Civil War Campaigns
On November 22nd, Gen. John B. Hood's 39,000 Confederates left Florence, Alabama in 3 columns commanded by Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham and Lt. Gens. Stephen D. Lee and Alexander P. Stewart. Following a plan originated by Hood and approved by Pres. Jefferson Davis, they invaded Tennessee to draw Union military attention from the Deep South, crush Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's Western support for his operations in Georgia, and perhaps take war through Kentucky to the North.
After the fall of Atlanta, Hood had moved the Army of Tennessee northwest in September and October, drawing Sherman and a detached force from Atlanta, skirmishing and wrecking railroads, fighting at Allatoona, then withdrawing into northwest Alabama. Unwilling to pursue farther, Sherman had paused west of Rome, Georgia, ordered the IV, XVI, and XXIII Corps to Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, commanding at Nashville, and returned to Atlanta to begin his "March To The Sea". Sherman knew Hood's intent and believed that, reinforced, Thomas would repel him.
Hood and Thomas spent more than 20 days preparing their parts in the campaign: Hood gathering supplies, reorganizing, and waiting for Maj. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest's cavalry; Thomas creating a cavalry force under Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson and moving the IV and XXIII Corps from the Chattanooga area to positions west along the Tennessee & Alabama Railroad. The XVI Corps detachment Thomas looked for could not reach him until December, Forrest spent late October and early November raiding Nashville's Tennessee Railroad supply lines and wrecking the railroad at Johnsonville.
Forrest joined Hood at Florence, the expedition entered Tennessee, and its columns, traveling miles apart, moved for Columbia, midway to nashville. The XXIII's Corps' Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield commanded his men and elements of the IV Corps at Pulaski along the railroad, west of invading columns. On Thomas' orders, he raced his force north to Columbia, arriving ahead of the Confederates on November 24th, and covered bridges on the Duck River astride the invasion route. Union cavalry sparred with Confederate cavalry from the Alabama line at Columbia. Schofield skirmished around Columbia from the 24-26th, until Hood's columns converged on his front. Bridges over the Duck River were destroyed and Schofield's troops withdrew north, covering fords, until Forrest's cavalry crossed at Huey's Mill on Schofield's left on the 28th. Wilson sent word to Schofield: "Get back to Franklin without delay."
Maj. Gen. David S. Stanley, commanding IV Corps troops, hurried north to Spring Hill on the 29th to hold the town until Schofield's troops passed through. Forrest, from his eastern crossing of the Duck Creek, threatened the Union right. Stanley's pickets held him off. Hood failed in his plan to hold Federals there, circumvent them, and press on to Nashville. He blamed Cheatham for bumbled enveloping maneuvers, and Schofield slipped through, marching his men from midnight to noon from Spring Hill to Franklin on the 30th.
Late that afternoon at the Battle of Franklin, Federals faced Hood's 18 charging brigades; their center was pierced, resealed, and the enemy repulsed from the fortified town while Schofield tried repairing bridges across the Harpeth River at their backs. The Union retreat, stalled by destroyed crossings, began again at 11:00 P.M. and continued to Thomas' Nashville lines the next day. At Franklin, his last attempt to keep the IV and XXIII Corps from reaching Thomas, Hood sacrificed over 6,000 men.
Three divisions from the XVI Corps, promised earlier, reached Nashville on the 30th from the Trans-Mississippi. Schofield's arrival brought Thomas' strength to nearly 70,000. Hood's men invested the city, and telegrams from Washington urged Thomas to finish the contest.
Thomas spent 2 weeks planning an attack and pursuit. On December 6th, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant wired a direct order "to attack Hood at once," but Thomas ignored it. Nine days later, Federals sallied out of the fortress city and in a day's fight wrecked and demoralized the Army of Tennessee in front of an enormous body of civilian spectators lining the hills around the battlefield. A 10-day pursuit followed. Wilson's cavalry in the advance, Forrest's cavalry providing the rear gurad from Columbia south to the banks of the Tennessee River. The last of Forrest's men crossed the river on the 27th, and 2 days later, Hood's men marched on to Tupelo, Mississippi, ending the Franklin and Nashville Campaign. The Army of Tennessee, fragmented, dispatched elements to Mississippi and Mobile, the remainder traveling east for the last campaign in the Carolinas.