ACP 17


Major-general benjamin franklin cheatam (see main description for short history)

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Major-general benjamin franklin cheatam cheatham was born in nashville, tennessee on a plantation called westover, which in its prime consisted of three thousand acres. He was born into two of the finest and prominent families of the middle tennessee aristocracy. On his mothers’ side of the family he was a direct descendant of general james robertson, the founder of nashville and father of middle tennessee. The cheathams had been in middle tennessee for many generations and established themselves as plantation owners, lawyers, doctors and mayors of the city. At the start of the mexican-american war, he joined the 1st tennessee infantry regiment as a captain and finished the war as colonel of the 3rd tennessee. He moved to california in 1849 for the gold rush, but returned to tennessee in 1853, where he worked as a planter and served as a brigadier general in the tennessee militia.Cheatham joined the confederate states army as a brigadier general on may 9, 1861, and became a brigade commander in the western district of department number two, under major general leonidas polk. His first test in the war was in missouri on november 7 at the battle of belmont, leading three regiments in brigadier general gideon j. Pillow’s division against ulysses s. Grant, then also in his first civil war combat. In december, cheatham and his division received the thanks of congress, “for the desperate courage they exhibited in sustaining for several hours, and under most disadvantageous circumstances an attack by a force of the enemy greatly superior to their own, both in numbers and appointments; and for the skill and gallantry by which they converted what at first threatened so much disaster, into a triumphant victory.”cheatham was promoted to the rank of major general, on march 10, 1862, and was appointed commander of the 2nd division, first corps, army of mississippi. He led his division at the battle of shiloh and was wounded, although it is unclear whether this occurred on april 6 or april 7, 1862. With the appointment of general braxton bragg became commander of the army (soon to be designated the army of tennessee) and, cheatham served under him at perryville and murfreesboro. At murfreesboro, cheatham performed sluggishly, ordering piecemeal assaults; observers claimed he had been drinking heavily and was unable to command his units effectively. This rumor of problems with alcohol was not unfounded cheatham had occasionally fought with soldiers from his old command and, had been knocked out by a private from an arkansas regiment! Despite braggs obvious dislike of him cheatham continued as a division commander under bragg at the battle of chickamauga and, following that rare confederate victory in the west, was elevated to corps command on september 29, 1863. He was on the right flank of missionary ridge when bragg was defeated by grant at chattanooga, engaged to block the union army in the final hours of the battle. This event would see bragg leave the army of tennessee.In 1864, cheatham fought well in the atlanta campaign under general joseph e. Johnston, and later lieutenant general john bell hood, inflicting heavy casualties on union forces at the battle of kennesaw mountain, and being wounded at the battle of ezra church. He was in corps command for the battles around atlanta, replacing william j. Hardee, who had resigned when hood took command. Cheatham’s most famous service came as a corps commander under hood in the franklin-nashville campaign. He was engaged in all the major battles of the campaign, receiving notoriety when the union army under major general john m. Schofield was able to slip by him and escape from the battle of spring hill, which foiled hood’s plan and led to the disastrous confederate defeat at franklin. Hood accused cheatham of dereliction of duty and the enmity between them lasted for the rest of their lives. After the collapse of hood’s army at nashville, cheatham rejoined johnston’s army for the carolinas campaign (as a division commander, the highest position this small army could justify), surrendering to general sherman in north carolina in april 1865.After the war, cheatham declined an offer of federal civil service employment from president grant. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the united states house of representatives in 1872. He served for four years as superintendent of tennessee state prison and, postmaster of nashville (18851886). He died in nashville and is buried there in mount olivet cemetery. Shortly after the war he married anna bell robertson of north carolina.. They had five children together frank j.R., george patton, another son, alice and medora. Cheatham’s son, benjamin franklin cheatham, jr. (18671944), was a major general in the u.S. Army, serving with distinction in the spanish-american war and world war i. After the war, a camp of the association of confederate soldiers tennessee division was named the frank cheatham bivouac in his honor.