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[258]

The forces were widely scattered, and the situation was indeed critical. The afternoon of November 29th records a series of lost opportunities to the Confederates. From noon until seven o'clock in the evening the little force of Stanley was completely isolated from the main army. Hood had sufficient troops literally to crush him, to cut off the retreat of Schofield, and thereby to defeat that wing of the Federal army. During the afternoon and evening there were various attempts made on the Union lines, which were stoutly resisted. The vigor of the repulse, the lack of concentration in the attack and, perhaps, the coming of evening saved the day for the Federals.

The Confederates bivouacked for the night near the pike. Brightly their camp-fires gleamed, as the Federal wagon trains and the columns of Northern soldiers trudged along through a moonless night, within a few rods of the resting Confederates. The Southern troops were plainly visible to the Federals, as they were seen moving about the camp. There was constant apprehension lest the Southern army should fall upon the passing army, but the officer who was ordered to block the Federal march made but a feeble and partial attack. Hood realized that he had lost the best opportunity for crushing Schofield that the campaign had offered, and deplored the failure most bitterly.

Schofield reached Spring Hill about seven in the evening. At the same hour the last company of his troops was leaving Columbia, about eleven miles away. All through the night the procession continued. The intrepid Stanley stood guard at a narrow bridge, as the long train wended its way in the darkness over the hills in the direction of Nashville. At daybreak, as the rear wagons safely passed, and the skirmishers were called in, the advance columns, under Cox, were reaching the outskirts of Franklin.

This village, situated on a bend of the Harpeth River, was admirably located for a great battle. On the north and west, it was protected by the river. Beyond the stream, to the

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John M. Schofield (6)
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