Saturday, August 18, 2007

For Cause & for Country

For Cause & for Country:
A Study of the Affair At Spring Hill & the Battle of Franklin 

by Eric A. Jacobson

The Battle of Franklin, it is said, is the forgotten battle of the American Civil War. Though long over due, the battle over recent years has been the setting for if not all at least in part of three novels by Howard Bahr (The Black Flower, The Year of Jubilo, and The Judas Field) and Robert Hicks' novel, The Widow of the South. And now it is the subject of a new, nonfiction treatment of the ferocious battle of November 30th, 1864, "For Cause & For Country: At Study of the Affair at Spring Hill and the Battle of Franklin" by Eric A. Jacobson.

Jacobson's study begins with Confederate General John B. Hood's failed attempts to keep Atlanta from falling to the Federal Army and then follows Hood north into Tennessee as he hopes to lure Sherman's troops (now on their march to the sea) back to the north. Sherman didn't take the bait, but did dispatch General John Schofield to move his troops from his base at Chattanooga and converge with General Thomas's Federal troops in Nashville. Hood's objective was to intercept and defeat Schofield before he reached Thomas. Jacobson's narrative follows the race between Hood and Schofield to Columbia, Tennessee and then to Spring Hill, where Schofield narrowly, and miraculously escaped being caught by Hood and on to Franklin where the two armies clashed, and finally to Nashville where Hood was ultimately defeated.

I found Mr. Jacobson's narrative of the race to Franklin to be a bit slow and tedious, but then again it could be just me. I have visited Carnton Plantation and the Carter House in Franklin many times and am familiar with the Battle of Franklin, but not so familiar with the engagement (or lack thereof) at Spring Hill. It was my last visit to Carnton, and a tour which was lead personally by Mr. Jacobson who is a historian there, that lead me to buy this book (he was even nice enough to inscribe it for me). His description of the Battle of Franklin was mesmerizing on the tour and is even more so in his book.

Words cannot come close to describing the desperate struggle that took place when these armies clashed on that November 30th afternoon, but Mr. Jacobson comes as close as I think any person can, with vivid word pictures of the action, the desperate, horrific struggle, the ugly and bloody carnage of the battle, and its gory aftermath. I found the description of the fighting in the back yard of the Carter family's home most moving, and could almost close my eyes, and see the men, and hear the battle. I could imagine myself being with the Carter family, huddled together in their basement, listening to the whirling vortex of hell that was swirling all around them.

Mr. Jacobson highlights his text with photographs of all the major players in this cataclysmic struggle, as well as a few period photographs of the battlefield and section of color photographs of present day sites associated with the campaign and battle. Though, it is curious that a photograph of Captain Tod Carter wasn't included. There are a handful of maps, and my one criticism of the book is that I wish that there were more maps.

If you have the chance to visit The Carter House or Carnton Plantation I highly encourage you to do so. I have never had a bad tour at either location. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to catch Mr. Jacobson's tour at Carnton. If you don't have the opportunity to visit Franklin and see it for yourself, then the next best thing to being there is Eric Jacobson's book, "For Cause & For Country: A Study of the Affair of Spring Hill and the Battle of Franklin."

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