The following is a letter written 30 years after the
war by Arthur MacArthur to Charles T. Clark with comments on the battle of
Franklin. Be sure to read especially the underlined portions which
describe the significance of the battle. MacArthur also proposes that a brigade monument be erected near
the Carter House to commemorate the battlefield.
At the Battle of Franklin, young MacArthur was a Major in the 24th
Wisconsin and part of Opdycke's brigade that counter charged around the
Carter House to stem the Confederate breach of the Federal line. He was
badly injured in this fighting with multiple wounds and was sent to
Nashville where he recovered.
MacArthur was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at
Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga the previous summer. After the Civil War,
Arthur fathered Douglas MacArthur of WW II fame, served in the Philippine
War, and rose to Military Governor of the Philippines.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF TEXAS
ASSISTANT ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
May 13, 1895
Dear Captain Clark:
I have just received your note of May 3 through the Adjutant General's
office in Washington, in which you wish to incorporate a cut of myself,
with other regimental commanders of the First Brigade, in your forthcoming
History of the 125th Ohio. I comply with your request with great
pleasure, and enclose herewith an engraving taken just after the
muster-out in 1865.
When the war ended I was Lieutenant Colonel, but held the Governor's
commission as Colonel, which the War Department refused to recognize. The
Wisconsin historian, however, for whom the engraving was made, insisted on
the full rank, hence the shoulder straps in the engraving.
To be thus associated for all time with the 125th I appreciate as a great
distinction, and I beg to thank you very much for remembering me in such
an agreeable manner.
I understand from your correspondence that you purpose giving special
prominence in your narrative to the part taken by the regiment and brigade
in the battle of Franklin. This is very proper, as it is rarely the case
that the influence of a particular command in controlling a great event
can be as clearly traced as in behalf of the First Brigade at Franklin;
and the decisive character of the battle itself cannot be overestimated,
as it transpired at the most critical period of the war.
Briefly stated, the situation was something as follows:
General Sherman was in Georgia, rapidly approaching Savannah, but still
without a base; General Grant had no troops to spare from the front of
Petersburg and Richmond; in New Orleans and other places in the far south
and west we had only a few thousand men. Hood's success at Franklin,
therefore, meant Confederate supremacy over Tennessee and Kentucky, with
the numerical strength of his army raised probably to at least 100,000
men. With such a force it was possible for him to sweep up to the Ohio
River, and thereby oblige General Grant to detach largely from his army
for the protection of the West, thus exposing General Sherman in Georgia
to a concentrated attack by Lee before he could reach his new base.
In a word, had
Hood entered Nashville sword in hand at the head of a victorious army,
which would have resulted from defeat of the Union army at Franklin, the
civil war in all its subsequent scenes might have been essentially varied.
Battles great for
conception or political results, ought to be studied; but those that save
should be commemorated and celebrated. We owe admiration to the first;
gratitude to the others.
essentially a battle that saved, and as such must be classified as second
only to Gettysburg in importance during the entire war.
In this transcendent conflict the First Brigade played a part particularly
its own. Whatever disputes may have arisen from the battle in other
respects, it has never been denied that Opdycke's command restored the
broken line at Carter's Hill. In this light I have, therefore, made the
forgoing connected and somewhat lengthy statement in order to suggest the
expediency of an effort to secure a suitable brigade memorial, to be
erected on the field. Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin are interested.
If each state could be induced to appropriate $1500 for each of its
regiments there engaged, the individual efforts of survivors in addition
thereto might, perhaps, be sufficient to secure a site and put a monument
on a solid foundation. Please reflect upon the matter, and if favorably
impressed by the suggestion, consider the possibility of giving practical
effect to a movement looking to the end in view.
Very truly yours,
Arthur MacArthur, Jr.