The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 6

Editor’s Note: After I’d posted my recent comments on Lee’s possible endorsement of John Bell Hood for army command in 1864, I started going back over a lengthy nine or ten part series I did on Eric Jacobson’s book For Cause & for Country: A Study of the Affair at Spring Hill and the Battle of Franklin.  I had totally forgotten about one of the longest entries, part 8 of the series, in a portion of which I spent comparing/contrasting what Jacobson and Wiley Sword, author of The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville, had to say about some of the numerous controversies at Franklin.  I dusted off this old piece of writing because I thought it might be interesting to readers who have read or who plan to read Stephen M. Hood’s new book, John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General.

Without further ado, here is only a portion of Part 8 in the Jacobson series.  You’ll note that I had a lot of time on my hands in those days, when I was single, without children, and with a job I could leave on Friday and not think about again until Monday morning.  I’ll cover 13 controversies of Franklin in this new series, often in more detail than should probably fit into one blog post.  The entire series will appear at the bottom of this and ensuing posts over the coming weeks.


Comparison and Contrast

As I mentioned at the end of my last blog entry, I wanted to take a look at some of the main vignettes the Battle of Franklin produced, comparing and contrasting the coverage Wiley Sword and Eric Jacobson give to these events. I have listed each “incident” in bold below and numbered them approximately in the order in which they occurred. After each topic title, I have attempted to discuss how each author views each situation. I am especially interested in hearing readers’ takes on these situations, as I think it might generate an interesting discussion on the Battle of Franklin. I hope to do this also after the next entry in this series, covering Bate’s actions on the left and the close of the battle.

6. Why did the Carter family remain in their house on the front lines at the Battle of Franklin?

The simple answer to this question is quite simply, they were told by General Cox to stay put for two reasons. First, he did not believe that Hood would be likely to attack his strongly fortified line. Second, if Carter and his family left and Cox’s headquarters were moved from the house, Cox could not guarantee the security of the house and its possessions. I essentially paraphrased Eric Jacobson’s thoughts on the matter above. Oddly, at least from my examination of Sword’s book using the index, the plight of the Carter family isn’t really discussed. Perhaps this is less of a “main point” than I initially considered.

13 Controversies at Franklin


One response to “The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 6”

  1. Gene Schmiel Avatar
    Gene Schmiel

    This issue, which as you note is not really very controversial, is in fact connected with the previous item about whether Cox told Wagner that Hood was in all probability engaged in a “sham.”

    The best source for why Cox acted as he did is, of course, Cox himself and his book, “Battle of Franklin.” Cox was a strong family man, with six children of his own, and he undoubtedly never considered moving the Carter family from the house — unless he foresaw imminent danger. As he says in this book, “I thought it most probable at the time that Hood would not attack in front.” He also notes the strong fortifications that he had set up as further protection. Thus, when the head of the family asked him if he should abandon the house, Cox gave him the two reasons you have noted in your item for not moving. But he did tell them that if they saw that the “battle was about the open…they should hasten into the village.”

    Just as interesting is that one of the residents of the house (which included five neighbors who came there for protection, making a total of 22 people in the hosue) was a son, Confederate Col. M.B. Carter, who had been paroled. While Cox was researching this book, he asked M.B. Carter for his thoughts about these events, and that account is on pages 199-201. That account includes the family’s finding the body of another son who had died during the battle which was then brought home for a final time. M.B. Carter too notes that he didn’t expect Hood to attack frontally and that he too noticed how Cox’s men were “intently engaged” in constructing their fortifications. Carter wrote that the family, having seen fighting several times before, debated whether to leave, but in the end decided to “trust to God” and hunker down in the cellar. Carter wrote that he told everyone to put on as many clothes as possible so that if they left, they would preserve as much as they could and the multiple layers might protect them against bullets. Cox added, “Nothing would stop a bullet better than a well rolled bundle of clothing.”

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