Wednesday, November 25, 2020

'Awe-inspiring for the eye and ear': A walk at Fort Granger

Please heed the signage at Fort Granger so these historic earthworks can be preserved. 

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On Nov. 30, 1864, 1st Lieutenant Frederick Fout watched with a sense of wonder during the Battle of Franklin as the 1st Ohio Light Artillery Battery went about its deadly business from inside Fort Granger.

A cropped enlargement of a Battle of Franklin map
 shows Fort Granger at top. Four rifled guns at the fort
fired on William Loring's division (lower right.)
(Library of Congress)
"After sundown, the sparks of rifle fire and the lightning, thunder and groaning of the heavy cannons was splendid and awe-inspiring for the eye and ear," wrote the German immigrant in the 15th Independent Indiana Artillery Battery. 

The Ohio artillerists' four three-inch rifled guns fired 163 rounds, devastating brigades in William Loring's division as they advanced against the Federals' left flank across the Harpeth River, a little more than a mile away.

Trees and other clutter obscured my battlefield view from the fort, high atop Figuer's Bluff overlooking the Harpeth. But I wasn't disappointed with what I found in the city park tucked in an industrial area a short distance north of downtown Franklin. 

Massive, well-preserved earthen walls towered over me as I walked along a well-trodden path. From an observation deck, I looked down at the Harpeth River, perhaps the same vantage point John Schofield -- the Federals' commander at Franklin -- had the afternoon of the battle. In the fort's interior, I tried to imagine what this huge place was like on an especially taxing day --  more than 10,000 Federals were garrisoned in the area in the fort's heyday. (I also wondered where the hobos hung out here in the decades after the Civil War.)

And I thought about where those Ohio cannoneers toiled, sweaty and begrimed, as they poured death into those poor Confederate souls.

View of the Harpeth River from Fort Granger, high atop Figuer's Bluff.
Union General John Scofield viewed the Battle of Franklin from the fort.
A view of the preserved exterior wall of the fort, constructed in 1863
by U.S. Army soldiers and former slaves. 
A view from the interior of an earthen wall of the fort, named after
Union Major General Gordon Granger, whose troops occupied Franklin.
A view of the interior of the fort, a city park today.
This section is temporarily closed to prevent further erosion of the earthworks. 
Battery crews drilled once a week at the fort, firing artillery for practice.
An unusually shaped tree juts from an earthen fort wall.
Imposing walls remarkably survive 150-plus years after the Civil War.
A path winds along these massive walls.
Site of the sally port, the original entrance and exit of the fort. To the north was a
Federal camp and railroad.
A deep trench in the southeastern corner of the fort.

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 -- Fout Frederick, The Darkest Days of the Civil War, 1864 and 1865, Translation of Fout’’s 1902 Die Schwersten Tage des B├╝rgerkriegs, 1864-1865.

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