Theodore Allen diary; The Filson Historical Society
Dec 15, 1864: Thursday
“Last night the order to attack Hood at Daylight today was given. We are in our saddles at 4 a.m.
“Our Division is ordered to move on the Charlotte pike and hold the extreme right of our lines. We move to our position at Daylight. A dense fog envelopes the country and the attack is delayed. At 9 a.m. a light breeze clears away the fog and we move out to attack.
“The gunboats are in the river in readiness to cooperate with us. Our Div moves out and find the enemy in readiness for us. We develop one battery supported by Cavalry in our front. The enemy resists our advance stubbornly.
“At 12 noon we drive the rebels who after leaving their position retreat rapidly to Bell’s Mills 5 miles from town.
“We pursue rapidly and … captured some prisoners and charge the enemy’s battery but are repulsed – Lieut. Little is captured.
“Enemy hold us in check till dark and we camp on the ground held at dark. Hard work all day. Our whole army has been fighting and has successfully driven the rebels at all points.
“The weather has been quite cold and the ground is heavy and deep mud. Very had on our horses.
“Prisoners report that we have been fighting in our front Genl Chalmer’s Div of Forrests Cavalry.
“The gunboats aided us very materially – with their big guns which made the woods roar, with their 100 pounders.”
Dec 16: Friday
“At daylight we discovered the enemy had retreated. We pushed on in pursuit.
“The position held by the enemy in our front at dark last night was a sad scene.
“The enemy’s battery had been posted near the house of a Mr. Davidson – a large fine brick house. The shells from our 12 pound battery and from the 64 pounders of the Gunboats had entered and passed through this house in all directions. The house was literally torn to pieces – during all this fighting Mr. Davidson and his family of 12 persons were in the cellar of his house.
“Trees in the door yard 2 feet through were shot off like men stems (???)
“We pushed on after the retreating foe. We soon found one abandoned and broken gun carriage but the enemy had carried off the gun. The roads were now horrible. …
“We reached the Harding pike about 10 am and found part of the enemy’s abandoned wagon train.
“The General left Colonel Biddles Brigade on the Harding pike. … We moved on, following the enemy’s line of retreat, across the Harding pike toward the Harrisonville pike. Arrived within one mile of the Harrisonville pike. We again found the enemy in position. We attacked at once but during the fight a hard rain and dense mist arose and we could not see and we were compelled to cease firing for awhile. After the rain cleared, we advanced our skirmish line and found that the enemy had again retreated and did so during the storm without our knowledge.”
Dec. 17: Saturday
“In our saddles at 4 AM and moving on the Harrisonville pike. We cross the Harpeth river at Daylight. Find no enemy. Pick up a few stragglers. … ross west fork of Harpeth river and move toward Franklin. Arrive within one mile of Franklin and find the enemy. We go for him at once and soon move him out. Hard rain. 7th (?) OVC charges into Franklin and into the rebel rear guard. Capture 40 prisoners and the town. In the town are 2500 rebel wounded and 200 of our wounded. Form a junction with our forces here.”
“The Battle of Nashville with Personal Recollections of a Field Hospital,” by Stephen C. Ayres, Former Assistant Surgeon and Brevet Captain U.S.V., published in Sketches of War History 1861-1865, Papers Prepared for the Commandery of the State of Ohio, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1896-1903; Volume V, 1903.
“The Cumberland Hospital, where I was then stationed, was located between the Hardin and Hillsboro pikes, in the suburbs and directly south of the city of Nashville. It consisted of wooden pavilions which were well constructed. They were a great improvement on the tents, which they superseded, and were as well equipped as possible. … They were light, cheerful and well ventilated. … The hospital had a capacity of nine hundred beds.
“When Schofield reached Nashville, Thomas at once set to work to entrench and prepare for the coming conflict. … One Sunday, when our men were busily at work in the trenches, … they had quite an interested group of lookers-on from the city. These were clerks and bookkeepers and employees of various kinds, and with their nice clean suits and polished boots they presented quite a contrast to our veterans at work. Suddenly, and to their great surprise, they were corralled by the corporal’s guard and ordered to serve their turn with the picks and shovels which they had been watching with so much interest. Two hours’ work in the trenches cured them of their curiosity, and we saw no more of them.
“We made preparations for the approaching battle by sending all our sick which would bear transportation to Louisville, and by sending to the front all able-bodied and convalescent men. …
“The ruses of the malingerers were numerous and cunning. One strong-looking fellow had a very respectable limp and declared he was in no condition to leave the hospital. An examination of his shoes showed that he had raised the heel of one to produce the desired effect, and that there was no contraction of the tendons. …
“For several days before the engagement we had almost empty wards, but we knew we would soon have them filled. The inner line of works was not far from our hospital, and the outer entrenched line was on the brow of the hill but a short distance away.
“The morning of the 15th of December … was a cool day, with a Scotch mist covering the ground and obscuring the distant horizon. …
“It was probably about 4 o’clock in the afternoon when the first ambulance entered our gate; but the procession continued all night, bringing wounded men of all ranks, officers, non-commissioned officers, privates, colored men and Confederates.
“My two wards were completely filled, and I had my hands full. Johnnies and Yanks were lying side by side now, but there seemed to be no enmity between them. Men with severe and slight wounds were all brought in promiscuously. Five or six were shot through the chest, several of them through the legs and arms. One man had a bullet in the sole of his foot, and I did not leave him until I had extracted it. A similar case was brought into our hospital from the battlefield of Franklin; but the surgeon into whose care he fell did not detect it, and the result was, the poor fellow had lock-jaw and died in consequence.
“All night long we worked until nearly morning, when we laid down for a short rest. On the next day … our work was only a repetition of what we had gone through with since the first ambulance entered the hospital. During and after the battle our hospital admitted 597 wounded men, of whom fifty-seven were Confederates.
“One interesting case was that of a Kentucky Captain who was acting as Major, and was mounted and commanding his regiment. He was wounded near the Granny White pike on the second day as his regiment was charging the works. The shot entered his mouth, struck his tongue and passed backward, carrying with it two or three of his lower incisors. He fell insensible and was carried off the field, but soon rallied. When I saw him he could with difficulty speak above a whisper. I extracted one of his teeth from the interior of his tongue, and he as he was not bleeding, I passed on to other more severe cases. The next day he was comfortable, and there was no evidence of the bullet in or around his tongue. I told him that it was possible it had passed through the base of his tongue, had entered the oesophagus, and that he had swallowed it. I told him to be on the lookout for it, and the next day he showed it to me in triumph, it having passed entirely through his alimentary canal.
“One Confederate soldier was lying with a gunshot wound through his abdomen, perforating the bowels. In those days we could do nothing for him. … Next to him were two more Confederates, both shot through the upper part of the thigh. One of them was a short, heavy-set man, belonging to the Thirty-third Mississippi, C.S.A. the ball entered the back part of the thigh and came out in front, a short distance below the hip joint. I did the amputation, and he got along very well for nearly two weeks, when he had a secondary hemorrhage. But this was checked, and he was in a few weeks forwarded to Camp Chase. …
“One day we saw a novel parade. It seemed to start at the sutler’s, where the boys were wont to collect on the bright sunshiny days, when they were well enough to leave the wards. The one-armed and one-legged fellows wearing the blue and the gray concluded to have a dress parade of their own, and sending the word to the different wards, soon all those who had lost an arm or a leg, and all who were on crutches, formed in line and marched past the officers’ quarters. They cheered us, and we returned the cheer.”
Diary is in the Collections of the Owensboro Museum of Science and History, Owensboro, Kentucky.
Monday Dec 5
“The 26th Ky left Bowling Green. We got on the car and started for Nashville at about 4 oclock P.M. We got to Nashville at about one oclock in the night. We remained at the Depot the remainder of the night.”
Tuesday Dec 6
“We marched up to Fort Negley and stacked arms and remained till nearly night then moved down … and went into camp. We found Hoods army had the City surrounded on the south side of the river and throwing up works.”
Monday Dec 12
“Nothing of importance occurred only all the waggons belonging to the regiment were turned over to the Brigade Q Master, but two or three.”
Personal Memoirs of John H. Brinton, Major and Surgeon U.S.V. 1861-1865; 1914
Editor’s note: Contains explanation for why pontoon train sent in wrong direction to help in the pursuit of the retreating Confederate army.
Brinton arrives in Nashville on Dec. 14, 1864:
“On my arrival at Nashville, I was informed by Assistant Surgeon Dallas Bache, U.S.A., who was acting as the Director of Hospitals, that a battle was hourly expected, but that while there were a large number of hospitals organized, there were comparatively few vacant beds.
“On assuming the office, I immediately directed all my efforts to extend the hospital accommodation already in existence. I therefore called upon Brigadier-General Miller, Post Commandant, to turn over to me for hospital purposes … all of the churches in the city. He immediately turned over to me all the churches. …
“I encountered considerable opposition from the authorities of the Catholic Church, as they objected to having their church turned into a hospital, and said that it would desecrate its sacred nature. Father Kelly visited me, and was quite earnest in his opposition; he said that churches were respected in war. I asked him to consider the events which had taken place in the Italian War, and reminded him that all of the Catholic churches in the city of Milan and elsewhere had been seized by a Catholic Prince, the Emperor Napoleon III, and turned into hospitals.
“He laughed, admitted the fact, and then explained that the basement of one of the Catholic churches in Nashville was used by the Sisters as a home for the community, and that the sacred vestments had all been carried there. I told him … I would place a military guard over all those portions of the building, and that no one should be allowed to intrude. This was done. …
“On the 15th and 17th of December, the battle of Nashville occurred. I saw it at first from a housetop and afterwards rode out to the line of battle four or five miles from the city. …
“Our wounded were rapidly brought in in great numbers, and soon occupied all of our hospital accommodations and the hospital tents, which had been hastily pitched.
“The wounded black troops were carried to the hospital which had been especially assigned to them.
“The wounded rebels were also in a day or two’s time brought to the rebel prison hospital.
“The churches which had been seized answered well as hospitals, the pews had either been boarded over or removed, and all of the church hospitals were soon filled with wounded with the exception of the Episcopal church, which was inconvenient of arrangement.
“The negro hospital was in a series of four-storied warehouses, which were closely packed with wounded. All of the wounded in the hospitals were promptly and efficiently cared for, and as a rule, did well.
“Some curious occurrences took place with regard to the wounded prisoners. A young lady came to my office and asked to see a wounded prisoner of high rank. I told her that sisters, mothers and wives alone were allowed to see prisoners; was she either of these? She said no, but she was willing to marry the gentleman in question, if that was the only way she could obtain permission to see him. I inquired and found that he was not badly wounded. I told her to come to see me on the following morning at a given hour. I sent for him to be brought to my office at the same hour, and so the interview was arranged, and no rule of service was broken.
“In another case, a Southern prisoner, wounded and of high rank, begged my permission to ride outside of our lines to visit a lady to whom he was engaged, promising me on his word of honor to return at a given hour. I told him I could not do this, but that if he would give me his word of honor that I should not be injured by his people, I would ride with him; he could then make the visit he desired, and come back with me at a given hour.
“At ten o’clock, on the cold winter’s night, we rode out together. We passed our pickets, and went to her father’s house. My prisoner had a long interview with his lady love, while I sat in the adjoining parlor talking to the sisters, and at the hour agreed upon we remounted, rattle along the pike, passed our picket and sentry line. … We came near being shot by our pickets of negro cavalry, … who did not understand fully the use of a password. We rode right upon them, they challenged us fiercely, and we were obliged to dismount instantly to save ourselves from being shot. …
“Then I accompanied my friend to his hospital, and there took leave of him. No harm came of this ride, but the lady in question changed her mind, and afterwards married a Union officer. …
“One or two of the Confederates, wounded and prisoners in our hands, were Masons, and I received several letters from the Order in the North, authorizing me to furnish them money. Another Southern officer was of Jewish birth. One of the most prominent and wealthiest bankers in New York, Belmont, authorized me to draw on him for any amount required.
“My quarters, when I first went to Nashville, were in the part of a house which belonged to a family of strong ‘Secesh’ propensities. I shared my rooms with Captain Jenny, an officer I had previously known as Shiloh.
“He was a graduate of the School of Topographical Engineers in Paris, was commissioned as an Engineer in our army, and rendered immense service by his knowledge of roads and their construction, corduroying and the like. He originated the idea of skyscrapers. …
“Jenny had charge of a pontoon train. On the day of the fight at Nashville, or the day after, in a pouring rain, I met him hurrying his train of boats away on the turnpike. I asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He said, ‘God knows, where a pontoon train can do the least possible good.’
“When he came back a day or so afterwards, I asked him in the quiet of our chamber, ‘How about that pontoon train?’ He said, ‘That’s a very good story and a very great secret. After the battle, General Thomas sent for me, and told me to take my train out on the Murfreesboro pike. I said, ‘General, do you mean the Murfreesboro Pike?’ because I knew that was away from the enemy. He said, ‘Yes, on the Murfreesboro Pike.’ I went away, but I was uneasy in my mind, for knew that a bridge train could not be wanted where there were no rivers. I turned and went back, and again I asked him, ‘General, do you mean the Murfreesboro Pike?’ He seemed heavy, but aroused himself, and half-angrily said, ‘Yes, the Murfreesboro Pike, go and execute your orders.’
“ ‘I went and led out my pontoon, as directed, and the next day was recalled by a messenger, when the General discovered his mistake. He had meant to say the Granny White Pike, but at the time of the battle, he had had no rest or sleep for two or three days and nights; he was sleeping heavily when aroused to give my order, was dazed, confounded the Murfreesboro with the Granny White Pike and gave me the useless order. If the train had been sent on the pike, on which it should have been sent, it could have been used at Duck River and other streams, and the probability is that the entire forces of the enemy would have been captured. As it was, they reached Franklin, slowly retreated southward and succeeded in making good their escape by crossing the Tennessee River, and thus reaching Alabama safely.’ ”
Note: Brinton also comments on the care of black wounded troops, problems with black troops at the hospitals, puzzling deaths at a state-of-the-art hospital created just for black soldiers; thefts and embezzlements by white doctors and other hospital officials in Nashville.
He also has an interesting story about a slave coming to him for help in retrieving family silver buried in the cemetery.
“Revelations of a Soldier’s Life,” by Broughton, posted on the Internet by Kathy and Mel Jangard. Original journal in the possession of Melvin Hans Jangard of Tacoma, Washington, great-grandson of Samuel C. Broughton
“We soon after went into camp for a few days, when the army divided, Sherman going back to Atlanta to start on the March to the Sea, while our corps, the 4th, was left to take care of Hood’s army. We went to Chattanooga where the troops took the cars from Nashville, all but my brigade, who were ordered through with the wagon train. We had over thirteen hundred wagons to guard, and it would take all day and until way in the night for them (to) pass. Before we got to Nashville we were ordered to turn south to Pulaska, Tennessee, as the Rebels were crossing the Tennessee River and we were likely to have company in a short time. They came along and we started a little in advance. We didn’t want them to go and persuaded them to stop a while at Columbia, but they were bound to go so they crossed the river and started, leaving us to follow, but we passed them while they were asleep and beat them to Franklin where we waited for them to come up.
“About the middle of the afternoon they attacked us. About half of our force had crossed the river, leaving three divisions at Franklin. We were on the right, and after the second charge they moved and charged the center, making seven or eight charges and getting repulsed every time; and the ground in front of our works being covered with dead and wounded Rebels, many of them being killed on the works.
“They charged through the first line at one time when General Stanley called for the second line of our brigade and, putting himself at their head, drove them back and retook the works, capturing quite a lot of prisoners. Stanley was severely wounded in the charge.
“Here again, it was my fortune to be in a position to see the most of the fighting. After the second charge in our front, they left our part of the line and although they were charging not more than two hundred yards from us to the left, we were not molested and had a good view of the entire fight. After dark awhile they drew off and did not attack any more; and along towards midnight we crossed the river and started for Nashville, fifteen miles. We were rear guard and at daylight stopped at Brentwood for breakfast. The Rebels came up and fired on us. We went back and gave them a few rounds and then finished our breakfast at our leisure. When we had smoked our pipes and rested as long as we wanted to, we again started for Nashville, which we reached about noon.
“My regiment was immediately sent back two miles on the Franklin Pike, where we threw up barricades. Soon the Rebels began to come in sight on the top of a hill about half mile from us. As each regiment gained the top of the hill they had a good view of the city. They would halt for a moment and cheer, then file to the right or left and go into position. By the next morning they had a line of works along the ridge nearly in speaking distance. They did not interrupt us until afternoon when we saw them come out of their works, form their line, start towards us. Every man of them looked seven foot high. I wanted to be somewhere else. I thought the colonel might tell us to go back, but he didn’t.
“They threw forward their skirmish line and kept coming. It was an open field, and we had a good view of them as they came up. When they had got close enough to almost see the white of their eyes, the colonel says, “Get ready men” (I wanted him to say, “Run,” but he didn’t) and at the word “fire.” Soon the word came, “Front rank fire,” which we did. Immediately the Rebel skirmishers dropped to the ground and the whole Rebel line fired a volley. As soon as the smoke cleared away we saw them still advancing. We gave them another volley and were ordered to fall back slowly and in order, which we did. After going back some distance we met our troops coming from the works. They opened ranks and let us pass through. We went to the works while they went on, but the Rebels fell back to their works. When we got to the works we found there was no room for us and we were moved close to Nashville and had nothing to do for two weeks but draw rations and eat them.
“On the morning of the fifteenth of December, we were ordered to strike tents. It was so foggy we could not see any distance. We moved to the right and front. Finally we halted and skirmishers were sent forward. Colonel Hallowell, of the 31st Indiana commanded the skirmishes, and we knew something was going to be done.
“It was not long until the skirmishers were engaged and we knew we were not far from their works. In a short time, the fog lifted and we found ourselves in plain view of their works. As soon as they saw us they began to shell us. We were ordered forward a short distance where we were sheltered by the brow of a hill where we’re ordered to lay down. In the meantime, General Wood, commanding corps; General Kimball, division commander; and General Kirby, commanding brigade; had got together in the rear of our regiment. We were in the second line. We heard the order from Kirby to charge with his brigade. They gave a cheer, and before the orderlies had got started, the whole brigade had started. The generals went with (them), waving their swords. The regiment in our front wavered and then lay down. We passed over them, taking their place in the front line. Colonel Reavers’ were shot down till five had been shot, then Captain Tinder took them, only to be shot the next instant, when Colonel Jamison seized them and planted them on the Rebel works. It did not take as long to do this as it takes to write this.
“We found the works very strong, being a fort on what was known as Montgomery Hill, with several rows of palisades, a wide ditch and the earth works about eight feet high. I have no idea how we got inside. We captured a number of prisoners and a six-gun battery, and turning right and left down the works, drove them pell mell from their works, giving the rest of the troops, who were charging to the right and left, quite an advantage. We drove them that day from the first line of works, but they had a second line which they fell back to. I was on picket that night and heard them forming their lines and making preparations all night. We knew we would have to attack them in their works the next day and knew that it would be a desperate battle.
“Soon after daylight the army commenced moving into position and I was not sorry when I found that our brigade was in reserve. We took position on a hill where we could see the movements for miles. We saw the charge made by the colored troops under Steadman, in which they were repulsed with heavy loss after making a gallant fight. The 3rd brigade of our division also charged but had to fall back with heavy loss.
“It commenced raining and rained nearly all day. About three o’clock, the orders were given to charge all along the line. I never saw a grander sight. Both ways to the right and left as far as we could see, the lines were advancing on the double quick. Here and there the line would seem to waver for a moment, then with a cheer they would rush forward again. Then the smoke hid them from our sight, but soon above the deafening roar of artillery and the terrific rattle of musketry we heard the shouts of victory. We hurried forward and took the advance after the flying foe. We captured 19,000 prisoners and sixty-three pieces of artillery and destroyed Hood’s army. We followed them until dark. In the darkness and the rain, the remnant of Hood’s army made their escape. The next morning we followed through the mud. The Rebels threw away their guns and encountrements, blankets and everything they had.”
Notes about the author.
Samuel C. Broughton was born March 19, 1841, in Noble County, Indiana, the son of Edwin and Laura (Hartwell) Broughton. He was a nephew of Noble County residents, William, Nathan, Orville and Samuel Broughton, Emeline Lobdell, Lucy and Cordelia Cramer, and Annue Baker.
Samuel married Martha Ellen Childress in Independence, Kansas, and they had four children, all born in Kansas: Carrie, James E., Samuel H., and Ethel B The family relocated from Kansas to the state of Washington.
He received a Civil War veteran’s pension of $17 per month and in 1913 because of poor health, relocated to the Washington Soldier’s Home in Pierce County, Washington. Samuel died in 1934 Orting, Washington.
Three Years in the Saddle, Journal of Events, Facts, and Incidents, connected with the 18th Ind. Battery, by Henry Campbell; Robert T. Ramsay Jr. Archival Center, Wabash College
“I got permission from the Col. to go out & see the battle field Friday afternoon during the fight. The Q.M. lent me a horse and I set out for the Battle ground on the Granny White Pike. About 3 miles out I reached the lines, both sides firing vigorously. The Artillery in one continual roar – just as I reached there the charge was make on the key point of the rebel lines – this was a high conical pointed hill with a flat place about half way down each side of it – the rebel lines ran at right angles from this hill. The hill making the elbow – it being higher than any surrounding & the Rebs having a battery on the summit made it a strong position to take, especially with a good line of breast works over it.
“Three or four of our Batteries shelled it vigoursly for a while when at the signal the lines on both sides of the angle charged in one grand charge in the midst of a terrible range of Bulletts & grape – down the hollow they were out of range of the rebel bullets, but the ascent of the hill was steep & difficult. …
“On the Brow of the hill as our men came over – the rebels poured one terrible rain of death but with one wild long shout, our men sprang over the works and fought with their bayonets & butt ends of their guns. …
“As soon as the success of the charge was seen, our line toward the left began charging – one regt. at a time – in one great tidal wave … across the cornfields as far as I could see. The wave was advancing ‘in echalon.’ The rebels seemed to know every thing was lost, as they threw away guns, blankets, & every thing that would hinder their flight.
“I rode up on this conical hill immediately after the charge. Thirteen of our men lay dead on a sport not 20 ft. square – just as they came over the hill – which was so steep I could not ride up horse back. Behind the earth works – dead rebels lay thick with their haggard, powder begrimed faces turned up to the sky.
“Down the line, the charging could be plainly seen as regiment after regiment rushed across the open fields & sprang over into the rebel works. Their line of works were jus at the foot of the mountains, and when our men took them they ran up into the mountains, throwing away guns & every thing else. On top of the hill where I stood the rebel battery was placed and an old ‘virginia wagon’ filled with ammunition – which had just come up to replenish the battery. The mules were standing quietly in the midst of so much noise. The gunners escaped on their horses as soon as they seen all was up with their line.
“Returned to camp about 8 oclock behind a big drove of rebel prisoners.”
“Began raining in the afternoon & continued all evening. Troops too tired to follow the rebels far.”
Confederate Veteran magazine, Vol. 12, pages 585-586
“Our regiment … lay along the outer works in front of Nashville, our right resting on the railroad running to Johnsonville. On the morning of December 15 we marched out through the fog and formed in column of brigades on the left of the Harding Pike, and about a mile and one-half in advance of our works. Here we deployed into line, and I think that our regiment was on the extreme left of our corps. We then marched in line of battle for some distance, when it was discovered that there was a long interval to our left which was unoccupied. We lay here until some time in the afternoon, out of range of small arms, but subject to the fire of a battery on a high point just to the left of the Hillsboro Pike, which was annoying. …
“Late in the afternoon we were ordered to storm the works in our front, being stone walls with a redoubt on the right of the Hillsboro Pike, just opposite the battery mentioned above.
“We advanced on the run down a gentle slope and through open woods until out of breath, when we lay down for a few minutes; then we ran down across a little brook and lay down under cover of the slope ascending the redoubt.
“We went into the redoubt, or such portion of our regiment as fronted on it did, which included my company. We suffered from the direct fire of the works assaulted, and also from a cross fire, enfilading our line part of the time, from the fort on the hill across the pike.
“We had scarcely gained possession of the works when the fort across the way opened upon us, not regarding the fact that there were about as many Confederates with us inside of the redoubt as there were of our own men. … The gunners cut their fuses so that every shell burst inside of it, and there did not seem to be ten seconds’ intervals between the discharges. Col. S.G. Hill, our brigade commander, gave the order to charge the fort on the hill, and was shot through the head the next moment. Our major heard the order and repeated it; we jumped down from the wall and, led by Col. Marshall, crossed the pike and climbed the hill, the Confederates leaving the fort as we got to it. … As we followed the Confederates … we did not leave any one to take possession of the guns, and I saw a line of our troops advancing toward it from the front, but several hundred yards distant. The bravely marched up to it and carried the works, and received the credit. …
“We followed on through the woods until dusk, when we bivouacked for the night. … Although tired with the day’s experiences, the night was so cold that I could get no continuous sleep. We were aroused long before daylight of the 16th and made a long and weary march, halting at some newly constructed works, probably the abandoned Confederate line of the day before. Here we halted, but in a few moments an orderly rode up on the gallop, and the next moment the bugle sounded the ‘assembly,’ followed by the ‘march.’ … We swung to the right, with my company on the ‘moving flank,’ and it was hard work to get through the woods; but finally we came out to a road, crossing which we went into a field and into a ravine which led up to the rear of the ‘Bradford House.’ In this ravine we stopped to catch our breath, and found it a good place to be in, as a brisk cannonading was being carried on over our heads, one of my men being wounded from a piece of shell while resting there.
“Directly the regiment began moving to the right by the flank, and as my position in line of battle when on the march was on the left of my company, and as the ravine was narrow and the company strung out in single file, it took me some time to run to the head, which saved my life, for when within about twenty feet of my proper position, the regiment coming out of the ravine on to the grounds around the ‘Bradford House,’ a shell from the Pointe Coupee Battery … burst and killed the rear man of the company in front of mine and the first man of my company.
“We went into line at right angles to the Granny White Pike, our left slightly in advance of the house, but a little to the right of it, the Twelfth Iowa being between us and the pike. Here we lay in the rain skirmishing until about 3 p.m., when we saw one of our regiments on the extreme right of our line – on Shy’s Hill – begin a charge on the Confederate works. As we saw them go over the works and heard the cheering we realized that the business was ‘catching,’ and that in a few minutes we would have to do the same thing.
“About the time the first regiment had reached the Confederate works the next one to it started, and in that order they kept on until but a short distance away from us, when our colonel, who was commanding the brigade that day, rode from our right and rear and ordered us to charge.
“We rose and, throwing down the fence, advanced on the run until we reached the Confederate rifle pits, made of rails, where we halted for breath. The field was a hard one to travel over, the mud being ankle deep. Directly we advanced, the regiment obliqued to the right to get through the only gap in the wall; in fact, the only one for a long distance either way. My company was directly in front of the Pointe Coupee Battery, which had poured grape, canister, and shrapnel into us from the moment we started, and the supporting line had also done their share with their rifles. The works, a stone wall built up very high, with rails laid a part of the way from the top and sloping to the ground toward us, had no opening in our front, except a slight notch at the top, just to the left of the battery. The greater portion of my company had, as was right, ‘toughed elbows’ to the right, while ten or twelve had touched to the left; and, as I was looking to the front, calculating how we could get over the wall, I had not noticed the oblique movement. As soon as I saw it, there being a wide gap in my company, I told the boys that we would go right ahead. We reached the wall just as the ‘break’ came, and the notch in the wall was so high, and I was so badly used up with a stitch in the side, that the boys had to boost me up to the notch, through which I climbed and dropped to the ground just as my colonel came along inside the line on the gallop, calling out: ‘Lay down your arms and surrender.’ There were but four or five men in the battery, one the commander, Capt. Alcide Bouanchaud, and they had ceased resisting. I told the men who were with me to follow me, and went to the support of my colonel, who was entirely alone and surrounded by, apparently, thousands of Confederates.
“In the morning, before we advance, I had told my second lieutenant, James B. Turrittin, that, in the event of our capturing any cannon that day, to take a guard and stay with them. This he did, as our company, after getting inside of the works, advancing by the left flank, were the first to reach the battery. And now I learn from … reports of officers … that the brigade directly on our right captured the battery; and, in fact, the brigade commander, with his staff, rode down and ordered my lieutenant to take his men and rejoin his regiment. But the lieutenant told him flatly that he would only be relieved by his own officers. … The two brigade commanders got together … and agreed to divide the guns, each taking two. …
“There was no intention of charging the Confederates on the 16th, as we had received orders to intrench, and our details sent for intrenching tools had nearly reached our lines when the charge took place. … Col. Marshall told me a few days after, that he went to Gen. Smith’s headquarters and urged the General to make a charge, that the General said: ‘No, there will be no charge. We are to intrench.’ While talking he hard the noise of the charge, the increased fire, and the cheering, and he said to the General, ‘They are charging now,’ to which the General replied: ‘No, I don’t understand that there is to be a charge.’ But the Colonel did not wait for any more works – he put spurs to his horse and dashed up … and ordered the charge.”
Genealogy and Biography of the Connecticut Branch of the Churchill Family in America, Containing Eleven Generations and Eighty Portraits of the Families, by Samuel Joseph Churchill. Lawrence, Kansas, U.S.A., February 15, A.D., 1901
Editor’s note: Page 75 he says he was promoted to corporal and “had command of a gun detachment of eight men and the right gun of our battery.” His battery was part of the Sixteenth Army Corps, under Gen. A.J. Smith. Churchill won the Medal of Honor at Nashville.
“During the siege of Nashville, … we were in line of battle two weeks, firing more or less every day.
“We could hear the rebel band play, ‘Whose been here since I’se been gone.’ To answer them our band would play, ‘Yankee Doodle.’
“On December 15, 1864, the Union line advanced and attacked the rebel army in their fortifications. We had to march for some distance under a galling fire from the enemy before we could get our battery in position.
“Number one, of my gun detachment, seemed very anxious to get into the fight. He would hug the cannon with both arms and say, ‘We’ll give it to ’em, won’t we, old Bett?’ Old Bett was his pet name for the gun.
“Our battery was ordered in position on high ground in plain view of two rebel batteries, one to our right and the other directly in front, about 240 yards distant, which were doing their best to dislodge the Union forces, and several men and horses were killed before we could get our battery in position. My gun, a 12-pound Napoleon, was located about eight feet to the right of a large brick house.
“At the command ‘load!’ number one of the cannoneers … took the sponge staff, sponged the gun, and while waiting for number five to come up with the ammunition, a volley from the rebel batteries caused him to become terror stricken. He dropped his sponge staff and ran behind the brick house. His terror spread to the other cannoneers, who also fled, and neither command or entreaty could move them to return to their gun.
“It was here that I won my medal of honor. In the face of a terrible rain of shot and shell from the enemy I loaded and fired my gun eleven times alone before assistance came.
“The rebel batteries were silenced and driven back and the Union forces took an advanced position.”
Here, Churchill quotes from a letter he wrote Jan. 25, 1897, to the chief of the Record of Pension Office in Washington, D.C.:
“A private soldier in my battery … J.A. Thorp, … was the wheel driver of the caisson and his position at the time was comparatively out of danger. He saw my situation as I was manning the gun alone, and asked permission of the lieutenant to come and help me, which was given and he came boldly up where the missiles of death were flying thick and fast and said to me, ‘Let me help you; the lieutenant says I can.’
“I was never so glad to see a man as I was to see him. He took the sponge staff and went to work like an old warrior, and he was ever after that my number one of the gun detachment, and the number one that left me had to take his place as driver.”
See Thorp entry.
Opdycke Tigers 125th O.V.I. A History of the Regiment and of the Campaigns and Battles of the Army of the Cumberland, by Clark; 1895
“December 1, 1864. – Halted one mile out of Nashville, near Fort Negley. Drew rations; potatoes and fish issued; something new in our experience, but acceptable. …
“December 2. – Reinforcements are arriving – Sixteenth Army Corps from Missouri, and General Steedman, with colored troops and detachments belonging to Sherman’s army, from Chattanooga. We moved this evening to the position assigned in the lines about Nashville, and camped one-half mile inside of the works, near and to the right of Hillsboro pike.
“When the brigade was in line ready to march from Fort Negley, Major General Thomas, accompanied by Generals Thomas J. Wood, and George D. Wagner, rode up, and General Thomas addressed each regiment of Opdycke’s brigade, praising and thanking officers and men for what he was pleased to call heroic conduct in the Battle of Franklin. …
“Worked all night on fortifications, in reliefs, two hours at work and four hours off. …
“December 3. - … We moved our camp close up to the breastwork. Skirmishing and artillery fire, most severe in front of Beatty’s division, next on our left. … Major Bruff came up and assumed command of the regiment.
“December 4 – Sunday – . – Stood to arms before daylight. No work to-day. Divine services at 10 a.m, conducted by Chaplain Lewis. Our sutler came to the camp and set up his tent. Artillery firing all afternoon.
“December 5. – A detail from the 125th on picket was sent to destroy a house between the lines. They advanced under fire, keeping under cover as much as possible, set fire to the building and returned without casualty. General Elliott and Colonel Opdycke were on the picket line. Opdycke went outside our lines with an orderly, to get a better view of the enemy’s line.
“December 6. – Our baggage came to the regiment, some things we have not seen since April. Colonel Opdycke, with one orderly, Clay C. Searight, brigade color bearer, was outside the lines, studying the enemy’s position. …
“December 7. – The enemy are reported to be extending their fortified line to their left. About noon the weather turned cold, wind from the north.
“December 8. – Cold winds from north. … At noon the enemy drove our pickets back at right of Twenty-third Corps, and left of Fourth Corps. This evening it is said our division, supported by First and Third Divisions of Fourth Corps, will assault the enemy’s works northeast of the Hillsboro pike, the assault to be made on the 10th, and the Sixteenth Corps to follow up the movement.
“December 9. – Rain followed by sleet and snow. The order for a movement tomorrow is suspended.
“December 10. – Snow and frozen sleet covers the ground. Horses can hardly travel off the beaten path.
“December 11 – Sunday – . – Very cold. No religious services.
“December 12. – Still cold, but the sun shines.”
My Civil War Before, During, After 1861-1865, by Conzett; courtesy Larry Conzett, Nashville, Tennesse
Nov. 30, 1864, Franklin, Tennessee:
“We had been called in at dark and were in the rear of our forces. Our trains had been retreating all afternoon and night, our army silently fell into line and followed as the last wagon pulled out of Franklin. It was a train 16 miles long, one wagon following the other as closely as possible. As the first wagon entered the defenses of Nashville, the last one was just leaving Franklin. … Even though we retreated and they held ground, we had gained our object, viz., saved our trains and army. They were now safe behind the defenses of Nashville with, of course, considerable loss in men & animals. …
“We had been notified during the night that our regiment was to be the rear guard of the army. So after the last regiment had gone, we mounted and by four front followed our retreating army. Day was just breaking as our company pulled out. We again had the honor of being the rear guard of the entire host, regiment and all. I was to be with 8 or 10 men (forgot just the exact number) to be the very last of all by about ¼ mile. Day was at hand, the Rebs were in plain sight, and many times did we look back expecting to see them after us. But no, they never made a move, and we all breathed a deep sigh of relief when the last one of us got out of their sight. We could never understand why they let us go so easy. They had been fearfully punished and badly demoralized in some of their commands in the battle, so they perhaps did not feel able to follow us up at once. Or, they may have regarded us as their certain prey when they got us cooped up in Nashville. At any rate they did not molest us.
“We had gone about 10 miles, to a station called Brentwood, where we saw a group of officers on horseback waiting at the foot of a hill. When our company came up, they halted us and told us they wanted us as their escort. We were there perhaps a little over an hour when we saw the advance guard of the Rebel army coming with their banners waving and in no seeming hurry when they caught sight of us. There were quite a number of general officers at their head. It was a fine and impressive sight, but we did not stop to shake hands with them! We retired at a slow trot to the suburbs of Nashville and near the forts and defenses.
“There we (our company) were halted and told to go into camp, our regiment being somewhere near us. When we had gotten things fixed for the night, I looked around and could not find either our Captain or the Lieutenant. They had gone into the city with the other officers without saying a word to me or anyone. A very strange proceeding, and I should have reported it but did not. About dusk it began to rain hard. We were without any shelter, so it was a dreary prospect for us with the Rebs not more than a mile or two behind us in camp. I think, as well as I can now remember, about 9 o’clock when one of our boys (Al Mathews) came up to me.
“I was standing beside a large tree for a little shelter with my horse close by when he said to me ‘Sergeant, I have captured a stray horse that has no brand on it. I think it belongs to the Rebs. I wish you would give me a pass to the city. I know where I can sell him and I will make it all right with you.’ I was the ranking officer (non comm.) in command of the company, since the Capt. & Lieutenant could not be found, but I very much doubted having the authority to grant any pass. It was a risky thing to do, as we were undoubtedly looked upon as the picket guard and the Rebs, being so near, might at any moment advance. Then there would be trouble, not for me as much as for the Captain, but I felt pretty ticklish about it. After thinking it over a few moments, I told Al to stay right there a short time and I would see what I could do.
“I trudged along in the rain and mud to find Sgt. Chas. Weigel, next in rank. I found him like the rest, or most of them, cursing and swearing at the luck that kept us out here in such a night. Well to be short about it, I told him that I had to go in town right away and wanted him to take charge of the company and bring it in when relieved in the morning. After grumbling a while he said he would, but wanted to know where to find me or someone else to relieve him then. I told him we would be on the watch for the company when it came in. I also told him to bring my horse as well as Al’s with him.
“I left him and found Al where I left him. I told him I would go with him, but he must agree to give me half of what the horse sold for, which he gladly agreed to. I told him we would leave our horses and ride the captured nag by turns. We did not take either bridle or saddle, but we rode bareback holding on by a rope we tied around his neck. It was pitch dark and still raining. The pike or road was mud knee deep and all cut up by our artillery, horses and wagons. It was a nasty ride.
“We finally arrived in town without being halted, as I dreaded we would be. Al knew right where to go. We stopped in front of a livery stable and Al went in. He soon came out with a man, and to my great surprise found him to be one of our company named Ensign. He told me he had been detailed there to look after some horses. He had not been with us since the regiment had left Camp Patrick in November. How the Orderly Sergeant had reported him, I never knew. I strongly suspected it to be one of our Captain’s tricks which Ensign paid him well for. They were two of a kind.
“He took our horse and paid us $50 dollars for him. As we were all completely strapped, it was a welcome raise. Al & I divided the money, went to a restaurant and got a meal such as we had not tasted for months. We then went to a hotel, got a room, went to bed and slept. Oh, how we did sleep!
“The next morning we saw and joined our regiment and company as they came through the streets. We then crossed the river (the Cumberland) and went into camp at Edgefield, a suburb of Nashville.
“In the mean time Hood brought his army within two and three miles, threw up strong entrenchments and then besieged us for the next two weeks, sending us shot & shell to let us know he was there.
“The pickets of both armies soon established friendly relations and guyed each other and swapped their tobacco for our boys coffee &c. They were in our old Camp Patrick and the pickets were on opposite sides of the creek mentioned before. The spring also spoken of was on our side of the picket line. This, by mutual agreement, was neutral ground. A white flag was put there and in the morning both parties (or rather a detail of each) came down to wash and got water to drink & cook with. At such times one would have thought that the best of friends were having a social chat or a picnic. 20 minutes after they would be shooting at each other, and not in fun either.
“The weather was bad. It was now December and winter had set in with rain and sleet covering the ground with a thin coat of ice, making any movement of the army impossible. We were poorly provided with shelter, as all our tents and camp equipage had been stored away when we started to join the army early in November. We suffered a good deal during the two weeks we laid there. Some of our boys that had been taken prisoners on the McCook raid joined us during this time, having been exchanged.
“On the morning of the 14th of December we were ordered to move. We again crossed the river and went into camp in the outskirts of Nashville. Late that night orders came to be ready to move at daybreak next morning. We wondered what all this moving around meant, but we were soon enlightened.
“Reveille woke us up while it was yet dark. We soon got our breakfast of coffee, hard tack and bacon. A little while after, boots and saddles was blown and we were mounted and in line, wondering where or what next. The weather had now moderated and the roads were passable. It was now daylight, but a heavy fog had settled down so that we could hardly see the men or the horses ten feet away, when the bugles sounded forward.
“We did not have the faintest idea as to where we were going, but in perhaps 20 or 25 minutes the fog suddenly lifted and we found we were on the Granny White Pike going south. Both sides of the pike or road were lined at parade rest with our infantry and artillery. Then we knew where we were and what we were there for. They were waiting for us to advance and open the ball. As was generally the case in most every battle, the cavalry on each side started the muss.
“We halted for 10 or 15 minutes and right beside our company was a company of 12th Iowa. The 1st Lieutenant at once came up to me and, holding out his hand, said “Hello Joe!”. It was Tip Fuller, a boyhood friend that left Dubuque in the early fifties with his folks for Hopkinton, Iowa. They lived in the old Norton Row on 14th for several years. We parted again in a few moments. I have never seen him since that time, but heard he came out of the war alive. In a few moments the bugle sounded forward by fours, and in less time than as it now seems to me we came in sight of a battery of three guns posted on a hillside in full view of us. They at once opened up on us, and the first shell flew over our company (we were in the advance) so low and near that the wind from it was felt like a blow. Co. H was next to us and Lieut. Jack Watson of Bellevue (a brother in law of lawyer Graham of Dubuque) was instantly killed by it. We then saw it explode in the ranks of the 13th Ill. Infantry on the opposite side of the pike in an open field of 2 or 300 yards. Now this was a little tough. They had us in full view and range. Orders were orders, so we charged across in a full gallop. How it came that not one us were hurt will always be a mystery to us. It may be that the range was too close, as we knew the shells flew over us. I presume they did more damage to those in the rear. We now formed in battle line. Draw saber and charge was now the order, and in full gallop the regiment was on over the field and up that hill. No sooner did the Rebs see the sabers out than they turned their guns the other way and got out in double quick time. We got one of their guns, they only had time to get away with 2 of them. This was on the 15th day of December, 1864, and was the opening of the two day Battle of Nashville. It was here that Hood’s army was almost totally annihilated as he crossed the Tennessee River with but a ragged remnant of the 50 to 60,000 men that he crossed the same river with only about one month before. Well, we chased them all that day but gave them no time to halt and turn their guns on us. It was a running fight in which they had the advantage, but not much harm was done. We went into camp that night pretty tired but very thankful that we escaped with so little harm. The next day, I think about noon, we found them again ready for us with their battery posted on a hillside (as usual) in a position hard for us to get at. We came in sight of them as we reached the top of a small hill. They were on the other side of an open stretch of ground from 3 To 400 yards away. The only break in it was the little hollow we came to, there was a small pond of water and about the middle of the clearing was a small bunch of crab apple trees. That was all there was to shield us from their fire, and that we could not take any advantage of, small as it was. We began our charge. As soon as they sighted us they blazed away with grape and canister. Corporal Weismer was unhorsed and severely hurt by that discharge. It was too good a thing for them, we were too good a target. So we went down to that hollow and there formed for a charge. We went at them in good style and, although they made away as fast as they could, we would have got some of them and their guns had it not been for a 6 foot rail fence that we did not see on account of a depression in the ground. We could not tear down the fence quick enough to prevent them from getting too big a start for us to catch up with them. We then withdrew and went to the pond spoken of, watered and rested our horses a short time. Then we advanced slowly again, when we heard the guns roaring and the rattle of muskets around Franklin. We were now near there and the Rebs were making a final stand. We threw out our skirmishers, I being in command of them, and advanced in line of battle, but we saw no enemy until we reached the heights overlooking the town. That is when we saw them at a distance of 1 or 1½ miles getting out of Franklin as fast as they could and the cavalry after them. We were not in this. Right here is where my horse gave out. As some 2 or 3 of our boys were in the same fix and several had been left in Nashville on detail, I was told to go back and see to them and, when the regiment got into camp again, to join it with the boys. We slowly rode back, our horses could hardly carry us. We walked and rode by turns and it was a ride I would like to take again. The infantry and their artillery had given up the chase, the cavalry was now left to finish it up. They had little or no opposition to expect as Hood’s army had gone to pieces and their Gen. Forrest was all that stood between them and utter extinction.
“Only once did he make a stand, on Dec. 25, 1864, to assemble the remnant of Hood’s troops to get across the Tennessee. The pike all the way to Nashville was cut up and mud almost knee deep, and lined on the side on the grass with wounded, dead and dying. Mostly they were Rebels, as our men were taken care of first. It was a terrible, fearfully pitiful sight even to us that 4 years had partly hardened. But the worst was on the hill in front of Nashville, where the Rebels had their strongest position and fortifications. Three times some of our best (white) brigades had assaulted this position and each time driven back with terrible slaughter. Then Gen. Steadman was ordered to try it with his black brigade. He did take it, but it was at a terrible cost after several times being repulsed. As we rode over that fatal and fearful part of the field, it was just getting dark, and there these poor, brave fellows lay in numbers we could not count. We rode away as quick as we could. They were so mutilated and cut up by shot and shell that the sight was too horrible to stand & look at.
“We went into camp at Edgefield and, for about ten days, did nothing but lay around, draw our rations, eat and sleep. It was a lazy life and we got very tired of it. In the mean time, our regiment with the others had followed the last of the Rebs to the Tennessee River and there and then gave up the pursuit. The Rebels were thoroughly discouraged and never after that were able to get an army of any force together again.
“We few in Nashville, finally to our delight, received orders to join our regiment in the early part of January, 1865. We went by steamer down the Cumberland and up the Tennessee and found our regiment in camp at Gravely Springs, Alabama; about 4 miles back from the river and opposite Eastport, Mississippi. The camp was located in a valley amongst the hills and was the poorest, dreariest country we had yet seen in Dixie. The people were all of that poor, ignorant class called white trash whom even the Negroes would not associate with. After being there about two weeks, the commissary stores gave out. The river had fallen so low that steamers could not get up with supplies. And the country back to Nashville, our nearest depot, was so infested with guerrillas and lawless bands from both armies that we could not send back there for anything. All we had to live on for several weeks was nine ears of corn on the cob for man and the same for horses. We made the best of it by parching and crushing it for coffee and grinding it between two parts of canteens. We perforated them by driving nails through them making it into rough grinders or mills and then, putting the corn in and rubbing together for a while, we got a little meal, such as it was. Out of that we made corn bread and flap jacks. Really, we did quite well and suffered but little from hunger. At last, a few days before we left, the boats arrived and we got a full supply of everything needed. With them came quite a large box from the wives and lady friends of our Jamestown, Wisconsin boys. It was filled with all kinds and sorts of goodies, such as jars of butter, roasted chickens and turkeys, cakes, pies &c &c. It was sent by them the first part of December and intended as a Christmas treat, but at the time we were beyond reach of friends, mail or anything else. So the box laid there all this time. When we opened it, alas, everything was so spoiled and rank that there was very little even us tough fellows could use. What little could be used even in that state the boys generously divided. Tom Allen was my bunky and, as his good wife had been very active in sending the box, he got a jar of butter as part of his share. But, oh my, how rank it was! And how it did smell! But by washing and working it over, we got it so we could use it, especially on our flap jacks. By & by we got used to it, and regretted to see it nearly gone.
“One day the latter part of January, I was surprised and greatly delighted to receive a letter from my first and only sweetheart, Nellie Vanderbie. I had given her up as lost to me, hearing of her as having been engaged, if not already married. I read it and re-read it, and at once answered it. (And I would just like to see that letter now!) We had not corresponded for several years, each being misled by gossiping meddlesome fools. She heard the same thing about me (of being engaged &c &c), so we both got our dander up and pouted. We never forgot each other in spite of it all. My mother loved her dearly, so one day while she was visiting at our home she persuaded her to write to me, which she did. The result of that letter is today in full evidence. It can be heard without ear trumpets and seen without the aid of eye glass, so all is well that ends well. Her next letter revealed to me her feelings and enclosed a photo of her dear self, which I carried between the leafs of a memo book for the rest of the war and long after. This was our last correspondence until we reached Nashville again after the close of the war. Her father wrote me for explanations of things &c &c, which I answered (I think) to his satisfaction, as he did not write again.
“Shortly before we left this place, promotions were in order: 2nd Lieut. O. A. Langworthy to 1st Lieut., as 1st Lieut. Victor Andrew Guler was killed, 1st Sgt. L. H. Carley to 2nd Lieut., Vic Langworthy promoted QM Sgt., Josiah Conzett to 1st or Orderly Sgt., Vic Carley promoted and so on down the entire line to 8th Corporal which, lastly, was Geo. W. Healey. Sgt. Chas. Weigel took my place as QM Sgt. The time flew by, nothing of note happening until about the middle of March when orders came to move. 3 days rations and 40 rounds of ammunition for carbine & revolvers were issued. Transportation was cut down to the lowest limit, only one 6 mule team and one ambulance for each regiment. The ammunition train was the longest and, of course, the most important. We were told after our 3 days rations were gone we would have to live off the country. Details from every reg. for foraging were to be sent out every morning for that purpose, and the Quarter Masters were to see to its distribution. No straying or insulting conduct, robbery &c &c to be allowed under the severest penalties, and this order was strictly lived up to during our entire 80 day march through Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
“Now I was in a predicament. I had no horse and none were to be had in this barren country. I tried in every quarter, but even by the Capt. and Quarter Master’s aid I could not get one. But as there three or four hundred men in the same fix, I did not feel lonesome. We were therefore ordered to escort the train until we could find horses, which we hoped to do in a day or two. Our hopes were not realized until we came within 20 miles of Selma, Ala. We crossed the Tennessee and landed at Eastport, Miss., when we at once struck out into the country. For where or why we did not know, but suspected we were in for a long siege of some kind by the sort or kind of orders issued. The whole command was under Maj. Gen. J. H. Wilson, late of the Potomac; divided into divisions commanded by Gens. Upton, Winslow, Long and Alexander. Our reg. was in Upton’s division and Alexander’s brigade. The total strength of the command was 12,000 rank & file with a strong battery of 3 or 4 field guns to each brigade. Each man was armed with a saber, Spencer carbine (7 shooter) and one large Navy revolver. A powerful, splendidly equipped, ably commanded, largest force of cavalry ever sent out in the west, if not the entire country, and one we all.”
The Fifteenth Ohio Volunteers and Its Campaigns, War of 1861-5, by Alexis Cope, Captain, Fifteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry; Private, Sergeant, Sergeant Major, Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Adjutant and Captain in the Fifteenth Ohio Volunteers; 1916
Re assault on Overton Hill, Dec. 16; page 649
Cope consistently refers to himself as “the adjutant,” which I have changed to (I) or (his).
Cope may have been a captain at the Battle of Nashville
Cope includes a quote from Lt. Andrew J. Gleason.
“The morning of December 8, was the coldest we had so far experienced during the winter and it was difficult to keep warm. The enemy made a demonstration on the first division of our corps to our left in front of Fort Negley, driving in our skirmishers and we were called into line prepared for an attack. The enemy’s skirmishers were finally repulsed and driven back and our pickets resumed their former posts.
“On Friday, December 9, early in the morning, there was a storm of sleet and snow which continued all day, and it grew to cold the men crowded together in their tents to keep warm. It was reported that an order to move against the enemy next morning had been issued, but was afterwards countermanded because of the storm. There was a good deal of picket firing during the day. It was reported that we were to be in readiness to move against the enemy as soon as the storm was over.
“December 10, the storm had practically ceased, but it was very cold and the ground was covered with sleet and snow, and it was very difficult to get about. The enemy was seen working on a new and interior line of works, parallel to and a bout half a mile in read of his first line.
“December 11, was still cold and the sleet and snow did not melt. The men kept to their tents, or huddled about their fires. There was but little picket firing.
“At 10 a.m. there was a meeting of corps commanders at General Thomas’ headquarters and it was decided that we could not attack the enemy with any show of success until the weather moderated and the snow and sleet melted. … At 10 p.m., General Wood received an order from General Thomas directing him to have our corps put in readiness next day for operations. The night was cold and clear.
“December 12, it was still cold and although the sun shone in the morning it did not have the power to melt the ice and snow which covered the ground. The officers call summoned company officers to regimental headquarters and they were told everything must be at once put in readiness for a contemplated movement. They were also directed to make requisitions for supplies of every kind needed on a march.
“That day the cavalry, 12,000 strong, crossed to the south side of the river on the railroad and pontoon bridges, and was massed between the Hardin and Charlotte pikes. This looked like moving the next morning. The enemy was still at work on his second line of fortifications. … There was considerable picket firing during the day.
“The morning of December 13, the weather had slightly moderated but it was still very cold. Our picket relief did not get out to the rifle pits in our front until nearly daylight, and fortunately were not fired at before they reached their protection. The pickets were allowed fires, but the wood soon gave out and a truce was agreed upon between the opposing picket lines, which truce continued all day. The men walked about in plain view of each other and not a shot was fired.
“A little after noon a deserted from the enemy crossed over to our lines unmolested, having given out that he wished to get some tobacco for himself and comrade. He had previously met one of our men between the lines. He said he had once belonged to the Fifty-eighth Illinois, that he lived near Meridian, Miss., and while visiting his family there was impressed into the Confederate service as a member of the Fourteenth Mississippi. He said that this was the first opportunity he had to escape and seemed greatly relieved to be back under the old flag again. He was sent under guard to headquarters.
“Gleason in his diary further says ‘The boys gathered from the Johnnies whom they met on the sly, that their loss at Franklin was 8000 … , and that they seemed rather hopeless, wondering if there was to be another killing soon.’
“About 5 p.m., the weather grew much warmer and the ice began to melt quite rapidly.
“The morning of December 14, the ice had all disappeared, but a dense fog shout from sight the enemy’s lines and made any general movement extremely hazardous. At 3 p.m. the corps commanders again met at General Thomas’ headquarters and it was decided to attack the enemy the next morning., if it was not too foggy.
“There was the usual picket firing during the day. …
“Regular roll calls were ordered and officers were instructed to keep the men in camp both night and day ready for the contemplated movement. …
“On the evening of December 14, after some of the officers had retired, Colonel Askew called a meeting of company commanders at his tent and communicated to them the … orders. He also informed them that General A.J. Smith’s troops would attack and try to turn the enemy’s left flank, that the general movement was to be a grand left wheel, with our brigade as the pivot, and that the men were to be awakened at 4:30 o’clock next morning and have tents struck and everything packed up by 6 o’clock.
“After this meeting, a number of officers of our own and other regiments gathered at our sutler’s tent. Among them were Lieutenant Colonel Luther M. Strong, commanding the Forty-ninth Ohio; Lieutenant Colonel Jon Conover, commanding the Eighth Kansas; Colonel Frank Askew, commanding the Fifteenth Ohio; Major Wm. M. Clark, Surgeon of the Fifteenth Ohio, … (me), and others. …
“The subject of the conversation was of course the battle to be fought the next day. All were sanguine of victory and all seemed relieved to know that our period of inaction was about over. A minor note was struck by Lieutenant Colonel Strong of the Forty-ninth Ohio, who said he had a strong presentiment that he was going to be shot in the battle. All tried to rally and laugh him out of his morbid fancy, but without avail, and when we separated he was still moody and depressed.
“At 4:30 a.m., December 15, our bugles all along the line wounded the reveille. There seemed to be an unusual note of defiance in the calls, and we fancied they seemed louder and clearer than usual. We were soon all astir, had our breakfasts, struck tents, packed everything up and then awaited orders. There was a very dense fog, – so dense that we could not distinguish objects a hundred feet away, – and we supposed the general movement would again be postponed. But in the depression to our rear we heard the clank of artillery harness and the murmur of multitudinous voices, which indicated the movement of heavy columns of our troops to our right. The thick fog hid them and in imagination they seemed a mighty host.
“Between 7 and 8 a.m. the fog began to rise and we saw, besides the moving troops, a heavy column massed in rear of our lines. The Twenty-third Corps was massed in rear of the Fourth Corps and General A.J. Smith’s line.
“Soon we heard heavy cannonading to our left. It was General Steedman, who was making a demonstration on our left flank to withdraw the enemy’s attention and troops from his left where our real attack was about to be made. This cannonading continued at intervals all the forenoon. By nine o’clock the fog had lifted and the sun shone from a sapphire sky. The air was crisp and bracing. …
“Our regiment and brigade were formed behind the works and the men stacked arms and were permitted to break ranks, but cautioned not to go far from the guns. It was not long until we heard the boom of cannon far to the right, which announced that the battle had begun. The distant cannonading continued and an occasional deeper boom indicated that the big guns from the iron clads in the river were joining in. …
“Montgomery Hill rising about 150 feet above the level of the surrounding country, its sides covered with open woods which extended down its slopes, across the hollow and up to our works on Lauren’s Hill, stood about 800 yards in our front. It was encircled just below its crest by formidable intrenchments protected by an abates and rows of sharpened stakes firmly driven into the ground. It was the most advanced position of the enemy and our first duty would be to assault and take it. We were not, however, to advance until the troops on our right had begun to move forward. For some reason the troops on our right did not get into position for the forward movement until about 11 o’clock. With heart beating high and nerves tingling we waited for the order to advance. We waited and waited until noon, and still no orders came. We had our dinners and still waited. In the meantime the sounds of cannonading on our right grew louder and louder and soon we heard the distant rattle of small arms. We heard too an occasional cheer from our men, which told that the battle was going well with us.
“General Wilson’s cavalry had found the enemy’s left flank and, in co-operation with General McArthur’s division of General A.J. Smith’s corps, soon afterwards charged and carried a redoubt near the Hardin pike which covered the flank.
“From our position on Lauren’s Hill we looked to the right down the valley of Richland Creek, a small stream which ran between the fortified lines of the opposing armies. We could see the skirmishers on both sides keeping up the usual desultory firing, but that was all.
“Presently, about 12:45 p.m., far down the creek we saw our skirmishers advancing. Soon those nearer towards us up the valley began moving out, driving the enemy’s skirmishers back, and the storm of battle kept rolling nearer and nearer. …
“Soon the skirmishers of the second division of our corps took up and prolonged the advancing line and a battery of the enemy in a position not before known opened out on our advancing lines. Our time to advance had come.
“General Post’s brigade of our division had been designated to lead the assault on Montgomery Hill, our brigade was to follow in close support and a little to his left. Our formation was from right to left as follows: the Eighth Kansas and Fifty-first Ohio in the first line deployed in line of battle, the Eighty-ninth Illinois, Fifteenth Ohio an Forty-ninth Ohio in the second line formed in column by division. At the signal to advance which was given about 2 p.m., the officers and men of the line leaped across the parapet and the mounted officers followed through gaps cut through it by the pioneers. Our troops were so impatient to be in at the finish, that the charge on Montgomery Hill became a race to see who should get there first and, although Post’s brigade led, many men of our brigade reached the enemy’s works among the foremost. …
“All were so eager and so fired with enthusiasm that they seemed to care no more for the storm of missiles which poured from the enemy’s works than if they were so many snow flakes. They did not stop t fire but pressed on up the acclivity and into the enemy’s works, taking prisoners of all who did not escape by flight, and following the fugitives until called back to reform.
“As soon as Montgomery Hill was in our possession and the enemy was driven back to his second intrenched line, about 600 yards to the rear of his line on Montgomery Hill, the Fifteenth Ohio was ordered to the left and placed in position to protect the left flank of the brigade, who had orders to conform their movements to those of the troops on their right. The position in which we were placed was on the left slope of Montgomery Hill and on ground which sloped toward the enemy’s intrenched line. We were exposed to artillery and infantry fire from the enemy’s intrenchments, as well as from his skirmishers. Our only protection was an osage orange hedge along which the regiment was formed and behind which the men lay down and hugged the ground. It afforded little protection and a number of our men were wounded. …
“To keep down the fire of the enemy a strong line of skirmishers made up of Companies B, G and K under command of Captain Carroll was pushed to the front some 200 yards. The enemy had a battery near the McCrary house on the Granny White pike about 700 yards in our front, but fortunately for us, its fire was mostly directed to the troops advancing on our right.
“Colonel Askew and … (I) had ridden … horses in the charge on Montgomery Hill and still kept them, although they were constantly exposed to the enemy’s fire. … (We) did not wish to appear otherwise than brave, but occasionally … (we) would dismount and stand behind … (our) horses using them as … breastworks against the enemy’s sharpshooters. Colonel Askew’s horse was a big, ugly, raw boned, ewenecked mare, which the men in the regiment were ashamed of, and … (I) more than once told him that the boys would all be pleased to see it stop an enemy’s bullet.
“From our position the crest of Montgomery Hill to our right cut off our view of our own troops, but for perhaps a mile or more we had a plain view of the enemy’s intrenched line. The roar of battle to our right continued to grow louder and nearer and the cheers of our men more frequent. Occasionally we could see one or two men at a time go back from the enemy’s intrenched line. They were evidently men who had been wounded by shots from our men, whom we could not see. While we were thus watching the results of our fire, unobserved by either of us, a section of our artillery had taken position on the hill just to our rear and not a hundred feet away. Suddenly the guns opened out on the enemy’s battery near McCrary’s house before mentioned. The guns were so near and the explosions were so loud that we were both startled. … (My) horse broke away … , ran around the hedge in our front and made for the enemy’s lines. Fortunately, our men on the skirmish line saw and recognized her and brought her back. We had been now holding the position … about two hours. The conflict on the right deepened, the cheers grew louder and clearer and wounded men in constantly increasing numbers were streaming back form the enemy’s worlds. It was plain that a crisis in the battle had been reached, and we felt confident we would soon see our troops assault and carry the enemy’s intrenched line. We wanted to be in when the critical moment came, but we had no orders to move. The rest of the brigade had moved still further to our right and we were practically left alone. Presently Colonel Askew quietly said ‘I believe we can take that battery,’ – meaning the battery near McCrary’s house. ‘ We can make a dash across the valley to the house, reform behind it, and by a sudden sally can take it in.’ The words were no sooner said, when … ( I) was galloping out to the skirmish line with the order and the regiment was getting round and through the hedge. … Captain Carroll (was) striding along the skirmish line calling out: ‘Forward!’ ‘Forward!’, and almost before he was aware of it, the main body of the regiment had overtaken the skirmishers and all were joining in a mad race for the McCrary house. The enemy’s skirmishers were literally run over and broke to our rear, and we rushed forward. … The stop at the McCrary house was only for a moment, to get breath, and soon our men were on the enemy’s battery, shouting and cheering in wild delirium – some of them scratching the words ‘Fifteenth Ohio Battery’ on the captured guns. The pioneers soon cut down the epaulements and the guns were dragged through the embrasures and turned upon the enemy. Some of the men got into the bomb proofs behind the epaulements, where the ammunition was stored, and there was a sudden explosion which wounded one or two of them. Soon it was noticed that the enemy was reforming, evidently for the purpose of retaking the battery, and the men were ordered to form behind a stone fence which extended from the battery toward the Granny White pike. While … (I) was hurrying the men into position, our own Lieutenant Wallace McGrath, who was on the brigade staff, came riding up like a wild man and threw his arms around … (me) exclaiming, ‘Oh, Copie, we’ve captured a battery! We’ve captured a battery!’ A volley or two from the stone wall … soon dispersed the enemy troops who were trying to reform, and the attempt to retake the battery was abandoned.
“Almost simultaneously with our capture of the battery our troops on the right with tremendous cheering charged and carried the enemy’s intrenched line and sent him back in disorderly but sullen retreat. It was now growing dusk, but the firing continued and the wild cheers to the right proclaimed victory all along the line. We had turned the enemy’s flank, driven him from his intrenched line and had captured 16 cannon and about 1000 prisoners. …
“As soon as the troops could be reformed the division moved forward in pursuit of the enemy who was falling back toward the Franklin pike. … Our regiment was still the left of the line. We moved on driving the enemy’s skirmishers before us until it grew dark, when we bivouacked in line of battle for the night and barricaded our front with logs and rails. Our line was east of and about parallel to the Granny White pike.
“That night the field officers of some of the regiments of the brigade were together at the headquarters of one of the regiments, recounting the experiences of the day. Lieutenant Colonel Strong of the Forty-ninth Ohio was rallied because his presentiment had not come true. He had not been shot during the day’s engagement. Colonel Askew and … (I) had kept … (our) horses during the day while the field officers of the other regiments had sent theirs to the rear. This fact was the subject of comment, and the field officers of the Eighth Kansas decided to keep their horses during the next day’s operations, with the result that they were all shot.
“The operations of the day resulted on our side in the Twenty-third Corps, which was in reserve, being put into line on the right of General A.J. Smith’s troops, and on the side of the enemy General Cheatham’s corps was went to their left.
“At nightfall our line was formed nearly parallel to the Hillsborough pike, Schofield on the right, A.J. Smith in the center and Wood on the left. The cavalry was on the right of Schofield and General Steedman held the position he had gained during the day on the Nolensville pike.
“That night before we retired orders came to renew the attack in the morning. …
“At 6:30 a.m., December 16, we moved forward by the right of companies to the front until we reached the Franklin pike, when changing direction we advanced on the east side of and parallel to the pike, halting at times for alignment. There was brisk skirmishing to the right of us, and as we advanced the skirmish fire grew heavier and the artillery on both sides opened out. …
“We seemed to have developed the enemy’s position, which was on the Overton Range abut five miles south of Nashville and came to a halt within 800 yards of his main line. … Very heavy firing was now heard away to our right and we understood that we were again moving to turn the enemy’s left flank. …
“We were on a small eminence immediately east of the Franklin pike. The ground sloped to the front a short distance and then ascended through an open woods to the enemy’s intrenched position on Overton Hill, which it seemed almost folly to assault if it could be turned. We lay in this position with our line barricaded until about 3 p.m. In the meantime two batteries were placed on the line of our division and vigorously shelled the enemy’s position on Overton Hill. The road of the conflict on our right increased and we hoped that our troops on the right would turn the enemy’s left flank, as they had done the day before, and thus save us from the necessity of storming the rods on Overton hill.
“General Steedman’s colored troops had come up on our left about 12:30 p.m. and we no longer apprehended an assault on our left flank. General Wood was sitting on his horse on a knoll a short distance to the left and rear of our position, overlooking the field and directing the movements of the corps. Aides and orderlies were coming and going. … The artillery on both sides was engaged and the air was filled with solid shot and shell, while between the lines the skirmishers were keeping up a lively fusilade.
“A solid shot from one of the enemy’s guns knocked off the head of an officer a little to the left and rear of the knoll above mentioned.
“Colonel Askew and … (I) had ridden up on the knoll, to get a better view of the movements to the right and also to hear reports of our progress on that part of the line. As … (we) sat on … (our) horses not far from General Wood, colonel Philip Sidney Post, who was in command of the Second Brigade of our division, rode up and addressing General Wood, said he would like to take his brigade and assault the enemy’s line on Overton Hill. Colonel Askew and … (I) looked at each other with surprise, as . . . (we) had examined the enemy’s position on Overton Hill and had remarked on its unusual strength. … (We) were still more surprised when General Wood said. ‘Well, Post, suppose you ride out and reconnoiter the position and come back and tell me what you think.’ Colonel Post at once galloped off. … Colonel Post was an intrepid officer, but somewhat rash, and it was bruited about among the officers of the division that he was ambitious to win a general’s star. It was therefore with some apprehension that the result of his reconnoissance was awaited. In about half an hour he came galloping back, his horse all afoam. Riding up to General Wood he saluted … and said, ‘General Wood, I have carefully reconnoitered the enemy’s position and can take it like a knife.’ General Wood thereupon said, ‘Well, Post, have your men strip and pile up their knapsacks and I will support you with the First Brigade.’ The First Brigade was ours, and we realized that there was serious work ahead for us, for we would be expected to take care of the enemy after his line was broken. …
“Colonel Askew and … (I) rode slowly back to the regiment, the former remarking, ‘We will also have our men strip and pile up their knapsacks.’
“It was not long before we received orders for the assault. Our brigade was formed in the following order: The Fifteenth Ohio and Forty-ninth Ohio … from right to left formed the first line under command of Colonel Askew; the Eighth Kansas and the Eighty-ninth Illinois formed the second line under command of Lieutenant Colonel W.D. Williams of the Eighty-ninth Illinois and the Fifty-first Indiana under command of Captain Scearce formed the third line. Companies E and K of the Fifteenth Ohio were at the time on duty as skirmishers to our front and left, Major McClenahan being in command of the skirmishers of the entire brigade.
“About 3 p.m., after our batteries had poured a storm of shot and shell at the enemy’s position, Colonel Post’s brigade began the advance. It moved forward under a storm of grape and canister from the enemy’s batteries, the lines even and steady, the men shoulder to shoulder. …
“Our orders directed us to move in support of Post’s brigade at a distance of 150 yards, but our men were so impatient … that this distance narrowed to less than that number of feet as we approached the enemy’s parapet. The enemy poured into us a withering fire of grape and canister, which was so hot that twice … (I) felt the wind of grape or canister-shot on … (my) bridle wrist. … The enemy’s infantry, lying close behind his intrenchments, seemed to be reserving their fire. … Colonel Post’s men … moved steadily forward, our line but a few yards behind them, until they neared the abatis in front of the enemy’s works. We could see some of the men in their works start back and their officers forcing them again into line and felt confident Post’s men would soon be over the parapet. Suddenly, the front line wavered, then stopped, lay down and commenced firing. Colonel Post had been shot through the bowels by a canister shot and the brigade was without a commander. The enemy’s infantry from behind his parapet poured a deadly fire into the then disordered mass of our men lying on the ground before them. A tremendous effort was made to push the succeeding lines of our troops over the men who were lying down, but without avail. Small groups of men and an individual here and there, got forward to the abatis and some of the officers did the same. Captain George S. Crawford of the Forty-ninth Ohio and Captain Thomas C. Davis and Lieutenant Wallace McGrath of the Fifteenth Ohio, of the brigade staff, pressed their horses up to the abatis and fired their revolvers into the faces of the foe. …
“Colonel Askew was making vigorous efforts to press the first supporting line forward when a bullet struck him in the breast. … (I) was at his side (and) heard the dull thud, saw him reel in his saddle and half fall from his horse, and (I) was dismounted and by his side in a moment. A ball had struck the top button of his overcoat which was buttoned across his breast, had torn it off and hit his vest button underneath and glanced aside. He had received only a severe bruise, but the blow made him very sick. He insisted, however, on remaining at his post, and continued to exert himself feebly to encourage the men.
“Lieutenant Colonel Strong of the Forty-ninth Ohio had his presentiment verified and was severely wounded while urging his men forward. …
“The assault had failed. … Many of the men were falling back in disorder, and soon all the troops … were in hasty and disorderly retreat, our regiment among them. …
“In the final moments of the assault, the different organizations of the two brigades of our division had become intermingled. General Steedman’s colored brigade, in its advance on our left, converged toward us as they neared the point of attack, and were also mingled in the general mass. That was noticed when a few minutes afterwards we passed over the same ground and saw the dead black men lying side by side with their white comrades. … It was the first time the soldiers of our command had seen colored troops in action, and it was said, ‘they fought just like white soldiers, with this difference, – that when a black man was wounded and went to the rear he held on to his gun, while the white soldier dropped or threw his aside.’ …
“After our men had fallen back . . . , our batteries again opened out on the enemy over our heads, to prevent his sallying out of his works in pursuit of our retreating troops. …
“Under the direction of Colonel Askew, who was suffering painfully … , (I) assisted in reforming the regiment in rear of the Sixth Ohio Battery and then went to hunt up Lieutenant Colonel McClenahan to have him take command of the regiment. … When … (I) returned with him, our brigade and division were again advancing, sweeping everything before them. A similar assault, made by Colonel McMillan’s brigade of General McArthur’s division of General Smith’s command, and General Hatch’s division of Wilson’s cavalry, had penetrated the enemy’s works, when his entire line began to crumble and fall back in disorderly retreat. We pressed forward and were soon inside the enemy’s works which we had failed to carry, and moved rapidly forward, capturing many prisoners. While we were pursuing the fleeing enemy it began to rain, but we pushed out and finally bivouacked in a muddy field east of the Franklin pike, about two miles from Brentwood.”
Mojave History Web site; originally published in The Victor Press (Apple Valley, Calif.), June 2, 1940
Editor’s notes: Found Corwin’s account in February 2002 on the Mojave History Web site. The Web site contact, Richard Thompson, e-mailed me on Feb. 24, 2003, that he got the memoir from Elmore and Harriet Crowin and the Corwin Ranch of Apple Valley, Desert Knoll Press, Apple Valley, 2002. He said footnote 36 credits the article to the June 2, 1940, edition of The Victor Press, a small newspaper in Apple Valley, Calif. The Victor Press has passed through several hands since, and is now The Daily Press.
Betty Halbe, a Corwin descendant, e-mailed me March 21, 2003, that she had provided a copy of the account from the book to Thompson for his Web site, and she said it was reprinted by Thompson verbatim.
Corwin was 17 at time of the battle
December 16, 1864
“The cavalry was being counted off by fours and number four remained with the … horses and the other three went on foot in the evening of the second … day of the battle.
“Lieutenant Shriner and myself found a redoubt which was made by the uprooting of a tree, in which we protected ourselves from the bullets as much as may be, but our firing drew the fire of the rebels and we soon found ourselves in a very hot place. Finally there was a charge ordered and both the lieutenant and myself fell wounded.
“His wound proved to be only a flesh wound. I was struck right through my purse pocket in the thick of my left thigh. The lieutenant sent some of my comrades to carry me from the field and after receiving first aid at the field hospital, in Nashville, with a very severe and dangerous wound, as the large artery of my leg was touched and it was feared that mortification would open it and bleed me to death.
“Twice, by a hair, I escaped amputation, once in the field hospital and again at the hands of a civilian surgeon of wide experience, who opposed two army surgeons, often more anxious for the experience than for humanitarian reasons. By careful nursing and the surgeon’s scientific knowledge not only was my leg saved but my life also.”
The March To The Sea / Franklin And Nashville, by Jacob D. Cox, LL. D., Late Major-General Commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps; 1882
Chapter VI.—Battle Of Nashville
“SCHOFIELD’S little army reached Nashville in the morning of December 1st, and was merged in the forces which General Thomas was assembling there. General A. J. Smith, after many unforeseen delays, had arrived with his detachments from the Army of the Tennessee, consisting of three divisions, aggregating nearly twelve thousand men. Of these, something over nine thousand men reached Nashville early in the morning of November 30th, and the rest on the next day. The first intention of General Thomas had been to meet Schofield at Brentwood, ten miles in front of Nashville, with these troops, while Schofield marched the ten miles from Franklin to the same point; but he concluded later to make the union at Nashville. When he received from Schofield and from Wilson the reports of Hood’s movement of the 28th and 29th, by which the cavalry had been separated from Schofield, and Forrest was reported pushing eastward, he ordered Steedman to leave a garrison in Chattanooga and take his other available forces to Cowan, a station near Elk River, on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railway. Steedman reached there on the morning of the 30th and put his troops in position; but in the evening, Thomas, having learned of Hood’s attack in force upon Schofield at Franklin, ordered Steedman to hasten to Nashville. The troops were accordingly put upon the railway trains again, and most of them reached their destination safely on the evening of December 1st. One train, being delayed by an accident, did not arrive till the 2d, and was attacked by Forrest five miles south of Nashville, but the troops made their way through without serious loss, though the train was captured and destroyed. Of the 8,000 men who had been at Chattanooga on the 30th, Steedman brought with him 5,200, consisting of two brigades of colored troops, and a provisional division made up of soldiers belonging to the army with Sherman, but who had arrived at the front too late to rejoin their own regiments.
“Most of the troops under General R. S. Granger, in North Alabama, and of those under General Milroy, at Tullahoma, were ordered to Murfreesboro, where the whole, amounting to about eight thousand men, were placed under command of General Rousseau, and remained until after Hood’s defeat on December 15th and l6th. The block-house garrison, at the important railroad bridge on the Elk River, was the only considerable detachment left along the line of the Chattanooga Road, between Murfreesboro and Stevenson.
“In Nashville, on November 30th, besides Smith’s forces, Thomas had about six thousand infantry and artillery, and three thousand cavalry, mostly dismounted. The Chief Quartermaster, General Donaldson, had also armed and organized into a division the employés of his and the commissary department, and these were prepared to serve as an addition to the garrison when needed. The new regiments which arrived were gradually assigned to the old divisions, and the additions to the list of Sherman’s convalescents and returning men were united to those who had come with Steedman, making, by December 14th, a division of over five thousand men, under command of General Cruft.
“Accepting Hood’s statements of his losses thus far in the campaign, the army which he led against Nashville consisted of about forty-four thousand men of all arms. His means of information were such that he had pretty full knowledge of the concentration Thomas was now effecting, and the motives which induced a march to Nashville are matters of interesting inquiry. Beauregard, in his preliminary report to the Confederate War Department, said: “It is clear to my mind that after the great loss of life at Franklin, the army was no longer in a condition to make a successful attack on Nashville.” Hood’s own statement, which would be entitled to the greatest weight if his subsequent writings were not so full of evidence that they are labored apologies for his misfortunes, is that he expected reinforcements from Texas, and that he hoped by intrenching near Nashville he could maintain himself in a defensive attitude till these should arrive; or that he might even take advantage of a reverse to Thomas, if the latter should be beaten in an attack upon his fortified line. The hope of aid from Texas was a forlorn one, for no organized body of Confederates had for a long time succeeded in passing the Mississippi River. From other sources, however, we learn that the show of confidence and of success was relied upon to induce recruiting in Tennessee, and that the pretended Governor, Harris, was with Hood, endeavoring to enforce the conscription in that State. This, and the collection of supplies, give an intelligible reason for occupying as much territory as possible, and for an appearance of bravado which could hardly be justified on military grounds. Doubtless, too, Hood believed that while his veterans might be forced to retreat, they could not be routed; and he underestimated the discouragement that began to pervade them when they were taught, by the terrible lesson of Franklin, how hopeless was that dream of conquest with which their leaders had tried to inspire them when they crossed the Tennessee. Hood also says he learned that Schofield retreated in alarm; but never was a greater mistake. Schofield’s officers on the line had reported their perfect confidence in their ability to hold it, and the withdrawal front the Harpeth had been based solely on the probability of the position being turned before reinforcements could be sure to arrive.
“In truth, Hood’s situation was a very difficult one, and to go forward or to go back was almost equally unpromising. He followed his natural bent, therefore, which always favored the appearance, at least, of aggression, and he marched after Schofield to Nashville. On approaching the town, he put Lee’s corps in the centre, across the Franklin turnpike, for it had suffered least in the campaign, and was now his strongest corps. Cheatham took the right, and Stewart the left of the line, while Forrest, with the cavalry, occupied the country between Stewart and the river below Nashville. Attempts were made to repair the railway from Corinth to Decatur, and thence by Pulaski to Hood’s rear. Hood tells us that he gained possession of two locomotives and several ears (perhaps at Spring Hill), and that these were used to help transport supplies.
“Thomas put his troops in position upon the heights surrounding Nashville, General Smith’s divisions on the right, the Fourth Corps (General Wood temporarily commanding) in the centre, and Schofield’s Twenty-third Corps on the left. Steedman, who arrived later, was first put on the Nolensville road, about a mile in front of Schofield’s left, but was placed on the extension of Schofield’s line a day or two later, when Wilson, with the cavalry, were sent over the river to Edgefield, on the north bank.
“On December 2d, Hood sent Bate’s division of Cheatham’s corps to destroy the railroad between Nashville and Murfreesboro. Bate reached Overall’s Creek, ten miles from Murfreesboro, and attacked the block-house protecting the railway bridge there; but the little garrison held out against a severe cannonade till General Milroy arrived with reinforcements from Murfreesboro, and drove the enemy off. Bate now took the road toward Nashville, and at Stewart’s Creek and two other places in that neighborhood, found the block-houses evacuated, and burned them with the bridges they were built to protect. He also reported that he had torn up several miles of track. Forrest, meanwhile, who had been directed to co-operate with Bate, had sent Buford’s division against the block-houses nearest Nashville, and succeeded in reducing three of them near Mill Creek, beginning with one five miles from the city. On the 5th he united Jackson’s division with Buford’s, and moving toward Lavergne took two more block-houses. He now met Bate, who was moving in the opposite direction, and turned the united forces upon Murfreesboro. Here, on the evening of the 6th, he was further reinforced by Sears’s brigade of French’s division, and Palmer’s brigade of Stevenson’s, and on next morning approached the town, reconnoitring the fortifications in person. Rousseau now sent Milroy against the enemy, with seven regiments, and these attacked vigorously the left flank of Forrest’s infantry, while they were moving by his orders in the same direction for the purpose of taking ground farther to the left. Milroy’s attack fell obliquely upon the extremity of Bate’s line, which was quickly rolled up and put to rout, losing two pieces of artillery. Bate admits 213 casualties in the infantry, but those of the cavalry are not given. Milroy took 207 prisoners, and his own losses in the affair were 30 killed, and 175 wounded. Meanwhile, Buford’s division attempted to enter the town by another road, but was also defeated and driven off.
“Bate’s division was now recalled to Nashville, and replaced by a brigade under Colonel Olmstead (formerly Mercer’s) so that Forrest retained three brigades of infantry as a support for his cavalry. He continued till the 15th to operate on the east of Nashville, and along the south bank of the Cumberland, part of his duty being to “drain the country of persons liable to military service, animals suitable for army purposes, and subsistence supplies.” On the 15th Jackson’s division captured a railway train of supplies going from Stevenson to Murfreesboro, for the garrison there, who, it would seem, must have been in danger of running short of rations, since the breaking of their communications with Nashville.
“At Thomas’s request, Lieutenant-Commander Fitch patrolled the Cumberland with gunboats above and below Nashville, to prevent the crossing of that stream by the enemy, and Wilson sent Hammond’s brigade of cavalry to Gallatin to watch the north bank of the river an far as Carthage.
“From the time of Hood’s arrival in front of Nashville, the President and Secretary of War became very urgent in their desire that Thomas should at once assume the aggressive.
“At their suggestion, General Grant telegraphed on December 2, advising Thomas to leave the defences of Nashville to General Donaldson’s organized employés, and attack Hood at once. Grant’s language was scarcely less imperative than an order, but Thomas was so desirous of increasing his force of mounted men that he determined to wait a few days. On the 8th, the weather, which had been good for more than a week, suddenly changed. A freezing storm of snow and sleet covered the ground, and for two or three days the alternations of rain and frost made the hills about Nashville slopes of slippery ice, on which movement was impracticable. As Hood’s positions could only be reached by deployed lines advancing over these hills and hollows, everybody in Thomas’s army felt the absolute necessity of now waiting a little longer, till the ice should thaw. This was not fully appreciated by the authorities at Washington, who connected it too closely with Thomas’s previous wish for more time, and a rapid correspondence by telegraph took place, in which Thomas was ordered to attack at once or to turn over his command to General Schofield. He assembled his corps commanders and asked their advice, saying that he was ordered to give Hood battle immediately or surrender his command. To whom the army would be transferred was not stated, but it was matter of inference, and he declined to submit the despatch itself to the council of war, though one of the junior officers intimated a wish to know its terms. By the custom of such councils the opinion of officers is given in the inverse order of their grade; but General Schofield, feeling the delicacy of his position as senior subordinate, volunteered his own opinion first, that till the ice should melt it was not now practicable to move.
“All concurred in this, and Thomas telegraphed Grant that he felt compelled to wait till the storm should break, but would submit without a murmur if it was thought necessary to relieve him. On the 13th, General Logan, who, it will be remembered, was temporarily absent from the Fifteenth Corps, was ordered to Nashville for the purpose of superseding Thomas in command of the Department and Army of the Cumberland, and Grant himself was on the way there also, when the result of the first day of the battle of Nashville (December 15th) stopped further action in that direction.
“As early as December 6th, the troops had been ordered to be ready to move against the enemy, and the plan of battle afterward adopted had been in substance determined. From day to day Hood appeared to be taking ground to the east, so as to bring himself more closely into support of Forrest’s operations. This led to a suggestion to Thomas from his corps commanders to modify his plan which had looked to the use of the Twenty-third Corps to demonstrate on the left, and give more weight to an attack by the right. From the 8th to the 14th, it was definitely understood in camp that an attack would be made the moment the ice melted, and on the date last mentioned a warm rain made it certain the ground would be bare next day. The position of Hood had not materially changed for a week. Chalmers was operating with a division of cavalry along the Cumberland, for some miles below Nashville, as Buford was above; but, while ordinary steamboat transportation was thus interrupted, the navy patrolled the river and prevented the enemy from crossing. Hood had sent a detachment of cavalry also, supported by Cockrell’s brigade of infantry to the mouth of Duck River, on the Tennessee, to blockade that stream also, if possible. In his anxiety to cover so large a territory, the Confederate general was too much extended, and in front of Thomas’s right his flank was only covered by Chalmers’s division of horse. To make some connection with the river on this side, he had built a number of detached works, but these were not completed, though he had put artillery in them, supported by detachments of infantry from Walthall’s division. Reports brought in by deserters indicated that he was intending to withdraw from his advanced lines since the 10th, but the same causes which prevented Thomas from moving, affected him also, and a change of quarters, to his in-clad and poorly shod troops, would have been the cause of much suffering, if it were made during the severe weather of that week.
“On the morning of the 15th a heavy fog obscured the dawn and hid the early movements of Thomas’s army. The ice had given place to mud, and the manoeuvres, like those of all winter campaigns, were slow. The modified order of the day directed a strong demonstration by Steedman on the extreme left, with two brigades; one commanded by Colonel Grosvenor, Eighteenth Ohio, and the other (colored troops) commanded by Colonel Morgan, Fourteenth United States Colored. General Wood, with the Fourth Corps, and General Smith, with the Sixteenth Corps, were ordered to form upon a position nearly continuous with the eastern line of the city defences, extending from a salient on the Acklen place across the Hillsborough turnpike toward the Hardin turnpike in a southwest direction. Advancing toward the southeast these corps would make the principal attack obliquely upon the left of Hood’s line. General Wilson, with three divisions of cavalry, was ordered to clear the Hardin and Charlotte turnpikes of the enemy (still farther to the west) and move forward on the right of Smith’s corps. General Schofield, with the Twenty-third Corps, constituted the reserve, and was placed in rear of Wood, to strengthen and extend the attack on the right. As Smith had occupied the fortifications on the right of the line about the city, these orders would be executed by wheeling the whole of both corps forward to the left, upon the salient at the Acklen place as pivot, after Wood had taken ground to the right by the distance of nay half a mile, no as to bring his left flank at the point named. Schofield, who had been in the fortifications still to the left of Wood, marched from his lines at daybreak, and passing through the works at the Hillsborough road moved to the east into the position assigned him, as noon as the wheel of the right wing made room for him. The interior lines at the city were held by General Donaldson’s men, while General Cruft, with his division, occupied those from which Schofield and Steedman moved.
“Standing in the salient in Wood’s line, which has been mentioned, the topography of the country about Nashville is clearly seen. On the left, toward the east, is a valley in which Brown’s Creek flows north into the Cumberland. It rises in the high Brentwood Hills, which shut out the view toward the south a little more than four miles away, and its course is nearly parallel to the eastern line of Thomas’s intrenchments. On the right, but a little farther off, is Rich-land Creek, flowing northwest into the Cumberland. It rises also in the Brentwood Hills, not more than a mile west of Brown’s Creek, and runs nearly parallel with it toward the city for some distance, when the two curve away to right and left, encircling the place, and marking its strong and natural line of defence. On the high ridge between the creeks is the Granny White turnpike. A mile eastward is the Franklin turnpike, diverging about thirty degrees. At nearly equal distances, on that side, the Nolensville and Murfreesboro turnpikes leave the city successively. Turning toward the west from our station, the Hillsboro, the Hardin, and the Charlotte turnpikes successively go out at similar angles, all radiating from the centre of the town. The ground is hilly, rising into knobs and eminences two or three hundred feet above the Cumberland, but mostly open, with groves of timber here and there.
“Hood’s line was over Brown’s Creek, on the high ground from the Nolensville turnpike and the Chattanooga railway to the Franklin turnpike, then crossing the creek and mounting a high hill west of it, it extended to the Hillsboro road, where it turned back along a stone wall on the side of the turnpike. The detached works, of which mention has been made, were still to the southwest of this, and across Richland Creek. The relative places of his several corps were the same as when he first came before the town. His main line at his left, where it reached the Hillsboro pike, was about a mile in front of Wood, but he also occupied an advanced line with skirmishers, only half that distance away, and terminating in a strong outpost on Montgomery Hill, at the Hillsboro road.
“Before six o’clock in the morning Steedman was moving forward under cover of the fog by the Murfreesboro road, on the extreme left, and about eight he attacked Hood’s right between the turnpike and the railway. The vigor of the assault made it something more than a demonstration, and the rapid fire of both artillery and small arms attracted the attention of the enemy in that direction. The distance Smith’s right wing had to move was found to be greater than had been reckoned on, and it was ten o’clock before McArthur’s division had moved sufficiently to the left to open the way for Wilson’s cavalry to advance upon the Hardin road. Johnson’s division moved forward on the Charlotte turnpike, looking also after the enemy’s battery at Bell’s Landing, on the Cumberland; Croxton’s brigade took the interval to the Hardin turnpike, Hatch’s division continued the line to the flank of Smith’s infantry, and Knipe’s division was in reserve. Smith formed the Sixteenth Corps with Garrard’s division on his left, connecting with the Fourth Corps, and McArthur’s division on the right. The division of Moore was in reserve. On the other side Chalmers did what he could to oppose them, supported by Coleman’s (formerly Ector’s) brigade of infantry,(1) but the odds was too great, and they were driven steadily back. Half a mile southeast of the Hardin road the first of Hood’s detached works, containing four guns, was found. The batteries of McArthur and Hatch were brought to bear upon it from all sides, and, after a severe cannonade, McMillan’s and Hubbard’s brigades of infantry and Coon’s of cavalry (dismounted) attacked and carried the redoubt.(2) Stewart now recalled Coleman and directed him to report to Walthall, whose division occupied the stone wall bordering the Hillsboro turnpike. Walthall placed him on the extension of his line southward, upon some high points covering the Granny White road. This left the other redoubts to their fate, as Chalmers was far too much over-matched to make much resistance with his cavalry. He had been driven back so fast that his train, with his headquarters baggage and papers, had been captured. The next redoubt, about four hundred yards to the right, was carried by the same troops, and two guns in it were taken. Another four-gun battery, intrenched on a detached hill, was stormed and captured by the cavalry, and a two-gun battery by Hill’s brigade of McArthur’s division, though with the loss of Colonel Hill, who fell in the moment of success. Smith’s corps now bore somewhat to the left, striking the extreme flank of the stone wall held by Walthall’s division, driving Reynolds’s brigade from it in confusion. At the same time, Schofield, who had followed the movement closely with the Twenty-third Corps, in accordance with Thomas’s order, pushed Couch’s division (formerly. Cooper’s) past Smith’s flank, and beyond the last redoubt which had been captured. Now advancing on the line from the Hillsboro road, eastward, across an open valley half a mile wide, Couch assaulted and carried the left of a series of hills parallel to the Granny White turnpike. The assault was made by Cooper’s brigade, and the rest of the division was quickly brought up in support, while Cox’s division marched still farther to the right and occupied the continuation of the line of hills along Richland Creek with two brigades, keeping the third (Stiles’s) on the heights west of the creek to cover the flank.
“These last movements had occurred just as darkness was falling, and completed the day’s work on the extreme right. It is now necessary to go back and trace the progress of the Fourth Corps. General Wood had formed the corps with Elliott’s division (formerly Wagner’s) on the right, connecting with Smith’s corps, while Kimball’s and Beatty’s extended the line to the left. The time occupied in the deployed movement of the right of the army made it one o’clock before it was time for the extreme left to move. Wood then ordered forward Post’s brigade of Beatty’s division to attack Montgomery Hill, the high point half a mile in front of the salient of our line, on which was Hood’s advanced guard. The assault was preceded by rapid artillery fire and was gallantly executed. The general advance of the line was now progressing, and Schofield’s corps was ordered away by General Thomas to support the movement of the right flank.
“Wood met with a strong skirmishing resistance, but the lines went forward steadily, keeping pace with the troops on the right, till Smith’s attack upon the south end of the stone wall along the Hillsboro road, which was held by Walthall. Kimball’s division was opposite the angle in Hood’s line where Walthall joined upon Loring, having Sears’s brigade of French’s division between them. Kimball pushed straight at the angle, and the right of the stone wall having already been carried, Walthall’s brigades, under Johnson (formerly Quarles’s) and Shelley, successively gave way. Elliott’s division of Wood’s corps lapped upon Garrard’s of the Sixteenth, and the whole went forward with enthusiasm, capturing several guns and many prisoners.
“Hood’s left was now hopelessly broken, and he made haste to draw back his shattered divisions upon a new line. Schofield’s advance had separated Coleman’s brigade from Walt-hall, but it occupied a commanding hill (afterward known as Shy’s Hill),(1) and held on with tenacity till Walthall, helped by the gathering darkness, could form along its right across the Granny White road. At the first news of the loss of the redoubts, Hood ordered Cheatham’s corps (except Smith’s, formerly Cleburne’s division) from the right to the left, and his divisions, hurrying by the Franklin pike toward Overton’s Hill, passed great numbers of stragglers streaming to the rear. Bate was ordered to relieve part of Walthall’s division, so as to make a stronger line between Shy’s Hill and the Granny White road, and Walthall closed to the right upon Loring. South of Shy’s Hill, Lowry’s (formerly Brown’s) division extended the Confederate left in front of Schofield, and the whole worked diligently to intrench themselves. Lee’s corps was drawn back till his right encircled Overton’s Hill, on which Clayton’s division was placed, supported by Brantley’s brigade, while Stevenson’s and Johnson’s divisions extended the line to the west till it united with Loring’s division of Stewart’s corps.
“On our left Steedman had kept his men active. He had attacked and carried an earthwork near the Raines house early in the day, and had followed up the progressive movement of the army, harassing the enemy’s right as it drew back.
“About nightfall there was a strong appearance of a precipitate retreat of the enemy, and Thomas ordered Wood to move his corps farther to the left, reaching the Franklin turnpike, if possible, and to push southward upon it. This direction was a wise one if the enemy continued his retreat, for it prevented the crowding of the army upon a single road; but had Thomas been sure that Hood would reform upon the new line, he would, no doubt, have continued the general movement of the day by extending his forces to the right. The darkness stopped Wood before he had reached the Franklin road, and he bivouacked where night overtook him, ready to continue the march in the morning. His right was near Smith’s left, and his own left was diagonally toward the rear, in the works which Lee’s corps had abandoned on the hither side of Brown’s Creek.
“For the results obtained, the losses had been astonishingly light. Wood reports only three hundred and fifty casualties in his corps, Smith’s were about the same, and Schofield’s not over one hundred and fifty. Those of Steedman and of Wilson were proportionately small, though the exact figures cannot be given, as the losses of the first and second days are not discriminated in any report but Wood’s. Sixteen pieces of artillery and twelve hundred prisoners had been taken, and Hood’s whole line had been driven back fully two miles. The work was not completed, but should the enemy maintain his position, the promise for the morrow was good.
“Hood now realized the mistake his over-confidence had led him into, by inducing him not only to extend his lines beyond what was prudent, but, worst of all, to allow Forrest to become so far detached that he could not be recalled in time for the battle. Sears’s brigade had been brought back to the lines before the 15th, but two others were still with Forrest, and Cockrell’s was at Duck River. The Confederate commander set to work in earnest, however, to repair his mistake. The cavalry was too far away to join him in twenty-four hours, but orders were despatched recalling Forrest, and preparations were made to hold the new line another day. As his left still seemed his weak point, Hood ordered the whole of Cheatham’s corps to that flank. Shy’s Hill, which was held by Coleman’s brigade, made the angle in the line, from which the sharply refused flank continued southward, Lowry’s division and Smith’s (formerly Cleburne’s) extending it to the Brentwood Hills. Bate’s division was placed, as we have already seen, between Shy’s Hill and the flank of Stewart’s corps, facing north. Chalmers’s division of cavalry was close upon the left of the infantry, bending the line back, somewhat, toward the Granny White road.
“The Confederate line now rested upon high hills, Overton’s and Shy’s, between which the ground was lower, though rolling, and was broken by the upper branches of Brown’s Creek, which ran in nearly straight courses northward, crossing Hood’s position at right angles. Overton’s hill was a broad, rounded elevation, and the works, in curving southward around its summit, did not present any sharp angle to weaken their strength. Shy’s Hill, however, though high, was of less extent, and the lines of Bate and Lowry made a right angle there. Bate complained of the position, but Hood’s engineers had established it, and Cheatham did not feel at liberty to change it. Indeed, it could not have been changed much, unless the whole Confederate army were to retreat. Coleman had been driven to Shy’s Hill by Schofield’s advance at dusk, and had all he could do to hold on to it at all. The extension of the Twenty-third Corps along the east side of Richland Creek left only the hills directly south of Shy’s unoccupied, and it was there alone that the advance of Thomas’s right wing could be checked. The National skirmish lines were so close that the digging had to be done on the inside of the parapet chiefly, getting cover for the men as soon as possible. The hill on our side, held by Couch’s division, was only three hundred yards from Shy’s, and the work on the latter, built under fire, was weak. Farther south, the confronting hills, held by the rest of Cheatham’s corps on the one side, and Schofield’s on the other, were farther apart, and that in the Confederate line was considerably higher and well wooded on the top. A strong work was made upon it, revetted with timber, with embrasures for cannon, and a parapet high enough to deft-lade the interior; but the fire of our sharpshooters prevented any abatis being made.
“General Thomas held a council with his corps commanders in the evening, but no new orders seem to have been issued, except some directions as to movements in the event of a retreat of Hood during the night. If he remained in position, the movements progressing at the close of the day would be continued. During the night the lines on the National side also were adjusted. In Schofield’s corps, Couch’s division, in making connection with Smith, opened a gap between it and Cox’s division, which, after extending the two brigades, which were over Richland Creek, in single line, without reserves, was still unable to join Couch’s left by as much as three hundred yards. The disadvantage of drawing in and contracting the extension of the right flank was so manifest, that, upon the report of the fact, Schofield applied to Smith for some of his reserves to complete the line, and at six o’clock in the morning, Colonel Moore reported with five regiments and a battery, and was placed there. Three of the regiments were put in the trenches already there, and two in support of the artillery in rear.
“At the same hour, Wood resumed the movement of the Fourth Corps, which had been interrupted in the evening, and Steedman advanced upon the Nolensville road to the abandoned line of the Confederate works, where he half wheeled to the right and came up on Wood’s left. The latter first formed his comps with Beatty’s division on the left of the Franklin road, and Kimball’s on the right, with Elliott in reserve; but finding a large space vacant between himself and the centre of the army, he moved Elliott’s division forward into line continuous with Smith’s corps. The left of the Fourth Corps, where it now connected with Steedman, remained across the Franklin road, and opposite Overton’s Hill, where Hood’s line bent back to the south. The National line, therefore, instead of being oblique to the enemy, and far outreaching it on the right, as on the previous day, was parallel and exterior to it from flank to flank, nowhere reaching beyond it, except where Wilson’s cavalry was operating beyond Schofield on the Hillsboro road.
“About noon, Steedman’s troops formed a connection with Wood’s, and the latter, by order of General Thomas, took direction of both. Along the whole line the skirmishers were advanced close to the enemy’s works, and various points were reconnoitred to determine the feasibility of an assault. Thomas did not order an attack upon the intrenchments, but left the corps commanders to their own discretion in this respect. Wood concentrated his artillery fire upon Overton’s Hill, Smith and Schofield maintained a severe cross-fire upon the angle at Shy’s Hill, and at other points on the line the opposing batteries were warmly engaged.
“Finding that the enemy was strongly intrenched in Wood’s front, General Thomas rode to Smith, and learned the results of the reconnoissance there, and, after examining for himself the position, continued on to Schofield’s lines on the right. Schofield had ordered Stiles’s brigade of Cox’s division to leave its position in rear of the extreme right and march farther south, then, turning to the east, to push forward upon a wooded hill on the extension of the line of the division. Thence he was to keep pace with the advance of Wilson’s dismounted cavalry, and attack with the rest of the line when it should go forward. The termination of the Confederate continuous works in Cheatham’s line, was the embrasured earthwork already referred to, with a recurved flank facing the south. A four-gun battery, of smooth twelve-pound guns, was in this fort, with four more in the curtain connecting it with Shy’s Hill. The rifled guns of Cockerell’s battery, on the west side of Richland Creek, were able to reach the embrasures of the work in front, while the shells of the smooth guns fell short in the efforts at reply, and the superiority of the National artillery was such that the Confederate gunners were forced to reload their pieces, by drawing them aside with the prolonge, to the protection of the parapet.
“On learning the nature of the works in front of Schofield, and the extent of the enemy’s line, Thomas ordered Smith to send one of his divisions to extend that flank, but on representations as to the condition of affairs in Smith’s front, the order was withdrawn.
“Wilson, however, was making good progress with his cavalry, which must now be traced. Johnson’s division had not felt strong enough to attack the position of Chalmers, near Bell’s Landing, on the 15th, and Wilson’s movements had bean made with the rest of the corps. The concentration of Chalmers’s division in the night, enabled Wilson to bring Johnson up in the morning, and he now had all three of his divisions in hand. Hammond’s had pickets toward the Granny White turnpike, in rear of Hood’s left, Hatch’s division was ordered to move from his bivouac on the Hillsboro road, on the left of Hammond, and upon the enemy’s rear. Johnson was moving across the country from near Bell’s Landing. By noon, or shortly after, Wilson’s skirmishers formed a continuous curved line from Schofield’s right around the enemy’s flank across the Granny White road. It was at this time that Schofield ordered the movement of Stiles’s brigade, which has been mentioned, and had suggested the desirability of sending a full division of infantry beyond Hood’s flank, if one could be spared from the line. He did not think it wise to assault the heavy work in front of Cox’s division, except in connection with a general advance.
“The situation at the angle on Shy’s Hill, however, was opening the prospect of a successful attack there. The advance of Wilson’s dismounted cavalry from one wooded hill to another on the south, was making Hood uneasy, and his vehement exhortation to Chalmers, to hold his own, not being enough to overcome the odds against that officer, he was forced to withdraw Govan’s brigade from Cheatham’s line, and send it to Chalmers’s support. Bate was ordered to extend his left, and occupy Shy’s Hill, while Coleman, who had been there, was sent to fill Govan’s place. Bate’s line was now a good deal stretched, and he found also that the earthworks built in the night were too far back from the brow of the hill, so that they did not command its Mope. The fire upon it was too hot to change it, he could get no reinforcements, and he could only hold on to the last. Bate’s own words best describe his situation in the afternoon: ‘The enemy, he says, opened a most terrific fire of artillery, and kept it up during the day. In the afternoon, he planted a battery in the woods, in the rear of Mrs. Bradford’s house (this was in McArthur’s line), fired directly across both lines composing the angle, and threw shells directly in the back of my left brigade; also placed a battery on a hill diagonally to my left, which took my first brigade in reverse. (This was in Cox’s line.) The batteries on the hill, in its front, not more than three hundred yards distant (in Couch’s line) had borne the concentrated fire of my Whitworth rifles all day, and must have suffered heavily, but were not silenced. These rifled guns of the enemy being so close, razed the works on the left of the angle for fifty or sixty yards.’
“General McArthur, from his position, was able to see something of the mischief done to Bate’s line, and reported that an assault upon the angle was practicable. He proposed to move McMillan’s brigade to the right, in front of the hill held by Couch, and to charge under the cover of Couch’s guns, where the hillside gave most protection to an advance. Thomas approved the plan, and Smith sent to Schofield for directions to Couch to co-operate. Schofield acceded to this, and directed Cox also to attack the hill in his front simultaneously, while Stiles should advance beyond the flank with the cavalry. It was now near four o’clock, and Thomas was in person at Schofield’s position, from which Shy’s Hill, and the whole range south, to the Brentwood Hills, were in full view.
“The whole connection of events will be best understood if we now return to the left flank, where Wood had been making anxious examination of the enemy’s position on Overton’s Hill, and upon the report of a reconnoissance by Colonel Post, had determined to try the chances of an attack there. The assault from the Fourth Corps’ position was assigned to Post’s brigade of Beatty’s division, supported by Streight’s. Thompson’s colored brigade, of Steed-man’s command, supported by Grosvenor’s brigade, were to attack at the same time from the east. A concentrated artillery, fire upon the hill preceded the assault, and at three o’clock the order to advance was given. A cloud of skirmishers ran forward to draw the enemy’s fire and to annoy the artillerists in the works, and the brigades in line followed them. Nearing the intrenchments, they rushed forward, some of the men gaining the parapet, but they were received with so hot a fire, that they could not endure it, and after a short, sharp struggle they recoiled. Their retreat was covered by the rest of Beatty’s division and Steed-man’s reserves, and by the artillery. These were so handled that the enemy did not venture from his works, and our wounded were brought safely off; but the casualties were probably half of all that occurred in the battle, adding; mother to the many proofs of the terrible disadvantage at which a direct assault of a well intrenched line is usually made. Colonel Post was wounded, and the loss in officers was heavy, for they exposed themselves fearlessly in leading their men.
“At the angle in the Confederate works held by Bate, at Shy’s Hill, the circumstances were different. His lines, as we have seen, were enfiladed and taken in reverse; his parapet was levelled for some distance; the closeness of Couch’s batteries, the near approach of our skirmishers, the attenuation of Bate’s troops, the cover for the approach of the assailing force under the hill-slope, all combined to neutralize the advantage of modern weapons, and to give the assault the preponderance of chances which justify it. While the fire upon the angle was kept up with increasing severity, McArthur ordered Colonel McMillan to form his brigade in the hollow before Couch’s works, and when they should be half-way up the hill, the brigades to the left were to advance in éhelon, attacking the lower line before them.
“Wilson’s dismounted cavalry had been advancing from the south, gaining position after position, and increasing their ardor as they advanced. Their numbers enabled them to outflank Govan’s brigade, which Hood had sent to assist Chalmers in holding them back, and as they approached Schofield’s position Stiles’s brigade of infantry came in close support. The balls from this attacking force were now falling in rear of Bate and Lowry, and the men of Cleburne’s old division were vainly trying to form a line long or strong enough to match that which was coming from the south. Wilson had gone in person to Thomas, at Schofield’s position, to report what his men were doing, and reached him just as McMillan’s brigade was seen to rush forward upon the slope of Shy’s Hill. At a sign from Schofield, Cox’s division started also on the run, Doolittle’s brigade in advance. Wilson turned to gallop back to his command, but before he could get half-way there, the whole Confederate left was crushed in like an egg-shell.
“McMillan swept unchecked over Bate’s ruined line at Shy’s Hill. The gallant Colonel of the Twentieth Tennessee did all that man could do to hold it, and dying at his post, gave to the height the name it bears. The arch was broken; there were no reserves to restore it, and from right and left the Confederate troops peeled away from the works in wild confusion. From the heavy earthwork in front of Doolittle one volley of cannon and small arms was fired, but in the excitement it was aimed so high as to do no mischief, and Cox’s whole division way over the works before they could reload. At the same time Hatch and Knipe, with their divisions of dismounted men, rushed in from the right, and, abandoning their artillery, the Confederates west of the Granny White road crowded eastward, running for life. Some were killed, many were captured, and Smith’s and Schofield’s men met upon the turnpike at right angles, and were halted to prevent their organizations from being confused together.
“Hubbard’s brigade, of McArthur’s division, which followed McMillan’s movement, met with more resistance, and suffered more severely; but though some of the Confederate regiments held tenaciously to their works, and surrendered in form, most of the troops broke their organizations entirely when the advance was taken up from centre to wings, and Wood’s divisions now charged, with hardly a show of opposition, over Overton’s Hill, from which they had been driven back an hour before.”
Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, by Cox; Vol. 2; 1900
“The night after the battle of Nashville was one we were not likely to forget. Twilight was falling when we halted, after the crushing of the Confederate lines, and as we were likely to join in the pursuit before morning, I had announced that I would be found with Doolittle’s brigade. Owing to the darkness and a gathering storm, the troops having the advance did not get far, but the risks of missing dispatches that might be sent in haste made he adhere to my rule of staying where I had said I might be found. This kept the staff and headquarters in the space a little in rear of the captured line of works, a spot unclean and malodorous. We built a camp-fire, and tried to clean off spots on which we could sit on the ground; but a heavy rain soon came on, and as we were in the woods, the light soil made a mire, and we were forced to stand upright and take the weather as it came. … We had hoped our servants might find us during the evening and bring us something to eat; but the advance over the hills and entrenchments had made it hard to follow our course even in daylight; but in the darkness and storm the entirely failed to find us. We felt a good dale like ‘belly-pinched’ wolves but we had no den in which we could ‘keep the fur dry.’ … A fine pointer, astray in northern Georgia, had attached himself to me in October, and hand been constantly with us, leaping and barking with joy whenever I mounted my horse. He was with us now, and when the rain came on he stood in the mud like the rest of us, finding no spot to lie down. He grew tired and sleepy, and looked wistfully about for a place he could consent to lie in, but gave it up, and spreading all four legs well apart he tried to stand it out. Occasionally his eyes would close and his head droop, his body would slowly sway back and forth till he made a greater nod, his nose would go into the mud, and gathering himself up he would life his head with a most piteous whine, protesting against such headquarters.
“The longest night must have an end, and early in the morning one of our black boys found us, brining with him on horseback a haversack full of hard-tack, and in his hand a kettle of coffee which we soon made piping hot at the camp-fire, and found the world looking much more cheerful.
“The storm continued, however, and made the pursuit slower and more difficult thatn it would have been in better weather. The cavalry had the advance, supported by A.J. Smith’s troops on the Granny White turnpike, and by Wood’s Fourth Corps on the Franklin turnpike. We were ordered to follow Smith. Our camp on the evening of the 17th was not far from Brentwood between the two roads which come together a little further on after crossing the Little Harpeth, some seven miles from Franklin and the larger stream of the same name.
“Our quarters for the second night after the battle were an improvement on those of the night before. We found a knoll which was fairly well drained, we borrowed a tarpaulin from a battery, and with fence-rails made of it a lean-to with back to the storm. A pile of evergreen boughs made a couch on which we lay, and a camp-fire blazing high in front made a heat which mitigated even the driving December storm.
“Our faithful black boys had coffeepots and haversacks, so that we did not go supperless. … My overcoat with large cape weighed about fifty pounds with the water in it, but it kept my body dry, and I found it better to wear it than to put on a rubber waterproof, for perspiration did not evaporate under the latter.
“Our private soldiers wore the rubber poncho-blankets above the overcoats in wet weather, and two ‘pardners’ would make shelter ten of the pair of waterproofs which had metal eyelets to adapt them to this use. Veterans carefully selected the place for the tent, pitched it in good form, trenched it so that the water would flow off and not run into the tent; then with the bed of cedar boughs, their haversacks and coffee-kettles, they were not worse off than the officers. …
“The cord rainstorm, in which the battle of Nashville had ended, lasted for a week, turning to sleet and snow on the 20th and clearing off with sharp cold on the 24th. … The ordinary country roads were impassable, and even the turnpikes became nearly so. They had never been very solidly made, and had not been repaired for three years. In places the metalling broke through, making holes similar to holes in thick ice, with well-defined margin. These were filled to the brim with water, and churned into deep pits by the wheels of loaded wagons. … When a wheel went into one, the wagon dropped to the axle, and even where there was no upset it was a most difficult task to pry the wagon out and start it on the way again. … It was no uncommon thing for a mule to be drowned by getting down in one of these pits. Hood’s rear-guard under Forrest and Walthall destroyed bridges behind them. …
“When we reached Franklin on our southward march, we were halted for a day, so that we might not crowd too much upon the rest of the column, and I took advantage of the opportunity to study the condition of the battlefield there. … Portions of the second line of works close to the Carter house and the retrenchment across the Columbia road had been leveled, but the principal defenses were as we had left them. The osage orange-trees which we had used for abates had been evenly cut away by the bullets, and the tough fibres hung in a fringe of white strings, the upper line quite even, and just a little lower than the top of the parapet. The effect was a curiously impressive one as we looked down the line we had held and thought what a level storm of lead was indicated by this long white fringe, and what desperate charges of Hood’s divisions they were that came through it, close up to the line of this abates. Every twig was weeping with the cold pouring rain of the dark midwinter storm, and this did not lessen the gloomy effect of the scene.
“At the Carter house we learned from the family many incidents of their own experience during the battle and of the scenes the next day.” (Footnote refers to Chapter XV, “Franklin”)
Confederate Veteran magazine, Vol. 13 (1905), page 125
“It was the evening of December 16. Hood’s army had given away. I was with Gen. A.J. Smith’s Corps on our right …, and I think Gen. Cheatham’s troops were in the immediate front of the command I belonged to. We had followed the retreating Confederates out to the foothills. The day was dreary, which with the smoke of battle made the night come on quickly. Our front line had been relieved by some fresh troops, and I was going to the rear, over the ground we had fought, with my command when my attention was attracted to a wounded Confederate unable to stand up. … He had been shot through the foot, the bullet crushing the bones and making a most painful wound. By having him swing on to my shoulder and use my gun for a crutch I succeeded … in getting him over the hill, where our regimental surgeon was attending to some of our boys the ‘Johnnies’ had ‘tagged’ that evening. I soon had him engaged in picking the shattered bone out of my young prisoner’s foot, and saw that he was made as comfortable as practicable for the night before leaving him. …
“While this was nothing more than an act of humanity that any man should have done, yet it afforded me special satisfaction, … for I had, a short time before, been captured by some of Gen. Forrest’s men and treated with the greatest kindness.”
“Civil War Letters of Abner Dunham, 12th Iowa Infantry,” edited by Mildred Throne (associate editor of the State Historical Society of Iowa); Iowa Journal of History, Vol. 53, October 1955, No. 4.
Letter dated Dec. 6, 1864; written from Nashville
Note: spellings of immergency, skermishing and againe are correct
“We … have got up heavy works and feel confident of repulsing the enemy if he approaches us. We have to lines of entrenchments surrounding the city. We lay in the outer works and incase of an immergency will fall back to the inner which are about half a mile to our rear. The works in front of our regiment are made as follows viz. First we piled up rails about three feet thick and two and a half high, then have thrown dirt over them so that it is as high as my shoulder, about six feet thick at the bottom and three at the top. On top of this are placed large logs raised a little so as to fire under them. In front of the works are placed the prickly thorn bush so thick that (it) will be almost impossible for a man to get over them. …
“We have a good deal of artillery. More than we have infantry to support. Artillery is brought to bear on every approach. I never saw men more anxious for a fight than they are now for they feel confident of success and are afraid if we do not fight here we will have to do some hard marching.
“Our artillery is shelling the rebs. They can be seen quite plain formed in line of battle. Some of our men are perched in trees on the highest hills watching the effect of our shell. They make no reply. It is a mystery why Hood does not attack us for it he is ever ready he must be now. …
“The sky has been cloudy all day and now appears like a storm. We have tents so we will be quire comfortable. …
continuing his letter that night:
“Our batteries have ceased their shelling but now an then a heavy roar breaks upon our ears which tells us that our gunboats are saluting the enemy by an occasional broadside. The picket skermishing also becomes quite frequent. …
“To us it is nothing new but still it looks beautiful. Every hill and vale is lighted up by the camp fires. On one hill can be seen our signal lights and occasionally (you) can see the flash from the gunboats as they discharge their contents into the enemies camp. … Our batteries have opened againe and fairly make the earth shake.”
Diary, Depauw University Archives and Special Collections. Also, “Diary of Chaplain Elijah E. Edwards, Battle of Nashville 2nd Day, Field Hospital on Battle Ground, Dec. 16th, 1864,” The Huntsville Historical Review, Vol. 3, January 1973, No. 1.
Editor’s notes: Words or passages I could not read are marked indicated by three question marks,???.
Re Belmont Mansion
Dec. ???, 1864
“Today I rode around our outer line, and to my astonishment found that we were in minie range of the rebs.
“I noticed some civilians who had come out to be spectators of the fray, and being at length reminded by the whizzing of a few bullets ??? left hurriedly. One was standing near a gunner when a bullet whizzed by his ear. I shall not ever forget his scared comical expression as he turned to the gunner with a request that he would give his compliments to the rebs or the haste with which he decamped.
“On my return I stumbled upon a ‘??? beautiful’ in a large pleasure ground. Near the entrance was a high square tower which rose out of a reservoir half filled with water. Beyond this were winding paths lined with evergreens … (and) statuary in marble, iron and lead. … This is the residence of Widown Ackland, and built by her husband, Col. Ackland, who died several years ago. It is at present a military headquarters.”
Dec. 6, 1864
“Most of the men have apparently ceased to care whether a battle ensues or not. They are engaged in their usual camp avocations ??? letter writing, making of trinkets, card playing, etc. Major Burt stillcontinues his laudable efforts at chimney building, his ambition being to build one that will not smoke. I visit occasionally the Christian Commission rooms where I obtain papers for distributing among the men. I frequently join them as they stand in groups around their camp fires, and as far as I can judge am always welcome. I have held no meetings here on account of our exposed position and the lack of shelter and seclusion.”
Appears to be Dec. 8, 1864
“There is a contraband boy in our reg. camp named Jim, nothing else. That is all the name he has had. The men took Jim, much as they would a young raccoon or opossum. Now it was caring enough to furnish him with rations but where should he sleep was a perplexing question.
“The men had only what is known as ‘dog tents,’ just large enough to shelter two of them, sleeping together. There was not room for Jim then, to say nothing of Anglo Saxon prejudice and so Jim was stowed away with his feet to the fire, and his head and body in a pork barrel. …
“I called today on Wesley. I wanted him to go with me to the city and have his picture taken. We visited a number of galleries, before we found one that would given him a sitting, all were so busy. At last we found a tent, and even here was a crowd, and we had to fall into line and wait our turn, like a man in a barber’s shop. The picture ??? only moderately good, but I paid my dollar and was content. …
“The operators were not as a rule gentlemanly. They seemed to be working but for one object – money. Their mode of operating was quite of the shingle mill style. The unhappy victim of their art was rudely seized, jerked into a chair, his head violently crammed in the iron fork called a ‘ust’ (spelling ?). The camera was uncapped thirty awful seconds elapsed, the camera was uncapped, and the victim rudely cast aside to ??? making room for another. I noticed that altercations were frequent between the sitter and the operator about the excellence of the picture, but as the artist was paid in advance, there was no remedy for the grievance. …
Dec. 18, 1864
At the field hospital
“Great numbers of prisoners are brought back almost hourly. … I have seen one soldier marching to the rear with a dozen prisoners. …
The night before (i.e., night of Dec 17) he was returning over the battlefield from performing an errand for Col. Marshall, going to Nashville and sending the newspapers back home a report of the battle and a list of the wounded.
“??? led me over a dark spectral landscape, having nothing well defined. … Hazy fires were twinkling through the gloom, stragglers were crouching over ??? or lurking under hedges ??? or stone walls. … Here and there lay rebel corpses to be stumbled over or perhaps or to be revealed by sudden flashes of heat lightning that at intervals lit up the landscape with a phosphorescent glow. There was no thunder, no sound but of the falling rain, the monotonous plash of my horse’s hoofs in the mud or the ??? tread of ??? . A moving lantern here or there revealed some member of the Christian Commission searching for wounded men.
“It was very late when I reached the field hospital in the Bradford mansion. Wet and weary I had only strength left to fasten my horse to a crib and make my way to the kitchen which the surgeons had fitted up as a king of headquarters and where I threw myself down upon a blanket and instantaneously dropped into a deep dreamless sleep. … I could not help it. ??? men wounded and dying ??? in the adjoining rooms, but had my life depended on my wakefulness I should probably have gone to sleep.
“After a few hours of blissful unconsciousness I awoke to what I would gladly have considered a dream. The wounded and dying were around me, ranged in rows upon the floor and upon cots or stretchers. It was pitiful to see the questioning look in the eyes of these helpless and suffering ones. Ebbing lifeblood, faltering , failing pulse, glazing eyes made it evident to me who were the ??? yet few of them seemed to realize that their last battle was being fought.
“I wrote letters for some. One, of the 5th Minnesota Inf, who had received a mortal wound knew that he was dying. He asked me to read and pray with him. He showed me a well worn testament with some lines written on a fly ??? by his wife. It was her present. He was very calm but his eyes filled with tears as he spoke of his young wife a thousand miles away and as yet unconscious unless in troubled dreams of the calamity awaiting her. He wrote her a letter, a strong manly letter, for his wound had not yet weakened him. … The letter was a very touching one. He had fought bravely, had fallen, but did not fear to die. He had loved her, he loved her still. This was the last letter he would ever write – would she meet him in heaven? This letter was committed to my charge to be sent after his death.
“A man from our own regiment, from Pine Island, had his thigh badly shattered by a grapeshot. The surgeons thought he could not live. He thought differently. At his dictation I wrote a letter to his father in which he insisted that his wound was not serious and that he would recover. He would not die. His aged parents could not bear ??? this strike ???
“Before ending the letter I added a postscript in which I spoke of his courage, his cheerfulness and his filial love, but that his case was very critical, and that while he might recover, his wound was of such a character that but little hope remains ??? . That little hope will doubtless soften the blow to his aged and sorrowing parents. …
“There were a great many rebel wounded brought to this hospital, among them several religious men, and evincing very considerable intelligence. A rebel captain recognized in one of the Christian Commission men a former teacher and ??? delighted and reassured. These men of the Commission have done noble service on the field or in the hospital. They seem to be untiring and as yet I do not know that they eat or sleep. The regalist one among them … is a lank, long-haired man, with sharp man, with sharp features and a decided nasal twang. He seems endowed with a kind of omnipresence, has a word for every body, peers curiously into every nook and corner ???.
“The wounded are now mostly removed to the city hospitals. A few of the worst cases remain and a few whose wounds are so slight that they hope to avoid being sent to the hospital.
“This afternoon I buried the dead of our regiment in a single wide grave side by side in the field where they fell. These men were Minnesotans and a nameless soldier who was found dead among them.
“The lady owner of Mr. Bradford’s mansion called today accompanied by two rather beautiful young ladies, her daughters. She looked with surprise at the holes made in her fine mansion by shell and shot and congratulated herself that she was not at home during the fight. She took her losses good humoredly and sent some delicacies to the wounded. Most of her delicacies had been confiscated to their use already. Her daughters did not exhibit a great amount of discretion and forbearance and made some remarks that ??? of heartlessness and rebelism, which our ??? English first musician resented in language rather ??? than elegant.
“I am sorry to say that the soldiers and others robbed the house of almost everything valuable under the license the battle gave. I prevailed upon a soldier to restore to the woman the portrait of her mother which he was making off with. A demoralized surgeon stole an alabaster Christ and Mary. One of the men ??? an album and distributed the pictures among his comrades as mementoes. A piously inclined pilferer made of with the family bible. Pictures and books found their way to the valises of officials who ought to have had too much self-restraint to engage in petty plundering. A chaplain present caught the mania for confiscating rebel property and crowded a curiously enameled clock case into his satchel.
“I must say in justice that not all men were led astray in this particular. There were quite a number who denounced the promiscuous plundering. …
“The Bradford mansion is badly damaged by shot and shell but is still tenable and if the family can lay ??? the ghosts of the dead and efface the red stains from the floor and walls they may live there again.
“Were it mine I should leave it and seek a spot unpolluted by carnage.
“These ??? people however do not seem over sensitive about the dreadful scenes here enacted ??? but are already making their plans to ??? the house and reinstate their household goods such at least as have not been spirited away. Mrs. Bradford expressed herself very decidedly on the subject of damages, and asked the surgeons to have the floors scrubbed and cleaned when the wounded were all removed. This will not be done, and the woman should have been wiser than to demand it. The Bradfords were thorough rebels, and the husband I believe is now a refugee in Texas. I think he was a rebel general. A curious rebel diary was found in the house, and as this was truly contraband of war, we had no hesitancy in taking it and examining its contents. It was probably the diary of Mr. Cantrell, a neighbor who had brought his household goods to this house for safe keeping, it being within Hood’s line, and he taking it for granted that Hood must capture Nashville. … The means taken for the preservation of his effects secured their prompt confiscation and distribution, and even among those that condemned the plundering, there was none to pity him. …
“But to the journal. I note the following expressions of opinions on various subjects, declarations of disloyalty, news of various kind: ‘The spirit of the South is unconquerable.’ ‘Worked all day in the onion beds.’ ‘The future looks dark and portentous; had to whip Willie and Buddie.’ ‘The vile thieving Yankes have stolen all my sweet potatoes.’ … The journalist while eulogizing the unconquerable spirit of the southern people and raking his onions, mentions, that to save his propoerty, he has taken the oath of allegiance. …
“‘Dec 6th 1864’ – this was ten days before the battle – ‘Mrs. C. was delivered of a child this morning at 2. Removed her for safe keeping to Mrs. Braford’s.’ There the journal ends. …
Editor’s note: Edwards sums up the earlier entries and what it tells about the Cantrell man’s life.
“Yesterday I hunted up the 23rd Corps, which having found, I proceeded to hunt for Wes, whom I had heard of since the battle began. … I returned over our line of attack and noticed the horrible carnage in the rebel trenches on the hill. The trees upon the top of the high hill on the right … were almost stripped of bark and branches by our missiles. The trenches were filled with dead that already seemed part of the earth in which they were partially imbedded. Half way down the hill I came upon a row of our own dead laid out for burial. I think there were 20 of the tenth ??? Minnesota men. One among them I recognized as the face of a convict who had served his time in the penitentiary at Stillwater. After his discharge he called upon me in the City Library St. Paul. I was at that time librarian. He seemed to me unusually intelligent. He talked of the blight upon his name, the difficulty of procuring employment, and avowed the intention of joining the army and atoning for his great fault ??? with his life. He seemed almost inspired by the high resolve and assured me that I heard of him it would be that he was doing his duty. There he lay upon the earth, his high brow bare and white, his eyelids sealed, the last struggle over, the victory won, the stain upon his reputation washed out in blood. …
“His name was George ???. He was buried with the others on the hillside.”
Dec. 22, 1864
(Bradford and the surgeons have left the Bradford mansion and taken up residence in a house in Nashville)
“Today the mercury is considerably below freezing point which is a change for the better. …
“I have visited the hospitals where I found most of our wounded doing well. A few could not recover. In a large hospital I found Capt. Huston ???? , the wounded captain whom I found on the field at the close of the first day’s fight. I had supposed him mortally wounded as his right arm was shattered close to his shoulder and a safe amputation appeared impossible. The hospital surgeon ??? had decided to amputate the arm, but the gallant captain peremptorily refused to submit. He would part with his right arm only with his life. He was anxious to see surgeon Kennedy of the 5th Minnesota and Brigade surgeon. I reported his case to the surgeon. … He visited him and performed a ??? removing about two inches of the bone of the upper arm including the socket piece, and the captain has a chance for his life and his right arm which if the operation is successful will still be available for handshaking, writing and other light work.”
Notes from the Huntsville Historical Society version:
Page 8: In explaining a sketch he made on the first day, Edwards says the hill to the right is Overton Hill and the house to the left is the Bradford mansion, which later was taken over as a field hospital.
Page 8: names of commanders
Letters written December 1864, the Fike Collection, Kansas Collection, University of Kansas Libraries
Dec. 4, 1864 at Nashville
“Our troops have all thrown up breastworks in front of their line. Since we have landed here, we have been placed in four different positions. Night before last our men worked all night on their breastworks, and yesterday afternoon we were changed to another locality, and the men worked again most of the night throwing up works.
“The enemy came up yesterday and engaged our pickets. It is very hilly where we are, and from some of the hills, one can see a good distance. Our men could discover the enemy moving from place to place. Several of our batteries have shelled the woods where they are, but brought from them no response. During last night, the gunboats carried on a most vigorous shelling on the river a few miles below the city. Since I have been sitting here writing, some of our batteries close by have been shelling the enemy. …
“If they enemy does come, they may expect to get a good thrashing, for we are fully prepared for them. …
“We have stored all our surplus baggage in town, and we have no more with us, then we can move in a few moments if necessary. …
“The ‘Johnnies’ … are only about a mile off.”
Dec 5, 1864 Nashville
“All day yesterday pretty heavy cannonading was carried on by our forces, and all the reply made by the enemy was a slight skirmish fire. From indications visible, they were evidently maneuvering their troops some, and throwing up some intrenchments. The distance between theirs and our line is about one mile, but our pickets are much closer. It is hard to tell if the enemy is hovering around here in heavy force or not.”
Dec 6, 1864 Nashville
“Yesterday, I went outside our picket lines, and watched our boys skirmishing with the enemy. I could very plainly see the ‘johnnies’ come out and fire at our men, some of them mounted.
“Later in the day, Col. Merriam and I took a ride for a couple of miles, round the breastworks to our left. We could see the rebels’ line of fortifications very plainly, a half or three quarters of a mile from ours. Our batteries shelled the enemy more or less all day, but it did not seem to scare them much. In fact, they don’t seem to be of the ‘scary kind.’ It is yet difficult to form an opinion as to what they design doing here – whether they intend fighting here, or merely aim to engage our attention here, while they attempt something elsewhere. …
“Our boys have about completed their breastworks, and now fell very safe. The entire line of breastworks must be about ten miles long. It reaches from the river above the city, round to the river below, and winds over hills and across hollows.”
Dec 7, 1864 Nashville
“The line of breastworks our men have thrown up, when reviewed from some one of the numerous high hills around here, presents one of the grandest spectacles ever beheld. We have here in line of battle, most of whom are visible, some forty thousand troops, whose camps dot every hill and speckle every valley. …
“Nashville is not as nice a town as Memphis. … The State Capitol building is a fine structure, and there is one mansion near our camp, which exceeds anything I have yet seen in Dixie.”
Dec 8, 1864 Nashville
“Last evening the weather changed, very suddenly, from a pleasant temperature to real wintry weather; and, this morning we are all hovering about our camp-fires pretty closely. Last night was pretty cold, but I slept good and warm in my bed of hay. John McGowan and I are bedfellows – he has, among others, a good soft Mackinaw blanket, which we put next to us; and then come my old ‘comfort’ which is a real comfort, with other blankets in abundance. When under all these, we feel snug and secure against the nipping frosts, and laugh at the cold blasts as they howl by. I am now sitting in my tent, with a skillet full of live coals by my side, to warm my fingers occasionally. Very little heat warms up a good tent sufficiently to make it quite comfortable. …
“Rumors are somewhat conflicting – some say the enemy is withdrawing his forces; while others positively declare he is still here, in force, fortifying in our immediate front.”
Dec 9, 1864 Nashville
“This morning it is sleeting as hard as it can, though it is not quite as cold as yesterday. All parties seem to be willing to keep still this morning, for I have heard but two or three shots.”
Dec 10, 1864 Nashville
“Krafft and I bought us a small sheet-iron stove yesterday which renders our tent as warm and comfortable as a house.”
Dec 11, 1864 Nashville
“This is a cold morning. We are all as closely housed up as you please. Last night everything froze up hard.”
Dec 12, 1864 Nashville
“As soon as I eat my breakfast, which is nearly ready, I am going up town , with my teams, to bring out some stored goods, that were left in town a few days ago, when there was such strong probabilities of a fight occuring at almost any hour. But times now, having become considerably more quiet, and the probability of an engagement having considerably lessened, the troops are settling down, somewhat into a quiet mood; and many of them are beginning to look around for something to render themselves more comfortable; and the consequence is that many of the old abandoned houses, and some pretty good ones too, have been torn down, and the lumber or rubbish carried away, to construct little huts and shanties. …
“This morning Col. Merriam came into my tent to write a line or two on some document he was forwarding. You, perhaps, remember, when so many of us had our wives with us at Memphis, how Col. Merriam frequently made sport of the idea, and insinuated that if he had a wife, she should never be called upon to live in a soldiers’ camp. This morning, while he was writing, he turned to me, and remarked, ‘If we should go into winter quarters here, do you think of sending for your wife?’ I made some kind of a reply, but he did not say anything further on the matter. But the simple remark showed ‘which way the wind blows’ in his mind now.”
Dec 21, 1864 33 miles south of Nashville
“This is the fifth day out, and we have marched only thirty odd miles in that time – but it has been done by little odds and ends – sometimes going into camp in the forenoon, then breaking up camp, perhaps near sundown, and then be on the road till eight or nine o’clock at night, and all this through mud and continuing rain, for it has rained nearly all the time we have been out. Two of these nights I could not get up to the regiment with my teams, on account of other wagons being mired down or upset in the road ahead of ours. We had to camp our teams right by the roadside and wait until daylight before we could proceed. All the sleep I got one night was under the shed of an old corn-crib, where I lay on three rails, without anything to cover myself more than the clothes I had on. Another night we camped our teams in the road; after we fed our animals and ate a cracker or two, and supped a little coffee, I made my be don top of the fence by the roadside. You may think it pretty strange for a person to sleep on top of a fence, but I did so. It was a stone fence, and I pushed off the top stones to make my bed something near level, though not by any means smoothe and soft, and stretched myself out upon it, with the same allowance of covering I had on the other occasion preferred to. …
“It is hard to tell exactly where Hood’s retreating army is. … He is somewhere in our advance, but the bad weather hinders our march so that the pursuit on our part is not very vigorous and rapid.”
Dec 23, 1864 40 miles south of Nashville
“He (Hood) has managed to retard our movements very much by destroying the bridges after he passes over them, and the streams are so high from recent rains, that we have to bridge all of them before we can pass. … Hood’s teams must be giving out, as we find abandoned wagons all along the roadside, and various ‘traps and trumpeny’ scattered everywhere. We found some twelve or fifteen wagons and two pieces of artillery which he had been compelled to leave at this river.”
Dec 26, 1864 65 miles south of Nashville
“Many of the citizens of this country have been entirely stripped of ever bit of moveable property they possessed, in the shape of stock, grain and eatables. This afternoon I stopped to warm my feet at a man’s house, on the roadside, where one of our wounded cavalrymen had been left. The man was quite along in years. I should think fifty-five or sixty years old. He told me he raised 26 acres of corn, & had a good stock of horses, cattle, hogs &c, but now he has nothing. … Everything gone – corn and all, and even all his fences torn down and burned up. An army traveling through a country is a terrible & awful affair, to the inhabitants thereof. When we camp, we always look out for a good fence from which to get dry wood. …
“I pity these people, for humanity’s sake alone – most of them are rebels at heart, and deserve no mercy at our hands. What ought a rebel and traitor expect from his country – or those fighting in its defense?”
The Fifteenth Ohio Volunteers and Its Campaigns, War of 1861-5, by Alexis Cope, Captain, Fifteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry; Private, Sergeant, Sergeant Major, Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Adjutant and Captain in the Fifteenth Ohio Volunteers; 1916
“As soon as our men realized that we were to take part in the charge, there was manifest that nervous impatience which so often defeats all discipline, an before we reached a position near the enemy’s lines the men began to yell and run forward alternately, each one for himself, in spite of all efforts of field and company officers to keep the line intact. Advancing under a falling fire from the enemy we reached a position a short distance from the works where we halted for formation, the line seeking what cover could be found and replying as best we could to the enemy’s fire. A formidable array of chevaux de frise and abatis confronted us and rendered futile any attempt to advance further. Two other lines came up after ours, only to halt as we did. To our left Steedman’s ‘smoked yankees’ met with no better success. Company A having advanced along the pike, was divided by it, – (Capt.) Hanson being to the right and I on the left, as we sought cover among the scattering trees. Before long the brigade of colored troops, which had advanced as near the works as the whites, began to go back, and as the number increased the whites began to join the retreat. Still we held our position for some time, pouring in a hot fire, which kept down the rebel fire in our front. … The withdrawal of the troops on our left subjected us to severe cross fire and we soon also retired.
“After getting out of range of the enemy’s fire I began to get the men of Company A together and reform them, when Sergeant Ferguson joined us with the report that Captain Hanson was killed. I could not believe it. It was, however, soon confirmed by Sergeant Rickey who had been with him when he died. He lived but a few minutes after he was wounded. …
“As soon as our men had retired our batteries opened out on the enemy’s position to check any desire they might have to follow us. After we had reformed, a successful movement on the right turned the works, and to our great joy we could see that the force in our front was sharing in the general panic. It now came our turn to advance again and as we went forward, we met the stretcher bearers carrying Captain Hanson’s body to the rear. We moved forward at a double quick, meeting with no opposition, the rebels having abandoned their battery and many small arms. … We continued our pursuit of the enemy, moving on the left of the Franklin pike, over the Overton Hill and across the plantation and the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, passing through a dense cane brake. The brigade then turned and moved by the plantation mansion to a position near the pike and advanced to within two miles of Brentwood. By this time it was dark and further pursuit was abandoned.”
Diary, courtesy, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
Editor’s note: Hair was a regimental musician.
Dec 1 Thursday
“Steadmans forces starts from Cowen on trains. Telegraph cut near wartrace. Advance of Steadmans force got to Nashville at sundown. 11 train loads of them camped in line of battle 5 lines deep.”
Dec 2 Friday
“Raining this morning. Steadmans forces moved out & formed as skirmishers 2 miles from town on the Franklin pike. Fighting began today by skirmishers. 68 (Indiana) engaged slightly. Rebs shelling a blockhouse towards Murfreesboro.”
Dec 3 Saturday
“68th firing occasional shots in morning. We were relieved at noon & skirmish line drew in near town. Cannonading on the right afternoon. Cannonading at 12 night.”
Dec 4 Sunday
“Brisk skirmishing in the center all day & occasional firing on left. Brisk & steady cannonading on granny white pike all day & occasional firing from fort Negley & other batterys. Picket firing all night.”
Dec 5 Monday
“68th in the ditches from 3 am until after sunup. We went on skirmish line at noon to feel the rebs strength. Skirmished heavy for half or three quarters of an hour. Drove the rebs out of their works, killed 7 took 10 prisoners. Cannonading on center all day. Picket firing all night.”
Dec 6 Tuesday
“Laying in the ditches from 3 til after sunup. Picket firing along the line. Occasional near granny white pike most of the day. Heavy cannonading below town on river from before sundown till after dark.”
Dec 7 Wednesday
“Four regts of Steadmans command moved out this forenoon to feel the enemys strength. 68 (th) in line of battle. Was first support to 6 Ind cavalry which was deployed. Skirmished in two lines. Skirmished heavily near an hour but had to fall back.”
Dec 8 Thursday
“68th moved camp today farther to the right. Brisk fighting on the right after noon. Rebels drove in our skirmishers & then were drove back. Weather very cold.”
Dec 9 Friday
“Hailed 2 inches deep forenoon & cold. Detail from 68(th) working on a dam. Drizling rain last night and today. I have the tooth ache very bad.”
Dec 10 Saturday
“Detail working on dam. All quiet on the line. Very cold.”
Dec 11 Sunday
“Weather tremendous cold and wind high. Advanced our lines on the left afternoon. … Distant cannonading on right.”
Dec 12 Monday
“Very cold today. Occasional cannonading on right and left. Orders this afternoon to be ready to march at six in morning.”
Dec 13 Tuesday
“Some cannonading on right forenoon. Afternoon Gen Steadman sends out a brigade of infantry on left center. Deployed skirmishers – supported by line of battle – and skirmished heavily all afternoon & marched in retreat at dark. Found rebs in force. Snow all melted off today.”
Dec 14 Wednesday
“Some picket firing along the line today. Orders at dark for army to move in morning. Visited theatre tonight.”
Dec 15 Thursday
“Revilee at 3. … Steadmans forces moved out at day light to skirmish line. Formed and attacked rebels. Charged rebel fort & were repulsed. Brisk fighting here on left with musketry & artillery all day. Very heave musketry & cannonading on right all day.”
Dec 16 Friday
“68(th) with 5 or 6 other regts of Steadmans moved out at sunup on extreme left. Found rebs gone & passed on over second line. Crossed Nolensville pike moving right oblique and formed on the left of the 4th corps which were heavily engaged. Joined in charge with 4th corps. Grand charge by whole army at 3 completely routed Hoods army.”
Dec 17 Saturday
“Army moved at day light forward in line of battle. We moved on left of Franklin pike. Through cornfields & very crooked rout to Franklin 16 miles & camped at dark. Raining hard all day and roads offal muddy. Waded several streams of water with shoes on feet wet all day.”
Diary, courtesy of Haworth descendant, Randy Haworth, of Sugarland, Texas 77478
Brigade marched from Clarksville to Nashville:
“Marched at five o’clock on the 8th. Very windy and cold all day. Camped in Edgefield. But little wood. Most of the men havn’t any blankets. I have one blanket.
“Moved out on the 9th at 8 o’clock. Crossed the river into Nashville on the R.R. Bridge. Sleeting and freezing. Marched through town. Camped to the right of Fort Negley. No wood. I stayed in town.
“Came to camp next morning. No wood. A.F. Northern and brother Ike and I went back to town next day. Working on some rifle pits all day. The rebel fortifications are in sight.
“We had some skirmishing on the 12th. Our Cavalry that has been camped back of Edgefield began moving out to the front. They are concentrating on our right wind. We drew four day’s rations and got orders to be ready to march at five o’clock tomorrow. We are going to try to move Hood’s army.
“December 13th. Didn’t move out today. The ground was covered with ice and so foggy. Very cold and foggy. One man for picket. Two men to drive some beef cattle. One to work with the pioneers. …
“We got the word that General Steedman’s division of colored troops were going to charge on the rebel works. Just about noon the big guns in Fort Negley commenced shelling the rebel works in front of Steadman’s troops then all of our artillery to our left joined us. We all got out where we could see. That lasted for about one hour then they all quit and then we could see Steedman’s division in two lines of battle with fixed bayonets charge across the little valley. They got up close to the rebel fort but finally had to come back. Twice that day they went under a flag of truce and brought off their dead and wounded.
“The next day our regiment went back across the Cumberland River and got some wood. Then I boxed up all of Captain Wm. C. Haworth’s papers to send home. Put them in charge of Lieutenant Safhel to express. Orders that we be ready to march tomorrow morning at five o’clock. We were up at four. Got a little breakfast and moved out at five o’clock. General Thomas’s Army is getting in position to move on Hood’s Army. …
“We marched down to our right inside our rifle pits. We crossed the Graney White Pike and went to the next pike where our cavalry was going. Out there we formed line and lay down to the southeast of us. The rebels had four pieces of artillery at a big brick house and they were shelling the cavalry as they went out. We were ordered to go over the works and form in a draw about half way to the brick house. We went in on the run. Stopped in the little valley and formed in line of battle. Fixed bayonets and charged on the fort. We captured all four pieces and about half of the regiment that were supporting them. This was just our brigade in this charge, then General Couch joined us with the balance of our division, then we put out a double skirmish line, then we faced back east and commenced doubling the rebel lines up. We came to the Graney White Pike. There was a fort on the east side of the pike and heavy rifle pits off on our right with a lot of rebel infantry behind a stone fence. The 24th Ky. With some cavalry was sent to get them and they soon came guarding them to the rear. Then we made a charge for the battery on the hill and we finally captured the guns and most of the support. It was a hard fight; then gunners never quit until we went over the top. It was soon dark. I was sent with a detail to gather up the wounded and carry them down the turnpike where the ambulance could get them.
“I found brother Ike and sent him to a hospital in Nashville. He was shot through the right arm; flesh wound. We got the boys that were wounded gathered up and sent in by midnight, then we joined our Company.
“Our 23 Army Corps were all working digging rifle pits on the side of a hill facing rebel workers just across on the other side. We worked hard all night. When daylight came the sharp shooters began. Had to keep down or get hurt.
“The word was passed down the line from General Thomas that our cavalry had gone around Hood’s left wing and would attack in the rear. The signal of that attack was to be the firing of a whole battery on Gulfes Hill at one time; then every piece of artillery was to shell the rebel works while the infantry was to charge. There we lay all day watching and listening. Just before sundown the big guns belched forth and every cannon that we had responded. It seemed to pick up the earth and over the top we went. The rebels never saw us infantry. The shells were keeping them down. When we were up pretty close to their works our cannon stopped then they opened up some but we went over the top so quick they didn’t do much. They seemed glad to surrender. That night it was raining and cold all night and the dead and wounded lay on the field all night. We tore out the rails and logs of the rifle pits and made fires and I was getting something to eat. I saw a rebel soldier boy crawling up to my fire. He had been shot through the leg. His leg was broken when I got to him he looked up and saw on the front of my cap the letters 3rd Tenn. Volentier Inft. He threw up his hand and said “for God’s Sake don’t kill me.” I told him there was no occasion to kill him for the war would be over before he would be able to fight any more. He said their officers told them that us Tennessee soldiers killed all the prisoners that we captured. I got him up close to the fire, divided coffee and grub with him. Got a gum blanket; spread it over him to keep the rain off. I rolled up my blanket and slept all night. Was worn out never slept any last night.
“We were called up at daylight. Had nothing to eat. Went out on the battle field. I got some food out of a haversack of those that couldn’t use it. I again divided grub and before I left him I got a canteen; went to a branch filled it and sat it by him.
“Then we marched out after the retreating rebels. … We moved out within a half a mile of the Franklin Turnpike and went into camp. Lots of prisoners coming back. Raining all day and awfully muddy. The pike is torn up. We have to help roll the wagons and artillery out of mud holes on the pike.
“December on the 18th. Marched early. Stopped and drew rations when we came up to the wagon train. Marched all day in the mud sometimes over shoe tops. Meeting prisoners all day. One stand of colors and three Cannon. Camped in sight of Franklin in an open field. Raining all day. No wood.”
Hempstead letters and diary entries from the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan
Letter Dec. 8, 1864, from Nashville
“The Sunny South has caught a terrible cold and I sit down in my tent to write shivering with cold although bundled up in hat and overcoat.
“Yesterday morning it was very comfortable and apparently moderating, at noon we had a sudden squall of wind and rain, and in an hour it was intensely cold winter weather, and the cold steadily increased, until this morning.
“We have been having a very acceptable rest since we came here. I was on duty for two consecutive days as officer of the day at the bridge crossing to Nashville, and as all passes had to be closely scrutinized to prevent any spies or other informers getting in on forged passes, and my guard being Ken. And Tenn. hardly a man of them could read a word and I had to be in constant attendance night and day. Worse than that, as I only expected to stay one day I took no rations and … (was) not able to get away to get a meal. …
“The siege of Nashville drags slowly on.
“The Rebel lines extend from the river above clear around the south side of the town.
“The two armies have their entrenched lines facing each other within common shot of each other, and the skirmishers of each have advanced to within musket range of each other in rifle pits. A constant fusilade is kept up by them and so accustomed to this and occasional shot from some battery trying their range or throwing a few shells among some entrenching party that we pay no heed to it; but when either army sends out a reconnaissance or makes any new demonstration on some particular point as is done almost every day the firing will suddenly increase in volume and is sure to attract the attention of us idlers in the rear.
“Yesterday a couple of colored regiments went out on our extreme left – up the river – and in plain sight of our camps which are near Edgefield on the north side, and drove the Enemy’s skirmishers out of their rifle pits in very handsome style.
“We are ordered to be ready to march at noon tomorrow.
“There is a heavy force of Cavalry concentrated here under General Wilson – a larger force than I have seen before in a long time.
“PS 9th This morning opens cold and dismal, windy and sleety, at this moment 10 O.C. AM it is so dark in my tent that I can not see the lines to write on. There is little prospect of our moving today.”
Letter December 14, 1864; Nashville
“We have been having extremely cold weather since the 7th or 8th instant. Our troops though mostly in tents have suffered much with cold, but the besieging force clustered among the hills south of the town appear to have very few tents and I think they must have fared badly.
“The weather is so cold and the streets covered with ice have brought aggressive military matters almost to a standstill.
“Yesterday it became much warmer and rain began to fall in abundance. The streets which so lately were covered with ice are today a vast sea of mud. …
“We broke camp at Edgefield on the 12th and led our horses – for it was too icey to ride – to this side. We then supposed that the army were on the point of attacking Hood but the elements still delay us. …
“PS December 15th, Evening
“At an early hour this morning – 6 O.C. – the whole cavalry force moved out on our right. A heavy fog concealed the movement.
“About 10 O.C. the fog lifted, our artillery opened all along the line and was promptly answered by the Enemy and continued in a spirited manner all along the line until about 3 O.C. when the cavalry having executed their assigned movement in the morning were already creating a panic in the rear of the Enemy, moving in on their left rear, capturing guns and prisoners, so at this time our infantry began to move out of their works and advance all along the line storming rifle pits and driving the Enemy from all of their outworks and finally charging them in front and making a lodgment in their work on the main line.
“I find Acting Qr. Master a very agreeable change at such a time as this, and although the Qr. Master Department are all under marching orders and our trains have all been harnessed and drawn out ready to move to front or rear as occasion might require, I knew there was no chance for a move today and so with Lt. Gladding … I mounted my horse and we rode to the highest hill to be found near the lines and from a safe distance was for the first time an idle spectator of a battle.
“We say our batteries in full play upon every point of the Enemy’s lines while they replied spiritedly.
“Our infantry crawled through the hills and were massed behind the convenient screen of an orchard close to the Enemy’s lines.
“Our place of observation was not left to us alone for Gen. Thomas with his staff and escort took a position near us. We farther over the crest of the hill to give him and unobstructed view and plenty of room. We soon saw that his aides and orderlies were very busy carrying orders and surmised that an important move was in progress, and we were not wrong for the mass of infantry behind the orchard began to move out, while our batteries all redoubled their fire.
“The infantry quickly deployed in line of battle and moving steadily forward across the open fields between them and the Enemy’s breastworks soon struck a rapid run and with resounding cheers charged over the line of breastworks, capturing men and guns and carrying everything before them.
“As soon as the charge commenced Gen. Thomas who had already sent all his staff and orderlies off with orders until he was left alone, put his brown mare to her best gait and started for the front also.
“Gladding and I as soon as we saw the works being carried dashed forward after him but the fight was all over long before we reached the front.
“We had seen quite a number drop out of the ranks during the run across the fields and we met some wounded going to the rear, yet the defense of the strong line appeared feeble and our loss was small.
“This evening guns and prisoners in large detachments are being sent in by the cavalry on the left and rear of the Enemy – our right capturing their work – as fast as they reach them
“At dusk this evening I could see the flash and hear the roar of the carbines of the cavalry and muskets of Smith’s Corps high up among the hills in our front as they steadily doubled up and drove back the left of Hood’s army.
“I expect to be ordered out with the train tomorrow to follow the command on another chase to the Tennessee river. …”
“Fighting has commenced on the right this morning.
“The Enemy seem to have taken a new defensive position some distance to the rear of their position yesterday.
“A great many prisoners were brought in during the night and this morning. They seem still to have faith in Hood. I have talked with several of them. They say Hood will pay us today for yesterday’s reverses. They all assert he is going to capture Nashville before night.
“I don’t see how he is going to do it as he is some distance farther from it than he was yesterday morning and weaker by many men and guns.
“The artillery firing at this moment is getting very heavy, in the rear of where our men charged their lines yesterday.”
(“From an old fragmentary diary covering the same dates as the foregoing letters I extract the following”)
“Friday Dec 9/64 In camp at Edgefield. Weather cold bleak and dismal. Tonight the ground is covered an inch deep with sleet and snow.
“Saturday 10th Still cold. I was detailed to go out in charge of dismounted picket until Lts. Loomis & Tallman, whose detail it was, should return to camp. Went out but was soon relieved by them when I returned to camp and worked at clothing account. Hoods army very quiet to-day probably frozen up.
“Sunday Dec 11th 1864 Very cold, with raw piercing wind, and almost impossible to keep warm in tent. Our Besiegers must suffer terably as they do not appear to have tents for officers or men. Very quiet on the skirmish line.
“Monday 12th Ordered to break camp and cross to Nashville at 8.O.C.A.M. Got started at 10 O.C. to icy to ride and we led our horses across the river through the town and out about two miles on the Charlotte Pike where we went into camp. In the evening I was detailed to act temporarily as Regimental Quarter master. …
“Tuesday 13th Went to town bought me a new hat for $6.00 worth perhaps $3.00 then went and took dinner with Lt. E.W. Lawrence, Regtl Commissary. Recd my detail as Regtl QrMaster and assumed the duties. …
“Wednesday 14th All our ice turning to mud. Drew a few horses and some clothing for the Regt. …
“Saturday Dec 17th This morning is rainy and sleety. … (he describes riding over the battlefield, the dead rebels, discarded guns, ground and timber torn up by artillery)
“We returned towards town on the Franklin Pike and found our teams just starting out. We worked along amid a moving mass of teams got out 3 miles and camped amid mud and rain wet and tired.
“Sunday Dec 18th This morning got up early the rain still falling. We got our teams pulled out at an early hour but found the jam on the pike just as dense as when we left it last night. We moved along very slowly at a late hour we were near Franklin but the blockade of teams being so great we could proceed no farther and so hauled out and went into camp.”
Courtesy of Teri Button of Indianola, Indiana.
Editor’s notes: Teri Button is a great-great-granddaughter of Charles Hennrich, Company D. Button transcribed the letters and posted them on the Internet. She wrote, “These letters are taken from a limited edition book that was published for descendants of Charles in the 60′s and there was some research done as well. There are a total of 23 letters.”
“Spring Hill, Tennessee
“December 20, 1864
“Once more I must take up my pen. It appears that you have given up writing completely. I hope that these few lines will find you in good health as I, thank God, also am.
“Dear parents, we have had some times for the last five days. You have probably seen in the paper of the two day battle at Nashville, Tennessee. In it my bunk-mate Henry Waterman was wounded the second day as we stormed the breastworks. Michel Thein was also wounded.
“Dear parents, it was a terrible sight for one could not hear himself speak because of the loud cannon and musket fire. The battle was started the 15th at 6 am and lasted until darkness on the 16th.
“We came into Nashville the 30th of November and had to march two miles west of the city the 1st of December and went into battle formation at once.
“The 30th of November General Schofield had a battle at Franklin, Tennessee with the rebel, General Hood, who had an army of 60,000 men. General Schofield had to retreat and arrived in Nashville the 1st with the 23rd and 4th divisions and a division of the 17th Army Corps. The Corps formed its line on ours and the 23rd was held in reserve. The 2nd we went one-half mile further and took possession of the bluffs which surround the town. There breastworks had to be thrown up and batteries had to be placed. Our line was almost twelve miles long from end to end. Our Corps, the 16th, held the center. The 3rd the rebels showed themselves whereupon firing started between pickets. The 4th the rebels started to dig themselves in and our batteries started to bombard them. Picket firing continued and an occasional bomb was thrown from then on until the 15th when the army received orders to leave the breastworks at 6am and attack the rebels. General Smith, with the 16th Corps, made the attack and at the same time fifty cannon opened fire and gave the rebels full rations. The battle was soon general along the whole line.
“General Hatch, with the cavalry, took 13 cannon and 12 army wagons the first day. The infantry took four more and 1000 prisoners. That night all was so quiet that one could hear a leaf fall from a tree.
“The morning of the 16th the thunder started again. The cannon fire lasted until one o’clock when they stopped and the infantry stormed the breastworks. One brigade of the 4th Army Corps was repulsed twice but the third time the breastworks were taken. By 4 o’clock the last of the breastworks were taken and the whole rebel army put to flight.
“The rebels threw away everything in order to get away easier. The battlefield from which the rebels were driven was covered with guns and cartridge boxes. The cavalry started right after them and in the next few days took many cannon and between three and four thousand prisoners.
“We lost three to four thousand dead and wounded. How many dead and wounded the rebels lost I can’t say. We captured 4000 prisoners and our adjutant says that we now have receipts for 62 cannon.
“The 17th we received marching orders and with many “Hurrahs!” we went on after the rebels. On the way we met hundreds of captured rebels who were being taken back to Nashville. On the way here everything looked terrible. Everything which hindered them they threw away, army wagons and caissons were left behind for our cavalry was so near their throat.”
Note: Charles Hennrich was interrupted at this point as indicated in his letter of 28 December 1864. Henry Waterman was officially reported mortally wounded but he recovered.
“Camp in the field near Pulaski, Tenn
“December 28, 1864
“I received your letter the 27th of December and see that you are all well as I, thank God, also am. I hope that these few lines will find you in good health.
“What surprised me was when I saw that Fritz had become a soldier. I wish he had come to us for one can give the young recruit a great deal of help.
“Dear parents, since my last letter, which was interrupted by the thunder of cannon, we had to march then at once and take up another position. The rebels did not halt again. Our cavalry, under General Hatch, were so close at their throats that they let their cannon stand, cutting the harness from the horses to save themselves. The 24th was reached the Duck River, a river like the Turkey River. Old Hood was pressed so hard that he threw his cannon, 15 in number, into the river. We pulled them out again. Our way lay full of cannon balls, bombs, and cartridges which they had thrown away in order to lighten their wagons.
“We crossed the Duck River the 25th near Columbia on a pontoon bridge. Our army started to cross on two pontoon bridges on the 23rd and were not yet all over the 28th.
“We have had bad weather ever since we left Nashville. Yesterday the news came that General Washburn had captured 7 cannon and several thousand men from General Hood as Hood tried to cross the Tennessee River. If he can’t cross the river then good night Hood! Then he can finally go into winter-quarters. He said, when he lay before Nashville, that he wanted to make his winter-quarters between Nashville and Louisville, and wanted to starve out General Thomas and his army in Nashville. So thought Hood, but Thomas arranged otherwise.
“The Tennessee soldiers under Hood are running all over saying that they do not see why they should fight any longer here. On the way where both armies passed it looks terrible. The families have lost everything. The houses were practically burned over the heads of some. Others were not left enough for the next morning’s breakfast.
“Dear parents, you probably celebrated Christmas better than I did. We were engaged in following Hood and had to change our customs. Early on the morning of the 25th one could hear the thunder of cannon. That was really a fine Christmas greeting!
“We are camped now near Pulaski and will probably march further in the morning. You wrote that Fritz was in Davenport. When you write him a letter tell him that he should write to me once.
“And Elizabeth has let herself be heard from which gave me great joy. And I wish Ernst would let himself be heard from, if he cannot write then let little Elizabeth write for you.
“Now I will close and send greetings to all of you. Greet Fritz Dock and his family. Fritz should have been here with us and he would have had his eyes opened for he could have had a good look at a battlefield.
“Greet Waterman for me. We have heard, since we left Nashville, that Heinrich is improving. Many greetings to you all.
“I wish you a prosperous New Year.”
Notes: “Fritz”, Fred Hennrich, enlisted Dec. 2, 1864 and was assigned to Company D, 8th Iowa Infantry. He was mustered out Dec. 1, 1865.
“January 27, 1865
“I received your letter the 27th of January and see that you are all well, as I, thank God, also am. I hope that these few lines will find you all in good health.
“Dear parents, up to now things have gone pretty hard with us here. For four days we could get nothing to eat. They could not get enough up the Tennessee River for us so we had to live on corn and meat. Today a big fleet arrived again with provisions aboard. God knows who was to blame that they could not get enough food to us with the water as high as it is now on the Tennessee. Our old General Smith does his best for the boys but he cannot always be everywhere.
“Dear parents, we are pretty well situated here now. We have built ourselves blockhouses with fireplaces in them and everything would be fine if they would only see that we have enough to eat.
“If you still get a paper then send it to me as the time gets pretty long here when one has nothing to read.
“There is nothing much new here. Great crowds of rebels come to our outposts every day and surrender. They say that Hood’s army has played out completely. The most of them do not want to fight anymore and many are deserting. The bush is full of rebel deserters. The last we heard of him he was in Tupelo, Mississippi with the remainder of his army.
“How long we will stay here we do not know. They are again preparing a field-train and General Thomas, the “Rock of Nashville” arrived here a couple of days ago.
“Dear parents, you wrote me that Heinrich Waterman is dead. I cannot believe that because our second lieutenant arrived yesterday from Nashville and said he was improving. And we received a letter from Michel Thein who wrote that his wound was healing and that he felt pretty good.
“Dear parents, if you would be so good and send me a few postage stamps. One cannot buy any here. I also received a letter from Fritz today. I wrote him that if he could he should send me a few but I am not sure that he can.
“Now I will close with greetings to all of you.
The Diary of John A. Hiestand, September-December, 1864; Indiana in the Civil War Web site
Dec. 3rd / In camp in A.M., went to city in P.M., got one picture taken, mailed package of letters to Sarah, returned at sunset. Reg’t ready to move, two boys one Co. I the other, Co. H. accidentally shot. Reg’t. went into camp in works.
Dec. 4th / Called into line at 5 A.M., expecting an attack, was none, wrote one letter also sent picture to Sarah, Dr. B of 11th Cav’lry came to camp. …
Dec. 9th / In camp as usual, wrote one letter to father one to Sarah also one to Wm. James, snowed & blowed, remained in tent all day.
Dec. 10th / In camp all day as usual, very disagreeable, done nothing today.
Dec. 11th / In camp in A.M., went to city in P.M., Rec’d one letter from father, one from Sarah also pr. mittens, one letter from Emma, very cold.
Dec. 12th / On detached duty as train guard, seen Abe Renolds [Reynolds] 12th M. Cav’ly was prisoner captured, escaped, came to us at Gordons ford, went to circus, got supper at saloon to night.
Dec. 13th / On picket, paid $1.00 for a substitute, got picture group of 5 taken in union, price $7.00, mailed it also letter to Sister Sarah, Rec’d one letter from Miss N.J. also one from Wm. Randolph.
Dec. 14th / In camp all day, wrote one letter to James Rodman, one to Wm. Randolph, also one to Miss N.J., went to the theatre at night, returned to camp at midnight.
Dec. 15th / Struck tents & moved at 7 A.M., went to the front, heavy cannonading & hard fighting all day, moved to the right all day, charged the johnies at sunset, drove them to their works, pretty warm place, remained in line until dark, built works, moved to the left at 8 P.M., fortified again.
Dec. 16th / S. [skirmishing] began early & briskly. 15th Ind. Battery done good service today, worked on works in A.M., Cooper’s Brigade charged the Rebels on our front at 4 P.M. & drove them out of their works, took quite a number of prisoners, seen great many killed. Reg’t moved out one mile went into camp. Rec’d one letter from father, also one from Sister Sarah.
The Camp Life and Campaigns of William Huntzinger and Brothers, A Day-to-Day Record 1862-1865, kept by William H. Huntzinger; Member of the Seventy-Ninth Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry; edited and published by Floyd B. La Favre; 1971. Courtesy of Jeffrey LaFavre, great-great-grandson of Huntzinger
In posting the diary on the Internet, Jeffrey wrote:
“These pages represent a reproduction of the diary of my great great grandfather, William Henry Huntzinger. The diary was handed down through the family and was published in 1971 by my grandfather, Floyd B. La Favre.
“My grandfather published the diary word for word, as to the best of his ability to read the script. He did not make any corrections to spelling or grammar. I have not changed the spelling but have added punctuation (William used punctuation very sparingly). While I agree with my grandfather’s decision to leave the grammar alone, for a web version I felt the text would be too tedious to read without punctuation. If you desire to read the text in the original format, please consult the printed version published in 1971.
“Each chapter of the diary is packaged as one or two web pages. Therefore, file sizes are large and you must be patient in waiting for them to download. At the top of each web page there are several links; links to each month contained in the chapter and links to portions of the diary that represent unique or important information (in my subjective judgement).”
Civil War Diary
The Camp Life and Campaigns Of William H. Huntzinger, Member of the 79th Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1865
©1999 by Jeffrey La Favre firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: Levi is William’s brother
On the north bank of the Harpeth River in Franklin, Tennessee:
“December 1st A.D. 1864. We saw that our men was all across the river. & the R R Bridge was fired & burning. & at 3 A.M. we left the fort. & a fiew cavelry deployed on the bank of the river. & before we got 100 yards from the river the rebs had sliped up & comenced firing. & the cavelry replyed. The rebels had found out we were evacuating & opened their artillery. & I think our men fired some with artillery. & it was very lively cannonading for some half hour. …
To the south of Nashville:
“Levi P Huntzinger came to see me & O how glad I was to see him. He is fat & saucy. I went to see the Coln to get a pass to go with Levi to town. But there was an order strictly Prohibiting it. At dark we moved a mile to the right. Levi stayed with me all night & we talked till late about old times.
“Dec 2nd A.D. 1864. reville as usual. Levi & I went to a prety scenery near our camp & there is a tower in a water hidron & glass houses full of flowers & all kinds of shrubbery & it is the pretiest scenery I ever saw & the best & Pretiest selection I ever saw that grows in warm houses or anywhere else. Levi went to town to see if they needed him to carry dispatches. Our regt furnished pickets. We heared some cannonading. We bought a lot of good apples. …
“At 2 P.M. Levi P returned & we had orders to be ready to move & the line was changed & there was some rock fences. & they was tore down & changed for works. & dirt throwed up against it for to make it sollad. We had everything on & in line ready to move. But did not go. & put up tents. …
“Dec 3rd A.D. 1864. reville at 4 A.M. We was ordered to stand in line of battle at 5 A.M. We moved at 8 A.M. a little way & built a line of works of stone & dirt. Levi went to town. & I sent my watch to get it cleened, as I nor anyone was alowed to leve our regts. to go to town. We heared some Skirmishing. Frank Jellef bought a turkey. & he is messing with us. & we had the best mess that we had for some time. We put up a line of stone on the inside & dirt on the outside about 10 feet through till noon. We drew 3 days rations. After 2 P.M. the rebels comenced advancing on us. & there was a brisk skirmishing kept up. A fiew balls lit near us. About 3 P.M. our artillery just to our right opened on the rebels & soon to our left. & further to our right the artillery roared. The rebels drove our skirmish line in & stoped. We built two lines of brush entanglement in front of our works. We pitched tents. …
“Levi Brought us a basket of pies, cakes & apples. & we had a good mess. He got my Watch cleened. The cannonading ceased at dark in our front. But hevy guns fired in the night a good way on our right. It was a cool night.
“Dec 4th A.D. 1864, Sunday. reville at 4 A.M. We stood in line of battle. The rebels had a line of works where they had stoped last evening. & their musket balls light in our camp continuly. Our batterys all along our part of the line comenced a brisk shelling of the rebs works. …
“The cannonading was kept up all day. & but fiew shells if any was used by the rebs. Levi brought some more pies, apples & cakes. A good many sitizens & ladies came from town to see the cannonading. & the men was all put to work on the entrenchments. We drew cloth & Sanitary. I was taken with a pain in my back or a stitch, which made me get about very careful. …
“Levi reported to hed Quarters. & they told him he could come & stay with me as long as he wanted to, as he had told them I was hear & he had nothing to do. It was a cleer day. We retired late. & there was cannonading down the river in the night, thought to be gunboats. But none in our part of the line.
“Dec. 5th A.D. 1864. reville as usual at 4 A.M. We stood in line of battle. It was very cool & frosty. … Our guns keep up a regular constant shelling. …
“Dec 6th A.D. 1864. reville sounded at 3:30 A.M. & I & 7 men of our comp was detailed for Picket & went out at 5 A.M. on centinal line before daylight. The rebels was near. & we skirmished all day with them & they shot near us. & our artillery put the shells & some sollad shot into some of their skirmish Pits & tore their works & on the right there was hevy cannonading suposed to be gunboats. I saw a rebel geting in his gofer hole. & I shot in a hurry. & my gun kicked me in the mouth & split my lip. We was relieved after dark, having bin on centenal line 12 hours, & durst not rais up. …
“Dec 7th A.D. 1864. we was awaked at 4 A.M. & told that there was a rumor afloat that a spie had said Hoods army was coming in to atak us at daylight. We was relieved & returned to camp at 5 A.M. & I got a pass & went to town & enjoyed myself fine eating apples, pies, cakes & drinking sider. & I hardly knew the town for it had improved so much since I last saw it & is such a buisness plase. I went back to camp & found Levi & James Mitchell & we went to town & eat cakes & pies togeather. & I went to the quarters where Levi stays & stayed all night with him. There was a large fire in town.
“Dec 8th A.D. 1864. I eat breakfast with Levi & the V.R.C. Boys & they have a fine plase & good eatables & enjoy their selves fine. Levi & I set for Photographs at the Cumberland gallery. & I Bought Genls Wm. T Shereman, George H Thomas & Wm. P Mc Phersons Photographs. I purchesed a Diary for 1865. I returned to camp. It was a very cold windy day. & the ground was froze hard. It had rained yesterday. …
“There was some skirmishing & cannonading along the line & at 11 A.M. the rebels charged the skirmishers of 1st Div & drove them in. But soon by the aid of our artillery they was drive back. We was in line at our works wating for them but well convinsed in our minds that they would not come. Wm. B Ellis & Frank Jelleff brought up Suttler goods & put up a tent. It was so cold we suffered & we choped wood & had it hawled as it was a good way off. I writ some. Some of the boys built chimneys to their tents, as it was so cold & dissagreable. We retired early.
“Dec. 9th A.D. 1864. reville 4 A.M. We stood in line of battle. … It was cold freezing wether. It sleeted or hailed fine hail till it was several inches deep on the ground. & was miserable cold & dissagreable. We drew 3 days rations & some whiskey. & the boys got some ail & got drunk. We retired soon. …
“Dec 10th A.D. 1864. reville as usual. We stood in line of battle. … There was brisk skirmishing all day. & a fiew shots of artillery. …
“Dec 11th A.D. 1864, Sunday. reville sounded at 3:30 A.M. 7 men of our Company went out on picket before day & it was windy. & the coldest day I think that I have experienced since I have bin in the service. We suffered out of reason & expressable. We drew beef. The 17th Regt Ky Vols of our Brigade started home, their time having nearly expired. We had a good oyster soop for dinner. We drew clothing. We retired late & slept cold as it is uncomen cold.
“Dec 12th A.D. 1864. … We went out & cut some wood & had it hawled & built good fires. It is rumored that our cavelry numbering 25,000 have come across the river & was seen by some of our boys comeing through town. It is said they are goying to the rear of the rebels force. It was said we was goying to move in the morning as they had orders to be ready to move at hd Qrs. We drew 3 days rations. There was brisk Skirmishing & some cannonading. I had a hot fever. I writ some after night in the Suttler Shubang. & retired late.
“Dec 13th A.D. 1864. … It was cold. I had very severe Diarrhea, & appearance of the chills & was very unwell. …
“It thawed a little. I could hardly reast any way or content myself as I was in misery all over. … It rained in the night & turned warmer. I reasted only tolerable as I had a fever.
“Dec 14th A.D. 1864. … I felt a little better. It was very muddy foggy & thawing. … I comenced takeing Quinine for the Chills. … We retired late & got orders at midnight to be ready to move at 6 A.M. in the morning.
“Dec 15th A.D. 1864. reville at 3 A.M. … We got ready to move. … We got orders & struck tents before daylight. & at daylight we saw it was foggy. Some artillery moved off ove the line. Wm. A Richardson was so unwell that he was ordered to stay. & I was advised by the Lt & others to stay. But I felt a little better & I thought I would go as far as I could for I thought we was goying to the right (or maybe to the left) to suport an asault on the rebels works. After 8 A.M. we saw the troops moveing & massing to the right. The 13th O.V.I. deployed in our whole brigade works. …
“We heared brisk cannonading on our left & … soon we heared artillery & gunboats to our right. Levi came to see us & brought me one of his Photographs & mine was not done yet. We moved a little to the right & massed behind a hill. & a brisk skirmish was kept up all the time. & at 5 minuts till 11 A.M. a very brisk skirmishing comenced in our front. & yells & we knew our men was advancing. …
“We was ordered to form in line from the rebels works toward ours to suport or hold the left flank & our brigade was soon formed the left reaching back toward our old works. & as luck would have it our regt happened to be nearly all behind a stone fence & it was just right & that let me reast as I was almost give out. Our boys put up works to our right & left & all the time the rebels was shooting at us & our artillery was used very freely. The rebels artillery was not used very much in our front. …
“At 1 P.M. it had comenced sprinkling rain a little & the fogg had bin gon ever since about 8 A.M. There was a good deal of cannonading on the right & very heavy musketry & several very hard charges must have bin made for the musketry was nearly constantly kept up & the cannonading was uncomnly hevy. …
“Some of the 86th Ind who came up to our left & put up works was killed & wounded while at work. At 4:30 P.M. the right had swung around a great deal & then the whole line up to our Brigade charged & took the rebels works nearly on end & closed in on two sides & after a very hard fight lasting a fiew minuts & then the Johnies lit out. …
“We saw rebel troops go to the right to reinforce just before the last charge. Just as it comenced geting dark we started, as the flank was a little behind & the hevy fighting ceased. & it began to cleer off. We moved about a mile to the front & right & then moved to the left & struck the Granney White Pike & went to the right & formed our lines with the other troops & stoped for the night at 8 P.M. …
“Levi came up with the boys coffee pots. … We got supper & retired after 10 o’clock. The moon was bright but it rained in the night.
“Dec 16th A.D. 1864. … From all appearance the rebels was all gon. … At 7:30 A.M. we started & marched east to the left & heared brisk skirmishing, for the right had comenced advancing. & some cannonading on the right. & we crossed the Franklin Pike & then the R.R. & the rebels had 3 good lines of good works. & had at plases 4 lines of sharp stakes in the ground & a wide line of brush entanglements. We marched toward Franklin & recrossed the R.R. & the rebels artillery fired some. We stoped. & before 9 A.M. we started. & Levi gave me & the other boys good bye as he expected we was goying right on to Franklin. & he started back to the city. …
“It was cloudy windy & sprinkling rain. At 2:30 P.M. there was a very hevy shower of misting rain comenced falling. & the 1st & 2nd Brigade of our Div was massed & comenced advancing & charged a hill in their front which was in line with the large hills on our right. We followed close up. & a very hevy firing comenced & our Brigade was ordered to form behind one of our batteries to suport & hold it at all hazzards if our men was repulsed & the rebels charged us to drive us back. …
“At 4 P.M. the rain had seaced & the charge on the right seemed to have bin renewed & it came closer to us. & it seemed like the whole line was advancing & we saw some rebels get up & leve the works. & Coln Knefler (Comdg Brigade) dismounted & pulled off his great coat & started out over the works saying Come on 79th. & we started & yelled & went toward the hill. & the rebels lit out. Our Lt was before us calling for to come on. We fired after the rebels. & we got up near the works which was strong & had a line of brush entanglement in front of them. & there was lots of our boys laying killed & wounded & lots of colored soldiers was killed near the works & some on the works. & it is said the colord troops had swung around in front of our boys & planted one stand of colors on the works. & the rebels captured them from them. I dont know this to be true. We got on the works. & Capt Ritter of our regt was the second man in the works. & he runn to a battery that we had captured. There was 4 guns. We saw our troops advancing all along. & the rebels had bin charged out of the whole line & was scattered every which way. We captured some prisnors. & they kept firing a fiew shots & falling back. Their cannons shelled us a little & we was perfectly give out, for we had bin running. & I dont know when I was so tired in my life but I thought it was a good caus & would not hurt me for it was for our God & our Country. & I felt satisfied as I was in Gods care that he would take care of me. We saw where the rebels had throwed most every thing that they had away. Lots of rig was cut off & guns thrown away. & I threw my old gun that I had got at Chickamauga away & got a good enfield rifle as my other was worn out. …
“We advanced till after night & then stoped having advanced several miles. The rebels shelled us a little. & we was ordered back a little way on line with the others. & we built fires & eat supper. … Levi came up & said he had bin helping with the wounded men. & then he could not reast until he came up to see how our regt came out as he expected some of us had bin killed & wounded. … We retired after 8 P.M. & it had stoped raining.
“Dec 17th A.D. 1864. at 1 A.M. it comenced raining very hard & we got up as we had no tents up. & it kept up raining very hard. Reville sounded at 4 A.M. We got ready to move at daylight, as we had such orders. I gave Levi a couple of letters to put in the office when he went to the City. As he expected we would march right on. & he would start to his quarters. … Levi Started to the city at 8 A.M. & at 8:30 we started & marched fields & woods & we went down in the mudd about 10 inches nearly every step, for the ground is full of water as it had bin raining hard ever since 1 o’ clock. We was wet. & everything we had was more or less wet. We fagged nearly out. & I could not keep up. We heared some cannonading at a distance to our front & right from 8 A.M. often on all day. After noon we took the Turnpike & saw where the cavelry had bin fighting & saw several prisnors goying back to Nashville & two flags that had bin captured by our cavelry. We marched on till we came near the fort that we had left on the morning of the 1st of Dec. & we stoped to camp at 3:30 P.M., haveing come about 12 miles. …
“Dec 18th A.D. 1864, Sunday. reville as usual. We dried our things as well as we could. It sprinkled rain a little. The bridge was not don yet across the Harpeth river. At 8 A.M. the bugle sounded & we started & went to the bridge at 8:30. & it was raining prety hard. & we had to wate for other troops to cross. … At 10 A.M. we crosed the Harpeth river (or crick it might be called as it is small). & it looked like nearly every house in Franklin was hospitals full of wounded rebels who was wounded when they charged our two works at Franklin. A rebel Hospital steward said there was about 60 of our men there that had bin wounded & 1500 of their men & some said there was 3000 rebels. We passed through town, the band playing & our regt in front of the Div. & we came to the works & saw the line of brush before the works, as entanglements was all shot to pieces & riddled & to the right there was a grove of black locus timber, the bushes averaging from 2 to 4 inches in diameter & they was so badly shot to pieces that some of the largest fell by musket balls. & on the outside of the works the graves was as thick as in any grave yard. As far as I could see each way around the works was a perfect grave yard. & for several rods wide & then little grave yards or scattering graves for a mile around. & it seemed like most of the rebels had bin burried where they fell makeing the ground nearly as full of graves around the works as they could be. We saw 3 pieces of artillery goying in & a flag that our cavelry had captured. & it is said that the rebels had cut two down. … We passed through Spring hill. It had rained all day, checking a little at times. We stoped at 6 P.M. (after dark) haveing came 15 miles. I did not get in camp till the regt did. The pike was a perfect slosh & muddy. The cavelry camped before we did & we passed them. Their horses was runn down.
The History of Orange Jackson’s War Life, as Related by Himself. Of Company B, Sixth Illinois Cavalry. Enlisted August Twentieth, 1861, by Jackson; 1866
Dec. 15, 1864
“That morning we crossed Cumberland River and formed a line of battle; we started down a steep hill to a branch.
“The Johnnies’ fort was across the hollow on top of the hill.
“It had sleeted some days before, and the sleet had not all melted off yet.
“The Johnnies were firing on us, from the fort on the hill. We were climbing over a high rail fence; Ed Wooten got over the fence before I did. We were making for a big poplar tree; Ed Wooten pushed me and I fell and scooted head foremost down the hill and he got to the tree first. I came back to the tree and we got into a racket. I told him he pushed me and he said he did not push me. There was not much time to argue the question, so we both began shooting at the Johnnies. He shot from one side of the tree and I shot from the other side.
“We were ordered to charge the fort. … We charged to a branch; while we were lying at the branch under a big poplar tree, there came a cannon ball from the Johnnies’ fort on the hill and struck the poplar tree … and rent the entire top to pieces. As we ran from the tree a piece of the tree struck Lieut. Fight and crippled him. …
“Then Capt. Holly ordered us to charge and take the fort. We went up a very steep hill, in the timber; we would run from one tree to another. The Johnnies just had one cannon in the fort; they would shoot over us all the time; limbs of trees were falling around us all the time.
“When we got to the fort, Bud Harris went in on one side of the cannon and I on the other side, as we were the first in the fort. The Johnnies had fallen back just about 10 steps. …
“The Johnnies ran down the hill on the other side and about 100 of our men followed them. The Johnnies had bayonets on their guns; when they started to fall back, they took the bayonets off.
“The Johnnies had another fort at the left of us, and Capt. Holly went with the rest of the regiment after the first fort was captured and captured the other fort.
“Col. Linch was in command of the regiment. We went down the hill fighting, to a springhouse; when I was crossing the branch at the springhouse, there were 6 or 7 Johnnies in the springhouse. They threw their guns on me and ordered me to surrender. I just stood there and said nothing; in a second the rest of the boys came up, and the Johnnies saw things in a different light and surrendered to us. Some of the boys guarded the prisoners and the rest of us went on up the hill, fighting.
“When we reached the top of the hill we followed them about 300 yards. There wasn’t but about 8 or 10 of our company. We then turned back to hunt the rest of the company; when we got back to the company, they had taken the other fort.
“The prisoners we captured said they would rather fight infantry than cavalry. The said it seemed to them, we did not take time to load.
“It was night by this time, so we fell back and made some coffee and ate supper, and laid in line of battle all night.
“That night the Johnnies built some new breast-works about half a mile ahead of us; about half a mile from the fort.
“We began early in the morning trying to capture their breast works … but they would drive us back and then kept us back until about 3 o’clock p.m. when we succeeded in taking their breast-works.
“We then came up with our horses that we had not seen for two days and one night.
“The Johnnies threw their guns, knapsacks and everything down when they began to run. Major Pierce was in charge of 4 companies. We were then on our horses; then Major Pierce ordered us to charge, and the Johnnies fell back. We followed them until we came to a road that turned down a big hollow. Capt. Holly told Corporal Sam Smith to take two men and go down the hollow; he selected Will Albert and me. There was a path down a steep hill, in the hollow, to our road. There were 7 cavalrymen of the Johnnies who came down that path to where we were and threw their guns on us and ordered us to surrender, and in reply we threw our guns on them and ordered them to surrender. Two of them surrendered to us; the other five rode back up the hill. We then took the two prisoners back to the big road, but before we got there it was getting dark.
“When we got there I left the prisoners with the other boys, and as we could hear them fighting in front of us, I went on back down where they had formed a line to the right of the road. Major Pierce had left the public road open. I rode down the road. … It was very dark and it was sleeting and raining and very cold. …I heard … rebel … (officers) talking and knew it was not our men; then I turned back to find my company, and rode back something like a quarter of a mile.
“I heard someone in the bottoms, by the road-side, talking. I asked them where the 6th Ill. was; they said, here it is, I rode down to where they were … and found them to be Johnnies. They caught me and began pulling me off my horse. … They stripped me of my jacket, hat and all my blankets, and had one of my feet up, trying to pull my boots off. I told them they could not pull them off with me standing up, and I told them if they would let me sit down I would pull them off, but just at that moment Major Pierce heard the racket and opened fire on the Johnnies, and they started back to the rear with me. The bullets … were coming from Major Pierce’s four companies as thick as hail. The Johnnies had me running with them. When I fell down over some fence rails, … the guards just went on and left me. I got up and went down in the bottoms; when I would meet one of the Johnnies I would tell him to hurry up and get out of there.
“I next came to 2d Iowa Cav.; I knew in reason it was our men. I hollowed and told them I belonged to the 6th Ill. Cav. I came up with Col. Coon; he was in command of our brigade; he belonged to the 2d Iowa. I asked him where the 6th Ill. was; he said the last he knew of them, they were fighting over on the other side of him, and did not know where they were now. He told some of the boys to give me that mare that was standing there, and I got on her and started to hunt my regiment.
“I found them in camp that night about 11 or 12 o’clock. The company was all glad to see me safe again. Lige Hopkins and I had been made at each other for sometime, but Hopkins was the first man to meet me and offer assistance; he said, ‘Here, Orange, is my overcoat.’ The boys had super about ready to sit down to; they kindly divided their supper with me.
“My hair was long, and as it was raining and freezing weather my hair was frozen in stringy tags, and I was we as a man could be. I put the overcoat over my head and sat up all night, by the fire, trying to dry my clothes and keep warm. There was a rail fence near by and … it wasn’t much work to keep up a good fire.
“The next morning we started after Gen. Hood. Again we would have skirmishes through the day; we skirmished some two or three days. … All the prisoners we captured on our trip to Duck River were very ragged and barefooted and worn out.”
Personal Memoirs of John H. Brinton, Major and Surgeon U.S.V. 1861-1865, by Dr. John H. Brinton; 1914
Note: Brinton is the speaker, talking about Jenny:
“He was a graduate of the School of Topographical Engineers in Paris, was commissioned as an Engineer in our army, and rendered immense service by his knowledge of roads and their construction, corduroying and the like. He originated the idea of skyscrapers. …
“Jenny had charge of a pontoon train. On the day of the fight at Nashville, or the day after, in a pouring rain, I met him hurrying his train of boats away on the turnpike. I asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He said, ‘God knows, where a pontoon train can do the least possible good.’
“When he came back a day or so afterwards, I asked him in the quiet of our chamber, ‘How about that pontoon train?’ He said, ‘That’s a very good story and a very great secret. After the battle, General Thomas sent for me, and told me to take my train out on the Murfreesboro pike. I said, “General, do you mean the Murfreesboro Pike?” because I knew that was away from the enemy. He said, “Yes, on the Murfreesboro Pike.” I went away, but I was uneasy in my mind, for knew that a bridge train could not be wanted where there were no rivers. I turned and went back, and again I asked him, “General, do you mean the Murfreesboro Pike?” He seemed heavy, but aroused himself, and half-angrily said, “Yes, the Murfreesboro Pike, go and execute your orders.”
“ ‘I went and led out my pontoon, as directed, and the next day was recalled by a messenger, when the General discovered his mistake. He had meant to say the Granny White Pike, but at the time of the battle, he had had no rest or sleep for two or three days and nights; he was sleeping heavily when aroused to give my order, was dazed, confounded the Murfreesboro with the Granny White Pike and gave me the useless order. If the train had been sent on the pike, on which it should have been sent, it could have been used at Duck River and other streams, and the probability is that the entire forces of the enemy would have been captured. As it was, they reached Franklin, slowly retreated southward and succeeded in making good their escape by crossing the Tennessee River, and thus reaching Alabama safely.’ ”
War As Viewed from the Ranks, by Rev. W.A. Keesy; 1898
Notes: The “princely mansion” Keesy describes is Belmont, the home of Adelicia Acklen, Nashville’s richest woman. Keesy’s account includes the description of the strange black woman who appears and vanishes at a campfire.
“Our line of works … were run right through a princely mansion on our company front. The fine lace curtains on gilded windows, with costly upholstery, rich furniture, and Brussels carpets, all spoke of great wealth. But the certain indications of an engagement by the two great armies now confronting each other again, made it too perilous for the occupants and they moved out. Our officers occupied the principal rooms for offices. A smaller room by the side was unoccupied, and I suggested that we have it for a chapel. We announced a protracted prayer meeting. The first evening there were three of us present. The second evening there were fifty and on the third evening, standing room could not be found. But on the fourth day some officers took possession of our chapel, and established their headquarters there; thus our meetings were brought to a close. …
“On the 8th the weather became excessively cold. My overcoat, in which I was now compelled to sleep, was frozen to the ground several nights in succession. Fortunately, we had good timber and plenty of wood. A few large logs, with other combustible material, made a good camp-fire, though, after all, it was very disagreeable to warm by, as the smoke and heat were very unevenly distributed. In such cold weather, one side freezes while the other burns. Thus we shiver and roast and turn and torture until we tire of it. Then we crawl into our tents and shiver and got out to the fire again, and repeat the operation and vainly wish that there was no war.
“One cold, bleak day, when this shivering, torturing process was going on, as a dozen or two of us were thus freezing and burning at the same time, all of a sudden, … like an apparition, there stood by that fire, with outstretched hands, one of the most masculine, muscular, uncouth, uncomely, unkempt, semi-nude, half-frozen, and I believe, half-starved, negresses that mortal eyes ever beheld. In a moment every eye was riveted upon her. Breathless silence ensued. … In a moment that probably homeless, friendless creature was gone again. And strange to say there was not a man there who could tell the direction she took, how she went, nor where she went. …
“Peter Hershiser … and I were on picket together on the night of the 11th of December. The picket lines of the two armies were so close together that the change of picket took place in the night. We chanced to be in the same rifle pit. Here we must stay for twenty-four hours. It was very cold. We burned a few corn-stalks down in the pit to keep our feet from freezing. The least exposure of our heads above the bank was sure to bring a bullet that way. I said to Pete, ‘Now, when daylight comes, I am going to have the first shot; for I can see a Johnny as soon as he can see me.’ I had my eye out, of course, at daybreak. I saw some fellows near some standing chimneys, where the buildings had been burned in our immediate front. I said, ‘Pete, look over there at those chimneys and tell me what you see.’ ‘I golly! Al, there they are; let ‘em have it.’ I blazed away. He loaded the guns and I did the firing. That 12th day of December we put in all day on that picket post. …
“On December 15th … we advanced on our picket line. … In our immediate front we were galled by a rebel battery which was doing deadly execution from a stone fortress. … A strong battery was brought up to our help, and as they poured shot and shell into that fort, it was turned to our advantage. The shot and shell, hurling and pitching the stones with deadly effect in every direction, our advance was comparatively easy. …
“The citizens of Nashville were out by the thousands, strung along on the works and on the hill, witnessing this mighty conflict. …
“Night at length settled down upon the scene, and it was quite evident now that the enemy was no longer sanguine of sweeping down over Kentucky or of getting the spoils of Nashville, as he was two weeks ago.
“After darkness had fully set in, so that the enemy might not discern our movements, we were sent … to support the left. The order was for each man to promptly and quietly follow his file leader. It was very dark and we were very quiet. … We were rushed along through timber and thicket, over clearing and stony ground. At one time I lost sight of my man and for a while was completely lost. … I forged ahead in desperation. I could hear the man following me close on my heel. I determined to get away from him or find my man. I ran; panting and desperate, at last I saw the faint outline of a moving man ahead, and catching up, found my man. …
“We came to an opening and saw lights ahead. Soon we came to a camp where the camp-fires were burning brightly. At first I thought it to be a clearing, but as we were passing through it the shells that had been left in those fires by the fleeing rebels made it clear that but a very short time before it had been the enemy’s camp. The explosions and screeching whizz of flying fragments made many a man walk humpbacked as we hustled through that camp. After passing the fires and coming to open country, we were ordered to lie upon our arms. Our rest was seriously disturbed by a wounded Confederate soldier who was lying near by. His leg had been shot away in the previous day’s conflict, and he had been overlooked by his comrades. His groans were pitiful. Our surgeon told him to be as patient as possible and when daylight should come he should have needed care; but at present he could do nothing, for it was not possible to have a light there under the enemy’s guns.
“At day-break the deep rumbling boom of one of the heavy guns on the river was the signal to renew the attack. In a few minutes that battle line was astir from end to end. …
“We came … to broken country. Here the 64th was taken upon a great hill, on the side exposed to the enemy. Here we were ordered to lie down. We had not lain long until across a valley, open country and timber in a distant woods, there was a great flash, the roar of a cannon, and a flying ball which plowed a great groove in the side of the hill and threw dirt all over us. The flashes and the shot came in quick succession. A ball plowed under Major Coulther’s horse. … Jake Shawl … had lain down parallel with the line and the colonel said, ‘Shawl, you had better lie the other way, or a cannon ball may cut you in two.’ ‘My Lord, colonel, it would be better to have a leg cut off that to be split from end to end,’ answered Shawl. …
“Being a target, with the balls coming so very near and fast, with no redress for us, became an awful strain. … A battery of six Parrott guns were brought up on the other side of the hill. They ran their noses over the summit. … The effect is so marked that the enemy’s guns are silenced, and down through the woods, across open fields, we go. …
“After passing through a few fields, and going through a timber, we drove in the skirmish line of the enemy, who were now lying in force behind exceedingly strong works, just across an open field beyond the woods. As we emerged from the woods the enemy’s line was ablaze, and shot and shell and musketry did their terrible work. … Canister so freely poured out of the belching cannon … that the dry leaves on the ground moved toward us as if impelled by a gale. The heavy guns were pelting them on every side. I saw a shell strike into a large, white ash tree about forty feet from the ground and … rail-like splinters, flew out of that tree and around our heads. …
“I heard George McConnell calling at my rear a little way, and I ran to him feeling sure he must be wounded. I cried, ‘George, where are you hit?’ he replied, ‘Why I am not hit, just look at my gun.’ I saw his gun had been struck with a bullet about four inches from the muzzle. I answered, ‘George, don’t act a fool about that gun. There are plenty of others lying around. Take that dead man’s there.’
“But … no force could stand against that withering fire, and we had to fall back under cover of the woods. Here we entrenched ourselves. Peter Hershiser had the end of his index finger shot away. I tore out the lining of my cap and did the necessary surgical work, and he fought on as usual.
“We were located just in the edge of these woods, with a few scattering trees and an open field before us. Just across this was the strong line of the enemy’s works, with head log, abatis of the worst kind and terrible guns grinning at us from numerous embrasures.
“There were a number of our dead, and a great number of our wounded out there in our front and hot to get them was the question. … Some of our wounded were begging by motions to be brought off. An officer ordered two stretcher-bearers to go out and fetch in the wounded men. The protested, and so would I. It was sure death to go out there alone.
“William Stannard, who never flinched in battle, was asked to go with an ax and cut down a bothersome tree in our front. He went out to the tree, struck a few blows, threw the ax leisurely upon his shoulder and deliberately walked back and said, ‘It is too d— hot for me out there.’
“He did not say how many balls struck the tree while he struck a half dozen blows, but possibly half as many balls, for the Rebel sharpshooters were after anyone looking out that way.
“I was glad just then that I was not a stretcher-bearer. Those poor fellows would have to lie there until night came, unless we tried again to break that line, in which case they too likely would be shot to pieces or tramped to death. …
“Our line of works was far from satisfactory. We had a little ditch, and a little bank with a few old logs piled up. Men brought the cartridge cases and chopping them open, the cartridges were poured along the bank of our ditch. It was no said that colored troops were going in to break the enemy’s lines on our right, and we were to make a demonstration. The citizens of the city by the thousand, strung over yonder distant hills, were waving their flags and cheering. The awful griping, ripping, tearing, rasping roar of the musketry on our right told of the heroic work going on as the colored boys faced death.
“ ‘Let ’em have it, boys,’ is now passed down the line. At once our muskets were scattering bullets by the tens of thousands over the enemy’s works. I worked my gun until it got so hot that it actually burned my hand clear across the palm into a great blister. I at first wondered why the balls would spring up and shove my ramrod two thirds of the way out of the barrel when putting down a load. I soon learned it was so hot that gas was generated, and I feared that a premature discharge might be ruinous to my hands. We were enveloped in a cloud of smoke and flame, and aside from the flash of the guns, it was quite dark. It was astonishing to see how excited men got and it is a wonder that the fire in battle is not more deadly! …
“One Reiff was nervously firing away, but while he seemed to take aim toward the enemy’s lines he fired every bullet into a log not more than two feet from his gun. I called to him, with my mouth at his ear, and with difficulty made him understand, ‘You’ll likely burst your gun.’ ‘Oh, I’se gibben it to ’em. I bet you I’se gibben it to ’em!’ and on he went, pegging his balls into the log.
“Now our brigadier general came onto the ground. This place and at Franklin is the only place that I ever caught sight of a general in battle. I heard the general say, ‘Move forward, Colonel Brown.’
“Colonel Brown cried out, ‘Attention! Forward – March!!’ The bugle sounded and out over the bank we went. Our heart-throb was marked and swift as we were crossing that open field and thought of what might happen if that line of Johnnies should rise up and again pour their leaden hail into us. We reached the abatis, got across and mounted the strongest line of works that I helped take during the war. Peter Hershiser and I were among the first to cross the works. About 3,000 Johnnies were swinging their blankets and signalling for us not to fire and were coming toward us from the fleeing Rebel line.
“I picked up a knapsack some Rebel had left which he evidently had captured from some of our boys at Spring Hill or Franklin. It contained a towel, writing material, the picture of a very pretty lady and other articles.
“I saw a basin dug a foot or so deep in the ground. I said, ‘Pete, there is a dead Johnny near here, and there they were digging his grave when we drove them away.’ At that instant we saw near by a large Johnny with disheveled hair, shaggy beard, distended eyes and mouth wide open glaring at us as tho’ yet alive. A great hole through his body from side to side, made by a piece of shell, told the story. …
“I felt a little envious of the fellow who beat me to a caisson which had been left in the ditch. We were anxious to gain the spoils of war, but when, as he opened the lid a shell exploded and deprived him of his eyes, I felt thankful that I did not get there first. …
“The enemy was hustling away on the Franklin pike, now far more rapidly than we had come in on it two weeks before. A battery of six field guns was ordered up to give them a good send off. The drivers were lashing their galloping horses into a furious race up to a place designated by the officer. The bugle sounded, ‘Wheel and unlimber!’ and every man was at his post and doing his level best to hasten the work. At that instant a masked Rebel battery, which had been planted on a distant hill to cover the retreat, opened fire, and before those guns of ours could be planted, two of them were knocked off their carriages, a lieutenant and two men killed, and several wounded. But the work of planting the other four went right on, and in a few moments what was left of the Rebel battery was galloping after Hood’s shattered and fleeing army, and the battle of Nashville was over. …
“As night was coming on, the 64th was ordered on picket. Our position fell in a corn-field. As is usually the case after a great battle, we had a pouring rain. Our condition was anything but agreeable in this mud and soaking rain. Tired and hungry we had to grin and bear it, very thankful that we were yet alive. Company D had forty-seven men when we met the enemy at Spring Hill, a little over two weeks ago. Now there were eleven of us to stack arms.”
The Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, by Kerwood; 1868
Note: This account good for lead-ins to:
1. attack of the black troops
2. absence of the pontoon train and its impact on the pursuit of Hood (see Jenny)
“On the day after our arrival at Nashville, Hood approached, and we immediately took a position on the Granny White pike, two miles from the city, and threw up works. …
“The extreme cold weather prevented a move until the 15th of December. The troops were aroused, tents were taken down, and wagons loaded before daylight. As soon as it was sufficiently light, the movement … commenced. …
“Thus the action continued till 2 o’clock p.m., when the 2d Division advanced to support the 1ast in a movement against the enemy’s position on Montgomery Hill. … With our corps, it was an artillery fight … until 4o’clock, when the entire corps was massed for the assault on Montgomery Hill. …
“Although the city had for two weeks been besieged by Hood’s army, there seemed to be not a shadow of a doubt in the minds of any that we should be able to defeat them, and do it with small loss. It was a matter of observation among our officers that every thing was working just to the plan. Even the troops were so flushed with the prospect of success, that they were impatient to advance.
“A short time before we commenced the attack on Montgomery Hill, Col. Blanch remarked to Gen. Wood, who was then near our regiment, that he thought we should ‘whip them this time well.’ ‘Certainly, Colonel; we shall whip them, and do it easily,’ replied the General.
“When the signal was given, column after column dashed forward with loud and exultant cheers, to join in the movement. …
“On the left our line encountered a sharp volley, as it moved up to the works; but that was the last, for the enemy turned and fled, leaving their artillery and many prisoners in our hands. We continued the pursuit some two miles, when darkness put an end to our operations for that day.
“We now had possession of the camp formerly occupied by the enemy, and during the night we built a line of works.
“On the morning of the 16th we were up early, and at daybreak were ready for action. The enemy had fallen back until their left flank rested on the Brentwood Hills, and extended across the level ground in a south-east direction, crossing the Franklin pike at right angles. This was their line of retreat, in case they were again routed, and it was necessary they should maintain their old on it.
“Our brigade was formed in two lines, two hundred yards apart, with the 57th (Indiana) on the right of the front line. We advanced fully one mile before we found the enemy. Here we encountered their outposts, and at once commenced driving them in. The front line had now gained some distance, and the reserve line was a long ways behind. Col. Opdycke, of the 125th Ohio, division officer of the day, mistaking the hasty withdrawal of the enemy’s outposts for a general retreat, ordered the first line to charge the works of the enemy, which we at once proceeded to do; and when within fifty or sixty yards of their line, we were met by a destructive fire of artillery and musketry. So sudden and unexpected was the first volley from the enemy, that for a few moments our line was thrown into confusion.
“But order was soon restored, and in a short time we received orders to fall back two hundred yards from their works. The ground … was thickly covered with large poplar trees, which afforded cover to a portion of the command. Our reserves moved up within supporting distance, and established their line. At the front one half of the men were ordered to keep up a fire of musketry, while the others constructed a barricade of logs, chunks, and such material as was close at hand.
“Very little firing was done by the enemy when we were not advancing. … This enabled us to continue the work on our defenses, and in a short time we were supplied with picks and shovels. With these we soon completed a strong line of works.
“In the charge Col. Blanch was seriously wounded by a shell, and was obliged to leave the field. One man was killed, and several wounded, who still remained between the lines, but were rescued during the day.
“The command of the regiment now devolved upon Maj. McGraw; and Capt. McArthur of Company ‘F,’ the next officer in rank, assumed command of the left wing. …
“By … 2 o’clock p.m. there were no visible signs of active operations against the enemy. About this time our line was instructed to keep up a sharp fire of musketry when we saw the troops on our left move forward against the rebel works, on the Franklin pike.
“Already Gen. Thomas had sent Wilson’s cavalry and one division of infantry to march around the left flank of their army and gain their rear. It was also a part of his plan to break the line of the enemy on the pike, and cut off their retreat. A brigade of colored troops, supported by the 3d Division of the 4th Corps, made the assault near the pike; but their works were too well manned, and our column was repulsed. … Quiet was in a measure restored after the repulse. A heavy rain was falling, and with our oil-cloths wrapped about our shoulders we sat in our trenches, waiting and watching.
“Thicker and faster came the pattering rain-drops. But their music was suddenly drowned by the rattle of carbines and the cheers of our cavalry, over beyond the Brentwood Hills, as they pounced upon the unguarded flank of the enemy. Then the division of infantry joined the chorus by a yell, a charge, and a volley. It was taken up by the 16th Corps; and a few moments later we could see the right of the rebel army routed and broken, flying in disorder from the field, pursued by our troops.
“With difficulty our men were held in their places till the forces sweeping down the valley, tearing to pieces the flank of the enemy as they came, compelled the line in our front to rise and leave their works. Then the chase commenced. All in vain were the efforts of the officers, who attempted to keep the men in line.
“Hood’s army was running, broken, defeated, disorganized, panic-stricken, whipped. Infantry, cavalry, and artillery joined in the chase, driving them pell-mell to the pass of the Brentwood Hills. …
“We, of course, accompanied the troops in the pursuit; and had it not been for the mistake of the officer who commanded our pontoon train, there is reason to believe that almost all of Hood’s army would have been captured in the retreat from Nashville.”
Reminiscences, by Lanning. Courtesy of Bobbie Athon, Topeka, Kansas
“On the 25th we left St. Louis by boat bound for Nashville, Tennessee. General J. B. Hood, with a strong Confederate force, was advancing toward the same place. We arrived there November 30, 1864.
“We learned that a fierce battle had been fought that day at Franklin, Tennessee and that Hood’s army was approaching Nashville. We worked at night throwing up earthworks expecting an attack. The foe halted three or four miles away and began to fortify.
“Rain came on turning to sleet. Cold weather followed. Our shelter tents gave poor protection and we had only enough wood to cook our meals.
“By December 14 the sleet was melted, and orders came to be ready to move in the morning.
“December 15 the morning was very foggy. On that account we did not get an early start, and it was near eleven o’clock before we began the advance. Company D on the skirmish line. We found the enemy’s skirmishers in a piece of woods. Firing began at once. We pushed their line back as we advanced. When on a high point I saw the first Division advancing to attack a small fort north of us. The line, with flags flying and in splendid form advanced across an open field. The enemy’s cannon were firing rapidly. I could see breaks in our line but quickly closed up without a half. Behind the line I could see the blue coated boys lying as they had fallen in the advance.
“Then came a rushing shouting charge upon the fort. Our boys went over the earthwork. Part of the enemy started to run. Our boys turned the captured cannon around and began firing at them It was a sight to see what rapid speed some of the Johnnies could make.
“There was another fort in our front. The cannon firing was tremendous. The noise was so deafening that I could scarcely hear the report of my Springfield rifle. The dense clouds of battle smoke obscured the view. We were drawing closer. Canister shot and shrapnel were whizzing along with the zip of rifle bullets. Our skirmish line was firing from behind trees and a stone wall. Suddenly the smoke lifted and I saw the enemy’s battery postillions mount their horses and circle to the rear. I shouted, ‘Boys they are leaving,’ and at once started for the fort, some of the skirmishers following.
“When within a few yards of the embankment a charge of canister from somewhere swept all around me. Colonel Hill, commanding an Iowa regiment came dashing up on horseback at the same moment and was struck and killed, falling form his horse within a few feet of me. Then we (were) shelled furiously. Some of the boys took refuge behind a stone fence, but the shells knocked gaps in the wall making it a very undesirable position. Major Chapman commanding our skirmish line, ordered us forward into an open field and to lie down. We obeyed and wished we were no thicker than pancakes. Those shells were sailing might low.
“Another part of our line captured the battery that was shelling us and we now had peaceable possession of Mr. Hood’s fort.
“It was now evening. We had not thought of a dinner that day, but we not thought very sincerely about supper and proceeded without delay to get it. The shades of darkness gathered and we lay down between corn rows without tents, and the first day of the Battle of Nashville was ended. ‘Our bugles sang truce to the storm cloud that lowered And sentinel store set their watch in the sky And thousands lay down of the ground overpowered The weary to sleep, and the wounded to die.’
“December 16, at early dawn the army prepared to review the unfinished work. Advancing about two miles we found the enemy fortified at the foot of a range of hills. Between us and them lay a valley of farm land, perhaps three quarters of a mile wide. Our batteries and their went into immediate action while the Infantry lay down behind the guns. From this position we could see the shells from our guns in their flight.
“About 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. came orders for us to advance. Our batteries ceased firing as we passed between the guns, and the battery boys said ‘Hurry down the hill boys, we are going to fire over your heads.’ We went down on the run with tremendous shouting. Something struck the ground in front of me, scooping up a lot of dirt and filling my mouth full causing me to quit yelling for a while, until I could get rid of it. Now all the cannon were rapidly firing. The air seemed full of missiles, but we were conscious that the enemy shots were too high and our casualties were few. When within two hundred years of their line of earthworks, we halted and began firing and recording our wind.
“Then came the command, ‘Forward, double quick, march.’ We went whooping amid whistling bullets. When all at once the enemy broke and fled in confusion, leaving the guns of the batteries some of them half-loaded. As I sprang over the works I saw a Confederate flag lying in the mud. I wish now that I had picked it up for a souvenir. There were many rifles thrown away. Hood’s army was in wild flight southward.
“At dusk rain set in. The night was very dark. The regiment was ordered to move. The colonel inquired if any one had a candle. I happened to have a piece of one. He told me to light it and follow a road that the regiment might follow the light. It was necessary to shield the candle from the rain but we made it all right to our position. That was once I could claim that I led the regiment.
“Losses in the charge were about twenty in the regiment. Three of company D were wounded.
“December 17, started southward in pursuit of Hood’s army past Brentwood. On the days following, we went through Franklin, Spring Hill, Columbia, and Pulaski (Tennessee). We crossed Duck River at Columbia on a pontoon bridge. We saw several cannon which had been dumped into the river by Hood’s men.
“The weather was very rainy day after day. Our clothes and blankets saturated. Some of the boys threw away their blankets because they were so heavy, but afterward regretted the act.
“At Pulaski, we turned westward in the direction of Lamb’s Ferry. Passed through Lawrenceburg and Waynesborough. At the latter place, the ladies turned out to greet us waving Union flags and cheering for the Union. Snow fell on us but we cared little. It was all a part of soldiering.
“January 2, 1865, we arrived at Clifton on the Tennessee River. Here we went aboard boats and proceeded up the river.”
Frontier Dust, by Lord, edited by Natalie Shipman; 1926
“We captured some early in the day who wanted to quit and why shouldn’t they want to quit? No one of them had enough clothes to wad a single-barreled shotgun and many of them had nothing on their feet but any old rags that they could get hold of. … Some had old worn out shoes that let their feet on to the snow and ice and many of them left blood in their tracks.
“Late in the evening they took a very determined stand behind a stone fence. We were ordered to charge that fence. We charged down the slope of a hill and across a turnpike and them Johnnies stayed behind that wall until we began to push the top rocks off the wall on to their side. … They lit out across a field of corn stalks. …
“We went to the woods to camp and the Johnnies went to the top of the next ridge. When we got to the woods it was getting dark. George, my Bunkie, made a fire and I went back into the field to look for water. We remembered a little drain of surface water in the field. I took our canteens and coffee pot and found a pool and filled everything. The weather was moderating and the snow and ice were melting. The water was good and cold to drink and made good coffee.
“The next morning I went back to get some more water, and about twenty feet above where I got the water a man shot through the head lay with his head in the little stream. I called George. We didn’t say much. … I can’t say that I was really sick but I felt queer, and George said he did. George looked sick, and he said I did. We didn’t have any coffee that morning and we didn’t drink any water.
“We moved out early and knocked the Johnnies off that ridge and across a little valley on to another ridge and just kept them going like that all day.”
Diary of William McConnell, Private, Company I, 15th O.V.V.I., 1st Brigade, 3rd Div., 4th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, from September 16th, 1861, to August 2nd, 1865.
Note: There is no publication date for this account. Apparently it was edited and published by William’s brother, Charles. Charles’ preface was dated 1899, indicating the book was published that year. William McConnell was a clerk in the mustering office of division headquarters.
“December 1 – Morning cool. About 1 a. m. our troops commenced to evacuate Franklin and to fall back to Nashville. The Confederates kept shelling us very hard. Our division was rear guard and left Franklin about 3 a. m. Our brigade in the rear. We burnt the bridge before leaving. We moved on toward Nashville, went about nine miles, halted for breakfast and arrived at Nashville about noon. March eighteen miles. Had our headquarters in a large brick house.
“December 2 – In Nashville, Tenn. Very pleasant day. In the morning I set up our office and then went with Capt. McIlvaine and Bartlette around through Nashville. Skirmishing some out in the front. …
“December 3 – In Nashville nearly all day. In the forenoon they pressed my horse and took him to Gen. Wilson’s Headquarters. I went and got him again. Skirmishing at the front.
“December 4 – In the morning I found the Captain and about 10 a. m. we started out to the front to the camp. I went to the 15th Ohio. They were pressing citizens to work on the fortifications.
“That night, as I went back to the office, I was arrested by an officer of a new regiment as a spy, and taken to headquarters.
“December 5 – Very pleasant. I set up the office and did some work. Mustered out three companies of the 74th Ohio.
“December 6 – Worked all day in the office. Midling quiet at the front.
“December 7 – Very busy all day in the office. Got so windy that I moved the office in a house up-stairs
“December 8 – In the morning the enemy advanced their lines and drove our skirmishers in. I walked around through Nashville. Considerable excitement in Nashville. … Thomas McGann, of the 49th Ohio, had just got back to his regiment on furlough. Brought me some clothes from home.
“December 9 – Very cold. In the office all day. Very busy.
“December 10 – Very cold with snow and sleet. Done considerable of mustering.
“December 11 – Cold and ground covered with sleet. In the morning I went out to the 15th and 49th Ohio. Saw Andy Jamison. Thos. McGann and I went into town and to hospital No. 2 and saw T.C. Cory. Stayed all night with Milt Charles.
“December 12 – Very cold. I got up early and went out to my division and regiment, as there were signs of a general move of our troops. … I went to Corps Headquarters.
“December 13 – Cold. I did not have much to do in the office. … I went around through Nashville some and went to Corps Headquarters. Skirmishing some at the front. I went to Capt. Johnson’s and drew stationery.
“December 14 – Pleasant. The snow had melted. I done but little work in the office. …
“December 15 – Very muddy. … I was up at 3 a.m., had orders to move. A general advance of our troops. …
“December 16 – … Very wet and muddy. In the morning I went to my division and to my regiment. … Very wet night. I came back … and stayed at the brick house.
“December 17 – Raining and muddy. … In the morning I met Bill Stough. He was going to bury Jacob Ward, of our regiment. I went with him and helped him bury Jacob Ward.
“I then started after my division, caught up with them near Franklin, Tenn., where we camped that night.”
History of the Eighty-First Regiment of Indiana Volunteer Infantry in the Great War of the Rebellion 1861 to 1865, by Morris; 1901
“On December 2, we rested part of the day. At 1 o’clock the enemy appeared in our front and skirmishing commenced. We were hastily deployed, and commenced throwing up a line of works. When we got them about half finished we fell back about half a mile and took up our position near Fort Casino, where we commenced fortifying again. We received orders during the night to keep the men constantly at work, as it was expected the enemy would assault them in the morning at sun-up
“On December 3 … we remained quiet all day in our works. Skirmishing was constantly going on. We had orders to strengthen our works and form abates in front of them.
“On December 4, we moved to the right, about the length of a regiment, and constructed new works and put up our tents.
“On December 5, skirmishing was lively all day between the pickets. Nevertheless some of the boys got passes and went to the city.
“December 6, 7 and 8, the weather turned very cold and everything was very disagreeable, but we still kept to our works. The enemy made a dash on the picket line of our brigade at 11 a.m., and our regiment went out on the double-quick to reinforce them, but the enemy fell back.
“December 9, 10 and 11, found us still in our works and keeping very close, as it was still very cold. Everything on the lines was quiet except an occasional shot from our artillery, the boys hugging the fires closely.
‘December 12, we were having heavy firing all day on our picket lines, and the night before it was kept up all night. It looked to us as if we would soon have a fight, as we got orders to be ready to move at a moment’s notice.
“On December 13, we were still watching the enemy closely. Our orders were to have all our surplus baggage packed and ready for storage. The weather had moderated some, but it was snowing and sleeting. There was not so much firing on the lines as the day before.
“December 14, was muddy, sloppy and cloudy day. Our orders were to be ready to move on the enemy. …
“We had reveille at 4 a.m., December 15. Troops were moving early and passing to our right. We received orders to fall in line. After receiving words of encouragement from Colonel Kirby, commanding the brigade, to hold the post of honor, our division marched toward the right, one and a half miles, halting outside our main works. Troops were moving in all directions. We formed a line of battle, three regiments front. All this time heavy cannonading was going on at our right, and it kept coming down the line. We advanced slowly, driving their skirmishers and taking their (rifle) pits.
“At 4 o’clock our brigade was ordered to charge a high hill in our front, close to the Hillsboro pike, called Montgomery Hill. We did so, capturing part of the Thirty-fifth Mississippi. Our loss was twenty-two killed and wounded in the charge. Among the mortally wounded was Captain Schell, of our regiment. … Our regiment was in the front line, and the Eighty-first was the first to plant the flag on the enemy’s works. We camped on the battle field.
“On December 16, in the morning, it looked like we would have a fine day, but in the afternoon it clouded up and some rain fell. Some prisoners brought in reports that the enemy was not far off. The Second Division took the advance, … but we followed in supporting distance. Before proceeding very far we found the enemy entrenched near Brentwood Hill. The Second Division charged the enemy’s works and was repulsed.
“We threw up works, and shortly afterward were ordered to the left, in the rear of Whittaker’s Brigade. There was very heavy cannonading and musket firing along the enemy’s center, but it was only a feint, for in a short time their flanks were turned by Smith and Schofield, and just before night the enemy beat a full retreat. Our regiment lost only two men, severely wounded. We followed the enemy a few miles and went into camp on a high rise of ground alongside or close to a large house and outbuildings.
“On December 17, we marched out early in the morning through mud and rain until 4 p.m., and went into camp near Franklin, on the banks of the Harpeth River. We passed a great many prisoners on their way to Nashville, that were taken by our cavalry. …
“On December 18, we crossed the Harpeth River in the morning, on a new bridge built by our pioneers, and passed through Franklin. There was a great many wounded rebs there as well as our own wounded. We marched rapidly and passed the enemy’s graveyard, which was just outside the works we occupied during the battle there. This was the place they charged us so often, and were repulsed. They were buried where they fell, mostly in front of our works, and in many places the graves were very thick. In one place, all in the same row, we counted twenty-seven privates and three commissioned officers, all belonging to the same company. It was an Alabama regiment.”
Note: “1st Alabama?” is a handwritten note on the copy I copied. It is written by the comments on the graves of the Alabama regiment.
The Rough Side of War, The Civil War Journal of Chesley A. Mosman, 1st Lieutenant, Company D, 59th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, edited by Arnold Gates; 1987.
Editor’s note: “Acklin Estate” is the home of Adelicia Acklen, Nashville’s richest woman. Her mansion is named Belmont.
“Got up and ate breakfast and … at 8 A.M. moved out, leaving the 93rd to hold our works. We moved to a pike on the westside of the ‘Acklin Estate’ which I think is the Hillsboro Pike and formed outside our works. Our Regiment in double column at half distance and in second line. There is no mistaking the meaning. … It certainly means fight. We lay around for some time, then moved through some thick brush and deployed and found ourselves on the front line. We charged the Rebel line and took it, meeting with only slight resistance from skirmishers that occupied it, standing in line of battle there. Our Provost Marshal was drunk and ran his horse over some men but he exposed himself freely to the enemy’s fire. Post and his staff rode along the line during the hottest fire of the day. We moved forward to the top of a hill and lay down. Rebels shell us in this position. Fell in and charged Montgomery Hill. When I got within two hundred yards of the works I fell on the ground pretty had. I got up, and looking back to see what tripped me, started forward when down I came again. By this time I realized that my right foot would not work. A bullet had hit me on the ankle, but at first I thought my foot was shot away. Looking forward I saw that the boys had taken the works.
“I hobbled to the rear and finding David Neely’s horse got on it and rode and then took an ambulance for the hospital. (Captain) Mennet was there, shot through the forearm. Jones of Company F, Allen a color sergeant, William White of Company K, and Marion H. Walker of Company G, all with Mennet and me in one tent. …
“We were ordered to town in an ambulance …, and we are assigned to Ward 10, first division, Cumberland Hospital. Mennet’s arm is very painful. …
“My leg is better, swollen some and painful to walk but it’s all right and I’ll be on duty in four or five days. Breakfast brought in. Change my clothing. Christian Commission officers come around, offer to write home for me. Several men round take down names of the wounded. Heavy fighting going on all day and the report is that the Rebels are worsted. Mennet writes home. One man has his leg amputated. Another sings while they saw bones out of his foot. …
“Papers report that we took five thousand prisoners and thirty cannon. I don’t believe it. It is too good to be true.
“Lieut. McAdams comes to see us and brings Mennet his valise. Captain Mennet slept some and his army is very painful but the wound is not serious. Wrote a letter for him. …
“Man next to me has his arm taken off at the shoulder joint. … No cannonading today which shows that Hood is on the retreat. Read ‘Eclectic’ magazine to pass away the time. Names are taken down of men in condition to go to the rear and they will go to Louisville tomorrow at 5 A.M. …
“We got newspapers which proclaims a great victory and describing the battle. The doctor paints Mennet’s arm with iodine. Wounded men that can walk or are not seriously wounded leave for Lousiville. Carriages being sent for them. Suppose they have more wounded here than surgeons can attend to. I am not going for I intend to return to the Company as soon as I can.”
The National Tribune, Nov. 28, 1912
Phelps commanded the color company in the attack on Shy’s Hill
“The command of Maj.-Gen. A.J. Smith … was … ordered – Nov. 24 – … by steamers to Nashville, Tenn. …
“Thursday, Dec. 1, at daylight, we found upon awakening that we had arrived at Nashville, and had stopped just below the drawbridge. We disembarked about 9 o’clock and marched to the State House, where Gov. Andrew Johnson, Vice President-elect, delivered an address to our command. We then marched thru the city and out four miles. About dark we moved onto a hill and began to fortify. We worked on trenches until 10 o’clock p.m.
“On Sunday, Dec. 4, we dug more rifle pits, and the enemy came within sight of us, but did not attack us. An attack was made on the troops to our left. Our artillery shelled the enemy. The enemy’s cavalry pickets were in plain view about one mile away. The weather was bad, and we watched each other and dug pits day after day. …
“The cavalry came across the Cumberland on the 13th, and went into camp near our corps.
“Wednesday, the 14th, we came in from picket at 4 p.m., and received orders to advance on the enemy’s works at 6 o’clock in the morning. …
“We marched our to the front, came up to the enemy, and got under fire at about 9:30, after marching thru brush, timber, cleared fields and over muddy roads. Our corps took two forts with batteries of nine guns that day. …
“Friday, Dec. 16, McArthur’s First Division took position in front of Shy’s Hill, about a half mile west of the Granny White pike. The hill was occupied by Tyler’s Brigade, Bate’s Division. …
“We were in front of Couch’s Second Division, Twenty-third Corps. …
“The enemy … had a strong battery planted to the right and rear of Shy’s Hill, which began to shell our position at 1:30 p.m. Col. McMillen moved his brigade to the left and down into a ravine at 2 p.m. right under a high ridge, which was strongly manned by the enemy. One company of the brigade was advanced in skirmish line in a cornfield in the valley, while the other men of the brigade lay down or dug pits. While we sat waiting for the order to move the musket balls – nearly spent – fell around us. …
“Two lines were formed – the 93d Ind., 114th Ill. And 10th Minn. in the front line; the 72d and 95th Ohio in the second line, with orders to advance with fixed bayonets, without firing a shot, and take the enemy’s works. Our two batteries shelled the enemy until our two lines were in range. The two lines were in one line when they began to ascend the hill. The enemy had a tremendous raking fire on us as we were crossing the narrow valley. When our line came within about 60 yards of the enemy their musket balls began to whiz and sing about our heads. Then as we neared the works the heat of the burning powder and the flash was in our faces. One man who was right in front of me was tearing off his blanket. As he turned and went down I saw that his clothing was on fire.
“We heard the cheers of the other brigades of McArthur’s Division charging on our right and left. They had seen the predicament in which we were, and had rushed in without orders. We drove the enemy out of his works at the point of the bayonet. …
“Our losses were not great, as the enemy … fired wild and overshot us.
“The Confederates, when we were close on to them, threw axes, shovels and muskets at us. Col. Hubbard of the 8th Minn., was hit in the head with an axe and severely wounded.”
Memoirs, 1861-1865, by Phillips; 1909
Phillips was the gunner on No. 4 gun
“The morning of December 15th, under a heavy fog, we moved out of our works, and about 10 a.m., as the fog raised a little, we found ourselves in front of a small fort, somewhat in advance of the main rebel line, which just then opened with four guns on our infantry to our left. We immediately opened fire on them, but the infantry advancing so rapidly we did not draw their fire. Now we advanced a hundred yards and opened on them again, and here No. 2 gun of the battery – served mostly by 47th Illinois men – had a premature discharge which took No. 1’s arms off above the elbows. This was caused by the gun not being properly swabbed or that No. 3 did not properly thumb the vent. …
“After a few shots here we limbered to the front and, with the horses at a gallop turned a little to the right around the head of a steep ditch and came into action again on the left flank of this fort and not more than 150 yards from it. We fired a few shots here, when the infantry, without a halt … went right over the parapet into the fort and turned the guns on the fleeing artillerymen and their support. This action had been so rapid that it caught No. 4 gun – which we were pointing – loaded with a 1-second shell. In less than two minutes we were up in rear of the fort and in battery. The infantry and dismounted cavalry were now ahead of us, had passed over a level plain of perhaps a hundred yards and started up a steep hill on which was another rebel fort and we could not fire over them until they reached the crest. We knew our short-time shell would explode over our own men and that would not do at all, and not having a worm to withdraw it we sent for the ‘old man’; he rode up and, pointing sharp to the left, said: ‘Let it go there and get to work in front, quick.’ In the direction he pointed there was nothing to be seen except space and a long stone wall. This wall was just a little in advance of us and we could not see what might be behind it. Our shell exploded low over this wall and the infantry coming up to that place, just then a whole brigade of the enemy raised up from behind the wall, laid down their arms and went to rear as prisoners.
“By the time our own gun had put three or four shells into the fort in front, the infantry and cavalry were going over the walls, and we ceased firing.
“At this time and place … (I) came near being killed by concussion. As the gun was loaded for the second shot and … (I) had the gun pointed … (I) told … No. 4, a 47th Illinois man, ready. Now, No. 4’s duty was to insert his friction primer in vent, stretch his lanyard tight and not fire until his gunner said ‘fire.’ As soon as … (I) said ready … (I) jumped to … (my) place between the hub and muzzle of the gun. This exact position was not always taken by the gunner, but … (I was) … taking it that day that … (I) might see if our shells were exploding where we wanted them to – right over the fort. Before … (I) could ‘break’ to receive the concussion or give the order to fire, No. 4 ‘let her go,’ and … (I) came to … (my) hands and knees stone deaf and blind except that … (I) saw the pearly gates of heaven and the millions of beautiful stars shining in the firmament … , and if … (I) thought of anything for the next few moments it was that … (I) would surely die. …
“(I) was now led a few rods to the rear and sat down on the ground. …
“After a while … (I) got to … (my) feet and found … (I) could still hear and see things as they actually were. … (I) took … (my) place at the gun again, which was now silent. …
“As the firing ceased in our front, this force that had come up on our left and captured the enemy behind the stone wall, went a little to the front, swung a one-fourth circle to the left and started up a long steep hill, on top of which there was another strong fort well supported with infantry. This fort being distant from us about the extreme range of our guns, we elevated our guns and put many solid shots into it before it was finally captured. This place was much more stubbornly defended than the other two forts had been. … Progress up this hill was very slow, with heavy loss on our side, but … just as the sun was going down our men went over the walls and completely routed the enemy again.
“We now went forward, passed this fort, and some distance east and at dark replied to a battery that was firing in front of the 23d Corps. The flash of the guns was beautiful to see. This did not last long and ended the fighting for that day. …
“The army worked far into the night throwing up intrenchments. …
“Having fasted most of the previous day we were up early the morning of the 16th and got a good breakfast and prepared something for lunch. We now took the guns out of the little fort we had made during the night, faced south, went forward a little way and presently saw to the southeast of us a rebel train going south. This we opened up on, struck several wagons and teams, and such frantic efforts as they made to get out of sight we never saw.
“We now went forward again and presently came up behind our brigade lying flat on the ground along the crest of a little ridge running east and west. We knew they were close to the enemy’s main line but could see nothing ourselves. Here we went into battery and remained most of the day.
“Presently General McArthur – now commanding the division – came up and just behind us sat down on a log and from here kept his aids going and coming all day. Colonel Hubbard, commanding the brigade, also established his headquarters here. This little ridge where our men were lying in front of, as it approached the granny-white pike east of us, fell away a little, which gave us a grand view beyond it. And to the east of us beyond the pike there was a nice level field of perhaps a quarter of a mile in extent from north to south, and along the south side of this field was a heavy timber and dense growth of underbrush. To our right there was a hill (Shy’s Hill) that in height and abruptness was almost a mountain. This steep hill was in a dense forest. Over and down the east side of this hill, along the edge of a little valley in front of us, across the pike and through the heavy timber and brush south of the field, ran the rebel intrenchments. … Farther to our right and left we knew nothing of how the country looked. To our left and front where we had a view over this little ridge we could see a section of a stone wall, our own gun being on the left of the company and nearest this wall.
“Captain Reed came to us about noon and said: ‘Corporal, do you think you can hit that wall and not injure our men lying our there?’ … (I) replied ‘Yes sir; we think we can.’ ‘You may try it,’ he said. ‘There is probably some of the enemy there.’ … (I) looked at the wall, estimated the distance … , ordered a shell fuse cut so … it would explode right, and when loaded took careful aim. This shell missed our men, went just over the wall and exploded a little way beyond. Some of the men out in front turned half way over and shook their fists at us. The whir of the shell so close to them was pretty severe. … (I) now had a shell cut a fraction of a second shorter loaded and this time … (I) straddled the trail, set … (my) ‘trunnion hans’ – this is a little instrument used on the breech of a cannon, same as a globe sight on a rifle. This instrument is used only in target firing. After having the gun pointed … (I) looked through the sight and gave the breech screw about two turns up, then carefully lowered it until … (I) thought … (I) had the right elevation – we let ’er go. The shell missed our men by two or three feet, sent the stones flying from the top of the wall and exploded right there. . . . We fired several more shots, some of which struck the wall, but if the enemy was there they did not show themselves. We soon ceased firing, ate our lunch and waited. …
“Every regimental, brigade and division commander had his orders from General Thomas that at 3 p.m., when one signal gun would be fire, the army would make one grand assault. … Promptly at that minute the gun was heard and the army rose to its feet and went right over and … on top of them. … The battery could do nothing here, and all who could find shelter behind trees took it. … When our 3d Brigade came out into that open field and one-third of the way across it, it uncovered a six-gun battery in this thick underbrush along the south side of the field. This battery opened with canister and then double canister, and such slaughter! The brown field … was literally blue with fallen men. We thought they would falter, but … they … went forward without firing a shot and … were lost to view in the smoke of the guns. For one moment the battery was silent and the next moment was sending its shot in the opposite direction after the fleeing enemy. … There were two or three hundred prisoners brought back through the battery. …
“We now ran forward to where our men had been lying down and found they had been within fifty yards of the enemy’s line all day. Here, for the first and only time, there was issued to each man a gill of whisky. … Many of them … threw their portion on the ground. …
“We now unlimbered the battery, moved to the left and a little ways in the rear of where the rebel line had been, and in a cold rain made our camp for the night.
“On the morning of the 17th, by the time we were half dressed, we were on the road in pursuit, and as we wallowed through the slush and mud everybody sang:
“ ‘Hoe your cake and scratch your gravel,
“ ‘In Dixie’s land I’m bound to travel,
“ ‘Look away, look away, look away down south in Dixie.’ ”
History of the Second Iowa Cavalry, by Pierce; 1865
“While at Edgefield the weather became intensely cold, the thermometer settling to 10 deg. below zero. No wood was furnished for the command, and all the protection we had from the wintry blasts, was a simple canvass covering for the frozen ground, and a soldier’s blanket.
“The suffering caused by the want of wood and a comfortable camp, far exceeded anything we had ever been called upon to endure upon the march or the battlefield. Our camping ground was an open field, with the exception of a few large gum trees. Guards were placed over every rail or stick of wood in the vicinity. At first the boys cut the gum trees in camp, and with them made fires on the company grounds, around which they clustered to keep from freezing. … On the morning of December 9th, a bitter cold day, we were greeted by an order to cut no more trees. Had this order been obeyed, every soldier in the command must inevitably have frozen to death, except such generals as toasted their toes by warm parlor fires. … The boys managed to steal enough from the guards to keep from freezing. Some of the men constructed underground furnaces in their tents, and so economised the heat that three rails per day would suffice. They were purloined at night and packed a half mile on our backs. …
“The cavalry recrossed the Cumberland river to the Nashville side December 12th, and for three days we camped in an open field east of the city. The mud in this field was knee-deep, which rendered our stay very unpleasant, and caused the boys to become impatient … for … the battle field. …
“Brig.-Gen. Hatch commanded the fifth division cavalry corps, and occupied the right of Gen. A.J. Smith’s corps. Col. D.E. Coon commanded the second brigade, fifth division, which was composed of the Second Iowa, Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Illinois and the Second Tennessee cavalry, with battery ‘I’ of the First Illinois light artillery. Maj. Horton commanded the Second Iowa, while Maj. Schmitzer, and Capt’s. Foster and Bandy each commanded a battalion of this regiment. Most of the cavalry moved out dismounted, as mounted men could effect but little when operating against breastworks.
“Soon after the ball opened, Gen. Hatch made a left half wheel, when we found ourselves confronting a strong rebel redoubt, from which five cannon saluted us with shot and shell. By order of Col. Coon the second brigade battery was quickly thrown into position, and the Second Iowa cavalry detailed to support it – covered as well as we could be by a little rise in the ground. The artillery duel which followed was unusually brisk, the guns of both sides being manned with great ability. Soon … a shell from our battery exploded a rebel caisson, … while their shell killed two of the Second Iowa, and wounded Lieut. Boget of Company ‘H.’
“When our artillery ammunition became exhausted, Gen. Hatch ordered us to ‘go for the fort.’ The cover was so poor that supporting artillery was very trying business, and the boys gladly heard the order to decide the issue with a charge; all sprang forward, and in three minutes the fort with its guns and 200 prisoners was in Federal hands. As we sprang over the rebel works, our shouts of triumph were answered by a shower of lead and iron from our right; glancing in that direction we beheld another strongly fortified redoubt, situated 500 yards to our right and far above us, upon a pinnacle, … from which belching cannon and blazing musketry hurled death and defiance upon us.
“To remain in our capture fort was certain death, to retreat promised little better, while to attempt the capture of this second fort seemed madness. But Hatch … ordered us to follow him and carry this fort as we had the other, by storm. … . The entire brigade was mixed together like a crowd of school-boys. It was deemed inexpedient to delay to re-form and advance in line, hence the regimental commanders called upon their men to follow them, while Hatch and Coon led towards the second redoubt. Some difficulty was experienced by the officers in checking their men from pursuing the retreating rebels from the first redoubt, but it was finally accomplished, and all moved together upon the fort. …
“The boys, unused to marching on foot, had now charged for nearly a mile and were so completely exhausted as to be wholly unable to move faster than a slow walk … up the hill. … Now some one too much fatigued to go father would sink down behind a tree, and there discharge his seven loads and reload his carbine, and then slowly drag himself up the fearful heights. Gen. Hatch directed one fellow, too much exhausted to go farther, to take his horse by the tail, and thus aided him up the hill. In this way the boys kept up such a stream of lead whistling over the fort … to keep the rebels from rising above the works to fire, and when the did shoot they had no time to aim … , hence their balls usually whistled harmlessly past us. …
“The defenders fought until our boys had scaled the works and engaged in a hand to hand encounter, and until the Major commanding fell severely wounded, when they yielded to … superior numbers.
“Among the first to enter the fort was the color bearer of the Second Iowa, Serg’t John F. Hartman, of Company ‘F.’ He had been the first to plant the flag of the free in the first fort,and now … he planted his colors within this stronghold. But … he fell mortally wounded just as this action closed. … With these forts the second brigade captured over 500 prisoners and eight pieces of cannon, two wagons loaded with entrenching tools, also a large quantity of fixed ammunition. …
“McMillin’s brigade of McCarther’s division of infantry, participated in these charges, but the cavalry entered both forts ahead of them. …
“We discovered still another (fort) upon a hill to our left, from which the enemy still poured their deadly rain. The second brigade was too much exhausted to go farther, but the first brigade, Col. Stewart commanding, was now on hand. … To this brigade General Hatch galloped, having first turned the captured guns on the enemy. At the sight of their General, the boys of this brigade raised a yell and enthusiastically followed him up the hill and into the rebel fort, which surrendered. …
“In all these charges Gen. Hatch and Col. Coon had been in the foremost rank, and being mounted, while their men were dismounted, it is the greatest wonder that they came out untouched. …
“After the first fort surrendered, the woods around was full of rebels fleeing from the captured works. … Lieut. Kinnin … and Serg’t Beesom, … and Thomas Anderson … , and Winn … and Ben. Lilly, … all being mounted, dashed among the retreating rebels with drawn sabers, and drove over fifty back to our lines as prisoners. Lieut. Watson … and others, who were dismounted, headed off large squads and drove them back to our column.
“Now night put an end to the fight.
“Our division had been engaged but a few hours, and yet it had completely turned the rebel left, doubling them, panic stricken, back upon the center, with a loss of three of their best forts, twelve pieces of artillery, a large ammunition train and many prisoners. …
“Gen. Hatch continued to press back the rebel left as he had done the day before. The enemy had, during the night, erected strong works upon a chain of hills back of the one captured by the fifth division on the previous day. About noon the Seventh Illinois, who were on the right, charged a hill in their front capturing it with a large number of prisoners, but the enemy being strongly reinforced at this point, the Seventh was repulsed with heavy loss.
“The Ninth Illinois, who occupied the left of the brigade, now joined in fierce combat with the occupants of a strongly fortified pinnacle in their front. A battery was thrown into position on the left which opened upon the rebels on this hill with telling effect. Gen. Hatch now called for companies ‘L’ and ‘K’ of the Second Iowa to assist in dragging two pieces of cannon, by the aid of a rope, to the top of a pinnacle held by the Second Iowa, which commanded the works of the enemy. The General assisted in this work with his own hands. When the cannon were planted they raked the enemy’s lines with such telling effect, that they soon yielded to a charge from the Ninth Illinois. …
“The Seventh Illinois now advanced upon the enemy in their front with complete success, the rebels retreating in every direction.
“Col. Coon hotly pursued the retreating foe, and just after dark he charged with the Twelfth Tennessee cavalry … resulting in the complete route of the enemy. The Twelfth Tennessee captured Brig.-General Ruker, with a stand of division colors and many prisoners. This closed the action for the day. …
“On the morning of the 17th we moved out behind the seventh division, Gen. Nipe commanding. … About 2 o’clock p.m., the enemy was compelled to make a stand to save their train. They selected a strong position and opened upon the seventh division with artillery, strongly supported by cavalry and infantry. This stand was made on the Little Harpeth Creek, a few miles south of Franklin.
“Gen. Hatch galloped to Nipe’s assistance, and both divisions formed for a mounted charge, under a galling artillery fire. The charging line was a mile and a half in length. …
“We had a long ride over a very rough country before we reached the rebel lines. The Little Harpeth also had to be crossed, which, together with the volleys of the enemy from a strong and well covered position, completely broke our line before we reached them. As we neared the fence behind which the rebels lay, we were greeted by a galling and well aimed fire. … The enemy was dismounted and well covered. … The Federals broke through the fence and joined in a hand to hand struggle with the enemy. Most of them were dressed in Federal uniforms, and as it was quite dark and foggy, it was with great difficulty we discerned friend from foe. Many of our boys, mistaking the enemy for friends, rode into their lines, and either obeyed the summons to surrender, usually pronounced over a dozen leveled muskets, or by desperate fighting cut their way out wit fearful loss. … Clubbed muskets, sabers and pistols were freely used. … Now some fellow so overpowered by numbers as to make further resistance madness, would surrender; the next instant a ball from a friend’s carbine would lay the captor dead at the prisoner’s feet, and thus liberated he would rejoin his comrades in the fight. …
“As the contending forces came together, private Dominic Black … ordered the rebel color bearer to surrender; he refused, when Black, followed by others, rushed upon him. Just as he was in the act of striking the color bearer down with his sabre, one of the color guards shot him through the heart. Serg’t. Coulter then seized the flag, wrenching it from the hands of the bearer; … Coulter … was shot through the shoulder by a rebel not three steps distant; though severely wounded he succeeded in escaping with the prize.
“Private Wall was confronted by a rebel who placed the muzzle of his gun against his breast. Wall dropped his own gun … and grabbed the barrel of the rebel’s, forcing its aim past his side. Tho’s Bell rushed to Wall’s relief with an empty carbine; seeing Bell, the rebel dropped the gun for which he was tussling, and jerking a pistol from his belt fired at Bell’s head, missing him; he saw another pistol in the rebel’s belt and … secured it and with it killed his antagonist. Wall who had the rebel’s gun, killed with it a second rebel who had assaulted Bell; he now attempted to escape when he was assailed by a third, to whom he surrendered. As he was being marched to the rear, Hilderbrand rushed to his relief and snapped his carbine in the rebel’s face; it missed fire; the rebel snapped at Hilderbrand with like result, when the two clinched. Magee … rushed to Hilderbrand’s aid, but was felled to the ground by a blow from the rebel’s musket. Chas. Shultz … killed the rebel that struck Magee and rescued him as well as Hilderbrand.
“A rebel shot at L.L. Backus … after Backus had ordered him to surrender, but missing him begged for quarters. Backus no refused to take him prisoner and fired upon him, missing his aim; the rebel … rushed upon him with his pistol, carrying ‘D-m you, I’ll teach you to shoot at me after I have surrendered.’ Backus was too quick for him, however, and felled him with the butt of his carbine, at the same time throwing another ball into the barrel, with which he killed him. Before he could reload, another rebel fired at him, taking off two of his fingers.
“Wm. Anderson escaped from a hand to hand encounter with an officer, with the loss of one eye. John Tabb was forced to surrender, but relieved by Wall, who killed his guard. Corp’l Margretz … , Corporal Heck … , private McCormic … and a member of the Seventh Illinois were all killed in this struggle for the flag; also eight rebels.
“Privates Hammitt, Allbrook and Bennett … were captured in this conflict. … Seven others were captured. …
“Lieut. Griffith, with ten men … and the Second Iowa standard, passed through the Confederate lines, but escaped capture by playing off (as a) rebel.”
Memoir, courtesy descendant John Sheets
Pressnall was a company commander
“In the night march from Franklin to Nashville, our regiment by reason of its worn out condition and loss of sleep, were entirely unfitted to properly perform the duties assigned it as Rear Guard of our retreating army. We had all we could do to take care of ourselves. With utmost care taken to keep our men on their feet and in line of march, we lost three during the night, who were picked up by the advancing enemy. …
“When we were within about three miles of our destination, Nashville, a slight impediment in the road ahead had caused a halt of not longer than a minute or two. Immediately at my right, there was a rail fence, which in a standing position, I leaned up against. The act of leaning against the fence is perfectly clear in my mind, but right there, memory ceased for a period of a few minutes over two hours. When suddenly awakening, I found myself crouching on the ground in a position just as I had slid down, leaning against the fence. Troops gone, darkness and silence everywhere. At first I was uncertain as to direction to take. I was alive to the fact that one end of the road led to capture by the enemy, and the other to Nashville and safety, except probably a severe reprimand by General Henderson. In a moment, I remembered that I had leaned against the fence at my right, face front, so I hopped off at a lively gait in the direction indicated.
“When starting on the road, I noticed what seemed to be a considerable army encamped on a parallel road about a half mile distant in an easterly direction. It was yet dark, but I could plainly see persons standing and moving about their numerous camp fires strung along the road for a distance of three or four hundred yards. I soon determined that they were rebel troops and that their picket lines might command the road I was on, in which case my chance for safe return would be many times lessened.
“There being apparently no other course to pursue, I kept right on, and found the way clear, coming up with our forces just at break of day, December 1st, 1864. At this time our regiment – except regimental officers – were without tents, extra blankets, and had not had a change of clothing for over two months. A section of our wagon train carrying these extra supplies having been captured by the enemy and Uncle Sam had not yet given us a re-supply.
“The regiment had halted about a hundred feet in front of the union fortifications south of the city, and having had two or three hours rest, were at the time of my arrival mostly engaged in preparing their breakfast, consisting of coffee and crackers. Lieutenant C. N. Scott, my wife’s brother, commander of the company in my absence, had seen me approaching, when two or three hundred yards distant, came to meet me, saying he had given me up as somehow lost during the night, and probably captured by the enemy. He said he had reported my absence to the Colonel, who agreed that such was likely the case. The company regarded it a good joke on me, that having given them such strict orders to keep on their feet and in line of march, had myself disobeyed the order.
“The night following our arrival at Nashville, we received an additional blanket, besides the one we carried with us – a blanket of snow over six inches deep had fallen during the night. I was the first one of the company to awaken that morning. Crawling out from under the snow and looking along the line of sleeping soldiers, it was plain that none had moved since the snow had fallen. The thermometer showed a temperature of six below zero, and had it not been for the blanket of snow, we would have suffered with the cold. The warm breath of each had kept a small opening to the surface, making breathing easy.
“At this time, our Colonel and Regimental Surgeon, who with other regimental officers had been comfortably quartered during the night inside the fortifications, came. The surgeon had come to investigate the physical condition of the men and the colonel with orders to move the regiment inside the city fortifications. Within an hour, we were comfortably located in barracks situated in the southern suburbs of the city of Nashville, and as quickly as the company officers could complete a list of supplies needed, our quartermaster furnished each company a full military equipment, consisting principally of clothing, blankets, provisions, and culinary supplies. A happy lot we were. For seven months, except two weeks following the capture of Atlanta, we had been continuously in contact with the enemy, marching, fighting, or digging trenches for protection against sudden attack by the enemy. On the following day we were all busy writing to the dear ones at home.
“The battle of Franklin was on the last day of November, 1864. The battle of Nashville was on the 15th and 16th days of December, 1864.
“During the fifteen days intervening between the two battles, the opposing armies were diligently preparing for the final struggle at Nashville; a struggle of vital importance, for if the union forces defeated the enemy, they would have absolute control of eight of the original seceding states, which if we could hold a few months, certainly would lead to the downfall of the rebellion. On the other hand, if the enemy succeeded in capturing Nashville, it might prolong the war indefinitely.
“Immediately after dark, December 14th, our entire Corps was moved from its comfortable position within the city limits to the highest ridge of the many high ridges surrounding the city of Nashville on the south. This placed our Corps again on the fighting line, on the extreme right flank of General Thomas’ army; our 3rd division on the right flank of the Corps slightly overlapping the extreme left wing of General Hood’s army. From this position off to our left, we had a fine view of both the rebel and union lines of entrenchments, facing each other approximately six to eight hundred yards apart.
“On the morning of December 15th, a general assault was directed against the rebel entrenchment, engaged in by General Thomas’ entire army, except our Corps situated on the right flank as heretofore described. The fighting was continuous during the day. From our favorable point of observation, we could see that our forces were continuously driving the enemy back from point to point, and then night came, and all was quiet. Word was passed along our lines that during the day our forces had driven the enemy’s right and center on a half wheel fully eight miles.
“Soon after daylight the following morning, December 16th, fighting in sections was resumed by our forces, and kept up during the day until just before sunset when a grand charge was ordered by General Thomas, which involved his entire army, except our Corps on the extreme right, which was being held as a reserve, ready for action on a minute’s notice.
“Within half an hour after this general charge started, General Hood’s army was on the run, completely demoralized. Our Corps immediately following the general break and retreat of Hood’s army, joined in his pursuit, which was in the direction of the Tennessee River, which he reached at a point near the Mississippi state line on the 28th, and got what was left of his shattered army across the river on the 29th day of December, 1864. …
“Thus ended the battle of Nashville, which restored the Union control of all that portion of the confederacy north and west of Virginia and the Carolinas, a sure portend of the utter collapse of the rebellion at an early date.
“Immediately following the battle at Nashville I was ordered to take my company back to Franklin and rebury our regiment’s dead, whom on our hasty retreat from there on the night of November 30th, 1864, we had left lying in the trench where they had fallen, covering their bodies with the loose dirt thrown up in front of the trench. We found conditions there much worse than expected. Recent heavy rains had washed the dirt away to such extent that the faces of all were exposed – an appalling sight. On examination, I found our entire defense line from river to river in similar condition, and sent a corporal to so advise our Colonel, who at once notified General Schofield of the conditions as reported by me, and before we had finished the reburial of our dead, the other twenty to thirty regiments, having been engaged in the battle of Franklin, were similarly engaged in the reburial of their dead.”
Ralsa C. Rice Yankee Tigers Through the Civil War with the 125th Ohio, edited by Richard A. Baumgartner & Larry M. Strayer; 1992
Baumgartner and Strayer comment on Rice and his writings: “He wrote extensively after the late 1870s for the Warren Tribune, The Western Reserve Chronicle and The National Tribune. … The battle of Franklin was Rice’s most common theme in his National Tribune articles, published between 1880 and 1911. … Six years before his death at the age of 73, Rice’s full-length Civil War memoir, Three Years with the 125th Ohio, Opdycke’s Tigers, was published in The National Tribune Scrap Book, an obscure and now rare pamphlet which featured ‘stories of the camp, march, battle, hospital and prison told by comrades.’ The memoir details the experiences of Rice and his fellow company members from the organization of the 125th Ohio in 1862 to their muster-out in mid-1865. With the exception of adding Rice’s June 16, 1865, letter of resignation, this edition appears essentially unchanged from the 1905 publication.”
From Rice’s account of Nashville:
“Nashville in 1864 was a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah. Our men were not all saints or teetotalers – all men have their failings. Thomas Brown of Company B had them. … The city had its attractions for Tom. He returned to camp late one night, a bit hilarious, and although it was after ‘Taps’ he persisted in singing his usual evening song. …‘I can’t stop him,’ … Orderly Sergeant Woods … told me. ‘He is wound up and must run down before he will be quiet.’
“I went out to try my eloquence on Tom. ‘I thought better of you, Thomas. You are in a fine predicament. Over there is the enemy. We are liable at any moment to be called out to meet them, and here you are in this condition!’ Tom straightened himself up and broke into my sermon. ‘Lieutenant, I’ll follow you to hell if you will lead the way!’ His honor was touched, and from that time to the end I had no cause to complain of Thomas Brown.”
“Metaphorically speaking, the battle of Nashville was fought at Franklin.”
Rice says his regiment really didn’t get into action because Confederates fled so rapidly; the regiment gathered prisoners and kept its skirmishers out and pushing:
“Over to our right was a large brick residence. The opulence of its owner was apparent from the house’s surroundings. A lawnlike park of several acres gave it an aristocratic appearance. It stood near the line of outposts of the enemy. On our advance their skirmishers used it as a fortress and gave us a great deal of annoyance. On our side of the lawn was a copse of considerable size. I saw a company of our men forming in rear of this thicket, evidently bent on charging the house. They came out to the fence and halted there. … They sprang over the fence and … ran … for that house. Going in at the front, the Johnnies tumbled out the back door.”
“Major General George H. Thomas and the Battle of Nashville,” by Rusling, Military Essays of the Pennsylvania Commandery Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States; Vol. 1, February 22, 1866-May 6, 1903
Men and Things I Saw in Civil War Days, by James F. Rusling; 1899 (the book was reprinted in 1914)
“General Thomas, once back at Nashville – October 1864 – and sure of Hood’s objective point, first pushed Schofield out with the best troops he had – the 4th and 23rd Corps, and Wilson’s Cavalry – … to watch and worry Hood and retard his advance, and then set to work himself … to reinforce and further fortify Nashville. … It was now Thomas’ hard duty to pick up the odds and ends at the rear – scattered garrisons of posts and depots, railroad guards, white and colored troops, green regiments en route from the North etc. – and to fuse and weld these into one homogeneous and fighting whole, in aid of Schofield’s hard-pressed force. … He quickly concentrated all these at Nashville, and next armed 5,000 out of the 14,000 quartermaster employees there – many of them old soldiers –, and sent them into the trenches. Then he called out the citizens, white and colored, Union and Confederate, and set them to work on his extended lines. But his Morning Reports showed that he still lacked numbers, and so he called on his old chief, Rosecrans – then commanding in Missouri –, to lend him A.J. Smith’s Corps – 11,000 … troops … – and on the arrival of these his mind and heart cleared fairly up.
“I had seen and talked with (General Thomas) … daily – some days several times a day –, from his arrival at Nashville, October 3, and a cloud of anxious care rested always on his brow. Habitually, during all that period, he wore his army hat pulled down over his grave grey eyes – was indeed reticent and gloomy; but now his hat lifted, his broad brow cleared up. …
“I happened in his quarters the night General Smith arrived at Nashville, with thirteen transports and eight armored gunboats all swarming with soldiers. … It was the night of the battle of Franklin – November 30, and our news from there was as yet uncertain. Judge Campbell, of the U.S. Supreme Court, then residing at Nashville, gave a reception that night, and on my way to it, I dropped into General Thomas’ headquarters – about 9 p.m. – to inquire more about Franklin. Thomas, his hat up and face all aglow handed me a telegram from Schofield, announcing that he had defeated Hood … but was now falling back on Nashville in pursuance of his orders.
“Thomas eagerly inquired if I had any news from A.J. Smith. I answered, no; that I had sent a swift steamer down the Cumberland earlier in the afternoon to hurry him forward, but it was not yet time for his arrival. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘if Smith does not get here to-night, he will not get here at all; for to-morrow Hood will strike the Cumberland and close it against all transports.’
“I replied, he need not fear, for Smith would certainly ‘arrive soon,’ and went on to Judge Campbell’s.
“About midnight I left Judge Campbell’s, and on my way back dropped in at Thomas’ headquarters again, and there I found Schofield and T. J. Wood just arrived from Franklin, and all three in conference over what was to be done next day. Wood was still on crutches, from a wound received in the Atlanta campaign, but in command of his Corps. … Thomas introduced me to the other two, and again eagerly inquired about Smith. ‘Oh,’ I replied, ‘he is all right. Just as I came in I heard his steamers tooting along the levee!’ And even as I spake, the door opened, and in strode General Smith. … They all four greeted each other eagerly, but Thomas … literally took Smith in his arms and hugged him. … They first discussed Franklin, and rejoiced over it, and then Thomas spread his maps on the floor, and pointed out his Nashville lines, explaining their bearings and significance, and I left them at 1 a.m. – all four down on their knees and examining attentively the positions to be assumed next morning, as Schofield and Wood fell back on Nashville and Smith marched out from the Cumberland. …
“Thomas had the advantage of position, as his line was shorter, and many of his hills were also heavily fortified – had been for a year or two. …
“Hood thus sat down seriously before Nashville, cutting our communications with everything South and West, and immediately began feeling our lines, as if meaning to attack. Next he planted batteries on the Cumberland, and thus closed that artery for supplies to everything but armored gunboats. Our only line of communication still open was the Louisville and Nashville Railroad to the North, already overwhelmed with locomotives and cars withdrawn from Nashville and below, and a slender precarious line at best – a single track road, nearly 200 miles long liable to be cut by guerillas at any moment. …
“We were thus pretty thoroughly cooped up and penned in for a time, and people at a distance, who knew little about our strength or the state of our supplies, naturally enough grew nervous. There was, however, no real cause for alarm at any time, especially after Hood let his first forty-eight hours slip by without assaulting. …
“In fact, our last re-enforcements – Smith from St. Louis and Steedman from Chattanooga – gave us such a happy preponderance of both infantry and artillery, that from the hour they were both safely in, nobody there who knew much of affairs ever seriously doubted our ability to hold Nashville. …
“With our forces all up, … we were thus ready to receive Hood as early as December 5th or 6th. … Thomas now waited, but Hood did not attack. …
“Thomas … had plenty of cavalrymen … , but only about half enough horses … and others were not to be had … in the regular way, within the required time. To get them from the North, by purchase and requisition, might take a month or longer. … So he issued an order to seize and impress all serviceable horses within our lines, in Tennessee and Kentucky, … and within a week he had his dismounted cavalrymen remounted. … I think this ‘seizure’ resulted in over 7,000 horses. …
Speaking to the delay forced on Thomas by the weather and Grant’s impatience:
“General Grant in the East, a thousand miles away, could not understand this, and impatient at what seemed Thomas’ indecision and delay telegraphed him repeatedly … to attack Hood at once with all his forces. But Thomas, … understanding ‘the situation’ better than Grant, answered back he had done and was doing ‘everything in his power’ and if dissatisfied they might relieve him, and if relieved he ‘would submit without a murmur.’ But he could not move against his judgment. Grant … was reluctant to relieve him; but finally ordered Schofield to take command – December 9th –, and then quickly repenting it, suspended the order before it was issued. But, growing more impatient, December 13th, he ordered General Logan west to take command at Nashville, and then questioning the wisdom of this, too …, on Wednesday December 14th, he hastened himself to Washington. … That very day a general thaw set in at Nashville, with evidence at sundown of an early break-up, and Thomas at once issued his orders for attack on Thursday – December 15th – at early dawn – the very day Grant arrived at Washington and Logan started from there for Louisville.”
Re Thomas’ battle plan:
“His plan was to demonstrate boldly on our left, where the enemy was strongest, while he in reality massed everything on our right, where the enemy was weakest, and thus to overwhelm Hood’s left, mash in his line, and roll it back on the centre, and, having thus got well upon his left flank and rear, to crush Hood’s centre too, if possible, as the result of his first day’s work. …
“His plan for the second day was to smash Hood’s right, and then either to envelope his army with our victorious wings, or at all events to bruise and hammer Hood so roundly, that he would be glad to pull up stakes and hasten back to the Tennessee (River).
“In pursuance of this plan, then, A.J. Smith was ordered to advance at daylight, December 15th, his right covered by Wilson’s Cavalry, the gunboats also co-operating as required. Wood was ordered to leave only a curtain of skirmishers in front of his works, to mass everything else on Smith’s left, and thus to hold himself in readiness to supportSmith as needed. Schofield received like orderes, but to mass instead on Wood’s left, and to hold himself rather in reserve. Steedman, in addition to holding our extreme left, was also placed in charge of our inner line of works, with a force composed of the garrison proper of Nashville, Brigadier General Miller commanding a Provisional Division of white and colored troops, Brigadier General Cruft commanding; and the Military Organization of the Quartermaster’s Department, Brevet Brigadier General Donaldson commanding.
“In accordance with his orders, before dawn Steedman on our left deployed a heavy line of skirmishers, consisting principally of … colored troops, and soon after daylight he pushed up to and across the Murfreesboro Pike. The enemy’s pickets resisted stoutly, but presently fell back, and Steedman pusued until he came plumb up against a Confederate battery, planed beyond a deep rocket cut of the Chattanooga Railroad – too long for his line to flank and impossible for it to cross. Not knowing this at first, his men eagerly charged the battery.”
Rusling goes on to sum up movements until nightfall:
“This closed our operations on the first day, and Thomas rode home to his Nashville headquarters about dark, to telegraph Washington his movement had begun.
“As he left the place he had occupied most of the day, Thomas remarked to a member of his staff; “So far, I think we have done pretty well. Unless Hood decamps to-night, to-morrow Steedman will double up his right, Wood will hold his centre, Smith and Schofield will again strike his left, while the cavalry work away at his rear. …
“Under cover of the night, Hood drew back his right centre and right, so as to strengthen the new line he had been forced to assume, and on the morning of December 16th, was found in position along the Overton Hills – some two miles or so to the rear of his original line. …
“By drawing in and concentrating his forces, … (Hood) now planted himself squarely across the Granny White and Franklin Pikes to cover his trains. …
“Everyone now felt that Hood was in fact already well whipped, and that, if let alone, he would of his own accord soon depart whence he came. But Thomas … had not the least idea of ‘letting him alone!’ And so, with the break of the day, our skirmishers were up to, and over and through Hood’s old works. Thence our lines swept easily and steadily forward, on our centre and left, until a thick curtain of Confederate skirmishers, and the opening of their artillery warned us to halt. Hood’s new position, when reconnoitered, proved to be one of much strength. … His line on Thursday had been originally over six miles long. … But here, on Friday, he occupied a line scarcely three miles in length, running along the wooded crest of closely connecting hills. …
“The two keys to his position were commanding elevations directly on and covering the Granny White and Franklin Pikes – two splendid roads leading to Franklin, Columbia, Pulaski, and so down the country to the Tennessee (River) and Alabama. …
“Thomas now at once pushed forward his left, and as Steedman advanced he found the Murfreesboro and Nashville Pikes, as had been expected, comparatively free of the enemy. … As he came up to the Overton Hills, however, and stretched across to connect with Wood, the enemy opened on him with an advanced battery, and in pursuance of his instructions Steedman halted now and awaited orders. Wood meanwhile had come up early on the Franklin Pike, and was now engaged in shelling the enemy’s lines on Overton Knob. … Both he and Steedman … were both directed now to await the further development of movements off on the right. There, massed on or about the Granny White Pike, and extending well to the righ tof it, were A.J. Smith and Schofield, with the 16th and 23rd Corps, with Croxton and Hatch of Wilson’s Cavalry eagerly co-operating, feeling briskly all points of the enemy’s position, but unable as yet to discover the vulnerable point they desired. The day thus wore on apace. Noon came, with but little valuable result. …
“Thomas … sent the cavalry well around to our right, to gain Hood’s flank and menace his rear, and he was still waiting to hear from them.
“The query will doubtless occur: ‘Where was Forrest all this time?’ The answer is, Hood had previously scattered his cavalry – a part being sent down the Cumberland after our transports, where they accomplished little, and the balance on a raid around Murfreesboro. …
“Now, however, well on to 4 p.m., news from our cavalry came suddenly to Headquarters, in a prolonged fire of carbines and rifles, that swept around Hood’s left and crept up along his rear. … ‘Now tell Generals Schofield and Smith to advance,’ was Thomas’ quiet order. … But before the order could reach either Smith or Schofield, they had both already caught the meaning of the fierce fire along the Confederate flank and rear, and … they both ordered a general assault; and, simultaneously, … their lines swept … forward – up to, and over and around the Confederate works while Wood and Steedman on their left, catching up the inspiration, pressed … forward.”
Describes the battlefield:
“I saw men with their heads or limbs shot off; others with their bodies blown to pieces – only their limbs left. I rode by a tree on the Overton Knobs, behind which a Confederate had dodged for safety, and a Union shell had gone clear through both tree and soldier, and exploded among his comrades.”
Commenting on the second day’s fighting:
“The actual conflict, however, did not last long. In an hour or less it was mainly over, and what was left of the Confederates were in full retreat – down the Franklin and Granny White Pikes. … Some few stood their ground bravely, and fought desperately to the last – until killed or captured. But many abandoned their muskets, where they rested between the logs of their breastworks, and others threw muskets, knapsacks, blankets, everything aside, as they fled wildly and panic-stricken.”
Catching up with Grant’s moves to replace Thomas just before the battle:
“General Logan halted at Louisville, when on his arrival there, on the morning of December 17th, he got the news of Thomas’ great battle, and … returned quietly to Washington. … Grant had wired him to come back, and moreover his original orders were to do nothing ‘if Thomas had moved.’ … I don’t think he (Thomas) ever quite forgave Grant for sending Logan to relieve him, when he was doing his whole duty at Nashville.”
Rusling’s relationship with Thomas:
“I saw much of General Thomas during this Nashville Campaign.”
Letter written by Rusling from Nashville on Dec 11, 1864; this letter is copied from the 1914 edition of his book:
“Hood pens us in here; and we haven’t much tried to prevent him, as yet. Our line of defense is a semi-circle, drawn around the city, from the Cumberland (River) around to the Cumberland again, with the enemy’s line one half or three quarters of a mile distant.
“Our line is immensely strong, crowned with forts and bristling with cannon; and both ends of it covered by gunboats. The Rebs might as well butt their brains against the Rocky Mountain, as attempt to take it. Besides, our force is quite as numerous as theirs, if not more so. …
“Just now, both armies are doing their best to keep warm. For three days we have had bitterly cold, winter weather; diversified with rain, hail, sleet and snow. … The beautiful woods and groves that surrounded Nashville on all sides, and made it one of the most lovely towns I ever saw, are all going remorselessly down before the axes of the soldiers. We are getting in wood by the rail and river for the hospitals here; but the army beyond has to take care of itself. … If the Rebs coop us up here another fortnight, there won’t be a tree left within five miles of Nashville.”
Letter written by Rusling from Nashville Dec 26, 1864; this letter copied from the 1914 edition of his book:
“We have been very busy here. … We found a world of work to do, in the way of rebuilding the railroads, reconstructing bridges, forwarding supplies, etc.”
Notes from Rusling’s book:
His rank at the battle was chief assistant, Quarter Master Department of the Cumberland.
On page 105 he remarks “Nashville made me a full colonel,” from which I infer he was a Lt. Col. during the battle.
Re Rusling’s rank, from a biography found on the Internet 11/11/02:
In May 1863 he became a lieutenant colonel of Volunteeers and the 3rd Corps quartermaster.
Note: In his letters, Rusling often remarks on being out in the trenches or on the battlefield, so he apparently was not one to stay in the interior lines.
Private Sargent, The Civil War Memories of a Union Soldier; Sargent’s memoir, McWhiney Collections at McMurry University
Editor’s note: The twins are Wash and Welly
“We had a good boat load to St. Louis. Then I & about 100 went by rail to Louisville, then south to Nashvill. Stayed the first night in an unfinished hottl, the Zollicoffer House.
“The next morning we was distributed to our regts. My regt was in the outer works of Gen. Tomases army with Hoods rebbel army strung out around. Just outside most places in plain sight laying siege to Nashville.
“Supose the battle would have ben over before I got thare only the big storm that come a few days before & covered the ground with ice & sleet. It was a sorry looking camp I foound the regt in but I was glad to see the boys of the Co. & my bros Wash & Well.
“That night I crowded in a little dog tent with four boys which wasent much like the good bed I had at the hospital & the next night was on picket with the rebs only a gun shot away but we wasent exchanging shots much as it was freazing all night. Clark & I was on post together & wasent alowed a fire in the night but as soon as it got light we started a little smudge as we could see a half mile in all directions
“Nothing happened for a half an hour, then a bullet ziped by a little abive our heads & plowed up the dirt beyond. We could hardly hear the gun but see the smoak away of the the left front. We knew our guns wouldnot carry that far so droped back from our fire one on each side & wated developments. Could see the smoke come from behind a big tree & from the shooting seamed to come from a good high power rifle. The second shot under shot our fire about five feet but in good line. One more went through the smoke a few feet above the fire.
“About that time, two men come along from town with Winchester rifles, the first one I ever saw. They was called Henry rifles then. I think the man that invented them was named Henry. Afterwards bought & manufactured by Winchester. I don’t think the gun belonged to the army but just come out to try the new repeaters.
“They asked about the reb picket line & we told them whare they would find it & they did not go on far untill they comenced firing. Thare was scattering trees & some brush in our front. The men with the winchesters would keep three or four rods apart & dodge along from one tree to another & fire at anny thing they see move. After the rebs had fired one shot from their muzzle loaders, they had to keep on the go & had no time to load again. Anny way, them two men with the repeating rifles pushed their picket line back a half a mile in a short time. The rebs could probily see that their oponents had a new kind of gun that would shoot a regular stream. Clark & I was relieved & went back to camp before the men with the winchesters come back so we did not hear if anny one was hurt.
“About the second day after that, our army was out early forming a line several miles long fasing Hoods army. Our regiment was near the left of our line within two or three miles at least but on our right it streached away to the Tenn. River above Nashville. It seamed Gen Tomases plan was to push his right & if he could turn Hoods left, it would put Hood in a bend of the river. So the first days fighting was don mostly with artelry. The rebel line gave back slowly from one set of their works to another but by evening they had got behind their mane works & we did not get them out that night nor the next day untill the mane charge was made about three or four oclock.
“That night we stacked our guns on the battle lines & lay by them. There was some artilery firing after dark. Some of it so far away to the left that we could hardly hear it. Brother Wash & I heard that night that one of our school mates, Rigement, was near us so we went & hunted it & found Charley Cooledge. Talked with him a few minutes. I don’t think Wash ever saw him again but I saw him after I come to Cal. Over fifty years later. We did not meet again after the war as my folks was living in a different county then. Cooledge, like myself, went west & took up a homestead. His was near Grand Island, Neb. He got well off but when his family had all died & he had donated the most of his for a hospital in Nebraska. He died in 1922.
“The night on the batle field passed off quietly but opened soon after daylight. We advanced closer to the rebbel line but seamed to be wating for other troops to get in place. We lay behind a slight nole that protected us from the fire in front. There was a set of plantation buildings on the nole where our skirmishers was exchanging shots with the rebbel works which was in plain sight from thare.
“Wash & I sliped away up towards the buildings. As soon as we raised the nole could hear bulets whistling over striking fences & shrubery. There was 3 or 4 rods of clear place before we could get up behind the house & we did not loiter anny crossing that. The hous, a large two story one well furnished with carpets, rugs, pianos & such. We did not see the people that live thare but the house was full of our soldiers except the rooms on the side next to the reb lines. The windows was all shot out on that side & some of the bullets comeing through the side of the house. Our skirmishers was in & around the house & other buildings keeping up a steady fire on the reb works but the straglers like I & Wash was thare for courosity only. Some of them wasent being nice, either. I remember seeing one young fellow strum a few keys on the piano then jerk off an ivory key & put it in his pocket. Some of them had tore up a lot of carpets & ransacked closets. Wash & I took back a rug to help out our beding if we should camp near thare but we did not get to use it for soon an officer come galloping along back of the line waveing their hands to the front & ordering charge.
“Then all was busle. Men taking their places in line not knowing what was coming to them in the next few minutes. We went up by the buildings over a fence. Then we was on smoth open ground about a half a mile from the rebel works which was a stone wall & back of that 20 or 30 rods comenced a steep rideg covered with scatering trees. The ridge stretched along back of their lines both ways as far as we could see except one pass with a road through it near whare we struck it. Their works was belching powder smoak when we got in sight of it. Bullets whistling by over head & raising the dust at our feet but I don’t think anny of the rebs got in over two shots before we was close on & some of them made for the rear after the first for thare was only a few left at the works & them holding up their hands when we got thare. We went on to the foot of the ridge in time to see a few of them disapearing over the top & others got winded & took refuge behind trees before they could get to the top. Them we invited to come back down & we gathered up quite a bunch of prisners.
“The pass through the ridge a little to our right got blocked by their stampede & we captured a few guns & wagons thare. The line along in front of us was verry thinly mand & they made no grate effort to hold it. I don’t remember that we had a man wounded in our Co. The mane resistence was a mile or so to our left near the roads runing south out of Nashville.
“We camped that night just inside the reb works near the pass through the ridge. There was one wounded rebel near whare we camped. He seamed to be partly unconsious & no one looking after him. I & the twins got some boards to sleep on. I don’t remember that we was looking for rain or we would not have used the boards the way we did. We used them to keep us off the damp ground. They was longer than the bed & extended up the slope & when the rain came on in the night, what fell on the boards ran down under us but that was no worse than we got several times in the next three or four days.
“We was following Hoods army which was a verry disagreeable march as it rained about every day & Hoods army left the roads in bad shape. We met some prisners being taken to the rear by our cavalry. But it seamed like we wasent gaining anny thing by following them farther as we was punishing our selvs as much as we was them.
“So the second day we left the road the rebs was on & camped at or near a landing on the river & was ordered to build a permenent camp. We built breastworks, drilled some, & passed the winter thare. It was a verry lonesome place. Our rations come by boat & was ample except one week that the rebs had the river blockaded & then we was out the longest I remember of being. We lived on parched corn & the drivers had to watch their teams at feding time that the boys did not snipe some of it & that did not allways work. Feding time was after dark thare. I often watched the driver who genrly left just before the mules got cleaned up & I could get enough leavings to make me a good batch of parched corn.
“When the first boat got to us, I & Wash was on detail to unlode. Welly was sick & being excused from duty. At that time, there were eight or ten of us unloading, working lively & wishing for an axident that would bust one of the cracker boxes we was carrying as we could smell something good inside. Soon one of the boys fell & busted a box & we all ralid to save the peaces & get a sample.”
Editor’s notes: I found the letter in the Indiana in the Civil War Web site in December 2000; the posting had a 1997 copyright.
In e-mail correspondence with the site master, Larry Ligget, I learned that a few years earlier Tim Johnson had provided a copy of the letter. Ligget had had no contact with Johnson since. He did have an address in California. I wrote to Johnson at that address on Feb. 5, 2001.
On Feb. 12 his wife, Jeannette Johnson, called while I was at work and talked to my wife, Linda. Jeannette said Tim had died. Gave Linda her work and home phone numbers and invited me to call her at work the next day. Gave the hours she would be at work.
I called her the morning of Feb.13. She said Tim had been a collector and she described some of his stuff. She said Tim had gotten the letter through a distant relative. When I explained what I wanted, she said she would send me a note giving me permission to quote from the letter.
She didn’t know where the letter was. She didn’t know a copy had been posted on the Civil War in Indiana Web site.
She said Siebert is pronounced Cy-bert.
Letter written January 14, 1865, while in camp at Huntsville, Alabama:
“On the 14th day of December we (were) given three days rations and ordered to get ready to march.
“On the morning of the 15th at early dawn the bugle sounded ‘Strike Tents’ and by seven o’clock we were on the move.
“We took the road to the right of our lines and halted about two miles from where we started when companies A B and D were deployed out as skirmishers and we remained in reserve.
“About 12 o’clock we were ordered forward and we advanced out to where our skirmishers were in the morning, as they had driven the enemy skirmishers back.
“The artilery firing was very heavy on both sides, and shot and shell passed over us both ways. It was a pretty warm place for new recruits. But I stood it very well or rather laid down as we were all ordered to lay down when we halted.
“About 2 o’clock we were ordered forward again, when we advanced to within six hundred yards of the rebels main works in an open field and ordered to lay down again.
“The reb works in our front were on a high hill and they had a battery of four guns planted there and they used them very freely.
“We had hardly got down before there was two of our batteries moved up and position(ed) one on the right and the other on the left of our Regt. and opened on the battery in our front.
“It appeared to lift me clear off the ground every volley the(y) fired but the(y) soon silenced the rebel battery.
“We were rather two far off for the bullets to hurt us but I seen one drop in three feet of where I land.
“About 4-1/2 o’clock their lines were broken on our right.
“Our brigade was on the right center.
“In a half an hour we could see the rebs in our front begin to give away.
“Generals Wood and Kimble came riding up in front of our regt.
“Wood shouted go for em, go for em Boys and we started on the double quick and advanced to the foot of the hill where we started again up the hill on the double quick.
“The mud was so deep and sticky and we had on our knapsacks, haversacks, and cartridge box and sixty rounds of cartradeges.
“When I got about half way up the hill my feet stuck in the mud and I fell down and my knapsack fell over my head and came unhooked and there I was within a hundred yards of the rebel works and the bullets coming thick and fast and me stuck in the mud.
“I got up as soon as possible and looked forward and I saw a reb standing on the breast works firing into our ranks.
“So I thought I would try him a pull, so I leveled my gun and tuck as deliberate aim as I ever did at a Squiril and the old gun snapped.
“So I did not hurt the Johnnie that time. …
“So I shouldered my knapsack and started again and got inside the rebel works about as soon as the rest but I was played out.
“We captured several prisoners and four pieces of artilery.
“Our company had the honor of hauling the pieces from the field to the pike.
”It was near sundown when we got possession of the works in our front.
“As I got over the the breast works I found a sword that was thrown aways by some rebel officer in his hasty retreat.
“I gave it to Capt. Noble to take care of as he had lost his in the morning before we left Nashville.
“Inside the works there was hundreds of guns and cartradege boxes thrown away and corn meal strewn all over the ground which the rebels had left in their hast to get away.
“If the troops on our left had come up as we did we would have taken a good many more prisoners.
“It was amusing to see the Johnnies running, it was a perfect stampede.
“Night was all that saved Hoods left wing for it was dark before (we) could get formed in line of battle.
“It was eleven o’clock before we got into camp and got our supper.
“So ended the 15th day of December, the first day and night I ever spent on the battlefield and one whitch I trust has done something towards putting down this wicked rebellion for it cost many a poor fellow his life and caused many a tear to fall and home left desolete, and I feel greatful that my poor life was spared. …
“When I laid down to rest although I was very tired I could not sleep.
“The stillness was so great after the noise and confusion of the day and my mind kept wandering over the scenes and incidents of the proceeding day, yet weary nature overcame the thinking man and carried me off into the land of dreams to dream of friends and dear ones at home.
”At four o’clock on the morning of the 16th the bugle sounded revelee and got up feeling much refreshed after my few hours of rest.
“We got breakfast and at daylight we were on the move and again commenced the roar of cannon and rattle of musketry with greater fury than on the preceeding day.
“Every time the rebels would open a battery we would turn about three or four (batteries) onto it and soon dry it up.
“Our brigade was on the reserve on that day and the 2nd (brigade) was in Front.
“We was on the left of the Franklin Pike just in front of the works we occupied in front of Nashville.
“The rebel lines were broken about the same time (of) day that they were the day before.
“When the order ‘Forward’ was given then commenced the chase. …
“There was more prisoners taken than there was the day before.
“Another battery was taken in our front on that day of 3 pieces.
“We followed the retreating columns of Hood about six miles and night again hushed the noise and din of battle.
“Although the soldiers had been fighting and marching all day in the rain and mud they seemed anxious to go forward. …
“On the morning of the 17th we got up and with our blankets soked with the rain that fell during the night and it still (was) raining.
“We tooke up the chase and marched all day in the rain but did not see anything of the rebs as the cavalry had run them out of our reach.
“All along the road there was strewn guns, catrige boxes, meal, hats, wagons, ambulances and almost everything you could think of., and we met squad after squad of prisoners coming to the rear which the cavalry had captured.”
Benjamin T. Smith Journal, Illinois State Historical Library
“Dec 1st Reach Nashville early this morning. Our division take position on right of center near the Granny White Pike. …
“Dec 3d … Our HdQrs are established in a large house, belonging to a Mr. Gordon. We clerks move our traps into the library, a large commodious room, containing a large collection of books, which I determine to investigate as soon as I have leisure time.
“Our army is being rapidly placed upon a better footing, as to numbers, Supplies, ammunition &c. The fortifications, and forts are being strengthened on all sides; we have some heavy ordinance in the forts, and our field batteries are placed where they will do the most good. …
“D 13th It seems, that the people at Washington are getting restless, because Thomas does not pitch into Hood at once. The wire pullers at our capitol, are after his scalp. … It is rumored that Thomas is to be superceded by Logan or some other General; I do not think the army will take kindly to this if it be true. No one can be held in higher esteem as a Commander than our ‘Pap Thomas’ is accorded by the Army of the Cumberland. …
“Dec 14th The die is cast, ready or not. Thomas must strike on the morrow. Orders are out that every thing must be ready to attack in the morning; orders of instruction for each division and brigade are being sent, and the rank and file are notified. Many of the men set themselves down to write to their homes in the north, some to their families, some to their sweet hearts. …; no one knows who shall be taken, or who shall be left. …
“Dec 15th … As darkness settled upon the field, the fighting gradually ceased, and as the army rested on their arms, the cooks came up, with great pails of steaming hot coffee, and cooked meat which each company receives. The reinforcement to the inner man, is much needed. … The ambulance corps are busily engaged, searching for the wounded, whether friend or foe. They are taken up, and conveyed to the surgeons tents; here they are laid upon a table, and examined, bullets are probed for, wounds stitched up and dressed, arms or legs cut off if too badly shattered to be saved. Indiscriminately, blue or gray, are attended to in turn as they are brought in; after the surgeon has done with them, they are sent to the general Hospital.
“Visiting one of these tents, used by our HdQr surgeon, I find him with his assistants, up to their elbows in gore; in one corner is a pile of … arms and legs, hands and feet.
“A Confederate is stretched on the table, a long lank six footer, with a sponge held to his nose; he is unconscious that his right limb is being sawed off just below the knee. In ten minutes the limb is on the pile in the corner, the arteries taken up, the flaps of flesh are lapped over, and strips of adhesive plaster fastened over them the bandages applied, and the think is done with neatness and dispatch. In a few moments he is revived, and holding up his stump, regards it with sorrow, and is carted away to make room for … a boy in blue, with a bullet through his arm, and one in his breast, and so the ghastly work goes on all night long. I turn in at a late hour, tired of seeing the victims under the surgeon’s knife.
“Dec 16th … All is activity within our lines, while darkness still enshrouds the land. The cooks have brought forward and distributed hot coffee and cooked rations to the boys in front. All needed ammunition has been doled out, and as the first rays of the rising sun begins to streak the eastern sky, our batteries belch forth a rain of iron, at the enemy. … The enemy open up their batteries in reply. … The air is filled with solid shot and shells, … and it behooves one to lay low, for the hour it lasts; then a short lull. And now the real battle commences as our lines raise up and advance. …
“All the forenoon, the desperate struggle continues. …
“Great numbers of wounded men are going, or being carried to the rear.
“As I am passing to the left of our division, I meet Genl Thomas, who is sitting upon the end of a log, his right hand nursing his stubby whiskers. He is alone, his staff standing by their horses within call in a slight depression below him, the bullets are kicking up the dust all around his vicinity. … The hissing of the bullets, nor the screech of the passing shells disturb him not; he is as motion less as the log upon which he sits.
“A fresh brigade of troops – Negroes – pass to the front. … They have not yet participated in the battle, but are now going in, charging with a yell.”
A History of the Thirty-first Regiment of Indiana Volunteer Infantry in the War of the Rebellion, by John Thomas Smith; 1900
Nov. 30, 1864
“About midnight the night of the 30th, the army very quietly withdraws from Franklin, taking artillery, wagon-train, all safely off the battle-field, and reach Nashville about eleven after leaving Franklin, the regiment arrives at Nashville about 11 A.M., and go into camp about two miles from the city. …
“December 2d, about two P.M., the enemy makes a demonstration, and we move into positions, send out skirmishers, and fortify.
“The next day, the enemy makes an advance, and drives back our pickets.
“The 4th, we move to the right a short distance, and take position in the front line, and the next day we lay off regular camp.
“There being considerable skirmishing and cannonading along the lines, the enemy throwing up fortifications in our front.
“The 6th, there is heavy cannonading to our right. We continue to shell the enemy in our front, but get no response.
“The 7th, the skirmishing and cannonading is continued.
“The 8th, the enemy advances, driving in our skirmishers. We charge them, and they are driven back to their old position. We capture a few prisoners.
“The 9th, 10th, and 11th, the weather is cold and disagreeable.
“The 12th, we receive orders to send all who are unable to the hospital.
“The 13th, the day more pleasant; thawed considerable in the afternoon.
“The 14th, we were ordered to have all extra baggage sent to brigade headquarters, and to be ready to move at six o’clock the next morning.
“December 15, 1864. – We move out at daylight from the left of the Hillsborough pike. The battle opens with considerable fury on our extreme right, and for about two hours the enemy is pressed and pushed and driven, and after it was thought that he had removed all his reserves from our left, the fight is opened there, and his right turned. He is then pressed along the whole line.
“The skirmish-line of our brigade is in the command of Lieutenant-Colonel James R. Hollowell, of the Thirty-first. … The regimental commander concluded that the (Lt.) Colonel would surely get shot, as his duty required him to pass so frequently under the guns of a fort, and so he sent back to get a large flag in which to warp the Lieutenant-Colonel after he had fallen. But, then, he never fell, and the (regimental) Colonel had to carry the flag through the engagement.
“In the afternoon, we charged the rebel works. The rebel fort was in the immediate front of the Thirty-first Regiment. We had to climb a considerable hill to reach the works, and then had to jump quite a large ditch. Some of the boys could hardly make it, and had to have help to get out when they fell into the ditch. The Chaplian, Rev. James B. Hamilton, was among the first to scale the rebel works. When Robert Crocket, of Company K, was pulled out of the ditch and got on top the rebel works, and saw the Chaplain over among the rebels, making them lay down their arms, he exclaimed, ‘Hell, a chaplain in a charge!’
“We captured the artillery and a lot of prisoners. …
“Night coming on, we moved to the left, and bivouacked on the Granville pike (Granny White pike?).
“The morning of the 16th, we advanced at daylight and promptly began to skirmish with the enemy, and charged them and took some works and prisoners.
“In the afternoon we saw the colored troops make a couple Of charges. … About three P.M., a general charge was made along the entire line, with complete success, capturing the entire rebel line and a number of prisoners and guns. The enemy was followed up, and skirmishing was kept up until night, when we bivouacked about six miles from Nashville.
“The loss of the regiment was eleven men killed and twenty-seven wounded.
“We advanced, on the morning of the 17th, the cavalry in front. We met, in the forenoon, a detachment taking back two rebel flags and a lot of prisoners. We go into camp on Harpeth River, near Franklin, the day having been rainy and somewhat disagreeable.”
Letters Dec. 9 and 10, 1864, The Filson Historical Society
Letter dated Dec 7th or 9th, 1864
“Our regiment lies with the left resting on the Franklin pike, just at the food of Fort Negley. We go up very often to take a look at the grand sight that lies around us. The rebel army is within 2 miles. At night their fires can be seen as plainly as our own. Our Army lies around the outskirts of the city – from the top of Negley we can see them both – and the whole city of Nashville. …
“Towards sundown every evening the bands begin to play and for an hour or two we hear … music.”
Dec 10th (?)
Headquarters of 12 US KY
“It is a cold snowy day out of doors but I am thankful I have a good warm tent that keeps a small portion of the wintry air confined and warmed by the heat of a stove, in which I can keep my bones comfortable. We have all be very lucky to be prepared for this cold spell. We were paid up to the 31st of August while we were in Pulaski and can spend our money in providing warm winter clothing. …
“Thousands of soldiers in both armies can be seen from the top of Ft. Negley, and not an hour passes that does not resound with the thunder of Artillery.
“It will be a hopeless job if Hood undertakes to charge any portion of the line around Nashville. I am afraid he will make a detour around, cross Cumberland river someplace, and draw us out into the open country. He has a large and veteran army and possibly our forces could not cope with him out in the open field. …
“The true state of the case is we are holding a point against Hood while Sherman with our Army is gouging into the heart of the Confederacy.
“We have been now in the works at this place since the 1st of Dec. Our wearied troops are resting gloriously. I hope we will stay until after next Sunday. As I want to go to church once more. I went to church one in Nashville and heard most excellent services.”
The Civil War Era Diaries of Abram Harrison Stafford and Mary Elizabeth Churchill of Chardon, Geauga County, Ohio; courtesy Michael H. Stafford, Los Angeles, California
Wednesday, November 30, 1864
Weather warm & pleasent. Laid around on the cars all day. They switched us around some but braught us back to the same spot. Some of R. J. Smiths command came in. There was a circus in town. I dident attend. Dont hear anything from the front that can be relide on. They are pressing negroes & citazens to work on fortifications – bulley for them.
Thursday, December 1, 1864
Weather warm & pleasent. Wrote a letter to Mary. I went to the theater last night. It was pretty good. They had some gay peaces. It lasted untill after eleven. This is a great place for murders – from 1 to 5 is committed every night. Night before last there was but 5 killed. The town is full of policemen – but they cant keep them strait. This is quite a town. Last night our corps took 1200 prisoners between 4 & 7 Oclock at Franklin.
Friday, December 2, 1864
Weather warm & cloudy. Laying around on the cars yet. Our Div captured 22 battle flags at Franklin on the 3 outh. Our boys gave them fits. Colonel Jack gets the prais of every man in his brig. Gen Cox shoed himself the bravest of the brave. 1200 prisoners was taken by our corps & some regs lost vary heavy – but the ___ as usual lost but 3 killed & wounded.
Saturday, December 3, 1864
Weather pleasent & warm. The detail that was on the cars was ordered back last night. I was up town to get some photographs. They will be done next Tuesday. I got 4 letters. One from home, one from Olive Stafford, & 2 from Mary. There has beenconsiderable skirmaching & some artillery fiaring. Jake Bower came back to the company.
Sunday, December 4, 1864
Weather fine. I am on gard over rebel colars that was taken at Franklin. They are at Gen Schofields Quarters. They are vary bluddy & show the terible reality of war. There wasent a silk one amongst the pile. Some of the Reb citazens look at them with sorrowing countanances. The gard has to keep a sharp eye on all sutch.
Monday, December 5, 1864
Weather pleasent. I was relieved from gard at 10. I did not have to be up eny through the night. I was at church last night but I thought it a dry one. There is considerable booming along the line. Capt Schofield on Gen Coxes Staff said the 104 did run & one of their own boys was over here & owned the coin.
Tuesday, December 6, 1864
Weather warm but cloudy. Some shooting going on – but nothing of mutch amount. Wrote a letter to Mary & one home & went up town & got 1/2 doz photographs for 95 cts. Sent one home & one to Mary.
Wednesday, December 7, 1864
Weather cold & windy. I went out to the front. Jonnies camp in plain sight. They have got pretty good works up. Will Churchill – he was well. The 104 was vary mad at old Jack – because he said they run.
Thursday, December 8, 1864
Weather clear but a cold wind blows considerable. Cannonadering going on but I guess vary little harm done to eather party. 5 months more to serve – then our time will be out. I was at the Theatre – the play was Aladin and the Wonderful Lamp.
Friday, December 9, 1864
Weather cold – it raines, snows & freezes all together. A vary rough day & no wood to burn. I went down to see my Christian friends & wrote a letter to Alf Churchill. No fiar to get eather supper or dinner.
Saturday, December 10, 1864 Weather vary cold – it storms a little. Froze vary hard last night & continues to freeze. We put up a chimney – stole brick & wood to burn in it. Makes the shanty more comfertable.
Sunday, December 11, 1864
Weather clear but stinging cold. The wind will shave without lather. I went to meeting. It was a splendid church & they had splendid music. It was most all music they plaid & sang 8 differant peacies. Wrote a letter to Mary & received one from her.
Monday, December 12, 1864
Weather cold. Thawed a little in the forenoon but froze up before night. I stole a stick of wood so big I could hardley carry it. It will last all day & night. I have got good at picking up little things. I dont steal – not. I got a letter from home. Wrote to Mary.
Tuesday, December 13, 1864
Weather cold but a little mild than it has been of late. Been down town. Wrote a letter home. I got my boots taped on half soled – it onley cost $2.00 – cheap but cant be helped. Considerable skirmaching going on today & a little cannonadering.
Wednesday, December 14, 1864
Weather quite warm. Orders to moove but dont go. Great preparations for a big battle. Went down town. Wrote a letter to Susan Stafford – sent a letter & photo.
Thursday, December 15, 1864
Weather continues warm. Mud vary deep. Had orders to move. Struck tents in the morning. Had breakfast long before day light. Schofield went out to the front before light. One brig, 4 corps & some collard troops went out on our left & pitched in while the main force went to the right. A pretty big fight – rebs completely outflanked. Took 18 peacies of artillery & 800 or 1000 prisoners. Our lofs considerable. Rebs flank completely turned. Marched 3 mi.
Friday, December 16, 1864
Weather rainey. The fight commenced with increased fury. Our men almost drive their lines with artillery. First brig or one reg charged & took 4 peacies of artillery & never lost a man. We captured 8 peacies of artillery & about 3000 prisoners. They most all threw down their guns & run. They dident half stand after they got started. I dont think our loss as heavy as yesterday. Town is full of prisoners – dead & wounded are thick.
Saturday, December 17, 1864
Weather vary rainey & mud vary deep – vary hard mooving. Rebs lit out last night but we have got 20000 good cavelry to follow. We have been over the battle ground of yesterday & the day before. It is dreadfull to look uppon men been wounded 2 days & 2 1/2 – laying out in the mud & rain. The artillery done good execution. Meny of the rebs wer blown to peacies – some so you couldent see eny shape to them.
Sunday, December 18, 1864
Weather vary cloudy. Struck tents at about 8 & marched out & puddled through the mud. Went about 8 miles. Went into camp after dark. Our cavelry is doing good buisness picking up straglers. They have got 8 or 10 hundred in the last 2 days. I am on gard over some prisoners. Rainey just after dark.
Monday, December 19, 1864
Weather rough. Rained all day & all last night. We struck tents about 10 & went about 1/2 m. Laid around 2 or 3 hours – then pitched tents. Staid untill 3 Oc – struck tents & went 1 1/2 miles & went into camp at Franklin. The rebs burnt the railroad brig acrofs the Harpith river but they are repairing it. The mud is over shoe most of the way & part of the time nee deep.
Tuesday, December 20, 1864
Weather cloudy & commenced raining about noon & continued untill dark. It froze all the _ a little. Just enough to make our guns & cloths all ice. We left Franklin in the morning & arrived at Springhill about 1 hour after dark. Every thing all covered with ice. A good meny went to old houses & barns – but P. Spardiner stol boards & sleped in our tent.
Wednesday, December 21, 1864
Weather vary cold & snowed a little all day. Left Springhill at 9 Oc & marched 6 miles without a rest. Went into camp & built fiars – plenty of wood. They have got to lay a pontoon across a crick about 2 m ahead. The rebs was forced to burn 400 wagons this side of duck river. The pike is getting pretty badly cut up – so meny teams going over. Our corps got good teams.”
Diary, courtesy of the Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Retreat from Franklin:
November 30, 1864:
“At dusk, the 1st Brigade marched back to the river to protect the troops while evacuating Franklin and then to cover the retreat. At 5:00 p.m., pickets were sent out of the 49th Ohio to the river on a hill on the flank. Then our troops began to withdraw, and, in the morning at 4:00 December 1, the 1st Brigade began to retreat covering the rear. The rebels were throwing a few shell and shot at us without doing any damage. We marched to within six miles to Nashville until 9:30 a.m. where we stopped for breakfast. Marched again at 10:00 a.m. to within three miles of Nashville and stopped in a field for rest and sleep, not having had either for 48 hours previous. At 3:00, we marched off to the right of the army and lay there until 5:00 when we moved out on the line.
“We fortified at 3:00 p.m. and moved to the works at 6:00 p.m.
“Finished our works until noon. The rebels advanced their line at 1:00 p.m. The 49th Ohio moved off to the left of the brigade at 1:30 p.m. and fortified a new line of works. The rebels fortified during the night to within 500 yards of our works.
“Fortified during the day three different lines of works and three flankers, and we remained until the 15th. Nothing transpired but occasional artillery fire. The soldiers suffered a great deal from the cold and exposure because we had little and poor wood because the rebels had us surrounded, and about all the timber supply was cut off. The weather was cold with occasional snows. Here some of the boys found in the morning their hair frozen fast to the ground.
“We got orders to be ready to march at 6:00 a.m. We laid along the works until 11:00 a.m. when we marched off to the right and stopped for dinner. Resumed our march at 1:00 p.m. Made a charge on the rebel works at 2:00. Moved off on double-quick to the left, and the rebels fired on us wounding several. Companies E, K. G, and B were put on the skirmish line at 3:30 p.m., and made a charge on the second line of rebel works at 4:00 taking them with ease. The rebels retreated in every direction. We then moved along the rebel works until we reached the Granny While Pike where we fortified. Companies E and K went out on picket.
“Advanced at 7:00 a.m. Companies E and K were on the skirmish line. Our army massed on the right of the Franklin Pike. A charge was made at 3:00 p.m. but was not successful. A charge was made again at 3:30 p.m. with success, stampeding the rebel army. Here the 49th lost over half of the men engaged. Companies E and K were off to the left on the skirmish lineand did not get in the main battle. … Companies E and K joined the regiment at 6:00 p.m. forming a line of battle and then we bivouacked for the night.
“Marched at 8:00 a.m. and arrived at Franklin at 4:00 p.m. No fighting during the day but cavalry rebels evacuated in the morning.”
More entries, but they merely list distance marched, where camped.
Stewart, Francis R.: diary, August 6, 1864-April 3, 1865; Jerome Library, Bowling Green State University, Center for Archival Collections; Francis R. Stewart Papers; MS-744
Wednesday November 30th, 1864
We had a very tedious march last night reaching Spring Hill (Tennessee) at 3 this morning. We found our little army in a critical situation. The 2nd Div. 4th Crops had been fighting and bravely beating off the forces of Gen’s Dick Taylor and Mosby all afternoon and now their battle line lay parallel with ends within easy range of the pike along which our whole army with its artillery must pass. The wagon trains were compelled to halt at Spring Hill until after dark lest they would be captured. These were now pulling out in great haste and no little confusion. The enemy line was in plain view – we could even hear them talking – yet our whole army passed along the pike unmolested. Certainly a kind providence was working in our behalf. Our division formed line and again waited to bring up the rear while the rest of the army proceeded to Franklin. Day light came and the wagons were not all gone, yet our division was now confronting a large army which could overwhelm us in a short time if they only knew our situation. I never so much wished myself out of any place in my life. All the horrors of Libbey prison passed in review before my mind. Yet we got away safely soon after day light and made a rapid march to Franklin which place we reached at 11 AM and found the 23rd Crops already had a line of works nearly completed to protect the crossing of Harper Creek. Our division immediately crossed leaving the 23rd Crops with the 1st and 2nd division of our corps to guard the line. The enemy appeared in force about 3 PM, immediately formed their lines and assaulted our line with more determination and enthusiasm than I ever saw them manifest before. Again and again they came up and even fought hand to hand over the works but were as often fought back with fearful slaughter. It was the bloodiest conflict I ever witnessed. The enemies loss is fearful – they leave a complete line of dead and wounded all along our front. We captured about 1200 prisoners who carried a portion of our line but was captured and the line retaken. It is now dark we are removing our wounded then the line will withdraw and proceed to Nashville – 21 miles. Our division has formed line on the north side of the creek to cover the crossing of the other troops and then bring up the rear again. Thus making two nights and three days without either sleep or rest. I think the enemy has received too severe a check that he will not trouble our march from here to Nashville.
Thursday December 1, 1864
After standing in lines of battle all night waiting for the rest of the army to cross and get on their way to Nashville, we were permitted to leave our position at 4 this morning which we did after setting fire to the railroad bridge to detain the enemy from crossing. The enemy did not molest our march any today being too badly hurt yesterday to attempt any more such acts for sometime to come. We reached Nashville at 12 am and we found the 16th Corps under Gen Smith. They arrived yesterday from the Mississippi river. These troops together with the garrison mostly colored will swell our number that we will present a rather formidable front. Troops are going into position around the city on a range of hills which can be made a very extensive position. The colored troops under Brig Gen Steadman are on the left extending from the river above the city to the Murfreesboro Pike. The 23rd Corps from the Murfreesboro to the Granny White Pike and the 4th Corps from this pike to the Garden with the 16th Corps on our right. The troops who have been marching are all nearly exhausted from lack of sleep together with the great anxiety and suspense attending the hazards of movement. I saw brother Jim today and was gratified to find that he came safely through the conflict last night, although his clothes are covered with the blood of his fallen comrades. His regiment lost heavily.
Friday December 2, 1864
I am almost sick today. The great fatigue, loss of sleep and rest during the last few days have almost unstrung my whole system. The enemy has not made his appearance in our front yet. I understand his advance is at Brentwood, eight miles from here. We built a line of works this evening.
Saturday December 3, 1864
I am sick today bearly able to be around. Brother Jim came to see me this forenoon. This afternoon the enemy moved to form a long line and skirmished with our pickets and showed signs of a fight, but did not attempt an assault. I think they are only getting into position. Our batteries fire upon them pretty lively but as yet have scarcely elicited a reply. They seem to be saving their ammunition for more important purposes. It stands them in hand to save it if they expect to fight up for they are far from their base of supplies.
Sunday December 4, 1864
At day light this morning showed the enemy very busy entrenching themselves close to our picket line, which, is of course only their picket line their main line being farther back. But they are not ahead of us much on this for we have to strengthen our works during the night and have been working at them in day, even pressing citizens into service who are curious to come out to get a view of their friends over the way. It was really amusing to see some of those soft handed southerns or gentlemen handle a spade. Did we not we do this they would throng our line so much as to be in our way. There was the normal amount of picket firing. One man in Co D was killed this morning.
December 5,6,7,8,9,10,11, 1864
The last seven days has been spent in occasionally strengthening our works and the usual duties of defending a seige. We kept up a continual fire from our batteries upon the enemy and did from what we can see a very good effect. They reply but briefly with their artillery yet keep up the picket skirmishing as usual they are trying to plant batteries on the river below the city to prevent the passage of boats. Our gun boats have kept up a fierce cannonading in that direction. The weather has been cold and rough. Snow on the ground a part of the time. I and Lieut Gibson are living in a little hut made out of tin sheeting from the roof of a house that was torn down while building works. I have been doing a little office work when it is not too cold. I think I never was quite so uncomfortably situated as we are here. Whether the enemy intends starting a siege of this or not I do not know but it is my opinion if they ever get us out of Nashville only to fight them they must break loose again and go around. If they do not assault us we will hold and decide the matter right here.
Monday December 12, 1864
The weather still cold. There is some snow on the ground. It has rained and froze on this and is very slippery. Everything indicated a move in the morning, but I think we will hardly move out to assault the enemy until it thaws. It is so slippery that men can barely walk let alone make an assault. I never experienced campaigning during such cold disagreeable weather.
Tuesday December 13, 1864
Weather very damp and foggy and unfavorable for military operations. It is still some sleety but I think it will thin out, which I think is all we are waiting for when we will move out and attack the enemy.
Wednesday December 14, 1864
The sleet has gone and it is very muddy. The large cavalry force under Gen Wilson which has been collecting for last two weeks on the opposite side of the river and taking up positions on the right of the infantry. It is the largest and best cavalry force that has ever been had in this dept numbering about 15,000 strong. Under the leadership of Gen Wilson will do good work. I look for an assault on the enemy tomorrow. Many who go to sleep in their little army shelter tents tonight will see tomorrow the loss of a loved one who can never more return. May God give me strength and courage to do my best in the action as a Christian soldier and should it be my lot to be numbered among the slain may I fall in the arms of my savior and I think I have no fear of death and could meet it without a shudder.
Thursday December 15, 1864
An eventful day either of victory or a reverse – I feel confident of victory. Troops were ready to move before daylight. The assault is to be made upon the enemies left flank for which I think he is entirely unprepared. The troops have withdrawn from the line of the 4th and 23rd Corps leaving only a light skirmish line and massed on our right using our brigade which is the left of the columns. As a Wheeling first the cavalry moved down the river and go in on the extreme right. Gen Steadman is making a heavy demonstration on the Murfreesboro Pike to draw the attention in that direction and I think with success as we can see the enemy moving troops to their right. It is now ten o’clock, the line has been wheeling slowly and steadily to the left and thus far (10PM) met with no resistance. Except on the extreme right we hear some firing, the wheel is nearly completed and I must stop writing in my diary and prepare for action which will come soon. May God bless my efforts and protect us in the fight.
Evening-the assault was made at 1 PM with complete success we carried the first line with very little loss capturing a number of prisoners the enemy fell back to their second and main line which we assaulted a little before 5 PM with still better success, though with some loss. Capturing a great number of prisoners (about 2,500) and twenty-one pieces of artillery and a number of battle flags. I never saw men behave better. They pushed forward to the assault with wild enthusiasm. Our brigade captured five pieces of artillery. Darkness ended the pursuit. Hood is completely beaten, taken by surprise. He thought us weak and expected to be in Nashville instead of being thus sent humbling back. The 49th lost nine wounded and among them Lieutenants Gibson and Rapp, the former I think mortally. I will be with my company and company E go on picket tonight.
Friday December 16, 1864
The army commenced moving to the front in line of battle about eight o’clock this morning. The pickets working in advance. We found the enemy strongly entrenched on a range of hills covering the Franklin Pike five miles from the city with his flanks well protected. Our columns were masses with our left extended across the Franklin Pike. I with Co’s K & E was stationed to the left of the main column to guard the flank which I did by throwing up a strong skirmish line. The forenoon was spent in a little maneuvering with heavy cannonading in the afternoon our division (3rd) charged the enemy works on their right but failed to carry them. The charge was a severe one and our loss was pretty heavy. By taking troops from his left to meet this assault the enemy so weakened that position of his line that it was easily carried about 5 PM thus turning his left flank and rolling it back into the right and completely routing his whole line. We followed up very closely and rapidly until afternoon capturing thirty (30) pieces of artillery and about 3000 prisoners and an immense supply of small arms. The 49th lost 9 killed and 38 wounded during the day. It rained nearly all afternoon.
Sunday December 17, 1864
It rained all night and all day today. Col Strong having been wounded yesterday. Maj Bartlett from Division staff assumed command of the regiment. This morning we pursued the enemy with infantry to Franklin. The cavalry are six miles still further in advance driving the enemy which is now a demoralized mass and capturing prisoners and artillery. Capt Miles returned from home this evening and will join me in messing.
Sabbath December 18, 1864
We pursued the enemy eighteen miles through rain and mud and bivouacked five miles south of Springhill the cavalry had some fighting near Springhill with the rear guard of the enemy driving them and capturing two artillery pieces. I had the pleasure of meeting my old and esteemed friend Capt Frances of the 177th OHIO Infantry. He is temporary on the staff of Gen R.W. Johnston. There Corps retained the advance in pursuit of the enemy.
Monday December 19, 1864
Starting at 8 AM in a soaking rain we marched four miles to Rutherford creek where we foraged the rear of the enemy holding the fording with a small force. After a little skirmishing they withdrew. Two hundred of these when the remainder fell back. Remainder of the day was spent in building a bridge on which to cross which is very difficult for us in the stream naturally a very rapid current is also very high.
Tuesday December 20, 1864
The forenoon was spent in completing the bridge and crossed. This afternoon the corps crossed and marched four miles to Duck River where we find the enemy occupying the opposite banks. The bridge here is also destroyed the enemy seems very tame and did not fire on us although our boys approach within easy range and conversed with them. Were we to attempt a crossing I think they would not fire on us. It commenced raining and sleeting about sundown and is very cold and disagreeable.
Wednesday December 21, 1864
It snowed some during the night today has been cold and blustery. We laid still all day waiting for our pontoon train to come up that we may cross the river. I understand it got on the wrong road which caused the delay. The enemy still holds the Columbia side of the river in small force. I wrote to Sarah Fible today.
Thursday December 22, 1864
The pontoon train came up this morning our brigade immediately proceeded to pontoon the river. We met with some resistance in crossing – a picket force and had ten or twelve men wounded. They crossed however and the rebel cavalry had marching orders about the same time. All day has been spent in laying the pontoons and guarding down the banks of the river the Corps will cross tonight although it is now dark and the bridge is not quite done yet. It is very cold. The 16th Crops crossed the river today and are now going into bivouac close to us.
“The Battle of Nashville,” Blue and Gray The Patriotic American Company, Vol. III, No. 1, January 1894
Editor’s note: The “Acklin” house is Belmont, the home of Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in Nashville.
“The battle of Nashville was decided at Franklin two weeks before it was fought, and it was only the wreck of an army that lay siege to the capital of Tennessee. …
“We who were shut up for two weeks within the defences of the city had a good understanding of the situation, and a full assurance of what the result would be. It was true that we had retreated from Franklin, but that was on the program, and did not humble us in our own estimation at all.
“We had reached the limit of our backward march and now were ready to fight, and somehow we all had the impression that whatever the fighting would be in character, it was going to be our last. …
“The freedom of the city was given to us, and our going and coming was unrestrained by either pickets or provost guards. We lived on the fat of the market and crowded the theatres and playhouses every night. …
“The enemy gave us no trouble after the first day or two, though they were only a few rods away.
“General Stanley’s headquarters were in the Acklin house, a fine mansion near the Granny White pike. On a low hill not far away was posted the first brigade, third division, fourth army corps. It was a position from which could be had a fine view of the field in front. It was here that the two armies were nearest together. It was also a favorite resort for many of the aristocracy of Nashville. They came in crowds to get a view of their Southern friends. For a few days they were tolerated, when some of their actions not being pleasing to the Federal soldier they were given a gentle hint to stay away. Being slow to take the hint, picks and shovels were put into their unwilling hands, and an hour’s work in the trenches satisfied their curiosity and they came to more to camp.
“The days passed on, with the weather becoming more and more disagreeable. Our breastworks were completed, our picket duties light, and our camp required but little care.
“There was nothing for us to do but wait. What the next move would be we could not tell, but the longer we waited the more evident it became that we would have to begin the movement.
“On the morning of the 15th of December we were under arms by daylight and awaiting the command to march. A heavy fog was hanging over the country, hiding everything but itself from view. The hours passed and everything remained quiet.
“The sutler, foreseeing a lack of customers, rolled out his beer kegs and invited us all to drink. We heartily accepted his invitation, all of us except perhaps the chaplain, and I am not sure about him. …
“About ten o’clock we began to see things clearly, and looking from our hill away off to the right we saw that something was going on. Groups of horsemen were riding over the hills and disappearing into the valleys. It was Wilson’s cavalry moving to the front. Soon the reports of carbines and the boom of cannon came to our ears and we knew that the battle had begun.
“We kept out eyes upon the open fields across which we knew the enemy’s lines were formed. By and by the cavalry reappeared upon the borders of those fields, and as they advance, squads of men rise up suddenly from the ground, wait only long enough to empty their rifles, then start for the South with all possible speed, or, laying down their arms quietly, wait to be gathered into the United States. …
“Our position is a pivot upon which the whole right wing of our army is turning. The bugles upon the extreme right of the infantry sound ‘Forward,’ and the command passes down the line. One by one the regiments and brigades join the movement, and we can see the enemy’s line crumbling and breaking to pieces before the sweep of that might arm. Impatiently, we wait our time. At last the bugle sounds, and at the first note we leap over the breastworks, then with a wild rush and shout down the gentle slope of the hill and across the narrow strip of the neutral ground, we reach the Confederate line only to find it deserted except by those who were willing to fight no more, and the guns of a battery that they were unable to get away. These were soon turned upon their retreating owners. …
“We were not expecting any serious resistance but were surprised at the weakness of the enemy and the heartlessness of his defence. It was like striking a hard blow at some object when no object was there. …
“The next morning we were up bright and early. … During the night Hood had rallied his broken army and concentrated it along the crest of a low range of limestone hills. Directly across these hills ran the Franklin pike on its way to the South. …
“Two companies of the 15th Ohio were sent around to the extreme left of the line to feel after the enemy’s flank. We found it, but there did not seem to be much of it. However, we let it alone and quietly awaited events.
“Our army was being concentrated and being made ready for a last grand charge.
“Steedman’s brigade of colored troops was moved up and put in position on the left. Our two companies were thus left without anything to do except look on. … We were satisfied to be left in the rear, and glad to be lookers-on for once.
“When all was ready, or supposed to be, the word was given and the line of black and blue moved steadily forward until they were lost to view in the fog and smoke of battle. The grape-shot began to rattle uncomfortably close … , and we retired to a safer … place of observation.
“It soon became evident that the charge was a failure. The firing ceased, and back out of the smoke came hundreds of struggling and wounded men, followed by the broken and disordered regiments. But there was no rush, no panic. The officers soon had the men under control. The regiments were reformed, the stragglers gathered up, and the wounded sent to the rear. … Some one had blundered. The command was given too son, and the black brigade fought its battle alone.
“All was ready once more and the command given. This time the whole line moved forward, and sooner than was expected, the works were carried, and the enemy … was sent back through the woods and down the road.”
Diary, Southern Historical Collection, Manuscripts Department, CB# 3926, Wilson Library, The University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill.
“Rebs rep. coming. … Our end of the lines naturally pretty strong and making it stronger. If they wait a little we will mow them like everything.”
Private Elisha Stockwell, Jr., Sees the Civil War, Byron B. Abernethy, editor; copyright 1958 by the University of Oklahoma Press, Norman
“A sleet storm came that covered the ground with a coat of ice so thick a man or horse couldn’t stand up unless sharp shod. This hung on about ten days, and it was awfully cold. … We had only red cedars, and green at that, to make a fire. They made more smoke than fire, so we were glad to see the sun come out and take the ice off. …
“One morning we were ordered to be ready to march at a moment’s notice. We packed up and soon marched outside of our works and off to the right about a mile. Here we formed in line of battle at the edge of the woods, facing an open field and about eighty rods from a stone wall which the Rebs were behind. It was a little uphill to the stone wall and some distance beyond, and there was scattering timber back of that. It wasn’t at all a good-looking place to make a charge and all were quiet. There was no laughing or joking. …
“(Col. Ward) was riding a brown horse which he had ridden for over two years. … He was not more than two rods in front of me, and as cool as if we were on drill. As he faced us, he said, ‘Boys, now take it easy and follow me. I will lead you.’ As he gave the command, saying, ‘Right shoulder, shift arms, forward, double quick, march,’ he wheeled his horse around, and we were off for the stone wall, the whole brigade in line.
“I know his appearance helped me, and I think it did the whole command, to keep cool and not get excited. We were not to cheer as we would in a charge, but we knew the Rebs were behind the wall. We saw puffs of smoke at the top of the wall, but their bullets went over us. When we were a little more than halfway to the wall, we saw a strong skirmish line leave the stone wall and go back at a lively run. … When we were about fifteen rods from the wall, about as many Rebs jumped over the wall without their guns and came to meet us. One I saw was gutting his belt off with his pocket knife and laughing. I saw him cut his finger, then he stopped laughing and looked at what he was doing.
“George King, who had come to the company the night before and had never been on drill, was at the left of the company. When he saw the Rebs coming toward us, he raised his gun to his shoulder to shoot at them. But the man next to him wouldn’t let him shoot. George said, ‘How do you expect to put down the rebellion if you don’t shoot the sons-of-bitches when you have the chance?’ When the man was telling us about it, George looked sheepish and didn’t laugh with the rest of us.”
Note: The last sentence indicates Stockwell didn’t see this incident. George R. King enlisted in Sept 1864; was 15 at the time. This incident is also in History of Company I, (page 48) by Edgar P. Houghton.
“The Battle of Nashville, Tennessee, December 15 and 16, 1864,” by Henry Stone. Campaigns in Kentucky and Tennessee including the Battle of Chickamauga 1862-1864. Papers of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts; Vol. II., 1890
“The captures in the battles of the 15th and 16th of December and in the pursuit which followed amounted to a small army both in men and materiel. They consisted of 1 major-general, 8 brigadier-generals, 14 colonels, 10 lieutenant-colonels, 18 majors, 173 captains, 487 lieutenants, 1612 noncommissioned officers, and 6336 privates – in all, 8658 fighting men, with 77 surgeons and chaplains.
“Besides these, 3112 prisoners were taken in the various operations immediately preceding the battle of Nashville – making a total of 11,857 prisoners from the time Hood crossed the Tennessee River on his northward way till he reassembled his army in Mississippi.
“In the same time there were received 1521 deserters of all grades – making an aggregate of 15,378 men who fell into General Thomas’ hands, besides the vast number of deserters who were never accounted for.
“There were also captured 72 field guns, over 60 colors, more than 300 wagons, 78 pontoon boats, 1000 mules, and caissons, limbers, small arms, accoutrements, and ambulances to correspond.
“So thoroughly was the destruction of Hood’s army accomplished that it was deemed unnecessary longer to retain a large force in Tennessee, or indeed anywhere in that section. The scattered troops, which had been gathered together at Nashville … were soon even more widely scattered than before. The general order issued on the 29th of December announcing the close of the campaign, was hardly distributed when the work of disintegration began; and the various corps … were separated never to meet again.
“The 23d Corps, accompanied by more than one half the division which Steedman had brought with him from Chattanooga, was forwarded by rail to the seaboard, and afterward joined Sherman in North Carolina; Smith’s corps and Knipe’s cavalry division were sent to Mobile, and helped to capture that stronghold; the 4th Corps, after a short expedition into East Tennessee, was moved to Texas to help keep the peace on the Mexican frontier; the cavalry corps, reorganized, swept like destruction through Alabama and Georgia.
“By the time of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox there remained in Tennessee only the post garrisons and railroad guards needed to protect the property of the United States.”
My Experiences During the Civil War, by Thoburn, compiled and edited by Lyle Thoburn; 1963
Note: Thoburn was commanding Company A at Nashville and was also put in charge of Company F because its commander, Capt. J.G. Theaker, was wounded.
Dec. 4, 1864:
“Since coming here, many of the citizens have been pressed into service and put to work on the fortifications.”
Dec. 8, 1864:
“Was detailed for skirmish line this morning. The weather has turned quite cold. Wood is very scarce. We are cut off from the country on the south side of the city. We are only allowed one cord of wood a day for the whole reg’t and the men are but poorly prepared for it, as they lost nearly everything at Franklin. Along about mid day the one wing made an advance all along the line and drove in our pickets. Away to our right in our immediate front they made no movement, but to our right they got possession of a large brick house from which they opened fire on us and compelled us to change our position and fall back a little. I sent word to back to the fort that they were annoying us from the brick house. They soon opened fire on them and threw two shells into the house, and we laughed and shouted as we saw them tumble and scramble and strike back for their own lines. The weather turned colder but as we were on the skirmish line we could have no fire.
December 9, 1864:
“Last night was the coldest I ever spent on the skirmish line. Sleet fell and froze as it fell, and today it has continued and the ground is all a sheet of ice two inches deep. …
December 10, 1864:
The ice holds firm and the air cold and chilly, clouds hang. Enemy quiet. We are getting well fitted out with clothing, so that we will be able to stand the rigors of winter. I have had no fire and the one cord of wood to the reg’t. is still all we are able to get. I have to do my writing with very cold fingers. During the day I keep warm by running around and sleep comfortably in my little shelter tent at night.”
December 12, 1864:
“Yesterday was clear and cold, but did not thaw any. The citizens here say that they never had colder weather. …
December 13, 1864:
“The weather is moderating, ice melting and rain threatening. A brigade of colored troops made a reconnoisance in force on our extreme left during the afternoon. From our position on the hill where we were camped we had a good view of all their movements. They advanced in fine style, driving in the enemies’ skirmishers, but not going far enough to bring on a general engagement. Our works were lined with men watching the engagement.”
“Rain set in during the night and the ice is gone. We now have mud in abundance. All has been quiet during the day. This evening we got orders to be ready to move at daybreak.”
December 15, 1864
“Started out at dawn and moved to our right and in a southwesterly direction. A general movement is taking place all along the line. We moved out, driving the enemy before us at every point. We turned their left flank and drove them till dark. capturing seven hundred prisoners and eight guns. The marching was the hardest we ever had on account of the mud. We had some hot skirmishing. Lieut. Pine was seriously wounded, the ball passing through his body and just above the heart and breaking his arm.
“As night came on the enemy made a start on a high ridge while we were on the opposite side of a deep valley. We went to work and threw up heavy work along our front, while the enemy were just as busy at work strengthening their position.”
December 16, 1864
“Our men worked all night strengthening our position. We could hear the axes over on the ridge where the enemy were located, during the night, and this morning revealed the fact that they had constructed good works and lined them all along with head logs. Soon after daybreak our forces began to press the enemy and heavy artillery firing could be heard along the line.
“There were two hills on our side, and a battery was placed on each hill, and our brigade was just long enough to fill the gap between the batteries, and we were told that we were to support the batteries. In the meantime the battery teams were kept busy on the run up and down the hills hauling stores for immediate use.
“This was kept up all the forenoon, till I began to wonder what they were going to do with such a quantity. However, in the afternoon a column of troops came marching along from the left and on the outside of our works, they then faced to the front, unslung knapsacks, and laid them in piles. We all well knew what that meant. The 23rd and 4th corps men all wore black felt regulation hats, but these fellows all had caps without rims and a tassel hanging down behind. They were Gen. A. J. Smith’s men, who had come down on the Mississippi to help us, and they were here to make the grand charge. They then fixed bayonets and stood in line awaiting the signal. They were a fine looking body of troops. …
“The time arrived and the batteries on our right and left opened instantaneously, and with that Gen. Smith’s men went down on the double quick, and were lost to our view in the valley, and the batteries kept up a constant fire. … Water could not drop faster than the shells burst inside the enemy’s lines. … We could see the head logs flying off their works and they kept so well under cover that we could not see a sign of any one, and they never fired a gun.
“At last our men could be seen climbing the hill, and then stopping and dressing up their lines, then on they went. The hill was very steep and our men climbed slowly and deliberately, while our shells plunged in just above their heads, and as the last volley was fired our men swept up over the works and the work was done. The enemy had thrown down their arms without firing a gun. … We captured 4,500 prisoners and all their artillery.
“We were ordered forward at once and instead of going into line of battle we moved in column. We soon met a heavy column of Rebel prisoners, about one third of them were barefoot, and this the 16th of December. They were all ragged and dirty, and so filthy that we could smell them. … Many of them laughed and joked about going into Nashville, while others looked very sour and some of them even vicious. …
“On the hill they had fixed up a fortification for their battery, but so hot was the fire of our batteries, that they never manned their guns. They then tried to pull out their guns but they mired in the soft ground. When we captured them, we found that they had poor bony horses with rope traces, and the men were living on boiled corn. This was proved by examining their haversacks, and that was the only ration. …
December 17, 1864:
“Started in pursuit of the enemy. On the … (Granny) white pike after moving a few miles the road became almost impossible on account of the mud and we took to the fields and found the mud almost bottomless. Went into camp about dark, without rations. … I had neither blanket or tent. I slept, last night, in the hollow between two rails with my overcoat buttoned around me.”
Dec 27 entry is about consolidation of the 50 and 99 Ohio
In the Dec 29 entry, Thoburn refers to a detailed diary kept by Lt. Edgely, in which the Lt. describes being captured at Franklin and escaping. I have not been able to find any more information about the diary.
Genealogy and Biography of the Connecticut Branch of the Churchill Family in America, Containing Eleven Generations and Eighty Portraits of the Families, by Samuel Joseph Churchill. Lawrence, Kansas, U.S.A., February 15, A.D., 1901
Editor’s note: Thorp’s account supplements that of Samuel Churchill; it comes from Churchill’s book. Churchill won the Medal of Honor at Nashville for serving his gun alone until Thorp came to his assistance. In his book, Churchill quotes a letter he received long after the war from Thorp, who had read about his medal and his efforts to get Thorp some credit, too.
Thorp’s letter is dated Feb. 6, but the year is not listed:
“When number one dropped the sponge staff and skulked to the rear … , I could hardly wait for my relief to come, and when I took that sponge staff there wasn’t a man on earth that felt any better than I did. … I pulled my jacket off and rolled up my sleeves as if I was going to chop wood. I really thought for a while that we were going to get the worst of it.”
Diary, Special Collections, The Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky
“Dec. 2nd Friday: Has been some skirmishing to-day, was in the City, eat dinner at a restaurant, in afternoon rebs make some demonstrations but were feeling our lines. Boys have been hard at work making rifle pits.
“Dec 3d Saturday: We have our quarters on the widow Ecklin property, short distance from the Brigade … has been some cannonading and some skirmishing.
“Dec 4th (?) Sunday: Has been pretty day, a number of citizens have been out from town looking on, but were pressed into service and made to work in breast works , has been cannonading.
“Dec 5th Monday: Has been skermishing some today. Hear rumors that the rebs have crossed the river. … Was in the city a while to-day.
“Dec 6th Tuesday: Has been quiet along the lines. … was in town to-day. …
“Dec 7th Wednesday: … In afternoon went to town. Has been cold windy and raining most of day. … has been very quiet on the lines.
“Dec 8th Thursday: Cold day in afternoon. Steward and I rode downtown. I found out my Cousin, whom became acquainted with at ‘Stones River’ (???) near Murfreesboro two years ago, W.H. Tilford, he is keeping Livery Stable. Went to his house to take supper, was glad to see them, returned to camp by 8’clock. …
“Dec. 9th Friday: Has been snowing and sleeting all day, very disagreeable in camp; everything quiet on the lines but little firing.
“Dec 10th Saturday: Cold day. Bought me a stove paid $7.00 fire comfortable this weather, cold weather, severe on the boys not being much wood handy; hear some rumors of leaving soon reported railroad cut … but little firing on lines.
“Dec 11th Sunday: Has been cold day. …
“Dec 12th Monday: Rumors were yesterday that we would move soon is said today we will move tomorrow is thought will make advance on the rebs, sent sick to Hospital. Has been but little firing; roads are very slippery undertook to ride downtown, but only got short distance sent my horse back.
“Dec 13th Tuesday: Did not move it was only thought would have to move to the right, as enemy were making some demonstration to cross the river, and is said did succeed in getting a pontoon across but a gun boat run against it and broke it into. Some rebels had already crossed but were captured so reports go. …
“Dec 14th Wednesday: … is rumored we will move soon.
“Dec 15th Thursday: This morning early was awakened by hearing troops moving went up to the Reg’t – found all packed up. I soon had everything ready. Troops were moved on the right of where our camp was. … heavy cannonading was kept up all day. …
“Dec. 16th: Friday: Left early this morning, marched near two miles when again run against the rebs. … ”
(He describes charges, defense, renewed charges by his brigade)
“The rebels fled in confusion; the day was won. I immediately followed after the command, stopped on the battle field and assisted some wounded a large number of colored troops lay wounded and dead close up (to?) the enemies works our loss was heavy. I started to walk after the R’egt. After night could not find, found some of our boys Capt. Stubbs who had been on the skirmish line.”
Diary, SC1733, Albert S. Underwood papers, 1839-1865, Indiana Historical Society
Note: Underwood made supplemental entries, which are at the bottom
The 21st Missouri and the 9th Indiana Light Artillery were aboard a steamboat that left St. Louis Nov. 25, 1864:
“Fri. Dec. 02: Drizzling rain this morning. Run all night and reached Nashville at 10 oclock and commenced unloading immediately. We got off by 2 oclock and started out to the front and took positions about 4 oclock in the front line of battle on the Nashville Pike about 2 1/2 miles southwest of the statehouse. Our men are throwing up rifle pits in earnest tonight.
“Sat. Dec. 03: Rained last night. I went on the top of a hill high nearby where I had a nice view of the city and the troops line of battle and the surrounding country. … About 4 oclock this evening cannonading opened on the left wing but did not last long. A squad of citizens were brought out and throwed us up breastworks. …
“Sun. Dec. 04: The gunboats were hard firing below last night and firing has commenced on the left this morning and kept up all day. Our men are still strengthening their works. The Rebs have throwed up fortifications in front of the 4TH Corps. Their works extend to within l/4 of a mile of ours on the left. The 3RD Indiana Battery throwed several shells into the Rebs line up to 9 oclock tonight, and heavy picket firing was kept up all night. …
“Mon. Dec. 05: Cannonading opened again this morning to our left and was kept up at intervals all day and skirmishing was kept up all along the lines most of the day. … Cannonading ceased this evening. …
“Tues. Dec. 06: Cannonading and skirmishing again today. In the evening the 2nd Illinois and 2nd Iowa Batteries opened fire on the right at a Rebel column that was seen moving to the right. … It rained a little last night, has been a pleasant day. The gunboats are firing below here this evening. …
“Wed. Dec. 07: Rained a little last night and is warm and cloudy this morning. … It had turned quite cold this evening. Rained a little this evening. …
“Thurs. Dec. 08: It was quite cold last night and still continues cold all day. Cannonading again today. We fired a few rounds in the morning. …
“Fri. Dec. 09: Very cold disagreeable this morning. A cold sleeting snow is falling this morning. Ceased snowing about noon and I went down to the city and went into the U.S. Christian Commission and wrote a letter. Quite a crowd of soldiers in the city today. Cannonading and skirmishing has about ceased now as it is rather too cold and disagreeable to fight today.
“Sat. Dec. 10: Quiet still this morning. I and R.C. Turner went to the city this morning. Visited the State House which is a splendid building, and after we run around over town till evening, we went back to the camp. There has been a little cannonading today. It is quite slippery getting round now. Everything is very high here in this market, but there is a large amount of business done here.
“Sun. Dec. 11: Very cold here in camp. I went down to the city and went to the Baptist Church in the morning. I then took a walk out to the forts in the south part of the city. I went back through town, and Haines and I went to the St. Cloud Commercial and the City Hotel and remained till nearly night and then returned to camp. …
“Mon. Dec. 12: Cold and disagreeable all day. There was some cannonading today on the left. Most of the cavalry has crossed over to this side of the river this evening, and the indications are that a move will be made soon. I went down where the cavalry camped tonight and saw the 12TH Mo. Cavalry, also the 11TH Indiana. …
“Tues. Dec. 13: Still cold and disagreeable this morning and no move is being made yet for the enemy. I am on guard today and have been writing some letters. It moderated considerable this evening. The snow and sleet has all gone and it is misting rain a little. Skirmishing or picket firing is going on quite brisk up to 11 oclock tonight.
“Wed. Dec. 14: Misty and foggy this morning. … It is warm and cloudy and very muddy today. … The cavalry is still in camp near here. There has been no cannonading here today. …
“Thurs. Dec. 15: Still warm and foggy. Left camp at 7 1/2 oclock, formed our lines in the valley in front of our works and begun to advance at 11 oclock. … Our battery and the 2nd Illinois shelled one of their work for 3 or 4 hours, but the infantry charged it and took it. … Rained a little today. … We camped tonight where the Rebs camped last night.
“Fri. Dec. 16: We were in readiness for action at an early hour and advanced 3 / 4 of a mile and the ball soon opened. We run our battery right up on the Reble skirmish line and opened and fired all day from the position. We run out of ammunition for the Napoleons about 3 oclock. The infantry advanced under a galling fire and scaled their walls and took possession of their works. We moved forward about 1 mile and camped for the night.
“Sat. Dec. 17: Rained hard last night and continued all day. … I went over the battle ground this morning of guns, ammunition, dead horses, wagons stuck in the mud and leaned against trees. It showed there had been a great panic. We hauled off 4 guns and some caisson and left about 4 oclock on the Granny White Pike and then back to the Franklin Pike and into camp about 3 oclock.
“Sun. Dec. 18: Left camp at 7 1 / 2 oclock. Very muddy and disagreeable. Marched along pretty well to within about 2 miles of the town of Franklin and halted for about 4 hours. Met several hundred prisoners and 3 pieces of Rebel artillery. Moved up near town for a while before night to camp, but got orders to cross the Harpeth River. Crossed over on pontoon, passed through town about a mile and went into camp at 7 1 / 2 oclock. Marched 8 miles.”
Supplementary entries on other pages of Underwood diary:
“Dec. 15, 1864: The artillery fighting today was very heavy for several hours and the infantry firing was very heavy in the charge on their first works. …
“Dec. 16, 1864: We advanced our lines early this morning and commenced shelling their works with our battery, the 3rd Indiana, and the 2nd Illinois. The enemy had their batteries behind good fortifications. We kept up such a heavy fire on them that they could not use their guns at times, but lay close behind their works. We ceased firing while the infantry were charging and they opened a heavy galling fire till our men got close to their works, scaled the wall and took their artillery and then swung around right and soon captured a lot of prisoners. I stood on a high point and could see the whole thing. …
“Dec. 17, 1864: It rained last night and is very disagreeable. We went over the battle ground this morning and hauled off a lot of artillery and caissons. A lot of ammunition wagons scattered over the round. Some had stuck in the mud, some had run against trees, others had their horses shot down and had cut loose and left.
“Dec. 24, 1864: We are at Buck (Duck?) River this morning, waiting for the 4th Corps train to get across out of our way. The Rebs have dumped some of their artillery in the river here in their hurried retreat. … 3 pieces of artillery, a Bobman (Rodman?), a 10 lb. Parrott, and a 12 lb. Howitzer were hauled out of the river this morning.”
“Saved by an Ax,” by Alex L. Whitehall, Co. F, 9th Indiana; National Tribune, Sept. 20, 1883.
Note: The “daisy ax” is one his messmates picked up after it was left unattended by the 75 Illinois in Pulaski in November 1864.
In going into the battle on December 15 … I, whose turn it was to carry the ax, was too reduced and weak to carry anything more than gun and ammunition, a few rations and a poncho – being sick with lung fever in first stages, and was about to throw the ax down or give it to the pioneers, when Corporal Frank Beeson, a lusty and hearty young fellow of our company, proposed to carry it if we would give it to him, and we did so, and accordingly strapped the ax transversely across his breast, the pole well up to the right shoulder and blade resting but a few inches below the chin, while the lower part of the handle was made fast to the waistbelt just over the left hip.
“And with the ax made fast to him in this manner, he went into battle, and on the 16th about noon, … while our regiment was double-quicking into position on the right of the Franklin pike, in the face of a shower of shot and shell at tolerable close range, Beeson, myself, and several other comrades a few feet in advance of the companies of the right wing of our regiment sprang across a small brook just as the order came to ‘Lie down!’ We dropped on our faces just in time to escape a withering fire of canister and rifle bullets. I remained in this position, flattening myself as close to the earth as possible.
“Glancing up sidewise at Frank, I saw that he had turned upon his back, and, as we were almost exhausted with our long run, in order to rest himself more comfortably, had hunched his knapsack under his neck. Just then I noticed a crash and heard Beeson groan. He lay by my side entirely limp, and at the same moment Sergeant Potter, of company A, was struck a few feet to our right, and thinking my turn was liable to be called next, I buried my face in the wet grass, when I was seized with a fit of coughing brought on by my hard run.
“In a few moments the corporal was carried back across the stream, and a few moments later I crawled back and lay down behind a rail barricade, – thrown up in a few seconds, – and soon my attention was attracted to the ax the boys had unstrapped from Beeson’s body, and on examination found that a ragged piece of shell had struck the helve of the ax about one-and-a-half inches below where it entered the ax and shivered the timber and separated the fibers of that tough hickory stick, making it look as if it had been crushed between the grinding teeth of a huge monster. And the shattered ax-helve mutely attested the saving of the life of a gallant and faithful young soldier, for the corporal – whose gold pen and some other articles in his vest pocket had been flattened by the fierce blow, recovered from the shock, and in a few weeks returned to his company.
“Had not the helve of our little ax protected his breast as it did a fearful hole would have been torn through his body. The ax … we left it lying there near the sport where it had done so grand a duty as its last act of usefulness, and made a final charge against Cheatham’s stubborn corps and drove them from their ably defended works on through Brentwood Gap, when night spread her peaceful mantle over the hard fought field.”
Letters dated December 6 and 20, 1864, and January 10, 1865; U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Written Dec 6, 1864, at Nashville:
“I cannot imagine what the rebels idea is for laying Seige to this place. It is very near impossible for them to bring a Battery to bear on any part of our line. They tried to plant a Battery day before yesterday when our Artillery opened on them so fast that it took two sets of horses, to get it away again, killing their horses and men as fast as they came up, the took the last piece away by hand. …
“Our Batteries are in such a position that they can bring 30 to 40 pieces to bear on any point at the same time besides Infantry reinforcements can be brought from one place to another in a few minutes. … I do not apprehend any danger for Nashville. It will be a sorry thing for the Rebs if they … charge our works.”
Written Dec 20, 1864, apparently about action on Dec 16, because he refers to pursuing the retreating Confederate army:
“It is really a miracle how men can go through a perfect Hailstorm of Bullets, Shell, Grape & Canister without a scratch. … It was the worst place that I have ever been in. We may thank the smoke of the guns for many of our lives. It was so thick that the Rebs could not see to aim at us, most of the Balls went over our heads. … I had no idea that Rebels were such cowards, they started to run before we got within sixty yards of the works, hundreds staying & shaking their white rags, & asking for quarters. But our Regt never noticed them, just passing them as if they were not there & followed up the retreating army. We followed them until dark when the men had to stop for breath. I never was so give out in my life. We had to charge nearly two miles with a heavy load on our backs & the mud shoemouth deep. I believe I was among the first on the works. I could have taken 20 prisoners, if I had been so minded, for I was the farthest advanced, But I thought there were plenty of Straglers to take care of them. I sometimes stopped to take the guns away but that was all. Once I came very near knocking a fellow down with my gun, there were two behind a tree & both had their guns loaded & cocked. I went up to them to take them away, & one refused to give his up he held on to it. But when I looked at him, he seemed so frightened, that I thought he did not know what he was doing. I took pity on the poor wretch, and told him to give up his gun and I would not hurt him so he give it up.
“All the prisoners that I seen were the worst frightened set of men that can be imagined.”
Written on Jan 10, 1865, about incident on December 16:
“The last day of the Battle of Nashville, I had a chance to capture a Rebel flag, by going up a hill in front of our Regt & bringing down a prisoner who showed us a white flag. I was the first to see him, but was so near tired out, that I told one of the boys standing by, to go & get him, & he did so. This prisoner proved to be a color bearer of a Battery, & had the flag with him & gave it up to his captor. … A late order from Gen Thomas all Flags captured in the late Battles, are to be sent to Washington with their captors, to receive from the President & Sect of War, their praise & such gifts as they may see fit. This man from our Regt started back last Saturday, & I understand he is to get a 60 day Furlough. Now may I not box my own ears? … Instead of having a sixty day Furlough I am here living on half Rations, it is too bad but serves me right.”