Sunday is the Battle of Franklin’s 150th anniversary. It’s a fight that history seemed to forget for a while, but one that experts now consider crucial to the end of the Civil War.
The Confederates still thought they had a chance to turn around the war, until they got to Franklin. That’s where Union General John Schofield’s army blocked a much larger group of Southerners just before sundown, forcing them into a nighttime battle. For five, dark hours, soldiers frantically aimed wherever they saw gunfire flashes, not able to see how many men were dying all around them. In all, there were roughly ten thousand dead, injured or missing. Most were Confederates.
Author and historian Robert Hicks says it was a devastating blow to the entire region’s morale:
“This is where the old south died. Nobody after Franklin talks about the Confederacy going on and on, except for maybe Jefferson Davis.”
The rebel army did keep fighting. But they were broken, hungry, and diminished in number. Most of the officers who understood strategy or could keep order were dead. From that point on, they knew they didn’t really have a chance.