Franklin-Nashville Campaign

Franklin-Nashville Campaign

thumb|right|400px|Map of the Franklin-Nashville CampaignThe Franklin-Nashville Campaign, also known as Hood's Tennessee Campaign, was a series of battles in the Western Theater, fought in the fall of 1864 in Alabama, Tennessee, and northwestern Georgia during the American Civil War. The Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood drove north from Atlanta, threatening Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's lines of communications and central Tennessee, but Union forces under Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas defeated Hood decisively at Nashville, Tennessee.

Opposing forces

Hood's Army of Tennessee, at 39,000 men, constituted the second-largest remaining army of the Confederacy, ranking in strength only after Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The army consisted of the corps of Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham, Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee, and Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart, and cavalry forces under Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

At the beginning of the campaign, Union forces designated the Military Division of the Mississippi were commanded by Sherman in Atlanta, but his personal involvement in the campaign lasted only until the end of October. Reporting to Sherman was the Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas (the "Rock of Chickamauga"), the force previously commanded by Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans and then Sherman himself. Thomas was the principal Union commander after Sherman's departure. Subordinate to him was the Army of the Ohio, commanded by Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield. It consisted of 34,000 men, made up of the IV Corps under Maj. Gen. David S. Stanley, the XXIII Corps under Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox, and a Cavalry Corps commanded by Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson. Thomas had an additional 26,000 men at Nashville and scattered around his department.


After his successful Atlanta Campaign, Sherman occupied Atlanta, and Hood, who was forced to evacuate the city, regrouped at Lovejoy's Station. For almost a month, the normally aggressive Sherman took little action while his men sat about idly, and many left the army at the end of their enlistments. On September 21, 1864, Hood moved his forces to Palmetto, Georgia, where on September 27, he was visited by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The two men planned their strategy, which called for Hood to move toward Chattanooga, Tennessee, and operate against Sherman's lines of communications. They hoped that Sherman would follow and that Hood would be able to maneuver Sherman into a decisive battle.

Although Sherman was planning to march east to seize the city of Savannah, Georgia (the campaign that would be known as Sherman's March to the Sea) he was concerned about his lines of communications back to Chattanooga. One particular threat was the guerrilla leader and cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest, who had long bedeviled Union expeditions with lightning raids into their rear areas. On September 29, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant urged Sherman to dispose of Forrest and Sherman sent Thomas to Nashville, Tennessee, to organize all of the troops in the state. Sherman sent another division, under Brig. Gen. James D. Morgan, to Chattanooga.

So far, the Confederate strategy was working, because Sherman was being forced to disperse his strength to maintain his lines of communications. However, Sherman was not about to fall into Hood's trap completely. He intended to provide Thomas with sufficient strength to cope with Forrest and Hood, while he completed plans to strike out for Savannah. On September 29, Hood began his advance across the Chattahoochee River, heading to the northwest with 40,000 men to threaten the Western & Atlantic Railroad, Sherman's supply line. On October 1, Hood's cavalry was intercepted by Union cavalry under Brig. Gens. Judson Kilpatrick and Israel Garrard in a raid on the railroad near Marietta, but Sherman was still uncertain of Hood's location. For the next three weeks, Sherman had difficulty keeping abreast of Hood's movements. Hood moved rapidly, screened his march, and maintained the initiative. The Union cavalry, which Sherman had neglected to train adequately, had a difficult time following Hood and reporting his movements.

On October 3, Sherman left Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum in Atlanta and moved toward Marietta with a force of about 55,000 men. Hood split his force, sending the majority of his command to Dallas, Georgia. The remainder, a division under Maj. Gen. Samuel G. French, moved along the railroad toward Allatoona, where a brigade under Brig. Gen. John M. Corse had been sent to block them.


; Battle of Allatoona (October 5, 1864): French's Confederate division arrived near Allatoona at sunrise on October 5. After demanding a surrender and receiving a negative reply, French attacked. The Union outer line survived a sustained two and a half hour attack, but then fell back and regrouped in an earthen fort at Allatoona Pass. French repeatedly attacked, but the fort held. The Rebels began to run out of ammunition, and reports of arriving Union reinforcements influenced them to move off and rejoin Hood's main force.

Hood then moved to the west and crossed the Coosa River in the vicinity of Rome, Georgia, near the Alabama state line. He turned north in the direction of Resaca, Georgia, and joined with Joseph Wheeler's cavalry, which had been previously raiding in Tennessee. On October 12, Hood demanded the surrender of the Union brigade stationed at Resaca and left Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee's corps there to invest the city. Lee declined to attack the Union position because he believed that it would be too costly. Meanwhile, Sherman had learned of Hood's location and ordered reinforcements sent to Resaca. Hood sent Alexander P. Stewart as far north as Tunnel Hill, near the Tennessee state line, to damage the railroad as much as possible. During this operation, Stewart captured a regiment of African-American troops at Dalton, Georgia.

Sherman moved his entire army toward Resaca, arriving there on October 13. From Resaca, Hood withdrew to the west toward Gaylesville, Alabama. Hood had hoped to engage Sherman in battle near Cross Roads, Georgia, but his subordinate commanders convinced him that their troops' morale was not ready to risk an attack. By this time, Sherman had received an indication from Grant that he was favorably considering the march to Savannah. He set his mind on the short-term goal of pursuing the swiftly moving Hood. He directed Thomas to send back two of the divisions he had earlier dispatched northward, and by October 17 they were en route with John Schofield in command. They join Sherman at Gaylesville on October 23.

Hood had time at Cross Roads to focus his strategy. He needed to prevent Thomas's army from reuniting with Sherman and overwhelming him, and he calculated that if he moved swiftly into Tennessee, he might be able to defeat Thomas before the Union forces could be reassembled. After Thomas was eliminated, Hood planned to move into central Kentucky and replenish his army with recruits from there and Tennessee. He hoped to accomplish all of this before Sherman could reach him. His plan was that if Sherman followed him, Hood would fight him in Kentucky; from there he planned to move eastward through the Cumberland Gap to aid Robert E. Lee, who was besieged at Petersburg.

On October 21, Hood's plan received the approval of General P.G.T. Beauregard, who was in command of all forces in the Western Theater. Hood set out in the direction of Decatur, Alabama, with the intention of meeting up with Nathan Bedford Forrest in the vicinity of Florence, Alabama.

; Battle of Decatur (October 26 – October 29): Hood demonstrated against Decatur in an attempt to cross the Tennessee River. Union forces, under the command of Brig. Gen. Robert S. Granger for most of the battle, numbered only about 5,000 men, but they successfully prevented the much larger Confederate force from crossing the river.

; Battle of Johnsonville (November 4 – November 5): Forrest led a 23-day raid culminating in an attack on the Union supply base at Johnsonville, Tennessee. Swinging north from Corinth, Mississippi, toward the Kentucky border and temporarily blockading the Tennessee River at Fort Herman, Forrest then moved southward along the Tennessee River's west bank, capturing several U.S. steamers and a gunboat, which he later had to abandon. On November 4, Forrest began positioning his artillery across the river from the Federal supply base and landing at Johnsonville. Over a two-day period, numerous firefights between land and naval forces caused considerable destruction to Union supplies. Although this victory further strengthened Forrest's reputation and destroyed a great amount of Union materiel, it failed to stem the tide of Union success in Georgia.

Hood moved on to Tuscumbia, Alabama, and crossed the Tennessee River on October 31 with a single division. A Union cavalry brigade there was too weak to prevent the crossing, but it did provide valuable intelligence as to Hood's location. Meanwhile, on October 30, Sherman had also dispatched Schofield with the XXIII Corps to Thomas and ordered the corps of Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Smith to move to Nashville. Sherman was confident that he had provided sufficient forces to Thomas to handle Hood, and he now prepared for his march through Georgia. By November 10, Sherman's troops were en route back to Atlanta.

Hood remained in the vicinity of Florence for three weeks, awaiting a link-up with Forrest, who finally arrived on November 18. Meanwhile, although urged by Sherman to move quickly, Thomas was fulfilling his reputation as a slow and deliberate general. Hood advanced in three columns to seize the Duck River crossings at Columbia, Tennessee, which, if successful, would separate Schofield from Thomas. On November 22, Schofield rushed two divisions north to secure Columbia, and the first arrived on November 24, in time to prevent Forrest from seizing the bridges.

; Battle of Columbia (November 24 – November 29): The Federals built two lines of earthworks south of the town while skirmishing with enemy cavalry on November 24 and November 25. Hood advanced his infantry on the following day but did not assault. He made demonstrations along the front while marching two corps of his army to Davis Ford, some five miles (8 km) eastward on the Duck River. Schofield correctly interpreted Hood's moves, but foul weather prevented him from crossing to the north bank before November 28, leaving Columbia to the Confederates. The next day, both armies marched north for Spring Hill, Tennessee. Schofield had slowed Hood's movement but had not stopped him.

; Battle of Spring Hill (November 29): Skirmishing between Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson's Union cavalry and Forrest's Confederate troopers continued throughout the day as the Confederates advanced. Schofield reinforced the troops, holding the crossroads at Spring Hill. In late afternoon, the Federals repulsed a piecemeal Confederate infantry attack. During the night, the rest of Schofield's command passed from Columbia through Spring Hill to Franklin, Tennessee. This may have been Hood's best chance to isolate and defeat the Union army, but his subordinates (Benjamin F. Cheatham and Stewart) moved slowly and did not coordinate their actions, allowing Thomas to move to Franklin unimpeded.

; Second Battle of Franklin (November 30): Schofield reached Franklin about sunrise on November 30 and quickly formed a defensive line in works constructed by the Union during the First Battle of Franklin in the spring of 1863, on the southern edge of town. This was a risky strategy because they were defending with the river at their backs. They were unable to cross the river because the pontoon bridges had not yet come up and they could not get their supply trains over them. Around 4:00 p.m., Hood launched a frontal attack against the Union line. Two Federal brigades holding a forward position gave way and retreated to the inner works, but their comrades ultimately held in a battle that caused high casualties. When the battle ceased, after dark, six Confederate generals were dead or had mortal wounds.

Hood's army slowly pursued Thomas toward Nashville. This was a controversial move on Hood's part because his army was enervated and no longer ready for offensive operations. However, he believed that if he ordered a retreat, it would mean the complete disintegration of his army. Hood decided that destruction of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and disruption of the Union army supply depot at Murfreesboro would help his cause. On December 4 he sent Forrest, with two cavalry divisions and Maj. Gen. William B. Bate's infantry division, to Murfreesboro. Hood ordered Bate to destroy the railroad and blockhouses between Murfreesboro and Nashville and join Forrest for further operations.

; Third Battle of Murfreesboro (December 5 – December 6): Forrest's combined command attacked Murfreesboro but was repulsed. They destroyed railroad track, blockhouses, and some homes and generally disrupted Union operations in the area, but they did not accomplish much else. The raid on Murfreesboro was a minor irritation. Bate was recalled to Nashville, but Forrest remained near Murfreesboro and thus was absent from the battle of Nashville. In retrospect, Hood's decision to detach Forrest from his main command was a major blunder.

Hood reached the outskirts of Nashville on December 2, occupied positions on a line of hills parallel to those of the Union, and began erecting fieldworks. Thomas made preparations from December 1 to December 14 for the battle in which he intended to destroy Hood's army. He was under enormous political pressure from Washington, D.C., to attack; the civilian politicians and the army high command were both nervous about Hood's progress in Tennessee as well as Grant's stalemate with Lee in Virginia. Thomas was ready to attack on December 8 when a snowstorm struck, forcing postponement, further enraging Washington. On December 13, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan was directed to proceed to Nashville and assume command if, upon his arrival, Thomas had not yet initiated operations. He made it as far as Louisville by December 15, but on that day the Battle of Nashville had begun.

; Battle of Nashville (December 15 – December 16): Thomas planned to strike both of Hood's flanks, with a minor attack on the Confederate right and the major effort on the left. Before daylight on December 15, the division led by Maj. Gen. James B. Steedman hit the Confederate right and held down one corps there for the rest of the day. The attack on the left, under Schofield, leading two corps and a division, began after noon with a charge up Montgomery Hill, and it had a devastating effect on the entire Confederate line. Hood's army was battered but not routed. Fighting stopped at dark, and Hood reformed his men for the second day of battle. He established a main line of resistance along the base of a ridge about two miles (3 km) south of the former location, throwing up new works and fortifying hills on their flanks. Union troops marched out close to the Confederate's new line and began constructing fieldworks on the morning of December 16. Once again Thomas planned to attack on both flanks, but the initial attack on the strongly fortified Confederate right was unsuccessful. It was followed by the stronger left flank attack under Schofield, Smith, and Wilson, which succeeded. Their success inspired Thomas J. Wood and James B. Steedman to resume their attack on the right flank, which overran the Confederates. Hood's army collapsed and fled in a heavy rain in the direction of Franklin.


The Union army set off in pursuit of Hood. The rainy weather became an ally to the Confederates, delaying the Union cavalry pursuit, and Forrest was able to rejoin Hood on December 18, screening the retreating force. The pursuit continued until the beaten and battered Army of Tennessee recrossed the Tennessee River on December 25.

Hood's army was stalled at Columbia, beaten at Franklin, and routed at Nashville. Hood retreated to Tupelo, Mississippi, and resigned his command on January 13, 1865. Forrest returned to Mississippi, but in 1865 he was driven into Alabama by James H. Wilson, and his command became dissipated and ineffective.

By the time of Hood's defeat in Nashville, Sherman's army had advanced to the outskirts of Savannah, which they captured just before Christmas. Five thousand men from the Army of Tennessee were later employed under Joseph E. Johnston against Sherman in South Carolina, but to no avail.

The Franklin-Nashville Campaign was the final significant action in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.


* Esposito, Vincent J., [ "West Point Atlas of American Wars"] , Frederick A. Praeger, 1959.
* [ National Park Service Battle Summaries]

External links

* [ McGavock Confederate Cemetery]
* [ "West Point Atlas" map, September 29 – November 26]
* [ "West Point Atlas" map, Battles of Spring Hill and Franklin]
* [ "West Point Atlas" map, Battle of Nashville]
* [ Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864]

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