Franklin 150th: Artillery Hell

One of the things often remembered about Gen. John Bell Hood’s attack is that it was made without artillery support. Like many of the aspects of Franklin, this isn’t entirely true.

In fact, there were a few batteries present, one of which was Guibor’s Missouri Battery. The following is the harrowing account of Franklin from a red legs perspective, Gunner Samuel Dunlap:

“Our section was ordered to go out in front of the advance line & commence firing. We were soon in position-guns loaded, & at the command fire! sent two shells screaming through the air in the direction of the fortified little city.

“This was a signal for our men to prepare for a charge all around the lines-& a deafening roar of artillery-attended with the bursting of shells & whizzing of minnies-from the enemies guns, was heard in return. Our pieces fire as rapidly as possible & until our first line of battle passed—then limbered up—fell in their rear to join in the charge. This was the first & only instance during the war in which we were ordered to charge as artillery-but Hood’s intention on this occasion was to take everything by storm—& had he been sucessful-when a good position for artillery had been reached-we would have been ready to plant our guns. Our advance extended down an open field, over a small ravine & railroad-up an inclined plain in full view of the enemy. Our horses had become almost wild with excitement-rearing & pitching to free themsleves from their drivers-& escapre the ‘hailstorm’ of shot & shell, what was tearing up the ground around them.

“In crossing the railroad, one of the wheel tugs on my gun broke which necessitated a short halt…We had moved but a few paces from where the breakage occured—when the same wheel driver (Stubbs) was hit on the head with a fragment of shell—& fell forward between his horses—lodging upon the bridle reins and end of pole. He was born from the field & place filled by one of the cannoniers. We succeeded in driving the enemy from their first & second line of works but our first line of battle becoming so decimated by the continous hail of shell, grape, canister & minnies into their ranks-had to be filled by the second & third. Not being able to obtain a position, from which we could do execution, without endangering the lives of our own men-the battery was halted at the first line of works-but our infantry kept steadily on-on! until their enemy was driven behind the last line of entrenchments. We were told to remain in place, subject to orders-& I assure you the continual rain of shot, shell & the sight of our comrads falling around us-made our position anything but a pleasant one. To be a silent & helpless spectator, when death in all its horridness, is hovering over you-listen to the cries of the wounded & dying as they are being carted off the field-requires greater nerve-than to face the cannons mouth in heat of battle.”

As the fighting finally died down about 9 p.m., that evening the guns were ordered back a short distance for the night. They were awakened at 3 a.m., though, and as the bulk of the army’s artillery arrived on the field, they were ordered into position to bombard the Federal positons—but come dawn, the positions had been abandoned.

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