Discussion The Woolly Mammoth destroyed the last hope the Confederacy. Truth is stranger than fiction.

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Rhea Cole

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Mark Twain said that the difference between history & fiction is that fiction had to make sense. 10,000 years after the last Woolly Mammoth laid down & died, General John Bell Hood ordered the Army of Tennessee to form up for an attack on Federals dug in arc in front of the hamlet of Franklin, Tennessee. Where herds of ice age elephants once grazed, an unbroken expanse of cotton slanted down from the heights where Tennesseans dressed their ranks & bands played, men squinted down sub at the ugly scar of red earth that was their objective.

The veteran infantry that manned those works had coolly & efficiently spent the daylight hours improving defenses first dug new rebels years before. Grant & Sherman stated that late in the war, infantry could dig impenetrable field works in about 45 minutes after a halt. Shading their eyes from the late afternoon sun, soldiers standing watch looked on with some complacency as their comrades put the finishing touches to their trenchline. Some of them must have grumbled at doing all that work just to go through the paces. What kind of fool would advance over miles of featureless ground commanded by well dug in veterans? Orders is orders, so they worked hard to do the job right. The sooner the wagons crossed over the river, the sooner the men could put down their shovels & march off for the comforts of Nashville. Nobody was going to gat into a fight, not with this army tucked in behind good earthworks.

The scene on the highground was one of martial splendor. For once, neat the textbook arrangements of regiments in line of battle was there for all to see. Each regiment in the line was headed by a battle flag. Cleburne's Corps held high the full moon flags they had followed from the beginning. Neighboring lines saw the shining backlit red of the naval ensigns Joe Johnston had ordered to replace their own battle scarred flags after Chattanooga. Derisively called the trouser suspender flag, many of the men still resented having it foisted off on them. Surely, at that moment, such trivial concerns were the last thing on the men's minds.

What a sight it must have been. An entire army in battle array, nobody had ever seen such a thing. Golden shafts of sunlight sparked jewels off the tips of fixed bayonets. Mounted officers stood like statues. Singularly, the bands were behind the line with their instruments. They would advance with the attack. For that one short moment, everything was ever so fine, brilliant, perfect. The army had one last look across those featureless cotton fields before the order to advance was given.

People of the 1860's believed that the dead were here with us. Only a thin veil stood between loved ones who had gone before & the living. From their perspective, had they seen seen pale gray figures looking back at them from atop that red slash of earth across the way, they would have thought nothing of it. Only this time, it would not have been loving family members who awaited them from the other side. No, this time it was the patient gigantic hairy figures of Mammoths, dead for ten thousand years, that gazed back at them.

In Africa today, elephants seek out acacia tress. The flesh beneath the bark is sweet & full of moisture. Eons ago, the acacia tree evolved a defense against the elephant's sweet tooth. Every branch & twig is festooned with murderously sharp spikes. Even the spikes have clusters of spikes. Those shiny, ebony colored needle pointed weapons only appear on one other genetically unrelated collection of tress in the world.

Lewis & Clark brought back Osage Orange trees from their great crossing of the continent. At Carnton, on the Franklin battle field, today stands the largest Osage Orange tree that I have ever seen. It is believed that it is one of the cutting that Lewis & Clark brought back. You have never in your life seen such a display of freightening needles. That huge tree is a monster right out of a nightmare. Biologically, what on earth are those thousands of needles there for?

It turns out that rockshelters used by Mammoths over thousands of years are floored with deposits of dung tens of meters thick. Throughout that depository of ice age manure are millions of seeds from sweet gum, Kentucky Coffee, Osage Orange & other trees that were browsed by Mammoths. Just like the totally unrelated acacia trees in Africa, these New World species evolved the same vicious spikes to discourage sweets loving Mammoths.

A curious charastic of the Osage Orange is that a cut limb stuck into the ground will root. These extremely dense hard limbs make excellent fence posts. Once dug in, the fence posts sprout into hedges. The country lane that passed along the foot of the rise of ground in front of the Union trench was lined both sides with Osage Orange hedges. Union axemen felled the tress tops out toward the highground in the west. The resulting tangle was solid & bristled with millions of rock hard needles.

The Confederate soldiers who had survived the walk through withering fire that raked the cotton fields into giant Zen gardens, came face to face with a bewildering obstacle. Frantically, they beat at the massive obstruction with clubbed muskets. Point blank fire sent showers of glass like shards into their faces. Even officer's swords did not make an impression. Finally, a crazed riderless horse crashed into the tangle. Bleeding hands widened the breach. At last there was a way to get past that horrible obstruction & engage their tormentors hand to hand.

The commander of a battery of 3" ordinance rifles patiently watched the frantic infantrymen claw open a path across the lane. A hardened veteran, the captain had prepared for this moment carefully. He held his fire, ordered his men to load with dummies. First, a charge was rammed home followed by a solid bolt. On top of that two 28 ball rouds of canister was seated. Socks filled with minnie balls were then pushed in right up to the muzzle of the gun. Long practice had taught he cannoneers that their 3" rifles we're indestructible.

When enough of the attacking infantry were crowded together at the opening, the Captain ordered his gunners to fire by piece from the left! The carefully paced fire allowed the Captain to observe the effect of their fire. He wrote that he clearly heard the report of the gun followed by the sound of the bones.

Above his head,wreathed in powder smoke, the patient Mammoths swayed their gigantic tusks from side to side as they welcomed the shattered infantrymen through the veil. It had been a very long lonely time. No doubt, the hairy giants welcomed the company.

Written on the anniversary of the battle.
 
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