Southerners saw the situation and took up the cry: ‘Into the works with them.’ They swept over the breastworks, and surged forward.” [Franklin by Allen Parfitt] “All this time not a gun had been fired from our main line, but now, as soon as our boys had gained the cover of the works, we opened all along the line of attack with the shock of an earthquake…”
[Private Nelson A. Pinney, Co. D, 104th Ohio]

“A sheet of fire was poured into our very faces…(and) the terrible avalanche of shot and shell laid low those brave and gallant heroes…”
[Sam R. Watkins, Co. H, 1st Tennessee]

“A few rods from our front line General Pat Cleburne fell, pierced by seventeen rifle balls. Finding that they could not take our line, they lay down in the ditch in front, where some of them crawled to the embrasures and began to shoot down the gunners. Noticing this, John Hunt, of company D, crawled under one of the guns, from whence he picked them off as soon as they showed their heads in the embrasure. Lieutenant Wm. F. Kemble, of Company C, was conspicuous for his bravery, throwing axes, hatchets and anything that came to hand into the seething mass of rebels in front, till a rebel bullet laid him cold in death. ‘Remember Utoy Creek’ was our battle cry on that eventful day, and well did the men of the 1st brigade avenge themselves on the enemies. For half an hour we kept up this terrible fire, much of the time amid smoke so dense that we could distinguish nothing at the distance of a rod.” [Private Nelson A. Pinney, Co. D, 104th Ohio]

“I could not see their works until within a few yards of them, the smoke was so dense. When I reached the ditch, it was filled with dead and wounded Confederates. I walked over on dead men. There were five or six of us near our colors, but all fell in the ditch but myself. Our colors were just over the works. I ran up on the works at the corner of the old ginhouse. I threw my gun down on the works at the corner of the ginhouse. Just then I was jerked over the works.”
[Private Andrew Jackson Batchelor, Co. K, 33rd Alabama, Lowrey’s Brigade]

“The smoke had lifted but little when we could see rags upon bayonets from the ditch in front, and could hear them calling out, ‘For God’s sake, don’t shoot, and we’ll give up and come in.’ Of course, over a thousand were captured by our brigade, of whom two hundred survivors of the 16th Alabama, and as many more of the others commands, fell into the hands of the 104th (Ohio Volunteer Infantry), as well as eleven rebel battle flags. But it was not by any means a bloodless victory for us. The 104th had sixty killed and wounded, besides, perhaps a dozen of our skirmishers taken prisoners.

”Just at dusk [about 5:00 p.m.] the 104th was ordered to make a reconnaissance in front of the lines. Clambering over the works we formed in a line outside and moved on our slow and tedious way along the ground over which the rebels came in their headlong charge. The sights and sounds which greeted us as we grouped along were enough to shock a heart of stone. Along the front of our line the dead and dying lay piled up promiscuously in the ditch, sometimes eight feet deep, while as we passed over the ground we were often obliged to pick our way most carefully along, to avoid tramping on the bodies with which the ground was strewn. On every hand the wounded men would cry for mercy: ‘O, for God’ s sake, give me water .’ Don’ t kill me for God’ s sake,’ as though they thought we might be brutal enough to harm a dying man. We found no enemy in front except these fallen ones, so we returned to our place on the line.”
[Private Nelson A. Pinney, Co. D, 104th Ohio]

Next Stop #3 – Carter House

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