ECW welcomes back guest author Gregory L. Wade
The career of General Douglas McArthur is well known, especially for those of the World War II generation. But few know of the amazing Civil War connections this iconic family has with Tennessee towns like Franklin, Chattanooga, and Murfreesboro.
In late November 1863, Douglas’s father, Lt. Arthur MacArthur, Jr. carved his place in history charging up Chattanooga’s Missionary Ridge and planting a flag on top of Rebel works. For this bravery, he would be awarded the Medal of Honor. Lt. MacArthur would eventually be known as the “boy colonel” after achieving that rank near the end of the war at the age of twenty.
MacArthur served in the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry seeing action in many of the war’s major Western Theater fights including Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, and the Atlanta campaign. MacArthur was born in 1845 and lived in Massachusetts until his father, Arthur Sr, moved the family to Wisconsin when he was four years old. The senior MacArthur became involved in Wisconsin politics and even served briefly as the state’s governor. With his influence, he secured young Arthur Jr a commission in 1862 as lieutenant in the Twenty Fourth, mustered in at Milwaukee.
As the South grew more desperate, the Confederates, with few remaining options, ordered General John Bell Hood and the Army of Tennessee to invade Middle Tennessee following the carnage of the 1864 Atlanta fighting. The intent was to force the Northern troops out of the deep South to pursue Hood’s army, but that didn’t happen. The federal army under Maj. Gen. William Sherman continued south, while Hood marched north in hopes of reclaiming Nashville, and perhaps even Kentucky. When Hood, through a series of maneuvers, trapped troops under Maj. Gen. John Schofield at Spring Hill on the 29th of November, he was shocked the next morning to realize his foe escaped during the night. On the 30th Hood was determined to pursue and destroy Schofield’s Army of the Ohio, now entrenched at Franklin.
After marching to Franklin, the early evening charges of the Southerners came very close to breaking the federals center in some of the war’s most intense fighting. Only a reserve Federal regiment brought up at the last minute repulsed the Confederate breakthrough near the Carter farmhouse. This home, used as Schofield’s headquarters, is only a musket shot away from the village square and to this day carries the scars of the carnage there. It was at the battle’s most intense point near this house where Arthur MacArthur Jr. was severely wounded in the chest and legs. He was taken to Nashville where he recovered.
Decades later, Arthur junior’s youngest son, Douglas, married Nashville’s Jean Faircloth who attended the Soule College for Women in Murfreesboro where the family had moved from Nashville. In an amazing coincidence of history, Faircloth’s grandfather, Captain Richard Beard, was at Franklin with Confederate General Patrick Cleburne’s Division in the Battle of Franklin and possibly fought Arthur MacArthur Jr’s regiment near the Carter House. Incredibly, Captain Beard could have unknowingly fought Jean’s future father-in-law, Arthur Jr. Douglas later wrote in his reminiscences that Jean “was a rebel when we were married and still is.” While the two ancestral combatants would be a major part of Douglas and Jean’s story, their Tennessee ties don’t end there.
Visiting Middle Tennessee often, in 1951 the Douglas MacArthur’s attended a parade in their honor in Murfreesboro for their 14th wedding anniversary. While there, he spoke at Middle Tennessee State College (now university).
Arthur MacArthur Jr went on to serve in the Spanish American war where he achieved the rank of major general. He later served in the Philippines and Japan which would set the stage of the service of his sons. Arthur MacArthur III and Douglas.
Douglas, for his performance in World War II, received the Medal of Honor, making the MacArthur’s one of two father and sons to obtain the nation’s highest military award. The other was Theodore Roosevelt for action at San Juan Hill and son Theodore Jr for his work at Utah Beach, France, during the 1944 Normandy campaign.
Douglas’s older brother, Arthur III, graduated from the U.S Naval Academy and served in the Philippine American War and the Boxer Rebellion. In World War I another tie to Tennessee occurred when Arthur III was the captain of the USS Chattanooga (CL-18). After the war he was honored for his service in protecting merchant convoys as they crossed the Atlantic, always in danger of German submarines. He was also known for his work with submarine technology during WWI and awarded both the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal. Arthur III died at age 47 in 1923 from appendicitis.
In July 2015, a terrorist attacked a Navy recruiting station in Chattanooga tragically killing five and wounding two. The bell from the USS Chattanooga will eventually become part of a memorial park planned there and is another iconic tie of the MacArthur’s to the state.
Young Lt Arthur MacArthur Jr found himself as a youth in the bloodletting of the Civil War nearly losing his life at Franklin. In an 1895 letter to Captain Charles Clark posted on the preservationist group Save the Franklin Battlefields website, Arthur said of the carnage, “Franklin was essentially a battle that saved (the Union) and as such must be classified as second only to Gettysburg in importance during the entire war.” He goes on to advocate a memorial erected “on the field” at Franklin. Because he indeed survived, the MacArthur name became legendary in American military folklore, forever bound to Tennessee and many of its most renowned battles.
Gregory L. Wade has written for several history publications and is the founder of the Franklin Civil War Round Table. He has been involved in the preservation and reclaiming of about 150 acres of the ground involved in the main 1864 Battle of Franklin.