Position of the 120th Indiana on the field at Franklin

  • Far left Union flank, east of Columbia Pike
  • Abutt the railroad track and Harpeth River
  • Battery M, 4th U.S. artillery directly behind them
  • Fort Granger behind and a little east
  • To their immediate right was the 63rd Indiana

Facing direct assaults from Loring’s division, by these brigades (in order of assault):

  • Scott’s Brigade, BG Thomas M. Scott (w), Col. John Snodgrass27th, 35th, 49th, 55th, 57th Alabama and 12th Louisiana
  • Featherston’s Brigade, BG Winfield S. Featherston1st, 3rd, 22nd, 31st, 33rd, 40th Miss., 1st Miss., Battalion
  • Adams’s Brigade, BG John Adams (k), Col. Robert Lowrey6th, 14th, 15th, 20th, 23rd, 43rd Miss.


See blowup of larger map of Franklin battlefield.

Stiles’ and Casement’s men found a thick hedge of osage about fifteen yards south of their position, an almost perfect natural abatis. They went to work cutting some of it down and using the refuse to extend its reach farther west until most of their front was covered by the prickly limbs. Along the line the boys topped the earthen walls with head logs for added protection. . . . Only a fool would attack such a position of strength.

– Patrick Brennan, The Battle of Franklin, North & South magazine, January 2005, Vol. 8., No.1: page 32.

Near the Harpeth River, Major General William Loring’s troops could begin to see the looming Federal line protecting Reilly’s division. Buford’s dismounted troopers and Brigadier General Winfield Featherston’s Mississippians advanced between the river and the Lewisburg Pike, their line bisected by the Central Alabama Railroad. To their left, the Alabamians of Brigadier General Thomas Scott’s brigade had fallen behind as they guided on the pike, the enemy artillery in Fort Granger contesting their advance. Suddenly, at a range of two hundred yards, the Federal artillery upporting Reilly’s line exploded, followed quickly by riflery from Israel Stiles‘ and James Casement’s brigades, six regiments of battle-tested Indianans. In a blinding flash, the Confederate battle line shivered as Federal iron tore trough the rebel front. Of the carnage, one Confederate survivor remembered, “Our troops were killed by whole platoons; our front line of battle seemed to have been cut down by the first discharge, for in many places they were lying in their faces in almost as good order as if they had lain down on pupose.”

Featherston’s boys recolied from the impact then pressed forwar, but fifty feet from the Yankee line they ran into the impenetrable hedge of osage. Grown to a stinging thickness by the locals to control cattle, the hedge line now provided a perfect barrier against the rebel assault, too high to surmount and too dense to winnow. The Mississippians came to a halt, seraching frantically for a way through the natural abatis. As they did, they became little more than sitting ducks for the Indianans across the way. Only near the opening at th epike were the Yankees slightly tested. A pitifully small set of survivors planted two Mississippi flags on the earthworks, but they were almost immediately killed or captured. One survivor described it as “a tremendous deluge of shot and shell . . . seconded by a murderous sheet of fire and lead from the infantry behind the works, and also another battery of six guns directly in our front.” It was, he said, a “scene of carnage and destruction fearful to behold.”

Featherston’s right-most regiments crawled along the ground trying to find another way through the obstructions, but when they curled into the railroad cut marking Stiles’ left, the 120th Indiana palstered their van with musketry. Farther north, Battery M, 4th U.S. Artillery, began to spray the cut with canister, while Cockerill’s gunners in Fort Granger added their own plunging fire. Even a battery east across the Harpeth weighed in. Caught in the maelstrom were Buford’s troopers, belly down on the banks of the Harpeth trying to escape the murderous sweep.

–  Patrick Brennan, The Battle of Franklin, North & South magazine, January 2005, Vol. 8., No.1: pages 39-40.

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