Awful to the Extreme: Voice from the 125th Ohio at Franklin
Josiah Morgan had seen much of war in his two years of service with the 125th Ohio, but what he witnessed at Franklin on the evening of November 30, 1864 “chilled his blood.”
The 125th Ohio as part of Colonel Emerson Opdycke’s brigade played a critical role in re-establishing the Federal line at the Carter House in some of the most brutal fighting of the entire war in the West. It was the most awful battle the Ohioan ever saw. “Colonel Opdycke rushed our brigade into the gap with fixed bayonets and we soon had them on the other side of the works where we held them, though they tried many times to rout us. We lay for more than an hour on one side of the works, and they on the other, not venturing to show our heads on either side. But we kept loading and sticking our guns over and firing at each other by raising our hands and pointing the muzzles down on the opposite side as much as possible. The fighting was awful to the extreme,” Morgan confessed to his wife.
Morgan’s extraordinary account of Franklin was written the day after the battle from camp in Nashville, Tennessee and saw publication in the December 24, 1864, edition of the Ashtabula Weekly Telegraph.
December 1, 1864
We have had a severe time since I wrote last from Columbia. Our division started from there at 8 a.m. the day before yesterday and by double quacking we got into the town of Spring Hill just as the Rebel cavalry was charging into town. But we drive them back and kept them at bay all day, although they outnumbered us three to one and fought us all day. Our regiment was stationed on the opposite side of the town, so we did not have any fighting to do, but we just stood picket all night while our army was passing back to Franklin. The next morning our division was rear guard. We reached Franklin at 1 p.m. Hood followed us up, fighting all the way. The advance had quite a line of works around Franklin when we arrived there. Our division was held as a reserve in case of an attack. The Rebs made the attack at 4 p.m. along the whole line at once- in two and in some places three lines of battle deep, and it was the most desperate fighting that I ever saw. It lasted seven hours or till midnight when they got sick of trying to break our lines; we started for Nashville as their cavalry had got into our advance.
|Sergeant Oren V. Payne|
Co. K, 125th O.V.I.
We have marched 43 miles and fought the most awful battle I ever saw within the last 60 hours. The Rebels made a severe charge when they first came up to our works at Franklin but were repulsed with terrible slaughter. They were the strongest in our center and drove our men pell-mell over the works, causing them to break and run like frightened sheep. These men were mostly new recruits in that part of our line. Colonel Opdycke rushed our brigade into the gap with fixed bayonets and we soon had them on the other side of the works where we held them, though they tried many times to rout us. We lay for more than an hour on one side of the works, and they on the other, not venturing to show our heads on either side. But we kept loading and sticking our guns over and firing at each other by raising our hands and pointing the muzzles down on the opposite side as much as possible.
But we finally outwinded them and they said if we would stop firing they would surrender. I don’t know how many prisoners we took- but there were several hundred and I don’t know but thousands, and some 14 stands of colors, one brigade flag, and one brigade officer. The fighting was awful to the extreme, and I am at a loss to know how I escaped as the bullets flew like hail for seven long hours and after dark the flash of the guns illuminated the heavens, although the air was filled with sulfurous smoke, almost to suffocation. The ground was in many places covered with the dead and the dying, and their wailing mingled with the roar of arms was truly dreadful. The enemy must have lost thousands as they charged time and again. Our loss was not so severe, as we were protected by temporary breastworks. Hardened as I am to such sights, the thought of last night’s work almost chills my blood.
The enlisted men of the 125th O.V.I., also known as Opdycke's Tigers
Letter from Sergeant Josiah Morgan, Co. K, 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Ashtabula Weekly Telegraph (Ohio), December 24, 1864, pg. 3
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