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Chapter 19:

  • The Tennessee campaign under Hood
  • -- Scott's brigade at Franklin -- the Washington artillery at Murfreesboro -- battle of Nashville -- the retreat -- the Louisiana brigade in the rear Guard -- last days of the army of Tennessee.

Hood having failed to draw Sherman into Tennessee, Beauregard, now close at hand, was stirring him to a bold stroke.1 This was nothing less than to give a fatal blow to Thomas, organizing at Nashville.

Hood willingly undertook the enterprise, but unfortunately was hindered by perilous delay. In his welcome advance, the larger contingent of Louisiana men fought in Gibson's brigade, Clayton's division. The Twelfth infantry, Col. N. L. Nelson, was in its old brigade (commanded by Thomas M. Scott, promoted to brigadiergen-eral) of Loring's division; Fenner's battery, Lieut. W. T. Cluverius, trained with Eldridge's battalion, now commanded by Fenner; Bouanchaud's Point Coupee artillery, with Myrick's battalion; Slocomb's Washington artillery, with Cobb's battalion; and Capt. L. M. Nutt's cavalry was with Granbury.

Gibson's regiments were led as follows: First regiment, Capt. J. C. Stafford; Fourth regiment, Col. Samuel E. [197] Hunter; Thirteenth regiment, Lieut.--Col. Francis L. Campbell; Sixteenth regiment Lieut.-Col. Robert H. Lindsay; Nineteenth regiment, Maj. Camp Flournoy; Twentieth regiment, Capt. Alexander Dressel; Twenty-fifth regiment, Col. Francis C. Zacharie; Thirtieth regiment, Maj. Arthur Picolet; Fourth battalion, Capt. T. A. Bisland; Fourteenth battalion sharpshooters, Lieut. A. T. Martin.

Schofield was at Franklin, with instructions from Thomas to hold it until the post could be made secure. Hood quickly resolved to crush Schofield before he could obey Thomas' order. His troops carried the first line of hastily constructed works. Behind this was an interior line, which he failed to storm against overwhelming numbers. Confederates occupied the outer line, a position of peculiar peril. The enemy held the inner line strongly manned, against which the Confederates bravely advanced, and there inside the enemy's works many fell The Federals had the worst of the struggle at Franklin, but the South suffered the loss of many of its most heroic men.

During this battle Gibson's brigade was with Lee at Columbia, but Scott and his gallant Alabamians and Louisianians were in the heat of the desperate struggle, attacking on the right of the Federal line, charging over ground obstructed by a deep railroad cut, abatis and hedge, swept by a terribly destructive fire from the enemy's artillery, ‘pressing forward with dauntless courage to the inner line of works, which they failed to carry, but where many of them remained, separated from the enemy only by the parapet, until the Federal army withdrew.’ Such were the words in which A. P. Stewart described the work of Loring's division. Brigadier-General Scott was paralyzed by the explosion of a shell near him. The gallant Colonel Nelson gave up his life on this bloody field.

Rousseau was at this time strongly fortified at Murfreesboro, with 8,000 men. Hood, on the way from [198] Franklin to Nashville, stopped Bate's division long enough to order him to see what he could do to disturb Rousseau, varying that operation by destroying railroads and burning railroad bridges. With Bate's division went Cobb's battalion of artillery, Capt. Rene T. Beauregard commanding the artillery. Slocomb's battery, Lieutenant Chalaron commanding, was directed to open upon a block-house on a creek guarding a railroad bridge. Twice or thrice the enemy appeared, each time being thrown back by the gunners. Later in the day he came again, this time reinforced by infantry and artillery. Chalaron, quick to answer, poured double charges into his lines, when not fifty yards distant, scattering them in all directions. Of this action, a spirited if hasty one, Bate says: ‘Slocomb's battery, under Lieutenant Chalaron, acted with conspicuous and most effective gallantry.’ Bate himself seemed genuinely solicitous about his New Orleans artillerists. ‘I have to regret the loss of two of the guns of that gallant battery, Slocomb's. The horses being killed, they could not be brought off.’ General Bate's regret would surely have turned to rage had he known that the Washington artillery's ‘2-pounder Napoleons’ lost in this fight were at once placed in position in the fortifications at Murfreesboro, traitor-like to turn in shells upon their old masters.

Winter opened early and forbidding in Tennessee. Bate soon found bad weather interfering with him, ugly rains with falling snow as early as December 5th; ground freezing; soldiers barefooted; feet bleeding. Once more on the road to Nashville, he reached the front of the town December 15th, catching, as he drew near, the mutterings of battle. The next day he ordered Captain Beauregard to place a section of howitzers upon a small plateau, whence they could command the front of his right. Beauregard did this with telling effect, clearing the front [199] as though some mighty broom had swept it.2 This, however, was only a temporary relief. Towards 9 a.m. the enemy began to deploy large masses, which threatened, with their heavy weight, to crush the thinner Southern lines. Beauregard, still fighting steadily at his guns, was ordered to move his battalion back to the Franklin pike; the Granny White pike, our chosen avenue of escape, being already swarming with the enemy. At length the Confederate lines gave way everywhere, and all inditia of defeat were plain to our outnumbered and over weighted army. Never without hope, the army of Tennessee this day lost all save valor.

From December 1st to 15th Gibson's brigade had been incessantly working on the intrenchments before Nashville. The attack of the 5th in other quarters caused such withdrawal of troops that two of Clayton's brigades had to be scattered along the whole front previously held by the corps, and Gibson's brigade was taken out of the trenches and thrown back perpendicularly to check the enemy's advance. About midnight the division was moved back to Overton's hill, on the extreme right of the army. There Gibson sustained a vigorous assault early in the afternoon of the 16th, which was repulsed with slaughter. From 9 o'clock in the morning Gibson's brigade had been under fire of a battery which completely enfiladed them, but they stood fast. Between three and four o'clock they learned that the entire left of the army had given away. Then they moved to the rear, marching out in good order and saving the battery they supported. Fenner, who had been dealing destruction to the enemy, brought off his guns, but three of them were afterward abandoned by order of General Forrest. On the morning of the 17th Colonel Hunter, with the Fourth and Thirtieth, was put on guard in the rear, and while there was captured with [200] his detachment. At the Harpeth river the brigade narrowly escaped entire destruction. Deserted by the cavalry, and charged on all sides by the enemy, Lindsay's Sixteenth deployed as skirmishers, and Colonel Campbell and Major Flournoy, with the First, Thirteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth, in all about 250 muskets, moved to the rear, fighting as they went. The command fought its way to the river thus, with a loss of o killed, 25 wounded, and 5 captured. ‘A more persistent effort was never made to rout the rear guard of a retreating column,’ was General Lee's comment. Among the losses at Nashville were Capt. C. W. Cushman, Lieut. J. J. Cawthon, and Lieut. C. Miller killed; and Lieut. A. T. Martin, commanding sharpshooters, wounded and captured.

The Point Coupee artillery, for its courage in dispersing a charging line, was complimented by Loring. On the 16th, towards 4 p. m., the enemy charged in force the battery, left and front. At this hour and on this part of the field confusion was supreme. The Point Coupee artillery, regardless of all save duty, poured double-load canister into the advancing column. Its infantry support, having begun by wavering had finished by fleeing in disorder. A poetic incident followed with that successful rush of the charging enemy. It was the battery's fourth gun which fell into his hands. With the capture, the enemy mockingly planted his colors upon it. Not at all disturbed, but rather angered by the growing confusion, not to add the intrusive flag, the cannoneers of the third piece turned their gun directly upon the fourth and fired their last round of ammunition at the colors. After this act of justice, the gunners fled to avoid capture.3

As touches the work of the various batteries in this [201] long, and at the end, disastrous campaign, one can lean upon this note from such a competent military critic as Lieut-Gen. S. D. Lee, bravely commanding the rear guard of the army from Nashville: ‘The officers and men of the artillery behaved admirably. Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon this efficient arm of the service in the army of Tennessee.’ We have Lee's corroborative authority equally for the assertion that ‘6 guns were lost by the artillery in my corps. The greater portion of these were without horses. ... The noble gunners, reluctant to leave their guns, fought the enemy, in many instances, almost within reach of the guns.’

With this retreat, John B. Hood passed from the field of active Confederate movement. Time was passing swiftly; the Confederacy was within a few months of Appomattox. A moribund government, no more than a dying man, cares about new ventures with old agents. Like the Marechal de Villars, Hood, full of fire, had always shown himself a better fighter than a strategist He planned a campaign as impetuously as he fought, and in his ear rang ever the trumpet's note. He loved best the wild excitement of a charge, the crash of blow for blow; himself dearly preferring to deal the first sounding stroke. His initiative always displayed dash with momentum. Once taken, he sustained it with set lips and eager eye. A man intensely brave, not only in the field, but what is still rarer, in his thought, he was like many men of his class almost femininely sanguine. With this sanguineness went a most controlling desire to conquer.

The reaction after Nashville was intensely painful for a nature so ardent and hopeful as Hood's. Far more painful, however, was the dissatisfaction which, as he learned day by day during that retreat, had sprung up among the people with the entire campaign. With nothing to do at Tupelo, Miss., he wrote with strong feeling from that point, to President Davis: ‘With no desire but to serve my country, I ask to be relieved with the hope [202] that another might be assigned to the command who could do more than I could accomplish.’ Singularly honest in his nature, the humility genuinely felt by this dashing captain must excite the sympathy of all brave men. General Hood relinquished his command on the 28th of January, ‘by authority of the President.’

The retreat from Nashville had brought no dishonor to the army of Tennessee. It had fought until a division, weakly guarding its line, had unexpectedly given away, involving an order to retire from the position so long and so gallantly held. When the Federal invaders charged it faced them sternly, and when they pressed upon it, struck back at them fiercely. With hearts steadfast; never flurried, though barefooted; never depressed, though bleeding feet left a tracery of blood upon the path, the army of Tennessee crossed the Tennessee and marched to Tupelo over winter roads, roughened by winter rains.4

The army of Tennessee5 had made its last retreat. With all its flags streaming; with all its bugles blowing and its drums beating, with its strong files as unbroken [203] in that final retreat as when facing its first fight; with not a commander away, not an officer absent, not a private forgotten from its proud story, the army of Tennessee, in serried ranks, horse, foot and artillery, marched in shadowy column victoriously from its last Confederate field of December 16, 1864, straight through the golden portal leading to the transcendent roadway of history.

Within five months, its elder brother, the army of Northern Virginia, holding within its skeleton ranks every man, general, officer, or private, who had in its day of greatest glory belonged to it, was to retreat from Petersburg to Appomattox, and from that culminating height of heroic effort, to march without let or challenge through those same golden portals, behind which the Confederate armies, great or small, were to meet, one in birth as in endeavor; one in hope as in failure; one in failure as in unending fame!

It was April, 1865, that the rings of that Titanic curtain which had hidden within its heavy folds the thrilling epoch of so much valor and so much devotion, noiselessly shaken by some hand mightier far than man's, and rattling off from their pole, fell with a crash upon the land sodden with the blood of an entire people, never to rise again over our Union of States, ‘one and indivisible’ [204]

1 General Beauregard had been assigned on October 2, 1864, to the department of the West, including the department commanded by Hood and that of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana, to which Lieut.-Gen. Richard Taylor had been assigned. Neither of the subaltern commanders was displeased at the selection of Beauregard, who had but lately stepped from the masterly defense of Charleston. It was not a promotion for G. T. Beauregard, only a new field in which to show his tact and rich military experience.

2Captain Beauregard, commanding my artillery, showed merit beyond his years, and managed the battalion not only to my satisfaction but to the good of the service and to his own credit.” Bate's report.

3 Mr. Caesar Landry, a popular sergeant of the Point Coupee artillery, kept a faithful diary of its marches, halts and fights from June 29, 1861, to January 12, 1865.

4 ‘Never in the course of this war have the best qualities of our soldiers been more conspicuously shown; never more enthusiasm evinced than when our troops once more crossed the Tennessee river; never greater gallantry than that which was so general at Franklin; never higher fortitude than was displayed on the retreat from Nashville to Tupelo.’—Beauregard's report, April 15, 1865.

5 With the remnant of the army of Tennessee which participated in the campaign in the Carolinas was the Twelfth regiment, Capt. John A. Dixon, Lieut.-Col. E. M. Graham, in Loring's division, Stewart's corps. Also with Johnston's army was the Louisiana battery of Capt. William M. Bridges, and Battery A, Orleans Guard, Capt. G. Le Gardeur, two organizations which had participated in the defense of Charleston harbor under Beauregard. Le Gardeur's battery fought at Averasboro, gave the enemy the last shot they had, and when nine horses were killed and nearly all the cannoneers of the two guns were killed or wounded, the career of the gallant battery was practically ended. Sergeant Guibert was mentioned by General Taliaferro for gallantry and energy. The Louisiana infantry, under Walthall and Loring, had their last battle at Bentonville, March 19th. In his last report, General Walthall commended the gallant services of Private E. D. Clark, Fourth Louisiana regiment, who was wounded in the performance of the duties of adjutant-general of division.

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