Action (cavalry) in Franklin, TN – April 10, 1863

Franklin, Tenn.,
April 10, 1863.

Baird’s and Gilbert’s Divisions and Stanley’s Cavalry, Army of Kentucky.

About noon Gen. Van Dorn with about 6,000 Confederates approached Franklin over the Columbia pike from the south.  Owing to the condition of the weather the Union forces, camped at the foot of the bluff across the Harpeth river from Franklin were not apprised of the proximity of the enemy until the 40th Ohio, doing picket duty in the village, commenced skirmishing.

At 2 p. m. the Ohio troops were forced to fall back to the river.  Soon after a general attack was made on the Union fortification, but with little success.  Maj.-Gen. D. S. Stanley had been stationed with his cavalry on the Murfreesboro road to the east of the town.  A heavy mist veiled the actions of the contending forces in the village, but judging from the continuous firing, Stanley thought an attack in force must be in progress on the front and determined to attack the enemy on the flank.

Accordingly he crossed the river at Hughes’ ford and made a counter charge on the Confederate right.  Van Dorn, fearing that his whole force would be cut off, immediately withdrew his command from Granger in front and attacked Stanley, who was slowly driven back to and across the river.  The Federal loss was 10 killed, 23 wounded and 51 taken prisoners.

The Confederate casualties were 5 killed, 32 wounded and 33 captured or missing.

Source:  The Union Army, Vol. 5, p.439


The 1863 engagement at Franklin was a reconnaissance in force by Confederate cavalry leader Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn coupled with an equally inept response by Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger. Van Dorn advanced northward from Spring Hill on May 10, making contact with Federal skirmishers just outside Franklin. Van Dorn’s attack was so weak that when Granger received a false report that Brentwood, to the north, was under attack, he believed it, and sent away most of his cavalry, thinking that the Confederate general was undertaking a diversion. When the truth became known there was no threat to Brentwood. Granger decided to attack Van Dorn, but he was surprised to learn that a subordinate had already done so, without orders. Brig. Gen. David S. Stanley, with a cavalry brigade, had crossed the Harpeth River at Hughes’s Ford, behind the Confederate right rear. The 4th U.S. Cavalry attacked and captured Freeman’s Tennessee Battery on the Lewisburg Road but lost it when Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest counterattacked. Stanleys’ troopers quickly withdrew across the Big Harpeth River. This incident in his rear caused Van Dorn to cancel his operations and withdraw to Spring Hill, leaving the Federals in control of the area.

Principal Commanders: Major General Gordon Granger [US]; Major General Earl Van Dorn [CS]

Forces Engaged: Army of Kentucky [US]; 1st Cavalry Corps, Army of Tennessee [CS]

Estimated Casualties: 237 total (US 100; CS 137)

Source: National Park Service


In the following April, when the 40th Ohio was on picket south of Franklin, Tenn., Van Dorn attacked the line with a large mounted force, but was repulsed by the regiment alone.  It moved to Triune in June, and was on the right of Rosecrans’ army in its advance on Shelbyville, Wartrace and Tullahoma.
Source: The Union Army, vol. 2


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