Page:Confederate Veteran volume 01.djvu/37

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CONFEDERATE VETERAN.


DEATH OF GEN. STRAHL. AN ACCOUNT -OF ONE OF THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS CON- NECTED WITH THE WAR. This sketch of the battle of Franklin, though not intended as an especial trib- ute to Gen. Strahl, is published in this connection with no greater desire than to honor the memory of that gallant sol- dier and devout Christain. The removal of Gen. Johnston and the appointment of Hood to succeed him in command of the Army of Tennessee, was an astounding event. So devoted to Johnston were his men that the pres- ence and immediate command of Gen. Lee would not have been accepted with- out complaint. They were so satisfied that even in retreat they did not lose their faith in ultimate success. They were not reconciled to the change until the day before the battle of Franklin. The successful crossing of Duck River that morning at an early hour, and the march to Spring Hill, where the Federal retreat was so nearly cut oil! a failure for which it was undent 1 Gen. Hood was not to blame), created an enthusiasm for him equal to that entertained for Stone- wall Jackson after his extraordinary achievements. That night the extensive valley east of Spring Hill was lighted up by our thousands of camp tires, in plain view of, and close proximity to, the re- treating lines of the enemy". The next morning, as we marched in quick time toward Franklin, we were continued in our impressions of Federal alarm. 1 counted on the way thirty-four wagons that had been abandoned on the si th turnpike. In some instances whole teams of mules had been killed to pre- vent their capture. A few miles south of Franklin the Federal lines of infantry were deployed, and our progress was checked ; but we pressed them without delay until they retired behind the outer works about the town. Soon after they withdrew from the range of hills south, overlooking the place, and we were ad- vanced to its crest. 1 happened, though in the line of battle (as I was right guide" to my regiment), to be close to where (Jen. Hood halted his staff ami rode alone to the top of the hill, and with bis tield glasses surveved the situa- tion. It was an extraordinary moment. Those of us who were near could see, as private soldiers rarelv did, the position of both armies. Although Franklin was some two miles in the distance, the plain presented a scene of great commotion. But I was absorbed in the one man whose mind was deciding the fate of thousands. With an arm and a leg in the grave, and with the consciousness that he had not until within a couple of days won the confidence which his army had in his predecessor, he had now a very trying ordeal to pass through. It was all-important to act, if at all, at once. He rode to Stephen D. Lee, the nearest of his subordinate generals, and, shaking hands with him cordially, announced his decision to make an immediate charge. -10 event of the war perhaps showed a scene equal to this. The range of hills upon which we formed offered the best view of the battlefield, with but little exposure to danger, and'there were hun- dreds collected there as spectators. ( >ur ranks were being extended rapidly to the right and left. In Franklin there was the utmost confusion. The enemy was greatly excited. Wecould see them running to and fro. Wagon-trains were being pressed across the Harpeth river, and on toward Nashville. Gen. l.oring, of Cleburne's division, made a speech to his men. Our Brigadier-General Strahl was quiet, and there was an expression of sadness on his face. The Soldiers wore full of ardor, and confident of suc- cess. They- had unbounded faith in (en. Hood, whom they believed would achieve a victory that would give us Nashville. Such was the spirit of the army as the signal was given which set it in motion. Our generals were ready, and some of them rode in front of our main line. With a quickstep, we moveu forward to the sound of Btirring music. This is the only battle that 1 was in, and they were many, where bands of music Were used. I was right guide to the I orty-first Tennessee, marching four paces to (be front I bad an opportunity of viewing my comrades, and I well n mem- ber the look of determination that was on evi rv bee. Our bold movement 1 tin> enemy to give up, w ithout much firing, its advanced line. As they fell back at double-quick, our men rushed forward, even though they hail to face the grim line of breastworks just at the ■ dge "f the town. Before we were in proper distance for small arms, the artillery opened on 1m, th sides. Our guns, tiring over our heads

the bills in the rear, used ammuni- 

tion without stint, while the enemy's batteries were at constant play upon our lines. When they withdrew- to their main line of works, it was as one even plain for a mile. About fifty yards in front of their breastworks, we came in contact with formidable chevauxdi : over or through which it was very diffi- cult to pass. Why half of us were not killed, yet remains a mystery ; for after iovii.<r forward so great a distance, all tne ume unuer rue, me aetennon, imme- diately in their front, gave them a very great advantage. We arrived at the works, and some of our men after a 1 lub fight at the trenches, got over. I he colors of my regiment were carried in- side, and when the arm that held them was shot off, they fell to the ground and remained until morning. Cleburne's men dashed at the works, but their gal- lant leader was shot dead, ami they gave way, so that the enemy remained on our flank, and kept ud constant enfilading fire. Our left also fair I o hold the works, and for a shor ,dist« _'e we remained ami fought until t.e di . a was almost full of dead men. Night came on soon after the hard fighting began, and we fired at the flash of each other's guns. Holding the enemy's lines, as we continued to do on this part of them, we were terribly massacred by the enfilade firing. The works were so high that those who fired the guns were obliged to get a footing in the embankment, exposing themselves in addition to their flank, to a fire bv men in houses. One especially severe was that from Mr. Carter's, immediately in my front. I was near Gen. Strahl", who stood in the ditch, and handed up guns to those posted to fire them. I had passed to him my short Enfield (noted in the icgimentj al t the sixth tune. The man w ho had been tiring cocked it and was taking deliberate ami, when he w as shot and tumbled down dead into the ditch upon those killed bet',. re him. When the men so exposed were shot down, their places wore supplied by volunteers until these were exhausted, and it was necessary lor Gen. Strahl to ■ all upon other-.. I le turned to me, and taough I was several feet back from the I r,se up immediately, and walk- er the wounded ami dead, took p isition with one toot upon th-.: pile of l>0 lie- of my dead fellows, and tic other in the embankment, and Bred guns w hieh the General himself handed up to me until he, too, was shot down. One other man had bad position bu uij 1 and assisted i:i the tiring. The" battle 1 until not. an efficient man was li tt between us and the t olumbiaBike, about fifty yards to our right, and hardly 1 nougll behind us to hand up the guns. We could not hold out muuu long, 1. for ind ed, but 1 w ol us were then 1. 1< aiie. It seemed as if we had no choice but to in uder or try to get away, and when I aske I the General for counsel, be sim- ply answered, " Keep tiring.' i.ut just is tue man to my right was shot, and tell against me witn terrible groans, Gen. Strahl was shot. He threw up his hands, falling on his face, and I tliOUglt turn ■ lead, hut in asking the dying man, who still lay against my shoulder t,s lie sank forever, how he was wounded, the ( .en. ral, who had not been k ill. , I, think- ing my question was to him, raised up saying that he was shot in the neck, and called f«~r Col. Stafford to turn over his command. He crawled over thed.a.l, tne ditch being three deep, about twenty feet to where ( ol. Station! was. His Stall' Officers started to carry bun to the rear, but he received another Bhot, and directly the third, which killed him in- stantly. Col. Stafford was dead in the pile, as the morning light disclosed, w ith 01s feet wedged in at the bottom, with other dead across and under him alter he fell, leaving his body half standing as if ready to give command to the chad I By that time but a handful of us were left on that part of the line.and as I was sure that our condition was not known, I ran to the rear to report to Gen. John C. Brown, commanding the division. I nut Major Hampton of his staff, who told me that Gen. Brown was wounded, and that Gen. Strahl was in command. This assured me that those in command did not know the real situation, so I went on the hunt for General Cheatham. By and by relief was sent to the front. This done, nature gave way. My shoul- der was black with bruises from tiring, and it seemed that no moisture was hit in my system. Utterly exhausted, 1 sank upon the ground and tried to sleep. The battle was over, and I could do no rnsre ; but animated still with concern for the fate of comrades, I returned to the awful spectacle in search of some who year after year had beeu at my side. Ah, the loyalty of faithful comrades in such a struggle 1