I was a member of the 175th Ohio regiment during the campaign from Columbia, Tenn. to Nashville and am personally cognizant of the part taken by that regiment in the campaign, and my impression is that careful perusal of what I have to say will convince any comrade that the 175th regiment was not only in the thickest of the fight at Franklin, but that it also played a most important part at Thompson's Station the day before the battle.
The 175th was organized at Camp Dennison, Ohio in the fall of 1864, leaving the state on Oct. 11 and going directly to Columbia, Tenn., where at the inception of the campaign it was doing garrison duty, its men being distributed along the railroad between Nashville and Pulaski. As Gen. Schofield fell back in front of Gen. Hood, the men of the regiment were concentrated at Columbia.
While the organization was new, its material was old, its men having been recruited from old full term regiments. Its officers were all experienced soldiers, and no regiment in the service was better equipped for efficient duty.
On the morning of 28 November 1864, the 175th Ohio, on the north side of Duck River, in charge of prisoners and of the Columbia Post trains, together with its own transportation, was ordered by Gen. J. D. Cox to pull out in the direction of Nashville and take the prisoners and trains to a place of safety. About dark of the same day the trains were parked on the west side of the pike, at Thompson's Station, the troops in bivouac near them. Before the men were through with supper, two cavalry couriers came to us from the east of the pike and stated they were from Hatch's command, with instructions to warn all detached parties to move on toward Nashville or fall back on Columbia, as our cavalry would possible be forced to retire on Gen. Schofield, leaving the pike uncovered.
These couriers were taken by Maj. Ed Mullenix and myself to Lt. Col. Dan McCoy, in charge of the regiment. The Colonel did not seem much disturbed by the report, and the couriers, after being refreshed, went on their way toward Columbia. Within an hour, another couriers truck us with similar tidings. He, too, was taken to the Colonel, who still remained unmoved.
Having a valuable train under my charge I naturally felt anxious to place it beyond danger, and therefore suggested to McCoy, if his orders discretionary, we should pull out towards Franklin. The Major seconded the suggestion, but the Colonel, without discussion, decided that the emergency did not demand a night march.
After our return to bivouac a few of the officers were called, and in consultation it was decided to take some precautionary measures. It was thought it we made a good show of force any advance of the enemy that might be in our vicinity would be deterred from precipitately attacking us. To this end the company officers were instructed to have their men build fires at such points as would convey the idea of an extended army encampment. This was soon accomplished, and only a very short time elapsed before a railroad train bearing the 44th regiment. Missouri Vol. Infantry, enroute to join Gen. Schofield, drew up at the station, and its officers inquired "What army corps is this"?
Next morning, the 29th, taking a single soldiers with us, the Major and myself climbed the hill east of the pike, immediately in the rear of the white frame residence, which I understood to be occupied by Dr. Thompson. From the summit of this hill the sight that met our eyes was not such as to inspire us with a certainty of continuing our march in picnic style. Toward the east and north stood a solid line of rebel cavalry, its right resting near the pike, if not directly across it, while in the distance, perhaps two miles away, was plainly caught glimpses of what appeared to be a heavy column of infantry; and the outlook towards Spring Hill was even less encouraging, for in that direction the enemy had actual possession of the pike.
Our orderly was sent with a message to Lieut. Col. McCoy and Capt. Deniston to come to us. These officers promptly appeared, and it occurred to me the expression on the Colonel's face, as he looked out upon the scene, indicated that perhaps a march the night before might not have been a disagreeable thing after all.
Major Mullenix, a brave and impulsive officer, was for fighting our way out, while Capt. Deniston, an officer of much experience and coolness, suggested that something else than fighting would be necessary if we hoped to save our men and trains. If I remember correctly, the lines - "He who fights and runs away. May live to fight another day" recurred to me.
It was evident from the actions of the enemy that he believed a heavy force to be at the station, and it was equally evident, if we extricated ourselves from the dilemma, it must be done through the exercise of strategy, and to this end it was decided by the four officers on the hill to deploy our whole force as a skirmish line, and under a feint upon the enemy to attempt to run our trains by or through him. The line was quickly formed, every man and officer being given a full understanding as to the emergency, and what it was hoped to accomplish. In the meantime, the trains had been drawn out on the pike, behind the hill, ready for the start.
The wagonmaster of my own train, Mr. Geo. W. Hough, had ridden with me out on the pike, around the point of the hill, from where a good view of the enemy could be had, and given a full understanding of our plans. He comprehended the situation at a glance, and passing back along the train the drivers were instructed as what was expected of them. The train being ready, at the signal agreed upon, the skirmishers moved to the attack. In a few moments the train started, and under whip and spur each team emerged from behind the hill as though shot from the muzzle of a cannon. Before the astonished rebels realized what was coming the head of the train struck the right of their column and went thundering through it.
The enemy appeared to be utterly dumbfounded, and not until the last wagon was beyond their lines did I notice a single shot fired. All this time our skirmishers had fully held the attention of the rebels, and as the train disappeared from our view around a point of timber, every officer and man redoubled his efforts to the end that pursuit might be deterred.
We had in the Post train several stands of colors, and in deploying the skirmish - line these had been displayed, in full view, at commanding points, and moved forward from time to time as the line advanced. During all this time not a single soldier was in reserve, and when the last wagon passed me, I was perhaps the only Federal soldier on that pike from Thompson's Station to Spring Hill.
Within perhaps half an hour our lines were drawn in, the several stands of colors being left well to the front until our little force was concentrated at the station. After destroying a carload of ammunition at the depot our boys marched off, into the timber west of the pike and railroad, to attempt to join Gen. Schofield around the left of the enemy. This we successfully accomplished, reporting to Gen. Stanley at Spring Hill about dusk.
About sundown the regiment came out on a hill overlooking Spring Hill and witnessed the repulse of a rebel cavalry charge south of that place. Our extra colors were again utilized, being displaced at each point so as to give the enemy the best possible view. My impression is that the sight of these colors had much to do with deterring the rebels from making further effort on the Federal line. We understood, upon reaching Spring Hill, that it was Gen. Opdycke's Brigade that had repulsed the cavalry charge. Our wagon train was found intact at Nashville on our arrival there.
Capt. Henry McCoy with six men, in charge of prisoners, who through a misconception of orders, attempted to pass around the rebel right, were captured, but as he and the six men were lost by the explosion of the steamer Sultana, no evidence could be had as to the effect of our maneuvers at Thompson's Station upon the rebel forces in our front. After the surrender of Gen. Johnston, however, I met a paroled Confederate officer at Columbia, Tenn. who told me that the cavalry in front of us at Thompson's Station on the 29th was supported by Chalmers' division of infantry, and that the whole force was misled by our campfires the night before; and that Gen. Hood, being present with Chalmers, when our fleeing trains came in sight, pointed them out, and ordered Chalmers to gain possession of the pike; and that the prompt advance of our skirmisher and efficient use of our extra colors held Chalmers on the defensive, thus giving us time to accomplish our purposes.
Taking all the circumstances into consideration, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the presence of the 175th Ohio regiment at Thompson's Station on the night of 28th of November, 1864, the display of its fires that night, and its strategic and energetic movements on the 29th deterred Hood's right not only from taking possession of the pike at Thompson's Station but caused cessation of the rebel attack upon Gen. Opdycke in the afternoon at Spring Hill. Be that as it may, the exploit of saving the trains and extricating the command from its perilous dilemma was worthy of a bright page in the history of the war, and one that should have placed a star upon the shoulders of Maj. Mullenix and Capt. Deniston. I never knew what report McCoy made of the action of his regiment in this affair, but I do know that soon afterward he made Brevet Brigadier - General, and during the balance of his term wore a star.
The 175th regiment left Spring Hill about daylight, among the last troops on the morning of November 30th, and passed into our lines at Franklin, between the toll - gate posts near the cotton - gin, not an hour before the commencement of the battle, It was assigned, if I remember correctly, to Riley's brigade and placed in reserve perhaps 150 yards in the rear of the cotton - gin, its right resting, if not on the pike, at least very close to it. Certainty no other troops were between it and the pike. Immediately in its rear was a frame barn or cotton - shed.
After the regiment was in position I went with a small detail across the Harpeth River to the commissary, near the burned chimneys, to secure rations. Before these could be issued word came that the rebels were advancing and by the time I reached the line the enemy were close to our works.
I rode from the regiment over to the Carter House to report to Gen. Cox, and had scarcely reached there before our line was broken near the cotton - gin and within a few minutes thereafter I noticed the 175th regiment, led by Maj. Mullenix, in full charge towards the works. The lines were restored and I know this gallant regiment did as much to restore them as any other regiment there.
I do not know what regiments were in front of it or on its flank, but I do know the 175th Ohio was in the thickest of the fight, and that it did not leave the works until after the fires which were raging were out.
The regiment was unknown in Schofield's army, from the fact it only joined the column temporarily at Spring Hill the night before. During Hood's investment of Nashville the 175th regiment occupied Fort Negley, and after the rebel retreat the regiment was ordered back to Columbia, Tenn., where it remained until mustered out in June 1865.
F. M. Posegate, R. Q. M. , 175th Ohio Regiment, St. Joseph, MO.
The foregoing account of the Battle of Franklin was written by First Lieutenant Francis M. Posegate, Regimental Quarter Master of the 175th Regiment. The article was published in the "National Observer" about 1879 and was read as a tribute to Daniel W. McCoy at a G. A. R. reunion at Sabula, Iowa.
Lieutenant Colonel McCoy was wounded seriously three times at the start of the battle and carried from the field. His battle wounds always bothered him - his right arm and one leg gave him a great deal of trouble.
Contributed by Richard B. Osburn, great-grandson of Colonel Daniel W. McCoy.
175th Regiment OVI
last update 09 December 2006