6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment
Franklin and Nashville
The Army of Tennessee left Atlanta and went to Gadsden, Alabama. The army stopped at the banks of the flood swollen Tuscumbia River. By the middle of November, 1864, the army was able to cross the river into Tennessee. On November 26, they were just south of Columbia, Tennessee, where Union General John M. Schofield's army was camping.
Two days later, General Hood began deployment of the infantry of General Stewart and General Cheatham's, including the 6th. The infantry was accompanied by General Forrest's cavalry. Their goal was to travel east of Columbia and cut off Schofield's line of retreat at Spring Hill, on the Columbia-Franklin Pike.
On the 29th, Schofield evacuated Columbia. Late that same night, the Confederate infantry camped just off of the Columbia-Franklin Pike. Schofield's retreating army slipped past the exhausted Confederates sleeping not 600 feet away.
It would be an understatement to say that General Hood was angry when he received news that Schofield had escaped past his sleeping soldiers. He immediately ordered his army to follow Schofield to Franklin, where the foot-weary, cold, starving army arrived on the afternoon of the 30th.
The Union army was well entrenched with cannon and muskets ready. Between the Confederate line and the enemy was an open field with natural hazards and a man-made abatis. Despite opposition from his generals, Hood formed his army and gave the order to attack.
The 6th was still in Loring's Division and was placed on the right of the battle line. In the middle was Walthall with French on the left. At about 4 p.m., the line moved toward the enemy. The Union cannoneers opened fire as soon as the gray line was within range. Men were mowed down by the score. There was no Confederate artillery to return fire.
The 6th, a veteran unit, maintained it's line of march until it came to a deep railroad cut. This was about the same time they began receiving heavy enemy fire. Once through and over the railroad cut, the 6th encountered an abatis and had to navigate through it. This is where the 6th received it's heaviest casualties. Once past the abatis, the 6th charged the breastworks. According to Lieutenant Pat Henry, "... many of our men got through and into the ditch of their [Union] works..." They did not get any further.
As the battle grew silent, thousands of dead and wounded Confederates lay on the battlefield. Soon after darkness, the Union army withdrew from their fortifications leaving many of their dead and wounded behind and retreated to Nashville.
The next day, the Confederate army grieving the loss of their friends, brothers and fathers were saddened even more when word was received that theri brigade commander, General John Adams, had been killed, along with Generals Patrick Cleburne, Hiram Granbury, States Rights Gist, General Strahl and others. The 6th suffered 13 casualties. With the death of General Adams, Colonel Lowry of the 6th was promoted to brigade commander.
The 6th and the rest of the Confederate army had no time to mourn, for the next day, General Hood continued his pursuit of Schofield. This time they followed the Union to Nashville and arrived on December 8th. Winter weather made the men miserable. Shoes were scarce and coats weven more so. Most of the men wore thread-bare clothes that did little to keep the cold out. Freezing temperatured and sleet made conditions even worse.
The Union army made the first move on the 15th when they attached the Confederate right flank, followed by an attack on the left. The Confederates held back the Union attacks until late that afternoon, when the left collapsed. With the collapse of the left flank and a frontal attack, the Confederate line withdrew from their position and retreated.
The retreating Confederates were halted and began digging in for the inevitable Union attack. The Confederate's wake up call for the next morning came from Union artillery, followed by infantry attacks. The Confederates managed to hold back their attackers and inflicted heavy casualties. Despite their gallant efforts, it was deja vu from the day before. The left flank gave way resulting in failure of the rest of the line. The retreat was chaotic and many Confederates were captured, while others managed to escape.
Many men of the 6th had seen enough and left the army and walked home. Some ended up with other units, while most stayed with the army and put Tennessee behind them.
The Confederate army finally stopped it's retreat at Burnsville, MS where it camped until early January when the army moved to Tupelo. On January 23, 1865, General Hood resigned and Lieutenant General Richard Taylor assumed command.
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