previous next

Doc. 4.-fight at Franklin, Tenn.

Franklin, Tenn., June 7, 1863.
Early on Thursday morning, June fourth, the enemy left his cantonments at Spring Hill, and advanced upon this post, anticipating an easy victory. Our force consisted of one regiment of cavalry (Seventh Kentucky) and about a regiment of infantry, under the command of Colonel Baird, of the Eighty-first Illinois, who was commandant of the post. The force of the enemy consisted of the brigades of Armstrong and Jackson, and the cavalry division of the late Van Dorn, now commanded by Starnes, the whole under the control of Forrest. About two o'clock P. M. his advance-guards commenced skirmishing with our cavalry pickets, and immediately afterwards heavy columns made their appearance upon the Lewisburgh, Columbia, and Carter's Creek roads. Such being the superiority of the enemy in point of numbers, our cavalry videttes retired slowly, hotly contesting every inch of ground, and expecting to be supported by the infantry reserves. The latter, however, seeing the futility of making a stand against so overwhelming a force of mounted troops, retired to the fortifications on the north bank of the river, leaving the handful of cavalry (about sixty in number) to come out of a tight fix in the best manner they could.

About this time, probably a half-hour after the first gun was fired, Colonel Faulkner was ordered to move his regiment, the Seventh Kentucky cavalry, over the river, and keep the enemy from obtaining possession of the town. The boys went in with a yell, and the battalions, severally commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Vimont, and Majors Bradley and Collier, succeeded in repulsing the enemy at every point, and for some three hours held the town against every odds brought to bear against it. After the enemy commenced sweeping the streets of the town with round shot and grape, the Seventh only retired to the north of Harpeth, after being repeatedly ordered to do so by the post commandant. Some of the most brilliant cavalry exploits it has ever been my lot to witness were performed by these gallant Kentuckians during this unequal contest. Infantry officers who carefully watched every movement from the fort with glasses, describe the conduct of the Seventh Kentucky as deserving of all praise.

When it became apparent that the enemy was massing his forces to make an irresistible dash upon Colonel Faulkner and his gallant command, he was ordered to retire to the north side of the river. He drew off his men in admirable order, while the enormous shells from the heavy siegegun of the fort held the mass of the enemy in check, and scattered a portion of his forces in every direction. As the evening wore apace, it became evident that the enemy had crossed the river east of town, and was moving in a northerly direction for the purpose of attacking our left. Lieutenant Gruelle, of the Seventh, was dispatched with a small reconnoitring force to ascertain his numbers and position. He discovered a column of about one thousand five hundred (Second Kentucky and First Tennessee) taking position in the dense woods upon the old Murfreesboro road, which force was being constantly augmented by the arrival of fresh detachments. Having reported the state of affairs in that direction, Major Collier was ordered to take a force to the support of Gruelle, and hold the chain of hills on the left of camp at all hazards until nightfall. Shortly after Collier had taken his position, heavy volleys were heard immediately in front, and riderless horses and panic-stricken rebels emerged from the woods and made for the river in hot haste. They had been surprised and attacked on their flank and rear by the Fourth Kentucky, (Colonel Cooper,) Sixth Kentucky, (Colonel Watkins,) Ninth Pennsylvania, (Colonel Jordan,) and Second Michigan, (Colonel Campbell.) The hottest and heaviest work fell to the the lot of the Fourth Kentucky, whose gallant and intrepid leader, Colonel Wickliffe Cooper, was disabled by his horse falling while he was heading a charge. The animal was going at full speed, and fell upon the Colonel's right leg, terribly bruising and otherwise injuring that member. All these regiments performed their duty as soldiers should. Everywhere the enemy was broken and disorganized by their impetuous charges. When the shades of night fell upon the hard-fought field, the enemy had been driven to his original position among the hills south of town.

Next morning, Friday, Brownlow's East-Tennessee regiment was ordered to cross the river and feel the enemy's position, which had evidently [6] been shifted during the course of the night. He was accompanied by Colonel Faulkner, of the Seventh Kentucky. About two miles from town, on the Columbia pike, the enemy was discovered drawn up in line of battle, a force of four or five hundred occupying a commanding eminence, protected at all points by heavy stone fencing. Colonel Faulkner obtained permission to take two companies of the Fourth Kentucky cavalry, under command of Major Welling, and charge the height. The boys responded gallantly to his call, and never was a hill quicker or more cleanly swept. It was decidedly the prettiest cavalry dash of the war. It was here that Colonel Faulkner received his severe and painful wound. Our pardonable exultation at an unmistakable victory over an enemy of eight or ten times our strength was considerably dampened by this casualty. Two of our most dashing leaders (Cooper and Faulkner) were placed hors du combat, and our entire little army joined in heartily in the grief of their commands. As the news spread from mouth to mouth that Faulkner was killed, (such being at first the erroneous report,) it seemed as though the hearer felt as if his own brother had been stricken down in battle. Tears sprang to eyes unused to weeping, and cheeks that all the dangers of battle could not pale, “grew as white as my lady's hand.” I am glad that his wound, at first believed to be mortal, turns out not to be so serious as we supposed. He and Colonel Cooper are both at Nashville, and, when heard from this morning, were improving fast.

The enemy has about disappeared from our front. He burned the railroad bridge near Brentwood this morning. Our loss in the battles, in killed, wounded, and missing, will not exceed twenty-five. The enemy's loss is not far off one hundred and fifty. General Armstrong was severely wounded, some prisoners say killed, and Starnes is among their missing. A flag of truce approached our outposts this morning to inquire if he had fallen into our hands.

Another narrative.

camp Ninth Pennsylvania cavalry, Triune, June 7, 1863.
Major-General Gordon Granger having been ordered by General Rosecrans to move the main portion of the right wing, of the army of the Cumberland from Franklin to Triune, we marched there on June third, leaving a small force at Franklin under Colonel Baird, of the Eighty-fifth Indiana, to hold the fortifications. The rebel forces in front, at Spring hill, having been foiled in their two attacks under Van Dorn, thinking that “now or never” was their time to capture it, made a desperate dash, with some five or six thousand cavalry and some artillery under General Forrest, on Thursday, the fourth instant. We heard the cannonading of the rebels and the replies of the heavy fortification guns at Triune at three P. M. Signals having been passed here at half-past 3, General Granger ordered Colonel A. P. Campbell, of the Second Michigan, commanding the First cavalry brigade, to hasten with his troops to the relief of Franklin. He galloped out at four o'clock with his cavalry in the following order: Sixth Kentucky cavalry, Colonel Watkins commanding; Fourth Kentucky cavalry, Colonel Cooper commanding; Second Michigan cavalry, Major Godley commanding; Ninth Pennsylvania cavalry, Colonel Jordan commanding.

Nearing Franklin, we found the rebels had possession of part of the town, and had planted their artillery in the outskirts, had surrounded the fortifications on the north side of the Harpeth with his cavalry, having his heaviest forces on the left, between Franklin and Triune. After a severe march of fourteen miles over a very rocky and partially red-cedared country, we came in sight of the enemy's pickets about sunset. The Sixth Kentucky, Colonel Watkins, (in advance,) were ordered by Colonel Campbell to charge the enemy on a by-road. They fled at the dash, to the left, without showing fight, and crossed the Harpeth in great disorder at Hughs's Mill and Ford, and were followed by Colonel Watkins to the Lewisburgh pike, who captured and brought up a rebel ammunition wagon. The Fourth Kentucky (being now in front) came up with a second force of the enemy, at two miles this side the forts. (Colonel Cooper's horse, in the gallop over, had fallen with him on the rocky, slippery road, and seriously injured him.) Major Gwynne, now commanding the Fourth, was ordered to deploy to the left and present front. The Second Michigan, marching in column on the road, were attacked by the enemy in force on the flank. They were instantly prepared to fight as dragoons on foot, and engaged the enemy, Colonel Campbell ordering Colonel Jordan with the Ninth Pennsylvania to support them in column on each flank with drawn sabre for a charge, which was promptly done. The fighting was very severe here for an hour between the forces. The rebels appeared to be determined to hold their ground as if they intended to hold the battle-field, and continue the Franklin attack in the morning, but they were compelled to give way after our force got fairly to work, and they fled toward the fords in much confusion.

The Ninth Pennsylvania were now ordered down the Murfreesboro road to turn the enemy's left flank. The enemy rallied after a short flight, and drew up in a very fair line of battle, but it was of no use, the blood of our men was now up, and the rebels were unable to stand the deadly fire of our revolving rifles of the Second Michigan. He was pressed so closely at this point that General Armstrong's battle-flag and four of his escort were captured by the first battalion, Second Michigan, Captain Smith, and he left lying here eighteen killed and wounded. The Fourth Kentucky charged on the right, capturing half a score. The enemy broke once more and the eager troopers of the Second, Fourth, and Ninth pursued him through the now darkened woods and brushes and fields, and over the stone walls and fences lighted up by the flashes of the carbines. He divided his forces in the general “sauve qui peut,” [7] part dashing over the Harpeth at McGavoch's Ford to the Lewisburgh pike, and part running clear round the forts and crossing the Nashville pike between them and Brentwood, crossed the Harpeth below Franklin and reached their camp. It was most unfortunate that we could not have had an hour more of daylight, and have gotten a haul of prisoners of some moment, including the general commanding. Our cavalry were gathered together by sound of bugle and marched near the fort on their old camping-ground, and lay down for the night in a drenching rain-storm, shelterless and supperless. The rebels had drawn off their forces from the attack of the forts when they heard the cavalry firing on the Triune road.

The town of Franklin, lying in direct range between the forts and where the rebel artillery was posted, was in a dangerous position, and the most of the terrified inhabitants fled to the cellars or the country. A score of the inhabitants brought their families over the pontoons into the fort, and manfully took up arms against the rebels, proving that there are men in Middle Tennessee who will yet fight for their country when the iron yoke of the Confederacy is relieved from their necks. Several of the houses were fired in the artillery engagement, but they were extinguished — many of them had balls and shells through them, but fortunately none of the inhabitants were injured.

At eight P. M. General Granger ordered a brigade of infantry and a battery of artillery from Triune to Franklin. Marching through the storm and darkness, they arrived at daylight on the fifth. There were reconnoissances made by the infantry and some artillery and a small force of cavalry on the fifth, and there was some little skirmishing, but the enemy had withdrawn his forces to Spring Hill at two P. M. and the dropping shots ceased. The troops that had marched from Triune to the relief of Franklin returned to camp here on the sixth.

The Federal cavalry loss was three killed and four wounded. The rebel loss was twenty-five men and three officers killed and wounded in our hands, (besides those who escaped wounded,) and twenty-five prisoners.

The rebel surgeon who came over to look after their wounded said that General Armstrong acknowledged himself badly whipped, and that it was only the darkness that enabled him to draw off his forces, they having a thorough knowledge of the country.

In the reconnoissance of the fifth, Colonel Faulkner, commanding the Seventh Kentucky, (being part of Colonel Baird's forces,) most unfortunately got severely wounded in the thigh and scrotum by a musket-ball.

Colonel Campbell complimented the officers and men of his command very highly for their efficiency and bravery; also for the “vim” and willingness with which the officers instantly executed his commands.

Colonel Watkins, with the Sixth Kentucky, was ordered to return from the Lewisburgh pike, but failed to get back and participate in the engagement with his regiment on the evening of the fourth.

The next time the rebs “try it on” Franklin, “may we be there to see,” as Cowper says in his Johnny Gilpin.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Faulkner (8)
Franklin (7)
Wickliffe Cooper (6)
Watkins (5)
A. P. Campbell (5)
A. J. Armstrong (4)
Jordan (3)
Gordon Granger (3)
Collier (3)
J. P. Baird (3)
Starnes (2)
Gruelle (2)
Forrest (2)
Welling (1)
Vimont (1)
Giles Smith (1)
W. S. Rosecrans (1)
Stonewall Jackson (1)
Gwynne (1)
Godley (1)
Johnny Gilpin (1)
Ford (1)
Dorn (1)
Doc (1)
Cowper (1)
Brownlow (1)
Bradley (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 7th, 1863 AD (2)
5th (2)
June 4th (1)
June 3rd (1)
6th (1)
4th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: