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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

Six CSA Generals That Departed This World at Franklin

by Gordon Thorsby

On the morning of December 1,1864, the bodies of four Confederate generals killed during the fighting, Patrick R. Cleburne, Hiram B. Granbury, John Adams, and Otho F. Strahl, laid on Carnton House back porch where soldiers were allowed to come by and pay their last respects. Two other Confederate generals were also killed, that of States Rights Gist and John C. Carter and their story will also be explained here. Many men died on that sunny cold Wednesday, November 30, 1864. What seems so tragic is that these commanders lost embody that the South was undeniably lost. Southern leaders simply would not admit it.

Brig. Otho Strahl- was leading his men on foot across the long open field toward the Federal line. He was first struck in the neck and then killed by another two bullets to the head. His body was taken to the back porch of McGavock house.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne- "He was last seen advancing on foot toward the Union line with his sword raised, after his horse was shot out from under him. Accounts reported that he was found just inside the Federal line (other accounts just outside the lines) and his body found and removed to an aid station. Confederate war records indicate he died of a shot to the abdomen, or possibly a bullet that went through his heart. When Confederates found his body, he had been picked clean of any valuable items, including his sword, boots and pocket watch."

Brigadier General Hiram Granbury- his brigade charged the center just twenty feet short of the Federal breastworks when he was killed. When he was found by two Texas Brigade soldiers, he was found still on his knees, his face in his hands. It wouldn't be until twenty-nine years after the battle, that he was buried in Granbury, TX.

Brigadier General John Adams- Brig. General Adams "rode up to our works and, cheering his men, made an attempt to leap his horse over them. The horse fell upon the top of the embankment and the general was caught under him, pierced with [nine] bullets. As soon as the charge was repulsed, our men sprang over the works and lifted the horse, while others dragged the general out from under him. "

He was perfectly conscious and knew his fate. He asked for water, as all dying men do in battle as the life-blood drips from the body. One of my men gave him a canteen of water, while another brought an armful of cotton from an old gin nearby and made him a pillow. The general gallantly thanked them, "and in answer to our expressions of sorrow at his sad fate, he said, 'It is the fate of a soldier to die for his country,' and expired. — "Confederate Veteran, June 1897." Other versions reported him riddled by as many as nine bullets.

Brigadier General States Rights Gist- He was leading the brigade on foot after his horse had been shot from under him. It is reported that he was shot in the chest and instantly died. The generally accepted reported was he was mortally wounded and taken to an aid hospital where he died at 8:30 P.M. on November 30th.

Brigadier General John C. Carter- leading his brigade was mortally wounded and died later on December 10 in the Harrison home, three miles south of the battlefield.

The original story is that the six generals were laid out on the porch and the report has been discounted. There were six bodies laid out on the back porch. If not the six generals, who were the others? For the first four of Strahl, Cleburne, Adams and Granbury, this is true. Gist died at a field hospital and his servant transported the General that morning to the William White Home and immediately buried. It is not possible Gist could have been there. A Lt. Col. Robert B. Young was one of the six laid on the back porch next to Strahl who was already there. Strahl had been placed there during the night. The sixth body was Lt. John Marsh or Capt. James Johnston, both staff officers for Strahl, and both killed. (If both Johnston and Marsh were there, the count would be seven.)

It was described by one of Cleburne's aides that an embroidered handkerchief was placed over Cleburne's face.

Robert Young's Mother wrote a letter to his brother on January 9, 1865.

My Dear Son,

We have just received the sad fate of your poor Brother and our dear beloved son. He was killed at Franklin Tennessee on the 30. November. We felt anxious all the time about him ever since that dreadful battle, but it had been so long since. We had hoped he had entirely escaped, but I feared him to hear from the adjutant of his regiment Mr. Willingham wrote to your father. He was buried in Columbia Tenn with Gen Cleburne & Gen Granberry but taken up afterwards to Ashwood the Episcopal burying ground he was interred with military honors. I suppose he was killed instantly ... nothing found on his body it was robbed he had his horse saddle bridle blankets it is hard rendering to relate but thought you would like to hear the last of Your poor brother. We have no more of the particulars God have mercy on his poor Soul I trust he is with his God singing praises to him, ever more done with all this horrible warfare resting in everlasting peace with his God not ours. Gods will be done but I would give anything on earth had I it to have him back. Sound in body & mind, he was a noble man refined in all his manners, loved by all who knew him never had an enemy an affectionate and dutiful son. I have prayed night and day for our noble Sons to be Spared to us & come through this cruel War without blemish.

Photographs, Library of Congress and lithograph, National Archives


Cleburne and His Command, Southern Historical Society.

For Cause and Country, Jacobsen, Eric A. and Rupp, Richard A., Moore Publishing, 2008.

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