Johnson's Division

Night Attack at Franklin

"The carnage and destruction was so dreadful that the sun, as if loath to longer gaze on this terrific scene, slowly sunk behind the western horizon and hid from view his smiling face; but the stars, more pitying, came forth to keep vigil o'er the silent and sleeping dead". --John M. Copley


Shortly after the attack had began, the Lee's Corps and most of the artillery arrived from Spring Hill. After reporting to General John B. Hood, Stephen D. Lee was given orders to move forward his leading Division, Edward Johnson and there after Clayton's and be ready to support Cheathams attack.

After receiving reports of enemy resistance. Hood soon sent word to Lee to ride forward to Cheatham HQ on Privet Knob and if Necessary, Put the full Division into the fight.

Meeting Cheatham about dark, a little after 5:00pm on this late November day. Lee was told that his help was needed at once.

Since Lee nor any of his staff had time to become familiar with the ground, Lee asked Cheatham for someone to act as a guide for Johnson's Division as it advanced.

Cheatham replied, " he had none to give him ... and pointed to the front said yonder line of fire at the breastworks is were u are needed and wanted at once. " [1]

About an hour after dark, Johnson started his division forward stumbling in the dark across unfamiliar terrain moving toward the federal works. In the left front lay the locust thicket, already littered with bodies from the previous charges. [2]

The only light on the pitch black scene came, "The lurid and rapid flashes from the enemy works." [3] and the flaming torches carried by the right and left guides at the head of the Column. [4]

Johnston four Brigades, Sharp's, Deas', Brantly's and Manigault's reinforced the left flank of Maj. Gen. William B. Bate's Division.

In the night attack at Franklin Brigadier General Arthur Middleton Manigault was severely wounded by a mini ball to the head. This how he described his wounding in a letter to his wife.

"About fifteen minutes after being under fire, I was struck by a minnie ball ... Which brought me to the ground. It entered in the back part of the ear & passing thro. & under the skin came about two inches behind the ear & near the back part of the head. It fortunately was turned in its course by the high projecting bone back of the ear & making a slight grove along the bone passed out as I have described before."

"Altho I was not able to stand without assistance fro several hours, still I had used of y legs. After lying on the field for an hour.... with the assistance of Willie Huger and a soldier, I walked a mile and a half to the hospital." [5]

Lt. Stephen D. Lee wrote in his Official Report:

My corps, including Johnson's division, followed immediately after Cheatham's toward Franklin. I arrived near Franklin about 4 p.m. The commanding general was just about attacking the enemy with Stewart's and Cheatham's corps, and he directed me to place Johnson's division, and afterward Clayton's, in position to support the attack. Johnson moved in rear of Cheatham's corps; and finding that the battle was stubborn General Hood instructed me to go forward in person to communicate with General Cheatham, and if necessary to put Johnson's division in the fight. I met General Cheatham about dark, and was informed by him that assistance was needed at once. Johnson was at once moved forward to the attack, but owing to the darkness and want of information as to the locality his attack was not felt by the enemy till about one hour after dark.

This division moved against the enemy's breastworks under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry, gallantly driving the enemy from portions of his line. The brigades of Sharp and Brantly (Mississippians) and of Deas (Alabamians) particularly distinguished themselves. Their dead were mostly in the trenches and on the works of the enemy, where they nobly fell in a desperate hand-to-hand conflict. Sharp captured three stand of colors. (one thought to be the colors of the 107th Illinois Inf ) Brantly was exposed to a severe enfilade fire. These noble brigades never faltered in this terrible night struggle.

Brigadier - General Manigault, commanding a brigade of Alabamians and South Carolinians, was severely wounded in this engagement while gallantly leading his troops to the fight, and of his two successors in command, Colonel Shaw was killed and Colonel Davis wounded. I have never seen greater evidences of gallantry than was displayed by this division, under command of that admirable and gallant soldier, Maj. Gen. Ed. Johnson.

The enemy fought gallantly and obstinately at Franklin, and the position he held was, for infantry defense, one of the best I have ever seen.


At one time two companies of the One hundred and eighty-third Ohio, on our immediate left, broke and left their part of the Works unprotected. A body of the enemy occupied the outside of these works for some time. Here we shot down two color-bearers, and prevented their entering the works, till they were again occupied by two companies of the Eightieth Indiana. As the Eightieth was moving to the left to occupy this position I threw one company on the right center--where the enemy's fire at that time was very light--over the works, and fired one volley into rebels as they lay upon the outside of our works.

During the engagement we took among other prisoners Lieutenant Lee, aide-de-camp, of General S. D. Lee's staff. -- Col. O. L. Spaulding 23rd Michigan Infantry [6]


As Brantley's Brigade approached the works in the darkness the men were met with a deadly volley that seemed to sweep away half their numbers, but they responded gallantly to the order to charge, and entered the ditch just outside the parapet, which for hours they struggled to gain. Union and Confederate troops, Mississippians, Ohioans, Illinoisans, Indianians, fought hand to hand in the dark for possession of the parapets and their flags. Part of a Michigan regiment came out to the ditch and opened a deadly fire along its length. Lieut.-Col. J. M. Johnson, commanding the regiment, was wounded and Major J. K. Allen was missing. Company E was almost entirely destroyed

"The blood actually ran in the ditch," said Private Rhea H. Vance of the Twenty-ninth Mississippi, "and in places saturated our clothing where we were lying down."

The strength of the brigade was about that of a full regiment, but less than that in line of battle. Major. G. W. Reynolds, commanding the Twenty-ninth, was among the killed.

The losses of Brantley's brigade were the greatest in Johnson's Division -- 76 killed, 140 wounded, 21 missing.


In a letter to his wife Private Calvin J. C. Munroe of Company G, 25th Alabama writes ... We came up about two hours by the sun on the evening of 30th Nov. The line was formed in a few minutes. Bates' Division, French's Division, and Cleburne's Division led the way. Our Division was to support Bates. We drove them from one line of works and had charged them in the second line. . . we was ordered charge and we rushed upon them and drove them from their position. .

We crossed over into the ditch, we was obliged to lie down in the ditch to protect ourselves, but the ditch was not deep enough to shelter us.

We lay there and fought them about 2 hours when they took advantage of the darkness and withdrew their force in the direction of Nashville.


Others that were were there Spoke of the horrible scene

W.L. Truman Soeaking of the Locust Grove were Deas and Brantly Brigade attacked the union works.

"The locust grove to our left center consisted of trees about four to twelve inches in diameter. Nearly every one was cut down by bullets from the enemy, and fell with tops from their works. They were a mass of splinters from about two to twelve feet high. "

Brig. Gen. Jacob H. Sharp wrote " I was met by a person on horseback inquring for General Sharp. I made my self known when he said,.' .. General Bates Says that of you will let your left rest on the (Widow Bostick's) brick house and swing around as you move forward, you will take the enemys works.' I sent my staff officers, except my aid , Captain Harris to coution the men not to fire."

"We were with in thirty paces of the enemy's Works when the darkness was lighted up as if by an electric display . . . . The enemy was there to greet us. . . . Our brave boys gave a yell, scambled through the locust grove and went into the works."

"I was shot just below the knee and it seemed as if my leg was shivered into splinters. I directed Captain Farris to report to colonel Bishop that I was wounded, and direct him to assume command of the brigade. . . Colonel Biship was killed at the works, and Colonel Simms's leg was broken; Colonel calhoun was . . . wounded; and from that on it seems to have been mananged by the company officers and the ... men that were spared"


George W. Leavell of the 41st. Mississippi in Sharps Brigade also wrote
"We were ordered to omit the usual 'yell', conceal our approach under cover of the darkness and make a spirited dash for the works. My own path lay through the north edge of the famed 'locust grove'. Our progress was retarded by the brush which had been cut down. We clambered over pulled through , or crawled under on our hands and knees... We reached the works just a little left of the carter Brick dwelling.

Our first clash was fierce struggle across the works, at the very muzzles of our guns. . . Thw enemy in our Immediate front were forced back, and the flag of the 41st. Mississippi regiment was borne across the works to the persuit some distance to the front, a squad of us aligning ourselves with the colors. . . The rally for a advamce was not genearal, and we returned under cover of the embankment. The enemy again returned to contest for the works. . . There was a brief but fierce clash again, another shout for the advance. Captain Spooner . . . mounted the works and walked to and fro waving his sword and encourageing his men. his symmetic form could be seen through the darkness by the light from the perpetual flash of our guns."

Some one assisted me ... to bring a cartouch of ammunition , left by the enemy, across to our side. This gave us a abundant supply of ammunition , and we settled down to a steady fusillade to our front and left. .. to our left. .. the other side of the ditch was filled bluecoats just a few rods from us. . . We could shelter under the works and pour an enfilade fire down their line. This was too much for them and one desperate effort after another was made by them to force their way up to the ditch to our immediate front. as we poured our deadly fire down their line, we could distinctly hear the death groan and agonizing cries of the wounded. . . . The Contest was thus continued for hours - it seemed an age, and we began to feel ourselfs in great straits. We had been long with out orders, not the voice of a commanding officer could be heard. We were hard pressed. What should we do? At this time , in an interval between the onslaughts, Capt. John Reed called a few heads togerther to deside whether we should hold out , retreat, or surrender.. The decision was to fight till the end."

"After this it became apparent that the enemy was not so aggressive. The Fireing slackened. There were intervals of dead silence to be broken again by the crack of the rifles.. A death - like silence was pervadind the hush of night. . . when a clear voice from one of our watchmem rang out: 'Look at that yankee right there!' Pop1 pop1 pop! rang out a number of the rifles. With the stealth of a indian he had designed to creep apon us and give us a farewell shot, and was discovered within a few yards of our lines. His life paid the forfeit of his folly."


Fighting continued till after 9:00 p.m. as Edward Johnson's men made the difficult night attack. Repeatedly crossing across the ditch to the top of the works held by Col. Orlando H. Moore's 2nd Brigade.

A Private in the 23 michigan recalled " Oh the groaning and praying and pleading I never before and God knows I do not want to do again.

The firing finally stoped shortly after midnight and search parties to help the wounded and ease the pain of the dying.

The enemy evacuated Franklin hastily during the night of the 30th.
My corps commenced the pursuit about 1 p.m. on December 1, and arrived near Nashville about 2 p.m. [7]


But when the mornin sun began to rise in the eastern sky . it began to shed light on the horrible scene that been hidden by the darkness

The ditch in front of the works was a mass of gray in brown , a blur of faces and claw like hands. Here and there the the dead men were piled 4 and 5 deep .and were the the dead men who had no more room to fall stood upright in the pile still holding thier rifles with their faces still set toward the vanished foe. While the empty breatsworks, from left to right was nothing but torn earth.

Long after the war a former union officer recalled of Johnson's Div. night attack "that not enough praise can be bestewed on the rebel rank and file and their line officers for their historic bravery


In all Johnson's Division Total loses were 127 killed, 424 wounded, and 36 missing although it the only one out of Lee's corps that was sent into the frey. They were not the only ones that suffered casualties.

Brig. Gen. Marcellus A. Stovall - Stovall Brigade Official report says "The division to which my brigade was attached did not arrive in time to enter the conflict. Thrown forward, however, in advance of the other two brigades of the division to relieve some of the troops which had been engaged, I occupied the enemy's first line of works. While in this position I lost 1 officer killed and 2 or 3 men wounded." . --[8]


Johnson's Division

Major General Edward Johnson

Major General Edward Johnson - commanding

Brantley's Brigade

Brig. Gen. William F Brantley

Brig. Gen. William F Brantley - commanding
24th, 27th, 29th, 30th, 34th Mississippi Infantry

Deas' Brigade

Brig. Gen. Zachariah C. Deas

Brig. Gen. Zachariah C. Deas - commanding
19th, 22th, 25th, 39th, 26th/50thAlabama Infantry

Manigault's Brigade

Brig. Gen Arthur M. Manigault

Brig. Gen Arthur M. Manigault - commanding
24th, 28th,34thAlabama Infantry & 10th, 19thSouth Carolina Infantry

Sharp's Brigade

Brig. Gen. Jacob H. Shap
Brig. Gen. Jacob H. Sharp - commanding
7th, 9th, 10th, 41st, 44thMississippi Inf & 9thMs Battlion Sharpshooters


1. " Johnson Division " - Publication of Mississippi historical Society 7: 79
2. "General Stephen D. Lee" by Herman Hattaway
3. "Southern Historical Society Papers 3: 67"
4. "William O. Mohrman, 1880's Journal. Carter House Achives
5. "A Carolina Goes to War - The Civil War Narrative of Arthur Middleton Manigault" by R. Lokwood Tower pt. XI , XII
6. O.R.--Series I--Volume XLV/1 [S# 93] P. 688
7. O.R.--Series I--Volume XLV/1 [S# 93] p. 386
8. O.R.--Series I--Volume XLV/1 [S# 93] p. 700

Buried Rest Haven Cemetery Franklin Tennessee