for Cause & for Country: A Study of the Affair at Spring Hill and the Battle of Franklin
by Eric A. Jacobson and Richard A. Rupp
I first heard about this promising new book at the Dispatch Depot Civil War Message Board in the book reviews area. As an added bonus, author Eric Jacobson joined in the discussion. He promises some different conclusions from the commonly held views on the battle, including the controversial topic of Hood’s alleged use of laudanum. Further, the author has made some changes to the commonly accepted Order of Battle for the 1864 Tennessee Campaign, adding units never before listed and discussing the role of some brigades at Franklin in greater detail than previous works on the topic. Now that we have covered Wiley Sword’s interpreation of Spring Hill and Franklin in The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville, originally published as Embrace An Angry Wind, we can take a look at Jacobson’s book in order to compare and contrast the two. With that in mind, this third part of a multi-part series will cover the first few chapters of for Cause & for Country, and future entries will take a look at later chapters. I hope to be done within about 4-5 weeks, so keep checking back for more!
Here’s a description of the book from the Publisher:
The battles at Spring Hill and Franklin, Tennessee were watershed moments in American Civil War history. Thousands of veterans and recruits, as well as former West Point classmates, found themselves moving through Middle Tennessee in the last great campaign of a long and bitter war. Replete with bloodshed and controversy, the battles led directly to the conclusion of action in the Western Theater. Long ignored and seldom understood, Spring Hill and Franklin stand as one of the most compelling episodes of the Civil War. Through exhaustive research and the use of sources never before published, the story of both battles comes vividly to life in this remarkable book. The lost opportunity at Spring Hill is evaluated in detail and the truth of what happened there may at last be discovered. The horrific battle at Franklin is told like never before. From what motivated John Bell Hood to make the attack, to the vital role of Union regiments either forgotten or ignored, the reader will see the confrontation in an entirely new light. Events such as the assault on the Union left flank, the attack made by the Confederate Missouri Brigade, General John Adams’ death, and General William Bate’s assault are given the thorough examination they have so long been denied. The book numbers 519 pages, contains over 325 material sources, and is illustrated with black and white, as well as color, photographs. Released by O’More Publishing the book could well become the definitive work on the subject. For Cause and For Country offers a balanced and richly detailed study of these crucial battles. Students of Spring Hill and Franklin will appreciate the dearth of new information and may conclude that these battles had a greater scope than even they realized. Those not familiar with the story will find themselves drawn to the amazing events of late 1864, when Middle Tennessee stood center stage as the country defined itself through blood and fire.
for Cause & for Country: A Study of the Affair at Spring Hill and the Battle of Franklin
by Eric A. Jacobson and Richard A. Rupp
I wanted to start out by saying that aside from what Eric Jacobson has posted in the Dispatch Depot Message board thread covering For Cause and For Country, I do not know the details of how his book differs from Sword’s interpretation of these battles. The purpose of this continuing series of blog entries is to find out the ways in which these two authors view the events of late November 1864 in Tennessee. I purchased the paperback version of the book before I knew a hardcover edition was coming out, but in glancing at the details for both editions, it looks like they are exactly the same as far as what is shown on each page. If I mention certain page numbers and you don’t see what I saw, it might be because of some unknown difference in the two editions. In looking through the table of contents, I see that the authors set up the situation in the first chapter, mentioning how the war came to the point it was at in November 1864. Jacobson and Rupp then move on to Hood’s Tennessee Campaign, and they are fully into the subject matter of Spring Hill by chapter 3. The book totals 12 chapters in all, including 7 maps, 31 illustrations, and complete Order of Battle information. Jacobson has promised the most complete order of battle ever produced for this campaign. In addition, there are some color illustrations included in the middle of the book depicting portions of the battelfields as they appear today. The maps are pretty good, though I do question the lack of scale and also the omission of any Confederate positions on the extreme zoom-in maps of the Battle of Franklin. Instead, the Franklin maps depict the Federal positions in literally regimental level detail. I would have liked to have seen the Confederate positions as well in these zoomed-in maps. Interestingly and somewhat unexpectedly to me author Tim Reese, who has produced an excellent book on Crampton’s Gap entitled Sealed with Their Lives: Battle of Crampton’s Gap, Burkittsville, MD, Sept. 14, 1862, was responsible for drawing the maps. Eric Jacobson comments on the maps in his Acknowledgements:
Maps are also crucial to understanding the complexities of military maneuvers and unit placements. Tim Reese did an excellent job designing the book’s various maps. He worked closely and patiently with me to ensure they were exactly as I wanted them. I think they are the best maps of Spring Hill and Franklin ever done.
Chapter 1: The Road to Destiny
As I stated above, Chapter 1 is mostly a brief history of the war in the west involving the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Jacobson covers the various commanders such as Albert S. Johnston, Pierre G. T. Beauregard, Braxton Bragg, Joe Johnston, and finally John Bell Hood. Jacobson goes into some detail covering the latter stages of the Atlanta Campaign, presumably because Hood first assumed command of the Army of Tennessee during the latter stages of that campaign. The author seems to take a much more even approach to Hood and his generalship than did Wiley Sword. Jacobson does not have much of an opinion either way on whether or not Hood campaigned for the job of army commander during the Atlanta Campaign, though he does rebuke Hood for his handling of the attacks on Sherman’s Army, Hood’s criticism of his soldiers at Ezra Church, and Hood’s inability to realize or inability to admit the importance of losing Atlanta to the Confederate war effort. When Davis kept Hood in command of the army after Atlanta, the author agrees with this course of action, saying that Davis made the best of a bad situation. He couldn’t bring Johnston back, as that would be admitting that Davis had made a mistake in replacing him with Hood. He couldn’t place Beauregard in command because Davis had an immense dislike for the man. Instead, in a supervisory role, Davis placed Beauregard over Hood but allowed Hood to keep field command. Jacobson says Davis made an error by not allowing Beauregard to do more than give suggestions, and that Hood simply ignored any “orders” Beauregard sent his way. Hood realized He also couldn’t keep Hardee with the Army of Tennessee any longer, since Hardee and Hood had a falling out after the fall of Atlanta. Hardee was transferred and Hood was kept in command. This opened up a Corps command position, and here the author covers another controversial topic. Wiley Sword believes Cleburne was the only choice to take command of Hardee’s old Corps, but Jacobson does not think it was that simple. Cheatham ranked Cleburne and had been in temporary command of a Corps on two other occasions, whereas Cleburne had never been in charge of that number of men. Hood apparently suggested that Cheatham be given the Corps based solely on the fact that he ranked Cleburne. The other major reason why Cleburne might have been passed over was his early 1864 suggestion to arm slaves and give them their freedom after the war was won. Many Confederate leaders were appalled and angered by this suggestion, and although Jacobson could find no firm evidence that this idea of Cleburne’s prevented his promotion, he believes that there is a very strong chance it had some affect on the decision-making process.
I look forward to getting into the meat of the book over the course of the next month plus, and I encourage everyone who has an interest in the campaign to leave their own thoughts on the book. Author Eric Jacobson and General Hood’s descendant Sam Hood are both following along as well, so alslo feel free to ask questions of them if you have any.
Although short, Jacobson’s Preface is interesting for a few reasons. First, he mentions that he has used items from The National Tribune newspaper for the first time ever in a book on Franklin and Spring Hill. He also notes that the Official Records, though the first primary source typically associated with any campaign study, here proved less useful than for most battles. Only one Confederate regimental commander and only two of seven Confederate divisional commanders left reports on the battles. In addition, though the Federals are better represented, the author believes several of these proved so vague as to be of little use. Jacobson blames the close proximity to the end of the war as a major reason many of these reports were never written. Jacobson also notes that letters and diaries, typically so prevalent and useful, were rather scarce as far as this campaign goes.
Chapter 2: The March to the Ohio
By late 1864 the Confederacy was in serious trouble, writes Jacobson. Furthermore, most of the Confederate armies were in no position to do anything about it. Lee was locked in place at Petersburg against Grant, while Edmund Kirby Smith in the Trans-Mississippi would not allow his troops to be shifted east to more critical points. Only Hood and his Army of Tennessee seemed able to do anything resembling offensive action.
The author follows with a short description of Hood’s early years. Jacobson describes an unruly young man, but fairly points out that many young men are this way. Hood has also been chastised by other authors for the large number of demerits (196 total in his last year at West Point), but also points out that Hood’s classmate and future adversary at Franklin, John Schofield, had an identical number of demerits. In my reading I have heard that West Point cadets generally received more demerits in their last year than in other years, perhaps because they knew the end was in sight and they wanted to have a little fun before heading out into the real world. Jacobson calls Hood “a relentless fighter”, but points out that the Civil War did much damage to both Hood and the men who followed him.
Throughout the month of October 1864, Hood wreaked havoc on Sherman’s supply line. The Army of Tennessee did Sherman so much damage, and caused him so much frustration following them, that the Northern general decided to break away from his supply lines and march to the Atlantic coast, leaving Thomas and enough men to deal with Hood. By this time, Hood seemed to Beauregard to be wandering aimlessly through northern Alabama with little idea of what to do next. To further irritate the Creole general, Hood was simply ignoring his suggestions. Beauregard had a short meeting with Hood on November 3, 1864. At this meeting, writes Jacobson, Hood’s Campaign for Tennessee was born. The two generals agreed that Hood would march north for Columbia or Pulaski (where Schofield’s Army was located). Forrest’s Cavalry, then on a raid in Tennessee, would join the Army of Tennessee shortly after the march got underway. The march was delayed for several weeks, however, by terrible weather and also by problems with Hood’s supply line. Beauregard was critical of Hood’s efforts to keep his army supplied, and the author tends to side with Beauregard in this assessment. While Hood might be a fighter, he apparently did not handle logistics with much skill. The march finally commenced on November 21. According to his autobiography, Hood had grandiose visions of what he hoped to accomplish, including driving to the Ohio River, moving through the Appalachians to help Lee at Petersburg, and then with Lee turning south to crush Sherman! Jacobson writes, “it is difficult to imagine which is more confusing, Hood believing in 1864 that such maneuvering was possible, or that a decade and a half after the war’s conclusion anyone would believe such claims.” Jefferson Davis, for one, did not, calling Hood’s Tennessee Campaign “ill-advised.”
George Thomas had been placed in a relatively tough position, says the author. Thomas had 8,000 recruits at Nashville, 23,000 infantry under Schofield in the 4th and 23rd Corps to the south at Pulaski, James Wilson’s cavalry, and the 10,000 or so men of A. J. Smith’s 16th Corps, still on their way from Missouri. Thomas knew, notes Jacobson, that he needed as much time as he could get. The heavy rains in early and middle November did not hurt, but as Hood’s 30,000 infantry and Forrest’s cavalry moved forward against the 23,000 infantry and Wilson’s cavalry under Schofield, Thomas could see that time was running out.
The two Corps Sherman had left Thomas were both the veterans of much fighting. By the middle of November David Stanley’s 4th Corps of the Army of the Cumberland was at Pulaski, south of Columbia, and Schofield’s 23rd Corps of the Army of the Ohio was strung out between Pulaski and Columbia. John Schofield, Hood’s former classmate at West Point, was in overall command of this force, while Thomas remained at Nashville.
Many of Hood’s men were Tennesseans, so the campaign would take them near their homes. One such man was Sam Watkins, whose well-written memoirs are a must as far as a source for any book written on the campaigns in which he participated. Watkins called Columbia, Tennessee home, and the Army of Tennessee would soon occupy that town. The first day of the march was remembered as an extremely miserable day, with snow blowing in the Confederates’ faces all day. Many men were missing needed blankets, overcoats, and shoes, and so suffered accordingly. The Confederate Army of Tennessee consisted of three infantry Corps of three divisions each and Forrest’s cavalry. The Southerners moved forward in three columns. Cheatham’s Corps took the left, Lee’s Corps the center, and Stewart’s Corps the right, each screened by portions of the Confederate cavalry. Lee had the shortest distance to go, but he took by far the worst road, and his men struggled to make the distance assigned to them. John Croxton’s Federal cavalry brigade was screening the Northern army, with John Hatch’s men on the way, and Forrest’s cavalry soon ran into these men on the march north.
Horace Capron’s Federal cavalry soon joined these other men, and together they attempted to slow Hood’s advance until cavalry chief James H. Wilson could reach the front. John Hatch in particular, says Jacobson, was able to keep Schofield well-informed, and it looked like Hood would try to flank the Federals at Pulaski to beat them to Columbia. Thomas ordered Schofield to withdraw to the latter town to prevent this from happening. Meanwhile, Hood’s march on November 22 was as difficult as the previous day, with temperatures remaining bitterly cold.
James H. Wilson finally arrived in late November to take over all cavalry in Thomas’ Department, but he needed some time to get everything organized. Meanwhile, some of the various Union cavalry brigades were being roughly handled by Forrest on November 23. Forrest himself led a flank attack on Horace Capron’s Brigade, sending it scattering generally to the north. Meanwhile, two of Forrest’s other divisions scattered John Hatch’s men and sent them scurrying east towards Pulaski. By nightfall, the Confederate infantry was in Waynesboro. Schofield, however, had started pulling Stanley’s men out of Pulaski around noon, and they made decent mileage that day moving north.
In an interesting discussion, the author introduces us to John M. Schofield, the commander of the Union forces at Spring Hill and Franklin. Schofield had been a good child, and Jacobson says this continued for his first two years at West Point. However, he was nearly kicked out after a class he was teaching got out of hand in what the author calls “a bizarre hazing ritual.” Trouble continued as Schofield accumulated 196 demerits his last year at West Point, the same number as Hood, as noted previously. Apparently Schofield liked to occasionally go to Benny Haven’s Tavern near the Academy, and he also developed a fondness for smoking. Jacobson relates that Schofield had no real command experience in the field until 1864, and that Sherman said he was too slow and relied too much on others. Jacobson agrees, saying Schofield reacted very slowly to Hood’s aggressive movements, found himself in a very tight spot, and relied heavily on subordinates such as David Stanley and Jacob Cox to bail him out.
Schofield belatedly realized Hood’s intentions and ordered his men to move to Columbia as quickly as possible at 1 A.M. on November 24. Meanwhile, Forrest’s cavalry continued to press their Union counterparts in Capron’s Brigade and Hatch’s Division, attempting to push the Federals aside in order to reach Columbia as quickly as possible. Hatch’s men continued to resist, but Capron’s men were sent fleeing for Columbia. Forrest believed he could reach that town not long after, but the author hints at a surprise awaiting the “Wizard of the Saddle.”
Forrest is highly praised by Jacobson, who next gives us a brief biography of the Southern horseman. He relates Forrest’s well-known aggression as an intimidating, self-educated, self-made man. It was up to this superb tactician to clear the way to Columbia for Hood’s infantry.
The surprise awaiting Forrest turned out to be Federal infantry, most of which had just arrived in the town on the morning of November 24. Jacobson chastises Schofield for the close call, but points out that even had Forrest been able to enter the town, he would have soon been forced out, since the Southern infantry was over 30 miles away. By the end of the day on November 25, Hood’s men had closed some of that gap. They were scattered from Mount Pleasant for several miles south. On November 26, just north of Mt. Pleasant, Patrick Cleburne stopped to admire the countryside near St. John’s Episcopal Church. He would be coming back, but not in the way he might have imagined. George Thomas had by this time ordered Schofield to hold Hood south of the Duck River, but Schofield was worried (quite rightly as it turned out) that Hood would try to turn his left flank by crossing the Duck above Columbia. Schofield was also worried about his ability to hold a bridgehead on the south side of the river, so he crosses his army to the north bank, abandoning the town proper and taking up a position on some high ground over a mile north of the river. Hood held a meeting on the night of November 27 to discuss his immediate plans. These included leaving Lee with part of his Corps and almost all of the army’s artillery in Columbia to make a demonstration. The rest of the army would cross the Duck, led by Forrest’s cavalry, and turn Schofield’s left. Hood set his plan into motion on November 28, and through some luck, Forrest was facing only Capron’s Brigade. Wilson, in his eagerness to halt Forrest’s advance north of the Duck, had moved too far to the north and east, leaving the Confederates an opening to get between most of the cavalry and the main Federal army. Forrest pushed over nine miles to the north that day, and separated Wilson even more from Schofield’s forces. Wilson was out of the fighting for all intents and purposes until Franklin. Meanwhile, Hood found an excellent spot to ford the Duck that evening only four miles east of Columbia called Davis Ford. The spot had been unguarded by the Federals, and Hood was set by the morning of November 29 to push his infantry forward to flank Schofield.
So far, I’ve enjoyed the book, especially when noting how the author views various commanders. Sword had a distinct view of all of these men, so I have tried to look for even subtle differences in the way Jacobson thinks of them. At this point, we are now getting into the part of the story where I started reading Sword’s book, so I hope to make some comparisons as far as the authors’ interpretations of events go. The biggest difference seems to be the ways in which each man looks at Hood. I get the sense that Jacobson does not think Hood was a very good commander, but he words his criticisms in a fairer manner than does Sword. Rather than regurgitate unproven rumors of laudanum abuse, Jacobson looks at the historical record and only makes judgments on proven facts. For all of these commanders, he gives credit where credit is due, and likewise criticism if and when it is merited. Look for future blog entries on For Cause and for Country in the coming weeks, two or three chapters at a time. As always, feel free to add your comments and/or criticism.