On December 16, 1863, I directed General J. E. Johnston
to transfer the command of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana to Lieutenant General Polk
, and repair to Dalton, Georgia
, to assume command of the Army of Tennessee, representing at that date an effective total of 43,094.
My information led me to believe that the condition of that army, in all that constitutes efficiency, was satisfactory, and that the men were anxious for an opportunity to retrieve the loss of prestige sustained in the disastrous battle of Missionary Ridge
I was also informed that the enemy's forces, then occupying Chattanooga
, and Stevenson
, with a detached force at Knoxville
, were weaker in numbers than at any time since the battle of Missionary Ridge
, and that they were especially deficient in cavalry and in artillery and train horses.
I desired, therefore, that prompt and vigorous measure be taken to enable our troops to commence active operations against the enemy as early as practicable.
It was important to guard against the injurious results to the morale of the troops which always attend a prolonged season of inactivity; the recoverey of the territory in Tennessee
, which we had been compelled to abandon, and on the supplies of which the proper subsistence of our armies mainly depended, imperatively demanded an onward movement.
I believed that, by a rapid concentration of our troops between the scattered forces of the enemy, without attempting to capture his entrenched positions, we could compel him to accept battle in the open field, and that, should we fail to draw him out of his entrenchments, we could move upon his line of communications.
The Federal force at Knoxville
depended mainly for support on its connection with that at Chattanooga
, and both were wholly dependent on uninterrupted communication with Nashville
If, by interposing our force, we could separate these two bodies of the enemy, and cut off his communication from Nashville
by destroying the railroad, both conditions would be fulfilled.
Of the practicability of this movement I had little doubt; of its expediency, if practicable, there could be none.
I impressed repeatedly upon General Johnston
by letter, and by officers of my staff and others sent to him by me for the purpose of putting him in possession of these views, the importance of a prompt aggressive movement by the Army of Tennessee.
The following were among the considerations presented to General Johnston
, at my request, by Brigadier General W. N. Pendleton
, chief of artillery
of the Army of Northern Virginia, on April 16, 1864:
1. To take the enemy at disadvantage while weakened, it is believed, by having sent troops to Virginia
and by having others still absent on furlough.
2. To break up his plans by anticipating and frustrating his combinations.
3. So to press him in his present position as to prevent his heavier massing in Virginia
4. To defeat him in battle, and gain great consequent strength in supplies, men, and productive territory.
5. To prevent the waste of the army incident to inactivity.
6. To inspirit the troops and the country by success, and to discourage the enemy.
7. To obviate the necessity of falling back, which might probably occur if our antagonist be allowed to consummate his plans without molestation.
cordially approved of an aggressive movement, and informed me of his purpose to make it as soon as reenforcements and supplies, then on the way, should reach him. He did not approve the proposed advance into Tennessee
He believed that the Federal
forces in Tennessee
were not weaker, but if anything stronger, than at Missionary Ridge
; that defeat beyond the Tennessee
would probably prove ruinous to us, resulting in the loss of his army, the occupation of Georgia
by the enemy, the ‘piercing of the Confederacy
in its vitals,’ and the loss of all the southwestern territory.
He proposed, therefore, to stand on the defensive until strengthened, ‘to watch, prepare, and strike’ as soon as possible.
As soon as reenforced, he declared his purpose to advance to Ringgold
, attack there, and, if successful, as he expected to be, to strike at Cleveland
, cut the railroad, control the river, and thus isolate East Tennessee
, as a consequence forcing his antagonist to give battle on this side of the Tennessee River
Simultaneously with, and in aid of this movement, General Johnston
proposed that a large cavalry force be sent to Middle Tennessee
, in the rear of the enemy.
These operations, he thought, would result in forcing the Federal
army to evacuate the Tennessee Valley
and make an advance into the heart of the state safely practicable.
The irreparable loss of time in making any forward movement as desired having sufficed for the combinations which rendered an advance across the Tennessee River
no longer practicable, I took prompt measures to enable General Johnston
to carry out immediately his own proposition to strike first at Ringgold
and then at Cleveland
, proposing that General Buckner
should threaten Knoxville
, General Forrest
advance into or threaten Middle Tennessee
, and General Roddy
hold the enemy in northern Alabama
, and thus prevent his concentration in our front.
This movement, although it held out no such promise as did the plan of advance before the enemy had had time to make his combinations, might have been attended with good results had it been promptly executed.
But no such movement was made or even attempted.
's belief that General Grant
would be ready to assume the offensive before he could be prepared to do so, proved too well founded,
while his purpose, if the Federal
army did not attack, that we should prepare and take the initiative ourselves, was never carried out.1
On the morning of May 2, 1864, General Johnston
discovered that the enemy, under the command of General Sherman
, was advancing against him, and two days subsequently it was reported that he had reached Ringgold
(about fifteen miles north of Dalton
) in considerable force.
At this date the official returns show that the effective strength of the Army of Tennessee, counting the troops actually in position at Dalton
and those in the immediate rear of that place, was about fifty thousand.
When to these is added General Polk
's command (then en route), the advance of which joined him at Resaca
, the effective strength of General Johnston
's army was not less than 68,620 men of all arms, excluding from the estimate the thousands of men employed on extra duty, amounting, as General Hood
states, to ten thousand when he assumed command of the army.
|Army at Dalton, May 1, 1864, according to General Johnston's estimates 2 || 37,652 infantry.
|Mercer's brigade, joined May 2d || 2,000 infantry.|
|Thirty-seventh Mississippi Regiment, en route || 400 infantry|
|Dibrell's and Harrison's brigades in rear, recruiting their horses || 2,336 cavalry.|
|Martin's division at Cartersville || 1,700 cavalry|
|Polk's command || 19,330|
|Total effective || 68,620|
To enable General Johnston
to repulse the hostile advance and assume the offensive, no effort was spared on the part of the government.
Almost all the available military strength of the south and west, in men and supplies, was pressed forward and placed at his disposal.
The supplies of the commissary, quartermaster
, and ordnance departments of his army were represented as ample and suitably located.
encouraged by the large accessions of strength which they saw arriving daily, and which they knew were marching rapidly to their support, were eager to advance and confident in their power to achieve victory and recover the territory which they had lost.
Their position was such as to warrant the confident expectation of successful resistance at least.
ranges, penetrated by few and difficult roads and paths, and deep and wide rivers, seemed to render our position one from which we could not be dislodged or turned, while that of the enemy, dependent for his supplies upon a single line of railroad from Nashville
to the point where he was operating, was manifestly perilous.
The whole country shared the hope which the government entertained, that a decisive victory would soon be won in the mountains of Georgia
, which would free the south and west from invasion, would open to our occupation and the support of our armies the productive territory of Tennessee
, and so recruit our army in the west as to render it impracticable for the enemy to accumulate additional forces in Virginia
On May 6th the Confederate forces were in position in and near Dalton
, which point General Johnston
believed that General Sherman
would attack with his whole force.
This belief seems to have been held by General Johnston
until the evening of May 12th, when, having previously learned the proximity of the advance of Lieutenant General Polk
's command, and that the rest of his troops were hurrying forward to reenforce him, but discovering that the main body of Sherman
's army was moving round his left flank, via Snake-Creek Gap to Resaca
, under cover of Rocky-Face Mountain
, he withdrew his troops from Dalton
and fell back on Resaca
, situated on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, eighteen miles south of Dalton
on a peninsula formed by the junction of the Oostenaula and Conasauga Rivers
The Confederate position at this place was strengthened by continuous rifle pits and strong field works, by which it was protected on the flanks on the above-named rivers, and a line of retreat across the Oostenaula
Information on May 15th, that the right of the Federal
army was crossing the Oostenaula
(four miles south of Resaca
), thus threatening his line of communications, induced General Johnston
to fall back from Resaca
, thirteen miles south on the railroad.
, in accounting for the abandonment of his strong position at Dalton
, and of his subsequent position at Resaca
, states that he was dislodged from the first position—that in front of Dalton
—by General Sherman
's movement to his right through Snake-Creek Gap,
threatening our line of communication at Resaca
; from the position taken at Resaca
to meet that movement, by a similar one on the part of the Federal
general toward Calhoun
—the second being covered by the river, as the first had been by the mountains.
After abandoning Resaca
, General Johnston
hoped to find a good position near Calhoun
; finding none, he fell back to a position about a mile north of Adairsville
, where the valley of the Oothcaloga
was supposed from the map to be so narrow that his army, formed in line of battle across it, could hold the heights on both flanks.
On reaching this point, however, it was found that the valley was so much broader than was supposed, that the army, in line of battle, could not obtain the anticipated advantage of ground.
Hence a further retreat to Cassville
was ordered, seventeen miles farther south and a few miles to the east of the railroad.
Here, supposing that the Federal
army would divide, one column following the railroad through Kingston
and the other the direct road to the Etowah Railroad Bridge through Cassville
, General Johnston
hoped that the opportunity would be offered him to engage and defeat one of the enemy's columns before it could receive aid from the other, and, as the distance between them would be greatest at Kingston
, he determined to attack at this point.
The coming battle was announced in orders to each regiment of the army.
The battle, for causes which were the subject of dispute, did not take place as General Johnston
had originally announced, and, instead of his attacking the divided columns of the enemy, the united Federal army was preparing to attack him. Here our army occupied a position which General Johnston
describes as ‘the best that he saw during the war,’ but owing, as he represents, to an expressed want of confidence on the part of Lieutenant Generals Hood
in their ability to resist the enemy, the army was again (May 19, 1864) ordered to retreat beyond the Etowah
, in his official report, and in a book written by him since the war, takes a very different view of the position in rear of Cassville
, and states that he and General Polk
explained that their corps were on ground commanded and enfiladed by the batteries of the enemy, therefore wholly unsuited for defense, and, unless it was proposed to attack, that the position should be abandoned.
, a scientific and gallant soldier, confirms this opinion of the defects of the position, as does Captain Morris
, chief engineer
of the Army of Mississippi, and others then on duty there.3
The next stand of our army was at Alatoona, in the Etowah Mountains
, south of the river of that name; the reported extension of the Federal
army toward Dallas
, threatening Marietta
, was deemed to necessitate the evacuation of that strong position.
The country between Dallas
, eighteen miles wide, and lying in a due westerly direction from the latter place, constitutes a natural fortress of exceptional strength.
Densely wooded, traversed by ranges of steep hills, seamed at intervals by ravines both deep and rugged, with very few roads, and those ill constructed and almost impassable to wheels, it is difficult to imagine a country better adapted for defense, where the advantages of numerical superiority in an invading army were more thoroughly neutralized, or where, necessarily ignorant of the topography, it was compelled to advance with greater caution.
The engagements at New Hope Church, June 27th and 28th, though severe and marked by many acts of gallantry, did not result in any advantage to our army.
Falling back slowly as the enemy advanced to Acworth
(June 8th), General Johnston
made his next stand in that mountainous country that lies between Acworth
, remarkable for the three clearly defined eminences: Kenesaw Mountain
, to the west of the railroad, and overlooking Marietta
; Lost Mountain
, half-way between Kenesaw
, and west of Marietta
; and Pine Mountain
, about half a mile farther to the north, forming, as it were, the apex of a triangle, of which Kenesaw
and Lost Mountains form the base.
These heights are connected by ranges of lower heights, intersected by numerous ravines, and thickly wooded.
The right of our army rested on the railroad, the line extending four or five miles in a westerly direction, protected by strong earthworks, with abatis on every avenue of approach.
While the enemy, feeling his way slowly, was skirmishing on the right of our position, our army, our country, and mankind at large, sustained an irreparable loss on June 13th in the death of that noble Christian and soldier, Lieutenant General Polk
Having accompanied Generals Johnston
to the Confederate
outpost on Pine Mountain
, in order to acquaint himself more thoroughly with the nature of the ground in front of the position held by his corps, he was killed by a shot from a Federal battery six or seven hundred yards distant, which struck him in the chest, passing from left to right.
Since the calamitous fall of General Albert Sidney Johnston
and of General T. J. Jackson
, the country sustained no heavier blow than in the death of General Polk
On June 18th, heavy rains having swollen Nose's Creek
on the left of
our position so that it became impassable, the Federal
army, under cover of this stream, extended its lines several miles beyond Johnston
's left flank toward the Chattahoochee
, causing a further retrograde movement by a portion of his force.
For several days brisk fighting occurred at various points of our line.
The cavalry attack on Wheeler
's force on the 20th, the attack upon Hardee
's position on the 24th, and the general assault upon the Confederate
position on the 27th were firmly met and handsomely repulsed.
On July 4th it having been reported by General G. W. Smith
, in command of about a thousand militia, and occupying the extreme left of our army, that the enemy's ‘cavalry was pressing him in such force that he would be compelled to abandon the ground he had been holding and retire before morning to General Shoup
's line of redoubts,’4
constructed on the high ground near the Chattahoochee
and covering the approaches to the railroad bridge and Turner's Ferry, General Johnston
deemed it necessary to abandon his position at Kenesaw
on July 5th and fall back to the line constructed by General Shoup
, as the enemy's position covered one of the main roads to Atlanta
, and was nearer to that city than the main body of General Johnston
On the 9th, Sherman
having crossed the Chattahoochee
with two corps on the day previous, the Confederate army crossed that river and established itself two miles in its rear.
Thus, from Dalton
, from Resaca
, from Adairsville
to Alatoona (involving by the evacuation of Kingston
the loss of Rome
, with its valuable mills, foundries, and large quantities of military stores), from Alatoona to Kenesaw
, from Kenesaw
to the Chattahoochee
, and then to Atlanta
; retreat followed retreat, during seventyfour days of anxious hope and bitter disappointment, until at last the Army of Tennessee fell back within the fortifications of Atlanta
The Federal army soon occupied the arc of a circle extending from the railroad between Atlanta
and the Chattahoochee River
to some miles south of the Georgia Railroad (from Atlanta
) in a direction north and northeast of Atlanta
We had suffered a disastrous loss of territory.
Whether the superior numerical strength of the enemy, by enabling him to extend his force beyond the flank of ours, did thereby necessitate the abandonment of every position taken by our army, and whether the enemy, declining to assault any of our entrenched camps, would have ventured to leave it in rear, upon his only line of communication and supply, or whether we might have obtained more advantageous results
by a vigorous and determined effort to attack him in detail during some of his many flank movements—are questions upon which there has been a decided conflict of opinion, and upon which it would be for me now neither useful nor pleasant to enter.
When it became known that the Army of Tennessee had been successively driven from one strong position to another, until finally it had reached the earthworks constructed for the exterior defense of Atlanta
, the popular disappointment was extreme.
The possible fall of the ‘Gate City,’ with its important railroad communication, vast stores, factories for the manufacture of all sorts of military supplies, rolling mill and foundries, was now contemplated for the first time at its full value, and produced intense anxiety far and wide.
From many quarters, including such as had most urged his assignment, came delegations, petitions, and letters, urging me to remove General Johnston
from the command of the army, and assign that important trust to some officer who would resolutely hold and defend Atlanta
While sharing in the keen sense of disappointment at the failure of the campaign which pervaded the whole country, I was perhaps more apprehensive than others of the disasters likely to result from it, because I was in a position to estimate more accurately their probable extent.
On the railroads threatened with destruction, the armies then fighting the main battles of the war in Virginia
had for some time to a great degree depended for indispensable supplies, yet I did not respond to the wishes of those who came in hottest haste for the removal of General Johnston
; for here again, more fully than many others, I realized how serious it was to change commanders in the presence of the enemy.
This clamor for his removal commenced immediately after it became known that the army had fallen back from Dalton
, and it gathered volume with each remove toward Atlanta
Still I resisted the steadily increasing pressure which was brought to bear to induce me to revoke his assignment, and issued the order relieving him from command only when I became satisfied that his declared purpose to occupy the works at Atlanta
with militia levies and withdraw his army into the open country for freer operations, would inevitably result in the loss of that important point, and where the retreat would cease could not be foretold.
If the Army of Tennessee was found to be unable to hold positions of great strength like those at Dalton
, and on the Chattahoochee
, I could not reasonably hope that it would be more successful in the plains below Atlanta
, where it would find neither natural nor artificial advantages of position.
As soon as the Secretary of War
showed me the answer which he had just received in reply to his
telegram to General Johnston
, requesting positive information as to the General
's plans and purposes, I gave my permission to issue the order relieving General Johnston
and directing him to turn over to General Hood
the command of the Army of Tennessee.
I was so fully aware of the danger of changing commanders of an army while actively engaged with the enemy, that I overcame the objection only in view of an emergency, and in the hope that the impending danger of the loss of Atlanta
might be averted.
The following extracts are made from a letter of the Hon. Benjamin H. Hill
, written at Atlanta
October 12, 1878, and handed to me by the friend to whom it was addressed:
On Wednesday or Thursday, I think the 28th or 29th of June, 1864, a messenger came to my house, sent, as he said, by General Johnston, Senator Wigfall, of Texas, and Governor Brown, of Georgia.
The purpose of his mission, as he explained, was to persuade me to write a letter to President Davis urging him to order either Morgan or Forrest with five thousand men into Sherman's rear, etc. . . .
The result of this interview was a determination on my part to go at once to see General Johnston, and place myself at his service.
I reached his headquarters near Marietta, on the line of the Kenesaw, on Friday morning, which was the last day of June or the first day of July.
We had a full and free interview, and I placed myself unreservedly at his disposal.
He explained at length that he could not attack General Sherman's army in their intrenchments, nor could he prevent Sherman from ditching round his (Johnston's) flank and compelling his retreat.
The only method of arresting Sherman's advance was to send a force into his rear, cut off his supplies, and thus compel Sherman either to give battle on his (Johnston's) terms or retreat.
In either case, he thought, he could defeat Sherman, and probably destroy his army.
I said to him, ‘As you do not propose to attack General Sherman in his intrenchments, could you not spare a sufficient number of your present army, under Wheeler or some other, to accomplish this work?’
He said he could not—that he needed all the force he had in front.
He then said that General Morgan was at Abingdon, Virginia, with five thousand cavalry, and, if the President would so order, this force could be sent into Sherman's rear at once.
He also said that Stephen D. Lee had sixteen thousand men under him in Mississippi, including the troops under Forrest and Roddy, and that, if Morgan could not be sent, five thousand of those under Forrest could do the work.
Either Morgan or Forrest, with five thousand men, could compel Sherman to fight at a disadvantage or retreat, and there was no reason why either should not be sent if the President should give the order.
He explained that he (General Johnston) had had a consultation with Senator Wigfall and Governor Brown, the result of which was the messenger to me to secure my cooperation to influence President
Davis to make the order.
I repelled the idea that any influence with the
President was needed, and stated that, if the facts were as General Johnston reported them, the reenforcment would be sent on his request.
But the situation was so critical, involving, as I believed and explained at length to General Johnston, the fate of the Confederacy, that I said I would go in person to Richmond and lay all the facts before the President, and I did not doubt he would act promptly.
I then said to General Johnston: ‘How long can you hold Sherman north of the Chattahoochee River?
This is important, because I must go to Richmond, and Morgan must go from Virginia or Forrest from Mississippi, and this will take some time, and all must be done before Sherman drives you to Atlanta.’
General Johnston did not answer this question with directness, but gave me data which authorized me to conclude that he could hold Sherman north of the Chattahoochee River at least fifty-four days, and perhaps sixty days. I made this calculation with General Johnston's data in his presence, and told him the result, and he assented to it. When this result was stated, General Hood, who was presented, said, ‘Mr. Hill, when we leave our present line, we will, in my judgment, cross the Chattahoochee River very rapidly.’
‘Why, what makes you think that?’
said General Johnston, with some interest.
‘Because,’ answerd General Hood, ‘this line of the Kenesaw is the strongest line we can get in this country.
If we surrender this to Sherman, he can reconnoiter from its summit the whole country between here and Atlanta, and there is no such line of defense in the distance.’
‘I differ with your conclusion,’ said General Johnston. ‘I admit this is a strong line of defense, but I have two more strong lines between this and the river, from which I can hold Sherman a long time.’
I was delayed en route somewhat, and reached Richmond on Sunday morning week, which I think was the 9th day of July.
I went to the hotel, and in a few moments was at the Executive mansion.
This interview with Mr. Davis I can never forget.
I laid before him carefully, and in detail, all the facts elicited in the conversation with General Johnston, and explained fully the purpose of my mission.
When I had gone through, the President took up the facts, one by one, and fully explained the situation.
I remember very distinctly many of the facts, for the manner as well as matter stated by Mr. Davis was impressive.
‘Long ago,’ said the President, ‘I ordered Morgan to make this movement upon Sherman's rear, and suggested that his best plan was to go directly from Abingdon through East Tennessee.
But Morgan insisted that, if he were permitted to go through Kentucky and around Nashville, he could greatly recruit his horses and his men by volunteers.
I yielded, and allowed him to have his own way. He undertook it, but was defeated, and has retreated back, and is now at Abingdon with only eighteen hundred men, very much demoralized, and badly provided with horses.’
He next read a dispatch from General Stephen D. Lee, to the effect that A. J. Smith had left Memphis with fifteen thousand men, intended either as a reenforcement for Sherman or for an attack on Mobile; that, to meet this force, he (Lee) had only seven thousand men, including the commands of Forrest and Roddy.
He would like to have reenforcements, but anyhow, with or without reenforcements, ‘he should meet Smith, and whip him, too.’
‘Ah! there is a man for you,’ said Mr. Davis.
And he did meet Smith with his inferior force, and
whipped him, too. He next read a dispatch from a commander at Mobile (who, I think, was General Maury), to the effect that Canby was marching from New Orleans with twenty thousand men, and A. J. Smith from Memphis with fifteen thousand, intending to make a combined attack on Mobile.
To meet this force of thirty-five thousand men he had four thousand, and Lee, with Forrest and Roddy, seven thousand, making eleven thousand in all. He asked for reenforcements.
After going fully through this matter, and showing how utterly General Johnston was at fault, as to the numbers of troops in the different commands, the President said, ‘How long did you understand General Johnston to say he could hold Sherman north of the Chattahoochee River?’
‘From fifty-four to sixty days,’ I said, and repeated the facts on that subject as above stated.
Thereupon the President read me a dispatch from General Johnston, announcing that he had crossed or was crossing the Chattahoochee River.
The next day (Monday), Mr. Seddon, the Secretary of War, called to see me. He asked me to reduce my interview with General Johnston to writing, for the use of the Cabinet, and I did so, and gave it to him. Mr. Seddon said he was anxious for General Johnston's removal, and he was especially anxious because, he said, he was one of those who was responsible for his appointment.
He had urged his appointment very earnestly, but it was a great mistake, and he desired to do all he could, even at this late day, to atone for it. The President, he said, was averse to the removal.
He made the appointment against his own convictions, but thought it a very hazardous thing to remove him now, and he would not do it, if he could have any assurance that General Johnston would not surrender Atlanta without a battle.
Other members of the Cabinet, I know, had views similar to those expressed by Mr. Seddon.
The question, or rather the situation, was referred to General Lee, but he declined to give any positive advice, and expressed regret that so grave a movement as the removal of General Johnston under the circumstances existing, should be found to be necessary.5
During all the time, a telegraphic correspondence was kept up with General Johnston—the object being to ascertain if he would make a determined fight to save Atlanta.
His answers were thought to be evasive.
Finally, the question was put to General Johnston categorically to this effect: ‘Will you surrender Atlanta without a fight?’
To this the answer was regarded as not only evasive, but as indicating the contemplated contingency of surrendering Atlanta, on the ground that the Governor of the State had not furnished, as expected, sufficient State troops to man the city while the army was giving battle outside.
‘This evasive answer to a positive inquiry,’ said one of the Cabinet to me, ‘brought the President over.
He yielded very reluctantly.’
I was informed of the result at once, and was also informed that Mr. Davis was the last man in the Cabinet to agree to the order of removal. . . .
assumed command on July 18th.
In his report of the operations of the army while under his command, he states that the effective strength of his force on that day was forty-eight thousand seven hundred fifty men of all arms.
Feeling that the only chance of holding Atlanta
consisted in assuming the offensive by forcing the enemy to accept battle, General Hood
determined, on July 20th, to attack the corps of Generals Thomas
, who were in the act of crossing Peachtree Creek
, hoping to defeat Thomas
before he could fortify himself, then to fall on Schofield
, and finally to attack McPherson
's corps, which had reached Decatur
, on the Georgia Railroad, driving the enemy back to the creek and into the narrow space included between that stream and the Chattahoochee River
Owing to an unfortunate misapprehension of the order of battle and the consequent delay in making the attack, the movement failed.
On the 21st, finding that McPherson
's corps was threatening his communications, General Hood
resolved to attack him at or near Decatur
, in front and on flank, turn his left, and then, following up the movement from the right to the left with his whole army, force the enemy down Peachtree Creek
This engagement was the hottest of the campaign, but it failed to accomplish any other favorable result than to check General McPherson
's movement upon the communications of our army, while it cost heavily in the loss of many officers and men, foremost among whom was that preux chevalier
and accomplished soldier, Major General W. H. T. Walker
Beyond expeditions by the enemy, for the most part by cavalry, to destroy the lines of railroad by which supplies and reenforcements could reach Atlanta
, and successful efforts on our part to frustrate their movements, resulting in the defeat and capture of General Stoneman
and his command near Macon
, the utter destruction of the enemy's cavalry force engaged by General Wheeler
, and the defeat of Sherman
's design to unite his cavalry at the Macon and Western Railroad and effectually to destroy that essential avenue for the conveyance of stores and ammunition for our army, no movement of special importance took place between July 22d and August 26th, at which latter date it was discovered that Sherman
had abandoned his works upon our right, and, leaving a considerable force to hold his entrenched position at the railroad bridge over the Chattahoochee
, was marching his main body to the south and southwest of Atlanta
, to use it, as he himself has expressed it, ‘against the communications of Atlanta
, instead of against its entrenchments.’
On the 30th, it being known that he was moving
, the county town of Clayton County
, about twenty miles south of Atlanta
, General Hood
sent two corps under General Hardee
to confront him at that point, in the hope that he could drive him across Flint River
, oblige him to abandon his works on the left, and then be able to attack him successfully in flank.
The attack at Jonesboro
was obliged, on September 1st, to fall back to Lovejoy
's, seven miles south of Jonesboro
on the Macon and Western Railroad.
Thus the main body of the Federal
army was between Hardee
, and the immediate evacuation of that city became a necessity.
There was an additional and cogent reason for that movement.
Owing to the obstinately cruel policy which the United States government had pursued for some time, of refusing on any terms to exchange prisoners of war, upward of thirty thousand prisoners were at Andersonville
in southwestern Georgia
at this time.
To guard against the release and arming of these prisoners, General Hood
thought it necessary to place our army between them and the enemy, and abandon the project, which he thought feasible, of moving on Sherman
's communications and destroying his depots of supplies at Marietta
Upon abandoning Atlanta
marched his army in a westerly direction, and formed a junction with the two corps which had been operating at Jonesboro
's under General Hardee
, desisting from any further aggressive movement in the field, returned to Atlanta
, which had been formally surrendered by the mayor on September 2d, with the promise, as reported, on the part of the Federal
commander, that noncombatants and private property should be respected.
Shortly after his arrival, the commanding general
of the Federal
forces, forgetful of this promise, and on the pretense that the exigencies of the service required that the place should be used exclusively for military purposes, issued an order directing all civilians living in Atlanta
, male and female, to leave the city within five days from the date of the order (September 5th). Since Alva's atrocious cruelties to the noncombatant population of the Low Countries
in the sixteenth century, the history of war records no instance of such barbarous cruelty as that which this order designed to perpetrate.
It involved the immediate expulsion from their homes and only means of subsistence of thousands of unoffending women and children, whose husbands and fathers were either in the army, in Northern prisons, or had died in battle.
In vain did the mayor and corporate authorities of Atlanta
appeal to Sherman
to revoke or modify this inhuman order, representing in piteous language ‘the woe, the horror, and the suffering, not to be
described by words,’6
which its execution would inflict on helpless women and infant children.
His only reply was:
I give full credit to your statements of the distress that will be occasioned by it, and yet shall not revoke my order, because my orders are not designed to meet the humanities of the case.
At the time appointed, the women and children were expelled from their houses, and, before they were passed within our lines, complaint was generally made that the Federal
officers and men who were sent to guard them had robbed them of the few articles of value they had been permitted to take from their homes.
The cowardly dishonesty of its executioners was in perfect harmony with the temper and spirit of the order.
During the month of September the Federal
army in and around Atlanta
made no movement beyond strengthening its defenses and collecting within it large quantities of military supplies.
, meantime, held his troops in the vicinity of Jonesboro
His reports to the War Department represented the morale of his army as ‘greatly impaired by the recurrence of retreat,’ decreasing in numbers day by day, and the surrounding country devoid of natural strength or any advantageous position upon which he could retire.
With a view to judging the situation better, and then determining after personal inspection the course which should seem best to pursue, I visited General Hood
's headquarters at Palmetto
The crisis was grave.
It was not to be expected that General Sherman
would remain long inactive.
The rapidity with which he was collecting recruits and supplies at Atlanta
indicated that he contemplated a movement farther south, making Atlanta
a secondary base.
To rescue Georgia
, save the Gulf
states, and retain possession of the lines of communication upon which we depended for the supplies of our armies in the field, an effort to arrest the further progress of the enemy was necessary; to this end the railroads in his rear must be effectually torn up, the great railroad bridge over the Tennessee River
destroyed, and the communication between Atlanta
, and Nashville
completely cut off. If this could be accomplished, all the fruits of Sherman
's successful campaign in Georgia
would be blighted, his capture of Atlanta
would become a barren victory, and he would probably be compelled to make a retreat toward Tennessee
, at every mile of which he might be harassed by our army.
Or, should he, relying on Atlanta
as a base, push forward through Georgia
to the Atlantic coast
, our army, having cut his communications north of Atlanta
, could fall upon his rear, and, with the advantages of a better
knowledge of the country, of the surrounding devoted population, of the auxiliary force to be expected under the circumstances, and our superiority in cavalry, it was not unreasonable to hope that retributive justice might overtake the ruthless invader.
My first object was to fill up the depleted ranks of the army, to bring the absentees and deserters back to the ranks, and to induce the governor and state officials to cooperate heartily and earnestly with the Confederate government in all measures that might be found necessary to give the proposed movement a reasonable prospect of success.
The avowed objection of the governor of Georgia
to the acts of Congress providing for raising troops by conscription, and his persistent opposition to the authority of the Confederate
executive to appoint the generals and staff officers of the volunteer organizations received from the states to form the provisional army of the Confederacy
, caused him frequently to obstruct the government officials in the discharge of their duty, to withhold the assistance which he might be justly expected to render, and, in the contemplation of his own views of the duties and obligations of the executive and legislative departments of the general government, to lose sight of those important objects, the attainment of which an exalted patriotism might have told him depended on the cooperation of the state and Confederate governments.
The inordinate exemption from military service as state officials of men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five (it was estimated that the number of exempts in November, 1864, amounted to fifteen thousand) was an abuse which I endeavored in vain to correct.
If the majority of the men were thus exempted, and remained at home ‘that the army might be fed,’ really engaged in that important service, the end might be said to justify the means; for any less exigent demand, however, patriotism and humane consideration for the brave men at the front required that the number of these exempts should be reduced to the minimum, if, indeed, the number of those unfit for military duty was not, sufficient to perform this service.
After a thorough inspection of the Army of Tennessee at Palmetto
, after conference with several prominent Georgians, and notably with that pure patriot and distinguished statesman and soldier, General Howell Cobb
, whose brain and heart and means and energies were all at the service of his country, I proceeded to Augusta
during the first week of October, in order, with Generals Hardee
and other officers of prominence, to meet and confer with General Beauregard
, whom I had just assigned to the command of the military division of the west, and to impart to him my views as to the exigencies of the
occasion, and how I thought that they might be most advantageously met.
Before this time General Hood
had already crossed the Chattahoochee
wth his entire force, moving against the enemy's line of communication.
, with a strong force of cavalry, had been ordered to Tennessee
to strike the railroad from Nashville
During my visit to Hood
's army, I learned that its morale had been partially restored, many absentees had returned to duty, and the waning hope of the people was beginning to revive.
The plan of operations which I had discussed with General Hood
while at his headquarters was fully explained to General Beauregard
, and by him cordially approved.
It comprised the occupation of a strong position on the enemy's line of communication by the railroad between Atlanta
, the capture of his depots of supplies and the small garrisons left to guard them.
If this, as was probable, should cause Sherman
to move to attack us in position, in that case, if the tone of the troops justified it, a battle should be joined; otherwise, he should retreat toward Gadsden
, where supplies would be collected, and, should Sherman
follow him so far, then there, on the dividing line of the states of Georgia
, the largest practicable number of militia and home guards of both states would be assembled as an auxiliary force, and there a final stand should be made for a decisive battle.
If victorious, as under the circumstances it was hoped we should be, the enemy could not retreat through the wasted country behind him, and must surrender or disperse.
should not pursue our retiring army to Gadsden
, but return to Atlanta
to march toward the seacoast, he was to be pursued, and, by our superiority in cavalry, to be prevented from foraging on the country, which, according to our information as to his supplies on hand at Atlanta
, and as to his inadequate means of transportation, would be indispensable for the support of his troops.
, contrary to that information, have supplies and transportation sufficient to enable him to march across the country, and should he start toward the seacoast, the militia, the local troops, and others who could be employed should obstruct the roads and fords in his front by felling trees, and, by burning bridges and other available means, delaying his progress until his provisions should be consumed and absolute want should deplete if not disintegrate his Army It was supposed that Augusta
, on account of our principal powder manufactory and some important workshops being located there, would be the first objective point of Sherman
, should he march
toward the east.
's calculation was that, taking a route north of Sherman
's, where he would have smaller streams to cross, he could reach Augusta
as soon as Sherman
, the local commander in Georgia
, in addition to obstructing roads, etc., was, in the last supported contingency, to assemble at Augusta
the invalid soldiers, the militia, and others to defend the place.
General George W. Rains
, an accomplished soldier and military engineer, was instructed to enlarge and strengthen the defenses of the place, and General G. R. Rains
, the author of the system of defense by sub-terra shells, was, on the coming of the enemy, to apply his invention to the threatened approaches of the town.
There was another contemplated contingency, viz
., that Sherman
, emboldened by his recent successes, would move against Hood
with such overweening confidence as might offer to the latter the opportunity to strike in detail.
After the full conversation with General Beauregard
above noticed, General Hardee
was called in and asked to give his opinion on the plan, which I regarded as entitled to great consideration, not only because of his high capacity as a soldier, but also because of his long connection with the army of Tennessee, and minute knowledge of the country in which it was proposed to operate.
He had previously been made fully aware of the plans and purposes discussed between General Hood
and myself, and stated to General Beauregard
substantially that, while he could not say the plan would succeed, he was confident it was the best which we could adopt, and that, if it failed, none other with our means would succeed.
left for General Hood
's headquarters, as I supposed, to aid in the execution of the proposed plan, to the success of which the larger command with which he was invested, it was hoped, would contribute.
moved as was expected upon the enemy's line of communication, and his successes at Big Shanty and Acworth
, in capturing those stations and thoroughly destroying the railroad between them, and his partial success at Alatoona, caused Sherman
, leaving one corps to garrison Atlanta
, to move out with his main body to restore his communications.
further succeeded in destroying the railroad from Resaca
to Tunnel Hill
, capturing the enemy's posts at Tilton
, and Mill-Creek Gap; not deeming his army in condition to risk a general engagement, he withdrew his forces in a southwesterly direction toward Gadsden
, which place he reached October 20th, finding there supplies adequate for the wants of his troops.
had turned back towards Atlanta
, and Hood
, instead of hanging on his rear, not allowing him to
repair the damage to the railroad, and otherwise harassing him in his march as much as possible, after conference with General Beauregard
, decided to continue his march into Tennessee
His reasons for this change of plan are elaborately and forcibly presented in his book, Advance and Retreat
, published since the war, in which he emphatically contradicts the attempt which has been made to represent that campaign into Tennessee
as one projected by me. The correspondence of General Sherman
, published in the same work, shows that Hood
was not far wrong in the supposition that Sherman
would follow the movement made on his line of communication; the only error was that he could thus draw him beyond the limits of Georgia
After my return to Richmond
, a telegram from General Beauregard
informed me of the change of program.
My objection to that movement remained, and, though it was too late to regain the space and time which had been lost, I replied promptly on November 30, 1864, as follows:
To the arguments offered to show that our army could not, after it had reached the Tennessee River
, have effectually pursued Sherman
in his march through southern Georgia
, it is only needful to reply that the physical difficulties set forth would not have existed had our army commenced the pursuit from Gadsden
To make the movement into Tennessee
a success, even so far as to recover that country, it was necessary that it should be executed so promptly as to anticipate the concentration of the enemy's forces, but unforeseen and unavoidable delays occurred, which gave full time for preparation.
After having overcome many vexatious detentions, Hood
on November 20th completed his crossing of the Tennessee River
at Gunter's Landing
, and moved forward into Tennessee
on the route to Nashville
, whither Sherman
had sent General Thomas
for the protection of his depots and communications against an apprehended attack by cavalry under General Forrest
Most unwilling to criticise the conduct of that very gallant and faithful soldier who, battle-scarred and mutilated, survived the war, and whose recent death our country has so much deplored, I must say after the event, as I did before it, that I consider this movement into Tennessee
having been sufficiently reenforced in Tennessee
to enable him to hold Hood
in check, and Sherman
relieved from the necessity of defending himself against an active army, and of protecting a long line of railroad communication with a fortified base in his rear, resolved upon his march to the sea, abandoning Atlanta
, after having first utterly destroyed that city by fire.
Not a single house was spared, not even a church.
Similar acts of vandalism marked the progress of the Federal
army at Rome
, and every town or village along its route, thus carrying out General Sherman
's order ‘to enforce a devastation more or less relentless’ along the line of his march, where he encountered only helpless women and children.
The arson of the dwelling houses of noncombatants and the robbery of their property, extending even to the trinkets worn by women, made the devastation as relentless as savage instincts could suggest.
On November 16th Sherman
left his entrenchments around Atlanta
and, dividing his army into two bodies, each from twenty-five to thirty thousand strong, the one followed the Georgia Railroad in the direction of Augusta
, and the other took the line of the Macon and Western Railroad to Jonesboro
, they passed through central Georgia
, taking Milledgeville
on the way, marching in compact column and advancing with extreme caution, although opposed only by detachments of Wheeler
's cavalry and a few hastily formed regiments of raw militia.
Partial efforts were made to obstruct and destroy the roads in the front and on the flanks of the invading army, and patriotic appeals by prominent citizens were made to the people to remove all provisions from its path, but no formidable opposition was made, except at the railroad bridge over the Oconee
, where Wheeler
, with a portion of his command and a few militia, held the enemy in check for two or three days. With his small force, General Wheeler
daringly and persistently harassed, and, when practicable, delayed the enemy's advance, attacking and defeating exposed detachments, deterring his foragers from venturing far from the main body, defending all cities and towns along the railroad lines and affording protection to depots of supplies, arsenals, and other important government works.
The report of his operations from November 14th to December 20th displays a dash, activity, vigilance, and consummate skill which justly
entitle him to a prominent place on the roll of great cavalry leaders.
By his indomitable energy, operating on all sides of Sherman
's columns, he was enabled to keep the government and commanders of our troops advised of the enemy's movements, and, by preventing foraging parties from leaving the main body, he saved from spoilation all but a narrow tract of country, and from the torch millions worth of property which would otherwise certainly have been consumed.
It soon became manifest that Savannah
was General Sherman
's objective point.
That city was occupied by General W. J. Hardee
with about eighteen thousand men, a considerable portion of which was composed as militia, local troops, reserves, and hastily organized regiments and battalions made up of convalescents from the hospitals and artisans from the government shops.
On December 10th the enemy's columns reached the immediate vicinity of Savannah
, and on the 12th they occupied a semicircular line extending from the Savannah River
to the Savannah and Gulf Railroad.
The defenses of the city were strong, the earthworks and other fortifications were flanked by inundated rice swamps extending across the peninsula formed by the Savannah
and Ogeechee rivers
, and the causeways leading through them were well fortified by works mounting heavy guns.
With a sufficient force to occupy his long lines of defense, General Hardee
could have sustained a protracted siege.
The city was amply supplied, and its lines of communication were still open.
had reached Savannah
, he had not yet opened communication with the Federal fleet. Fort McAllister
, situated on the right bank of the Ogeechee
, about six miles from Ossabaw Sound
, was a serious obstacle in his way, as it was a work of considerable strength, mounting twenty-one heavy guns, a deep and wide ditch extending along its front, with every avenue of approach swept by the guns mounted upon its bastions.
The fort was held by a garrison of two hundred fifty men under the command of experienced officers.
The work was attacked on the evening of the 13th, and carried by assault after a short and feeble resistance.
In consequence of the loss of this fort, Sherman
speedily opened communication with the fleet, and became perfectly secure against any future want of supplies.
This also enabled him to obtain heavy ordnance for use against the city.
He proceeded immediately to take measures to invest Savannah
, and in a few days had succeeded in doing so on every side of the city except that fronting the river.
's troops had not yielded a single position or lost a foot of ground, with the exception of Fort McAllister
, when, on December 20th, he discovered that Sherman
had put heavy siege guns in position near enough to bombard the city, and that the
enemy was threatening Union Causeway, which extends across the large swamps that lie between Savannah
, and offered the only practicable line of retreat, he determined to evacuate the place rather than expose the city and its inhabitants to bombardment.
He also thought holding it had ceased to be of any special importance, and that troops could do more valuable service in the field.
Accordingly, on the night of December 20th, having destroyed the navy yard, the ironclads, and other government property, and razed the fortifications below the city, he withdrew his army and reached Hardeeville
on the evening of the 22d, without hindrance or molestation on the part of the enemy.
Having heretofore stated my objections to the plan of sending Hood
's army into Tennessee
after the fall of Atlanta
, I will now follow it in that compaign, relying for the facts on the official report of General Hood
of February 15, 1865.
The fidelity and gallantry of that officer and the well-known magnanimity of his character are a sufficient guarantee of the impartiality of his narration.
He reported the arrival of his army on October 20, 1864, where he was joined by General P. G. T. Beauregard
, commanding the military department.
He writes that, after withdrawing from Atlanta
, his hope had been that Sherman
in following might offer an opportunity to strike him in detail, but in this he was disappointed.
reported that the morale of his army, though improved, was not such as, in the opinion of his corps commanders, would justify a general engagement while the enemy remained united.
he found a thorough supply of shoes and other stores, but after a full and free conference with General Beauregard
he decided to cross the Tennessee
and move against Thomas
, who with his corps had been detached by Sherman
and sent into middle Tennessee
. General Beauregard
had sent orders to General Forrest
to move with his cavalry into Tennessee
; the main body of Hood
's cavalry had been sent to follow Sherman
As the orders to Forrest
were incidentally delayed, and Hood
had not cavalry enough to protect his trains, he was compelled to wait for the coming of Forrest
To hasten the meeting, he moved down the river as far as Florence
, where he arrived on October 31st.
This unfortunate delay gave the enemy time to repair the railroad to Chattanooga
, and accumulate supplies at Atlanta
for a march thence toward the Atlantic coast
's cavalry joined on November 21st, and the movement began.
The enemy's forces at that time were concentrated at Pulaski
and at Lawrenceburg
endeavored to place his army between these forces and Nashville
, but our cavalry, having driven off the enemy at Lawrenceburg
, gave notice of our advance, and on the 23d he evacuated Pulaski
rapidly by the turnpike and railroad to Columbia
On the evening of November 27th our army took position in front of the works at that place.
During the night the town was evacuated, and a strong position was taken on the opposite side of the river, about a mile and a half distant.
On the evening of the 28th General Forrest
crossed Duck River
a few miles above Columbia
, and in the morning of the 29th Stewart
's and Cheatham
's corps followed the cavalry, leaving Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee
's corps confronting the enemy at Columbia
The cavalry and the two infantry corps moved in light marching order, the object being, by advancing rapidly on roads parallel to the Columbia and Franklin turnpike
at or near Spring Hill
, to cut off that portion of the foe at Columbia
The movement having been discovered after Hood
's forces had got well on the flank of the enemy, he began to retreat along the turnpike toward Spring Hill
About noon of that day the cavalry attacked his trains, but found them too strongly guarded to be captured.
The retreat was rapidly conducted along the turnpike, with flankers thrown out to protect the main column.
Near Spring Hill Major General Cheatham
, being in the advance, commenced to come in contact with the retreating column about two miles from Spring Hill
He was ordered to attack vigorously, and get possession of the turnpike.
This was so feebly executed that he failed to attain the object, and the enemy passed on toward Spring Hill
Though the golden opportunity had passed with daylight, Hood
did not abandon the hope of effecting by a night movement the end he sought.
Accordingly Lieutenant General Stewart
was furnished with a guide, and ordered to move his corps beyond Cheatham
's, placing it across the road beyond Spring Hill
In the dark and confusion he did not succeed in getting the position desired.
About midnight, ascertaining that the enemy was moving in disorder, with artillery, wagons, and troops intermixed, Hood
sent instructions to General Cheatham
to advance a heavy line of skirmishers, still further to impede the retreat.
‘This was not accomplished.
The enemy continued to move along the road in hurry and confusion nearly all the night.
Thus was lost a great opportunity for striking him for which we had labored so long—the greatest this campaign had offered, and one of the greatest during the war. Lieutenant General S. D. Lee
, left in front of the enemy at Columbia
, was instructed to press him the moment he abandoned his position at that point.
He did not abandon his works until dark, showing that his trains obstructed the road for fifteen miles during the day and a great part of the night.’
At daylight Hood
pursued the enemy so rapidly as to compel him to burn a number of his wagons.
On the hills about four miles south of Franklin
, he made demonstration
as if to give battle, but when our forces deployed for the attack he retired to Franklin
From dispatches captured at Spring Hill
learned that Schofield
was instructed by Thomas
to hold that position until Franklin
could be made secure, and thus knew that it was important to attack Schofield
promptly, concluding that, if he should escape at Franklin
, he would gain the fortifications about Nashville
reports that ‘the nature of the position was such as to render it inexpedient to attempt any other flank movement, and I therefore determined to attack him in front and without delay.’
As this was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and its results materially affected the future, before entering on an account of it I pause for some general reflections.
It is not quite easy to determine what my gallant friend Hood
meant by the expression, ‘the nature of the position.’
It may have referred to the probability that the enemy, if he attempted a flank movement, would retreat rapidly, as he had done from Columbia
, and it is now known that a part of his troops and a large part of his train had already been sent across the Harpeth River
's dispatch indicated a purpose to hold Franklin
; its relation to Murfreesboro
, where a garrison was maintained, would seem to render this a probable part of a plan to maintain communication with Chattanooga
had to us, as a mere military question, no other value than that the road to Nashville
led through it. Whether it would have been possible to turn the position so promptly as to strike the enemy's line of retreat is a question which no doubt General Hood
considered and decided in the negative; otherwise he would surely have preferred to attack the enemy on the march rather than in his entrenchments, especially as these were so near to the town that Hood
was restrained from using his artillery on account of the women and children resident in it. The position itself was favorable for defense; the Harpeth River
by a short bend flows on two sides of the town, and the works in front had the center so boldly salient, their flanks resting on the river, as to enclose the town in something like a square, two sides being river and two sides entrenchment.
The exterior line of defense had been recently and hastily constructed; the interior line was much stronger.
Behind the town there were two bridges, one on the main road leading through it, and the other a pontoon bridge a short distance above it. Hood
had served with distinction under Lee
, and his tactics were of that school.
If he had, by an impetuous attack, crushed Schofield
's army, without too great a loss to his own,
could have executed his orders to capture the trains when Schofield
's army was crushed, we should never have heard complaint because Hood
attacked at Franklin
, and these were the hopes with which he made his assault.
On November 30th he formed his line of battle.
At 4 P. M. he gave the order to advance; his troops moved gallantly forward, carried the first line, and advanced against the interior works; here the engagement was close and fierce; the combatants occupied the opposite sides of the entrenchments, our men carrying them in some places, many being killed entirely inside the enemy's works.
Some of the Tennesseeans, after years of absence, saw again their homes, and strove with desperation to expel the invader from them; the contest continued till near midnight, when the enemy abandoned his works and crossed the river, leaving his dead and wounded behind him. We had won a victory, but it was purchased at fearful cost.
, in his letter of December 11, 1864, written near Nashville
, reported his entire loss at about four thousand five hundred; among them were Major General Cleburne
, Brigadier Generals Gist
, John Adams
, and Granberry
, all well known to fame, and whose loss we could ill afford to bear.
thickly lay the gallant men who, in his desperate assault, followed him with the implicit confidence that in another army was given to Stonewall Jackson
; in the one case, as in the other, a vacancy was created which could never be filled.
reported that the number of dead left on the field by the enemy indicated that his loss was equal to or near our own—that those of our men who were captured were inside the enemy's works.
The next morning at daylight, the wounded having been cared for and the dead buried, Hood
moved forward toward Nashville
, about eighteen miles distant, and Forrest
with his cavalry closely pursued the enemy.
On December 2d our army took position in front of Nashville
about two miles from the city, Lieutenant General Lee
's corps in the center resting on the Franklin turnpike
's on the right, Stewart
's on the left, and the cavalry on each flank.
then commenced to construct detached works to cover the flanks, should offensive movements be attempted against our flank and rear.
The enemy still held Murfreesboro
with a garrison of about six thousand, strongly fortified; he also had small forces at Chattanooga
It was supposed that he would soon have to take the offensive to relieve his garrisons at those points, or cause them to be evacuated, in which latter case Hood
hoped to capture the forces at Murfreesboro
and thus open communication with Georgia
; he thought, if attacked in
position, that he could defeat Thomas
, gain possession of Nashville
with its abundant supplies, and thus get the control of Tennessee
The people of the country, in the meantime, were able and willing to furnish our army with supplies, and we had captured rolling stock to put the railroad to Pulaski
in successful operation.
sent Major General Forrest
with the greater part of his cavalry and a division of infantry against Murfreesboro
The infantry did not fulfill expectation, and it was withdrawn.
's and Palmer
's brigades of infantry were sent to replace the division.
Nothing of importance occurred until the morning of the 15th, and the enemy, having been reenforced by about fifteen thousand men from the transMissis-sippi, attacked simultaneously both flanks of our line.
On our right he was repulsed with heavy loss; on our left, toward evening, he carried some of the partially completed redoubts.
During the night of the 15th our line was shortened and strengthened, the left being thrown back and dispositions made to meet any renewed attack.
The corps of Major General Cheatham
was transferred from our right to the left.
Early on December 16th the enemy made a general attack on our lines, accompanied by a heavy fire of artillery.
All his assaults were repulsed with heavy loss until 3:30 P. M., when a portion of our line to the left of the center suddenly gave way. Up to this time no battle ever progressed more favorably—the troops in excellent spirits, waving their colors and bidding defiance to the enemy; the position he then gained being such as to enfilade us, caused our entire line to give way in a few moments and our troops to retreat in the direction of Franklin
, most of them in great confusion.
Confidence in the ability to hold the line had caused the artillery horses to be sent to the rear for safety; the abandonment of the position was so unexpected and sudden that it was not possible to bring forward the horses to remove the guns which had been placed in position, and fifty-four of them were consequently lost.
Our loss in killed and wounded was small.
, about four miles from the field of battle, the troops were partially rallied, and Lieutenant General S. D. Lee
took command of the rear guard and encamped for the night.
On leaving the field, Hood
sent one of his staff officers to inform General Forrest
of our defeat, and to direct him to rejoin the army with as little delay as possible, but heavy rains had so swollen the creeks that he was unable to effect the junction with his main force until it reached Columbia
During the 17th the enemy's cavalry pressed boldly on the retreating column, the open character of the country being favorable to cavalry operations.
Lieutenant General Lee
, commanding the covering force, was severely wounded, but not
until after he and the corps he commanded had rendered such service as to receive the special commendation of the general commanding the army.
reports that when he left the field before Nashville
he had hoped to be able to remain in Tennessee
, on the line of Duck River
; after arriving at Columbia
, however, he became convinced that the condition of the army made it necessary to recross the Tennessee
On the 21st he resumed his march for Pulaski
, leaving Major General Walthall
with five infantry brigades, and General Forrest
with the main body of his cavalry, at Columbia
, to cover the movements of the army.
The retreat continued, and on the 25th, 26th, and 27th, the army, including the rear guard, crossed the Tennessee River
The enemy had followed the rear guard with all his cavalry and three corps of infantry to Pulaski
, and thence the cavalry continued the pursuit to the Tennessee River
After crossing the river, the army moved by easy marches to Tupelo, Mississippi
. General Hood
reported his losses in the Tennessee
campaign to have been about ten thousand men, including prisoners, and that when he arrived at Tupelo
he had 18,500 infantry and artillery, and 2,306 cavalry.
I again quote from General Hood
Here, finding so much dissatisfaction throughout the country, as, in my judgment, greatly to impair, if not destroy, my usefulness, and counteract my exertions, and with no desire but to serve my country, I asked to be relieved, with the hope that another might be assigned to the command who might do more than I could hope to accomplish.
Accordingly, I was so relieved on the 23d of January, by authority of the President.
Though, as General Hood
states in his book, page 273, I was ‘averse to his going into Tennessee
,’ he might well assume that I ‘was not, as General Beauregard
and himself, acquainted with the true condition of the army’ when they decided on the Tennessee
Of the manner in which he conducted it, Isham G. Harris
, the governor of Tennessee
, a man of whose judgment, integrity, and manhood I had the highest opinion, wrote to me, on December 25, 1864:
. . . 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 any thing that he should, have done, . . . and regret to say that, if all had performed their parts as well as he, the results would have been very different.
To this I will add only that General Hood
was relieved at his reiterated request, made from such creditable motives as are expressed in the extract above, taken from his official report, and that it was in no wise due to a want of confidence in him on my part.