Franklin-The "brutalest" battle of them all.


Brigadier General
Forum Host
Nov 20, 2012
Many seem to forget that the Atlanta Campaign was practically filled with bloody frontal attacks against fortified positions, just as what was going on the east at the time. Battles such as Kennesaw, New Hope, Dallas and Pickett's Mill, Resaca, Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, or Ezra Church all saw heavy casualties due to attacks against fortifications. The men who fought at Franklin had seen their fair share of frontal assaults by then and yet they still went again.
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1st Lieutenant
Feb 7, 2006
Midlothian, VA
The brutality of the war really went up several notches with the 64-65 campaigns of the 2 major armies of each sides. It really is almost like there was an internal clock on both sides of we have to win this soon or it's over, and that desperation played out in the fighting.


Lt. Colonel
Feb 23, 2010
It is, IMO, difficult, if not impossible, to quantify 'brutal' but I believe Franklin is up at the top of any such list of battles. But, as for me, if I have to choose, I would rank, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor and Fredericksburg, with Franklin, if not a little above it.

Karen Lips

1st Lieutenant
Jun 24, 2008
The slaughters at Franklin, Cold Harbor, Fredericksburg, and Pickett's Charge were horrendous to say the least, but each assault was preformed and fought out differently.

Pickett's Charge lasted for only about an hour and stretched for about only half a mile in length and in width. It was one, single simultaneous assault that lasted a short amount of time compare to others, but produced extremely high casualty percentages. Pickett's Division alone suffered a 50% casualty percentage.

Fredericksburg was divided up into two separate fronts - Marye's Heights and Prospect Hill/Slaughter Pen - but Marye's Heights is known for its separate, piecemeal attacks by each of the three divisions of the II Corps at a time as they melted away one by one. None of the Federals attacking Marye's Heights reached the stone wall.

The thing about Franklin is that you had 5 divisions, stretching about a mile in width, converging in on a line of works less than half a mile in width. That's what made Franklin such a fierce and chaotic battle - so many men were stacked in around such a small area and were blown away in only a few hours. You had around 20,000 Confederates converging on a point less than 3,000 feet in width (not counting Ed Johnson's Division attacking the Federal right later).

Because the brigades were so stacked up, the assault continued for as long as it did; as one brigade would melt away the other behind it would run up and get shot to pieces. The men would retreat and regroup, or take their place in the next regiment running up and attack again. To the Federals, it gave the impression that the Confederates were being sent in almost piecemeal. Another thing about Franklin is the large amount of close range combat over the earthworks. Unlike any of the other three assaults, the Confederates managed to reach the Federal works all across the line, but were stuck outside in the ditch and fought right over the works.
I shudder as I read this. It is unnerving to know how close to death my gg grandfather, his bother and cousin came to death.
Jan 17, 2018
Was in Nashville for a work conference ... drove down for the afternoon on my last day.. Went to the battle site, took the tour. Just hearing the story and standing on that ground... i could feel the intensity.

I’ve never seen so many bullet holes in a house before.

So many soldiers in such a small space... it got very close and very personal.

I haven’t visited Gettysburg so I may be partial... but being there and seeing the terrain and where things came together... I can’t imagine a more horrific scene... ever... quite frankly.

Hats off to the folks who run it... they do a great job.

Rio Bravo

First Sergeant
Oct 6, 2013
Suffolk, U.K.
Lets not forget that 4 Union Regts were armed with the Henry Repeating Rifle which they used to deadly effect against the attacking Confederates. The incredible firepower unleashed by the Henry, IMHO, tipped the balance in favour of the defenders.One Co of the 65th Illinois Regt put forth such a rain of bullets that one participant thought it a wonder “that any of the attacking Rebs escaped death or capture”
Brig.Gen. John Adams was found upright in his saddle, riddled with bullets, with his horse’s legs on either side of the Union works.


2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Apr 20, 2011
Grand Junction, TN
I agree with your post, but the greater travesty is the housing that was built right on this important battlefield. So sad. So shortsighted.
My favorite, and I'm being sarcastic, is what I call the Patrick Cleburne Memorial Pizza Hut, built on the spot where he died.

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