PHOTO: Residents recreate the Battle of Thompson’s Station in 2013. // Photo courtesy of the town of Thompson’s Station
BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
The Battle of Thompson’s Station took place 156 years ago today, and is often overshadowed by its larger sister battles; the Battle of Spring Hill and the Battle of Franklin, which both took place the following year. But what exactly transpired during that battle?
Maury County Commissioner, teacher at Spring Hill High School and history enthusiast Gwynne Evans shared with the Home Page on Tuesday some of his historical pieces; namely, some original newspapers from 1863.
“[Collecting newspapers] is a relatively inexpensive way to collect history,” Evans said. “I like history, [but] we’re destroying it at such a high rate, and if you don’t study history, it will repeat itself.”
The Battle of Thompson’s Station is an important footnote of the Civil War, as portions of Tennessee were often described as “no-man’s-land,” sitting on the border between the Union and Confederate-controlled states. After control of Middle Tennessee was left undecided following the Battle of Stones River in late 1862 – early 1863, both armies saw the importance of gaining ground in the region.
On March 4, 1863, 2,500 Union soldiers under the command of Colonel John Coburn were headed south from Franklin under orders to reach Spring Hill. It was during this trek that in Thompson’s Station they collided with Confederate soldiers, under the control of General Officer Earl Van Dorn.
The Confederates fled after only a brief confrontation, leading Coburn to believe it was an attempt to lead his men into a trap. Setting up camp for the night, the Union soldiers prepared for what would be a devastating loss the following day.
Ultimately surrendering, the Union soldiers suffered more than 1,900 casualties, compared to the 300 Confederate casualties.
In his collection, Evans shared news articles covering the Battle of Thompson’s Station as reported in the New York Herald, the New York Times and the New York Tribune, all printed in March of 1863.
The following excerpt briefly describes the night before the Battle of Thompson’s Station in a paper published by the New York Times on March 6, 1863.
“The enemy under Van Dorn advanced again toward Franklin yesterday. The Federal force also advanced six miles and drove the rebels back. Two men were wounded. The rebels lost 13 killed. The fight was renewed this morning. No particulars have been received. Reinforcements for Gen. Gilbert at Franklin have been sent forward, sufficiently large to destroy or capture Van Dorn’s command.”
Following the Battle of Thompson’s Station, the New York Tribune reported on its aftermath in a paper published March 11, 1863.
“A special dispatch from Franklin, Tenn., says a large force of artillery, infantry and cavalry, moved yesterday against the enemy posted at Spring Hill. If the rebels make a stand there will be heavy engagement, as it is the determination that Coburn’s disaster at Thompson’s Station shall be retrieved.”
“A special dispatch from another source, from Murfreesboro, says a report reached there yesterday that Van Dorn’s rebel force had been defeated and a greater portion of them captured. Gen. Rosecrans has ordered that all persons whose natural supporters are in the rebel service, and whose sympathies and connections are such that they cannot give assurance of their loyalty, will hold themselves in readiness to go south of our lines within ten days.”
Evans continues to collect historical memorabilia, which beyond being a personal passion of his, has found new life in his planned Maury County Historical Museum project – a museum intended to be 100 percent funded and built by Spring Hill High School students.
For more on the Battle of Thompson’s Station, visit the Thompson’s Station town website by clicking here.