The Battle of Franklin was a major engagement of the American Civil War fought at Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864. It was one of the worst Confederate disasters of the war. While the Union army left the field after the battle, the Confederate army paid a horrible price for it.
The Union Army of the Cumberland arrived in Franklin, after a forced march from Spring Hill to the south, at about 01:00. Brig. Gen. Jacob Dolson Cox, commander of the Federal 23rd Corps (and later governor of Ohio), immediately began preparing strong defensive positions around breastworks constructed in 1863.
The Confederate Army of Tennessee arrived late that afternoon. Gen. John Bell Hood had recently replaced Gen. Joseph E. Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee, and was noted for his aggressive battlefield leadership. Hood, over the objections of his top generals, ordered a frontal assault in the dwindling afternoon light against the Union forces, now strongly entrenched behind three lines of breastworks. Many historians believe that Hood, still angry that the Federal army had slipped past his troops the night before at Spring Hill, acted irrationally in ordering the attack. After five hours of fierce fighting, much of it after dark, the Confederates briefly broke the Union line but then were thrown back. Union commander Gen. John McAllister Schofield, who spent the battle in Fort Granger (just across the Harpeth River, northeast of Franklin), later ordered a nighttime withdrawal to Nashville. This left the devastated Confederate forces in control of Franklin.
More men of the Confederate Army of Tennessee were killed in five hours at Franklin than in two days at the Battle of Shiloh. The Confederates suffered more than 7,500 casualties, and their military leadership in the west was decimated, including the loss of such skilled generals as Pat Cleburne. Fifteen Confederate generals were casualties (6 killed, the rest wounded and/or captured), and 65 field grade officers were lost. Union casualties totaled just 2,500.
The Confederate Army of Tennessee was all but destroyed at Franklin. Nevertheless, Hood immediately advanced against the entire Union Army of the Cumberland, firmly entrenched at Nashville, leading his battered forces to further disaster in the battle of Nashville.
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Battle Cry of Freedom, historian James M. McPherson wrote,
- Having proved even to Hood's satisfaction that they could assault breastworks, the Army of Tennessee had shattered itself beyond the possibility of ever doing so again.
The Battlefield Today
The Carter House, which stands today and is open to visitors, was at the center of the Union lines; it and its outbuildings still show more than a thousand bullet holes. Much of the rest of the Franklin battlefield has been lost to commercial development. The spot where Cleburne fell, for instance, is now covered by a pizzeria. However, city officials and historic-preservation groups have recently placed a new emphasis on saving what remains of the land over which this terrible battle raged.