The Bloodiest of the War: The Battle of Franklin, Tennessee

Today is the 149th Anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, and it is appropriate that I should remember this date on my blog, as it was the final battle of the Civil War for hundreds of Mississippians. I found the following article recently, and I think it sums up very well the importance that the survivors of the battle attached to the clash of arms that took place at Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864:

THE BATTLE OF FRANKLIN – THE BLOODIEST OF THE WAR

To the Editor of The Republic

St. Louis, Aug. 1 – I noticed in last Sunday’s Republic an article comparing the losses at Gettysburg with the charge of

Wartime image of Lieutenant Frederick W. Fout - From his book, THE DARK DAYS OF THE CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865

Wartime image of Lieutenant Frederick W. Fout – From his book, THE DARK DAYS OF THE CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865

the “Light Brigade” at Balaclava, showing that the former exceed the latter. I desire to call your attention to the greatest loss that was sustained in a given time in the Civil War. This was at the battle of Franklin, Tenn., November 30, 1864, where the Confederates, under the command of General Cockrell, now Senator of Missouri, were literally wiped out, and where General Walthall, with his Mississippians, never retreated, but died as near the last ditch as could be; where Generals Granberry and Strahl, with their Texans lying around, were found sitting up erect in death, with their swords in hand, as if they commanded the ghastly crew around them; where Pat Cleburne and his mare were pierced with 49 bullets; were Gist of South Carolina led his veterans, not to conquer, but to die.

At Gettysburg Lee had 75,000 men, of which number 3,500 were killed in three days’ fighting. At Franklin Hood had 20,000 men, of whom 1,750 were killed in two hours’ fighting. At Gettysburg there were no bloody bayonets, but at Franklin the Twelfth and Sixteenth Kentucky regiments and Updyke’s brigade of Illinois and Ohio boys had their bayonets literally covered with blood. The Missouri Union troops, namely, the Fifteenth, under the command of Colonel Conrades, and the Forty-fourth, under the command of Colonel Barr, a new one-year regiment, lost fearfully in the battle. The Fourty-forth Missouri, over _00 men, went into the battle. Next morning at roll call the regiment was composed 0f 365, officers and men. Thus the Americans, both Federal and Confederate, and the foreigners of the Fifteenth Missouri, a Swiss organization, showed that they could die for their country. Not since powder was invented has there been such a bloody battle (the battle of Borodino, on September 7, 1813, before Moscow, not excepted) as the battle of Franklin, on November 30, 1864.

In this battle were six Confederate Generals killed, six wounded, and one taken prisoner.

Respectfully,

Frederick W. Fout

St. Louis RepublicAugust 7, 1898

Frederick W. Fout was well qualified to speak on the ferocity of the Battle of Franklin; a veteran of over a dozen major battles, he was the recipient of a Medal of Honor for his gallantry at Harper’s Ferry in 1862 .  His unit, the 15th Independent Battery, Indiana Light Artillery, was posted on the high ground near Fort Granger, overlooking the battlefield. From this spot Fout had a ringside seat to watch one of the bloodiest engagements of the Western theater.

By the time of the Battle of Franklin, Mississippi General Edward C. Walthall had moved up to division command, and

General Edward Cary Walthall

General Edward Cary Walthall

his former brigade, made up of the 24th, 27th, 29th, 30th, and 34th Mississippi regiments, was being led by General William F. Brantley. From his battery’s position, Fout  would probably have been able to witness the Mississippian’s attack on the Union left flank, and seen the terrible casualties inflicted on the Confederates. Brantley’s brigade had 76 men killed, 140 wounded, and 21 missing in the Battle of Franklin.

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7 thoughts on “The Bloodiest of the War: The Battle of Franklin, Tennessee

  1. One of the most significant facts about the Battle of Franklin were the accounts following this horrific and deadly battle were the reports of how the dead fighters were found literally piled on top of each other in the trenches outside the main breastworks – sometime 5 to 7 deep!! Had to be an unbelievably horrific site… Rob Swinson, Recearcher & Historian, 32nd & 45th Mississippi

    • Rob: Contact me when you can, I will share names and burials of Tennessee Campaign Casualties of 32nd & 45th Mississippi with you if you wish. Tim Burgess

  2. Franklin was perhaps the war’s most brutal battle from the Confederate point of view. Hood blundered badly and cost thousands of Southern lives unnecessarily. The west was largely a fiasco for the South, but Franklin underscored the Confederacy’s inability in that region.

  3. Matthew Hauck

    Not to take away from the gallantry of the men that Gettysburg, but I certainly hope that Franklin, at least gets some press next year.

  4. Matthew Hauck

    Edit: should have read; “Not to take away from the gallantry of the men that fought and died at Gettysburg,…,”

  5. Edwin Rea

    Jeff, again thanks for your articles on Franklin; I should have scrolled down from the article on Dr. Ward and I would have seen them earlier. Franklin holds special meaning, as I have kin buried there as well, in Carrie McGavock’s cemetery, MS section 28 grave 105: Charles Hemphill. He was my gg-grandfather, A. J. Hemphill’s, brother; they were both in the 31st MS. A. J. had died earlier in the war from an illness.

    • Edwin,
      You are very welcome – I have been to the Confederate cemetery at Franklin several times, and it is a very moving experience to see the place where so many Mississippians were laid to rest.

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