by J. B. Hood, General, C. S. A.
Unless the army could be heavily reenforced, there was but one plan to be adopted [after withdrawing from Atlanta
See p. 343]: by manoeuvres, to draw Sherman
back into the mountains, then beat him in battle, and at least regain our lost territory.
Therefore, after anxious reflection and consultation with the corps commanders, I determined to communicate with the President
, and ascertain whether or not reinforcements could be obtained from any quarter.
The reply from His Excellency
conveyed no hope of assistance:
I thereupon decided to operate at the earliest moment possible in the rear of Sherman
, as I became more and more convinced of our inability successfully to resist an advance of the Federal
I recalled General Wheeler
to join immediately the left of the army, whilst Colonel Presstman
, of the engineer corps, made ready to move with the pontoon-train and a sufficient number of boats to meet any emergency.
Upon the morning of the 18th the army began to move in the direction of the West Point Railroad, which the advance reached on the 19th.
Upon the 20th, line of battle was formed, with the right east of the railroad, and the left resting near the river, with army headquarters at Palmetto
On the 28th I issued instructions to commence the movement across the Chattahoochee
at Pumpkin Town and Phillips's Ferry, and on the following morning I directed that our supplies from Newnan
cross the river at Moore's Ferry
At noon I rode over the pontoon-bridge in advance of the infantry, and that night established my headquarters at Pray's Church, along with General W. H. Jackson
, commanding the cavalry.
The morning of the 1st of October Brigadier-General Jackson
advanced with the cavalry, sending a detachment at the same time to operate against the railroad between the Chattahoochee
That night the army went into bivouac eight miles north of Pray's Church, after having effected an undisturbed and safe passage of the Chattahoochee
Information was here received that Kilpatrick
's cavalry was north of the river, and that Garrard
's cavalry had moved in the direction of Rome
The night of the 2d the army rested near Flint Hill Church.
On the morning of the 3d Lieutenant-General Stewart
was instructed to move with his corps and take possession of Big Shanty; to send, if practicable, a detachment for the same purpose to Ackworth
, and to destroy as great a portion of the railroad in the vicinity as possible; also to send a division to Allatoona
to capture that place, if, in the judgment of the commanding officer
, the achievement was feasible.
The main body of the army in the meantime moved forward and bivouacked near Carley's house, within four miles of Lost Mountain
On the 4th General Stewart
captured, after a slight resistance, about 170 prisoners at Big Shanty, and at 9:30 A. M. the garrison at Ackworth
, numbering 250 men, surrendered to General Loring
The forces under these officers joined the main body near Lost Mountain
on the morning of the 5th, having, in addition, destroyed about ten or fifteen miles of the railroad.
I had received information that the enemy had in store at Allatoona
large supplies which were guarded by two or three regiments.
As one of the objects of the campaign was to deprive the enemy of provisions, Major-General French
was ordered to move with his division, capture the garrison, if practicable, and gain possession of the supplies.
Accordingly, on the 5th, at 10 A. M., after a refusal to surrender, he attacked the Federal
forces at Allatoona
, and succeeded in capturing a portion of the works; at that juncture he received intelligence that large reinforcements were advancing in support of the enemy, and fearing he would be cut off from the main body of the army, he retired and abandoned the attempt.
Our soldiers fought with great courage; during the engagement Brigadier-General Young
, a brave and efficient officer, was wounded and captured by the enemy.
won my admiration by his gallant resistance, and not without reason the Federal
commander complimented this officer, through a general order
, for his handsome conduct in the defense of Allatoona
[See pp. 322, 323, and 324.]
Our presence upon his communications compelled Sherman
to leave Atlanta
in haste and cross the Chattahoochee
on the 3d and 4th of October with, according to our estimate at that time, about 65,000 infantry and artillery and two divisions of cavalry.
He left one corps to guard the city and the railway bridge across the river, and telegraphed to Grant
he would attack me if I struck his road south of the Etowah
On the 6th my army reached Dallas
; our right rested at New Hope Church, where intelligence was received that the enemy was advancing from Lost Mountain
we marched to Coosaville, ten miles south-west of Rome
, via Van Wert
, and Cave Spring
At the latter place Major-General Wheeler
, with a portion of his command, joined me from Tennessee
We arrived at Coosaville on the 10th.
In a dispatch to General [Richard] Taylor
, October 7th, I requested that Forrest
be ordered to operate at once in Tennessee
Your dispatch of the 6th received.
This army being in motion, it is of vital importance that Forrest should
move without delay, and operate on the enemy's railroad.
If he cannot break the Chattanooga and Nashville Railroad he can occupy their forces there and prevent damage being repaired on the other road.
He should lose no time in moving.
On the 11th the army crossed the Coosa River
, marched in the direction of Resaca
, and bivouacked that night fourteen miles above Coosaville and ten miles north-west of Rome
That same day Major-General Arnold Elzey
, was directed to move to Jacksonville
with the reserve artillery and all surplus wagons, and General Jackson
was instructed to retard the enemy as much as possible, in the event of his advance from Rome
Having thus relieved the army of all incumbance, and made ready for battle, we marched rapidly to Resaca
, and thence to Dalton
, via Sugar Valley
Post-Office. Lieutenant-General Lee
moved upon Resaca
, with instructions to display his forces and demand the surrender of the garrison, but not to attack unless, in his judgment, the capture could be effected with small loss of life.
He decided not to assault the Federal
works, and commenced at once the destruction of the railroad.
On the 13th I demanded the surrender of Dalton
, which, in the first instance, was refused, but was finally acceded to at 4 P. M. The garrison consisted of about one thousand men. As the road between Resaca
and Tunnel Hill
had been effectually destroyed, the army was put in motion the next morning in the direction of Gadsden
, and camped that night near Villanow
the army passed through the gaps in the mountains, and halted on the 15th at Cross Roads, in a beautiful valley about nine miles south of Lafayette
At this time I received intelligence that on the 13th Sherman
had reached Snake Creek Gap, where the right of his line had rested in the early spring of this year; also that he was marching in our pursuit, whilst General Wheeler
was endeavoring to retard his advance as much as possible.
I here determined to advance no farther toward the Tennessee River
, but to select a position and deliver battle, since Sherman
, at an earlier date than anticipated, had moved as far north as I had hoped to allure him; moreover, I was again in the vicinity of the Alabama
line, with the Blue Mountain Railroad in my rear, and I thought I had discovered that improvement in the morale of the troops which would justify me in delivering battle.
In accordance with information received from our cavalry, Sherman
had, however, made no further division of his forces after leaving Atlanta
I therefore estimated his strength to be about 65,000 effectives.
Upon the eve of action I considered it important to ascertain by personal inquiry and through the aid of officers of my staff,--not alone from corps commanders, but from officers of less rank,--whether or not my impressions after the capture of Dalton
were correct, and I could rely upon the troops entering into battle at least hopeful of victory.
I took measures to obtain likewise the views of Lieutenant-General S. D. Lee
, who at this juncture was with his corps in rear, at or near Ship's Gap.
He agreed with all the officers consulted; the opinion was unanimous that although the army had much improved in spirit, it was not in condition to risk battle against the numbers reported by General Wheeler
The renouncement of the object for which I had so earnestly striven brought with it genuine disappointment; I had expected that a forward movement of one hundred miles would re-inspirit the officers and men in a degree to impart to them confidence, enthusiasm, and hope of victory, if not strong faith in its achievement.
I remained two days at Cross Roads in serious thought and perplexity.
I could not offer battle while the officers were unanimous
in their opposition.
Neither could I take an intrenched position with likelihood of advantageous results, since Sherman
could do the same, repair the railroad, amass a large army, place Thomas
in my front in command of the forces he afterward assembled at Nashville
, and then, himself, move southward; or, as previously suggested, he could send Thomas
, whilst he marched through Georgia
, and left me to follow in his rear.
This last movement upon our part would be construed by the troops into a retreat, and could but result in disaster.
In this dilemma I conceived the plan of marching into Tennessee
with the hope to establish our line eventually in Kentucky
, and determined to make the campaign which followed, unless withheld by General Beauregard2
or the authorities at Richmond
I decided to make provision for twenty days supply of rations in the haversacks and wagons; to order a heavy reserve of artillery to accompany the army, in order to overcome any serious opposition by the Federal
gun-boats; to cross the Tennessee
at or near Guntersville
, and again destroy Sherman
's communications at Stevenson
; to move upon Thomas
, and to attempt to rout and capture their army before it could reach Nashville
I intended then to march upon that city, where I would supply the army and reenforce it, if possible, by accessions from Tennessee
I was imbued with the belief that I could accomplish this feat, afterward march north-east, pass the Cumberland River
at some crossing where the gun-boats, if too formidable at other points, were unable to interfere, then move into Kentucky
, and take position with our left at or near Richmond
, and our right extending toward Hazel Green
, with Pound
and Stony gaps in the Cumberland Mountains
at our rear.
In this position I could threaten Cincinnati
, and recruit the army from Kentucky
; the former State was reported, at this juncture, to be more aroused and embittered against the Federals
than at any other period of the war. While
was debating between the alternatives of following our army or marching through Georgia
, I hoped, by rapid movements, to achieve these results.
should cut loose and move south — as I then believed he would do after I left his front without previously worsting him in battle
--I would occupy at Richmond, Kentucky
, a position of superior advantage, as Sherman
, upon his arrival at the sea-coast, would be forced to go on board ship, and, after a long detour by water and land, repair to the defense of Kentucky
or march direct to the support of Grant
If he should return to confront my forces, or follow me directly from Georgia
, I hoped then to be in condition to offer battle; and, if blessed with victory, to send reinforcements to General Lee
, in Virginia
, or to march through the gaps in the Cumberland Mountains
and attack Grant
This latter course I would pursue in the event of defeat or of inability to offer battle to Sherman
If, on the other hand, he should march to join Grant
, I could pass through the Cumberland gaps
, and attack Grant
in rear at least two weeks before he, Sherman
, could render him assistance.
This move, I believed, would defeat Grant
, and allow General Lee
, in command of our combined armies, to march upon Washington
or turn upon and annihilate Sherman
Such is the plan which during the 15th and 16th, as we lay in bivouac near Lafayette
, I maturely considered, and determined to carry out.
On the 17th the army resumed its line of march, and that night camped three miles from the forks of the Alpine, Gaylesville
, and Summerville roads; thence it proceeded towards Gadsden
I proposed to move directly on to Guntersville
and to take into Tennessee
about one-half of Wheeler
's cavalry (leaving the remainder to look after Sherman
) and to have a depot of supplies at Tuscumbia
in the event that I should meet with defeat in Tennessee
Shortly after my arrival at Gadsden
, General Beauregard
reached the same point; I at once unfolded to him my plan, and requested that he confer apart with the corps commanders, Lieutenant-Generals Lee
and Major-General Cheatham
If after calm deliberation he deemed it expedient we should remain upon the Alabama
line and attack Sherman
, or take position, intrench, and finally follow on his rear when he should move south, I would of course acquiesce, albeit with reluctance.
If, contrariwise, he should agree to my proposed plan to cross into Tennessee
, I would move immediately to Guntersville
, thence to Stevenson
, and Nashville
This important question at issue was discussed during the greater part of one night, with maps before us. General Beauregard
at length took the ground that, if I should engage in the projected campaign, it would be necessary to leave in Georgia
all the cavalry at present with the army, in order to watch and harass Sherman
in case he should move south, and to instruct Forrest
to join me as soon as I should cross the Tennessee River
To this proposition I acceded.
After he had held a separate conference with the corps commanders, we again debated several hours over the course of action to be pursued; and, during the interview, I discovered that he had gone to work in earnest to ascertain, in person, the true condition of the army; that he had sought information not only from the corps commanders, but from a number of officers, and had reached the same conclusion I had formed at Lafayette
: that we were not competent to offer pitched battle to Sherman
, nor could we follow him south without causing our retrograde movement to be construed by the troops into a recurrence
of retreat, which would entail desertions and render the army of little or no use in its opposition to the enemy's march through Georgia
After two days deliberation General Beauregard
authorized me, on the evening of the 21st of October, to proceed to the execution of my plan of operations into Tennessee
. General Beauregard
's approval of a forward movement into Tennessee
was soon made known to the army.
The prospect of again entering that State created great en-thusiasm, and from the different encampments arose at intervals that genuine Confederate shout so familiar to every Southern soldier, and which then betokened an improved state of feeling among the troops.
With twenty days rations in the haversacks and wagons, we marched, on the 22d of October, upon all the roads leading from Gadsden
in the direction of Guntersville
, on the Tennessee River
, and bivouacked that night in the vicinity of Bennettsville
I here received information that General Forrest
was near Jackson, Tennessee
, and could not reach the middle portion of this State, as the river was too high.
It would, therefore, be impossible for him to join me if I crossed at Guntersville
; as it was regarded as essential that the whole of Wheeler
's cavalry should remain in Georgia
, I decided to deflect westward, effect a junction with Forrest
, and then cross the river at Florence
sent orders to him to join me without delay, and also dispatched a messenger to hasten forward supplies to Tuscumbia
The succeeding day the movement was continued toward Florence
, in lieu of Guntersville
as I had expected.
's corps reached the Tennessee
, near Florence
, on the 30th; [Edward] Johnson
's division crossed the river and took possession of that town.
My headquarters were during the 27th and 28th at the house of General Garth
, near Decatur
, where General Beauregard
While the army turned Decatur
, I ordered a slight demonstration to be made against the town till our forces passed safely beyond, when I moved toward Tuscumbia
, at which place I arrived on the 31st of October.
's division, which held possession of Florence
, was reenforced the same day by Clayton
Thus the Confederate army rested upon the banks of the Tennessee
one month after its departure from Palmetto
It had been almost continuously in motion during the interim; by rapid moves and manoevres, and with only a small loss, it had drawn Sherman
as far north as he stood in the
The killed and wounded at Allatoona
had been replaced by absentees who returned to ranks, and, as usual in such operations, the number of desertions became of no consequence.
Notwithstanding my request as early as the 9th of October that the railroad to Decatur
be repaired, nothing had been done on the 1st of November toward the accomplishment of this important object.
I had expected upon my arrival at Tuscumbia
to find additional supplies, and to cross the river at once.
Unfortunately, I was constrained to
await repairs upon the railroad before a sufficient amount of supplies could be received to sustain the army till it was able to reach middle Tennessee
remained two weeks at Tuscumbia
and in its vicinity, during which interval the inaugurated campaign was discussed anew at great length.
was still in the neighborhood of Rome
, and the question arose as to whether we should take trains and return to Georgia
to oppose his movements south, or endeavor to execute the projected operations into Tennessee
I adhered to the conviction I had held at Lafayette
, and a second time desired General Beauregard
to consult the corps commanders, together with other officers, in regard to the effect a return to Georgia
would produce upon the army.
I also urged the consideration that Thomas
would immediately overrun Alabama
, if we marched to confront Sherman
I had fixedly determined, unless withheld by Beauregard
or the authorities at Richmond
, to proceed, as soon as supplies were received, to the execution of the plan submitted at Gadsden
At this juncture I was advised of the President
's opposition to the campaign into Tennessee
previous to a defeat of Sherman
The President was evidently under the impression that the army should have been equal to battle by the time it had reached the Alabama
line, and was averse to my going into Tennessee
He was not, as were General Beauregard
and myself, acquainted with its true condition.
Therefore, a high regard for his views notwithstanding, I continued firm in the belief that the only means to checkmate Sherman
, and cooperate with General Lee
to save the Confederacy
, lay in speedy success in Tennessee
, and in my ability finally to attack Grant
in rear with my entire force.
Although every possible effort was made to expedite the repairs upon the railroad, the work progressed slowly.
Heavy rains in that section also interfered with the completion of the road.
On the 13th I established my headquarters in Florence
, upon the north branch of the Tennessee
, and the following day General Forrest
, with his command, reported for duty.
On the 15th the remainder of Lee
's corps crossed the river and bivouacked in advance also of Florence
's and Cheatham
's corps were instructed to cross.
About the time all necessary preparations verged to a completion, and I anticipated to move forward once more, heavy rains again delayed our supplies.
Working parties were at once detailed and sent to different points on the railroad; wagons were also dispatched to aid in the transportation of supplies.
The officer in charge was instructed to require the men to labor unceasingly for the accomplishment of this important object.
In the meantime information had reached me that Sherman
was advancing south, from Atlanta
He marched out of that fated city on the 16th.
Thus were two opposing armies destined to move in opposite directions, each hoping to achieve glorious results.
I well knew the delay at Tuscumbia
would accrue to the advantage of Sherman
, as he would thereby be allowed time to repair his railroad, and at least start to the rear all surplus material.
I believed, however, that I could still get between Thomas
's forces and Nashville
, and rout them; furthermore, effect such manoeuvres as to insure to our troops an easy victory.
These convictions counterbalanced my regret that Sherman
was permitted to traverse Georgia
had moved in the direction of Georgia
to assemble all available forces to oppose Sherman
On the 19th the cavalry was ordered to move forward.
The succeeding day Lee
's corps marched to the front about ten miles on the Chisholm
road, between the Lawrenceburg
and Waynesboro' roads. On the 20th of November, Stewart
's corps having crossed the Tennessee
and bivouacked several miles beyond on the Lawrenceburg
road, orders were issued that the entire army move at an early hour the next morning.
's and Stewart
's corps marched upon the Chisholm and the Lawrenceburg
roads, and Cheatham
's upon the Waynesboro' road.
Early dawn of the 21st found the army in motion.
I hoped by a rapid march to get in rear of Schofield
's forces, then at Pulaski
, before they were able to reach Duck River
That night headquarters were established at Rawhide
, twelve miles north of Florence
, on the Waynesboro' road.
The march was resumed on the 22d and continued till the 27th, upon which date the troops, having taken advantage of every available road, reached Columbia
, via Mount Pleasant
operated in our front against the enemy's cavalry, which he easily drove from one position to another.
The Federals at Pulaski
became alarmed, and, by forced marches, reached Columbia
, upon Duck River
, in time to prevent our troops from cutting them off.
and his assistants laid the pontoons [over Duck River
] during the night of the 28th, about three miles above Columbia
; orders to move at dawn the following day having been issued to the two corps and the division above mentioned, I rode with my staff to Cheatham
's right, passed over the bridge soon after daybreak, and moved forward at the head of Granbury
's Texas brigade, of Cleburne
's division, with instructions that the remaining corps and divisions follow, and at the same time keep well closed up during the march.
had crossed, the evening previous, and moved to the front and right.
I threw forward a few skirmishers who advanced at as rapid a pace as troops could possibly proceed.
During the march the Federal
cavalry appeared on the hills to our left; not a moment, however, was lost on that account, as the army was marching by the right flank and was prepared to face at any instant in their direction.
No attention, therefore, was paid to the enemy, save to throw out a few sharp-shooters in his front.4
Thus I led the main body of the army to within about two miles and in full view of the pike from Columbia
to Spring Hill
I here halted about 3 P. M., and requested General Cheatham
, commanding the leading corps, and Major-General Cleburne
to advance to the spot where, sitting upon my horse, I had in sight the enemy's wagons and men passing at double-quick along the Franklin pike
As these officers approached, I spoke to Cheatham
in the following words, which I quote almost verbatim, as they have remained indelibly engraved upon my memory ever since that fatal day: “General, do you see the enemy there, retreating rapidly to escape us?”
He answered in the affirmative.
“Go,” I continued, “with your corps, take possession of and hold that pike at or near Spring Hill
Accept whatever comes, and turn all those wagons over to our side of the house.”
Then, addressing Cleburne
, I said, “General, you have heard the
A Southern private.
From an Ambrotype. |
orders just given.
You have one of my best divisions.
Go with General Cheatham
, assist him in every way you can, and do as he directs.”
Again, as a parting injunction to them, I added, “Go and do this at once.
is near at hand, and I will have him double-quick his men to the front.”
They immediately sent staff-officers to hurry the men forward, and moved off with their troops at a quick pace in the direction of the enemy.
I sent several of my staff with orders to Stewart
to make all possible haste.
Meantime I rode to one side and looked on at Cleburne
's division, followed by the remainder of Cheatham
's corps, as it marched by, seemingly ready for battle.
Within about one-half hour from the time Cheatham
left me skirmishing began with the enemy, when I rode forward to a point nearer the pike, and again sent a staff-officer to Stewart
to push forward.
At the same time I dispatched a
messenger to General Cheatham
to lose no time in gaining possession of the pike at Spring Hill
It was reported back that he was about to do so.6
Listening attentively to the fire of the skirmishers in that direction I discovered there was no continued roar of musketry, and being aware of the quick approach of darkness, about 4 o'clock at that season of the year, I became somewhat uneasy, and again ordered an officer to go to General Cheatham
, inform him that his supports were very near at hand; that he must attack at once, if he had not already so done, and take and hold possession of the pike.
Shortly afterward I intrusted another officer with the same message, and, if my memory is not treacherous, finally requested the governor of Tennessee
, Isham G. Harris
, to hasten forward and impress upon Cheatham
the importance of action without delay.
I knew no large force of the enemy could be at Spring Hill
, as couriers reported Schofield
's main body still in front of Lee
, at Columbia
, up to a late hour in the day. I thought it probable that Cheatham
had taken possession of Spring Hill
without encountering material opposition, or had formed line across the pike, north of the town, and intrenched without coming in serious contact with the enemy, which would account for the little musketry heard in his direction.
However, to ascertain the truth, I sent an officer to ask Cheatham
if he held the pike, and to inform him of the arrival of Stewart
, whose corps I intended to throw on his left, in order to assail the Federals
in flank that evening or the next morning, as they approached and formed to attack Cheatham
At this juncture the last messenger returned with the report that the road had not been taken possession of. General Stewart
was then ordered to proceed to the right of Cheatham
and place his corps across the pike north of Spring Hill
By this hour, however, twilight was upon us, when General Cheatham
rode up in person.
I at once directed Stewart
to halt, and, turning to Cheatham
, I exclaimed with deep emotion, as I felt the golden opportunity fast slipping from me, “General, why in the name of God have you not attacked the enemy and taken possession of that pike?”
He replied that the line looked a little too long for him, and that Stewart
should first form on his right.7
I could hardly believe it possible that this brave old soldier, who had given proof of such courage and ability upon so many hard-fought fields, would even make such a report.
After leading him within full view of the enemy, and pointing out to him the Federals
retreating in great haste and confusion along the pike, and then giving explicit orders to attack, I would as soon have expected midday to turn into darkness as for him to have disobeyed my orders.
I then asked General Cheatham
whether or not Stewart
's corps, if formed on the right, would extend across the pike.
He answered in the affirmative.
Guides were at once furnished to point out Cheatham
's right to General Stewart
, who was ordered to form thereon, with his right extending across the pike.
Darkness, however, which was increased by large shade-trees in that vicinity, soon closed upon us, and Stewart
's corps, after much annoyance, went into bivouac for the night, near, but not across, the pike, at about 11 or 12 o'clock.
It was reported to me about this hour that the enemy was marching along the road, almost under the light of the camp-fires of the main body of the army.
I sent anew to General Cheatham
to know if at least a line of skirmishers could not be advanced, in order to throw the Federals
in confusion, to delay their march, and allow us a chance to attack in the morning.
Nothing was done.
The Federals, with immense wagon-trains, were permitted to march by us the remainder of the night, within gunshot of our lines.
I could not succeed in arousing the troops to action, when one good division would have sufficed to do the work.
One good division, I reassert, could have routed that portion of the enemy which was at Spring Hill
; could have taken possession of and formed line across the road; and thus could have made it an easy matter to Stewart
's corps, Johnson
's division, and Lee
's two divisions, from Columbia
, to have enveloped, routed, and captured Schofield
's army that afternoon and the ensuing day. General Forrest
gallantly opposed the enemy farther down to our right to the full extent of his power; beyond this effort nothing whatever was cone, although never was a grander opportunity offered to utterly rout and destroy the Federal
Had I dreamed for one moment that Cheatham
would have failed to give battle, or at least to take position across the pike and force the enemy to assault him, I would myself have ridden.
to the front and led the troops into action.8
In connection with this grave misfortune, I must here record an act of candor and nobility upon the part of General Cheatham
, which proves him to be equally generous-hearted and brave.
I was, necessarily, much pained by the disappointment suffered, and, a few days later, telegraphed to Richmond
to withdraw my previous recommendation for his promotion, and to request that another be assigned to the command of his corps.
Before the receipt of a reply, this officer called at my headquarters — then at the residence of Mr. Overton
, six miles from Nashville
— and, standing in my presence, spoke an honest avowal of his error, in the acknowledgment that he felt we had lost a brilliant opportunity at Spring Hill
to deal the enemy a crushing blow, and that he was greatly to blame.
I telegraphed and wrote to the War Department to withdraw my application for his removal, in the belief that, inspired with an ambition to retrieve his shortcoming, he would prove in the future doubly zealous in the service of his country.
The following are the dispatches above referred to:
On the 11th of December I wrote the Hon. Mr. Seddon
“. . . Major-General Cheatham
has frankly confessed the great error of which he was guilty, and attaches much blame to himself.
While his error lost so much to the country, it has been a severe lesson to him, by which he will profit in the future.
In consideration of this, and of his previous conduct, I think that it is best that he should retain for the present the command he now holds.”9
The best move in my career as a soldier I was thus destined to behold come to naught.
The discovery that the army, after a forward march of one hundred and eighty miles, was still, seemingly, unwilling to accept battle unless under the protection of breastworks, caused me to experience grave concern.
In my inmost heart I questioned whether or not I would ever succeed in eradicating this evil.
It seemed to me I had exhausted every means in the power of one man to remove this stumbling-block to the Army of Tennessee.
On the morning of the 30th of November, Lee
was on the march up the Franklin pike
, when the main body of the army, at Spring Hill
, awoke to find the Federals
I hereupon decided, before the enemy would be able to reach his stronghold at Nashville
, to make that same afternoon another and final effort to overtake and rout him, and drive him into the Big Harpeth River
, since I could no longer hope to get between him and Nashville
, by reason of the short distance from Franklin
to that city, and the advantage which the Federals
enjoyed in the possession of the direct road.
At early dawn the troops were put in motion in the direction of Franklin
, marching as rapidly as possible to overtake the enemy before he crossed the Big Harpeth, eighteen miles from Spring Hill
had crossed Duck River
after dark the night previous, and, in order to reach Franklin
, was obliged to march a distance of thirty miles. The head of his column arrived at Spring Hill
at 9 A. M. on the 30th, and, after a short rest, followed in the wake of the main body.
's corps was first in order of march; Cheatham
followed immediately, and Lieutenant-General Lee
Within about three miles of Franklin
, the enemy was discovered on the ridge over which passes the turnpike.
As soon as the Confederate
troops began to deploy, and skirmishers were thrown forward, the Federals
withdrew slowly to the environs of the town.
It was about 3 P. M. when Lieutenant--General Stewart
moved to the right of the pike and began to establish his position in front of the enemy.
's corps, as it arrived in turn, filed off to the left of the road, and was also disposed in line of battle.
The artillery was instructed to take no part in the engagement, on account of the danger to which women and children in the village would be exposed.10 General Forrest
was ordered to post cavalry on both flanks, and, if the assault proved successful, to complete the ruin of the enemy by capturing those who attempted to escape in the direction of Nashville
's corps, as it arrived, was held in reserve, owing to the lateness
of the hour and my inability, conseqently, to post it on the extreme left.
's position was rendered favorable for defense by open ground in front, and temporary intrenchments which the Federals
had had time to throw up, notwithstanding the Confederate forces had marched in pursuit with all possible speed.
At one or two points, along a short space, a slight abatis had been hastily constructed, by felling some small locust saplings in the vicinity.
Soon after Cheatham
's corps was massed on the left, Major-General Cleburne
came to me where I was seated on my horse in rear of the line, and asked permission to form his division in two, or, if I remember correctly, three lines for the assault.
I at once granted his request, stating that I desired the Federals
to be driven into the river in their immediate rear, and directing him to advise me as soon as he had completed the new disposition of his troops.
Shortly afterward Cheatham
reported all in readiness for action, and received orders to drive the enemy from his position into the river at all hazards.
About that time Cleburne
returned, and, expressing himself with an enthusiasm which he had never before betrayed in our intercourse, said, “General, I am ready, and have more hope in the final success of our cause than I have had at any time since the first gun was fired.”
I replied, “God grant it!”
He turned and moved at once toward the head of his division; a few moments thereafter he was lost to my sight in the tumult of battle.
These last words, spoken to me by this brave and distinguished soldier, I have often recalled; they can never leave my memory, as within forty minutes after he had uttered them he lay lifeless upon or near the breastworks of the foe.
The two corps advanced in battle array at about 4 P. M., and soon swept away the first line of the Federals
, who were driven back upon the main line.
At this moment resounded a concentrated roar of musketry, which recalled to me some of the deadliest struggles in Virginia
, and which now proclaimed that the possession of Nashville
was once more dependent upon the fortunes of war. The conflict continued to rage with intense fury; our troops succeeded in breaking the main line at one or more points, capturing and turning some of the guns on their opponents.
Just at this critical moment of the battle, a brigade of the enemy, reported to have been Stanley
gallantly charged, and restored the Federal
line, capturing at the same time about one thousand of our troops within the intrenchments.
From the “bivouac” for August, 1885. |
Overton's House, Hood's head)quarters at Nashville.
From a photograph taken in 1884. |
the ground was obstinately contested, and at several points upon the immediate sides of the breastworks the combatants endeavored to use the musket upon one another, by inverting and raising it perpendicularly, in order to fire; neither antagonist, at this juncture, was able to retreat without almost a certainty of death.
It was reported that soldiers were even dragged from one side of the breastworks to the other by men reaching over hurriedly and seizing their enemy by the hair or the collar.
Just before dark Edward Johnson
's division of Lee
's corps moved gallantly to the support of Cheatham
; although it made a desperate charge and succeeded in capturing three stand of colors, it did not effect a permanent breach in the line of the enemy.
Unfortunately, the two remaining divisions could not become engaged owing to the obscurity of night.
The struggle continued with more or less violence until 9 P. M., when skirmishing and much desultory firing followed until about 3 A. M. the ensuing morning.
The enemy then withdrew, leaving his dead and wounded upon the field.
Thus terminated one of the fiercest conflicts of the war.
Nightfall, which closed in upon us so soon after the beginning of the battle, prevented the formation and participation of Lee
's entire corps on the extreme left.
This, it may safely be asserted, saved Schofield
's army from destruction.
I might, with equal assurance, assert that had Lieutenant-General Lee
been in advance at Spring Hill
the previous afternoon Schofield
's army never would have passed that point.
had been distinguished for his admirable conduct upon many fields, and his loss at this moment was irreparable.
He was a man of equally quick perception and strong character, and was, especially in one respect, in advance of many of our people.
He possessed the boldness and the wisdom earnestly to advocate, at an early period of the war, the freedom of the negro and the enrollment of the young and able-bodied men of that race.
This stroke of policy and additional source of strength to our armies would, in my opinion, have given us our independence.
After the failure of my cherished plan to crush Schofield
's army before it reached its strongly fortified position around Nashville
, I remained with an effective force of only 23,053.12
I was therefore well aware of our inability to attack the Federals
in their new stronghold with any hope of success, although Schofield
's troops had abandoned the field at Franklin
, leaving their dead and wounded in our possession, and had hastened with considerable alarm into their fortifications — which latter information, in regard to their condition after the battle, I obtained through spies.
I knew equally well that in the absence of the prestige of complete victory I could not venture with my small force to cross the Cumberland River
, without first receiving reenforcements from the Trans-Mississippi Department.
I felt convinced that the Tennesseans and Kentuckians would not join our forces, since we had failed in the first instance to defeat the Federal
army and capture Nashville
The President was still urgent in his instructions relative to the transference of
troops to the Army of Tennessee from Texas
, and I daily hoped to receive the glad tidings of their safe passage across the Mississippi River
Thus, unless strengthened by these long-looked — for reenforcements, the only remaining chance of success in the campaign, at this juncture, was to take position, intrench about Nashville
, and await Thomas
's attack, which, if handsomely repulsed, might afford us an opportunity to follow up our advantage on the spot, and enter the city on the heels of the enemy.
I could not afford to turn southward, unless for the special
purpose of forming a junction with the
expected reenforcements from Texas
, and with the avowed intention to march back again upon Nashville
In truth, our army was in that condition which rendered it more judicious the men should face a decisive issue rather than retreat — in other words, rather than renounce the honor of their cause, without having made a last and manful effort to lift up the sinking fortunes of the Confederacy
I therefore determined to move upon Nashville
, to intrench, to accept the chances of reeforeements from Texas
, and, even at the risk of an attack in the meantime by overwhelming numbers, to adopt the only feasible means of defeating the enemy with my own reduced numbers, viz., to await his attack, and, if favored by success, to follow him into his works.
I was apprised of each accession to Thomas
's army, but was still unwilling to abandon the ground as long as I saw a shadow of probability of assistance from the Trans-Mississippi Department, or of victory in battle; and, as I have just remarked, the troops would, I believed, return better satisfied even after defeat if, in grasping at the last straw, they felt that a brave and vigorous effort had been made to save the country from disaster.
Such, at the time, was my opinion, which I have since had no reason to alter.
In accordance with these convictions I ordered the army to move forward on the 1st of December in the direction of Nashville
's corps marched in advance, followed by Stewart
's and Cheatham
's corps, and the troops bivouacked that night in the vicinity of Brentwood
On the morning of the 2d the march was resumed, and line of battle formed in front of Nashville
's corps was placed in the center and across the Franklin pike
occupied the left and Cheatham
the right — their flanks extending as near the Cumberland
as possible, whilst Forrest
's cavalry filled the gap between them and the river.
' in rear of our right, with about eight thousand men, heavily intrenched.
's division and Sears
's and Brown
's brigades were ordered, on the 5th, to report at that point to General Forrest
, who was instructed to watch closely that detachment of the enemy.
The same day information was received of the capture of 100 prisoners, two pieces of artillery, 20 wagons and teams by Forrest
's cavalry at La Vergne
; of the capture and destruction of three block houses on the Chattanooga Railroad by Bate
's division; and of the seizure the day previous by Chalmers
of two transports on the Cumberland River
with 300 mules on board.
We had in our possession two engines and several cars, which ran as far south as Pulaski
Dispatches were sent to Generals Beauregard
to repair the railroad from Corinth
, as our trains would be running in a day or two to the latter point.
This means of transportation was of great service in furnishing supplies to the army.
When we reached middle Tennessee
our troops had an abundance of provisions, although sorely in need of shoes and clothing.
's division was ordered to return to the army; Forrest
was instructed to direct Palmer
's and Mercer
's infantry brigades to thoroughly intrench on Stewart's Creek
, or at LaVergne
, according as he might deem more judicious, to constitute, with these troops and his cavalry, a force in observation of the enemy at Murfreesboro
‘, and, lastly, to send a brigade of cavalry to picket the river at Lebanon
The Federals having been reported to be massing cavalry at Edgefield
was instructed to meet and drive them back, if they attempted to cross the Cumberland
The same day, the 10th of December, Generals Stewart
were directed to construct detached works in rear of their flanks, which rested near the river, in order to protect these flanks against an effort by
to turn them.
Although every possible exertion was made by these officers, the works were not completed when, on the 15th, the Federal
army moved out and attacked both flanks, whilst the main assault was directed against our left.
It was my intention to have made these defenses self-sustaining, but time was not allowed, as the enemy attacked on the morning of the 15th.
Throughout that day they were repulsed at all points of the general line with heavy loss, and only succeeded toward evening in capturing the infantry outposts on our left, and with them the small force together with the artillery posted in these unfinished works.
Finding that the main movement of the Federals
was directed against our left, the chief engineer
was instructed carefully to select a line in prolongation of the left flank; Cheatham
's corps was withdrawn from the right during the night of the 15th and posted on the left of Stewart
's left resting near the Brentwood Hills
The men were ordered to construct breastworks there during that same night.
The morning of the 16th found us with Lee
's right on Overton's Hill.
At an early hour the enemy made a general attack along our front, and were again and again repulsed at all points with heavy loss, especially in Lee
About 3:30 P. M. the Federals
concentrated a number of guns against a portion of our line, which passed over a mound on the left of our center, and which had been occupied during the night.
This point was favorable for massing troops for an assault under cover of artillery.
Accordingly the enemy availed himself of the advantage presented, massed a body of men — apparently one division — at the base of this mound, and, under the fire of artillery, which prevented our men from raising their heads above the breastworks, made a sudden and gallant charge up to and over our intrenchments.
Our line, thus pierced, gave way; soon thereafter it broke at all points, and I beheld for the first and only time a Confederate army abandon the field in confusion.
I was seated upon my horse not far in rear when the breach was effected, and soon discovered that all hope to rally the troops was vain.
I did not, I might say, anticipate a break at that time, as our forces up to that moment had repulsed the Federals
at every point, and were waving their colors in defiance, crying out to the enemy, “Come on, come on.”
Just previous to this fatal occurrence I had matured the movement for the next morning.
The enemy's right flank, by this hour, stood in air some six miles from Nashville
, and I had determined to withdraw my entire force during the night, and attack this exposed flank in rear.
I could safely have done so, as I still had open a line of retreat.
The day before the rout, the artillery posted in the detached works had been captured; a number of guns in the main line were abandoned for the reason that
the horses could not be brought forward in time to remove them.
Thus the total number of guns captured amounted to fifty-four.
We had fortunately still remaining a sufficient number of pieces of artillery for the equipment of the army, since, it will be remembered.
I had taken with me at the outset of the campaign a large reserve of artillery to use against gun-boats.
Our losses in killed and wounded in this engagement were comparatively small, as the troops were protected by breastworks.
Order among the troops was in a measure restored at Brentwood
, a few miles in rear of the scene of disaster, through the promptness and gallantry of Clayton
's division, which speedily formed and confronted the enemy, with Gibson
's brigade and McKenzie
's battery, of Fenner
's battalion, acting as rear-guard of the rear-guard. General Clayton
displayed admirable coolness and courage that afternoon and the next morning in the discharge of his duties.
, who evinced conspicuous gallantry and ability in the handling of his troops, succeeded, in concert with Clayton
, in checking and staying the first and most dangerous shock which always follows immediately after a rout.
The result was that even after the army passed the Big Harpeth, at Franklin
, the brigades and divisions were marching in regular order.
General S. D. Lee
displayed his usual energy and skill in handling his troops on the 17th, whilst protecting the rear of our army.
Unfortunately, in the afternoon he was wounded and forced to leave the field.
General C. L. Stevenson
then assumed command of Lee
's corps, and ably discharged his duties during the continuance of the retreat to and across the Tennessee River
, one of the most able division commanders in the South
, was here ordered to form a rear-guard with eight picked brigades and Forrest
's cavalry; the march was then resumed in the direction of Columbia
's corps moving in front, followed by those of Cheatham
The army bivouacked in line of battle near Duck River
on the night of the 1 8th.
The following day we crossed the river and proceeded on different roads leading toward Bainbridge
on the Tennessee
I entertained but little concern in regard to being further harassed by the enemy.
I therefore continued to march leisurely, and arrived at Bainbridge
on the 25th of December.
The following day the march was continued in the direction of Tupelo
, at which place Cheatham
's corps, the last in the line of march, went into camp on the 10th of.January, 1865.
On the 13th of January I sent the following dispatch to the Secretary of War
: “I request to be relieved from the command of this army.”
Upon General Beauregard
's arrival at Tupelo
, on the 14th of January, I informed him of my application to be relieved from the command of the army.
I again telegraphed the authorities in Richmond
, stating that the campaigns to the Alabama
line and into Tennessee
were my own conception; that I alone was responsible; that I had striven hard to execute them in such manner as to bring victory to our people, and at the same time repeated my desire to be relieved.
The President finally complied with my request, and I bade farewell to the Army of Tennessee on the 23d of January, 1865, after having served with it some-what in excess of eleven months, and having performed my duties to the utmost of my ability.