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Thompsons Station

cavalry, hill, guns, battery, van, coburn, franklin, left and kings

THOMPSON'S STATION, Battle of. After the battle of Stone River (q.v.) the Con federate cavalry were active on Rosecrans' flanks and rear, and late in February 1863 Gen. Earl Van Dorn, with over 6,000 men, crossed the Tennessee River at Florence and marched northward to Columbia, on Duck River, threat ening Franklin, about 28 miles nearly west of Murfreesboro. On 4 March General Rose crans ordered a general reconnoissance in front of his lines to ascertain the Confederate strength and, if possible, the enemy's intention. One of these reconnoitering columns was sent from Franklin. It was under command of Col. John Coburn and consisted of his brigade — 33d and 85th Indiana, 19th Michigan and 22d Wisconsin — the 124th Ohio, 600 cavalry under Col. T. J. Jordan and Aleshire's Ohio battery of six guns; in all 2,837 officers and men. A train of 101 wagons accompanied the expedition, 80 of which were to collect forage. Coburn was instructed to advance the first day to Spring Hill, where he was to halt for the night of the 4th, and next day divide his force, send ing part of it to Rally Hill, on the left, to meet a co-operating cavalry column from Murfrees boro, and the other part toward Columbia. each to return to Spring Hill at night, unless the detaclunent at Rally Hill should he join( d .by the cavalry expected from Murfreesboro. Colo nel Jordan, with the cavalry and kilter), led the advance and when three miles out of Frank lin met Gen. W. H. Jackson's cavalry division of two brigades and King's battery moving north. Both parties formed for battle, Ale shire opened with his guns, King's • guns re plied, the skirmishers became engaged, and after a brisk engagement of an hour Jackson withdrew toward Spring Hill and Coburn went into camp four miles south of Franklin. One of Aleshire's guns had been disabled and with the forage train of 80 wagons, half of them loaded, was sent back to Franklin. Van Dorn had started from Columbia that morning with the five brigades of Gens. N. B. Forrest, W. T. Martin, G. B. Cosby, F. C., Armstrong and Col. J. W. Whitfield, 6,000 men and 12 guns, and when Jackson with the two brigades of Arm strong and \\.hitfield fell back after the engage ment, Van Dorn formed line at Thompson's Station, nine miles south of Franklin, and awaited Coburn's advance. Jackson's division was posted on a range of hills crossing the Franklin pike, with King's battery on the ex treme left and Forrest's brigade, with a battery, was on Jackson's right. On the morning of the 5th Coburn advanced cautiously and on nearing Thompson's Station Jordan charged with his cavalry, drove a small Confederate force from the station and seized a range of hills near it. Coburn followed with the infantry to near the station, when, on entering a pass, with hills on either side, he was arrested by shells from the Confederate artillery on his right and left, en filading his line. It was necessary to dislodge

King's battery on his right and he formed his line for the attack; Aleshire's guns on opposite sides of the turnpike and railroad which ran close to each other, the guns supported by the cavalry, and the 33d and 85th Indiana advanced down the hill against King's battery, when sud denly the Confederate guns ceased firing and from behind a stone wall Whitfield's brigade, reinforced by a regiment of Armstrong's, opened a fire that drove the two regiments back up the hill. Whitfield followed, and when nearing the summit he was charged and driven back, made a stand behind the depot of Thomp son's Station and with the assistance of two of King's guns compelled Coburn's men to fall back beyond the hill. At about the same time Coburn was informed that about 1,000 cavalry had been discovered on the left and he resolved to retreat; but it was first necessary to check the Confederate advance. The movement in retreat was to be covered by the battery and the cavalry,. but when Jordan saw the signs of a movement in retreat and the probability of be ing cut off by Forrest's cavalry on the left, he ordered the wagon train and its guard to the rear, to be followed by the battery, Jordan fol lowing the battery after a slight resistance to Forrest, Meanwhile Armstrong and Whitfield had been ordered to assault Coburn's left and Forrest to reach his rear. Armstrong, Whit field and part of Forrest charged, and after a fierce struggle for the crest of the hill were again driven from it with great loss. Again the Confederates charged; Coburn was forced back; Forrest, with two regiments, gaining his rear, charged him; and after a few volleys at close quarters Coburn surrendered. His loss, as officially reported, was 48 killed, 247 wounded and 1,151 captured or missing. Van Dorn's loss was 56 killed, 289 wounded and 12 missing. Meanwhile other columns had pushed out from Murfreesboro and driven other bodies of Con federate cavalry across Duck River and Gen. Gordon Granger, commanding the reserve corps of Rosecrans army, upon hearing of Coburn's defeat, strengthened Franklin and concentrated a column at that place to move upon Van Dorn, at Spring Hill and Thompson's Station. Granger moved on the 9th, attacked and drove Armstrong's cavalry brigade from Thompson's Station and advanced to Spring Hill, Van Dorn having fallen back during the day to recross Duck River at Columbia. On the next day Granger's cavalry pushed Armstrong across Rutherford's Creek near Columbia; and Van Dorn's main body recrossed Duck River. Pur suit was suspended and on the Ilth the various commands engaged in the general reconnois sance returned to their former positions. Con sult 'Official Records> (Vol. XXIII); Van Horne, 'History of the Army of the Cumber land> (Vol. I); Wyeth, of Gen. N. B. Forrest.)