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A “Red Burial Blent” at Nashville

Philip Sidney Post, pictured as a colonel. Carte de visite by John Carbutt of Chicago. The Liljenquist Family Collection at the Library of Congress.
Philip Sidney Post, pictured as a colonel. Carte de visite by John Carbutt of Chicago. The Liljenquist Family Collection at the Library of Congress.

On Dec. 16, 1864, the second day of the Battle of Nashville, Maj. Gen. George H. “Pap” Thomas’s Union army readied for a bloody assault. His men marched amidst a blaze of artillery and through drifts of gun smoke against the Confederate army of Gen. John B. Hood. His sons of the South, entrenched along the base of Overton Hill, braced for the attack.

Over on the Union left, a blue brigade advanced towards a salient in the Confederate works, one of the hottest spots along the gray line. The colonel in command, Philip Sidney Post, advanced his men three lines deep: the first of skirmishers and two more for the main assault.

One of Post’s fellow colonels, Charles H. Grosvenor, shared his recollections years later. Borrowing from Lord Byron’s Waterloo, Grosvenor noted, “I remember how very well he looked, although he was at some little distance from me. He was calm, imperturbable, absolutely unaffected by the surroundings, simply going right at the great object that was in front of him. Suddenly his column in front wavered, halted, became entangled in confusion, and, as another terrific avalanche of shot and shell struck his column, he, pressing to the front upon his horse, was struck, and fell, ‘horse and rider in one red burial blent.’”Post’s fearlessness was standard operating procedure for the man. A natural-born leader who had worked his way from second lieutenant to colonel of the 59th Illinois Infantry, he had suffered a severe wound during the 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge, Ark. Senior commanders, impressed by his fighting qualities, elevated him to brigade command. In this role, Post earned praise for his actions during the Battle of Stones River and the Atlanta Campaign.

Grosvenor and others who saw Post and his mount disappear in a hail of fire at Nashville assumed the worst. Grape shot had shattered his hip. Surgeons determined his condition grave and made him comfortable for his final hours. He teetered on the brink of life and death for days, and then miraculously pulled through. A few months later, Post was promoted brigadier general to date from the day of his injury.

The brutal fighting at Overton Hill ended in a massive route of the Confederates and the destruction of Hood’s army—one of the Union’s greatest victories.

In 1893, Post received the Medal of Honor for Overton Hill. By this time, he had served in diplomatic posts and in national politics as a Republican Congressman.

He died in 1895 after a short illness at age 61.

In a memorial address, now retired Brig. Gen. Grosvenor declared, “If there was in all the range of my acquaintance a man who was a true type of the splendid American volunteer soldier that man was Philip Sidney Post, of Illinois.”

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