The American Civil War Overview


       Following the loss of Atlanta to Sherman, Hood proposed that he take the Army of Tennessee west to strike Sherman's communications. Apparently without a clear plan or objective, initially trying to pull Sherman back north to protect his line of communication, Hood then decided to move against Nashville. Sherman, apparently unconcerned, detached Thomas and elements of the XXIII and IV Corps under Major General Schofield to Nashville to deal with Hood while he continued with his plans for his famous "March to the Sea".
       Hood crossed the Alabama-Tennessee border on November 21 and on November 27 made contact with Schofield and about 30,000 Federals at Columbia. Hood flanked the Columbia position and stole a march on Schofield, who was somewhat casual about his retreat. In a still unclear sequence of events involving misunderstood orders and just plain bad luck, the Army of Tennessee was in position to cut Schofield off from the main pike leading to Nashville but allowed the whole Federal force literally to march past their campfires on the night of November 29 at Spring Hill.
       Schofield, appreciating his narrow escape, moved to the previously prepared Federal defensive works at Franklin, on the Harpeth River. Not intending to offer Hood battle at Franklin, Schofield nevertheless needed time to repair the railroad bridge over the river so his trains could be moved. Hood for his part, was furious at his lost opportunity at Spring Hill and ordered a series of frontal assaults with only two of the three corps of his army present and practically no artillery support.
       Hood wrecked his army at Franklin. He lost at least 1,750 men killed, 3,800 wounded, and 702 captured for a total of 6,252 compared to 2,326 Federal casualties. Among Hood's losses were five generals killed (including Patrick Cleburne), one captured, and six wounded (other accounts say that Hood probably lost at least 7,500 men at Franklin). His command structure was a shambles. Many regiments were now no larger than companies had been earlier in the war. In some cases the highest surviving ranking officer was a captain.
       The remnants of the Army of Tennessee would follow the Federals to Nashville, but when Thomas had finally gathered his forces together and planned his attack, it was no contest. On December 15-16, Thomas forced back and then routed Hood's remaining forces. Only a brilliant rear-guard action conducted initially by Stephen Lee's corps and later by Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest saved the army from complete destruction during its retreat. When the surviving fragments of the Army of Tennessee went into winter quarters at Tupelo, Mississippi in January, 1865, Hood was relieved of command. The last Confederate offensive campaign of the war had ended.

This Page last updated 11/13/01


CHAPTER XX, The Western Theater: Sherman's March to the Sea and Campaign of the Carolinas