The Battle of Franklin

In November 1864, General John Bell Hood’s Confederate army of 30,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry entered Tennessee from Florence, Alabama. Hood’s objective was to wedge his force between the Federal Army of the Ohio at Pulaski and the Army of the Cumberland at Nashville. As Hood advanced, Major General John M. Schofield withdrew his Army of the Ohio from Pulaski to Columbia to avoid being flanked.[1]

General John Bell Hood, commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee | Image Credit: Flickr.com

General John Bell Hood, commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Learning that Hood intended to flank him once more, Schofield withdrew across the Duck River and established positions at Spring Hill, which guarded the main road (and potential escape route) to Franklin and Nashville. Hood’s army crossed the Duck River and attempted to cut Schofield off from the main road. General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry skirmished with Federals at Spring Hill on 29 November, but the darkness and the Federal defenses halted any further Confederate advance.[2]

During the night, Schofield withdrew his entire force to Franklin without Confederate detection. This failure to notice Schofield’s withdrawal prompted charges and countercharges of dereliction of duty among the Confederate high command. The “Spring Hill Affair” became one of the most controversial non-combat events of the war.[3]

Meanwhile, General Schofield established Federal defenses south of Franklin and the Harpeth River in Tennessee. Partly to atone for the Spring Hill blunder that had allowed Schofield to escape, General Hood launched a massive Confederate assault on the Federal positions in the late afternoon of 30 November.[4]

Despite heavy losses, the Confederates captured the outer defenses before Federal reinforcements repulsed them. Hood finally pulled back late that night. The Federals suffered 2,326 casualties (189 killed, 1,033 wounded, and 1,104 missing) out of about 25,000 effectives, while the Confederates lost 6,252 (1,750 killed, 3,800 wounded,and 702 missing) from some 27,000, or roughly a quarter of Hood’s army.[5]

Six generals were among the Confederate dead, including Patrick Cleburne (the “Stonewall” Jackson of the West) and S.R. “States Rights” Gist. Following his victory, Schofield quietly withdrew 25 miles to join the Federal Army of the Cumberland in Nashville. Although he had suffered terrible casualties in failing to break the Federal lines, Hood pursued Schofield.[6]

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  • [1] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 598-600
  • [2] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 601-603; Nevin, David, Sherman’s March: Atlanta to the Sea (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 89-120
  • [3] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 602-603
  • [4] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 603-604; Nevin, David, Sherman’s March: Atlanta to the Sea (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 89-120
  • [5] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 603-604; Nevin, David, Sherman’s March: Atlanta to the Sea (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 89-120; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 344-45
  • [6] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 603-604; Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 185-86
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3 thoughts on “The Battle of Franklin

  1. […] The Battle of Franklin occurred in Tennessee. […]

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  2. […] his horrific defeat at Franklin, General John Bell Hood moved his Confederate Army of Tennessee forward in a desperate attempt to […]

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  3. […] on New Year’s Eve to personally inspect Hood’s army after recent defeats at Nashville and Franklin. En route, President Davis instructed Beauregard to relieve Hood from command if […]

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