The Last Ditch of the War in the West: Franklin, Tennessee

I was not planning to do a second post on the Battle of Franklin today, but I literally just found the article below  in The Evening Repository (Canton, Ohio), and it was too good not to share:

In August 1886, Samuel B. Watts attended the reunion of the 104th Ohio Infantry in Meyer’s Lake, Ohio. The event was a notable occasion for Watts, as he was made an honorary member of the 104th Ohio by the unanimous agreement of the veterans of the regiment. This was a rather unusual occurrence, for 22 years earlier Captain Samuel B. Watts had been an officer in the 10th Mississippi Infantry, and had been captured at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee by the 104th Ohio.

The 104th Ohio was posted in front of the Cotton Gin  near the Union center - this was the scene of the most intense fighting of the entire battle

The 104th Ohio was posted in front of the Cotton Gin near the Union center – this was the scene of the most intense fighting of the entire battle

When Watts was captured, he surrendered his sword to Captain Shepherd M. Knapp, commander of Company D, 104th Ohio Infantry. As the Rebel captain turned over the blade he asked a favor of his captor: that at the end of the war, if they were both still living, that his sword be returned. Captain Knapp agreed to the request, and in 1886 he made good on his promise, contacting Watts at his home in Meridian, Mississippi, and arranging for him to attend the 104th Ohio’s reunion so that the sword could be returned in a formal ceremony.

Map of the Battle of Franklin showing the position of the 104th Ohio Infantry

Map of the Battle of Franklin showing the position of the 104th Ohio Infantry

A.J. Ricks, a lieutenant in the 104th Ohio, made the presentation address, and told Captain Watts that Knapp “has asked me on his behalf to return this sword, so worthily borne by a gallant foe, and so honorably lost in what was almost literally, the last ditch of the war in the west. You won the right to reclaim it because of your gallantry on the field when it was fairly lost and won. Take it as the gift of a brave Union soldier and keep it as a new evidence of the fact that forever hereafter, as always heretofore, the brave soldiers of the North will bear, as they have borne, respect and good will for those of the brave soldiers of the South who have manfully accepted the results of the war.”

After Watts took possession of the sword he was called on to make some remarks to the crowd. He told his fellow veterans, “I can scarcely realize that I stand today in the midst of men in whose midst I stood nearly twenty-two years ago. I was on that memorable occasion your most unwilling captive. I am today your willing captive. I am here in response to a most pressing, and, I am sure, hearty invitation from your worthy president, who expressed a desire to return to me in person the sword which has just been handed me, with an accompaniment of beautiful words from the lovely daughter (unborn at the date of the surrender of the sword) of a brave and noble father, in redemption of a promise made when he received it on the battlefield of Franklin. I compromise no principle for which I fought in my conduct on this occasion; I was not in the army of conquest nor invasion – we fought for what we believed to be right and in defense of our homes and institutions. You recognized our honesty of purpose and the bravery of our soldiers. When I became your prisoner I was treated by true soldiers as a soldier…I again thank you most heartily for your kind reception and bid you one and all good-bye. I hope to meet you on another reunion occasion.”

The grave of Captain Samuel B. Watts in Rose Hill Cemetery, Meridian, Mississippi

The grave of Captain Samuel B. Watts in Rose Hill Cemetery, Meridian, Mississippi

I don’t know if Captain Watts ever attended another reunion of the 104th Ohio, but if he didn’t, it certainly was not from the lack of opportunities: the old soldier lived until 1931, passing away on January 8.  He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian, Mississippi.

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One thought on “The Last Ditch of the War in the West: Franklin, Tennessee

  1. Jim

    Very nice!

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