Benjamin Franklin Cheatham
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Personal Information
Born: October 20, 1820(1820-10-20)
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Died: September 4, 1886 (aged 65)
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Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Confederate States of America
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Branch: United States Army
Confederate States Army
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Rank: Colonel (USA)
Major General (CSA)
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Battles: Mexican-American War
American Civil War
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Benjamin Franklin Cheatham (October 20, 1820 – September 4, 1886), known also as Frank, was a Tennessee aristocrat, California gold miner, and a General in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, serving in many battles of the Western Theater.

Early years[edit | edit source]

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[1] in the Tennessee Militia.

Civil War[edit | edit source]

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 Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk. His first test in the war was in Missouri on November 7 at the Battle of Belmont, leading three regiments in Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow's division against Union Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, 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 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.[2] General Braxton Bragg became commander of the Army (soon to be designated the Army of Tennessee) and Cheatham served under him at Perryville and Stones River. At the latter battle, Cheatham performed sluggishly, ordering piecemeal assaults; observers claimed he had been drinking heavily and was unable to command his units effectively.[citation needed]

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.

In 1864, Cheatham fought well in the Atlanta Campaign under General Joseph E. Johnston, and later Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, inflicting heavy casualties on William T. Sherman's Union Army 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 Maj. Gen. 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.

Postbellum[edit | edit source]

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 a Tennessee state prison and postmaster of Nashville (1885–1886). He died in Nashville and is buried there in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Shortly after the war he married Anna Bell Robertson of North Carolina, who was no relation to the Robertsons in his lineage. She was the sister of one of his war-time aides. They had five children together: Frank Jr., George Patton, an unnamed son, Alice, and Medora.

Cheatham's son, Benjamin Franklin Cheatham, Jr. (1867–1944), 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.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Eicher. Warner and Evans list his highest militia rank as major general.
  2. Eicher.

References[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Losson, Christopher, Tennessee's Forgotten Warriors; Frank Cheatham and his Confederate Division, University of Tennessee Press, 1989, ISBN 0-87049-615-8.

External links[edit | edit source]

de:Benjamin Franklin Cheatham nl:Benjamin F. Cheatham

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