Days After the Battle of Franklin: An Illinois Soldier Records His Experience


ABBOTT ASBURY LEMASTER-Co I, 21st Illinois

The 27 year old Private from Palestine, Illinois wrote the following to The Robinson (Illinois) Argus and was published on January 20, 1865.


"We had been marching night and day for eight days, our rear guard skirmishing all the way from Pulaski until we reached Franklin on the 30th. There we had a regular pitched battle lasting five hours.


During the night of the 29th, we fell back from Columbus to Franklin. The enemy followed right up, and by 10 A.M. we could see the 'Johnnies' advancing in two heavy lines. We immediately formed our lines and built breastworks. Pretty soon skirmishing commenced and by the middle of the afternoon they crowded our line viciously and at 3 1/2 P.M. made a desperate attack on our right and center, forcing our line to the breastworks, which were thrown up river to river; in an open field on the Columbus pike, which ran through the center of Franklin.


General Schofield commanded in the field, Stanley on the right, and Cox, of the 23d corps, on the left.


At least one-half of the rebels engaged endeavored to pierce our center, and came down heavy on Wagner's division, which, after desperate fighting, gave way, and Maney's division of Frank Cheatham's corps got inside our works and captured two guns. Our center was not broken however, and, better still, General Wagner successfully rallied his troops who charged upon the enemy, recapturing the two guns and forced the division over the breastworks, capturing an entire brigade and its commander. At half past four the battle raged with unabated fury, the enemy having made during one short half hour four attempts to break our center. Our position was a magnificent one; and the result of these four charges magnificently grand. All this while the rebels operated in force upon our right, the rebel programme being to pierce our center and crush our right. Before dark, although a portion of our infantry were engaged, three fourths of our artillery were playing on the rebel column, who stood their ground like madmen.


During all the charges that were made upon our right and center, volleys of grape and canister were hurled into their lines, and darkness prevented their sacrifice being more awful. They fought so desperately that the rebel muskets were often thrust through the parapet and head log.


The firing in front of our division was not so severe, the rebels charging but twice. By dark they were replaced, but the firing did not cease till nearly nine.


At least five thousand rebels were killed, wounded or captured, while our own loss will probably reach fifteen hundred. We captured seventeen rebel battle flags; some regiments, among which was the 11th Ohio, capturing a half dozen apiece. Gen D.S. Stanley was slightly wounded in the back of the neck, but did not leave the field until the fight was over.


The rebel Gen Adams was killed, and he and his horse fell into the ditch together in front of the 104th Ohio. Seventeen distinct attacks of the enemy...some of them feints, but mostly real were repulsed.


We have beat the last retreat, and if old Hood wants us he will have to come and take us.


Respectfully

A.A. Lemaster


NOTE: The 21st Illinois, as some may recall, was the first command of Col. Ulysses S. Grant.





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