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Chapter 17:

At early dawn the troops were put in motion in the direction of Franklin, marching as rapidly as possible to over-take the enemy before he crossed the Big Harpeth, eighteen miles from Spring Hill. Lieutenant General Lee 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.

A sudden change in sentiment here took place among officers and men: the Army became metamorphosed, as it were, in one night. A general feeling of mortification and disappointment pervaded its ranks. The troops appeared to recognize that a rare opportunity had been totally disregarded, and manifested, seemingly, a determination to retrieve, if possible, the fearful blunder of the previous afternoon and night. The feeling existed which sometimes induces men who have long been wedded to but one policy to look beyond the sphere of their own convictions, and, at least, be willing to make trial of another course of action.

Stewart's Corps was first in order of march; Cheatham followed immediately, and Lieutenant General Lee in rear. [293] 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. Major General Cheatham'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. 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. Lee's Corps, as it arrived, was held in reserve, owing to the lateness of the hour and my inability, consequently, to post it on the extreme left. Schofield's position was rendered favorable for defence by open ground in front, and temporary entrenchments 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 and Stewart 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, [294] 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's, gallantly charged, and restored the Federal line, capturing at the same time about one thousand of our troops within the entrenchments. Still 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 Johnston's Division, of Lee's Corps, moved gallantly to the support of Cheatham; although it made a [295] desperate charge and succeeded in capturing three stands of colors, it did not effect a permanent breach in the line of the enemy. The two remaining divisions could not unfortunately become engaged owing to the obscurity of night. 1 The struggle continued with more or less violence until 9 p. m., when followed skirmishing and much desultory firing 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 inauguration 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.

Shortly afterward I sent the following dispatch to the Secretary of War and to General Beauregard:

[no. 541.]

headquarters, six miles to Nashville, December 3d.
About 4 p. m., November 30th, we attacked the enemy at Franklin, and drove him from his outer line of temporary works into his interior line which he abandoned during the night, leaving his dead and wounded in our possession, and rapidly retreated to Nashville, closely pursued by our cavalry. We captured several stands of colors and about one thousand (1000) prisoners. Our troops fought with great gallantry. We have to lament the loss of many gallant officers and brave men. Major General Cleburne, Brigadier Generals Gist, John Adams, Strahl, and Granberry, were killed; Major General Brown, Brigadier Generals Carter, Manigault, Quarles, Cockrell, and Scott, were wounded, and Brigadier General Gordon, captured.

J. B. Hood, General.

I rode over the scene of action the next morning, and could but indulge in sad and painful thought, as I beheld so many [296] brave soldiers stricken down by the enemy whom, a few hours previous, at Spring Hill, we had held within the palm of our hands. The attack which entailed so great sacrifice of life, had, for reasons already stated, become a necessity as imperative as that which impelled General Lee to order the assault at Gaines's Mills, when our troops charged across an open space, a distance of one mile, under a most galling fire of musketry and artillery, against an enemy heavily entrenched. The heroes in that action fought not more gallantly than the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee upon the field of Franklin. These had been gloriously led by their officers, many of whom had fallen either upon or near the Federal breastworks, dying as the brave should prefer to die, in the intense and exalted excitement of battle.

Major General Cleburne had been distinguished for his admirable conduct upon many fields, and his loss, at this moment, was irreparable. In order to estimate fully the value of his services at this particular juncture, I will, in a few words, advert to our past relations. 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 to earnestly 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. He was for the first time under my immediate command at New Hope Church where his Division, formed for action according to my specific instructions, achieved the most brilliant success of Johnston's campaign. He had full knowledge of all the circumstances and difficulties which attended the battles of the 20th, and 22d of July. It will be remembered that he called at my headquarters after these two engagements, and communicated to me Hardee's unfortunate words of caution to the troops, in regard to breastworks, just before the [297] battle of the 20th. He knew also in what manner my orders at Spring Hill had been totally disregarded. After our last brief interview which was followed so quickly by his death, I sought to account for his sudden revolution of feeling and his hopefulness, since he had been regarded as not over sanguine of the final triumph of our cause. I formed the conviction that he became satisfied on the morning of the 30th of November, after having reviewed the occurrences of the previous afternoon and night, and those of the 20th and 22d of July, that I was not the reckless, indiscreet commander the Johnston-Wigfall party represented me; that I had been harshly judged, and feebly sustained by the officers and men; that I was dealing blows and making moves which had at least the promise of happy results, and that we should have achieved decided success on two occasions around Atlanta as well as at Spring Hill. He therefore made a sudden and firm resolution to support me in all my operations, believing that my movements and manner of handling troops were based upon correct principles. It has been said he stated, upon the morning after the affair of Spring Hill, that he would never again allow one of my orders for battle to be disobeyed, if he could prevent it. For these reasons his loss became doubly great to me. The heroic career and death of this distinguished soldier must ever endear the memory of his last words to his commander, and should entitle his name to be inscribed in immortal characters in the annals of our history.

A similar revolution in feeling took place to a great extent among both officers and men, the morning of the day upon which was fought the battle of Franklin; this change — and in a measure the improved morale of the Army, which had resulted from a forward movement of one hundred and eighty miles--occasioned the extraordinary gallantry and desperate fighting witnessed on that field.

The subjoined extract from Van Horne's History of the Army of the Cumberland, will confirm my assertion in regard [298] to our nearly-won victory. Referring to the main breach in the Federal works, the author says: 2

Toward the breach, the enemy's heavy central lines began to press, and to his lateral lines were turned, in seemingly overwhelming convergence. To General Hood, the advantage so easily gained, premised the capture or destruction of the National Army, and he and his Army were inspired to quickest action to maintain and utilize it for this grand achievement. And he certainly could have maintained his hold of the National line, and used for extreme success, had time been given him to thrust into the breach his rapidly advancing and massive rear lines; and as it was, he began to gain ground, right and left, from the Columbia road.

As shown by Colonel Mason's official report, made on the 10th of December, ten days after the battle, our effective strength was: Infantry, eighteen thousand three hundred and forty-two (18,342); artillery, two thousand four hundred and five (2405); cavalry, two thousand three hundred and six (2306); total, twenty-three thousand and fifty-three (23,053). This last number, subtracted from thirty thousand six hundred (30,600), the strength of the Army at Florence, shows a total loss from all causes of seven thousand five hundred and forty-seven (7547), from the 6th of November to the 10th of December, which period includes the engagements at Columbia, Franklin, and of Forrest's cavalry.

The enemy's estimate of our losses as well as of the number of Confederate colors captured is erroneous, as will be seen by the following telegram:

[no. 560.]

headquarters near Nashville, on Franklin pike, December 15th, 1864.
Honorable J. A.. Seddon, Secretary of War, Richmond.
The enemy claim that we lost thirty colors in the fight at Franklin. We lost thirteen, capturing nearly the same number. The men who bore ours were killed on or within the enemy's interior line of works.

J. B. Hood, General.

The estimate of the actual loss at Franklin, given in my [299] official report, was made with the assistance of General Shoupe, my chief of staff, and is, I consider, correct. However, I will estimate later the total loss from all causes, in order to avoid possible error.

After the failure of my cherished plan to crush Schofield's Army before it reached its strongly fortified position around Nashville, 1 remained with an effective force of only twenty-three thousand and fifty-three. 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 into Kentucky, without first receiving reinforcements 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 transferrence 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 reinforcements, the only remaining chance of success in the campaign, at this juncture, was to take position, entrench around 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 reinforcements from Texas, and with the avowed intention to march back again upon Nashville. In truth, our Army was in that [300] 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 entrench, to accept the chances of reinforcements 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 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; Lee'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. Lee's Corps was placed in the centre and across the Franklin pike; Stewart 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.

General Rousseau occupied Murfreesboroa, in rear of our right, with about eight thousand men heavily entrenched. General Bates's Division, 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 [301] enemy. The same day, information was received of the capture of one hundred prisoners, two pieces of artillery, twenty wagons and teams by Forrest's cavalry, at Lavergne; of the capture and destruction of three block houses on the Chattanooga Railroad, by Bates's Division; and of the seizure the day previous, by General Chalmers, of two transports on the Cumberland river, with three hundred 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 and Maury to repair the railroad from Corinth to Decatur, 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. Our troops had, when we reached Middle Tennessee, an abundance of provisions, although sorely in need of shoes and clothing.

At this time, I telegraphed the War Department to request that General Breckinridge's command, in West Virginia, be sent to me or ordered into Kentucky to create a diversion and lessen the concentration of the Federal Army in my front. General R. E. Lee's necessities were, however, more urgent than my own. The application was, therefore, not granted.

On the 7th, intelligence was received, and telegraphed to General Beauregard, that General Steele, with fifteen thousand (15,000) troops, had passed Memphis in the direction of Cairo; also, that Rousseau had made a sally, and driven back our forces at Murfreesboroa. The following day General Forrest was instructed to leave the roads open to Lebanon, in the hope of enticing Rousseau out of his stronghold; preparations were at the same time made to capture his detachment of eight thousand, should he venture to reinforce Thomas at Nashville. He remained, however, behind his entrenchments.

General Bates's Division was ordered to return to the Army; Forrest was instructed to direct Palmer's and Mercer's infantry brigades to thoroughly entrench on Stewart's creek, or at Lavergne, according as he might deem more judicious; [302] to constitute, with these troops and his cavalry, a force in observation of the enemy at Murfreesboroa, 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, Forrest was instructed to meet and drive them back, if they attempted to cross the Cumberland. The same day, the 10th of December, Generals Stewart and Cheatham 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 the Federals to turn them. Although every possible exertion was made by these officers, the works were not completed when, on the I5th, 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 defences self-sustaining, but time was not allowed, as the enemy attacked on the morning of the 15th. Through — out that day, they were repulsed at all points of the general line with heavy loss, and only succeeded towards eveningin 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 to carefully 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 StewartCheatham's left flank resting near the Brentwood Hills. In this position, the men were ordered to construct breastworks during that same night.

The morning of the 16th found us with Lee's right on Overton 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's front. 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 centre, and which had been occupied during the night. [303] 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 entrenchments. 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.

Major General Bates, in his official report, refers to an angle having been formed upon the mound where the line first gave way. If such be the case, the officers in command of the troops at that point were doubtless at fault, as Colonel Prestman, chief engineer, and his assistants, had staked off the line with great care, and I am confident were not guilty of this grave neglect. 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 at the time of the disaster, 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 [304] 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 gunboats. Our losses in killed and wounded in this engagement were comparatively small, as the troops were protected by breast-works.

An incident at the time of the rout was reported to me which I deem worthy of mention. When our troops were in the greatest confusion, a young lady of Tennessee, Miss Mary Bradford, rushed in their midst regardless of the storm of bullets, and, in the name of God and of our country, implored them to re-form and face the enemy. Her name deserves to be enrolled among the heroes of the war, and it is with pride that I bear testimony to her bravery and patriotism.

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. General Gibson, 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. Captain Cooper, of my staff, had been sent to Murfreesboroa to inform General Forrest of our misfortune, and to order him to make the necessary dispositions of his cavalry to cover our retreat.

Although the campaign proved disastrous by reason of the unfortunate affair at Spring Hill, the short duration of daylight at Franklin, and, finally, because of the non-arrival of the expected reinforcements from the Trans-Mississippi Department, it will nevertheless be of interest to note how deeply [305] concerned General Grant became for fear we should finally reach Kentucky. He ordered General Thomas to attack on the 6th of December, and evidently became much worried about our presence in front of Nashville, as he telegraphed to the War Department at Washington, on the 9th, to relieve Thomas on account of his delay in assaulting according to instructions. This order was issued on that date, but was afterwards suspended by Grant. On the 11th, at 4 p. m., he again telegraphed General Thomas.3

If you delay attacking longer, the mortifying spectacle will be witnessed nessed of a rebel Army moving for the Ohio, and you will be forced to act, accepting such weather as you find. * * * *

The following dispatch from General Grant to Thomas gives strong evidence that in this campaign we had thrust at the vitals of the enemy: 4

Washington, December 15th, 1864, 11.30 p. m.
I was just on my way to Nashville, but receiving a dispatch from Van Duzen, detailing your splendid success of to-day, I shall go no further. * * *

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant General.

He could not well afford to allow us to reach Kentucky, and finally assail him in rear at Petersburg. Therefore he left his own Army in front of the illustrious Lee to proceed to Nashville and assume direction in person.

At this eventful period General Thomas stood with eightytwo thousand (82,000) effectives5 to oppose our small Army, which numbered less than twenty thousand (20,000) after deducting the force under Forrest at Murfreesboroa.

I had had reason to hope that we would have received large accessions to our ranks in Tennessee. The following letter from Governor Isham G. Harris, written during the retreat and at the time the Army was approaching the Tennessee river, [306] will indicate to what extent our ranks would have been recruited, had the campaign proved successful:

Tuscumbia, Alabama, December 25th, 1864.
his Excellency, Jefferson Davis.
Sir:--I arrived here last night, leaving the Army some fifteen miles beyond the Tennessee river, on the Bainbridge route.

Our stay in Tennessee was so short, and engagements so constant and pressing that we did not recruit to any considerable extent. If we could have remained there a few weeks longer, we could and would have recruited to a great extent. The men are there, and thousands were making their arrangements to join the Army, but the unfortunate result of the battle of Nashville, and immediate retreat of the Army was very discouraging to our people. I hope, however, to be able to get a great many of these men out, notwithstanding we have left the State.

I have been with General Hood from the beginning of this campaign, and beg to say, disastrous as it has ended, I am not able to see anything that General Hood has done that he should not, or neglected anything that he should have done which it was possible to do. Indeed, the more that I have seen and known of him and his policy, the more I have been pleased with him and regret to say that if all had performed their parts as well as he, the results would have been very different.

But I will not detain Colonel Johnson, except to say or rather to suggest that if General Hood is to command this Army, he should by all means be permitted to organize the Army according to his own views of the necessities of the case.

Very respectfully,

Lieutenant General 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. Major General Carter 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.

Major General Walthall, one of the most able division commanders in the South, was here ordered to form a rear guard with eight picked brigades together with Forrest's cavalry; the march was then resumed in the direction of Columbia, Stewart's Corps moving in front, followed by those of Cheatham and [307] Stevenson. The Army bivouacked in line of battle near Duck river, on the night of the 18th.

The following day, we crossed the river and proceeded on different roads leading towards Bainbridge on the Tennessee. I entertained but little concern in regard to being further harassed by the enemy. I felt confident that Walthall, supported on his flanks by the gallant Forrest, would prove equal to any emergency which might arise. I therefore continued, although within sound of the guns of the rear guard, to march leisurely, and arrived at Bainbridge, on the 25th of December. A pontoon bridge was constructed as rapidly as the boats arrived, the corps were placed in position covering the roads to the north, and during the 26th and 27th the Army crossed the river. 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 loth of January, 1865.

I had telegraphed General Beauregard from Bainbridge to meet me, and, in compliance with my request, he arrived at Army headquarters on the night of the 14th. The day previous, I had sent the following dispatch to the Secretary of War:

headquarters, Tupelo, Mississippi, January 13th, 1865.
Honorable J. A. Seddon, Secretary of War, Richmond.
I request to be relieved from the command of this Army.

J. B. Hood, General.

On the 15th, after consultation with General Beauregard, a system of furloughing the troops was agreed upon. In reference thereto, I find the following memorandum in General Shoupe's diary:

A system of furloughing the troops established. See General Order No. I, 1865, and circular letter to corps commanders, field dispatches, No. 542.

In a dispatch of January 3d to President Davis, I asked for authority to grant a leave of absence to the Trans-Mississippi [308] troops; and, as the men from Tennessee had stood by their colors notwithstanding the Army had been forced to abandon their State, I deemed it wise, in consideration of their faithful services, to at least grant them a short leave of absence, as well as to others who might be able to go home and return within ten or fifteen days. General Beauregard concurred with me, and the general order above referred to was issued, as the ensuing circular will indicate:

[no. 542.]

(Copy sent to Colonel Harvie.)

If you have any troops in your command who live sufficiently near the present position of the Army to justify, in your judgment, the granting them ten days furlough, the same will be done on proper application made at once, provided the men go by organizations under officers, and pledge themselves to return at the expiration of the time. All obtaining such furloughs will be debarred the benefit of General Order No. I from Army headquarters.

By command of General Hood,

A. P. Mason, Lieutenant Colonel, A. A. G.

I regret that I have not this general order in my possession. My recollection is quite clear, however, that it referred in a great measure to the furloughing of the Tennessee troops — about two thousand in number — and of those who lived in the vicinity. It is a source of equal regret to me that I have not the field return of the Army, which was being made upon the 23d of January, the day I left Tupelo for Richmond. The following letter from Colonel A. P. Mason, assistant adjutant general, written soon thereafter, will establish the approximate strength of the Army after its arrival at Tupelo, on the 10th of January:


Richmond, March 10th, 1865.
General:--In compliance with your request made a few days since in reference to the strength of the Army of Tennessee at the time you left [309] Tupelo, Mississippi, I respectfully submit that, according to my recollection of a “Field return ” of the Army, which was being made at that time and finished a day or two after your departure, the “effective total” of the infantry and artillery was about fifteen thousand (15,000)--perhaps a few hundred less. This return was made after the West Tennessee regiments of Major General Cheatham's Corps had been furloughed, as well as some men furloughed under an order published at Tupelo, and some small organizations also furloughed at Tupelo. I cannot form any estimate of the number of men thus furloughed, because you will remember that all the organization furloughs were given by the corps commanders (your sanction having been previously obtained); consequently the strength of such organizations, at the time they were furloughed, was not furnished the assistant adjutant general's office at Army headquarters.

The “Field return” above referred to was sent to Colonel Brent, and was in his office in Augusta when I passed there a few weeks since.

Most respectfully your obedient servant,

A. P. Mason, Lieutenant Colonel, A. A. G.

Under the foregoing order not less than three thousand five hundred (3500) men were furloughed prior to the date upon which the return was made up. Now since Colonel Mason was the adjutant general under whose direction it was made, there can hardly be any question but that the Army, after its arrival at Tupelo, numbered from eighteen thousand (18,000) to nineteen thousand (19,000) effective troops of the infantry and artillery. General D. H. Maury, commanding at that period in Mobile, informs me by letter that about four thousand (4000) of these forces joined him from Tupelo, armed and equipped. General Johnston states in his Narrative that only about five thousand (5000) reached him in North Carolina, and, adducing the oral statement of two officers, endeavors to create the impression that their arms had been lost, and that this remnant constituted the Army of Tennessee at the time I relinquished its command. Whereas — notwithstanding the outcry against me, and the general declaration through the press that, if Johnston were restored to command, absentees and deserters would return by the thousand and our independence be secured, and although it was understood, [310] before my departure from Tupelo, that he would be reinstated--nine thousand out of fourteen thousand, who left Tupelo to repair to his standard in North Carolina, deserted, and either went to the woods or to their homes. This affords positive proof that General Beauregard and I judged aright at Gadsden and also at Florence, Alabama, in regard to the Army, when we decided that to turn and follow Sherman would cause such numbers to desert, as to render those who were too proud to quit their colors almost useless.

In accordance with Colonel Mason's letter of March the 10th, there were, including the furloughed men, about eighteen thousand five hundred (18,500) effectives of the infantry and artillery at Tupelo, after my retreat from Nashville; and it will be seen in his return of November 6th, which date was near the time of our advance into Tennessee, that the effective strength of the Army at that period was thirty thousand six hundred (30,600), inclusive of the cavalry.

Thus we find at Tupelo eighteen thousand five hundred (18,500) infantry and artillery, and twenty-three hundred and six (2306) of Forrest's cavalry; to which add ten thousand lost from all causes, and the sum total amounts to thirty thousand eight hundred and six (30,806) effectives, which proves my loss during the Tennessee campaign to have been not in excess of ten thousand (10,000), as I announced in my official report. As previously mentioned, Wheeler's cavalry, reported at ten thousand (10,000), was left in Georgia when I marched into Tennessee, and was replaced by Forrest's cavalry, which accompanied the 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. As the opposition of our people, excited by the Johnston-Wigfall party, seemingly increased in bitterness, I felt that my services could no longer be of benefit to that Army; having no other aspiration than to promote the interests of my country, I again telegraphed the authorities in Richmond, stating that the campaigns to the Alabama line and into Tennessee were my own conception; [311] 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 bid farewell to the Army of Tennessee on the 23d of January, 1865, after having served with it somewhat in excess of eleven months, and having performed my duties to the utmost of my ability.

At the time I assumed command around Atlanta, a number of General Johnston's staff officers remained with me, among whom were Colonels Mason, Falconer and Harvie, Majors Henry and Clare, who, notwithstanding the extraordinary circumstances under which I had superseded their old commanding officer, ably discharged their various duties with zeal and strict fidelity.

After leaving Tupelo, I returned to Virginia and found President Davis still most anxious to procure reinforcements from the Trans-Mississippi Department. He consulted fully with General Lee in regard to this important matter, and, after a sojourn of several weeks in Richmond, during which interval I prepared my official report, I was ordered to Texas with instructions to gather together all the troops willing to follow me from that State, and move at once to the support of General Lee. Soon after my arrival at Sumpter, South Carolina, I received the painful intelligence of Lee's surrender. Nevertheless, I continued my journey, and about the last of April reached the Mississippi, in the vicinity of Natchez. Here I remained with my staff and escort, using vain endeavors to cross this mighty river, until after the receipt of positive information of General E. Kirby Smith's surrender. During this interim we were several times hotly chased by Federal cavalry through the wood and canebrake. Finally, on the 31st of May, 1865, I rode into Natchez and proffered my sword to Major General Davidson, of the United States Army. He courteously bade me retain it, paroled the officers and men in company with me, and allowed us to proceed without delay to Texas, via New Orleans.

1 In an address delivered at Charleston, S. C., I estimated our strength, at Franklin, at twenty-eight thousand (28,000), having overlooked the fact that two of Lee's Divisions could not become engaged.

2 Van Horne's History, vol. II, pages 199, 200.

3 Van Horne's History Army of the Cumberland, vol. II, page 257.

4 Van Horne's History, vol. II, page 259.

5 Sherman's Memoirs, vol. II, pages 162, 163.

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