"The death-angel gathers its last harvest.
Kind reader, right here my pen, and courage, and ability
fail me. I shrink from butchery. * Would to God I could tear
the page from these memoirs and from my own memory. It
is the blackest page in the history of the war of the Lost Cause.
It was the bloodiest battle of modern times in any war. It was
the finishing stroke to the independence of the Southern Con-
federacy. I was there. I saw it. My flesh trembles, and
creeps, and crawls when I think of it to-day. My heart almost
ceases to beat at the horrid recollection. Would to God that I
had never witnessed such a scene!
I cannot describe it. It beggars description. I will not
attempt to describe it. I could not. The death-angel was there
to gather its last harvest. It was the grand coronation of death.
Would that I could turn the page. But I feel, though I did so,
that page would still be there, teeming with its scenes of horror
and blood. I can only tell of what I saw.
Our regiment was resting in the gap of a range of hills in
plain view of the city of Franklin. We could see the battle-
flags of the enemy waving in the breeze. Our army had been
depleted of its strength by a forced march from Spring Hill,
and stragglers lined the road. Our artillery had not yet come
up, and could not be brought into action. Our cavalry was
across Harpeth river, and our army was but in poor condition to
make an assault. While resting on this hill-side, I saw a courier dash up to our commanding general, B. F. Cheatham, and
the word, "Attention !" was given. I knew then that we would
soon be in action. Forward, march. We passed over the hill
and through a little skirt of woods.
The enemy were fortified right across the Franklin pike,
in the suburbs of the town. Right here in these woods a detail
of skirmishers was called for. Our regiment was detailed.
We deployed as skirmishers, firing as we advanced on the left of
the turnpike road. If I had not been a skirmisher on that day,
I would not have been writing this to-day, in the year of our
It was four o’clock on that dark and dismal December day
when the line of battle was formed, and those devoted heroes
were ordered forward, to "Strike for their altars and their fires,
For the green graves of their sires, For God and their native land."
As they marched on down through an open field toward the
rampart of blood and death, the Federal batteries began to open
and mow down and gather into the garner of death, as brave,
and good, and pure spirits as the world ever saw. The twi-
light of evening had begun to gather as a precursor of the coming
blackness of midnight darkness that was to envelop a scene
so sickening and horrible that it is impossible for me to describe
it. "Forward, men, is repeated all along the line. A sheet of
fire was poured into our very faces, and for a moment we halted
as if in despair, as the terrible avalanche of shot and shell laid
low those brave and gallant heroes, whose bleeding wounds at
tested that the struggle would be desperate. Forward, men!
The air loaded with death-dealing missiles. Never on this earth
did men fight against such terrible odds. It seemed that the
very elements of heaven and earth were in one mighty uproar.
Forward, men ! And the blood spurts in a perfect jet from
the dead and wounded. The earth is red with blood. It runs
in streams, making little rivulets as it flows. Occasionally there
was a little lull in the storm of battle, as the men were loading
their guns, and for a few moments it seemed as if night tried to
cover the scene with her mantle. The death-angel shrieks and
laughs and old Father Time is busy with his sickle, as he gathers
in the last harvest of death, crying, More, more, more! while his
rapacious maw is glutted with the slain.
But the skirmish line being deployed out, extending a little
wider than the battle did passing through a thicket of small
locusts, where Brown, orderly sergeant of Company B, was
killed we advanced on toward the breastworks, on and on. I
had made up my mind to die felt glorious. We pressed for-
ward until I heard the terrific roar of battle open on our right.
|Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne|
(Library of Congress)
Cleburne's division was charging their works. I passed on until
I got to their works, and got over on their (the Yankees) side.
But in fifty yards of where I was, the scene was lit up by fires
that seemed like hell itself. It appeared to be but one line of
streaming fire. Our troops were upon one side of the breast
works, and the Federals on the other. I ran up on the line of
works, where our men were engaged. Dead soldiers filled the
entrenchments. The firing was kept up until after midnight,
and gradually died out. We passed the night where we were.
But when the morrows sun began to light up the eastern sky
to reveal its rosy hues, and we looked over the battlefield, O, my
God! what did we see! It was a grand holocaust of death.
Death had held high carnival there that night. The dead were
piled the one on the other all over the ground. I never was so
horrified and appalled in my life. Horses, like men, had died
game on the gory breastworks. General Adams horse had his
fore feet on one side of the works and his hind feet on the other,
dead. The general seems to have been caught so that he was
held to the horse’s back, sitting almost as if living, riddled, and
mangled, and torn with balls. General Cleburne’s mare had her
fore feet on top of the works, dead in that position. General
Cleburne’s body was pierced with forty-nine bullets, through
and through. General Strahl’s horse lay by the roadside and
the general by his side, both dead, and all his staff. General
Gist, a noble and brave cavalier from South Carolina, was lying
with his sword reaching across the breastworks still grasped in
his hand. He was lying there dead. All dead! They sleep
in the graveyard yonder at Ashwood, almost in sight of my
home, where I am writing to-day. They sleep the sleep of the
brave. We love and cherish their memory. They sleep beneath
the ivy-mantled walls of St. John’s church, where they
expressed a wish to be buried. The private soldier sleeps where
he fell, piled in one mighty heap. Four thousand five hundred
privates! all lying side by side in death! Thirteen generals
were killed and wounded. Four thousand five hundred men
slain, all piled and heaped together at one place. I cannot tell
the number of others killed and wounded. God alone knowsthat. We’ll all find out on the morning of the final resurrection.