For Cause and Country

For Cause and Country, written by Eric Jacobson, is one of the very best books on the Civil War Battle of Franklin, TN.   It is an excellent read for those interested in the Civil War in general or the Battle of Franklin.  It is a thoroughly-researched book and gives an excellent battle narrative including incorporating eyewitness accounts from both sides.

This battle fought in November 1864, only about four months before General Lee’s surrender, was one of the last major actions in the Civil War.  Confederate General John Bell Hood led his Army of the Tennessee in a desperate invasion of Tennessee after he had just been soundly defeated in Georgia by Sherman’s army and lost the pivotal city of Atlanta.  Lee, holed up in Richmond with a far inferior army, could only hold off Union General Grant for a time and had no potential for offensive action.  Hood hoped to draw Sherman back into Tennessee for a decisive battle and remove his threat from the Deep South.  However, Sherman simply sent a portion of his troops to Middle Tennessee to join with other troops already there under General Thomas which together heavily outnumbered Hood.  Sherman took the rest of his troops on the famous “March to the Sea” which effectively destroyed much of what was left of the infrastructure of the South.

Hood’s Tennessee invasion started off well and he just missed trapping and destroying a part of Thomas’ army in Spring Hill, a few miles from Franklin.  A very upset Hood moved on to Franklin where the same Union troops that escaped at Spring Hill were waiting in a strongly fortified position.  Hood, determined to not let the Union troops get away again, made an unwise, very costly, desperate charge directly into the fortified line and the Confederate troops were slaughtered with heavy losses.  The Confederate troops performed with amazing courage but were sacrificed.  Despite the victory, the Union army retreated over night to rejoin the main body of troops in Nashville, which were its orders.  Hood moved on to invest Nashville with what was left of his army but, a couple of weeks later, the Union army attacked and decisively defeated the Confederate army.  The Army of Tennessee was largely destroyed and with Lee surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia shortly thereafter the war was brought to an end.

Today, the battlefield is a relatively quiet place which I often walk and contemplate the courage and sacrifice of both sides.  A national battlefield park, although purposed, was never approved by Congress.  Most of the land was bought up by residential or commercial interests over the years and except for two spots is was thought the battlefield could never be reclaimed.  The two preserved spots were the Carnton Mansion, where the wounded and dead were brought and where blood from the soldiers is still evident on the floors, and the Carter House and a small plot of ground around it were a part of the battle was fought.  However, just in the last decade or two the “Battle of Franklin Trust” was formed to try to reclaim as much of the battlefield as possible.  Led currently by Eric Jacobson, the author of this book, it has done an amazing job of purchasing battlefield land including several homes and businesses at very high costs.  This is possible as Franklin happens to be located in one of the wealthiest counties in the country and there are many people who care for and are invested in the battlefield.  The Trust even formed a partnership with the State of Tennessee who, at an appointed time after more land is purchased and a new visitor’s center is constructed, is going to take over the maintenance of the new Carter Hill Battlefield Park.  It contains a Confederate graveyard where most of the confederates that died in the battle are buried, just outside Carnton Mansion.   I would encourage anyone interested to visit if you are in the area as it is a very important historical preservation to honor both sides that fought in the battle.





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