From First to Last: The Life of Major General William B. Franklin

By Mark A. Snell | Go to book overview

17
“A Butterfly Kind of Existence”:
Colt’s Firearms and a New Beginning

GENERAL FRANKLIN recorded in his journal the tedium of the retiring board. Among his sketchy comments about board business, Franklin noted such activities as visits with family and friends (including George McClellan); attendance at church, parties, and other social functions; travel; his appearance before the JCCW about the Red River Campaign; and the condition of his health. Several events of national significance—most notably the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 12, 1865, and the assassination of President Lincoln two days later—are conspicuously absent from the journal.1 There are only two possible explanations for the want of an entry on these momentous dates: either Franklin was too overwhelmed with emotion, or he had become so apathetic that he chose not to even record what happened on those days. In light of his Civil War experiences, the latter explanation probably is the more likely.

The defeat of the Confederacy and the fact that he had become a general in “the noble army of the shelved” meant that Franklin soon must find Chilian employment or return to his permanent rank, colonel of the Twelfth U.S. Infantry. With the rapid demobilization of the volunteer army that was sure to follow, there was no guarantee that he even would be able to remain on active service. On June 27 Franklin, wanting to know his status, sent a letter to Grant. Colonel Horace Porter, Grant’s aide-de-camp, responded immediately. Porter assured him that Grant “has never, at any time, been opposed to giving you an active command in the field, although he cannot, at present, promise you more active duty than that of serving upon boards and courts.” Porter reassured Franklin that he would not, “by any action or recommendation” of Grant’s “be mustered out of service as long [as] the Volunteer Generals are retained.”2 The prospects being what they were, Franklin began his search for a new line of work.

1 WBF, diary entries from January-April 1865. Franklin Papers.

2 Horace Porter to WBF, 28 June 1865. Franklin Papers, LC.

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