Union Forces Commanded by: Brig. Gen. Robert S. Granger
Confederate Forces Commanded by: Gen. John B. Hood
**Missing and Captured
Conclusion: Union Victory
As Gen. John B. Hood began the Franklin-Nashville Campaign during the fall of 1864, his Army of Tennessee demonstrated against Decatur, Alabama, October 26-29, in an attempt to cross the Tennessee River.
On October 25th, Hood's headquarters were located at the town of Somerville, 13 miles southeast of Decatur. Strategically located on the terminus of the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, where the Memphis and Charleston Railroad crossed, it was rumored that Decatur held a large quantity of badly needed supplies. No doubt, the Federal pontoon bridge that spanned the Tennessee River there made it an ideal place in which to serve as Hood's base for the upcoming campaign. On the 26th, the Confederate army began moving up and around the town, surrounding the Union garrison, at the time commanded by Col. C. C. Doolittle.
From Huntsville, Alabama, Brig. Gen. R. S. Granger, sent word to George Thomas in Nashville that he needed reinforcements if he were to hold Decatur, and hurried there to take personal charge. Thomas, unconvinced that Hood's entire army was present at Decatur or that Hood would attack the works there, sent 2 regiments from J. B. Steedman's division. One of these regiments, the 4th Michigan, would not arrive until October 28, bringing the Federal troops at Decatur to 2,000.
On the evening of the 26th, a torrential downpour soaked the Confederates as they found themselves bogged down in knee-deep mud. And as they moved into position around the town on the morning of the 27th, they did so in a dense fog. Once the fog lifted, a defensive works consisting of 2 forts, 1600 yards of rifle pits and parapets could be seen. Notwithstanding the imposing defenses, Hood's soldiers went to work on building earthworks and emplacing artillery along the river and above the town. Hood's supply system had all but broken down completely. The majority of the men had had nothing to eat in several days and desperately wanted the Union supplies that were stockpiled in the town.
Hood spent the 27th getting his troops into position, and skirmishing broke out between the Federals and Confederates. While the newly appointed theatre commander, Gen. P.G. T. Beauregard, met with Hood at his headquarters during the early evening hours, Confederate skirmishers were pushed forward to a ravine about 500 yards from the Union line.
On the morning of the 28th, despite another dense fog enveloping the entrenchments, Union skirmishers moved forward, under cover of the fort, and drove the Confederate skirmishers back. In this action, Granger reported the capture of 120 Confederates, mostly of Cheatham's Division, along with 40 enemy killed and wounded.
Though Hood's entire army of 23,000 were now encircling a garrison of 2,000, Beauregard argued that to continue an attack on fortifications would be too costly in the loss of life. In addition, Union gunboats had arrived to patrol the river and prevent Hood's army from crossing. Weighing these considerations, as well as being low on ammunition, and the men needing to get provisions, Hood elected to attempt a crossing at Bainbridge, some 40-miles west of Decatur. Arguably, Hood's decision to abandon Decatur would appear foolish.
Encouraged by the success of their earlier action, Granger sent another force out of the fort on the evening of the 28th.
Under cover of darkness, the Army of Tennessee moved out of Decatur on October the 29th, marching westward in the direction of Bainbridge. Hood would ultimately cross the Tennessee River west of Bainbridge, at Florence, Alabama.