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The breastworks at Franklin 30 November 1864

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Breastworks, earthworks, works, trenches, ditches, lines, abatis, from eyewitnesses accounts at Franklin. By Kraig McNutt BattleofFranklin.net FranklinMatters.com

The formidable nature of the works


Moscow Carter, Franklin resident Although Hood was said to be a rash fighter, it was hardly thought he would be reckless enough to make a determined assault on the formidable works in front of him. Keesy, 64th Ohio On coming into Franklin sometime after noon, our drooping spirits were revived in seeing a strong line of works . . . . The line was not only strongly built . . . but well-manned. Hardin P. Figuers, 15 These breastworks were high enough to protect the soldiers and had head logs on the top, so that the Federals could be reached only when the Confederate bullets entered the cracks between the head logs and the breastworks. Hardin P. Figuers, 15 Many of the dead Yankees along near the old gin house were killed by being struck over the head with the guns in the hands of the Confederates standing on the breastworks above them. A.J. Jones, 24th WI When our little company came up to the works . . . seeing that the works were full . . . Truman, 1st MO Artillery, CSA My battery camped in the field . . At daylight . . . I walked the breastworks toward the center and left of our line. At the end of the hedge fence another serious obstruction began and

continued to the pike . . . . It consisted of sharpened fence rails placed in a deep ditch, at an angle of 45 degrees as close as they could stand. . . . They were about three feet high. MNeilly, CSA Chaplain They had attacked at a point where an osage orange hedge had been cut down, and its thorny branches formed and impenetrable abatis. W.C. Neese 3rd MO, CSA In our charge across the open field we were cut up so badly that when we reached the breastworks, we were not strong enough to take them . . . The battle raged fiercely right across the works. Thompson, 35th AL, CSA And we went until we got about 50 or 75 yards from them, when they rose as a blue wave and a wall of fire rose that swept our ranks like hail. Many fell then, but we went up to them, and when we got to their works we found that we could not get to them on account of an osage orange hedge in front of their works, so thick that we could not pull it away or cut it. Addison Lee Ewing, 63rd Indiana Infantry There is no quicker way of suffering this war than by having Rebs charge our works when they invariably get whipped. - The Kraig McNutt Civil War Collection Merrill, an Indiana officer The Rebels made desperate efforts to penetrate the abatis and human nature couldnt stand the destructive fire that was rained upon them - Merrill, The Soldier of Indiana in the War for the Union, Vol. 2. P.759-760. As cited in Jacobson, For Cause & For Country (2006,pb): 318.

The nature and construction of the works


Keesy, 64th Ohio Every man tried to get a root, chunk, log, rail, or anything he could, to help strengthen the protection we realized would soon be sorely needed. Lt. Thomas C. Thoburn, 50th OH . . . the 50th regiment actually tore down the Carter barn to help build our breastworks. It had been built of hewn logs, and we even out on a row of head logs. Our second line of works joined on to the Carter smokehouse, which lay west of the house. Fannie Courtney, 19 They *Federal army+ commenced immediately throwing up breastworks. You would have been astonished to see how quick the work was completed, and with what strength. Hardin P. Figuers, 15 They worked like beavers, using houses, fences, timber and dirt. . . . by two oclock . . they had completed their breastworks. These breastworks were high enough to protect the soldiers and had head logs on the top, so that the Federals could be reached only when the Confederate bullets entered the cracks between the head logs and the breastworks. Truman, 1st MO Artillery, CSA They used heavy timber for head logs to their breastworks. Those logs almost shot to pieces. The Northern dead were nearly all shot in the head or face. The locust grove to our left center consisted of trees about four to twelve inches in diameter. Nearly every one was cut down by bullets from the enemy, and fell with their tops from their works. Sgt Major Banks, Acting Adjutant, 29th AL . . . from the gin-house, which was near the pike and near the enemys interior fortified line. . . . (I) passed through, and beyond the abatis, which did not obstruct the pike . . . (I) then left the pike, going obliquely to the ditch, which was between the abatis and the earthworks. This point was the salient in the enemys line, and here had been erected a sort of bastion as though intended for artillery, and the moat or ditch, around the outer side of it, while not deep was wide. When . . . (I) reached the ditch . . . (I) found a few men already entering it. The men in the ditch . . . MNeilly, CSA Chaplain 3

They had attacked at a point where an osage orange hedge had been cut down, and its thorny branches formed and impenetrable abatis. Capt William C. Thompson, 6th MS Scotts brigade (had) charged the Federal fortifications but failed to take the works.

Location and position of the works


Lt. Thomas C. Thoburn, 50th OH . . . the 50th regiment actually tore down the Carter barn to help build our breastworks. It had been built of hewn logs, and we even out on a row of head logs. Our second line of works joined on to the Carter smokehouse, which lay west of the house. Hardin P. Figuers, 15 The cellar door . . . stood about one hundred yards inside of the Yankee breastworks. Brig Gen Daniel C. Govan, C.S.A. There was a locust thicket just in front of the Yankee breastworks. Sgt. Major S.A. Cunningham, 41st TN . . . the breastworks in front of the town . . . Worsham, 19th TN, CSA Sgt Lum Waller, of Co. H., scaled the works and took shelter behind the brick smokehouse, just in the rear of the dwelling, where he was wounded, and also Lt W.W. Etter, of Co. K., succeeded in getting upon the works and jumped down among the Federals . . . Zack Smith, of Co. A., crawled to the top of the works from which he repeatedly fires. George W. Leavell, 41st MS We reached the works just a little to the left of the Carter brick building. Truman, 1st MO Artillery, CSA My battery camped in the field . . At daylight . . . I walked the breastworks toward the center and left of our line. At the end of the hedge fence another serious obstruction began and continued to the pike . . . . It consisted of sharpened fence rails placed in a deep ditch, at an angle of 45 degrees as close as they could stand. . . . They were about three feet high. The locust grove to our left center consisted of trees about four to twelve inches in diameter. Nearly every one was cut down by bullets from the enemy, and fell with their tops from their works. Sgt Major Banks, Acting Adjutant, 29th AL . . . from the gin-house, which was near the pike and near the enemys interior fortified line. . . . (I) passed through, and beyond the abatis, which did not obstruct the pike . . . (I) then left the pike, going obliquely to the ditch, which was between the abatis and the earthworks. This 5

point was the salient in the enemys line, and here had been erected a sort of bastion as though intended for artillery, and the moat or ditch, around the outer side of it, while not deep was wide. When . . . (I) reached the ditch . . . (I) found a few men already entering it. The men in the ditch . . . Roland Gooch 42nd TN, CSA A boy . . . mounted the breastworks in front of the gin-house . . . They [Yankees] pulled him over to their side of the works.

The ditch outside the works


Hardin P. Figuers, 15 On Saturday it began to rain, and on the outside of the breastworks in the ditch where so many soldiers were killed the water was literally running blood. Brig Gen Daniel C. Govan, C.S.A. *Speaking of the death of Cleburne+ . . . and he fell almost in the ditch on the outside of the entrenchments. A . . . . ditch, made by throwing up the breastworks, was full of the dead. Worsham, 19th TN, CSA . . . and in some places in the ditches *the dead+ were piled seven deep. Truman, 1st MO Artillery, CSA . . . the enemys works the ground was strewn with dead. Many hundreds lay dead in the ditch on the outside, and not a few inside among the Federal dead. Sgt Major Banks, Acting Adjutant, 29th AL . . . from the gin-house, which was near the pike and near the enemys interior fortified line. . . . (I) passed through, and beyond the abatis, which did not obstruct the pike . . . (I) then left the pike, going obliquely to the ditch, which was between the abatis and the earthworks. This point was the salient in the enemys line, and here had been erected a sort of bastion as though intended for artillery, and the moat or ditch, around the outer side of it, while not deep was wide. When . . . (I) reached the ditch . . . (I) found a few men already entering it. The men in the ditch . . . Sgt Major Banks, Acting Adjutant, 29th AL When the colors of the Twenty-ninth Alabama were planted on the enemys fortified line, the Confederates were huddled in the ditch like sheep in a shambles. . . . To go over the works was certain death . . . Capt Shellenberger, 64th OH I shouted to my company: Fall back! Fall back! And gave an example of how to do it by turning and running for the breastworks. . . . They were then standing on the low embankment we had left, loading and firing at will. Lt. Rennolds, 5th TN, CSA

. . . to reach the breastworks, where their comrades were engaged in hand-to-hand fight. The first men of our front line reached the works, and fought their foes across them; others reaching the ditch in front scrambled across. . .

The fighting and action near or upon the works


Hardin P. Figuers, 15 . . . the fighting *was+ close to the breastworks, where the flashes almost crossed each other. Many of the dead Yankees along near the old gin house were killed by being struck over the head with the guns in the hands of the Confederates standing on the breastworks above them. Frances McEwen, school girl Gen Adams horse was lying stark and stiff upon the breastworks. Brig Gen Daniel C. Govan, C.S.A. We were directed to advance by the head of the columns, and as soon as we came under fire, to fix bayonets, charge, and go over the breastworks, and break the enemys line at all hazards. Capt Joseph Boyce, 1st MO, C.S.A. General Cockrell gave orders to march straight for the position in quick time and not to fire a shot until we gained the top of the works. Worsham, 19th TN, CSA Sgt Lum Waller, of Co. H., scaled the works and took shelter behind the brick smokehouse, just in the rear of the dwelling, where he was wounded, and also Lt W.W. Etter, of Co. K., succeeded in getting upon the works and jumped down among the Federals . . . Zack Smith, of Co. A., crawled to the top of the works from which he repeatedly fired. Sgt Major Banks, Acting Adjutant, 29th AL When the colors of the Twenty-ninth Alabama were planted on the enemys fortified line, the Confederates were huddled in the ditch like sheep in a shambles. . . . To go over the works was certain death . . . Capt Shellenberger, 64th OH I shouted to my company: Fall back! Fall back! And gave an example of how to do it by turning and running for the breastworks. . . . They were then standing on the low embankment we had left, loading and firing at will. Col Wolf, 64th OH A rebel Colonel came over the breastworks with me. Merrifield, 88th Illinois Infantry

We charged up to the works . . . I jumped over the works and ran about one hundred feet and got the flag . . . Capt Hutchins, 16th KY, US . . . we got to the works and were holding them ,Confederates) . . . Roland Gooch 42nd TN, CSA A boy . . . mounted the breastworks in front of the gin-house . . . They [Yankees] pulled him over to their side of the works. Lt. Rennolds, 5th TN, CSA . . . to reach the breastworks, where their comrades were engaged in hand-to-hand fight. The first men of our front line reached the works, and fought their foes across them; others reaching the ditch in front scrambled across. . . Capt James S. Pressnall, 63rd Indiana . . . one of my boys jumped up on the works . . . W.C. Neese 3rd MO, CSA In our charge across the open field we were cut up so badly that when we reached the breastworks, we were not strong enough to take them . . . The battle raged fiercely right across the works. Thompson, 35th AL, CSA We were now about 200 yards from them and still they did not shoot except with their artillery. But we could hear them cheering behind their works, but could not see them. And we went until we got about 50 or 75 yards from them, when they rose as a blue wave and a wall of fire rose that swept our ranks like hail. Many fell then, but we went up to them, and when we got to their works we found that we could not get to them on account of an osage orange hedge in front of their works, so thick that we could not pull it away or cut it. Lt. Col. Baker, 65th Indiana As soon as the charge was repulsed our men sprang upon the works and lifted the horse . . . [speaking of Gen John Adams on horse+. Lt. Mintz, 5th AR, CSA

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Our boys emptied their . . . guns into the . . . fleeing troops and rushed to the . . . works to reform our line. . . . Cleburne, with hat in hand and waving it above his head, scaled the works . . . . . . Again we raised the Rebel Yell and renewed the charge to storm the enemys last line. Merrill, an Indiana officer The Rebels made desperate efforts to penetrate the abatis and human nature couldnt stand the destructive fire that was rained upon them - Merrill, The Soldier of Indiana in the War for the Union, Vol. 2. P.759-760. As cited in Jacobson, For Cause & For Country (2006,pb): 318.

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Casualties and the works


Carrie Snyder, a Northern visitor I noticed while wandering along the earthworks that all or nearly all of the Union soldiers were shot in the foreheads. In front (of all the earthworks) the ground was covered with bodies, and pools of blood . . . Hardin P. Figuers, 15 Many of the dead Yankees along near the old gin house were killed by being struck over the head with the guns in the hands of the Confederates standing on the breastworks above them. Worsham, 19th TN, CSA . . . and in some places in the ditches *the dead+ were piled seven deep. Truman, 1st MO Artillery, CSA . . . the enemys works the ground was strewn with dead. Many hundreds lay dead in the ditch on the outside, and not a few inside among the Federal dead. They used heavy timber for head logs to their breastworks. Those logs almost shot to pieces. The Northern dead were nearly all shot in the head or face. Sgt Major Banks, Acting Adjutant, 29th AL When night came down, the groans and frenzied cries of the wounded on both sides of the earthworks were awe-inspiring. The ravings of the maimed and mangled . . . were heartrending. MNeilly, CSA Chaplain The dead were piled up in the trenches almost to the top of the earthworks. I (saw) . . . a horse dead across the works. Lt. Mangum, Cleburnes aide-de-camp I went up to the works with Granburys brigade . . . About half way between the first and second lines Gen Granbury was killed. Lt. Mintz, 5th AR, CSA Our boys emptied their . . . guns into the . . . fleeing troops and rushed to the . . . works to reform our line. . . . Cleburne, with hat in hand and waving it above his head, scaled the works . . . . . . Again we raised the Rebel Yell and renewed the charge to storm the enemys last line.

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Addison Lee Ewing, 63rd Indiana Infantry Colonels and Generals rode right up to our faces [at the breastworks] bringing their men in fine style but blue coats wouldnt budge back one inch and there fell victims to their own mad actions. A person could walk over acres of dead . . . stepping on one dead body to another. It was a terrible slaughter. - The Kraig McNutt Civil War Collection . . . we was at Franklin [Dec 20th] where there are hundreds of new made graves filled by the Enemy. I went into the old breastworks where we lay and all over the front of our Brigade which is pretty well dotted over with rebble graves . . . There are dead horses laying around. Some of them almost up over our old works. - The Kraig McNutt Civil War Collection

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Burial and the works


Lt. Thomas C. Thoburn, 50th OH They had been gathered together by the enemy and thrown into the trench we had made while throwing up our works, all in a heap and just a little dirt thrown over them. They were all taken out and decently buried. . . . Hardin P. Figuers, 15 They were buried generally just as they had fallen by pulling dirt from the breastworks down on them. Frances McEwen, school girl Past the thicket we saw trenches dug to receive as many as ten bodies. Capt Rea, 46th MS We collected all those dead heroes and buried them . . . in long trenches on either side of the Franklin and Columbia Pikes. Milton A. Ryan, 14th MS We dug trenches two and one half feet deep and wide enough for two to lay side by side. Addison Lee Ewing, 63rd Indiana Infantry . . . we was at Franklin [Dec 20th] where there are hundreds of new made graves filled by the Enemy. I went into the old breastworks where we lay and all over the front of our Brigade which is pretty well dotted over with rebble graves . . . There are dead horses laying around. Some of them almost up over our old works. - The Kraig McNutt Civil War Collection

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Misc
Keesy, 64th Ohio Darkness was setting . . . I concluded that I would now go up again to the battlefield and, if need be, even into the works in search of my command. Lt. Thomas C. Thoburn, 50th OH As we lay there behind a low earthwork . . . Lt. Mangum, Cleburnes aide-de-camp I went up to the works with Granburys brigade . . . About half way between the first and second lines Gen Granbury was killed. Lt. Mintz, 5th AR, CSA Our boys emptied their . . . guns into the . . . fleeing troops and rushed to the . . . works to reform our line. . . . Cleburne, with hat in hand and waving it above his head, scaled the works . . . . . . Again we raised the Rebel Yell and renewed the charge to storm the enemys last line. Maj. T.T. Dow, 112th Illinois When the command moved out of the works, near midnight . . . . I went over the works, and walked some distance out in front.

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Sources:
Unless otherwise stated, most of the eyewitness accounts are taken from Eyewitnesses to the Battle of Franklin , by David Logsdon. But also see: Jacobson, Eric. For Cause & For Country, 2006.

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