Nashville, Tennessee; December 15-16, 1864

NASHVILLE, Tenn.
Dec. 15-16, 1864.

Nashville, Tenn. Dec. 15-16, 1864.

U. S. Forces commanded by Gen. George H. Thomas. After the battle of Franklin on Nov.
30, Maj.-Gen. George H. Thomas, commanding at Nashville ordered
Gen. Schofield to fall back to that city, where Thomas had been
industriously engaged for some time in collecting an army of
sufficient strength to drive the Confederate forces under Gen.
Hood out of the State of Tennessee. Gen. A. J. Smith, with
three divisions of the Army of the Tennessee, had been expected
to arrive from Missouri in time to reinforce Schofield at
Franklin, but he did not reach Nashville until the Last Day of
November. At the time of the battle of Nashville Thomas’ Army
numbered altogether about 55,000 men, though less than 45,000
were actually engaged. The 4th corps, temporarily commanded by
Brig.-Gen. T. J. Wood, Gen. Stanley Having been wounded at
Franklin, was composed of three divisions commanded respec-
tively by Brig.-Gens. Nathan Kimball W. L. Elliott and Samuel
Beatty; the 23rd Corps, Under Maj.-Gen. John M. Schofield, Con-
sisted of two divisions, the 2nd commanded by Maj.-Gen. D. N.
Couch and the 3rd by Brig.-Gen. J. D. Cox; (the 1st division of
this corps was absent on detached duty); three divisions of the
Army of the Tennessee, (Maj.-Gen. A. J. Smith’s Command)the 1st
commanded by Brig.-Gen. John McArthur, the 2nd by Brig.-Gen.
Kenner Garrard, and the 3rd by Col. J. B. Moore, the provisional
detachment of Maj.-Gen. J. B. Steedman, consisting of one divi-
Sion Under the immediate command of Brig.Gen. Charles Cruft;
the post of Nashville, troops of the 20th corps, under command
of Brig.-Gen. John F. Miller; the quartermaster’s division,
commanded by Bvt. Brig.-Gen. J. L. Donaldson, the cavalry corps
under command of Bvt. Maj.-Gen. J. H. Wilson, consisting of
Croxton’s brigade of the 1st division, the 5th division com-
manded by Brig.-Gen. Edward Hatch, the 6th division Under Com-
Mand of Brig.-Gen. R. W. Johnson, and the 7th division under
Brig-Gen. J. F. Knipe. With this force of infantry and cavalry
were 40 batteries of light artillery. Hood’s army was organ-
ized as Follows: Lee’s Corps, Lieut.-Gen. S. D. Lee, was com-
posed of the divisions of Johnson, Stevenson and Clayton;
Stewart’s Corps, Lieut.-Gen. A. P. Stewart, consisted of the
divisions of Loring, French and Walthall; Cheatham’s Corps,
Lieut.-Gen. B. F. Cheatham, included the infantry divisions of
Cleburne and Bate, and the cavalry division of Gen. J. R Chalm-
Ers. Gen. Cleburne was killed at the battle of Franklin and
his division was commanded at Nashville by Brig.-Gen. J. A.
Smith. The strength of Hood’s army has been variously esti-
mated at from 30,000 to 39,000 men of all Arms. Col. Stone,
who went into the subject somewhat exhaustively, fixes it at
37,937.

Nashville is situated on the south side of the Cumberland
River. In December, 1864, several turnpike roads radiated from
the city between the southeast and southwest, all running
through a country somewhat Broken. Six Miles Due South are the
Brentwood hills, along the east side of which ran the Franklin
Pike, While the Hillsboro pike ran along the western Base. Two
Creeks Rise in these hills, their sources being less than a
mile apart. Brown’s Creek flows northeast, emptying into the
Cumberland above the city, and Richland Creek flows northwest
into the river some distance below. Along the ridge between
the two streams ran the Granny White Pike. The Nolensville
pike entered the cite from the southeast, crossing Brown’s
Creek not far from the Chattanooga railroad, while north of the
railroad, and between it and the river, ran the Murfreesboro,
Chicken and Lebanon Pikes. Another range of hills near the
city had been fortified by order of Thomas. Hood followed
Schofield from Franklin and during the afternoon of Dec. 2, his
cavalry engaged the Union skirmishers in front of Nashville.
The next Day the whole Confederate force appeared, the Federal
skirmishers were crowded back, and Hood proceeded to form his
main line on the hills immediately south of the Union fortifi-
cations. The morning of the 4th found his salient on Montgom-
Ery Hill, within 600 yards of the Union works. Cheatham’s corps
on the right occupied a position behind Brown’s Creek, extend-
ing from the railroad to the Franklin Pike , Stewart’s Corps
formed the center and lay across the Granny White Pike, While
Smith’s Corps on the left extended the line to the Hillsboro
pike. From there to the river below, across the Hardin and
Charlotte Pikes, and from Cheatham’s right to the river above
the cavalry was posted. Having taken. this position Hood did
not attack the works in front of the city, but spent several
days in reducing some of the smaller outlying garrisons and
blockhouses along the railroad. This Gave Thomas time to com-
plete his preparations, to mount and equip his cavalry and
thoroughly organize his troops. Gen. Grant in Virginia and the
authorities at Washington Grew impatient at the delay, fearing
that Hood would eventually elude Thomas’ Pass Round Nashville,
and invade Kentucky as Bragg had done in the summer of 1862.
But Thomas was guarding the fords and bridges with his cavalry,
and the gunboats of Fitch’s squadron were patrolling the river
above and below the City. Gen. Lyon, with a detachment of Con-
federate cavalry, did succeed in crossing at Clarksville on the
9th with a view to destroying the Louisville & Nashville rail-
road, but Thomas despatched Gen. E. M. McCook, with two bri-
Gades of the 1st cavalry division, to Look After Lyon, so that
the latter’s expedition proved fruitless.

Grant, however, was of the opinion that Thomas should have
given battle before the enemy had time to recover from the blow
received at Franklin, and on Dec. 2, he telegraphed Thomas to
leave the defenses of Nashville to Donaldson’s division and at-
tack Hood at once. Although this telegram was not an official
order, its language was scarcely less imperative, but Thomas
was so anxious to increase his force of cavalry, and so certain
that he could do so within a few days, he decided to wait until
he could attack with every assurance of success. In reply to
Grant’s telegrams Thomas said: “I now have infantry enough to
assume the offensive, if I had more cavalry, and will take the
field anyhow as soon as the remainder of Gen. McCook’s division
of cavalry reaches here, which I hope will be in two or three
days. We can get neither reinforcements nor equipments at this
great distance from the North very easily, and it must be re-
membered that my command was made up of the two weakest corps
of Gen. Sherman’s army, and all the dismounted cavalry except
one brigade, and the task of reorganizing and equipping has met
with many delays, which have enabled Hood to take advantage of
my crippled condition. I earnestly hope, however, in a few
more days I shall be able to give him a fight.” This explana-
tion was evidently not satisfactory, either to Grant or to Sec.
of War Stanton, and Thomas was again urged to attack the enemy
in his front. It was a case of the man at the desk a thousand
Miles away trying to direct the operations of the man in the
field. The record of Thomas at Mill Springs and Chickamauga
ought to have been a sufficient guarantee of his ability to
command an army or to plan a campaign, yet that record availed
him nothing now, when the secretary of war and the lieutenant-
general of the Federal armies were “spoiling for a fight.” On
the 6th Grant Sent another telegram to Thomas, directing him to
attack at once, and to wait no longer to remount his cavalry.
To this Thomas replied that he would make the necessary dispo-
sition and attack, “agreeably to your orders, though I believe
it will be hazardous with the small force of cavalry now at my
command.” This elicited a sarcastic telegram from Stanton to
Grant, in which he said: “Thomas Seems unwilling to attack be-
cause it is hazardous, as if all war was any but hazardous. If
he waits for Wilson to Get Ready, Gabriel will be blowing his
last horn.”

To such sneers as this the hero of Chickamauga paid no at
tention but went quietly ahead completing his arrangements for
a battle that was to forever destroy the usefulness of Hood’s
army as a factor in the War of the Rebellion. By the 9th he
was ready to attack, but a severe storm came on, covering the
ground with a thick coating of sleet, over which it was impos-
Sible to move troops with that celerity so essential to success
in making an assault on an enemy. On the 9th Gen. Halleck
telegraphed him as Follows: “Lieut.-Gen. Grant expresses much
dissatisfaction at your delay in attacking the enemy.” To this
Thomas replied: “I feel conscious I have done everything in my
power, and that the troops could not have been gotten ready be-
fore this. If Gen. Grant should order me to be relieved, I
will submit without a murmur.” He seems to have had a premoni-
tion of what was about to occur, for on the Same Day Grant
asked the war department to Relieve Thomas and turn over the
command of the army at Nashville to Schofield. When notice of
this order was received at Nashville, Thomas called a council
of his corps commanders and asked their advice, informing them
that he was ordered to give battle immediately or surrender his
command. The council was unanimous in the opinion that it was
impracticable to make any attack until the ice should melt.
The order relieving Thomas was then suspended, but on the 13th
Grant Again became impatient and ordered Gen. Logan to proceed
at once to Nashville, and the next Day started for that Place
himself to assume command of the army in person.

By noon on the 14th the ice had melted sufficiently to
permit the movement of troops. At 3 P.M. Thomas called to-
Gether his corps commanders and laid before them his plan of
battle for the following Morning. Steedman was to make a feint
against the enemy’s Right, While Smith, with the three divi-
Sions of the Army of the Tennessee, was to form his troops on
the Hardin Pike and make a vigorous assault on Hood’s left. In
this movement Smith was to be supported by Wilson, with three
divisions of cavalry, and one division of cavalry was to be
sent out on the Charlotte Pike to clear that road of the enemy
and keep watch on Bell’s Landing. Wood was directed to leave a
strong skirmish line in his works from Lawrens’ Hill to his
right, form the remainder of the 4th corps on the Hillsboro
road to support Smith’s left, and at the same time move against
the left and rear of the salient on Montgomery Hilt Schofield,
After leaving a strong line of skirmishers in the trenches from
Lawrens’ Hill to Fort Negley, was to move with the rest of the
23rd corps and cooperate with Wood, protecting his left against
any attack by the enemy. The troops Under Donaldson, Miller
and Cruft were to occupy the inner line of works and guard the
approaches to the city. At 4 a.m. on the 15th everyone within
the Federal works was awake and at daylight the several com-
mands began to move to their assigned positions. A dense fog
hung over the field during the early morning hours, completely
concealing the movements of the Federal troops. Each officer
seemed to feel the injustice of the imputation cast on Thomas,
and all now moved as if determined to vindicate the valor of
the Army of the Cumberland and the honor and judgment of its
commander. At 6 o’clock Steedman moved out on the Murfreesboro
pike and 2 hours later began his demonstration against Cheat-
ham’s right. This demonstration was so vigorous that it was
virtually an assault. The roar of his artillery and the rapid
fire of his musketry soon drew Hood’s attention to that part of
his line. Reinforcements were hurried to Cheatham and Steedman
withdrew his men after they had carried part of the enemy’s en-
trenchments, as they were subjected to an enfilading fire and
the object of the feint had been gained, though Toward Noon
Col. Thompson, with three regiments of colored troops assaulted
and carried the left of the front line of Confederate works on
the Nolensville pike, holding his position there until the next
Morning. Smith had to move farther than anticipated, and the
movements of his men were retarded by the fog and mud, so that
it was 10 o’clock before he reached the first of the detached
redoubts which Hood had built between his left flank and the
river. This was between the Hardin and Hillsboro roads and was
manned by a detachment of Walthall’s infantry, with 4 pieces of
artillery. Hatch and McArthur opened fire on it with their bat-
teries, Coon’s Cavalry brigade dismounted and charged, carrying
the redoubt and capturing the guns. At the same time McArthur
charged from another direction and as the enemy was retiring
captured 15O prisoners. The captured redoubt was under the
fire of another and stronger one, and the two commands now
turned their attention to its reduction. Again Coon’s brigade,
armed with repeating rifles, advanced up the Hill, Firing as
they Went, While McArthur was in such close support that the
Confederates saw they were doomed to defeat and made the at-
tempt to abandon the redoubt. Just then McArthur ordered a
charge, which was successfully made, and 250 prisoners were
added to those already taken. In the meantime Hatch had en-
gaged a portion of French’s division Near Richland Creek and
driven it back beyond the Hardin House, where Col. Spaulding,
with the 12th Tenn. Cavalry made a brilliant charge, capturing
43 prisoners and the headquarters train of Chalmers’ division.

As soon as Wood Heard the sound of Smith’s guns, he moved
against Montgomery Hill, swinging to the left as he advanced in
an effort to uncover the enemy’s flank. At 1 p. m. Post’s bri-
Gade of Beatty’s division dashed up the Hill and over the en-
trenchments. He was promptly supported by the rest of the di-
vision, and the enemy’s salient was in possession of the Feder-
Als. Wood then threw his reserve brigade of each division to
his right and engaged the enemy with his entire corps. This
movement of the 4th corps to the right caused Thomas to Order
Schofield to the right of Smith. In executing this movement
Couch’s division pushed beyond the second captured redoubt and
carried the enemy’s line on a range of hills parallel to the
Granny White Pike. Cox’s division moved still farther to the
right, driving the Confederates from the Hills Along Richland
Creek. As Schofield was thus moving to the Right Smith Bore to
the left, assaulted Walthall’s division behind A Stone Wall
Near the Hillsboro road driving Reynolds’ brigade on the left
in confusion and finally routed the entire division. At sunset
the whole Confederate army had been driven from its original
line and forced back to the Brentwood hills. During the night
Hood formed A New Line with his right resting on Overton’s Hill
Near the Franklin Pike and extending from there along the base
of the Brentwood hills, his left being refused a little West of
the Granny White Pike. The Union forces bivouacked on the
field, and Thomas Gave Orders for each corps to move forward at
6 o’clock the next morning, not halting until the enemy should
be met. If Hood showed a disposition to accept battle A Gen-
Eral Attack was to be made, but if he should retreat the whole
army was to be pushed forward in pursuit.

The battle on the 16th was opened by the advance of the
4th corps on the Franklin Pike. The enemy’s skirmishers were
driven back and Wood pressed forward to the main line of works
on Overton’s Hill. Steedman came up on the Nolensville road
and formed on Wood’s Left, While Smith connected with Wood’s
Right, forming a continuous line of Battle. Schofield occupied
a position facing east, perpendicular to Smith’s line, and Wil-
Son, on the right of Schofield, was directed to gain the en-
emy’s rear with his cavalry. By Noon Wilson had reached the
rear and stretched his line across the Granny White Pike. Tho-
Mas then ordered an assault on Overton’s Hill, in the hope of
gaining the Franklin Road, thereby cutting off the last avenue
of retreat. Morgan’s brigade of Steedman’s command, with the
left brigades of the 4th corps, moved forward to the assault,
advancing in the face of a heavy fire of infantry and artillery
until near the crest, when a line of reserves arose and opened
such a destructive fire that the column was compelled to fall
back. The heaviest losses sustained by the Union army was in
this attack on Overton’s Hill. Immediately following Wood’s
repulse Here Smith and Schofield moved against the enemy’s
works in their front, carried everything before them broke the
line in a dozen places, captured all the artillery and several
thousand prisoners. At the same time Wilson attacked the enemy
in the rear, clinching his possession of the Granny White Pike
and completely shutting off retreat by that Road. Wood and
Steedman, Hearing the shouts of victory on their right, now
made another assault on Overton’s Hill, and although they were
met by the same heavy fire as before, the onset was irresisti-
Ble. As the Federal lines advanced the enemy broke in confu-
Sion, leaving all his artillery and many prisoners in the hands
of the victorious assailants. On through Brentwood pass the
Confederates fled, a disorganized mob, closely pursued by the
4th corps for Several Miles, or until darkness put an end to
the Chase for that Day. The pursuit was continued for ten
days, but owing to the delays encountered in crossing Ruther-
ford’s creek and Duck river, both swollen by recent rains and
the bridges destroyed, Hood got so far in advance that he
crossed the Tennessee River at Bainbridge on the 26th and the
Chase was abandoned.

The Union loss in the battle of Nashville was 387 killed,
2,562 wounded, and 112 missing. No detailed report of the Con-
federate losses was made Hood reached Tupelo, Miss., with about
21,OOO men. In his report of the campaign he says: “The offi-
cial records will show that my losses including prisoners, Dur-
Ing the entire campaign do not exceed 10,000 men.” On the Other
Hand Thomas officially reports the capture of 13,189 prisoners,
and it is known that the Confederate loss in killed and wounded
at the battle of Franklin Alone was about 5,000 to say nothing
of Nashville and the other engagements of the campaign. In ad-
dition to the prisoners reported by Thomas, the Union army cap-
tured 72 pieces of artillery, and A Large Number of battle-
flags. Notwithstanding Grant’s severe criticisms of Thomas’
Delay, he sent a telegram congratulating him on his victory,
and Sec. Stanton ordered a salute of 100 guns to be fired on
the 16th to celebrate the Event. Gen. Cullum, in speaking of
the battle of Nashville, says: “The best tactical battle of
the war, so decisive in results, was the last and crowning
glory of Thomas’ campaigns; but it sufficed to stamp him as one
of the foremost soldiers of the great civil contest a general
who had never been defeated, and one whose victories had placed
him among the greatest heroes of the Republic.”

Source: The Union Army, vol. 6

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