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Chapter 43:


Just before the battle of Nashville, which began on the 15th of December, and ended on the 16th, General Hood expressed the wish that General Beauregard should visit the Army of Tennessee, if he could.1 This was proof sufficient that matters were not going on satisfactorily in that quarter, for at no previous time had General Hood evinced the least desire to have General Beauregard with him or his army.

A few days before the following telegram, in cipher, had also been forwarded to General Beauregard, but it was not received until on or about the 15th at Charleston:

Headquarters, six miles from Nashvlle, on Franklin Pike, Dec. 8th, 1864.
A good lieutenant-general should be sent here at once to command the [326] corps now commanded by Major-General Cheatham I have no one to recommend for the position. Have sent same despatch to the Secretary of War.

J. B. Hood, General.

The motive actuating him in this instance will be found in his report, entitled ‘Operations of the Army of Tennessee,’ already referred to in one of our preceding chapters. In his book (‘Advance and Retreat,’ p. 286 et seq.) General Hood also explains why he was so desirous that General Cheatham should no longer serve with him. In justice to the latter, however, it is but fair to lay before the reader this additional telegram, forwarded both to the Secretary of War and to General Beauregard, and of the same date as the preceding one:

Headquarters, six miles from Nashville, on Franklin Pike, Dec. 8th, 1864.
Major-General Cheatham made a failure on the 30th of November, which will be a lesson for him. I think it best he should remain in his position for the present. I withdraw my telegrams of yesterday and to-day on this subject.

J. B. HooD, General.

Unfortunately, when General Beauregard received the two telegrams he was so much absorbed in the operations along the southern coast of South Carolina and at Savannah, which was then threatened by General Sherman's army, that he could neither go to the Army of Tennessee, nor, at that time, assist General Hood in any way whatever.

On the 15th of December, General Thomas, having collected all his available troops at Nashville, while General Hood had, unfortunately, divided his own,2 commenced his attack, which was, at first, handsomely repulsed. It was renewed the next day with great vigor, when, at about 3.30 P. M., ‘a portion of our line, to the left of the centre, suddenly gave way,’3 creating no small confusion among the Confederates, and resulting in the loss of fifty pieces4 of artillery, with other materials of war, and a hasty retreat—by many termed a ‘rout’—to the south side of Duck River. It was there that S. D. Lee's gallant corps protected the retreating Confederate columns until Franklin was [327] reached,5 when Forrest so opportunely joined the army, and thence, with skill, determination, and endurance, formed its rearguard to the Tennessee River.

Speaking of this battle, General Hood in his book says:6 ‘At an early hour (16th) 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 2.30 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. 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 the mound, and, under the fire of artillery, which prevented our men from raising their heads above the breastworks, made a sudden and gallant charge up to and over our intrenchments. Our line, thus pierced, gave way; soon thereafter it broke at all points, and I beheld for the first and only time a Confederate army abandon the field in confusion.’

On the 24th and 25th of December, General Beauregard, who was still in Charleston, received telegrams from Colonel G-. W. Brent, his Chief of Staff, then at Montgomery, Ala., informing him that He had ‘nothing official from Hood,’ but that, from a despatch received from General S. D. Lee, then at Florence, he was ‘apprehensive that some reverse may have occurred.’7 Such information, vague in the main, but significant in more than one respect, caused great anxiety to General Beauregard; but He could not leave Charleston at that juncture, and was therefore compelled to await further tidings.

A day or two later Colonel Brent again telegraphed as follows:

If you can be spared from your present duties, I think it important that you should come here as soon as practicable.

Geo. Wm. Brent, Col., and A. A. G.


General Beauregard's determination to go to the Army of Tennessee as soon as he could had been taken before the receipt of these despatches; but, fearing now that a disaster might have happened to General Hood, he telegraphed President Davis as follows:

Charleston, S. C., Dec. 25th, 1864.
Should circumstances require another commander for the Army of Tennessee, I respectfully recommend Lieut.-General Richard Taylor for that position. He is zealous, energetic, intelligent, and judicious. He might remain still in command of his department until relieved by a competent officer.

When five days had elapsed, no answer having been made to this despatch, General Beauregard reiterated his inquiry, by sending to the President the following telegram:

Charleston, Dec. 31st, 1864.
On reaching Army of Tennessee am I authorized to appoint General Taylor to its command, should I find its condition such as to require a change of commander? Please answer at Montgomery.

When General Beauregard left Charleston, on the 2d of January, 1865, General Hood's headquarters were supposed to be at or near Corinth, Miss. It was not, just then, an easy matter to reach that point; for the railroad between Augusta and Montgomery had been destroyed, and a circuitous route, via Milledgeville and Macon, was the only one left; this unavoidably prolonged the journey and delayed General Beauregard in his effort to join General Hood's army.

At Augusta, on his way to Milledgeville, he received President Davis's despatch of January 2d, authorizing him to give the command of the Army of Tennessee to Lieutenant-General Taylor, should circumstances justify him in so doing.8 This relieved General Beauregard of much anxiety for the moment.

He took advantage of his short stay at Augusta to issue instructions to General Hardee relative to the defence of Branchville against Sherman. He informed General Hardee that he had selected a defensive line behind Briar Creek, in Georgia, to correspond with that of the Salkehatchie, in South Carolina,9 [329] putting it under General G. W. Smith, who then had command of the Georgia reserves.

General Beauregard reached Macon on the 6th of January, in the afternoon, and remained there a whole day, in conference with General Cobb in regard to military affairs in his district. It was after this conference that General Beauregard, who had had occasion to speak of his efforts to procure the services of Major-General D. H. Hill, bethought himself also of another officer, General Joseph E. Johnston, whose retirement, for months past, had been the subject of varying comments and painful regret throughout the South. General Beauregard was of opinion that the military experience and other eminent qualities of such an officer could not, at this juncture, be well dispensed with; and, with his usual rapidity of action, he immediately telegraphed the Hon. W. P. Miles, member of Congress, and Chairman of the Military Committee of the House, that, should the War Department be willing to restore General Johnston to active duty in the field, he, General Beauregard, would gladly yield to him his former command. But nothing was then done in the matter; nor was it likely that the suggestion would ever be favorably entertained. So thought the Hon. W. P. Miles, who, in his answer to General Beauregard, said:

‘I received your telegram with reference to General Johnston, and showed it to the Secretary of War. I fear he will not be assigned to duty.’

General Beauregard had not yet left Macon when He received the following despatch from General Hood:

Headquarters, Corinth, Jan. 3d, 1865.
The army has recrossed the Tennessee River without; material loss since the battle of Franklin. It will be assembled in a few days in the vicinity of Tupelo, to be supplied with shoes and clothing, and to obtain forage for the animals. Copy sent to the Secretary of War.

J. B. Hood, General.

This afforded a gleam of comfort to General Beauregard, who was now inclined to think that rumor had perhaps exaggerated the report of General Hood's disasters. On the same day, however, another telegram arrived. It was in these words:

Your despatch of January 1st received. My despatch from Spring Hill, Tenn., informed you of the result of the battle of Nashville, after which I [330] thought it best to withdraw the army from Tennessee, which was done, crossing the river at Bainbridge. To make the army effective for operations some rest is absolutely necessary, and a good supply of shoes and clothing.

I think it of vital importance that the Trans-Mississippi troops should be furloughed, by organizations, for one hundred days, and will so telegraph the President. It would be well if you could visit the army.

J. B. Hood, General.

The telegram of January 1st, referred to by General Hood, had been forwarded to him to ascertain what was then the real condition of his army, as no direct intelligence from him to that effect had been received for more than two weeks. It ran thus:

General Beauregard desires a report of your operations since your report of 11th of December. Advise by telegraph as far as practicable. Write fully the condition of the army, and what is necessary to give it effective means for operations. We have no despatch since yours of 15th of December.

Geo. Wm. Brent, Col., and A. A. G.

The idea of granting furloughs of one hundred days to entire organizations, when the service of every man in the army was then of such vital importance to the cause, could not for a moment be encouraged. General Beauregard referred the matter at once to the War Department and openly opposed it. Mr. Seddon's views coincided with his own, as is shown by the following despatch:

Repress, by all means, the proposition to furlough the Trans-Mississippi troops. The suggestion merely is dangerous; compliance would probably be fatal. Extinguish the idea.

James A. Seddon, Secretary of War.

The ‘idea’ was accordingly ‘extinguished,’ as Mr. Seddon so energetically expressed it; for, on the same day, after informing the War Department that he would lose no time in carrying out its instructions, General Beauregard informed General Hood that his ‘application relative to his Trans-Mississippi troops’ was disapproved by the Secretary of War; that it was considered a dangerous experiment, and that he fully agreed with Mr. Seddon in that respect. ‘Discountenance it in full,’ were the ending words of the despatch forwarded to that effect.10 General Hood was thus compelled to abandon his strange plan for increasing [331] the effectiveness of his army; but the following telegram shows how reluctant he was to do so:

Tupelo, Jan. 11th, 1865.
To General Beauregard:
I am very anxious to see you here in reference to the Trans-Mississippi troops, and also as to some system of furlough for other troops, and on other important matters.

J. B. Hood, General.

In the mean time, and acting upon the suggestion of General Beauregard, who as early as December 23d had advised General Hood ‘to come with or send to Augusta’ such of his forces as were not absolutely required to hold his defensive line,11 the War Department expressed its willingness that troops from the Army of Tennessee should be sent, in the direction of South Carolina, to the assistance of General Hardee. Immediate steps were taken by General Beauregard to hasten the execution of this judicious measure; and on the 16th of January, the day following his arrival at Tupelo, he held a long and important conference with General Hood on this subject. The latter, while expressing his willingness to obey the President's and General Beauregard's orders, declared the impracticability of doing so before removing, not only his sick and wounded, but all his stores, from Tupelo; which, he thought, would require at least four days.

Of all the shattered corps of that gallant army, General S. D. Lee's, then under the command of Major-General Stevenson, was in the best condition. General Beauregard, therefore, desired that it should be sent off as soon as transportation could be collected, without waiting for the remainder of the army; and all necessary orders were issued to that effect.12 The bad condition of the roads, the scarcity of provisions, or rather the extreme difficulty of gathering them for distribution on the march, added to unavoidable delays consequent upon the inadequate means then at our disposal—not to speak of the demoralized condition of the men themselves—thwarted, and more than thwarted, the usefulness of that and all other measures tending towards the same end.

General Beauregard could now realize the full truth of the reported disintegration and confusion of the Army of Tennessee. Very little—if anything—remained of its former cohesive [332] strength. If not, in the strict sense of the word, a disorganized mob, it was no longer an army. None seemed more keenly alive to the fact, and suffered more from it, than General Hood himself. So humiliated, so utterly crushed was he, in appearance, by the disastrous results of his defeat and its ruinous effects upon his army, that General Beauregard, whom he had just apprised of his application to be relieved from its command, had not the heart virtually to disgrace him by ordering his immediate removal the had not the slightest doubt that General Hood's application would be readily acceded to, and therefore generously abstained from using the power with which he had been clothed.

Two days after his arrival at Tupelo the following telegram was received by him:

By telegraph yesterday General Hood requested to be relieved from command of the Army of Tennessee. His request is granted, and you will place Lieutenant-General Taylor in command, he retaining command of his Department as heretofore, and you, with such troops as may be spared, will return to Georgia and South Carolina.

James A. Seddon, Secretary of War.

Both Generals Hood and Taylor were immediately informed of this order; and General Beauregard, after giving detailed instructions to General Smith, Chief-Engineer, for the defence of Choctaw and Open Bluff, Ala., and the river at those points, started on the 19th of January for Augusta, Ga., via Mobile. He had on that day requested General Hood to hold Cheatham's corps (less Gibson's brigade) in readiness to move at a moment's notice, and to see to it that one hundred rounds of small-arms ammunition per man should be sent with the troops going to Georgia.

On his departure from Tupelo he left with General Taylor the following special field order, with date in blank, to be filled on the day of its going into effect:

Headquarters, Military division of the West, Tupelo, Miss., Jan.—, 1865.
1st. General J. B. Hood is relieved, at his own request, by the War Department from the command of the Army of Tennessee. He will report for orders to the War Department, at Richmond, Virginia.

2d. Lieutenant-General R. Taylor, commanding Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and Eastern Lousiana, will assume command of the Army of Tennessee until further orders.


It was only on the 23d that General Hood took leave of the army, after addressing a circular to his troops, in which, with characteristic manliness, as will be seen, he took upon himself the entire responsibility of the Tennessee campaign. He said:

Soldiers,—At my request I have this day been relieved from the command of this army. In taking leave of you accept my thanks for the patience with which you have endured your many hardships during the recent campaign. I am alone responsible for its conception, and strived hard to do my duty in its execution. I urge upon you the importance of giving your entire support to the distinguished soldier who now assumes command, and I shall look with deep interest upon all your future operations and rejoice at your success.

J. B. Hood, General.

From that day till the time of its transfer to Georgia and South Carolina, Lieutenant-General Taylor became the commander of what was left of the Army of Tennessee; not, precisely, against his will, but strictly in obedience to orders, and without having either sought or desired the position. He wrote a simple but energetic address to the troops, and did his best to stimulate them to the performance of their last duty to the cause for whose triumph they had so nobly fought and bled. But he well knew, while he thus endeavored to quicken to new deeds of heroism the overtaxed valor of the broken forces he now had under him, that it was too late to arouse them to further hope and endurance.

General Maury had repeatedly called General Beauregard to Mobile, for the purpose of inspecting its defensive works and of giving such advice as his experience should suggest. Other duties, more pressing at the time, had prevented compliance with the request, which, however, had not been overlooked or forgotten.

General Beauregard reached Mobile on the 21st of January, and remained there four days. He visited every work around the city, and gave minute instructions for its protection, as well as that of the various harbor approaches. To Major-General M. L. Smith, Chief-Engineer, who was not with him during this inspection, he telegraphed, on the 23d, as follows:

‘City land defences, next to lower bay, where enemy will probably attack, are still unfinished. System of barbette guns adopted for land batteries is the worst possible. Their fire will be silenced by enemy's sharp-shooters as soon as they get within range.’


On the 25th General Beauregard was on the road to Augusta, where he was anxiously awaited. From Tensaw Landing, Ala., he forwarded the following telegram to General Hardee:

‘I suggest the immediate preparation of a pontoon-bridge of at least fifty boats.’

The purpose of this suggestion was to protect General Hardee's retreat northward, especially across the Santee, in case the railroad bridge over it should be destroyed by Sherman's cavalry, an event which might have compelled the surrender of all our forces south of that stream.

The services of Major-General D. H. Hill had at last been accepted by the War Department, and General Hardee, to whom he was ordered for duty, had, on the 19th of January, assigned him to the command of Augusta. From that city, on the 28th, he reported the enemy rapidly advancing towards him, and expressed the hope that troops would be hurried up as fast as possible. General Hardee immediately forwarded his telegram to General Beauregard, adding to it these words: ‘I think your presence of extreme importance at this juncture.’ The next day the following telegram was also sent by General Hardee:

‘Enemy failed in his attempt to cross the Combahee, but 15th and 17th Corps are about to cross the Savannah, to unite with column moving towards Augusta.’13

Pursuant to General Beauregard's orders, Cheatham's corps had been pushed forward to Georgia with all possible speed; and, on the 30th, at Lieutenant-General Taylor's own suggestion,14 Stewart's corps was also made to move eastward. Its services, General Taylor thought, would be of far more value against Sherman than in any fitful effort to arrest Thomas, should he begin in earnest a movement southward.

From the time General Beauregard left Mobile till his arrival at Augusta, on the 1st of February, he was incessantly engaged in issuing orders and giving and sending instructions for the rapid transportation of the remnant of General Hood's army. It was then that he called the attention of the War Department to [335] the necessity of speedily finishing the railroad from Milledgeville to Mayfield, and asked authority to assign Major Hottle, A. Q. M., to that important work, which he deemed essential to further military operations. But General Gilmer was of a different opinion, and the War Department, therefore, paid no attention to General Beauregard's suggestion. He likewise appealed to Governors Brown (of Georgia) and Clark (of Mississippi), strongly advising them to use the militia of their respective States, and all other means in their power, to secure the return of deserters and absentees to their commands. To Brigadier-General Mackall, as He passed through Opelika, he gave specific orders concerning Palmer's battalion and the impressment of horses for the artillery on its way to the east. Truly may it be said that, during these trying weeks of depression and anxiety, his presence being called for, simultaneously, at almost every point, he displayed unfailing energy and forethought, spoke words of comfort to the depressed —whose number increased with every additional reverse—and never allowed the minutest details of his multitudinous duties to escape his attention.

1 See his telegram, in Appendix.

2 He had sent General Forrest and some infantry towards Murfreesboroa, to watch or capture a small force of Federals.

3 General Hood's telegram of December 17th. See Appendix.

4 In his book (‘Advance and Retreat,’ p. 303) General Hood says ‘fiftyfour’ pieces.

5 There it was that General S. D. Lee was severely wounded in the foot, and compelled to leave the field.

6 ‘Advance and Retreat,’ p. 302

7 See the two telegrams referred to, in Appendices to the present and to the preceding chapter.

8 See telegram of Mr. Davis, in Appendix.

9 See telegram from General Beauregard to General Hardee, in Appendix. See, also, order of War Department giving limits of Department South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida

10 See Appendix

11 See, in Appendix, General Beauregard's telegram to Colonel Brent.

12 See Appendix

13 See Appendix for these two telegrams.

14 See General Taylor's telegram, in Appendix.

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