- The campaign against Sherman's base -- Allatoona and Dalton -- Hood's campaign in Tennessee -- Spring Hill -- responsibility for the lost opportunity -- the battle of Franklin -- siege of Murfreesboro -- siege and battle of Nashville -- retreat to Mississippi.
General Hood continued in position at Lovejoy's Station until the 18th of September, when he moved toward the West Point railroad and formed a line of battle near Palmetto. Here Lieutenant-General Hardee was at his own request removed from command of his corps, and was succeeded by Major-General Cheatham. On the 29th Hood crossed the Chattahoochee at Pumpkintown and Phillips' ferry, the army being made to understand by the commanding general that this movement was not in retreat, but that his purpose was to draw the Federal army out of Atlanta and force Sherman to attack him in position. Hood continued his march as far north as Dalton, then moved westward to Gadsden and thence to Tuscumbia, Ala., where the army was halted for three weeks. When the Federal army retired from the front of Lovejoy's Station, General Hood's conception of the campaign was embodied in a dispatch to the secretary of war, dated September 6, 1864, ‘Sherman continues his retreat beyond Jonesboro;’ but in fact, after Hood moved across the Chattahoochee, Sherman pursued him to Gaylesville, Ala., then returned to Atlanta, and on the 15th of November began his march through Georgia to the sea. Stewart's corps captured the garrisons at Big Shanty and Acworth, and General French attacked Allatoona,  but when success was near at hand the appearance of heavy reinforcements caused him to withdraw. Cheatham made a demonstration on Dalton with Strahl's brigade, and the garrison, 1,200 strong, surrendered unconditionally; and at the same time General Bate, under orders of Cheatham, demanded the surrender of a formidable blockhouse a few miles distant. The bearer of the flag, the gallant Capt. H. J. Cheney, had his horse killed under him. The flag was not recognized, whereupon General Bate advanced his artillery and opened fire. The first shell entered a porthole, killing fifteen or twenty of the garrison, and the white flag was run up. General Beauregard, commanding the military division of the West, in forwarding to the war department the report of General Hood's operations in the Tennessee campaign, under date of January 9, 1865, said: ‘The plan of the campaign into middle Tennessee was correct as originally designed by General Hood, and if carried out without modification, would have compelled General Sherman to return to middle Tennessee to protect and repair his lines of communication before he could have collected enough supplies to march his army from Atlanta to the seacoast. But instead of crossing the Tennessee river at Guntersville, as General Hood had intended when at Gadsden [where General Beauregard had an interview with him], he changed his course while on the march and repaired to Tuscumbia and Florence,’ where three precious weeks were spent, enabling Sherman to repair the road to Chattanooga and collect his supplies for the march to the sea, at the same time affording time to General Thomas, who had been sent to Tennessee, for the concentration of an army at Nashville strong enough to crush Hood even if he had avoided Franklin. Marching through the beautiful valley of the Tennessee over which Sherman had carried his army to reinforce Grant at Chattanooga, our army was appalled at its desolation. Sherman's iron hand had destroyed it—old men,  non-combatants, women, children, faithful slaves, were reduced to want. General Hood published an order to the troops directing their attention to the ruin of this fair land, and appealing to their manhood to recover the State of Tennessee. The torch, not the sword, had caused this great destitution and made a desert of the valley. In many parts it was unoccupied. The inhabitants, robbed of cattle, horses, mules, and the implements of husbandry destroyed, were fugitives from their own homes without having committed a crime, forced into an ‘exile without an end, and without an example in story.’ On the 21st of November General Hood began his march to Nashville; on the 29th crossed Duck river three miles above Columbia, and then, with Cheatham's and Stewart's corps and a division of Lee's corps, marched to Spring Hill. Cheatham was in front, and in his official report, dated December 11, 1864, General Hood stated that ‘Major-General Cheatham was ordered at once to attack the enemy vigorously and get possession of this pike [the road to Franklin], and although these orders were frequently and earnestly repeated, he made but a feeble and partial attack, failing to reach the point indicated.’ Again, in his history of the campaign (‘Advance and Retreat,’ pp. 285,286) it is related: ‘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 the pike?” ’