On February 2, 1862, the Confederate War Department issued a call for troops. Florida, under this newly-imposed quota, would furnish two regiments and a battalion to fight for the duration of the war. The troops would rendezvous at preselected locations and there "be clothed, supplied, and armed at the expense of the Confederate States." Furthermore, each enlistee would receive a $50 bounty for volunteering.
The ten companies that would become the 6th Florida Infantry Regiment would begin forming in February and March, 1862 as independent companies serving the State of Florida. The companies were recruited from Collier, Gadsden, Jackson, Santa Rosa, Union, Walton, and Washington counties. The companies surveyed maintained an average age of twenty-five years. The companies would be mustered individually into Confederate service for "3 years, or the war"; they would not be organized into a regiment until the election of field officers. The various units were ordered to "camp of instruction" at the Mount Vernon Arsenal at Chattahoochie in Gadsden County in late March, where they would be trained in maneuvering in large bodies and in campaigning duties.Captain Jesse J. Finley’s Company was called into Confederate service on March 17, 1862. Initially stationed at the Mount Vernon Arsenal at Chattahoochie, in Gadsden County, they would be moved to Rico’s Bluff in Liberty County, Florida.
Captain James C. Evan’s Company was stationed at the Mount Vernon Arsenal at Chattahoochie, in Gadsden County on April 21, 1862.
Captain John L. Hayes’ Company was stationed at the Mount Vernon Arsenal at Chattahoochie, in Gadsden County in April, 1862.
Captain Henry O. Bassett’s Company is reported to have been at Camp Kirby Smith at Knoxville, Tennessee from March 28 through April 30, 1862.
Captain Lawrence M. Attaway’s Company was serving as state troops and stationed at Mount Vernon Arsenal at Chattahoochie, in Gadsden County, Florida from February 11 until March 11, 1862 at which time they were mustered into Confederate service. They would be moved to Rico’s Bluff in Liberty County, Florida on March 14, 1862.
Captain Henry B. Grace’s Company was stationed at the Mount Vernon Arsenal at Chattahoochie, in Gadsden County, Florida on March 11, 1862.
Captain Angus D. McLean’s Company was stationed at the Mount Vernon Arsenal at Chattahoochie, in Gadsden County, Florida on April 2, 1862.
Captain Harrison K Hagand’s Company was called into Confederate service on March 14, 1862, and was stationed at the Mount Vernon Arsenal at Chattahoochie, in Gadsden County, Florida.
Captain Angus McMillan’s Company was called into Confederate service on March 14, 1862, and was stationed at the Mount Vernon Arsenal at Chattahoochie, in Gadsden County, Florida.
On April 10, 1862, Florida Governor John Milton (Florida politician) informed Secretary of War George W. Randolph that the requisition for "two regiments and a half of infantry…would by the 15th instant be fully organized and subject to your orders, and companies enough have volunteered for service for three years or the war to compose three full regiments of infantry."…"to serve during the war and wherever their services may be necessary…The Sixth Regiment, at the Mount Vernon Arsenal on the Chattahoochie, will be organized on the 14th instant." "With regard to the arms which were received by the steamer Florida…160 [Enfield muskets] were placed in the hands of two companies at Rico’s Bluff, and the rest are at the arsenal."Colonel Jesse J. Finley - Finley was born near Lebanon, Tennessee. He pursued an academic course. He served as captain of mounted volunteers in the Second Seminole War in 1836. Finley studied law at Cumberland University Law School in Lebanon, Tennessee and was admitted to the bar in 1838. He moved to Mississippi County, Arkansas, in 1840, where he practiced law. Finley served in the State senate in 1841. He moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1842, and continued the practice of law. He served as mayor of Memphis in 1845. He moved to Marianna, Florida, in November 1846 and was elected to the state senate of Florida in 1850. Finley was a presidential elector on the Whig ticket in 1852. He served as a judge of the western circuit of Florida from 1853 to 1861. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Finley was appointed judge of the Confederate States court for the district of Florida in 1861. He resigned in March 1862 and volunteered as a private. He was elected Captain of the "Jackson County Volunteers". With Finley’s election to Colonel, John L. Hayes would become company commander of the "Jackson County Volunteers"
Lieutenant Colonel Angus Duncan McLean - McLean was born in 1836 near Eucheeanna, Walton County, Florida. One of nine children of a wealthy family, he was schooled at the Knox Hill Academy in Walton County. He subsequently attended the Cumberland University Law School in Lebanon, Tennessee, from which he graduated January 26, 1859. In 1860, he was practicing law at Milton, Santa Rosa County, Florida, and residing in the household of James G. Allen. He was elected Captain of the "Union Rebels". Due in no small part to the efforts of his numerous kin in Walton County and Knox Hill Academy classmates, the 26-year-old McLean would be elected Lieutenant Colonel; Stephen A. Cawthon would become company commander of the "Union Rebels".
Major Daniel Lawrence Kenan - Kenan was born March 23, 1825 in Duplin County, North Carolina. His family moved from there to Quincy, Gadsden Co. Florida. in 1831 . His father died in I840 when he was still a minor. He was a carriage maker by trade; he also became wealthy by an inheritance of 75 acres of land and 30 slaves from his Aunt, Jane Hall, in 1858. He served in the Florida House of the State Legislature in I850, '52,- '58, ’59. He enlisted March 12, 1862 as 1st Sgt. at Quincy in the "Florida Guards". He was elected Major and commissioned April 18, 1862.
6th Florida Infantry Regiment Official Company Designations
On April 23, 1862, Florida Adjutant and Inspector General Wm. H. Milton would inform Governor Milton that, "The following companies compose the Sixth Regiment, eight companies of which are at the Mount Vernon Arsenal and two at Rico’s Bluff; Magnolia State Guards, Capt. L. M. Attaway; Campbellton Greys, Capt. H. B. Grace; Jackson County Volunteers, Lieut. John B. Hayes; Jackson County Company, Capt. H. O. Bassset; Union Rebels, Capt. A. D. McLean; Choctawhatchie Volunteers, H. K. Hagan; Florida Guards, R. H. M. Davidson; Gadsden Greys, Capt. Samuel B. Love; Gulf State Infantry, Capt. James C. Evans; Washington County Company, Capt. A. McMillan, of which regiment J. J. Finley is colonel, A. D. McLean lieutenant-colonel, and D. L. Kenan major."
In April, the regiment reported an aggregate of 782 officers and men, with 31 officers and 511 men present for duty.
Colonel Finley took the discipline of his regiment seriously, writing to his superior in the Department of East and Middle Florida, Brigadier General Joseph Finegan, that, "I can usefully employ as many as six drill officers in the Regiment; being anxious to hasten its instruction, so as to make it capable of being handled in the field at the earliest possible convenience." "The soldiers at the arsenal woke at daylight, and drilled for three hours each day. To make better officers of the elected civilians, these gentlemen held their own drill session at ten a.m. and a regimental dress parade held every evening at five.
Soon after the regiment was organized, Governor John Milton assigned Colonel Finley to command of the troops stationed on the river from Chattahoochee to Apalachicola; this assignment was short-lived, as the regiment was ordered in early June to report to General Edmund Kirby Smith at Knoxville, Tennessee.
The 6th Florida Infantry Regiment departed the Mount Vernon Arsenal at Chattahoochee, Florida on June 13, 1862. Transport was by steamboat from there to Columbus, Georgia where it arrived on June 16, 1862. From Columbus, they would take the cars to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Lieutenant James Hayes of Company D wrote that, "After we left Columbus, nearly every house we passed they were out with their handkerchiefs waving and hollering, throwing bocaies[sic] and apples into the cars as we would pass by. From Atlanta to this place beat all . . . They were perfect swarms of young ladies standing on the road with their flags flying." Lieutenant Hugh Black of Company A found the journey from Columbus to Chattanooga somewhat less enjoyable; he would write to his wife that, "the car that myself and the remainder of our company was in ran off the track and very near crushing the whole concern to attoms." Arriving at Chattanooga on June 18, the 6th Florida was immediately ordered to report temporarily to General Danville Leadbetter, who had planned an expedition across the Tennessee River at Shell Mound. The expedition was abandoned while the regiment was enroute, and continued to Knoxville. On July 3, the 6th Florida Infantry (Col. Jesse. J. Finley), 7th Florida Infantry (Col. Madison S. Perry), 1st Florida Cavalry (Col. William G. M. Davis), and the Marion (Florida) Artillery would become a brigade; Colonel Davis was the senior officer and given command. This brigade would be designated as the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Division, commanded by Brigadier General Henry Heth.
The 6th Florida remained at or near Knoxville until August 13 to thwart an anticipated Federal advance from the mountains. During this period, it performed skirmish and picket duties at Knoxville and at Loudon, some 35 miles to the southwest. On July 25, Colonel Finley was given custody of a suspected Union spy and orders from Major General Smith that he was to keep the prisoner, "… in closest guard beyond the possibility of escape, and if a single gun be fired by the enemy to-morrow morning the guard will be instructed by you to shoot the prisoner immediately, putting him to death."
On August 13, General Kirby Smith’s force departed Knoxville and began its march toward Kentucky through the Cumberland Mountains by way of Big Creek Gap. The 6th Florida, part of Colonel W. G. M. Davis’s Brigade, attached to Brigadier General Henry Heth’s 2nd Division, departed about 5 o’clock that evening. The tents and camp equipment remained in Knoxville; marching order was "heavy", with each enlisted soldier carrying, "…knapsacks, rifle, forty rounds of ammunition, haversacks and three days provisions, and canteens."
The infantry plodded northward for the next four days along dusty roads over a series of ridges, arriving at Big Creek Gap on August 17. Though the gap offered passage through the Cumberland Mountains, it was described as a, "…second-class wagon road . . .rough, rocky and steep." General Smith assigned Heth’s Division the responsibility of guarding the army’s wagon train during its passage through the gap. Lieutenant Hays of Company D recorded that, "…here have been three companies of our Regiment working all day rolling wagons over the mountain, we put over two hundred . . . We are the blackest lot you ever saw for we havent shifted our clothes since we left Knoxville." The next day, General Smith’s infantry reached Barbourville, ten miles south of London, where they captured an unsuspecting Yankee supply train. On August 25, after allowing his soldiers a week’s rest and the pleasure of Yankee-supplied provisions, General Smith put his aptly renamed "Army of Kentucky" in motion on the Wilderness Road, moving toward Lexington, Kentucky, with Colonel W. G. M. Davis’ Brigade occupying a position near the rear of the column.
On August 26, the 6th Florida along with the 7th Florida and the Marion (Florida) Artillery, were detached from the main body to Williamsburg, a village fifteen miles to the southeast to deal with a supposed threat to the Confederate flank. Lieutenant Hugh Black of Company A recorded that the diversion was caused by "a few stragglers." The regiments remained at Williamsburg until August 28 before finally marching to rejoin the army." Colonel Davis pushed his Brigade in the attempt to rejoin the main body of General Smith’s Army of Kentucky. On the morning of August 30, advanced elements of Davis’s Brigade reported hearing distant artillery from the direction of Richmond, some 20 miles southeast of Lexington. This provided an even greater sense of urgency to rejoin the main body. After a forced march of 36 hours with only one hour of rest, the Brigade would rejoin the main body of the army after sunset, and after General Smith had won the Battle of Richmond. Colonel Davis’s Brigade would return to Lexington on September 5, and almost immediately received orders to continue on to and to occupy Kentucky’s capitol city of Frankfort.
On September 11, Brig. Gen. Henry Heth was sent north from Lexington, Kentucky to "make a demonstration" against the Defense of Cincinnati, then the sixth largest city in the United States. General Heth and his men (including the 6th Florida) marched up the Lexington Road in Northern Kentucky towards the Ohio River. He soon encountered the strong line of Federal defenses and wisely decided not to attack. He lingered in the region for one day and then retreated on September 13. Although this caused a great commotion in the city's defenses, only a few skirmishes occurred.
On October 4, General Braxton Bragg (commanding the Army of Mississippi) arrived at Frankfort to see through the inauguration of pro-Confederate Governor Richard Hawes. As the citizens gathered, they heard the artillery. A member of the 6th, wrote: "I hear them now, cannonading at Shelbyville. I expect a hot time this evening or tomorrow. Jenerals Braggs and Buckner is in town. A Governer [sic] of Kentucky was appointed and today innaugurated [sic]." Davis’s brigade would have to wait for a fight, for Kirby Smith’s troops departed the town that evening to return to Tennessee."
Some 250 Floridians were taken prisoner during the Confederate Heartland Offensive; 79 of these were from the 6th Florida. The great majority of these men were captured without resistance, being left behind in hospitals due to disease, or straggling when Generals Bragg and Smith retreated from Kentucky. Most were transported to Louisville soon after their capture to be paroled, either to their homes in case of medical debility, or to Vicksburg, Mississippi, to await exchange.
The Army of Tennessee was formed on November 20, 1862, when General Braxton Bragg renamed the former Army of Mississippi and was divided into two corps commanded by Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk and Lieutenant General William J. Hardee. A third corps was formed from troops from the General Smith’s Department of East Tennessee which was disbanded in early December after one of its two divisions was sent to Mississippi. The remaining division (2nd Division, General Henry Heth) was assigned to Hardee's corps, and became its 3rd Division. Kirby Smith returned to East Tennessee. Colonel Davis was promoted to Brigadier General and retained command of his Brigade consisting of the 1st Florida Cavalry (Col. George Troup Maxwell); 6th Florida Infantry (Col. Jesse J. Finley); 7th Florida Infantry (Col. Madison S. Perry); 63 Tennessee Infantry (Col. R. G. Fain); & Marion (Florida) Artillery (Capt. J. M. Martin).
Near Cumberland Gap in November, General Davis’s 1,800 soldiers, with no tents and poor clothing endured miserable conditions. Despite the necessity for the Confederates to guard the strategic pass, the Floridians wished they could depart the mountains before winter arrived. Early in the month, Lieutenant A. G. McLeod (6th Florida, Company G) believed, "one thing I know, if we are stationed anywhere up here many will not survive the winter The Snow was six inches deep here last Saturday and Sunday. . . ." Colonel J. J. Finley, dissatisfied with his regiment’s station, pleaded with Adjutant General Samuel Cooper (general) that "we are now here without tents and without axes and tools for building huts - and I really wish an easier and less exposed service for my poor men." Major William T. Stockton (1st Florida Cavalry, Dismounted) reported "all heart & interest in the Regt. is departed. We seem to be dumped down here, without tents, food almost, cooking utensils . . . feed for our horses."
At roughly the same time, East Tennessee Tories (pro-Union sympathizers) burned five railroad bridges between Chattanooga and Bristol in anticipation of a Union invasion. After Confederate soldiers carried out a harsh retaliation against suspects, the violence increased as "Unionists would operate in smaller-bands, seek limited objectives, and rely on the weapons of ambush, harassment, and intimidation to achieve their purposes.
During the first week in December the Floridians received the welcome order that moved the regiments’ southwestward to Knoxville. The forty-five-mile march became one of the roughest endured by Davis’s soldiers during the entire war. Lt. James Hays confessed to his wife "it was the worst traveling I ever saw . . . you don’t know anything about cold weather." Lt. Col. Robert Bullock (7th Florida Infantry) felt ashamed that: I have read about soldiers of the Revolution being tracked in the snow by the blood that came from their bare feet, but I always thought it was an exaggeration; but I am now convinced that it was true, for I saw on the march from the Gap here, any quantity of blood that came from the feet of the men who had no shoes . . . their feet so badly cut up by the rocks and frozen ground. . .." .
Upon arrival at Knoxville, General Davis’s Brigade went into winter quarters. General Davis and newly promoted Colonel G. Troup Maxwell’s 1st Florida Cavalry encamped at Strawberry Plains, an obscure depot fifteen miles northeast of Knoxville that gained importance because of the nearby 1,600 foot Holston River bridge. The majority of Colonel J. J. Finley’s 6th Florida was stationed at Strawberry Plains as well. The 6th Florida’s Company H engaged in "building a stockade and guarding the Hiawassee Bridge. . . ." near Charleston on the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad. Lieut A. G. McLeod of Company G enjoyed the time spent at this pleasant community, writing "we have been invite[d] to a party one or two nights every week since we came here."
Though the winter weather precluded an invasion by a sizeable Union force, this did not stop small scale Federal raids from exacting a toll on the region. In late-December, a thousand blue-clad cavalrymen emerged from the Cumberland Mountains and wreaked havoc upon several trestles and munition depots in the extreme northeastern tip of the state. Davis’s Florida Brigade, due to this incursion and the continued Unionist menace, spent the winter dispersed along the railroad, charged with guarding essential bridges.
By January 1863, the conflict between the Confederates and the pro-Union sympathizers of eastern Tennessee had reached a viciousness previously not witnessed in the Appalachians. Though the 6th Florida under Brigadier General Davis spent a great deal of time building stockades and blockhouses for the purpose of safeguarding the railroad, they would also participate to some degree in patrols and retaliatory raids against the pro-Union sympathizers.
Confederate deserters and Unionists set in motion the series of events on January 8 when a party raided Marshall, North Carolina in a search of salt. On January 17, General Heth, then commanding the Department of East Tennessee, dispatched General W. G. M. Davis into North Carolina to investigate. General Davis’s force included 200 Floridians, and also the 64th North Carolina and Colonel William Thomas' Legion; both units contained soldiers native to the Great Smoky Mountains. Departing from Strawberry Plains, the expedition had but a short march before reaching the French Broad Turnpike, which passed directly through the troubled area. In his official orders, General Davis charged his subordinate commanders to, "pursue and arrest every man in the mountains, of known bad character. . . .", with explicit instructions for, ""all the citizen prisoners to be turned over to the civil authorities of Madison [County]."
General Davis, after establishing his headquarters at the antebellum resort town of Warm Springs and sorting through the evidence, concluded very quickly that "there is no organization in the mountains of armed men banded together for the purpose of making efforts to destroy bridges or to burn towns," and that "the attack on Marshall was gotten up to obtain salt, for want of which there is great suffering in the mountains. Plunder of other property followed as a matter of course."
The pro-Union sympathizers aimed part of this plundering against the homes of soldiers serving in the 64th North Carolina, including that of its colonel, Lawrence M. Allen. General Heth is reported to have given explicit instructions to Colonel Allen, saying that, "I want no reports from you about your course at Laurel. I do not want to be troubled with any prisoners and the last one of them should be killed." Using harsh methods of interrogation, Colonel Allen’s Tarheels rounded up fifteen suspects and several days later executed these men. General Davis (and his Floridians) had remained near Greeneville, Tennessee and Warm Springs, North Carolina, for the majority of the operation; and it is unclear as to whether the commander knew of the transgressions Colonel Allen and the 64th North Carolina.
In late February, General Alfred E. Jackson, commanding in place of an absent General Davis, led a brigade-sized force into the Shelton Laurel area to forcibly remove Tories and their families. General W. G. M. Davis suggested this policy in January, writing to Governor Zebulon Baird Vance: "I have proposed to allow all who are not implicated in any crime to leave the State and to aid them in crossing into Kentucky . . . They will be driven to do so from necessity, as I learn our troops have consumed all the corn and meat in the settlement. If the people alluded to agree to emigrate I will cause them to be paid for their property used by our troops."
General Jackson’s troops, which included elements of the 6th Florida and 1st Florida Cavalry, set out from Limestone Depot on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad and entered the mountains in three columns, each converging on the Laurel River Valley. The expedition traversed very treacherous terrain, and the march coincided with some of the worst weather to hit the region that winter. Lt. Hugh Black wrote that, "…the last day of February and the first day of March I did the hardest traveling and traveled the shortest distance that I ever did in my life." Another account held that there were, "some steep and difficult ascents to make, a horse could not have gone where we went indeed a cat would have thought it a hard trip."
The 6th Florida would continue to be assigned patrols and picket duties through May, most of which were conducted to deter Union Cavalry raids or sabotage by Union-sympathizers upon the railroad and bridges in the vicinity of Knoxville until late May.
In May, Brigadier General W. G. M. Davis, who for a short time commanded the Department of East Tennessee that spring, tendered his resignation, claiming impaired health and "entire neglect of my private affairs." Command of the brigade passed to Colonel Robert C. Trigg. Originally a captain in the 4th Virginia Infantry, Trigg had helped his brigade earn the moniker "Stonewall" at First Manassas. In the fall of 1861, Trigg became the 54th Virginia’s colonel, soon after overseeing the regiment’s organization. Following service in western Virginia, the regiment was ordered to East Tennessee and was eventually placed in Davis’s Brigade. Trigg’s admirers and superiors called the officer both a "strict disciplinarian" and an "energetic soldier."
With the resignation of Brigadier General Davis, command of the Department of East Tennessee was assumed by Major General Simon Bolivar Buckner, who arrived in Knoxville on May 11, and assumed command the following day. Shortly thereafter, his department was converted into a district of the Department of Tennessee under Gen. Braxton Bragg and was designated the Third Corps of the Army of Tennessee.
In mid-June, Major General Buckner departed Knoxville with orders to join General Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Tullahoma as reinforcements against an anticipated offensive by General William Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland. General Buckner took with him all the artillery and all the other disposable force at Knoxville except Colonel Robert Trigg’s 54th Virginia Infantry and Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bullock’s Seventh Florida Infantry, about 1,000 effective. Colonel Trigg had command of his scattered brigade for a month before it faced the enemy for the first time on the field of battle.
On June 14, Colonel William P. Sanders, commanding the 5th Kentucky Cavalry, U.S., set out with 1,500 troopers from Mount Vernon, Kentucky. The cavalry pointed their mounts southward toward the East Tennessee Valley. Sanders, hoping to emulate the raid of the previous December, had orders "to move up, destroying the road as much as possible, burning bridges, breaking up culverts, and destroying rolling stock." While the earlier winter raid was undertaken to merely harass the Confederates, Sanders’ movement would presage a Federal invasion of the area.
On June 19, 1863, Sanders’s soldiers arrived at Lenoir Station after having failed to destroy the railroad trestle at Loudon. Sanders burned the depot as well as the Lenoirs' sawmill and flour mill. He spared the cotton mill, however, since there were few such mills in the area to provide cloth for the army, and because the Lenoirs were fellow Masons. After destroying the depot at Lenoir’s Station, Sanders’s soldiers wrecked the railroad and telegraph lines between that point and Knoxville, some 27 miles to the northeast."
At Knoxville, Major Victor Von Sheliha (General Buckner’s acting Chief of Staff) had received information regarding Colonel Sanders’s location and forces. He requested that Lieut. Col. Milton A. Haynes, C.S. Artillery take charge of the artillery defense of Knoxville. Colonel Trigg, as the senior infantry colonel, was in temporary command of Confederate forces at Knoxville.
At 3 o’clock on the afternoon of the 19th, the Federal force’s advance element was within 5 miles of Knoxville, where they were met by some 37 Confederate cavalry troops dispatched by Colonel Trigg, all that was available for service. A hot skirmish ensued at Mrs. Lomis’ house, lasting about an hour before the Confederate cavalry broke contact. The Federal force remained in position.
Colonel Trigg used the time bought by this desperate delaying action wisely, allowing his force consisting of the 7th Florida and 54th Virginia Regiments and various citizens and convalescing soldiers, to fortify the town’s streets "with cotton bales". Lieut. Col. Haynes placed artillery at College Hill, McGee’s Hill, and Summit Hill. That evening, Col. Trigg repositioned the artillery from College Hill to a point near the asylum. About the same time that Col. Trigg was moving artillery, Lieut. Col. Haynes undertook a reconnaissance, passing through the Federal lines in the guise of a farmer, advising all who asked his knowledge of the state of defenses at Knoxville and making a point that he "… saw Colonel Haynes about sunset moving some cannon toward the depot, about four in all – drawn by mules." He returned to Knoxville about midnight and visited all of the artillery crews, advising them that the enemy would attack; he also ordered the artillery at the asylum hospital and on McGee’s Hill to consider themselves as reserves, to be moved wherever needed.
Once the sun set, Sanders pushed several Kentucky companies forward toward the city to occupy the Confederates; while a hot skirmish ensued, Sanders shifted the remainder of his force to the north side of the city. The Union commander’s Kentucky companies performed their diversion well, occupying Captain William E. June’s 7th Florida company and convincing one Floridian that June’s soldiers had "prevented a night attack, which they doubtless had in contemplation."
At 7 o’clock on the morning of the 20th, four guns detached from General Buckner’s force arrived at Knoxville and were placed in reserve. Shortly after the guns arrived, the Federal force was observed advancing at the double quick where neither artillery nor infantry were positioned to oppose them. Colonel Trigg ordered Colonel Finley’s 6th Florida and 2 guns to take Temperance Hill to counter the threat; Lieut. Col. Haynes advanced two guns immediately in front of the advancing column and engaged them with spherical case. The Federals took shelter behind houses and fences, then threw sharpshooters forward to 200 yards of Lieut. Col. Haynes’ position, who had no infantry to support the position. As this occurred, Federal 3-inch guns engaged the position, killing some of the crews and several horses. Lieut. Col. Haynes ordered the guns to advance with orders to engage the infantry; the Federals forming column and rapidly advancing. Lieut. Col. Haynes personally sighted the guns and, expending two rounds, broke the Federal advance; the guns on Temperance Hill, on McGee’s Hill, and on Summit Hill, joining in to hasten the Federal’s retreat.
During the fight the 6th Florida soldiers, according to Lieutenant Hugh Black, "would yell as if playing a game of town ball instead of fighting a battle. When a ball would go to high they would holler at the Yankees to shoot lower and when it struck the hill below us the[y] would say to the Yankees they were shooting too low, and when a ball not come near they would cry out ‘lost ball.’" The Federals finally found their aim and a solid shot killed Lt. Bert Snellgrove of the 6th Florida. Lt. James Hays also saw a Federal round kill three Confederate cannoneers, describing "I was but a short distance when three fell, all killed by the same ball, it cut two of them nearly in two. It took off both the other mans legs – it was a bad looking sight."
Two weeks after Sanders’s East Tennessee Raid the campaign season in Tennessee began in earnest, with General Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland beginning a series of maneuvers meant to flank Bragg from his position at Tullahoma.
The Tullahoma Campaign (or Middle Tennessee Campaign) was a military operation conducted from June 24 to July 3, 1863, by the Union Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans, and regarded as one of the most brilliant maneuvers of the American Civil War. Its effect was to drive the Confederates out of Middle Tennessee and to threaten the strategic city of Chattanooga. The Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg occupied a strong defensive position in the Highland Rim mountains, with his headquarters at Tullahoma. But through a series of well-rehearsed feints, Rosecrans captured the key passes, helped by the use of the new seven-shot Spencer repeating rifle. The Confederates were handicapped by dissension between generals, as well as a lack of supplies, and soon had to abandon their headquarters at Tullahoma and move to Chattanooga.
Although Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee contained about 52,000 men at the end of July, the Confederate government merged the Department of East Tennessee, under Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, into Bragg's Department of Tennessee, which added 17,800 men to Bragg's army, but also extended his command responsibilities northward to the Knoxville area. The Confederate War Department asked Bragg in early August if he could assume the offensive against Rosecrans if he were given reinforcements from Mississippi. He demurred, concerned about daunting geographical obstacles and logistical challenges, preferring to wait for Rosecrans to solve those same problems and attack him. He was also concerned about a sizable Union force under Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside that was threatening Knoxville. Bragg withdrew his forces from advanced positions around Bridgeport, which left Rosecrans free to maneuver on the northern side of the Tennessee River. He concentrated his two infantry corps around Chattanooga and relied upon cavalry to cover his flanks, extending from northern Alabama to near Knoxville. On August 16, 1863, the Army of the Cumberland, which had lain idle six weeks following its successful Tullahoma Campaign, moved yet again. With General Ambrose Burnside marching on East Tennessee in conjunction with General Rosecrans’s advance against Chattanooga, the Confederates could not hope to defend against both thrusts successfully. The objective was to maneuver Bragg out of Chattanooga. On August 21, Rosecran ordered a brigade to shell Chattanooga from the western side of the Tennessee River and skirmish with the main Confederate force in the city to divert attention away from the flanking column sent southwest of the city; other Union units were deployed along the river to the east. The diversion was successful, with Bragg concentrating his army east of Chattanooga. After concluding that his position was untenable, Bragg abandoned the city on September 6 and retreated into northern Georgia.
After spending a monotonous July in the northeastern corner of East Tennessee, Colonel Trigg’s Brigade bivouacked on August 25 at Loudon with the remainder of Buckner’s III Corps. Bragg chose to concentrate his soldiers against Rosecrans thus forsaking East Tennessee in the process. In early September, Bragg ordered Buckner’s troops to Charleston, Tennessee to watch the Tennessee River’s upper reaches for any sign of Union activity. Lt. Hugh Black who knew nothing regarding events in northwestern Georgia confessed "what caused our authorities to evacuate East Tenn is more than I am able to say but think that it was done for prudential reasons."
Evacuating Chattanooga on September 8, the Army of Tennessee’s three corps, commanded respectively by Leonidas Polk, Daniel Harvey Hill, and Simon Bolivar Buckner, marched southward to intercept Rosecrans. Colonel Trigg’s Brigade tramped along under the divisional command of Brigadier General William Preston. During the second week of September, this division was to participate in an attack on an isolated Federal division in a valley near the headwaters of Chickamauga Creek. Timidity among the Confederate commanders charged with leading this advance prevented any battle. As Dr. Henry McCall Holmes wrote of September 11, "got into line of battle on mt. ridge, sides in front almost perpendicular, very strong position. We advanced for awhile but found no Yanks except one dead one, they had left, got away from us…"
Battle of Chickamauga
At the Battle of Chickamauga, the 6th Florida Infantry (Col. J. J. Finley) was brigaded together with the 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted (Col. G. T. Maxwell), the 7th Florida Infantry (Col. Robert Bullock), and the 54th Virginia Infantry (Lieut. Col. J. J. Wade) under the command of Col. Robert C. Trigg. The brigade was part of General Preston’s Division, General Buckner’s Corps, which was a part of the Army of Tennessee’s left wing, commanded by Lieutenant General James Longstreet.
On September 18, Bragg’s advance cavalry and infantry fought with Union cavalry and mounted infantry and seized several of Chickamauga Creek’s bridges and fords; the general planned for an overwhelming attack to take place the next morning. What resulted was a confusing series of isolated attacks in which the gray-clad soldiers, rather than finding Rosecrans’s flank, ran into several Federal divisions. Robert Watson wrote that on September 19, Trigg’s Floridians "fell in and marched off at 5 A.M.," crossed Chickamauga Creek at Thedford’s Ford as daylight broke, then formed the left flank of Bragg’s forces west of the creek. General Preston positioned Colonel Trigg’s regiments in line behind his other brigades commanded respectively by Archibald Gracie and John Kelly. Trigg’s four regiments formed their lines of battle in a corn field tucked into a bend of Chickamauga Creek. For a time there was peace, and the men "built fires to warm ourselves," and "ate . . . breakfast of sour cornbread and water."
The numerous blazes drew the attention of General John Palmer's divisional artillery, located southwest of the Chickamauga Creek bend. Soon the Confederates lay flat to avoid the rounds that were, in the words of Colonel Jesse Finley "passing over, and near, diagonally in many places from right to left, frequently striking in front and ricocheting over my men, . . ." Not long after the barrage began, a shell exploded over the 6th Florida’s Company D, showering the troops with fragments. A single splinter passed through Lt. James Hays and First Sergeant Samuel Staunton killing them both. Hays and Staunton, along with Sergeant William R. F. Potter became the first 6th Florida soldiers killed that day. After taking these casualties, Trigg’s Brigade moved forward slightly to the east slope of a ridge where they found cover from the deadly missiles.
At noon, General Preston ordered Trigg’s Brigade to the front of his divisional line. Positioned on Gracie’s right flank, Trigg aligned his regiments and shook the entire 1st Florida Cavalry into a skirmish line that covered his brigade’s front. While Colonel Troup Maxwell’s regiment had yet to become engaged in a fierce battle, they had experienced the dangerous thrust-and-parry work of skirmishing both in Florida and along the Tennessee River. The line cautiously moved forward several hundred yards through thick woods, and a portion of the line emerged into the Viniard Farm’s eastern acreage.
To the west, across the cornfield lay other cultivated plots; owned by a farmer Viniard, this land would see some of the battle’s most ferocious fighting. The cleared land was bisected by the north-south running LaFayette Road, which proceeded along the length of the battlefield and provided both an avenue for reinforcement and retreat for Rosecrans’s army. At 12:00, only Colonel John T. Wilder’s mounted infantry brigade protected this vital location against any Confederate threat.
The 1st Florida Cavalry troopers soon found themselves trading shots with Wilder’s pickets. While Lt. Col. Stockton explained to his wife that his soldiers "had things pretty much our way," Colonel Troup Maxwell described a different situation in his official report, confessing "after the deployment was effected we became hotly engaged with the enemy’s sharpshooters (under very great disadvantage, as my regiment was armed chiefly with short-range guns of inferior quality.)" Indeed, Wilder’s mounted infantry were armed with the potent seven-shot Spencer Rifle, allowing them to make life uncomfortable for the 1st Florida Cavalry’s skirmishers. This uneven contest continued, according to Colonel Maxwell for nearly two hours, even after one of General Jefferson C. Davis’s artillery batteries unlimbered and began firing at the Floridians. Stockton wrote "a battery opened on us at about 300 yards in a corn field & hurt us badly." The 1st Florida’s troopers fortunately avoided taking many casualties during this sharp engagement, and only when General William Carlin’s brigade of Davis’s division formed and moved across the field toward Trigg’s Brigade, did they break for the safety of their brigade.
General Jerome B. Robertson’s Texas Brigade formed the extreme left of General John Bell Hood’s line, and "as soon as Robertson came under fire," Hood "asked Bragg for reinforcements to protect his left." Bragg relayed the order to Buckner who in-turn commanded Preston to enter the fray. Preston dispatched Trigg’s soldiers to support the Texas Brigade. Bragg relayed the order to Buckner who in-turn commanded Preston to enter the fray. Preston dispatched Trigg’s soldiers to support the Texas Brigade. Casmero Bailey wrote "we were ordered forward which we did in quick time. . . ." Colonel Trigg’s regiments, following the sounds of the firing, soon reached the eastern boundary of the Viniard Farm and came under the same artillery fire that earlier pestered the 1st Florida Cavalry troopers. The Floridians arrived at the right time for their advance placed them on the flank of a fresh Union brigade which was crossing the Viniard cornfield.
Colonel Trigg’s regiments quickly moved into position along a split-rail fence just to Robertson’s right, soon unleashed a volley into the newly-arrived Federals’s flank and in Trigg’s words, they "broke in confusion to the left and rear." One Floridian later confessed that because of the smoke "I stood some time without firing looking for something to shoot at, but I could not see anything and the boys kept shooting so that I thought I would shoot too, so I shot right ahead of me. . . ." With the Federal brigade in retreat, Colonel Trigg ordered his regiments to the pursuit. The order was, according to a 6th Florida soldier, "executed with enthusiastic gallantry and success." Colonel Finley, proud of his soldiers, wrote "the regiment moved forward through the open field at a double-quick to the crest of the ridge, the distance of about 300 yards . . . ." Colonel Trigg, who accompanied the 6th Florida, discovered at this juncture that the remainder of the brigade had not heard Colonel Trigg’s order to advance.
Realizing the error, the remainder of Trigg’s brigade soon crossed the eastern fence and was moving at the double-quick to reinforce the 6th Florida. 1st Sergeant Robert Watson of the 7th Florida Infantry described his regiments’ movement as a charge into a corn field, when, "within about 400 yards of their battery we were ordered to right flank and marched at the double quick to the right." The occasion for this sudden turn of events came because the Texas Brigade had encountered new resistance and Robertson dispatched a staff officer to commandeer Trigg’s regiments. Another 7th Florida soldier, Casmero Bailey, would later write his father that, "the grape and shell came thick and fast we kept on until we came to the woods where we were ordered to lie down which we did in a hurry." With the 1st Florida Cavalry, 7th Florida Infantry, and 54th Virginia to the north, the 6th Florida remained alone and exposed in the cornfield.
Several Federal artillery batteries concentrated their fire on the 6th Florida. Federal infantry also added their small-arms fire to the inferno. Lt. Hugh Black, who suffered a broken arm during the disastrous assault wrote from an Atlanta hospital "I never was in just such a place before it is strange to me how any one escaped for I assure you that the bullets seemed to search every nook and corner of the field that we were in." John R. Ely, the 6th Florida’s Adjutant proudly informed The Florida Sentinel’s readers that the West Floridians, "outnumbered by overwhelming odds, at least five to one - fought with a coolness and determination, which has covered with glory and shed a new lustre upon the arms of gallant little Fla." Finally, Colonel Trigg ordered Colonel Jesse Finley, described by 7th Florida soldier Casmero Bailey as being "as brave as a lion" during the fight, to relinquish the field.
By sunset, the Confederate attacks in the southern portion of the field had ended. Trigg’s Brigade settled in for the night in the woods just east of the Viniard Field. The temperatures dropped and Robert Watson complained that "I scarcely slept a wink all night but lay shivering with cold all night. The groans and shrieks of the wounded and volleys of musketry and falling of trees made it impossible to sleep." Casmero Bailey stood picket that night along the rail fence on the eastern edge of the Viniard farm and grew sick looking at "men shot in every place and form."
Many of the dead seen by Bailey and the wailing wounded heard by Watson belonged to the 6th Florida. That regiment was decimated on the afternoon of September 19, suffering 35 killed and 130 wounded in a short span. The 6th Florida Regiment’s Adjutant, John R. Ely, proclaimed "Napoleon’s ‘Old Guard’ never fought harder that did the representatives of our gallant little State on that memorable field." Colonel Finley could not share in his adjutant’s jubilation and bitterly reported that his soldiers "purchased whatever reputation they may have won upon the sanguinary field at a fearful cost of life and blood." Colonel Finley reported that the 6th took 402 officers and men into the fight, and lost 2 officers and 33 enlisted killed, with 11 officers and 119 enlisted wounded or missing.
On September 20, Federal General George Henry Thomas, commanding at Kelly field, clamored for reinforcements during the late morning hours. What resulted was "not only an organizational mess and the confused movement of many units, but also the further weakening of the center and right." When General Rosecrans dispatched a unit to fill a gap created by a division supposedly on its way to assist Thomas, a real breach opened in the "handle" portion of the Federal line. At 11:15 A.M., General James Longstreet’s wing rushed forward to the attack and the Army of the Cumberland’s right disintegrated. While numerous Federals, including General Rosecrans fled the field, a patchwork line formed a new right flank on a series of hills, collectively known as Horseshoe Ridge, just to the west of the Kelly Field and LaFayette Road. Throughout the afternoon, Longstreet’s wing made numerous, yet disjointed attacks against the new Federal position.
By 4:00 P.M., General Preston’s Division had yet to become engaged. Colonel Trigg’s Brigade, after getting little sleep during the cool and loud night, awoke that morning as veterans, built fires for warmth, and ate breakfast. Though General Longstreet had ordered Preston’s Division to lend its numbers to the Horseshoe Ridge fight, the Kentucky general only committed Gracie’s and Kelly’s unbloodied brigades. Trigg’s brigade was dispatched to the southern flank to guard against a possible cavalry attack. After Gracie’s and Kelly’s Brigades had launched vicious, yet unsuccessful assaults, against the Union position, Preston called once again on Colonel Robert Trigg’s tenacious unit. While Colonel Finley led the 6th Florida and 54th Virginia toward the fighting on Horseshoe Ridge, Trigg kept the 1st Florida Cavalry and 7th Florida Infantry on guard for the supposed threat.
Colonel Finley’s two regiments formed on the Confederate left flank and joined in the assaults to take Horseshoe Ridge. These units’ attacks came late in the fight as the Union forces were attempting to disengage. Nevertheless, the fighting was still ferocious and deadly. In later years, two veterans remembered the 6th Florida was repulsed twice in its attempts to reach the top; on the third try amid "shot and shell" that "fell like rain," the 6th Florida lost one of its most promising and respected officers, Lieutenant John Wilson. One of the soldiers recalled "scarcely had we started up the hill when a cannon ball struck the Lieutenant . . . on the leg, shattering the bone." Wilson died while being transported to a hospital in southern Georgia.
The 1st Florida Cavalry and 7th Florida were finally summoned to the scene of action; on the way the 1st Florida Cavalry became lost and somehow made their way to ridge, though opposite of where the 6th Florida was then fighting. The mistake occurred near the Union line and this carelessness caused several casualties, and the 1st Florida Cavalry withdrew from the enemy’s fire.
Colonel Robert Bullock’s 7th Florida Infantry fared better reaching Snodgrass Hill with Colonel Trigg just as twilight settled over the bloody ground. After a quick conference, Trigg and Kelly decided they could bag the few Yankees remaining on the west slope of Horseshoe Ridge, and the V.M.I. graduate proceeded to position his brigade so as to take the Federals by the flank. Robert Watson described the advance: "We went in at double quick and got to the foot of the hill at dark. The enemy seeing us sent a man towards us to see whether we were their own men or not with directions to fire if we were enemies, but we took him before he could fire his gun, therefor the Yankees took it for granted that we were their own men. We then proceeded to the top of the hill within 50 yards of them and halted and took 30 prisoners . . . They tried to escape by running but they ran into the 6th Florida and were all captured."
Casmero Bailey wrote home that his regiment "took . . . one stand of colors the Flag was a beautiful thing it belonged to the 21st Ohio." The 21st Ohio, armed with Colt Revolving Rifles, had held the right flank of the Horseshoe Ridge position all afternoon, and had, in Steven Woodworth’s estimation "fought one of the most heroic defensive battles of the war that day." In addition to the hard-fighting 21st Ohio, Trigg’s Brigade captured portions of two other Union regiments that evening; the exact number of prisoners though varies from source to source. The Floridians and Virginians also seized five stands of colors and among the spoils of war also were numerous rifles and accouterments.
The sun was beginning to set behind Missionary Ridge, an imminence that overlooked the western edge of the battlefield. The 7th Florida soldiers looked forward to trying out their new weapons, for as Casmero Bailey recalled "we went in on Saturday with muskets and when we went in on Sunday we had either springfields or enfields we captured them all on the field guns and cartridge boxes were strewn an the boys threw away their old muskets and got a gun to suit themselves."
That night the 6th Florida slept with the rest of Trigg’s brigade upon the battlefield among the dead and wounded. They received cooked rations, which brightened the soldiers’ already jubilant spirits. Yet Jacob Yearty of the 7th Florida seemed to speak for all when he penned, "I hade heared talk of batles and have bin in too small ingagements before this one but I cold not draw eny ideas untill now I have a ful understanding of what it means." The losses suffered by the 6th Florida on the September 19 served to sober the entire command.
On September 21, the soldiers in Colonel Robert Craig Trigg’s Brigade of William Preston’s Division found the aftermath of their first major battle appalling. Jacob Yearty, wrote that his regiment "bured [sic] the dead too days and did not get half of them bered and they are getting to smell so bad that it is impossible to bury the rest of the them we could not get neare all of our men bured." Robert Watson described spending September 21, "…carrying off the wounded and burying the dead all day. It was a terrible sight, friend and foe lying side by side." Preparing a peaceful rest for the dead remained low on the Confederates’s list of priorities though and on September 22, Trigg’s troops marched to the western base of Missionary Ridge, where they engaged in constructing breastworks.
Following the retreat from Chickamauga, a portion of the defeated Army of the Cumberland maintained a defensive position at Rossville, southeast of Chattanooga, ready to contest the jubilant Rebels. However, due to "the bold maneuvering of Forrest’s cavalry . . . and the unfounded rumor of the impending arrival of additional large Confederate reinforcements, Rosecrans had given up a key defensive perimeter and withdrawn his army into the immediate environs of Chattanooga. . . ." By retreating into Chattanooga the Federal general placed his army in a stranglehold, for with the Army of Tennessee commanding Lookout Mountain, the Union force could rely only on a few rough wagon roads, including a trace over Walden Ridge. With his opponent in a difficult position, Braxton Bragg determined to starve the Union army into submission while waiting for an opportunity to strike at one of the Federal flanks. From the last days of September through October, Bragg refused to take any further action as the Union forces there were reinforced by Ulysses S. Grant and reopened a tenuous supply line. Many of Bragg's subordinates, including General Buckner, advocated that Bragg be relieved of command. Thomas L. Connelly, historian of the Army of Tennessee, believes that Buckner was the author of the anti-Bragg letter sent by the generals to President Jefferson Davis. Bragg retaliated by reducing Buckner to division command and abolishing the Department of East Tennessee. General Buckner’s division (with Trigg’s brigade) would be assigned to Major General Benjamin F. Cheatham’s Corps.
Reorganization of the Army of Tennessee
Bitter infighting and political intrigue among the Army of Tennessee’s high command caused Jefferson Davis to travel to southeastern Tennessee early that fall. Braxton Bragg’s conflict with his subordinates, having begun the previous year following Perryville, flared up once again in the aftermath of Chickamauga. President Davis had dispatched his aide, Colonel James Chesnut, to the army to determine the depth of the dissent. Chesnut "wired the president that the Army of Tennessee urgently demanded his personal attention and that he should make the trip if at all possible."
On a cold October 10, Federal soldiers in and around Chattanooga heard prolonged, roaring cheers erupting from Confederate lines at the foot of Missionary Ridge. President Jefferson Davis’s arrival at the army and subsequent tour of the main line of breastworks brought forth the cries of jubilation from the soldiers.
President Davis, even after hearing corps and divisional commanders berate General Bragg, decided though to maintain Bragg in his position. The commanding general then, according to historian Wiley Sword, believed Davis’s confidence in him "was carte blanche to remove his most vocal and dangerous detractors."
On October 17, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant received command of the Federal Western armies, designated the Military Division of the Mississippi; he moved to reinforce Chattanooga and replaced Rosecrans with Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas.
All of the soldiers at Chattanooga, whether they wore blue or gray, suffered intensely during the autumn months. Freezing rain fell upon the Floridians huddled behind their entrenchments at the foot of Missionary Ridge, and upon the sentinels on the picket line; tents were a bygone luxury and overcoats were few. Throughout October, the primary enemy remained the annoying weather; no harm would come from yankee small arms fire, although artillery fire remained a danger throughout the "siege,". Following a truce declared on September 27 for the purpose of exchanging the Chickamauga wounded, the pickets of both armies refused to kill while in the line of rifle pits that snaked between the two armies, separated by a distance of some 200 yards. Bragg’s Army subsisted on the supplies that a single rail line could deliver, and time was needed to distribute cooked food to the troops at the front. The general’s attempts to feed his soldiers were also hampered by the fact that Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia received favored status from the Confederate Commissary Bureau. The soldiers had reason to rejoice when they received new winter uniforms, described as "jackets of kersey, Blue Cuffs, Pants, . . . Shoes, Caps, Shirts, etc." and "…new English Blankets . . . A single one is large enough to cover a double bed and the texture is far superior to the blankets usually brought south with goods."
By late October, the Confederate soldiers had further improved their chances against the elements by constructing crude cabins at the foot of Missionary Ridge. This was no easy task, as most of the available timber had been used for the entrenchments and firewood; 1st Sergeant Watson of the 7th Florida recorded in his diary that his mess created a "hut which is built of poles, corn stalks, straw, and dirt. It makes a warm and comfortable hut, but I don’t think it is healthy."
As reported on October 31, the 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted (Col. G. T. Maxwell), the 6th Florida Infantry (Col. J. J. Finley), the 7th Florida Infantry (Col. Robert Bullock), and the 54th Virginia Infantry (Lieut. Col. J. J. Wade) were brigaded under command of Col. Robert C. Trigg, in Buckner’s division of Cheatham’s Corps.
In November, General Bragg began a wholesale shifting of various regiments and brigades throughout his force in an attempt to realign his army so as to "dissolve the anti-Bragg cliques" and reward his supporters. Bragg elevated Major General John C. Breckinridge to corps command on November 8; General William B. Bate was elevated to command of Breckinridge’s division. Bragg’s Special Orders No. 294, issued on November 12, brigaded together the Florida regiments from General Buckner’s and General Breckinridge’s Divisions and directed that "the Senior Colonel will take command until Brigadier is appointed." The Senior Colonel, William Scott Dilworth of the 3rd Florida Infantry, was absent, having obtained a forty-day furlough after falling ill after Chickamauga. Dilworth’s departure resulted in the leadership of the Florida Brigade devolving upon Colonel Jesse J. Finley. In reality, Finley alone was regarded for command of the brigade. His performance at Chickamauga assured his promotion. Likewise, Colonel Troup Maxwell’s bungling on September 20, probably removed his name from any consideration. Four days after Bragg created the Florida Brigade, the Confederate Congress approved Finley’s promotion to Brigadier General; from this point, the history of the 6th Florida Infantry and the other regiments of Finley's Florida Brigade are virtually indistinguishable.
With Colonel Finley’s promotion, command of the 6th Florida Infantry was assumed by Lieutenant Colonel Angus D. McLean, who would be promoted to Colonel on November 16.; on the same day. Major Daniel L. Kenan was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel., Captain Robert H. M. Davidson, Commanding Company A, would be promoted to Major, and 1st Lieutenant Charles E. L. Allison would be promoted to Captain and command Company A.
General Finley’s Florida Brigade, formally established on November 12, would be composed of the consolidated 1st & 3rd Florida Infantry Regiments (Capt. W.T. Saxon), the 4th Florida Infantry Regiment (Lieut. Col. E. Badger), the 6th Florida Infantry (Lieut. Col. A. D. McLean), the 7th Florida Infantry (Col. Tillman Ingram), and the 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted (Col. G. Troup Maxwell).
Battle of Missionary Ridge
On November 23, Grant ordered Thomas to advance halfway to Missionary Ridge on a reconnaissance in force to determine the strength of the Confederate line, hoping to ensure that Bragg would not withdraw his forces and move in the direction of Knoxville, where Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside was being threatened by a Confederate force under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. Thomas sent over 14,000 men toward a minor hill named Orchard Knob and overran the Confederate defenders. Grant changed his orders and instructed Thomas's men to dig in and hold the position.
November 24 was dark, with low clouds, fog, and drizzling rain. General William T. Sherman's force crossed the Tennessee River successfully in the morning then took the set of hills at the north end of Missionary Ridge, although he was surprised to find that a valley separated him from the main part of the ridge. Alerted by Grigsby's cavalry that the enemy had crossed the river in force, Bragg sent Major General Patrick Cleburne's division and Wright's brigade to challenge Sherman. After skirmishing with the Confederates, Sherman ordered his men to dig in on the hills he had seized. Cleburne, likewise, dug in around Tunnel Hill. At the same time, Major General Joseph Hooker's command succeeded in the Battle of Lookout Mountain and prepared to move east toward Bragg's left flank on Missionary Ridge. The divisions of Major General Carter L. Stevenson and Major General Benjamin F. Cheatham retreated behind Chattanooga Creek, burning the bridges behind them.
On the night of November 24, Bragg asked his two corps commanders whether to retreat or to stand and fight. Cleburne, concerned about what Sherman had accomplished, expected Bragg to retreat. Hardee also counseled retreat, but Breckinridge convinced Bragg to fight it out on the strong position of Missionary Ridge. Accordingly, the troops withdrawn from Lookout Mountain were ordered to the right wing to assist in repelling Sherman. After the conference, Bragg, ordered his troops to occupy the newly constructed fortifications atop Missionary Ridge. This line of entrenchments lay "along the physical crest rather than what is termed the ‘military crest’ - that is, along the top-most geographic line rather than along the highest line from which the enemy could be seen and fired upon. Breckinridge’s Corps defended the southern end of the ridge, with Stewart’s and Bate’s divisions aligned from south to north on the crest.
Later that night, General Jesse Finley led two regiments of his brigade into the entrenchments on the crest of Missionary Ridge. Some did not reach the trenches atop the formidable position until after midnight, yet at dawn on November 25, 1863, the consolidated 1st and 3rd Florida ( Lt. Col. Edward Mashburn) and the 6th Florida (Lieutenant Col. Angus McLean), stood ready to meet the enemy. Finley’s right flank rested on the Moore Road, with his left connecting with Colonel Randall Gibson’s Brigade. All told, these three regiments numbered roughly 750 effectives. Colonel G. Troup Maxwell commanded the three regiments, including his own 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted, that remained in rifle pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge. His small detachment also included Colonel Robert Bullock’s 7th Florida and Lt. Col. Edward Badger’s 4th Florida. This force of nearly 800 soldiers joined several thousand men in defending this advanced line.
On November 25, General William T. Sherman’s troops began their anticipated assault against the northern end of Missionary Ridge, while Grant ordered General Hooker’s soldiers to outflank the Confederates in the south. General Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland was to "charge and carry the rifle pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge. Nothing more was intended." Grant’s plan began to falter though when Hooker’s advance started late and General Patrick Cleburne’s troops thwarted Sherman’s assaults to seize the northern end of the ridge.
As the day wore on, the Floridians would have heard the heavy volume of fire coming from the northern end of the ridge; at one p.m., Bragg ordered the Orphan Brigade, also serving in Bate’s Division to assist against Sherman. To fill the gap left by the Orphans, Bate shifted his line to the right, meaning the Floridians’s left flank would sit on the Moore Road, very close to the house that served as Braxton Bragg’s Headquarters. Samuel Pasco maintained that Colonel Robert Tyler’s men successfully completed this move, but Thomas’s attack began before the Floridians could complete the maneuver. As a result, Finley had to stretch his line uncomfortably thin to connect with both Tyler’s right and Gibson’s left. To confuse matters more, during the early afternoon hours General Breckinridge sent word to his troops holding the advance line of entrenchments to retire up the ridge after firing one volley. Unfortunately, William Bate had previously ordered his troops defending this line to "fight to the last resort," and his soldiers never received Breckinridge’s revised orders.
At 3:00 P.M., the soldiers on the crest of Missionary Ridge and at its foot watched 23,000 soldiers of the Army of the Cumberland deployed nearly two miles from the Confederates’ position. At 3:40 this force began its advance toward the ridge; Lt. Reason Jerkins of the 7th Florida, despite considering the Yankees his mortal enemies wrote, "oh, what a purity sight it was to see them charge in 3 solide colums across the old field as blue as indigo mud and their arms glittered like new." While the artillery atop Missionary Ridge opened almost immediately, the soldiers in the rifle pits at the base of the ridge waited until the enemy closed to within 300 yards and then fired. Immediately after delivering their one volley, the soldiers to the left and right of Maxwell’s advance force began retreating up the ridge; at seeing the Rebels fleeing, the Federals of the assaulting columns broke into a run toward the advanced line.
In the trenches, Colonel Troup Maxwell looked in vain for the support, which he claimed General Bate had promised, all the while his soldiers loaded and fired until, he reported, the blueclad enemy had "reached the rile pits on my right and were close in my front, . . ." Robert Watson of the 7th Florida wrote that he and his comrades "mowed them down until they were within 30 yards of us and then we retreated up the hill. . . ." Washington Ives of the 4th Florida added that General Alexander W. Reynolds’s Brigade, in line to the right of Maxwell’s men, withdrawal allowed the Federals to "follow them partly up and getting higher up the hill . .. than the Floridians. The latter were compelled after firing several rounds at the advancing foe, to climb the ridge under terrible fire.
Robert Watson claimed that climbing up the hill was the "worst part of the fight for the hill was dreadful steep and the enemy kept up a continual fire and threw a continual shower of bullets among us, and I only wonder that they did not kill all of us." Historian Peter Cozzens noted that when General Philip Sheridan’s Federals reached the rifle pits they discovered many Floridians for whom "surrender seemed preferable to trying to scale the sheer ridge with their backs to the oncoming Federals." Others wanted badly to escape, but found themselves too weary to attempt to scale the 700-foot precipice. .
At the line of rifle pits, the Army of the Cumberland’s soldiers came under a heavy volume of fire from Missionary Ridge; it became obvious to these veterans that they could not remain in the captured entrenchments. "So, in every mind there arose one thought: get out of the rifle pits immediately . . . a continued advance to the base of the ridge . . .seemed the only alternative to slaughter." Slowly, the soldiers began inching their way up the ridge.
The first Federal breakthrough came at an intentional gap left in the Confederate line which General Alexander Reynolds’s North Carolinians and Virginians, were to fill. These regiments, however, instead of taking their proper place in line between Anderson’s Division and Brigadier Colonel Robert Tyler’s Brigade of Bate’s Division, fell back from the base through Finley’s troops atop the ridge. General Thomas J. Wood’s Yankees soon climbed the ridge, quickly exploited the breach, and forced back Colonel William F. Tucker’s Mississippi Brigade. General Finley reported that, "...the left centre (Thomas C. Hindman’s Division) composed of veteran troops of tried courage, gave way in the most inexplicable manner, . . . almost without resistance." Turning south the Federals, joined now by more of their comrades who had successfully scaled the ridge, proceeded to capture a Washington Artillery section of two cannon and began firing into Tyler’s flank.
Colonel Robert Tyler’s Brigade collapsed next, under an intense barrage of small arms and close-range artillery fire originating from the cannons seized by the Federals. Next in line to the south were General Jesse Finley and his Floridians, holding on perilously in their thin line at the top of the ridge, "only one man every eight feet apart" and "amounted to nothing more than a skirmish line at some points, . . . ."
Many of the men who escaped from the southern end of the ridge soon rallied just to the east, where Bate quickly forged together a line to prevent further pursuit of Bragg’s defeated force. The divisional commander put General Finley in command of this delaying force and then pulled the 6th Florida further east in order to form a reserve and second rallying point. Finley’s line held until late that evening when General Breckinridge arrived and ordered the troops to withdraw. This final retreat ended at Dalton, Georgia, more than thirty miles to the southeast. There, Braxton Bragg’s tenure with the Army of Tennessee ended at his own request, and as he departed on December 2; Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee would assume temporary command of the Army of Tennessee until December 27 with the appointment of General Joeseph E. Johnston.
Despite the defeat at Missionary Ridge, General Finley, and others were quick to point out the positive qualities the Floridians had demonstrated during the fight. The brigade commander told Florida Governor Milton, "My command fought with a courage and steadiness which elicited, as I am informed, the commendation of the Commander in Chief, and it is an admitted fact, that it did not retire from the field, until after the troops on our right and left had given way, . . ." The Florida brigade won these congratulations at the cost of hundreds of irreplaceable casualties.
At Dalton, Brigadier General William Bate discovered his division suffered 857 casualties at Chattanooga; the divisional commander noted that most of those listed as missing, "were Floridians who were in the trenches" at the base of Missionary Ridge. General Finley’s Florida Brigade alone accounted for estimated 473 casualties; Colonel Mclean’s 6th Florida, among the last troops to leave the ridge, lost at a minimum of fifty.
As reported on December 14, Brigadier General Finley’s Florida Brigade reported 717 men combat effective of 930 present, with a total of 2,163 absent. Colonel McLean’s 6th Florida Infantry reported 171 men combat effective of 214 present, with a total of 403 absent.
Shortly after the defeat at Missionary Ridge, General Bragg accused Breckinridge of drunkenness at Missionary Ridge (and retroactively, at Chickmauga). Despite the questionable validity of the allegations, General Johnston replaced the former-vice president with General Thomas Hindman. Despite Jefferson Davis' favor, General Bragg had found the "official" limit of the President's tolerance after Chickamauga...after the defeat at Missionary Ridge, Bragg was replaced by General Joseph E. Johnston, who assumed command on December 27.
As reported on December 31,the consolidated 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry Regeriments (Lieut. Col. Elisha Mashburn), the consolidated 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted and 4th Florida Infantry (Col. Edward Badger), the 6th Florida Infantry (Col. Angus D. McLean), and the 7th Florida Infantry (Col. Tillman Ingram) were brigaded under command of Brigadier General Finley, in Breckinridge’s Division commanded by Brig. Gen. William B. Bate, in Hindman’s Army Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman.
As reported on January 20, the 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry consolidated (Maj. Glover A. Ball); 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted and 4th Florida Infantry consolidated (Maj. Jacob A. Lash); the 6th Florida Infantry (Lieut. Col. Daniel L. Kenan); and the 7th Florida Infantry (Col. Tillman Ingram) were brigaded under command of Brig. Gen Jesse J. Finley, in Breckinridge's Division (Brig. Gen William B. Bate) of Hindman's Corps.
In February 1864, the condition of the 6th Florida’s outfitting was dire. On February 7, General Finley on behalf of the Florida Brigade wrote to Governor Milton that, "if we had shoes and blankets, would be in very fine condition. Our destitution in the former article of clothing is deplorable - there being between seven and eight hundred men either barefoot or nearly so."
From Vicksburg, Mississippi, Sherman launched a campaign to take the important railroad center at Meridian and, if the situation was favorable, to push on to Selma and threaten Mobile, in order to prevent the shipment of Confederate men and supplies. To counter the threat, Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered troops into the area. While these operations unfolded, Thomas determined to probe Gen. Johnston’s army in the hope that Johnston’s loss of two divisions, sent to reinforce Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk as he withdrew from Meridian to Demopolis, Alabama, would make him vulnerable. Skirmishing and intense fighting occurred throughout the demonstration. At Crow Valley on the 25th, Union troops almost turned the Rebel right flank, but ultimately it held. On the 27th, Thomas’s army withdrew, realizing that Johnston was ready and able to counter any assault.
In March, donations of shoes and socks arrived, allowing Finley to report to Florida’s Executive "We received the shoes which were sent . . . last month. They came at a time when they were very much needed - and were, I assure you, in the highest degree acceptable to our brave men, many of whom at that time, were barefooted."
The Grand "Snowball Battle"
On March 22, after a night of snowfall, Finley’s soldiers peered out of their cabins onto a world blanketed in white. Duncan McLeod, a Walton County citizen serving in the 6th Florida wrote home, "the woods and distant mountains surrounding our encampment present a beautiful appearance." Before long, Finley’stroops heard a commotion and soon saw "Bate’s brigade formed" in a "line of battle, with the view to give the Florida Brigade a test of "their "prowess in snowballing." Washington Ives claimed that because the Orphan Brigade soon reinforced Bate’s men, the Floridians capitulated; before long Bate’s Floridians, Kentuckians, and Tennesseans had become friends once more, and with battle flags flying and General Finley commanding their motley band, formed with the purpose of moving "against [A. P.] Stewart’s Division.
The immediate aftermath of Missionary Ridge brought no respite from the need for constant Training (sheppard 286). General Johnston made it a point that his army remained keen on maneuvers and sharp regarding their shooting.(ibid) Beginning in December and continuing through April, the 6th Florida soldiers, tramping about in the cold weather and muddy fields about Dalton, practiced close-order and battalion drills and took part in brigade inspections (ibid); General Bate reported that, "drills are the order of the day in this Army. I have Brigade or Division drills every suitable day… it (the Div) . . . is in good condition..." Captain John L. Inglis remembered watching General Finley ahead of his troops, leading "with the enthusiasm of a School Boy." Bate’s "whole line impelled by . . .determination, threw themselves impetuously, broke their [A.P. Stewart’s] lines, and scattered them in confusion." Soon, Stewart’s soldiers were on the run, and Bate’s men followed "capturing "Colonels Captains often and privates." Very soon however, Stewart’s veterans reformed, and with reinforcements, "drove us back and completely routed us." A soldier serving in Bate’s Brigade explained the defeat was "another Missionary Ridge affair, only on a smaller scale." In this debacle, Stewart’s soldiers captured General Finley, who was very quickly "paroled".
Execution of a Deserter
As food shortages and Union incursions deep into the Confederate heartland began to take their toll on Southern morale, desertions increased at an alarming rate, especially among conscripts. Military executions remained rare, however. During the summer of 1862, only 12 percent of convicted deserters were sentenced to die, and of those, 40 percent were pardoned.
Private William Keen of the 3rd Florida deserted in November 1862 after receiving word that his wife and two children were ill with pneumonia. . The Gainesville Cotton States (April 16, 1864) asserted that after Keen reached Florida, he discovered "that the case was not as bad as had been reported." Keen evidently decided to remain in Florida, for Robert Watson recorded the camp rumor that Keen had "made his brags that he could not be taken for he carried a double barreled gun where ever he went." Despite these supposed precautions, a Conscript officer seized Keen and soon dispatched him back to the 3rd Florida. During his transport to Dalton, Keen, fearing his awaiting fate, leapt from the moving train and suffered several broken ribs. Keen was convicted of desertion by court martial; whether for the amount of time he remained at home or his boasts, he was the condemned to death by musketry. General Finley wrote that the chaplains were meeting with Keen so that "he be prepared through repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ to meet the solemn doom that awaits him!"
On March 25, the 6th Florida would witness Private Keen’s execution. The Florida Brigade was marched onto the parade ground with the rest of Bate’s Division. The Division was formed in the shape of a ‘u’; at the open end of the formation stood a single wooden post and nearby a freshly dug grave. Washington Ives wrote, "after standing in the cold and wet about 3/4 of an hour the prisoner appeared accompanied by the guard of 12 men and the Band of the 4th [Florida] Regt and his coffin borne by 4 men." There was no last minute commutation of the sentence; after the prisoner knelt, his arms were bound to the stake and a handkerchief was placed over his eyes. Six soldiers discharged their weapons at the condemned man. Washington Ives recalled "I was looking at Keene at the time and at the volley his head jerked back . . ."
Drills, Parade, and "Mock" Battle
"At 8 AM each Regiment formed on its own ground, and then marched off each taking its proper place in line as they marched, after passing through Dalton we formed in line in an old field where all Breckinridge’s Division got together, here we were kept an hour & a half before everything and everybody was made to pass in review. . .everything and everybody was made to pass in review . . . each passed in column by companies yet it took about half an hour to pass at quicktime, the line being about a mile long. . . I never marched over any more slippery ground in my life. . . it would have puzzled a duck to walk the road without falling down." - Sergt. Washington M. Ives, Company C, 4th Florida Infantry Regiment
In April, General William Hardee’s Corps, to which Bate’s Division had been transferred in March, held a mock battle to practice tactics under combat conditions. Sergeant Archie Livingston recalled: "our division was arranged in line of battle to meet Walker’s. Every men was supplied with blank cartridges and when the command ‘forward’ was given, thus sounded a shout almost deafening from both sides. Artillery and musketry of Bate’s, Walker’s Cheatham’s, and Cleburne’s divisions, made a display of smoke and noise representing perfectly the exact features of a deadly conflict with the enemy. However this was nothing of the death suffering and mental distress that more or less comes in every engagement with forces determined for success or death." Ironically, the sham battle produced casualties as "after the infantry finished their part of the program they were formed into squares to resists the attacks of Cavalry . . . Several Cavalry men were wounded . . . with paper wads, and . . . one horse . . . had been struck with a bayonet." Long overdue, the 6th Florida would benefit by a large issue from the Army’s Quartermaster of shirts and trousers in April.
In April, as spring bloomed in earnest, the soldiers turned once more to town ball for amusement. Washington Ives explained that "the boys are killing time in camp by playing ball, which is such good exercise that it will fit them for the fatiguing marches to be taken this summer. The Soldiers here are undoubtedly, at this time more lighthearted and like schoolboys than I ever saw them. Maj. Lash and Col. Badger often play ball with the men." The fiercest rivalry in the brigade existed between the 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted and 4th Florida and 6th Florida. In several contests, the combined 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted and 4th Florida Infantry remained undefeated in their series with the 6th Florida, though they tied the 7th Florida in the only meeting between the two regiments. The combined 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry missed out on most of the excitement, for General Bate dispatched the regiment on April 15, to guard against any threats against the Western & Atlantic’s trestle that spanned the Oostanula River at Resaca.
As reported on April 30, the 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry consolidated (Maj. Glover A. Ball); 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted and 4th Florida Infantry consolidated (Maj. Jacob A. Lash); the 6th Florida Infantry (Col. Angus D. McLean); and the 7th Florida Infantry (Lt. Col. Tillman Ingram) were brigaded under command of Brig. Gen Jesse J. Finley, in Bate's Division (Brig. Gen William B. Bate) of Hardee's Corps (Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee).
At the beginning of May, General William T. Sherman’s Federal force began moving south from the Chattanooga area. With the Yankee columns observed marching toward their position, most Confederate soldiers expected a fight soon, before Rocky Face Ridge, just west of their winter quarters at Dalton. General Finley’s troops began the Atlanta campaign uniformly armed with the cumbersome and relatively ineffective .69 Springfield musket, provided to the units sometime during the Dalton winter encampment. At a time when Federal units were armed with rifled-muskets and lever-action repeaters, the Floridians would find themselves at a distinct disadvantage in a firefight.
Rocky Face Ridge - May 7–13, 1864
Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had entrenched his army on the long, high mountain of Rocky Face Ridge and eastward across Crow Valley. For nearly a week, General William B. Bate’s Division manned the trenches that overlooked Mill Creek Gap; the general observed in his Official Report that during this time, "skirmishing with artillery and small arms occurred constantly." On May 7, 1864, Confederate pickets, stationed on the ridge’s western edge, encountered the blue-clad enemy as Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s columns marched southward to offer battle. News of the skirmishing reached the Confederates at Dalton, and soon, the various divisions rushed to occupy their entrenchments. Sherman demonstrated against this position with two columns while he sent a third one through Snake Creek Gap, to the south, to hit the Western & Atlantic Railroad at Resaca. The first two columns engaged the enemy at Buzzard Roost (Mill Creek Gap) and at Dug Gap while the third column, under Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, passed through Snake Creek Gap and on the May 9 advanced to the outskirts of Resaca, where it found Confederates entrenched. Fearing the strength of the enemy, McPherson pulled his column back to Snake Creek Gap. On May 10, Sherman decided to join McPherson in an effort to take Resaca. The next morning, Sherman's army withdrew from in front of Rocky Face Ridge. On May 12, General Johnston confirmed that Sherman was moving on Resaca in force and the next day ordered his two corps to march there with all haste.
Battle of Resaca - May 13–15, 1864
Finley’s Brigade arrived on the morning of May 13; though tired from a night march, they immediately engaged in building field works by taking down a worm fence and hastily covering up the rails with earth. On the 13th, the Union troops tested the Rebel lines to pinpoint their whereabouts. General William Hardee’s Corps occupied the center of the line, with Bate’s Division anchored on Hindman’s’ left flank; Finley’s Brigade was stationed on the left of Bate’s line.
Though the Union attacks on the afternoon of May 14 aimed at a point to the north of Finley’s soldiers, the Florida Brigade’s pickets remained active throughout the day, maintaining a brisk fire at their Federal counterparts. When the Federal assaults faltered under a withering fire, General Sherman made use of his numerical advantage in artillery pieces, ordering a bombardment of the Rebel works. In the main line of entrenchments, the 1st Cavalry and 4th Florida and 7th Florida found some protection behind their hastily built earthworks. The 1st and 3rd Florida and 6th Florida, lying in reserve to the rear of the entrenchments, received the worst of the cannonading.
During the fierce bombardment, an errant shell impacted against a tree growing near the Floridians’s line; General Finley was struck in the face by a fragment of the splintered tree. He was reported to have passed a hand over his face and, seeing blood, to have remarked, "This is the first blood I have lost in this war." Assistant Surgeon Henry McCall Holmes estimated that the Floridians’s casualties for the day totaled 100. The Union troops were generally repulsed except on the Rebel right flank where Sherman did not fully exploit his advantage.
On the 15th, while enduring yet another enemy shelling, a Yankee round severed a heavy limb from a tree near where Finley’s had established his headquarters; in falling, it crashed upon the general’s shoulder. Believing the resulting injury to be nothing more serious than a contusion, he remained in command of the brigade. Two days later, a surgical examination revealed that he had suffered a broken collar bone. The General would recuperate in Florida until August, with Colonel Robert Bullock assuming command.
May 14-15th, 1864, Resaca, Georgia-
"…we got the worst shelling here that we ever had, and yet held our position." Capt. John L. Inglis, 1st & 3rd Florida Infantry consolidated.
"...the Artillery firing at the two days fight at Resaca was the most terrific I ever witnessed . . . We were exposed to an enfilading fire both from Artillery and sharp shooters." - Sergt. Archibald Livingston, 1st & 3rd Florida Infantry consolidated.
The battle continued with no advantage to either side until Sherman sent a force across the Oostanula River, at Lay’s Ferry, towards Johnston’s railroad supply line. Unable to halt this Union movement, the Army of Tennessee evacuated Resaca on the night of May 15, after General Johnston received word that Federal divisions had crossed the Oostanaula River downstream, and once more threatened the railroad that supplied the Army of Tennessee. Johnston’s force retreated south along the railroad to Adairsville, with Bate’s and Cleburne’s divisions acting as a rearguard.
Adairsville - May 17, 1864
Following the Battle of Resaca, May 13–15, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’ s army retreated southward while Sherman pursued. Failing to find a good defensive position south of Calhoun, Johnston continued to Adairsville while the Rebel cavalry fought a skillful rearguard action. On the 17th, skirmish fire continued throughout the day and into the early evening. Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard’s IV Corps ran into entrenched infantry of Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee’ s corps, while advancing, about two miles north of Adairsville. The 44th Illinois and 24th Wisconsin (under the command of Maj. Arthur MacArthur, father of Douglas) attacked Cheatham’s Division at Robert Saxon (the Octagon House) and incurred heavy losses. Three Union divisions prepared for battle, but Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas halted them due to the approach of darkness. Sherman then concentrated his men in the Adairsville area to attack Johnston the next day. Johnston had originally expected to find a valley at Adairsville of suitable width to deploy his men and anchor his line with the flanks on hills. The valley, however, was too wide, so Johnston disengaged and withdrew.
Despite the unsuitable terrain for sustaining a defensive battle at Adairsville, Johnston did plan to launch a limited offensive designated to destroy a portion of Sherman’s force. By dispatching Hardee’s Corps to Kingston with the army’s wagons, he hoped Sherman would divide his army so that it could march to outflank the new Confederate position. Generals John Bell Hood’s and Leonidas Polk’s Corps would stand by near Cassville to surprise the Union force dispatched toward that town. The trap failed when General Hood, as he prepared to launch an assault at General John Schofield’s Army of the Ohio, discovered Federal troops on his unprotected right flank.
On May 19 and 20, the Army of Tennessee remained in defensive works below Cassville awaiting a Federal assault; however, Generals Hood and Polk voiced concern over the vulnerability of their works to Federal artillery fire, and proposed a withdrawal. The fact that the Federal army forced crossings over the Etowah River on the Confederate left flank enhanced the need for a retreat. Johnston’s army fell back to Allatoona, where the road and railroad funneled through a narrow gap, in hopes of establishing a new position there.
The Army of Tennessee rested near Allatoona on May 21 and 22, where some found the time to bath the red dirt and powder stains from their bodies, although their uniforms remained filthy. Johnston’s cavalry reported the Federal move nearly as soon as it began and as a result, the general put the Army of Tennessee in motion for the crossroads town of Dallas. The Confederates won the race and began entrenching as soon as they arrived. Hardee’s Corps occupied the Army of Tennessee’s left flank at Dallas, and the army’s line ran northeast for several miles.
Sherman decided that he would most likely pay dearly for attacking Johnston there, so he determined to move around Johnston’s left flank and steal a march toward Dallas. Johnston anticipated Sherman’s move and met the Union forces at New Hope Church. Sherman mistakenly surmised that Johnston had a token force and ordered Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s corps to attack. This corps was severely mauled. On the 26th, both sides entrenched, and skirmishing continued throughout the day.
Dallas / New Hope Church / Pickett’s Mills - May 25–28, 1864
On May 25 and 27, General Sherman launched two ill-advised assaults on what he believed was the Confederates’ right flank; these sharp fights at the Battles of New Hope Church and Pickett’s Mill resulted in heavy Federal casualties. While both engagements occurred to the north of the Floridians’s position, heavy skirmishing occurred on their front during these days. On the evening of May 27, details from the 1st Cavalry and 4th Florida slipped out of the main line of entrenchments under the cover of darkness to occupy the rifle pits in the brigade’s front.On May 28, Johnston instructed General Bate’s Division to probe the Army of the Tennessee’s works; essentially, Bate was to push in the enemy’s skirmishers and determine if McPherson’s Federals were still in position.
On May 28, while heavy firing raged to the south, the Florida Brigade lay behind their own breastworks, awaiting the order to move forward. On the 6th Florida’s line, Colonel Angus McLean had finished explaining General Bate’s orders to his subordinates, and then stood atop the earthworks to observe the Federal line. With the hot sun beating down upon his brow, the young colonel turned to a soldier below, and asked for a swallow from his canteen. The words had just exited his lips when a Yankee skirmisher’s Minie bullet passed through his head, and McLean slumped backward into the entrenchments. One of his many relatives in the regiment passed the sad news to the folks in Walton County: “Mr. King caught him, I sprang to him & assisted in laying him down & for a minute or two supported his head with my hand. He never spoke or groaned. Closed his own eyes & died in a few minutes.” Lt. Col. Lafayette Kenan assumed command of the 6th Florida following his superior’s death.
May 28, 1864 - Dallas, Georgia - "We kept watch from the ditches, all sleeping on our arms while there. But one afternoon, while the soldiers lay closely in the ditches for protection from sharpshooters' bullets, many of them enjoying sweet sleep, there came an order down the line from our right through the officers, Put your men in readiness to pass over the breastworks and take the enemy's line in their front." Capt. McKinnon had to awaken from sleep several of his men to give the order and whispered to me as he passed, "I feel that I am awakening these men to go to their deaths." And it was true with very many of them. Just as we were crossing over in front of our works Capt. McKinnon called to me, saying. "Col. McLean is dead, shot through the head !" Shot while moving up the line getting his men ready to pass over to the front sharpshooters' bullets. He fell here as the first sacrifice of the day's battle - a noble young soldier - my kinsman, my schoolmate for many years at old Knox Hill Academy." - 2nd Lieut. John Love McKinnon, Company D, 1st Florida Infantry Regiment
Lieutenant Colonel Kenan immediately assumed command of the 6th Florida, with Major R. H. M. Davidson stepping up into Kenan's position as Lieutenant Colonel. Colonel Bullock gave the order for the Florida Brigade to form lines of battle beyond the entrenchments and prepare for the assault. Armstrong’s men had encountered heavy resistance in their attack, and Bate had dispatched couriers to his brigade commanders informing them not to attack. General Joseph Lewis and Colonel Bullock felt they had missed the signal due to the intense firing. The couriers failed to General Joseph Lewis and Colonel Bullock in time, and soon the Orphans and Floridians were advancing toward the enemy line. This premise on the part of General Lewis of the Orphan Brigade, and of Colonel Bullock had tragic consequence.
The Floridians and Orphans swept across a field cleared of trees and brush, much as they had done at Chickamauga the previous fall. As the soldiers tramped forward across the thick underbrush, the Army of the Tennessee’s XV and XVI Corps fortifications frowned down upon them from atop a ridge. Not long after the advance began, Federal skirmishers unleashed a volley. Despite being stunned and staggered by the initial firing, the two Confederate brigades overran the Federal rifle pits, which lay 100 yards from the enemy’s main line of works, and engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the Yankees.
May 28, 1864 - Dallas, Georgia - “...there rose the Yankees in three or four ranks, I know it seemed to me that the air was blue with their uniforms. As they rose they fired volley after volley into our single line of battle. . . .”- Lieut Henry Reddick, Company E, 1st Florida Infantry
The Floridians and Orphans should have stopped their assault at the picket line, as the Federals’ main works were in view and it was clear that they were occupied. Yet the two brigades continued their advance; passing over the rifle pits. Standing face-to-face with the Federals, the plight of the Rebels’s terrible situation became clear. The Florida Brigade exchanged fire with the entrenched Federals foes for twenty minutes at close range and would suffer horrendous casualties for their valor. The Florida Brigade could take no more and began a withdrawal under the cover of the hanging smoke having accomplished nothing and suffering immensely for the attempt.
May 28, 1864 - Dallas, Georgia - "The smoke from the firing of the two armies became so dense that it almost enveloped the place in darkness, which was to our advantage. Lieutenant Stebbins grabbed the flag when Bridgman fell. The order was given to fall back to our breastworks. Stebbins, though badly wounded, tore the flag from its staff, crammed it in his bosom and brought it off. Passing the infirmary corps with many wounded friends and as we were rising to the top of the hill, and very near our works of safety, Capt. Columbus Cobb, from that part of Walton that went to make Santa Rosa county, turned to me and said, "Did you ever hear of such a fool order for the massacre of noble men?" These words had scarcely passed his lips when a minnie ball struck him in the left side, and he fell over on his face a dead man without a struggle. I ran to him, tried to lift him, but soon found that he was gone. Almost safe behind our impregnable breastworks, but lost! The curtains of night were being let down around us as we reached our fortifications. Oh! I shall never forget the sad solitary thoughts that kept vigil in my active mind all through that long, lonely, bloody night! This battle is called by some, "New Hope Church,"by others,"Dallas." - 2nd Lieut. John Love McKinnon, Company D, 1st Florida Infantry Regiment
The 6th Florida, in addition to the death of Colonel Mclean earlier, lost Major Robert H. M Davidson when he went down with a portion of one foot mangled by an enemy bullet. Surviving the amputation of a foot following the Battle of Dallas, Davidson convalesced in Gadsden County, Florida. The men of the 6th Florida and their Brigade did not lose their fighting edge following Dallas; however, many veterans began to question the effectiveness of frontal assaults against an entrenched enemy. Major Davidson was officially promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on August 9, with an effective date of May 28.
Sherman continued looking for a way around Johnston’s line, and, on June 1, his cavalry occupied Allatoona Pass, which had a railroad and would allow his men and supplies to reach him by train. Sherman abandoned his lines at Dallas on June 5 and moved toward the railhead at Allatoona Pass forcing Johnston to follow soon afterwards.
Marietta Operations - June 9 - July 3, 1864
By June 1, heavy rains turned the roads to quagmires and Sherman was forced to return to the railroad to supply his men. Johnston's new line (called the Brushy Mountain Line) was established by June 4 northwest of Marietta, along Lost Mountain, Pine Mountain, and Brush Mountain. Despite the miserable rains and continuous Federal artillery and rifle fire, the 6th Florida would engage in no heavy fighting with the enemy. Sherman, having gathered his armies near Acworth on the Western and Atlantic, used the first ten days of the new month to resupply and repair the rail lines before moving against the Confederates’ new lines based around the heights of Kennesaw Mountain. On June 2, General Bate’s Division occupied Pine Mountain, described by the general as, “an isolated hill rising some two or three hundred feet from the level of the plain with graceful slopes on either flank studded with timber . . . This point . . . in advance of & separated from the line occupied by the main army & hence was found a serious obstruction to his movement, a thorn in his pathway, which he could not well pass without being pierced in the flank and dared not assault.” Defensive positions were completed by June 7. When Sherman first found Johnston entrenched in the Marietta area on June 9, he began extending his lines beyond the Confederate lines, causing some Rebel withdrawal to new positions. On June 10, the Federals had advanced to within rifle range of the Confederate pickets and firing began anew.
On June 14, following eleven days of steady rain, Sherman was ready to move again. Yankee artillery on the plain below began firing rounds at any movement observed along the Confederate lines, making life uncomfortable for the Rebels. At eleven a.m., Generals Johnston, William Hardee, and Leonidas Polk arrived at the Florida Brigade’s headquarters atop Pine Mountain for the purpose of determining whether Bate’s Division should be withdrawn; they were greeted by Colonel William S. Dilworth, who had recently arrived from Florida and taken command of the brigade from Bullock. While the Confederate generals examined the countryside from the crown of the ridge, General Sherman was conducting a personal reconnaissance, and spotted a group of Confederate officers on Pine Mountain and ordered one of his artillery batteries to open fire. Several rounds were aimed at the gathering of officers. Following the passage of a solid shot over head, Colonel Dilworth asked the generals to remove to safer ground; yet as they did so the colonel recorded “something had attracted his [Polk’s] attention and he stopped behind. A moment later . . . someone exclaimed: ‘General Polk is killed!’” While awaiting an ambulance to remove the body, Generals Johnston and Hardee grieved the loss of their comrade and friend within Colonel Dilworth’s headquarters tent. That evening after the sunset, Bate’s Division retreated from Pine Mountain.
On June 18–19, Johnston, fearing envelopment, withdrew to an arc-shaped position centered on Kennesaw Mountain. This entrenched arc-shaped line, to the north and west of Marietta, protected the Western & Atlantic Railroad, the supply link to Atlanta. By June 20, Hardee’s Corps was entrenched on significantly lower ground in the center of the line. Despite the relative quiet on their portion of the battlefield, the Floridians lost several soldiers to death and wounds on the picket line. On June 26 though, the men received a boost in both morale and effectiveness when the entire brigade was reequipped with Enfield rifled-muskets.
June 21, 1864 - from Atlanta Hospital - “They are suffering terribly from sickness - wether [sic] is enough to kill them. Heavy rains have been falling for . . . two weeks and the Army has it all to take. The men are in an awful fix not being able to have any washing done for sixty days...the army seems to keep their spirts [sic] and feel confident of success. . . .” - Captain Hugh Black, Company A, 6th Florida.
Kennesaw Mountain - June 27, 1864
Sherman was sure that Johnston had stretched his line too thin and, therefore, decided on a frontal attack with some diversions on the flanks. On the morning of June 27, Sherman sent his troops forward after an artillery bombardment. At first, they made some headway overrunning Confederate pickets south of the Burnt Hickory Road, but attacking an enemy that was dug in was futile. The fighting ended by noon and settled into stalemate, though sporadic exchanges continued until July 1. For two days, the wounded and dying suffered without water under broiling sun; the dead were quickly decomposing. On June 29, two sides finally agreed upon a cease fire to remove the wounded and bury the deceased. The truce held until 4 p.m., and the space between the lines again became a no-man's land.
June 29, 1864 - Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia - “their [Federal] dead lay on the field until they began to stink,”..."[during the cease fire] the Yankies came up & talked with our men and appeared to be very social. It looked very strange sure to see them appearantly [sic] so friendly to each other.”..."[After 4 p.m.] hostilities again commenced & the same men who were so friendly now commenced shooting each other. Oh, this war is a most horrible thing." - Sergt. John A. Campbell, Company H, 6th Florida Regiment
Sherman's armies suffered about 3,000 casualties in comparison to Johnston's 1,000. The Union general was not initially deterred by these losses and he twice asked Thomas to renew the assault. "Our loss is small, compared to some of those [battles in the] East." The Rock of Chickamauga replied, however, "One or two more such assaults would use up this army." A few days later Sherman mournfully wrote to his wife, "I begin to regard the death and mangling of couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash.
Kennesaw Mountain was not Sherman's first large-scale frontal assault of the war, but it was his last. He interrupted his string of successful flanking maneuvers in the Atlanta campaign for the logistical reasons mentioned earlier, but also so that he could keep Johnston guessing about the tactics he would employ in the future. In his report of the battle, Sherman wrote, "I perceived that the enemy and our officers had settled down into a conviction that I would not assault fortified lines. All looked to me to outflank. An army to be efficient, must not settle down to a single mode of offence, but must be prepared to execute any plan which promises success. I wanted, therefore, for the moral effect, to make a successful assault against the enemy behind his breastworks, and resolved to attempt it at that point where success would give the largest fruits of victory."
In the days following the attack on the Kennesaw Mountain positions, General Sherman worked his army around the Confederate left flank, forcing Johnston to abandon his strong position on July 2. Johnston fell back toward Smyrna on July 3 and by July 4 to a defensive line along the west bank of the Chattahoochee River that became known as Johnston's River Line. Only a week later on July 9, portions of General Sherman’s force effected a crossing of the Chattahoochee River, less than ten miles from Atlanta. The next day, Johnston abandoned the River Line and retired south of Peachtree Creek, an east to west flowing stream, about three miles north of Atlanta.of Atlanta; the Floridians would be inactive for nearly a week.
In a handwritten letter to Johnston had drawn Union general William T. Sherman deeper and deeper into Georgia, hoping but failing to isolate Sherman's forces, cut his dangerously extended supply lines, and lure him into a trap. Convinced that Johnston was willing to give up Atlanta without a fight, and alarmed by Johnston's suggestion that Union prisoners being held south of the city at Andersonville prison be moved, President Jefferson Davis wrote a personal letter to Confederate general Robert E. Lee on July 12, 1864, forcefully urges the immediate removal of General Joseph E. Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee.
Sherman split his army into three columns for the assault on Atlanta with George H. Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland moving from the north. Johnston had decided to attack Thomas, but on July 17, word arrived that Jefferson Davis, unsatisfied with General Johnston’s handling of the campaign and at a loss as to what the general might do to halt Sherman’s advance, removed ‘Old Joe,’ and replaced him with John Bell Hood on July 18.
July 20, 1864 - Peachtree Creek, Georgia - “The men are bitterly opposed to the Change and Swear that they Will not fight under Hood." - Captain Hugh Black, Company A, 6th Florida
Effective July 18, 1864, the 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry consolidated (Maj. Glover A. Ball); 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted and 4th Florida Infantry consolidated (Maj. Jacob A. Lash); the 6th Florida Infantry (Col. Angus D. McLean); and the 7th Florida Infantry (Lt. Col. Tillman Ingram) were brigaded under command of Brig. Gen Jesse J. Finley, in Bate's Division (Brig. Gen William B. Bate) of Hardee's Corps (Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee).
On July 19, Hood discovered that Sherman had moved two of his armies, those of McPherson and Schofield, east of Atlanta toward the Georgia Railroad; meanwhile George Thomas’sArmy of the Cumberland moved due south toward the city. Hood intended for WilliamHardee’s and Alexander P. Stewart’s Corps (Polk’s old unit) to strike Thomas’s troops as they emerged onto high ground just south of Peachtree Creek. Hood envisioned an attack similar to Robert E. Lee’s plan on the Second Day at Gettysburg, with the “assault divisions advancing ‘en echelon’ from his right, . . . .” The Confederate’s objective was to bottle Thomas’s divisions between Peachtree Creek and the Chattahoochee, and force them to surrender. Orders arrived at the Floirda brigade’s headquarters early on the morning of July 20 to prepare for battle.
Peachtree Creek - July 20, 1864
July 20, 1864 - Peachtree Creek, Georgia - "...about 9 o’clock we were ordered to fill up our canteens and . . . to take 20 extra rounds of cartridges and then we all new [sic] it was a charge and we were ordered to cross the Breast works and we done so and we were ordered to forward and we started in this time it was 10 or 11 o’clock.” - Private William McLeod, Company B, 7th Florida Infantry
General William Bate’s Division occupied the extreme right of theConfederate battle line. While the Confederates were formed in time for the planned one o’clock strike, the need to extend the lines in order to the right to cover Atlanta’s eastward approaches against McPherson and Schofield, caused delays. This movement resulted in Bate’s troops hardly became engaged. Hood attacked Thomas after his army crossed Peachtree Creek. The determined assault threatened to overrun the Union troops at various locations. Ultimately,the Yankees held. On the night of July 20, the Florida Brigade withdrew to their breastworks. The Battle of Peachtree Creek brought Hood’s Rebels no closer to halting Sherman’s advance on Atlanta, and cost the Army of Tennessee 2,500 casualties. Following the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Hood determined to attack Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee. He withdrew his main army at night from Atlanta’ s outer line to the inner line, enticing Sherman to follow. In the meantime, he sent William J. Hardee with his corps on a fifteen-mile march to hit the unprotected Union left and rear, east of the city. On the evening of July 21, General William Bate’s Division formed ranks and marched from their entrenchments on Peachtree Road. General William Hardee’s entire corps passed through the city throughout the night.
Atlanta - July 22, 1864
Throughout the early morning hours of July 22, General Hardee’s veterans trekked south of Atlanta before turning east. As the night wore on, due to the heat and fatigue “hundreds of Hardee’s men fell behind their units or dropped exhausted alongside the road.” Hardee’s Corps’s objective for July 22 was the Army of the Tennessee. General McPherson’s force was positioned astride the Georgia Railroad, which led to Decatur, Augusta and points beyond. The Yankee force’s southern flank, unprotected by cavalry, lay ripe for a crushing assault. Hood, like days earlier, chose Hardee’s veterans for the task, and ordered the old soldier to position his divisions southeast of the Union line so they might strike the rear of the unsuspecting bluecoats.
Though Hardee’s attack was to have begun at dawn, because some of the general’s troops had to disengage before redeploying, part of his corps was still in transit when daylight crept over Stone Mountain and the pine forests to the east. When the troops finally formed shortly before ten o’clock for the attack, Bate’s Division formed the extreme right of the Confederate line near Cobb’s Mill. General William Bate disposed his unit with the Florida Brigade’s 1st and 3rd Florida and 6th Florida regiments along with the Orphan Brigade occupied his front rank, while the 7th Florida and 1st Cavalry and 4th Florida and Colonel Smith’s Brigade formed a second line. Bate’s Division moved forward at eleven o’clock; quickly finding that a millpond lay across their axis of advance, the soldiers plunged in and soon found themselves in “underbrush, muck, and knee-deep water.”
July 22, 1864 - Atlanta, Gerogia - “...we had creeks and Branches to wade and we pitched rite in like they were not their.” “...the yankees knew nothing of our where a Bouts and was not expecting us their and we were in their rair on their left flank and that pleased us all." - Private William McLeod, Company B, 7th Florida Infantry
Although Hood had outmaneuvered Sherman for the time being, McPherson was concerned about his left flank and sent his reserves—Grenville Dodge’s XVI Army Corps—to that location. Unknown to General Bate, Major General Grenville Dodge’s troops had by eleven o’clock occupied a hill that overlooked swampy, brush-covered low ground, ready to meet any threat. As the Confederate soldiers emerged from the entangled millpond they came under fire from Dodge’s artillery; Bate, stunned that the Federal left flank was not undefended, quickly threw his division at the newly discovered enemy. The swampy, obstacle-laden ground just south of the Union line proved a major detriment to the attackers. Bate later confessed that in this area, “the line moved on through of necessity in fragments as only stout and athletic men were able to pass the morass in good time, while many were killed and wounded in struggling through its mire.” The Federal troops placed a tremendous volume of fire into the Rebel ranks. Bate’s entire division, after coming under attack from Yankee soldiers on their left, drifted to the northeast to escape the horrible killing zone
The Rebel attack stalled on the Union rear but began to roll up the left flank. Around the same time, a Confederate soldier shot and killed McPherson when he rode out to observe the fighting. Determined attacks continued, but the Union forces held. About 4:00 pm, Cheatham’s corps broke through the Union front at the Hurt House, but Sherman massed twenty artillery pieces on a knoll near his headquarters to shell these Confederates and halt their drive. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan’ s XV Army Corps then led a counterattack that restored the Union line. The Union troops held, and Hood suffered high casualties.
July 22, 1864 - Atlanta, Gerogia - “...went into the fight on the 22nd with ten good large companies and they now . . . make but five very small companies...[Many Florida soldiers] swear that they will not charge any more Yankee breastworks. They have told the General [Bate] they will not charge breastworks." - Captain Hugh Black, Company A, 6th Florida
Hardee’s July 22, 1864 assault on the Army of the Tennessee failed to achieve the results that General Hood had imagined. In the aftermath of a battle, those soldiers only slightly wounded often returned to the ranks within days. Troops that sustained more serious injuries first received attention at aid stations established to the rear of the fighting, and then endured a jolting ambulance ride to one of the brigade’s infirmaries in Atlanta. As the third month of the Atlanta Campaign ended, more than 800 Florida Brigade wounded and sick lay in a series of hospitals between Atlanta and Columbus and at their homes in Florida.
At the Battle of Atlanta, Hood had not defeated Sherman, but he had kept them away from the city. Sherman's army stretched in an inverted U around the northern defenses of Atlanta. Sherman now decided to attack from the west; he ordered the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard, to move from the left wing to the right and cut Hood’s last railroad supply line between East Point and Atlanta, thus forcing the defending army to withdraw without a direct assault. Hood, anticipating Sherman's maneuver, moved his troops out to oppose the Union army. Hood planned to intercept them and catch them completely by surprise. Although Hood's Confederate troops were outnumbered by the main Union army, he calculated that a surprise attack against an isolated portion of the enemy could succeed.
Ezra Church - July 28, 1864
On July 28, 1864, General Hood launched a third assault aimed at Sherman’s troops northwest of Atlanta near a chapel called Ezra Church. Unfortunately for Hood, there was no surprise for Howard, who had predicted such a maneuver based on his knowledge of Hood from their time together at West Point before the war. His troops were already waiting in their trenches when Hood reached them. The Confederate army attacked, but fell back before the Union army's improvised breastwork of logs and rails. The rebels were defeated, although they managed to stop Howard from reaching the railroad line. In all, about 3,642 men were casualties; 3,000 on the Confederate side and 642 on the Union side.
Ezra Church signaled a shift in fighting for Atlanta, as in the following month, Sherman’s plans would focus on cutting the railroads that kept Hood’ s army provisioned. As the Union forces extended their line southward, General Hood stretched his own small army thinly to protect his supply lines. William J. Hardee’s Corps lay along the new line south of Atlanta; the Florida Brigade spent the last days of July and the first of August constructing fortifications.
By August 1864, the Florida Brigade’s numbers had decreased, due to illness and casualties, and three months of hard campaigning had worn out their uniforms, causing a deficiency in nearly every item of clothing deemed a necessity by the soldiers. Due to a want of soap the men reeked of foul odor, and their bodies, like the little clothing they possessed, bore a red hue from lying in the Georgia clay. A distinct minority also did without knapsacks and canteens; a few had even lost their cartridge boxes. On August 3, 1864, the much reduced Florida Brigade’s leadership passed to its fourth commander during the course of the campaign. Wounded, probably by shell fragments, on August 3, Colonel Robert Bullock relinquished command to 6th Florida Colonel Daniel Lafayette Kenan.
Utoy Creek - August 4–7, 1864
After failing to envelop Hood’s left flank at Ezra Church, Sherman still wanted to extend his right flank to hit the railroad between East Point and Atlanta. He transferred John M. Schofield’ s Army of the Ohio from his left to his right flank and sent him to the north bank of Utoy Creek. Although Schofield’s troops were at Utoy Creek on August 2, they, along with the XIV Corps, Army of the Cumberland, did not cross until the 4th. Schofield’s force began its movement to exploit this situation on the morning of the 5th, which was initially successful. Schofield then had to regroup his forces, which took the rest of the day. General Hood countered the Federal’s early August movement by dispatching General Bate’s Division to hold the extreme left of the Confederate line. Schofield’s delay allowed the Rebels to hastily dig rifle pits, and to construct and place before them abatis, which slowed the Union attack when it restarted on the morning of the August 6. The Federals were repulsed with heavy losses by Bate’s Division and failed in an attempt to break the railroad. That evening, Bate withdrew into a freshly constructed line of entrenchments that secured the railroad south to the important junction of East Point. On August 7, the Union troops moved toward the Confederate main line skirmishing and extending to their right and entrenched. Several attacks were made at Sandtown Road (Campbellton at Adams Park) on 10 August and East Point on 18 August. Here US Forces remained, as far south as the Atlanta Christian College, until late August 1864 when the failure of Schofield's offensive operations convinced Sherman to move on the Confederate lines of communication and supply. Throughout the miserable days of August, Florida Brigade’s entrenchments lay just opposite those of the Federal XVII Corps; an informal ceasefire was declared by the pickets on August 14. Despite the promise among the pickets not to fire at one another, the artillery remained active.
In late August, Sherman determined that if he could cut Hood’s supply lines—the Macon & Western and the Atlanta & West Point Railroads—the Rebels would have to evacuate Atlanta. Sherman, therefore, decided to move six of his seven infantry corps against the Macon & Western Railroad between Rough and Ready and Jonesborough. They would also eastward and take possession of the Macon and Western line at Jonesboro, fifteen miles south of Atlanta, attempting to sever Hood’s last supply line. On August 25, the first of General Sherman’s armies quietly slipped away from their trenches after dark. The Army of the Tennessee reached the Atlanta & West Point Railroad south of Atlanta on August 27. The Army of the Cumberland also seized a section of the tracks On August 28. On August 28, General Bate’s Division marched to and entrenched at Rough and Ready on the Macon & Western in preparation to receive an attack.
On August 30, 1864, the Army of the Tennessee established a bridgehead over the Flint River only one mile from Jonesboro and the vital Macon & Western. To counter this threat, General Hood ordered General William Hardee to hasten his own corps and that of Stephen D. Lee to Jonesboro and attack the Army of the Tennessee early the next morning. The Floridians, for the second time during the campaign, would complete a night march and then attack the enemy.
Effective August 31, 1864, the 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry consolidated (Maj. Glover A. Ball); 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted and 4th Florida Infantry consolidated (Maj. Jacob A. Lash); the 6th Florida Infantry (Capt. Henry B. Grace); and the 7th Florida Infantry (Major Nathan S. Blount) were brigaded under command of Col. Daniel L. Kenan, in Bate's Division (Maj. Gen. John C. Brown) of Hardee's Corps (Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee).
August 31, 1864 (early morning) - Near Jonesborough, Georgia - “...we heard the enemy fire about 30 guns at the scouts, and as they never returned, I expect they were either killed or captured . . . We then marched back 1 ½ miles on the road we had come and took a left hand road to Jonesboro, which we reached at sunrise . . . .” - Sergt. Washington M. Ives, Company C, 4th Florida Infantry Regiment
Jonesborough - August 31 - September 1, 1864
On August 31, the Army of the Tennessee awaited a Confederate attack upon a ridge crowned with breastworks; the Rebels had but to look west across an open field to glimpse their foe’s fortified position. While Federal pickets and artillery kept the Confederates at bay, infantry and pioneers made a strong position (since both flanks rested upon the Flint River’s banks) even more defensible by further reinforcing their entrenchments against a possible frontal assault.
Despite these formidable obstacles just before three p.m., the Confederates shouldered their arms and started forward. The Florida Brigade’s soldiers, looking forward would have seen General Finley, just returned from Florida, at their front prepared to lead them into battle. Finley’s Brigade surged forward against the enemy’s position, despite thousands of rifled-muskets and dozens of cannon blazing away at their ranks. General Finley fell wounded, as a Federal projectile pierced a boot, inflicted a painful wound on one of his feet, and then killed his mount. Colonel Kenan briefly assumed command of the unit, but soon thereafter retired from the field after a Minie bullet tore through his left hand, severing two fingers. The brigade’s surviving ranking officer, Major Glover Ball, realizing the futility of attempting another assault against the strong Federal line, ordered a withdrawal toward Jonesboro. General Finley, who once more traveled to Florida to convalesce, never again commanded the brigade that bore his name.
Fearing an attack on Atlanta, Hood withdrew one corps from Hardee's force that night. The next day, a Union corps broke through Hardee's line, and his troops retreated to Lovejoy's Station. Sherman had cut Hood's supply line but he had failed to destroy Hardee's command. Though more fighting took place at Jonesboro on September 1, for all practical purposes the August 31 engagement marked the final battle of the campaign.
On the night of September 1, Hood evacuated Atlanta and ordered that the 81 rail cars filled with ammunition and other military supplies be destroyed. The resulting fire and explosions were heard for miles. Union troops under the command of Gen. Henry W. Slocum occupied Atlanta on September 2. On September 4, 1864, General Sherman issued Special Field Order # 64, announcing to his troops that, "The army having accomplished its undertaking in the complete reduction and occupation of Atlanta will occupy the place and the country near it until a new campaign is planned in concert with the other grand armies of the United States."
General Hood first proposed the return of combatants a week after Atlanta’s fall, and Sherman assented to exchange 2,000 soldiers captured during the Atlanta Campaign’s final phase. The Confederates returned to the Army of Tennessee’s encampment during September’s third week; the Florida Brigade’s numbers received a considerable boost from this unexpected manpower trade.
Because of Lafayette Kenan’s and Robert H. M. Davidson’s injuries, and Angus McLean’s untimely demise, Captain Steven Ashley Cawthon led the 6th Florida. A twenty-nine-year-old Walton County slave owner and Alabama native, Cawthon had enlisted in Company H in 1862, and became captain after McLean’s promotion to LieutenantColonel. The former farmer had failed to make a good impression on his soldiers at first. As one wrote, “the Capt. now is no military man nor any other sort of a man scarcely in my opinion. And the whole . . . have pretty much the same opinion.” By 1864, Cawthon had led his company for more than two years, but his greatest undertaking, that of leading the entire 6th Florida, was about to begin.
October 5, 1864 - Dallas, Georgia - "We left on the flank movement in a hurry and I did not have time to write to you. I think General Hoods object is to get the yanks out of Atlanta and he will do it. . . I do not think that this campain will last long all we want is to get the yanks out of Atlanta and then we will go there ourselves and go into winter quarters." - Corp. Benjamin Robert Glover, Company D, 6th Florida Infantry Regiment
Effective September 20, 1864, the 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry consolidated (Maj. Glover A. Ball); 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted and 4th Florida Infantry consolidated (Lieut. Col Edward Badger); the 6th Florida Infantry (Capt. Stephen A. Cawthon); and the 7th Florida Infantry (Major Nathan S. Blount) were brigaded under command of Col. Robert Bullock, in Bate's Division (Maj. Gen. William B. Bate) of Hardee's Corps (Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee).
On September 21, Hood moved his forces to Palmetto, Georgia, where on September 25, he was visited by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The two men planned their strategy, which called for Hood to move toward Chattanooga, Tennessee, and operate against Sherman's lines of communications. They hoped that Sherman would follow and that Hood would be able to maneuver Sherman into a decisive battle on terrain favorable to the Confederates. During the conference, Davis expressed his disappointment in Hood's performance during the Atlanta Campaign, losing tens of thousands of men in ill-advised frontal assaults for no significant gains, and implied that he was considering replacing Hood in command of the army. After the president's departure for Montgomery, Alabama, he telegraphed Hood that he had decided to retain him in command.
The Floridians began the fall campaign without their long-time corps commander, William J. Hardee. Jefferson Davis, who visited the beleaguered army once more in late-September, found tension between Hardee and his commanding officer. In addition to retaining Hood, President Davis transferred General Hardee to the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Major General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham, a Mexican War veteran and commander of the Tennessee division, assumed command of Hardee’s old corps.
On September 29, the Army of Tennessee, 40,000 strong, slipped into the countryside west of Atlanta. Hood intended to sever the Western & Atlantic northwest of the recently fallen city, thereby causing Sherman to evacuate Georgia for lack of supplies. “If Sherman followed Hood north, as fully expected, the Confederate commander might compel Sherman to attack him on favorable defensive terrain, thus negating much of the Federal numerical superiority.” During the first week of October, the Army of Tennessee skirted west of Atlanta making for the Western & Atlantic; by October 5, the Florida Brigade arrived at the town of Dallas, where they had been mauled the previous May.
Hood then moved to the west and crossed the Coosa River in the vicinity of Rome, Georgia, near the Alabama state line. He turned north in the direction of Resaca, Georgia, and joined with Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler's cavalry, which had been previously raiding in Tennessee. On October 12, Hood demanded the surrender of the Union brigade stationed at Resaca and left Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee's corps there to invest the city. Hood’s ultimatum warned that no quarter would be given. Col. Clark R. Weaver, commanding the Federal Brigade, refused Hood's ultimatum to surrender, responding that, “In my opinion I can hold this post. If you want it, come and take it." Hood declined to attack the Union position because he believed that it would be too costly, instead bypassing the city, moving north, and continuing the destruction of the railroad.
On October 13, General William Bate, having rejoined his division near Rome, led his troops toward Mill Creek Gap, which the Florida Brigade defended against Sherman’s advance back in May. Presently, General Bate discovered a blockhouse, “constructed of earth and timber” guarding the pass; the position was manned by 751 men under Col. Lewis Johnson. Though Bate at first surrounded the blockhouse with his entire division, he soon dispatched the Florida Brigade and General Henry R. Jackson’s men to destroy the railroad near the fortification. As the infantry marched to tear up the rails, the Fifth Company of the Washington Artillery unlimbered two pieces within two hundred yards of the blockhouse; though threatened by this artillery, Col. Lewis Johnson’s Union force within the entrenchment refused Bate’s surrender demand. The artillery opened fire upon the works and blockhouse with great effect; after a few rounds another flag of truce was sent in and this time they surrendered.
After neutralizing the Mill Creek Gap blockhouse, the Florida Brigade encountered a sight not before witnessed during the conflict. 600 of the men in Col. Johnson’s command were African-American soldiers of the 44th United States Colored Troops (USCT); their presence enraged many in Hood's army. In surrender negotiations, Col. Johnson insisted that his black troops be treated as prisoners of war, but Hood replied that "all slaves belonging to persons in the Confederacy" would be returned to their masters. Unable to defend the garrison, Johnson surrendered and the 600 black soldiers were stripped of their shoes and some clothing; the next day, the Florida Brigade, along with General Henry R. Jackson’s Georgia Brigade, were sent forward destroying the R R from Mill Creek Gap to Tunnel Hill. The USCT prisoners were used tear up the track for a distance of nearly two miles; six of the Union soldiers were shot for refusing to work or being unable to keep up with the march. Col. Johnson and his white officers were parole, but some of his black soldiers were returned to slavery.
From Resaca, Hood withdrew on a six-day march to the west toward Gadsden, Alabama, reaching it on October 20. He had hoped to engage Sherman in battle near LaFayette, Georgia, but his subordinate commanders convinced him that their troops' morale was not ready to risk an attack. He considered his campaign a success so far, having destroyed 24 miles of railroad, although this turned out to be a fleeting advantage to the South. Sherman deployed as many as 10,000 men in reconstruction and by October 28 regular rail service resumed between Chattanooga and Atlanta. Sherman pursued Hood only as far as Gaylesville, Alabama, over 30 miles short of Gadsden.
Hood began to focus his strategy. He needed to prevent Thomas's army from reuniting with Sherman and overwhelming him, and he calculated that if he moved swiftly into Tennessee, he might be able to defeat Thomas before the Union forces could be reassembled. After Thomas was eliminated, Hood planned to move into central Kentucky and replenish his army with recruits from there and Tennessee. He hoped to accomplish all of this before Sherman could reach him. His plan was that if Sherman followed him, Hood would fight him in Kentucky; from there he planned to move eastward through the Cumberland Gap to aid Robert E. Lee, who was besieged at Petersburg. On October 21, Hood's plan received the reluctant approval of Gen. Beauregard, who was concerned about the daunting logistical challenges of an invasion. Beauregard insisted that Wheeler's cavalry be detached to monitor Sherman, and assigned Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry to Hood's advance. Hood set out toward Decatur, Alabama, with the intention of meeting up with Forrest in the vicinity of Florence, from where they would march north into Tennessee.
The Army of Tennessee, after receiving some badly needed clothing and blankets, departed from Gadsden on October 22, en route to Guntersville, Alabama, where he planned to cross the Tennessee River. Learning that that crossing place was strongly guarded, and concerned that Federal gunboats could destroy any pontoon bridge he might deploy, he impulsively changed his destination to Decatur, 40 miles west. When Hood arrived at Decatur on October 26, he found that a Federal infantry force of 3–5,000 men was defending an entrenched line that included two forts and 1,600 yards of rifle pits. Two Federal wooden gunboats patrolled the river. On October 28, Confederate skirmishers advanced through a dense fog to a ravine within 800 yards of the main fortifications. Around noon, a small Federal detachment drove the sharpshooters and skirmishers out of the ravine, capturing 125 men. Hood, concluding that he could not afford the casualties that would ensue from a full-scale assault, withdrew his army. He decided once again to move to the west, to attempt another crossing near Tuscumbia, Alabama, where Muscle Shoals would prevent interference by Federal gunboats.
Hood waited for Forrest at Tuscumbia for almost three weeks while his commissary officers attempted to provide a 20-day supply of rations for the upcoming campaign. This was a difficult assignment because the supply line was tenuous, requiring transport on two railroads, followed by 15 miles on poor roads to Tuscumbia, using wagons pulled by undernourished horses and oxen. Hood transferred his headquarters to Florence on the morning of November 13 and Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham's corps marched across the river that day with the army's supply trains and cattle following on November 14.
Hood's army departed Florence on November 21, marching in three columns, with Cheatham on the left, Lee in the center, and Stewart on the right, all screened by Forrest's cavalry. Hood's plan was to consolidate at Mount Pleasant and from there move to the east to cut off Schofield before he could reach Columbia and the Duck River. The rapid forced march 70 miles north was under miserable conditions, with freezing winds and sleet, which made progress difficult for the underfed and underclothed army. Nevertheless, Hood's men were in good spirits as they returned to Tennessee. By November 23, the columns faced northeastward toward Columbia. It was at this town that sat astride the Duck River that General Hood’s columns were to converge.
Columbia - November 24–29, 1864
As Gen. John Bell Hood’s army advanced northeastward from Florence, Alabama, Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield began marching his two infantry corps north from Pulaski to Columbia early on November 24. Forrest pursued aggressively with the division of Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers, who occupied Mount Pleasant and hit Capron's men repeatedly as he forced them north. Buford and Jackson drove Hatch north toward Lynnville and captured a number of prisoners, but the Confederate cavalry was unable to prevent the division of Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox from reaching Columbia. Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield’s force quickly withdrew, arriving on November 24, just ahead of Forrest’s Rebel cavalry. Stanley's corps completed a 30-mile march from Pulaski to reinforce him. Together they began constructing two lines of trenches just south of the town.
On the morning of November 24, Forrest's cavalry began probing attacks in an attempt to break through two lines of fortifications. The Confederates bombarded the lines with artillery and a number of skirmishes occurred, continuing through November 25. Schofield correctly deduced that only a single infantry division with some dismounted cavalry were participating in the attacks and that Hood was merely demonstrating, intending to cross the Duck River either upstream or downstream and cut off the Union force from Thomas, who was assembling the remainder of his force in Nashville.
General Bate’s Division reached their intended destination on November 26; skirmishers discovered Union soldiers entrenched before the town, and General Hood soon ordered his three corps to invest the Yankee fortifications. General Cheatham’s Corps took position on the right, with his own right flank anchored on the Duck River and the other forming on General A. P. Stewart’s troops. Hood advanced his infantry on November 26 but did not assault. He made demonstrations along the front while marching two corps of his army to Davis Ford, some five miles eastward on the Duck River. On the morning of November 26, Schofield received an order from Thomas to hold the north bank of the Duck River until reinforcements under A. J. Smith could arrive from Nashville. Schofield planned to move his trains during the day and his infantry overnight, using a railroad bridge and a recently installed pontoon bridge, but heavy rains that day made approaches to the bridge impassable. He was unable to cross to the north bank before November 28, leaving Columbia to the Confederates.. Schofield had slowed Hood’s movement but had not stopped him.
On November 28, Forrest crossed the river east of town against little resistance from the Union cavalry; the Southern cavalrymen had deceived Wilson and drawn his force to the northeast and away from the action. On the same day, Thomas directed Schofield to begin preparations for a withdrawal north to Franklin. He was expecting (incorrectly) that A. J. Smith's arrival from Missouri was imminent and he wanted the combined force to defend against Hood on the line of the Harpeth River at Franklin instead of the Duck River. Schofield sent his 800-wagon supply train out in front, guarded by part of the IV Corps division of Brig. Gen. George D. Wagner.
Spring Hill - November 29, 1864
On the night of November 28, 1864, Gen. John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee marched toward Spring Hill to get astride Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield’s Union army’s life line. Cavalry skirmishing between Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson’s Union cavalry and Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate troopers continued throughout the day as the Confederates advanced. On November 29, Hood’s infantry crossed Duck River and converged on Spring Hill. In the meantime, Maj. Gen. Schofield reinforced the troops holding the crossroads at Spring Hill. In late afternoon, the Federals repulsed a piecemeal Confederate infantry attack. During the night, the rest of Schofield’s command passed from Columbia through Spring Hill to Franklin. This was, perhaps, Hood’s best chance to isolate and defeat the Union army. The engagement has been described as “one of the most controversial non-fighting events of the entire war." On November 29 Hood sent Cheatham's and Stewart's corps on a flanking march north, crossing the Duck River at Davis's Ford east of Columbia while two divisions of Lee's corps and most of the army's artillery remained on the southern bank to deceive Schofield into thinking a general assault was planned against Columbia. Hood, riding near the head of the column with Cheatham's corps, planned to interpose his army between Schofield and Thomas, hoping to defeat Schofield as the Federals retreated north from Columbia. Stewart's corps followed Cheatham, and they were followed by the division of Maj. Gen. Edward "Allegheny" Johnson (Lee's corps). The rest of Lee's corps remained south of Columbia, demonstrating with artillery fire against Schofield's men north of the Duck.
Cavalry skirmishing between Wilson's and Forrest's troopers continued throughout the day. Forrest's wide turning movement with 4,000 troopers had forced Wilson north to Hurt's Corner, preventing the Union horsemen from interfering with Hood's infantry advance. By 10 a.m., Forrest ordered his men to turn west toward Spring Hill. Wilson sent multiple messages to Schofield warning of Hood's advance, but it was not until dawn on November 29 that Schofield believed the reports and realized the predicament he was in. He sent Stanley north with portions of the IV Corps to protect the trains, but also to hold the crossroads at Spring Hill to allow the entire army to withdraw safely to Franklin. Forrest's cavalrymen ran into pickets from the IV Corps; Stanley had moved north rapidly and formed up positions with Wagner's division that protected the village of Spring Hill on three sides. The brigade of Col. John Q. Lane rushed forward and pushed back the dismounted cavalrymen. Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne's division of Cheatham's corps arrived midafternoon on Forrest's left. The cavalrymen, low on ammunition, pulled out of the line and moved north to be ready to cover a further advance of Hood's army, or to block Schofield's withdrawal.
The first command miscommunication of the battle took place upon Hood's arrival. Cheatham had ordered his division under Maj. Gen. William B. Bate to move against Spring Hill in concert with Cleburne, forming up on the Irishman's left. Hood then personally ordered Bate to move towards the Columbia Pike and "sweep toward Columbia." Neither Bate nor Hood bothered to inform Cheatham of this change in orders. At about 5:30 p.m., Bate's lead element of sharpshooters fired on a Federal column approaching from their left—Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Ruger's division of the XXIII Corps, the vanguard of Schofield's main body. But before the two divisions could engage in battle, an officer from Cheatham's staff arrived to insist that Bate follow Cheatham's original orders and join Cleburne's attack. That evening, General John Schofield, who remained alert yet unsure as to Hood’s intentions until mid-afternoon, started his troops toward Spring Hill; by eight o’clock the first of Schofield’s troops were on the march to Franklin, ten miles to the north. The Florida Brigade’s soldiers built their fires that evening within several hundred yards of the Franklin Pike. Late that night, Bate reported the contact with the Federal column, but Cheatham discounted the importance of the encounter.
Columbia Pike, south of Spring HIll, Tennessee - Night of November 29th, 1864 -
“...[we] advanced, . . . before dark so near the pike that the Yanks were compelled to quit the pike and cut through the wood 7 miles, where they retook the pike.” - Sergt. Washington M. Ives, Company C, 4th Florida Infantry Regiment
“[we] lay down to sleep in line of battle so near the road that we could hear the Yankee officers giving the commands to their men as they marched down the road.” - Lieut Henry Reddick, 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry
“...they [Schofield's troops] passed us, trains and troops, nearly the whole long night.” - Captain John L. Inglis, 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry
Franklin - November 30, 1864
Having lost a good opportunity at Spring Hill to hurt significantly the Union Army, Gen. John B. Hood marched in rapid pursuit of Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield’s retreating Union army. Not long after daylight on November 30, a day that “developed bright and warm - a good example of Indian summer,” the Florida Brigade’s soldiers were tramping northward along the Franklin Pike in pursuit of Schofield’s small army. Schofield’s advance reached Franklin about sunrise on November 30 and quickly formed a defensive line in works thrown up by the Yankees in the spring of 1863, on the southern edge of town. When General Schofield’s troops reached Franklin on the morning of November 30, they discovered the bridges over the Big Harpeth River unusable; the Federal commander immediately put his soldiers to work either improving existing entrenchments or digging fresh fortifications. By afternoon the Union army manned strong entrenchments with both flanks anchored on the Big Harpeth; Schofield wished to remain in Franklin to repair the bridges and get his supply trains over them.
South of Franklin, Tennessee - 2 p.m., November 30th, 1864 - "Forrest was passing thru & they [Federal supply trains?] were stampeding. About 2 o’c reached ranged of hills 2 ½ miles from Franklin, country very hilly, the town is on Big Harper [sic] river, fordable. Our lines have formed for attack.” - Surgeon Henry McAll Holmes, 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted & 4th Florida Infantry
Arriving on the hills that overlooked a rolling country with few trees and almost no fences, Franklin sat more than two miles away. General Hood informed his subordinates of his decision to assault the Federal line. Following the previous day’s bungle, the Kentuckian had decided, according to Thomas Connelly, “to discipline his army by means of a frontal assault.” Hood aligned his two available corps so that they converged at the Federal line between the Franklin Pike, which ran in a direct north-south direction, and the Big Harpeth River a half-mile to the east. Hood ordered General Bate “to strike the Federal flank along the Carter’s Creek pike at the far west of the battlefield.” General Bate positioned his division with Generals Smith’s and Jackson’s brigades in the first line; the Florida Brigade under Colonel Robert Bullock assumed a supporting role in the second line. At four o’clock, the signal flag to advance was dropped at Cheatham’s order.
Franklin, Tennessee - Dusk through 11 p.m., November 30th, 1864 -
"...the muskets began popping in all directions, coming and going hot from both sides...our boys began dropping like corn before a hailstorm, and we never did succeed in reaching their mainline, for about fifty yards in front of it they had cut down a lot of thorny locust bushes and it was impossible in face of the hot fire to get through them....the order was given to lie down. It was the only hope for us for we cold[sic] neither go forward or go back in such a fire and live. This was about seven o’clock in the evening, and we laid there under that terrific fire until 11. . . ." -Lieut Henry Reddick, 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry
“Nearly all the men so dear to me in the long, suffering years lay around me stark and stiff in the cold.” -Captain John L. Inglis, 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry
Bate's division did not arrive until after Cleburne's and Brown's Divisions are already heavily engaged; in order to arrive at his appointed place of attack, Bate had to march his soldiers “over a mile at right angles to the main attacking force to reach the vicinity of the Carter’s Creek Pike.” Once Bate’s sapped infantry reached the assigned position, he brought forward Bullock’s unit, thus extending the left of his line so that the Florida Brigade’s center rested on Carter’s Creek pike. The Floridians’s attack at Franklin began as dusk fell. Colonel John E. Bennett, commanding the 75th Illinois, wrote “He [Bullock] advanced in good order within good-musket range. I then ordered the men to fire. The first volley partially stopped his advance. A few more well-aimed volleys sent the enemy back in confusion.”
Surgeon Henry Holmes, after working during the night of November 30 and throughout the next day to save the wounded, penned only “our loss very heavy.” Daylight revealed carnage that even the battle-hardened Rebel veterans could hardly believe. No shots rang from the Union entrenchments, for during the early morning hours of December 1, General Schofield’s army slipped unnoticed across the Big Harpeth River, moving toward Nashville. In Schofield’s wake, more than 7,500 Confederates lay on the field and around the Union entrenchments; around 1,750 of these were dead, including Patrick Cleburne and several other generals. While A.P. Stewart’s shattered corps and Stephen D. Lee’s divisions marched in pursuit of General Schofield’s men, Cheatham’s troops remained around Franklin to bury the dead. The casualties suffered by the Florida Brigade during "Hood's Killing" are impossible to extract from the general list of losses of Bate's 'Division; a conservative estimate based on those remaining on December 10 range between 50 and 100.
Franklin, Tennessee - Morning, December 1st, 1864 -
"Though it has been more than forty years since then, the scenes of the battlefield are as fresh in my mind as though it was yesterday. I think the hardest fighting must have been near the old gin house on pike road, for there bodies were so thick that we could have stepped from one to another." - Lieut Henry Reddick, 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry
“...saw at 10 A.M. human blood 3 inches deep in the ditch at the main line & running like water.” - Sergt. Washington M. Ives, Company C, 4th Florida Infantry Regiment
“boys called this battle ‘Hoods Killing.’” - 2nd Lieut. John Love McKinnon, Company D, 1st Florida Infantry Regiment
The annals of war may long be searched for a parallel to the desperate valor of the charge of the Army of Tennessee at Franklin, a charge which has been called "the greatest drama in American history." Perhaps its only rival for macabre distinction would be Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. A comparison of the two may be of interest. Pickett's total loss at Gettysburg was 1,354; at Franklin the Army of Tennessee lost over 6,000 dead and wounded. Pickett's charge was made after a volcanic artillery preparation of two hours had battered the defending line. Hood's army charged without any preparation. Pickett's charge was across an open space of perhaps a mile. The advance at Franklin was for two miles in the open, in full view of the enemy's works, and exposed to their fire. The defenders at Gettysburg were protected only by a stone wall. Schofield's men at Franklin had carefully constructed works, with trench and parapet. Pickett's charge was totally repulsed. The charge of Brown and Cleburne penetrated deep into the breastworks, to part of which they clung until the enemy retired. Pickett, once repelled, retired from the field. The Army of Tennessee renewed their charge, time after time. Pickett survived his charge unscathed. Cleburne was killed, and eleven other general officers were killed, wounded or captured. "Pickett's charge at Gettysburg" has come to be a synonym for unflinching courage in the raw. The slaughter-pen at Franklin even more deserves the gory honor.
On December 1, various elements of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas’s army had reached Nashville. Union Army Engineer, Brig. Gen. James St. Clair Morton, had overseen the construction of sophisticated fortifications at Nashville in 1862-63, strengthened by others, which would soon see use.
Despite horrific losses at Franklin, Hood continued toward Nashville. In operating against Nashville, he decided that destruction of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and disruption of the Union army supply depot at Murfreesboro would help his cause. Hood also recognized that Federal forces at Murfreesboro posed a significant threat to his right flank, his supply line and his possible retreat route. Hood reached the outskirts of Nashville on December 2, occupied positions on a line of hills parallel to those of the Union and began erecting fieldworks. On December 2, Hood detached Bate's Division with orders to destroy the railroad and blockhouses between Murfreesboro and Nashville. On December 4, Bate's division attacked Blockhouse No. 7 protecting the railroad crossing at Overall's Creek, but Union forces fought it off. On December 4, 1864 he sent Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest with two cavalry divisions and Maj. Gen. William B. Bate's infantry division to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Third Battle of Murfreesboro - December 5–7, 1864
On the morning of the 5th, Forrest headed out toward Murfreesboro, splitting his force, one column to attack the fort on the hill and the other to take Blockhouse No. 4, both at La Vergne. Upon his demand for surrender at both locations, the Union garrisons did so. Outside La Vergne, Forrest hooked up with Bate’s division and the command advanced on to Murfreesboro along two roads, driving the Yankees into their Fortress Rosencrans fortifications, and encamped in the city outskirts for the night.
On December 5, the Florida Brigade headed southeast toward Murfreesboro and the enemy. The Floridians moved under the orders of Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest; the cavalry commander had arrived with his divisions that morning and assumed command of Bate’s infantry. Forrest hoped to deploy his strike force so as to cut off “Rousseau’s supplies and force the enemy to come out and fight.” To accomplish this, General Bate’s infantry entrenched across the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad; ironically, the Floridians occupied a position close to the Round Forest,
The next morning, on the 6th, Forrest ordered Bate’s division to “move upon the enemy’s works.” Fighting flared for a couple of hours, but the Yankees ceased firing and both sides glared at each other for the rest of the day. Brig. Gen. Claudius Sears’s and Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Palmer’s infantry brigades joined Forrest’s command in the evening, further swelling his numbers. On the morning of the 7th, Maj. Gen. Lovell Rousseau, commanding all of the forces at Murfreesboro, sent a Federal column of 3,300 soldiers commanded by General Milroy, out from Fortress Rosecrans on the Salem Pike for the purpose of determining Forrest’s strength and disposition. on the Salem Pike to feel out the enemy.
General Bate deployed his division, augmented by Generals Claudius Sears’s and Joseph Palmer’s brigades, just south of the Wilkinson Pike. The Florida Brigade’s five hundred men, along with General Henry R. Jackson’s troops, held the left flank of this new line, with their front facing a broad cotton field. General Bate reported that as soon as the soldiers arrived at their new position, “temporary works were constructed of rails and logs.”
Milroy, rather than withdraw to safety of Fortress Rosecrans, instead deployed his two brigades across the Wilkinson Pike behind one of the cedar groves so identified with the Murfreesboro area and prepared to assault the Confederate’s left flank. When General Forrest ordered Bate to readjust his line to meet this new threat, Bate faltered. Bate allowed his division to haphazardly deploy into a thin, ragged line. The Florida Brigade had but a short distance to travel, as Bate placed that unit and Joseph Palmer’s brigade in the entrenchments recently vacated by Generals Jackson’s and Sears’s commands. General Thomas Benton Smith’s Brigade had orders to occupy the space between Jackson’s Brigade and Lash, but for some reason, the youthful Smith never made contact with the Floridians. Because of General Bate’s mismanaged shift, a “space of perhaps 75 or 100 yards” opened “between [General Thomas Benton] Smith’s right and Finley’s left.
Before Bate could close this gap, the Federal advance fell like a hammer blow on Lash’s men. It is possible that the Floridians had not even reached their new position before the Federals rushed in upon their position; as the numerous Yankees swarmed around them, the majority of Lash’s men put up a feeble resistance from behind their fortifications, before beating a hasty retreat; General Forrest pleaded with the Floridians to maintain their position: “‘Men, all I ask of you is to hold the enemy back for fifteen minutes, which will give me sufficient time to gain their rear with my cavalry, and I will capture the last one of them.’” It is unlikely that the Floridians held for even five minutes before beating a hasty retreat. At least ninety-one Floridians either surrendered or were apprehended by Federal soldiers. The Federal troops also seized the 1st Cavalry and 4th Florida’s battle flag, making it the first regiment of the Florida Brigade in the Army of Tennessee to suffer that embarrassment during the war. When the Florida Brigade’s line collapsed, General Joseph Palmer’s troops, positioned on Lash’s right, also gave way. In the ensuing chaos, the Federals rushed the Washington Artillery’s position and captured two of the company’s cannons. Luckily for General Forrest, Henry R. Jackson’s and Thomas Smith’s soldiers curbed the Federal advance and halted the fighting for the evening The rest of Forrest’s command conducted an orderly retreat from the field and encamped for the night outside Murfreesboro.
In addition to the captured men, the Florida Brigade lost more than 150 irreplaceable casualties, including Colonel Robert Bullock, and permanently damaged the unit’s reputation that they so desperately earned at places called Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge. Bate’s poor management of his division’s readjustment led to the brigade occupying a precarious and indefensible position. Further, the Florida Brigade had the misfortune to occupy the section of the line where the Federals’ heaviest assault fell. The Union regiments that advanced against the Florida Brigade numbered over 1000 eager recruits; the 500 veterans of the Florida Brigade, behind fixed positions, were excoriated for their poor performance.
Forrest's raid on Murfreesboro was a minor irritation. His force had destroyed railroad track, blockhouses, and some homes and generally disrupted Union operations in the area, but they did not accomplish much else. Bate was recalled to Nashville, but Forrest remained near Murfreesboro and thus was absent from the battle of Nashville. In retrospect, Hood's decision to detach Forrest from his main command was a major blunder.
Effective December 10, 1864, the 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry consolidated (Maj. Glover A. Ball); 1st Florida Cavalry dismounted and 4th Florida Infantry consolidated (Lieut. Col Edward Badger); the 6th Florida Infantry (Capt. Stephen A. Cawthon); and the 7th Florida Infantry (Major Nathan S. Blount) were brigaded under command of Col. Daniel L. Kenan, in Bate's Division (not listed) of Cheatham's Corps (Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham)
Their service with General Forrest completed, General William Bate’s Division began their march toward Nashville on December 11, in horrible conditions. Lieutenant McLeod wrote of the first day’s march, “it was the coldest day ever I saw & the wind blew all the time in our faces.” Of the next day, Washington Ives remembered, “many men were frostbitten and the ice was so thick the wagons did not disturb it.” Arriving at the Confederate line near Tennessee’s capital city on December 12, the Floridians could view the city and its surrounding fortifications. They discovered, that in the intervening twelve days that they had been at work destroying the railroad near Murfreesboro, the Army of Tennessee had marched to within a few miles south of Nashville and then entrenched. Historians have pointed out that Hood’s line, which stretched four miles from southwest to northeast, was terribly designed with “exterior lines of communication” and “highly vulnerable to an enemy development on either flank.”
The Florida Brigade, which on December 13 numbered 410 men capable of bearing arms and 350 soldiers on the sick list, was commanded at that point by Major Glover A. Ball. The brigade, along with Cheatham’s corps, was positioned on the northeastern portion of Hood’s “siege” line. General Stephen D. Lee’s Corps held the center of the line, while General A. P. Stewart’s held the left, including a series of redoubts constructed to protect that flank. The Floridians spent December 13 and 14 “in the ditches around Nashville,” in relative quiet and encased in fog. Meanwhile, General Thomas made preparations from December 1 through the 14th for the Battle of Nashville in which he intended to destroy Hood’s army. On the night of December 14, Thomas informed Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, acting as Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s chief of staff, that he would attack the next day. Thomas planned to strike both of Hood’s flanks.
Nashville - December 15–16, 1864
Before daylight on the 15th, the first of the Union troops, led by Maj. Gen. James Steedman, set out to hit the Confederate right. The attack was made and the Union forces held down one Rebel corps there for the rest of the day. On the afternoon of December 15, the Federal blow fell on General Hood’s left flank, as General A. J. Smith’s three divisions from the Army of the Tennessee and General James H. Wilson’s Cavalry Corps, a total of 24,000 troops, swept over the redoubts and into A. P. Stewart’s flank. In addition to this flanking force, General Thomas Wood’s IV Corps and Schofield’s Army of the Ohio, yet another 24,000 Union troops, stood ready to move against Stewart’s center. As Stewart’s Corps fought for its life, Hood ordered two divisions, those of Edward Johnson and William B. Bate, to support his beleaguered left. While Edward Johnson’s Division was engaged that afternoon as Stewart’s line crumbled, Bate’s Division did little good, as it failed to even begin its march west until after sunset. William McLeod remembered “went around & reenforced on the left & we got their after night & we commenced our breast works. . . .” Arriving on the left flank, Hood posted Bate’s small division atop Compton’s Hill, a knoll that guarded the northeast-southwest running Granny White Pike, one of Hood’s lines of retreat. By this time it was dark and fighting stopped for the day. Although battered and with a much smaller battle line, Gen. Hood was still confident. He established a main line of resistance along the base of a ridge about two miles south of the former location, throwing up new works and fortifying Compton's and Overton’s hills on their flanks. The Federal IV Army Corps marched out to within 250 yards, in some places, of the Confederate’s new line and began constructing fieldworks.
December 16 dawned, a foggy, and gloomy morning. Exhausted by midmorning, the Florida Brigade had labored through the night digging entrenchments on the slopes of Compton’s Hill; despite this frantic pace, the works were not completed. During the night, General Bate had placed his division on the northwestern face of the hill, with the Florida Brigade occupying his center. General Mark Lowrey’s troops connected with Bate’s left, while General Edward Walthall’s Division held the right slopes of the hill. Because Cheatham’s Corps ran due south and A. P. Stewart’s line jogged in a southeastern, and then easterly from Compton’s Hill, the position presented a protruding salient. Furthermore, their entrenchments mirrored those constructed on Missionary Ridge, in that they “were constructed too far back, along the actual crown of the hill rather than on the forward slopes.” To make matters even worse, Bate’s three brigades’s defensive lines were thinned when these units were forced to extend to fill gaps caused by the withdrawal of other troops from the hill. Like the engagement in the cedars at Murfreesboro a week earlier, the Floridians were placed in a precarious position from which their superiors expected the impossible.
In the pre-dawn hours of December 16, additional Union troops moved out toward the new Confederate line and took up positions opposite it. By first light, the skirmishers began exchanging shots, with the Rebels being driven in by the threat of Federal artillery emplaced within 400 yards of Compton’s Hill. That morning these cannon “played back and forth across the Southern position.” Due to the exposed position of their lines atop Compton’s Hill, Confederate entrenchments were “pounded by a devastating barrage from every direction of the compass except the east, and even there, fire was coming from the northeast.” William McLeod penned in his diary “we had to lay low all day until evening the Yankee batteries was within 5 hundred yards of us & their was a good many of them & they shot our works all down . . . their was a shot come through our works and shot off our adjutants head and wounded 2 more men...” During the bombardment, William McLeod exposed himself enough to observe Union troops advance “2 lines of battle upon us & they come up in 3 or 4 hundred yards of us & all lay down . . . .” When Thomas’s generals failed to launch this attack by three o’clock, division commander McArthur took matters into his own hands. Witnessing McArthur’s brigades advance, General Thomas commanding his troops to converge upon Compton’s Hill. Even before this assault began, one of General Wilson’s cavalry brigades had gained the Granny White Pike south of the Confederate position, thus depriving the Confederates on Compton’s Hill of their line of retreat.
On Compton’s Hill, Colonel William McMillan’s brigade of McArthur’s division, was moving up under fire, with men having difficulty ascending the steep knoll. However, “the steeper the ground, the greater the difficulty experienced by Confederate artillerists attempting to depress their few guns and fire accurately down the height. The steeper the ground, the more likely were the Southern infantry to overshoot. . . .” The Federal brigade, composed of units raised in the old Northwest and Minnesota, surged over General Thomas B. Smith’s line of crumbled works, causing the Rebels to flee. John L. McKinnon wrote in his memoirs, that as the Florida Brigade’s soldiers took shots at the advancing enemy, “private Robt. Holley turned his face toward me to reload, grabbed me by the right arm with a grasp I long felt, and said ‘Look at the U.S. flag on our breastworks!’ I looked to my left and there it was, our ditches empty, the men escaping through the mountain woodlands.” With the enemy gaining their flank and also now coming up in front, the Florida Brigade gave way. General Bate reported that as soon as Smith’s men fell back, “ the lines lifted from either side as far as I could see almost instantly and fled in confusion.” Some Floridians held out until no hope remained as John L. McKinnon became a captive when “they jumped in the ditches with us, . . . as officer said to me, ‘Let me have your sword; let’s all get out of the ditches and go to the rear.’” 95th Illinois Private Otis Smith came away from the fight bearing the 6th Florida's regimental flag as a souvenir, an act for which he would receive the Medal of Honor. The Florida Brigade lost at least 122 soldiers captured, in addition to those killed and wounded.
December 16, 1864 - Compton's Hill - "[I climbed] a tree in the rear" [soon after the 7th Florida’s adjutant lost his head] ”their I staid until the Yanks come & broke our lines & was coming over the hill & then we all had to run about 2 miles to get away . . . & we rallied at [Brentwood] Station on the pike & RR about 4 miles from the place we started." - Lieut William McLeod, Company B, 7th Florida Infantry
“I thought several times that I would have to fall out, I was completely broken down, but when I would think of being captured I would come to a new life. . . .” - Lieut Henry Reddick, Company E, 1st Florida & 3rd Florida infantry consolidated
December 16th, 1864 - Battle of Nashville, Shy's (née Compton's) Hill -"We had gone but a little ways to the rear, when I heard a call to me for help, out of the woodland to our left. I knew the voice, it was my relative, my old schoolmate, one of Walton's soldiers from the 6th Regiment that fought to our left, on the slope of the mountain—Lieut. Archibald G. Morrison. I ran to him without thinking to ask permission. But the officer followed close by. He asked the officer to let me remain with him. He was asked, "Is he your brother?" He replied, "He is my relative, and I beg of you to leave him with me." He left me with him and went on with the rest. We were then alone for a little while, save the dead and dying. He was shot after he had surrendered his sword and had gone some distance to the rear-through mistake we hoped. He lay suffering with his head in my lap, with his hands pressed to the pit of his stomach—he thought he was struck in front. I examined and found no incision there at all, and felt encouraged and spoke encouraging words to him ; told him that I thought it was the contusion of a shell or a minnie ball that struck him and all would be well in a littlewhile. Then the captain of the provost guard came up with his band of men, a nice, genteel, courteous man, with a kind heart in him. He inquired into the whole situation, expressed regrets, especially at having been wounded by mistake, after he had surrendered. While he was with us I made a more thorough examination, and found that he had been shot in the right side, well to the back, and that it must have been the ball resting in his breast that caused the pain there. The captain left two of his men to guard us with instructions, "As soon as he is able to move on, take them to Nashville and deliver them to the command there," and then passed on to the front. And as the smoky day died out of the skies, with declining hope, my friend, realizing fully his condition, spoke a few kind words of sweet remembrance for his mother and then said to me, "I had hoped that it might have been different with me in the end ; but it is all right." And with that dying day, there came to him from on high a voice saying, "You have stayed long enough in this mountain ; come up higher." And he passed on higher up the mountain, even to the beautiful Mount of God." - 2nd Lieut. John Love McKinnon, Company D, 1st Florida Infantry Regiment
Seeing the success along the line, other Union troops charged up Overton’s Hill and took it. Hood’s army fled. Thomas had left one escape route open but the Union army set off in pursuit. With the Compton’s Hill position in shambles, Cheatham’s corps melted into a disorganized rabble that tossed away small arms, abandoned artillery, and scurried for the Franklin Pike. Stewart’s corps was caught up in the rout as well. The Army of Tennessee, with the Florida Brigade under the command of Major Glover Ball, fled southward following the Nashville defeat. For ten days, the pursuit continued until the beaten and battered Army of Tennessee recrossed the Tennessee River. Many Confederate soldiers fell by the wayside, their patriotism and spirit gone, resulting in the pursuing Federals seizing another 37 Floridians in the days after the battle.
December 18, 1864 - Retreat from Nashville - "The weather was cold and it rained incessantly. There was much suffering, the men nearly naked and bare foot & I saw dozens of the men (who had been severely wounded at Franklin ) marching day after day on crutches. It is scarcely worth my while to write some of the scenes I saw as they would not be believed." Sergt. Washington Ives, Company C, 4th Florida Infantry Regiment
The withdrawal from Nashville finally ended on New Year’s Day of 1865, when the pitiful remnants of the Army of Tennessee reached Corinth, where General Beauregard had organized supply caches. The core that remained was barefoot, dressed in tatters, and many had no weapon. The Florida Brigade numbered but 500 soldiers, and probably half of these were sick or wounded, and thus incapable of bearing arms. Two of the Brigade's regiments (1st Florida Cavalry dismounted/4th Florida Infantry consolidated, and the 6th Florida Infantry) had suffered the ignoble fate of having lost their flags, and the Florida Brigade’s survivors shouldered the blame for breaking on Compton’s Hill. The Army of Tennessee remained in Tupelo, Mississippi until January 31. General Hood resigned his command shortly after arriving; P.G.T. Beauregard sought permission to replace him with Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor and the change of command occurred January 23, 1865. In a speech to his men, Hood expressed the hope that they would give their support to Taylor and avenge their comrades "whose bones lay bleaching upon the fields of Middle Tennessee." Hood returned to Richmond on February 8.
On February 1, 1865 the 6th Florida and the remainder of the Florida Brigade undertook its fourth and final rail movement of the war, when its small regiments embarked at West Point, Mississippi for the journey east. During February’s first ten days, the brigade, with Generals Benjamin F. Cheatham’s (led by General William B. Bate) and Alexander P. Stewart’s Corps (commanded by William W. Loring), sped - at least as fast as trains could proceed along the Confederacy’s decrepit rail system - through towns in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia familiar now to the Floridians. The Florida Brigade crossed the Savannah River at Augusta, the men shouldering new Enfield Rifles obtained from the arsenal there.
In February 1865, Union armies commanded by William T. Sherman were advancing northward through the Carolinas towards Virginia. They were opposed by troops from the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, commanded by William J. Hardee, and cavalry commanded by Wade Hampton; both were under General P. G. T. Beauregard, commander of the Confederate Military Division of the West. However, both Confederate President Jefferson Davis and general-in-chief Robert E. Lee questioned Beauregard's ability to handle the situation in the Carolinas, so on February 23 Lee appointed General Joseph E. Johnston to command the Confederate forces in the Carolinas. Johnston had a total of less than 25,000 men, with at least 1,300 men without rifles and with a shortage of artillery and wagons.
March 5th, 1865 - West South Carolina - "[U]ntil this morning we have had rain every day for the last Ten. The roads were in miserable condition - mud in some places over knee deep & in no place less than ankle." - 1st Lieut. Albert R. Livingston, Company G, 1st & 3rd Florida Infantry Regiment consolidated
During February and early March, what remained of the Army of Tennessee slogged through the western portions of South Carolina. The veteran infantry, in their attempt to reach Johnston, made long marches comparable to those completed in Kentucky and on Hood’s recent campaign. In North Carolina, the cautious Johnston had decided to gather his scattered forces near Smithfield, intending to impede Sherman’s progress north. Upon discovering on March 18 that one wing of Sherman’s army was near Bentonville, a hamlet just south of Smithfield on the Goldsboro road, Johnston committed his troops to the offensive.
Battle of Bentonville - March 19–21, 1865
While Slocum’s advance was stalled at Averasborough by Hardee’s troops, the right wing of Sherman’s army under command of Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard marched toward Goldsborough. On March 19, Major General Slocum's XIV Corps encountered the entrenched Confederates of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston who had concentrated to meet his advance at Bentonville. Late afternoon, Johnston attacked, crushing the line of the XIV Corps. Colonel Lafayette Kenan. While leading the remnants of Bate’s Division into the fray, a Federal bullet shattered Colonel Lafayette Kenan's right leg, and surgeons were forced to amputate.
Elements of Bvt MG Alpheus S. Williams's XX Corps were thrown into the action as they arrived on the field. Only strong counterattacks and desperate fighting south of the Goldsborough Road blunted the Confederate offensive. Five Confederate attacks failed to dislodge the Federal defenders and darkness ended the first day’s fighting. During the night, Johnston contracted his line into a "V" to protect his flanks with Mill Creek to his rear.
During the night of March 21, Johnston retreated across the bridge at Bentonville to Smithfield. Union forces pursued at first light, driving back Wheeler’s rearguard and saving the bridge. Federal pursuit was halted at Hannah’s Creek after a severe skirmish. Sherman, after regrouping at Goldsborough, pursued Johnston toward Raleigh. Meanwhile, Johnston attempted to obtain arms and rations for his men.
Morale among the men started dropping in early April due to news of Confederate defeats and surrenders elsewhere and desertions began to become a problem, but Johnston still had about 28,000 men present for duty in late March, which increased to 30,000 by April 7. From April 8 to the 10th, Johnston reorganized the army, consolidating dozens of shrunken regiments and brigades. The Florida Brigade, Containing fewer soldiers than a battalion, the remnants of the Florida Brigade were united to form the 1st Florida Infantry, Consolidated - 1st Florida Infantry & 3rd Florida Infantry (consolidated)(Capt. A. B. McLeod); 1st Florida Cavalry (dismounted) and 4th Florida Infantry (consolidated) (Capt George B. Langford); 6th Florida Infantry (Lieut. Malcolm Nicholson); 7th Florida Infantry (Capt. Robert B. Smith).
Camping between Smithfield and Raleigh, the Florida Brigade remained inactive - save for corps reviews. Even with General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, President Jefferson Davis thought continued fighting might be possible, but General Johnston and others advised otherwise. On April 18, Johnston signed an armistice with Sherman at the Bennett House, and on April 26, formally surrendered his army. On May 1, 1865, five days after Johnston surrendered the force under his command at Bennett’s Place near Durham, the troops of the 1st Florida Infantry, Consolidated, were paroled.