December 2, 1864: Non-Siege of Nashville Begins



One of the oddest episodes in the history of the Civil War begins.  His army badly mangled at the battle of Franklin, Hood entrenches his army before the Union lines at Nashville.

Hood explained his rationale for doing so in his official report of the campaign which he submitted on February 15, 1865:

On the 2d of December the army took position in front of Nashville, about two miles from the city. Lieutenant-General Lee’s corps constituted our center, resting upon the Franklin pike, with Cheatham’s corps upon the right and Stewart’s on the left, and the cavalry on either flank, extending to the river. I was causing strong detached works to be built to cover our flanks, intending to make them inclosed works, so as to defeat any attempt of the enemy should he undertake offensive movements against our flank and rear. The enemy still held Murfrees-borough with about 6,000 men, strongly fortified; he also held small forces at Chattanooga and Knoxville. It was apparent that he would soon have to take the offensive to relieve his garrisons at those points or cause them to be evacuated, in which case I hoped to capture the forces at Murfreesborough, and should then be able to open communication with Georgia and Virginia. Should he attack me in position I felt that I could defeat him, and thus gain possession of Nashville with abundant supplies for the army. This would give me possession of Tennessee. Necessary steps were taken to furnish the army with supplies, which the people were ready and willing to furnish. Shoe-shops were in operation in each brigade. We had captured sufficient railroad stock to use the road to Pulaski, and it was already in successful operation. Having possession of the State, we should have gained largely in recruits, and could at an early day have moved forward to the Ohio, which would have frustrated the plans of the enemy, as developed in his campaign toward the Atlantic coast. (more…)

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December 15, 1865: Battle of Nashville Begins

Battle of Nashville




The final major battle in the West in the American Civil War, the two day battle of Nashville that commenced on December 15, 1864, was a decisive Union victory.  Delayed by bad weather, Union general Thomas endured a steady stream of telegrams from Washington and Grant demanding that he attack.  Thomas would not do so until he was ready.  Grant, who had never had a good relationship with Thomas, decided to remove him, and only the knowledge that an  attack was imminent stayed the decision:

I consequently urged Thomas in frequent dispatches sent from City Point to make the attack at once. The country was alarmed, the administration was alarmed, and I was alarmed lest the very thing would take place which I have just described that is, Hood would get north. It was all without avail further than to elicit dispatches from Thomas saying that he was getting ready to move as soon as he could, that he was making preparations, etc. At last I had to say to General Thomas that I should be obliged to remove him unless he acted promptly. He replied that he was very sorry, but he would move as soon as he could.  
  General Logan happening to visit City Point about that time, and knowing him as a prompt, gallant and efficient officer, I gave him an order to proceed to Nashville to relieve Thomas. I directed him, however, not to deliver the order or publish it until he reached there, and if Thomas had moved, then not to deliver it at all, but communicate with me by telegraph. After Logan started, in thinking over the situation, I became restless, and concluded to go myself. I went as far as Washington City, when a dispatch was received from General Thomas announcing his readiness at last to move, and designating the time of his movement. I concluded to wait until that time. He did move, and was successful from the start. This was on the 15th of December. General Logan was at Louisville at the time this movement was made, and telegraphed the fact to Washington, and proceeded no farther himself.
Heavily outnumbering the Confederates, Thomas planned to attack the exposed Confederate left while making feint attacks on the Confederate right.  Hood was not fooled by the feint attacks and throughout the day sent reinforcements to the Confederate left.  After hard fighting, Thomas took the five redoubts guarding the Confederate left.
The next day Thomas repeated his tactics, with attacks on the new Confederate left and feint attacks on the Confederate right.  As the sun was going down, the Confederate left disintegrated and Thomas had won the battle.  Thomas pursued Hood relentlessly until Hood crossed the Tennessee River on December 28.  The Confederate Army of Tennessee was finished as an effective combat force.  Confederate casualties were 6000 to 3000 Union.
Here is the report of Thomas on the battle: (more…)

July 20, 1864: Battle of Peachtree Creek


Sherman was closing in on Atlanta.  General Joseph Johnston had delayed the advance of Sherman but he had not been able to stop him.  On July 8 Sherman crossed the Chattahoochie River, the last major physical obstacle between him and Atlanta.  Johnston withdrew across Peachtree Creek north of Atlanta, planning to attack Sherman’s army as it crossed the creek.  As he made his preparations, Johnston was suddenly removed from his command by Davis.  Davis and Johnston were old enemies, but Davis removing Johnston was more an act of desperation than anything else.  If Atlanta fell, the Confederate heartland was open for an invasion by Sherman, and Johnston’s strategy of maneuver and retreat convinced Davis that Johnston would not fight for Atlanta.  Rolling the dice, Davis promoted one of Johnston’s corps commanders to the temporary rank of full general and John Bell Hood found himself in command of the Army of Tennessee.

Thirty-three years old and a West Point graduate, Hood had earned a reputation as an aggressive and successful division commander in the Army of Northern Virginia.  At Gettysburg he was severely wounded and lost the use of his left arm.  At Chickamauga he led the assault that cracked the Union army, and was again wounded losing his right leg.  Equipped now with a wooden leg, Hood had lost none of his aggression and self-confidence.  Under him retreat was to be a thing of the past, as he swiftly readied his army to take aggressive action to save Atlanta.

On July 19, Hood learned that Sherman was dividing his army, following his usual course of having the Army of the Cumberland under Thomas cross Peachtree Creek for a direct advance on Atlanta, while the Army of the Tennessee under McPherson and the Army of the Ohio under Schofield maneuvered to the East, to outflank the Confederates and to cut rail lines and the Confederate supply lines.  For a commander as fond of attack as Hood this was a golden opportunity to launch an assault on Thomas. (more…)

From Our Correspondent

When studying the Civil War, indeed when studying any historical period, it is always best to keep in mind one simple fact:  the people at the time had no idea how the events they were living through were going to turn out.  It is easy to see that when reading newspapers of a period which are usually filled with fairly facile observations and incorrect guesses of future events, rather like the newspapers of our day.  Here is a typical example where a correspondent of The Richmond Times Dispatch sends a report back on the relief of Rosecrans and the appointment of Thomas.  The dispatch is notable for demonstrating the depth of ill-will within the Confederacy against General George Thomas, a native Virginian, who was viewed as a traitor:

Army of Tennessee

  Near Chattanooga, Oct. 26, 1863.

The Federal Government has just committed its second greatest blunder. I allude to the removal of Rosecrans and the appointment of Thomas to succeed him.

McClellan is the best organizer of forces among all the Federal officers; Rosecrans the ablest campaigner and the best fighter. A great blunder was committed when the former was removed; a second blunder, almost as great, has just been made in the removal of the latter. The change is very popular with the Confederates, and even Gen. Bragg does not object to it. Officers who have known Rosecrans and Thomas both well for many years say we have made a gain by the exchange equivalent to 10,000 men; in other words, that Rosecrans is the better man of the two by 10,000 men. Thomas is a good fighter when he gets warmed up to the work; but ordinarily he is a slow man, and possesses neither the gift to organize an army and move it promptly nor the capacity to project a campaign on a broad scale.

Thomas is a native of Virginia, and belonged to the Calhoun school of politics. He was on duty in Texas at the time the States seceded, and so warmly did he sympathise with the Confederates that he tendered his resignation to Gen. Twiggs, the officer then in command in the Southwest, who, instead of accepting it, advised him to take a furlough and proceed to Richmond, and send in his resignation from that point, especially as it would enable him to travel that far free of expense. He acted upon the suggestion, went to Richmond, made a written application to Governor Letcher (which application is now on file in Richmond) for service in the Virginia State Guard, and then went North for his family. He had married in Troy, N. Y., and owned considerable property in the United States, which he desired to secure. He never returned, the presumption being that he was seduced by tempting offers from the Federal Government, or was dissuaded by his wife from entering the service of the Confederates. (more…)

Published in: on November 3, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on From Our Correspondent  
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