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.
13. John Adams and his Confederate brigade were being slaughtered as they attempted to cross the Osage orange barrier at the Battle of Franklin. Adams suddenly spurred his horse to the left, finding an opening in the trees. As he galloped toward the Union line both he and his horse were shot. Where did Adams and his horse fall? Within or without the Union lines?
Eric Jacobson looks over much conflicting evidence over pages 361-367 of his book. He concludes that Adams and his horse were shot outside of the Yankee breastworks, that Adams’ horse plunged forward and died on the earthworks, but that Adams himself lay where he fell, still outside the breastworks. Jacobson does not conclude how quickly Adams died (instantly or did he have time to speak?) due to conflicting reports. Finally, he does believe the Union soldiers of Casement’s Brigade carried Adams inside their earthworks for a time before returning his body to the Confederate lines.
Sword, on page 227 of The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah, disagrees with Jacobson. He says Adams “fell with a thud into the inner ditch [of the Union works] just east of the gin house, right at the feet of Jack Casement.” He also believes Adams was alive long enough to talk to Casement, take a drink of water, and exclaim, “it is the fate of a soldier to die for his country.” Casement himself, both immediately after the battle and later, stated that Adams had been found outside the Union lines and that he had been dead when found.
This particular incident is important not just to determine how close a man came to some earthworks. Jacobson writes that it represents the tendency of “Lost Cause” writers to romanticize Confederate efforts during the war. A John Adams who reaches the Confederate lines only to be shot dead is infinitely more useful to those writers than a man who fell short. Regardless, Adams showed incredible bravery when he charged the Union lines on horseback and virtually alone.13 Controversies at Franklin
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 1
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 2
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 3
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 4
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 5
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 6
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 7
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 8
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 9
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 10
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 11
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 12
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 13
- The Top 13 Controversies at Franklin: Part 14