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Chapter X

  • Hood forces the crossing of Duck River
  • -- importance of gaining time for Thomas to concentrate reinforcements at Nashville -- the affair at Spring Hill -- incidents of the night retreat -- Thomas's reply to the request that a bridge be laid over the Harpeth -- the necessity of standing ground at Franklin -- Hood's formidable attack -- serious error of two brigades of the rear -- guard -- brilliant services of the reserve -- yellow fever averted -- Hood's assaults repulsed -- Johnston's criticism of Hood -- the advantage of continuing the retreat to Nashville.

in the afternoon of November 28 I received information that the enemy's cavalry had forced the crossing of Duck River above Columbia, and driven our cavalry back; and, about two o'clock that night, that prisoners reported the enemy laying pontoon bridges, and that Hood's infantry would begin to cross that morning. The army was ready to march at a moment's notice. It could have retired to Spring Hill or to Franklin without molestation or delay, but that would have given the enemy the crossing of Duck River at Columbia and the turnpike road for his advance with his artillery and trains. There was no assurance that Thomas had assembled any of his expected reinforcements at Nashville or elsewhere. It was known that orders had been given some days before looking to concentration of some of the troops in his department somewhere, but what had been accomplished I was not [171] informed. About A. J. Smith I was in a like state of uncertainty. Only one thing was clear, and that was that I must hold Hood back, if possible, until informed that Thomas had concentrated his troops; for if I failed in that, Hood would not only force me back upon Nashville before Thomas was ready to meet him there, but would get possession of the Chattanooga Railroad, and thus cut off the troops coming to Nashville from that direction. After considering the matter some time in the night, I decided to hold on at least until morning. Early in the morning a brigade of infantry was sent up the river to reconnoiter and watch the enemy's movements; at the same time Stanley was ordered, with two divisions of his corps, back to Spring Hill, to occupy and intrench a position there covering the roads and the trains, which were ordered to be parked at that place, and General Thomas H. Ruger was ordered to join him.

About 8 A. M. on the 29th came a despatch from Thomas, dated 8 P. M. of the day before, conveying the information that Smith had not arrived, and saying nothing about any other reinforcements, but expressing the wish that the Duck River position be held until Smith arrived; and another despatch designating Franklin, behind the Harpeth River, as the place to which I would have to retire if it became necessary to fall back from Duck River. I then decided to hold on to the crossing of Duck River until the night of the 29th, thus gaining twenty-four hours more for Thomas to concentrate his troops. I did not apprehend any serious danger at Spring Hill; for Hood's infantry could not reach that place over a wretched country road much before night, and Stanley, with one division and our cavalry, could easily beat off Forrest. Hence I retained Ruger's division and one of Stanley's, and disposed all the troops to resist any attempt Hood might make, by marching directly from his bridges upon my position on the north bank of Duck River, to dislodge me [172] from that position. That was his best chance of success, but he did not try it.

Stanley arrived at Spring Hill in time to beat off Forrest and protect our trains. Then he intrenched a good position in which to meet Hood's column when it should arrive, which it did late in the afternoon. They had a hard fight which lasted until about dark. Much bitter controversy arose between Hood and some of his subordinates because of their failure to dislodge Stanley's division and get possession of the turnpike at Spring Hill. While I have no wish to take any part in that discussion, I must say that I think the mistake was Hood's. I think he attempted a little longer march, over a very bad road, than could be made in so short a time. The 29th of November is a very short day, and the march of troops across pontoon bridges and through deep mud is very slow. If Hood had turned down the north bank of Duck River, across the fields, which were no worse than his road, he could have got into a fight about noon; but he thought, according to his own account in ‘Advance and Retreat,’ that he was deceiving me by his thundering demonstrations at Columbia, and that I did not know he was marching to Spring Hill. He thought he was going to ‘catch me napping,’ after the tactics of Stonewall Jackson, while in fact I was watching him all day. Besides, Hood went to bed that night, while I was in the saddle all night, directing in person all the important movements of my troops. Perhaps that is enough to account for the difference between success and failure, without censuring subordinate commanders. Mine did all I could have asked anybody to do that night.

As soon as I was satisfied that Hood was gone to Spring Hill and would not attack me on the bank of Duck River, I took the head of my troops—Ruger's division—and marched rapidly to Spring Hill, leaving staff officers to give orders to the other division commanders [173] to follow immediately in proper order as then formed in line. These orders were somehow misunderstood. The order of march was reversed, and the troops, except Ruger's, and Whitaker's brigade of Kimball's division, did not move at once. But the delay did no harm, and I did not know of the mistake until several days afterward. If Hood had only known of that mistake, he might have troubled me no little, perhaps, by pushing a column across from his camp, south of Whitaker's right flank at Spring Hill, until it reached the Columbia turnpike. But I had prepared even for that, as well as I could, by sending a company of infantry to occupy the only crossroad I could see near Spring Hill as we approached that place. I ordered the captain of that company to hold that road at all hazards until he was relieved by my orders! Some of Hood's troops ‘relieved’ him next morning! We have to do cruel things sometimes in war. On arriving at Spring Hill, Whitaker's brigade was put in line on the right of the troops then in position, so as to cover the turnpike on which we were marching. This was about dark. In a few minutes the Confederate camp-fires were lighted a few hundred yards in front of that brigade. It was a very interesting sight, but I don't think any of Whitaker's men cared to give the Confederates a similar view of them.

After stopping to see Stanley a few minutes, and learning that some of Forrest's troopers had been seen at Thompson's Station, three miles farther north, about dusk, I went with Ruger's division to drive them off and clear the way to Franklin. To my great surprise, I found only smoldering fires—no cavalry. This was where our men passed so close to the ‘bivouac’ that they ‘lighted their pipes by the enemy's camp-fires’; and that is the way romance is woven into history! But I took it for granted that the famous Forrest must be on my road somewhere; for he was there in the afternoon, and I had [174] no cavalry anywhere near to drive him away. I could not take time to go with or send infantry to find out where he was. But I had with me my headquarters troop and as gallant an aide—Captain William J. Twining—as ever wore spur. Twining was the same gallant and accomplished aide and officer of the corps of engineers, now dead, who afterward made the famous ride of one hundred and ten miles, through the enemy's country in North Carolina, to carry a despatch from me to Sherman. He was a commissioner of the District of Columbia at the time of his death. I ordered them to go at full gallop down the pike to Franklin, and to ride over whatever might be found in their way. I sat motionless on my horse at Thompson's Station until the clatter of hoofs on that hard road died out in the distance, and I knew the road was clear. I did not tell the brave Twining the object of that ride, but simply to report the situation to General Thomas by telegraph from Franklin, and if any troops were at that place, as had been reported, to order them forward at once. I had not yet determined whether I could continue the retreat that night, or whether it might be necessary to fight Hood at Spring Hill the next day. In either case the troops at Franklin, if any were there, might be useful.

Upon returning to Spring Hill near midnight, I found my column from Duck River there in compact order. As the road was clear and the Confederates all sound asleep, while the Union forces were all wide awake, there was no apparent reason for not continuing the march that night. A column of artillery and wagons, and another of infantry, moved side by side along the broad turnpike, so that if the redoubtable Forrest should wake up and make his appearance anywhere, he would be quickly brushed away. It was reported that he did attack somewhere in the night, but I heard nothing of it at the time, perhaps because I was sleeping quietly on my horse as we marched along! [175]

I arrived at Franklin with the head of my column a short time before the dawn of day, November 30; indicated to General J. D. Cox, commanding the Twenty-third Corps, the line upon which the troops were to be formed; and intrusted to him the formation, as the several divisions of both corps should arrive, General Stanley being in the rear directing the operations of the rear-guard. The Twenty-third Corps occupied the center of the line crossing the Columbia turnpike, and extended to the river on the left, while the Fourth Corps was to extend the line to the river on the right. Fortunately the natural position was such that Kimball's division of the Fourth Corps was sufficient, leaving both Wood's and Wagner's in reserve. I then gave my undivided attention to the means of crossing the Harpeth River.

Two days before I had telegraphed to General Thomas suggesting that he have a pontoon bridge laid at Franklin, to which he replied: ‘You can send some of the pontoons you used at Columbia to Franklin to lay a bridge there.’1 General Thomas or his staff should have known that it was utterly impossible for me to use the pontoons which I had at Columbia. Those pontoons were heavy wooden bateaux, and there were no wagons to transport them, the train that brought them there having been taken away, it is presumed by his order, certainly not by mine. Hence I was compelled to burn that pontoon bridge as well as the railroad bridge (partially) when my troops retreated from Ducktown. But even if this were not all true, Thomas knew the enemy was already crossing Duck River on my flank, and that I must speedily take up a new position behind the Harpeth, and that I desired him to provide the means for my army to cross that river. It was a reasonable inference that I should not have asked him to send another bridge if I already had one that I could use. Besides, I [176] was commanding General Thomas's army, operating in his department, wherein I had no control of anything in rear of the troops under my charge. It was his duty to foresee and provide for all the necessities that might arise in the rear of the army in the field. I telegraphed him again for a bridge at the Harpeth on the 29th, when I found that retreat was inevitable, but he apparently did not get that despatch. He nevertheless sent bridge material by rail to Franklin, where it arrived on the morning of November 30, too late for the pontoons to be used, though the flooring was useful in covering the railroad bridge and the burned wagon-bridge. I found also on the south side of the river a very large park of wagons belonging to the Department of the Cumberland, which, as well as my own trains and artillery, must be crossed over before I could withdraw my troops to the north side. The troops were very much fatigued by their long night march, rendering considerable rest indispensable. Hence there could not be much time in which to prepare defensive works with such obstructions as to insure successful defense against a very heavy assault. But, much more serious, Hood might cross the river above Franklin with a considerable force of infantry, as well as with all his cavalry, before I could get my materials over and troops enough to meet him on the north side. The situation at Franklin had become vastly more serious than that at Columbia or Spring Hill, and solely because of the neglect of so simple a thing as to provide the bridge I had asked for across the Harpeth. If that had been done, my trains could have passed over at once, and the entire army could have crossed before Hood reached Franklin.

To meet this greatest danger, Wood's division of the Fourth Corps was crossed to the north side to support the cavalry in holding the fords above, if that should become necessary; while Wagner's division, which had [177] acted as rear-guard from Spring Hill, was ordered to remain far enough in front of the line to compel Hood to disclose his intention to attack in front or to turn the position, and was to retire and take its position in reserve at the proper time, if the enemy formed for attack. Only one of those three brigades—Opdycke's—came in at the proper time and took its appropriate place; and that, it was asserted, no doubt truly, was by the brigade commander's own volition, he having been soldier enough to know his duty in such a case, without the necessity for any orders. The other two brigades remained in their advanced position until they were run over by the enemy. Much idle controversy was indulged in among officers of the Fourth Corps and others in respect to the action of those two brigades. The only proper way to settle such a question was by a court-martial. As the corps passed from my command the next morning, and had been under my orders only a few days, I have never made any effort to fix, even in my own mind, the responsibility for that blunder.

By great exertion on the part of the engineers, the means of crossing the river were at length provided. The supports of the burned wagon-bridge were still standing at a level with the surface of the water. They were timbered and planked over, and the railroad bridge was also covered with planking, thus giving us two passable bridges. The trains had all been crossed over, and a part of the artillery. Orders had been issued for the troops to begin crossing at dark, when Hood disclosed his purpose to attack. The artillery was ordered back to its position in the line, and General Stanley and I, who were then together on the north side of the river, rode rapidly to our posts, he to his corps on the south side, and I to the high redoubt on the north bank, overlooking the entire field.

There I witnessed the grandest display possible in war. [178] Every battalion and battery of the Union army in line was distinctly seen. The corps of the Confederate army which were advancing or forming for the attack could also be seen, though less clearly on account of their greater distance, while the Confederate cavalry could be dimly discerned moving to the fords of the river above Franklin. Only a momentary view was permitted of this scene of indescribable grandeur when it was changed to one of most tragic interest and anxiety. The guns of the redoubt on the parapet of which I stood with two or three staff officers had fired only a few shots over the heads of our troops at the advancing enemy when his heavy line overwhelmed Wagner's two brigades and rapidly followed their fragments in a confused mass over our light intrenchments. The charging ranks of the enemy, the flying remnants of our broken troops, and the double ranks of our first line of defense, coming back from the trenches together, produced the momentary impression of an overwhelming mass of the enemy passing over our parapets.

It is hardly necessary to say that for a moment my ‘heart sank within me.’ But instantly Opdycke's brigade and the 12th and 16th Kentucky sprang forward, and steadily advanced to the breach. Up to this moment there had been but little firing at that point, because of our own troops and the enemy coming in pell-mell; hence there was not much smoke, and the whole could be seen. But now all became enveloped in a dense mass of smoke, and not a man was visible except the fragments of the broken brigades and others, afterward known to be prisoners, flocking to the rear. A few seconds of suspense and intense anxiety followed, then the space in the rear of our line became clear of fugitives, and the steady roar of musketry and artillery and the dense volume of smoke rising along the entire line told me that ‘the breach is restored, the victory won’! That [179] scene, and the emotion of that one moment, were worth all the losses and dangers of a soldier's lifetime.

It would hardly be possible to frame language that would do more than justice to the magnificent conduct of Emerson Opdycke's brigade and Laurence H. Rousseau's 12th Kentucky and John S. White's 16th Kentucky, which were also in reserve, and their commanders, in that battle. Their action was beyond all praise, and nothing that can justly be said in respect to the battle can detract one iota from their proud fame. Yet the light in which the part acted by Opdycke's brigade (the others not being mentioned) is presented by some ‘historians,’ to the prejudice, relatively, of other portions of the army and of their commanders, is essentially false. It is represented as something purely spontaneous, out of the ordinary course, not contemplated in the dispositions made for battle, unforeseen and unexpected; in short, something more—yes, vastly more—than the reasonable duty of the brigade; or, ‘beyond all power of generalship to mold the battle or control its issue, the simple charge of Opdycke's brigade stands in boldest relief.’ The same might be said with equal truth of the action of any brigade upon which devolves the assault or defense of the key of a military position. The success or failure of ‘generalship to mold the battle or control its issue’ depends absolutely upon the action of such brigades, their doing, or failure to do, the duty belonging to the position to which they are assigned. Every soldier in the army knew what his duty was in such a case—knew for what he had been placed in that position. It would have been strange indeed if the gallant commander of that brigade had waited for orders from some higher officer to move ‘forward to the lines.’ As well might the commander of a brigade in the line wait for orders from the general-in-chief before commencing to fire on the advancing enemy. [180]

The highest tribute that can be paid to Opdycke's brigade is the just and true one, that it did exactly the duty assigned it in the plan of battle, and did that duty nobly and with complete success. That other brigades did the same is sufficiently shown by the fact that twenty battle-flags were captured by a single brigade of the Twenty-third Corps on the same part of the line, and that the 12th and 16th Kentucky regiments relatively suffered equally heavy losses in killed and wounded with those of Opdycke.2

As before stated, the dispositions for defense contemplated the whole of Wagner's division as the reserve to support the center, that being the only part of the line upon which the enemy would have time to make a heavy assault that day. This provision for an ample reserve had been made after full consideration and before Wood's division was ordered to the north side of the river, which was after the day was well advanced and the enemy's cavalry had begun to threaten the crossing above. The blunder respecting the two brigades of Wagner's division came near being disastrous, and the repulse of the assault in spite of that blunder makes it highly probable that if the dispositions ordered had been properly made, the repulse of the enemy would have been easy beyond reasonable doubt. Yet it would be difficult to find a fairer chance of success in a direct assault upon troops in position. Our intrenchments were of the slightest kind, and without any considerable obstructions in front to interfere seriously with the assault. The attack, no less than the defense, was characterized by incomparable valor, and the secret of its failure is to be found in one of the principles taught by all military experience—the great superiority in strength of a fresh body of troops in perfect [181] order over another in the state of disorder which necessarily results from even the most successful assault. There was really no comparison, in effective strength, between Opdycke's orderly and compact brigade and the confused mass of Confederates that were crossing over our parapet. The result was nothing extraordinary or at all unprecedented. It was but one of the numerous proofs afforded by military history of the value of that prudent maxim in the art of war which dictates the placing of a suitable reserve in close support of that portion of a defensive line which is liable to heavy assault.

The surprising conduct of the commanders of the two brigades of Wagner's division which were run over by the enemy, and of the division commander himself, whatever may be true as to the conflicting statements published in respect to their action, is one of the strongest possible illustrations of the necessity of the higher military education, and of the folly of intrusting high commands to men without such education, which, fortunately for the country and the army, is rarely learned by experience, but must be acquired by laborious study of the rules and principles laid down by standard authors as derived from the practice and teachings of the great masters of the art of war in all ages. A well-educated officer, either as brigade or division commander, would not have needed orders from any source to tell him what to do in that emergency. He would have known so surely what his duty was that he would have retired at the proper time behind the main line, without ever thinking whether or not he had orders to do so. As well might I have waited for orders from General Thomas to retire across the Harpeth after my duty on the south side of that river had been accomplished. The cases are closely parallel. Any unofficial discussion of the question of responsibility for the sacrifice of those two brigades is idle. According to the established rules of war, those [182] three commanders ought to have been tried by court, martial, and, if found guilty, shot or cashiered, for sacrificing their own men and endangering the army. One example of such punishment would do much to deter ignorant and incompetent men from seeking high commands in the field. But the discipline of the volunteer army of a republic must, it appears, inevitably be, especially in respect to officers of high rank, quite imperfect, although it may become in respect to the great mass of the troops, as ours certainly did, exceedingly efficient.

In the Atlanta campaign I sent a division commander to the rear in permanent disgrace for sacrificing his men in a hopeless assault upon a fortified line, contrary to the general orders and instructions which General Sherman had published before the opening of the campaign. But I never heard of another similar case of even approximate justice to an officer of high rank. It is a striking proof of the evil effect of war upon the minds and passions of men, not only of those who are engaged in it, but even more upon those who see it from a distance, that commanders are often severely condemned for prudent care of the lives of men under their command, who have no choice but to march blindly to death when ordered, while the idiotic sacrifice of the bravest and noblest of patriotic soldiers is loudly applauded as a grand exhibition of ‘gallantry’ in action. If George H. Thomas had had no other title to honor or fame, he would have deserved the profound gratitude of the American people, and a very high place among the country's patriots and heroes, for the reason that while he never yielded ground to an attacking foe, he never uselessly sacrificed the life of a soldier.

It is a sin for a soldier to throw away his own life. It is not his, but belongs to his country. How much greater sin and crime in an officer to throw away the lives of a thousand men! If he threw away a thousand dollars, he would be court-martialed and cashiered Are not the soldiers [183] of a republic worth even a dollar apiece! Patriotism and courage exist in great abundance in the breasts of young Americans. All they need is instruction, discipline, a little experience, such as our greatest soldier said he himself needed at first, and, above all, intelligent leadership, which can be acquired only by military education, to make them the best soldiers the world has ever known.

When I joined my company as second lieutenant in Florida in the winter of 1853-4, I found the company had been reduced to one lance-sergeant, two lancecor-porals, and thirteen privates. Yellow fever had done its deadly work. But that lesson was not lost. In later years, upon the approach of that enemy, which could not be conquered even by the highest science then known or practised, the troops were marched a few mites into the pure air of the piney woods, where the dreaded fever could not reach them. At the close of the epidemic season which occurred when I had the honor to command the army, I had the great satisfaction of reporting that not a single soldier had been killed by that most dreaded of all enemies, and the even greater satisfaction of reporting that those bravest of the brave, the surgeons who volunteered to go into the very midst of the camp of the enemy that does not respect even the red cross, to minister to those who had been stricken down and to study the nature of the disease for the future benefit of the army and of mankind, had also been unharmed. As chief of those I do not hesitate to name the present surgeon-general of the army, George M. Sternberg. Yet how many of the noblest soldiers of humanity have given their lives in that cause!

Hood's assault at Franklin has been severely criticized. Even so able a man as General J. E. Johnston characterizes it as a ‘useless butchery.’ These criticisms are founded upon a misapprehension of the facts, and [184] are essentially erroneous. Hood must have been fully aware of our relative weakness in numbers at Franklin, and of the probable, if not certain, concentration of large reinforcements at Nashville. He could not hope to have at any future time anything like so great an advantage in that respect. The army at Franklin and the troops at Nashville were within one night's march of each other; Hood must therefore attack on November 30, or lose the advantage of greatly superior numbers. It was impossible, after the pursuit from Spring Hill, in a short day to turn our position or make any other attack but a direct one in front. Besides, our position, with the river in our rear, gave him the chance of vastly greater results, if his assault were successful, than could be hoped for by any attack he could make after we had crossed the Harpeth. Still more, there was no unusual obstacle to a successful assault at Franklin. The defenses were of the slightest character, and it was not possible to make them formidable during the short time our troops were in position, after the previous exhausting operations of both day and night, which had rendered some rest on the 30th absolutely necessary.

The Confederate cause had reached a condition closely verging on desperation, and Hood's commander-in-chief had called upon him to undertake operations which he thought appropriate to such an emergency. Franklin was the last opportunity he could expect to have to reap the results hoped for in his aggressive movement. He must strike there, as best he could, or give up his cause as lost. I believe, therefore, that there can be no room for doubt that Hood's assault was entirely justifiable. It may have been faulty in execution, in not having been sufficiently supported by a powerful reserve at the moment of first success. I have not the means of knowing the actual facts in this regard; but the result seems to render such a hypothesis at least probable, and the [185] rapidity and impetuosity of Hood's advance and assault add to that probability.

It is interesting to consider what would probably have been the march of events if we had retreated from Duck River in the night of November 28, upon first learning that Hood had forced the crossing of that river. We would have reached Franklin early on the 29th, could have rebuilt the bridges and crossed the Harpeth that day and night, and Hood could not have got up in time to make any serious attack that day. So far as our little army was concerned, for the moment all would have been well. But Hood would have been in front of Franklin, with his whole army, artillery, and ammunition-trains, by dawn of day on the 30th; he could have forced the crossing of the Harpeth above Franklin early that day, compelled us to retire to Nashville, and interposed his cavalry between Nashville and Murfreesboroa that night or early on December 1. Thus Thomas's remaining reinforcements from the south and east would have been cut off, and he might have been attacked in Nashville, not later than December 2, with several thousand fewer men than he finally had there, a large part of his army—A. J. Smith's three divisions—not fully ready for battle, and with fewer effective cavalry; while Hood would have had his whole army, fresh and spirited, without the losses and depression caused by its defeat at Franklin, ready to attack an inferior force at Nashville or to cross the Cumberland and invade Kentucky. In short, the day gained at Duck River and Spring Hill was indispensable to Thomas's success. The time gained by that ‘temerity’ made success possible. The additional time and relative strength gained by Hood's disastrous repulse at Franklin made final success easy and certain. A retreat at any time before nine o'clock A. M. on the 29th would have led to substantially the same result as if begun at 2 A. M.

If the plan adopted and ordered early in the morning of [186] November 29 had been carried out, by which the line of Duck River would have been abandoned in the middle of that day, the head of the column from Spring Hill would have arrived at Franklin about midnight, expecting to cross the Harpeth without delay; but, under the conditions actually found to exist at Franklin, not much progress toward providing the means of crossing the Harpeth could have been made before daylight in the morning; therefore our condition for battle at Franklin would not have been materially different, in time or otherwise, from what it actually was. Hood's artillery, as well as his infantry, could have reached Spring Hill before daylight on the 30th, and would have had practically a clear road to Franklin; for the enemy's superior cavalry having been interposed between our cavalry and infantry, it was necessary for our infantry, artillery, and trains to retreat from Spring Hill to Franklin in one compact column. A small force could not have been left at Spring Hill, as had been suggested, to delay Hood's advance, because of the imminent danger that it would be attacked in flank and rear by the enemy's cavalry, and thus cut off and captured; hence Hood could have made his attack at Franklin about noon, instead of at 4:30 P. M., and with a large force of artillery as well as of infantry. Such an attack would, of course, have been far more formidable than that which was actually made; whether it could have been successfully resisted from noon until dark can only be conjectured. It is sufficient here to note that the delay of Hood's advance very greatly diminished the force of his attack at Franklin, besides making his arrival before that place so late that he could not turn that position that day by crossing the Harpeth above. The tenacity with which the crossing of Duck River at Columbia was held was well rewarded at Franklin.

The question has been raised whether we ought not to have held our position in front of Franklin after having [187] repulsed Hood's attack and inflicted such heavy losses upon his troops. General Sherman himself impliedly made this suggestion when he expressed the opinion that Thomas ought to have turned on Hood after his repulse at Franklin; and General Jacob D. Cox, who had been in the thickest of the fight all the time, with high soldierly instinct sent me, by one of my staff officers, the suggestion that we stay there and finish the fight the next day. A fight to a finish, then and there, might quite probably have given us the prize. But the reasons for declining that tempting opportunity for complete victory will, I believe, seem perfectly clear when fully stated.

In anticipation of orders from General Thomas to fall back to Nashville that night, the trains had been ordered to the rear before the battle began, so as to clear the way for the march of our troops, and to render impossible any interference by the enemy's cavalry. Our ammunition had been well-nigh exhausted in the battle at Franklin, as is shown by my telegram to General Thomas to send a million rounds to Brentwood, thinking he might want me to hold Hood there until he could get A. J. Smith's troops in position and supplied with ammunition. If I had needed any such warning, that given me by the general in his despatch,3 ‘But you must look out that the enemy does not still persist,’ would have been sufficient to deter me from fighting him the next day with my ‘back to the river.’ Besides, it is not easy to estimate at midnight exactly the results of a desperate battle then just terminated. But all this is insignificant when compared with the controlling reason. I had then fully accomplished the object (and I could not then know how much more) for which the command in the field had for a time been intrusted to me. My junction with reinforcements at Nashville was assured, as also the future [188] success of the army under my superior in command. Why run any further risk? If it had been possible for me, at that moment of supreme satisfaction, to have had any thought of self, I might perhaps have considered the project of turning upon my adversary at dawn the next morning, in the hope of routing his dispirited army. But if any man thinks such a thought possible under such circumstances, he knows nothing about the character of a patriotic soldier. If the troops I then had at Franklin had been the sole reliance for ultimate success in the campaign, nothing could have been clearer than my duty to turn and strike with all my might at dawn the next day.

(A copy of all the correspondence between General Thomas and myself, with annotations showing the time of receipt of the several despatches from General Thomas, thereby showing their influence upon my actions, has been placed on file at the War Department. These copies of despatches, with annotations, are intended mainly for the military student who may care to make a close and critical study of such military operations. The original records of such correspondence are often worse than useless, for the reason that the exact time of sending and receipt of a despatch is so often omitted. All sent or received the same day are frequently printed in the records indiscriminately, so that the last is as likely to come first as otherwise; and, sometimes, historians have used despatches as if they had been received at the time they were sent, though in fact many hours or some days had elapsed. My annotations were made in 1882-3, at Black Point, San Francisco, California, with the assistance of my ever faithful and efficient aide, Colonel William M. Wherry, now lieutenant-colonel of the 2d United States Infantry, and were attached to the copies of the records in 1886.)

1 War Records, Vol. XLV, part i, p. 1108.

2 War Records, Vol. XLV, part i, pp. 241 and 413. The loss at Franklin of Opdycke's six regiments was 205, while the 12th and 16th Kentucky regiments lost 106 men.

3 War Records, Vol. XLV, part i, p. 1171.

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