US Civil War: Hood’s army marches north – The Army of Tennessee

[I actually enjoy US Civil war history. I'm no expert. I have some basic understanding of it. Like with Napoleon & Hitler, I always enjoy reading about the outnumbered southerners, the Confederates and their intense efforts. 

This is from late in the war, when things have gone wrong, and men are tired and there is a lot of STRESS even among the generals on the same side. Jan]

From The Files of Alan Doyle

Camp Historian

September 1, 1864 Gen. John Bell Hood evacuates the City of Atlanta, burns all of the military stores, arsenals, depots and eighty-one railroad cars loaded with ammunition. Sherman’s troops ride in on the next day to find the Confederate Army of Tennessee (AOT) gone. Hood marches west, then north and orders Gen. Hardee’s Corps to catch up with the army in route for Rome, Resaca and Dalton, Georgia.

Follow along with me on this timeline detailing the activities of the AOT for the next 2 ½ months. Most of you are aware the Hood replaced Gen. Joseph E. Johnston as commander of the Army in July 1864. Hood was then promoted to the temporary rank of Full General. A rank that he would later give up when he resigned as AOT commander following the Franklin/Nashville debacle. At its peak in June 1864 under Gen Joe Johnston, the proud and courageous Army of Tennessee numbered nearly 70,000 men. When Hood left Georgia after the failed Atlanta campaign, the army contained a little over 30,000 effectives. I’m not a fan of John Bell Hood as an Army commander, due to his back-stabbing ways that caused President Davis to replace Johnston, nor for what he does to the army in November-December 1864.

Personal feelings aside I will try to detail for you how the army fared prior to Hood’s Tennessee Campaign. In most studies there seems to be a gap of information presented between these two major events. Hang in there with me as this may get a little lengthy, but I assure you that you will be much better informed. The Army of Tennessee (AOT) is in Palmetto, Georgia, just southwest of Atlanta until September 29th before heading north. Hood’s army moves cautiously, fights an engagement at Altoona Pass, then on to Rome, attacks Federal troops at Resaca and finally reaching Dalton to capture that city on October 13th.

Hood has devised a plan to move into Tennessee, defeat George Thomas’ Federal army at Nashville and capture the vast military stores contained in the capitol city. Continuing the march the AOT heads southwest into Alabama and reaches Gadsden after a six-day march on October 20th. Gen. Beauregard, now the Commander of the Military Division of the West, after learning of Hood’s plans, arranged for military supplies to be waiting for him at Gadsden. Beauregard also met Hood at Gadsden and made his headquarters with the Army of Tennessee for a couple of weeks. October 22nd now with 20 days rations in their haversacks the army moves northwest to Decatur, Alabama and fights a small engagement on October 26th with Gen. Granger’s Federals who were well entrenched in the environs in that city. Hood determines that the enemy is too well entrenched to bring on a major fight, so he decides to continue the march leaving the yankees in his rear.

Gen. N.B. Forrest and his cavalry were ordered to affect a junction with the Army of Tennessee as soon as possible for Hood’s grandiose plan for taking Nashville. Bedford Forrest was still on the west side of the swollen Tennessee River on a raid. Since Forrest would be delayed, Hood marched further west with his new objective of Tuscumbia, Alabama. October 30th Hood’s lead corps commanded by Gen. Stephen D. Lee reaches Tuscumbia. Hood now requests district commander Richard Taylor to send food, shoes and munitions to him at his new headquarters. The Army of Tennessee goes into bivouac with a good water, to wait on supplies for two and a half weeks. A month earlier Hood had sent orders for the Memphis & Charleston RR and the Mobile & Ohio RR to be repaired to supply his army. Very little had been done up to this point and Hood fires off dispatches to get the work completed.

Johnson’s Division of Lee’s Corps immediately crosses the Tennessee River and takes possession of Florence, Alabama. October 31st Gen. Hood arrives in Tuscumbia. Thus the Army rested upon the banks of the Tennessee, approximately two months after the evacuation of Atlanta. Hood sends troops to help the engineers with the repairs of the railroads. Again this line of communications was necessary for Hood to receive the supplies needed for his proposed Tennessee Campaign. Beauregard remained at Tuscumbia while preparations for Hood’s campaign were coming together. Hood quarreled with Beauregard and their working relationship had broken down.

November 1, 1864 Hood is sick, tired, requires daily medication and is no longer the gallant knight of the Southern people. His four battle defeats around Atlanta and the eventual loss of that war manufacturing capital had severely tarnished his reputation. November 4th Gen. Forrest and his cavalry destroy Sherman’s supply depot at Johnsonville, Tennessee. November 10th Forrest is in the vicinity as his cavalry reaches Corinth, Mississippi. November 13th the relationship with Beauregard has deteriorated to the point where Hood relocates his headquarter across the river to Florence, Alabama and doesn’t inform Beauregard’s staff or the General himself. Beauregard later stated that Hood wasn’t keen on supervision by a superior officer. S.D. Lee’s Corps begins crossing the river to Florence. As preparations are being made and supplies are coming in from the Selma Depot and Meridian, Mississippi, Hood waits for Forrest’s arrival at Florence with his 8,000 troopers.

November 16th Gen. N.B. Forrest and Forrest’s Cavalry rendezvous with Hood at Florence finally, and simultaneously Sherman begins his march to the sea from Atlanta. November 19th Forrest’s Cavalry receives orders to begin the march towards Nashville and to be the head of the column. Gen. Forrest’s command was to drive back any Federal cavalry and to report to Hood of any enemy movement. The succeeding day Gen. S.D. Lee’s Corps marched north approximately 10 miles along country roads in the direction of Henryville, acting as the center corps of the column. November 19th Gen. Benjamin Cheatham’s Corps and Gen. A.P. Stewart’s Corps are now under orders to cross the Tennessee River for the movement into Tennessee. November 20th the Army of Tennessee finishes crossing the river. Stewart’s Corps marched several miles north on the Lawrenceburg Road acting as the right flank and went into bivouac. Cheatham’s Corps took the Waynesboro Pike north as the left corps and now the whole army was on the move in sync. All commands were to join back together again at Mount Pleasant, Tennessee.

Sherman has dispatched two Federal corps to watch the movement of Hood’s Army of Tennessee and to reinforce Gen. George Thomas’ command in Nashville. The 23rd Corps under Gen. John Schofield and 4th Corps lead by Gen. David Stanley numbered 23,000 combined, with Schofield as the senior commander. When Hood put his column in motion, the Federals occupied the town of Pulaski, Tennessee. Hood’s first objective was to get in between Gen. Schofield and Nashville and to destroy that army before it could reinforce Thomas.

November 21st Hood now having his entire army in motion, he intended to beat Schofield to Columbia, Tennessee on the banks of the Duck River and offer battle. Schofield was trying to prevent that and the race was on. November 22nd the march resumed north with Forrest’s Cavalry skirmishing with Federals at Lawrenceburg, Henryville and Mount Pleasant. Schofield receives orders to hold the Duck River at Columbia and the Federals entrench to form a battle line on the southern environs of town to receive an attack. Incidentally, these two adversaries, Hood and Schofield were classmates at the United States Military Academy at West Point. November 26th Hood’s army arrives south of town and engages in some minor actions with the Federals.

The two armies lay opposite each other on November 27th. S.D. Lee’s Corps was positioned on the Mount Pleasant Pike. A.P. Stewarts Corps formed his troops on Lee’s right, extending to the Pulaski Pike. Cheatham’s Corps lined up on the right of the Pulaski Pike, extending all the way to the Duck River. Hood decides to take advantage of an opportunity that sometimes occurs on the chess board of military strategy. November 28th the Confederate commander orders Cheatham’s and Stewart’s Corps to cross the Duck River upstream and march on Spring Hill, thus getting in the rear of Schofield’s federals. Forrest’s Cavalry had already crossed the night before east of town without any resistance, and is still in the lead of the advance.

Gen. S.D. Lee’s Corps and the bulk of the Confederate artillery are to hold their position at Columbia and engage the Federals as a ruse, to make the Yankees think that the whole Army of Tennessee is still in their front. This has been labeled as the Battle of Columbia, Tennessee. Following the day’s action Yankee General Schofield figures out the whole Confederate army is not doing battle and crosses to the north bank of the Duck River late on November 28th.

In November and December’s Forrest Camp newsletters, we’ll walk you through those disastrous battles of Franklin, Tennessee November 30, 1864 and Nashville December 15,16, 1864. Then hopefully in January we’ll detail for you the courageous withdrawal that the Army of Tennessee made south, all the while being protected by Forrest Cavalry Corps and a division of infantry commanded by Gen. Edward Cary Walthall. Stay tuned my friends.

*Sources: Army of Tennessee by Stanley Horn, Shrouds of Glory by Winston Groom, The Gallant Hood by John Dyer, Autumn of Glory by Thomas Connelly, Tennessee’s War by Stanley Horn, Advance and Retreat by John Bell Hood

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