George H. Thomas, Major General U.S.A. "The Rock of Chickamauga," - "The Sledge of Nashville."
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Thomas plans the end of the Army of Tennessee!

Sequence of events leading to the battle of Nashville as reported by Gen. George H. Thomas Operations Report. All entries taken from Thomas O.R. unless otherwise noted.

September 2, 1864

Federal forces occupy Atlanta, Georgia. Sherman withdraws his forces from Lovejoy’s Station rather than attacking and destroying or dispersing the Army of Tennessee. He leaves Hood to mend his Army.

September 8, 1864

Sherman and his Army are in Atlanta1

September 29-30, 1864

Hood crosses Chattahoochee river with 33,000 to 40,000 troops.

October 1, 1864

Reports of Forrest appearing in front of Granger at Huntsville (Alabama) demanding its surrender. Thomas forwards Milroys brigade to aide in it’s defense. Reports are false (?).

October 3, 1864

Thomas arrives at Nashville to direct operations against Forrest (Grant’s orders) and organize Federal forces in Tennessee..

Hood at Lost Mountain west of Marrietta. Stewart Corps sent to break up Western & Atlantic RR, Sherman’s supply line.

October 6, 1864

Forrest escapes Morgan and Rousseau’s cavalry.

October 9, 1864

Near Alatoona, Sherman wires Grant proposing a march thru Georgia. Grant demurrs but, grudgingly agrees to let Sherman go, provided Thomas has enough troops to face and defeat Hood.

October 10, 1864

Hood marches past Rome, Georgia and Thomas makes plans to trap him between he and Sherman. But Sherman is pushing his plan to march to the sea and leaves Hood to Thomas.

October 16, 1864

Hood starts to Gadsden, Alabama

October 20, 1864

Hood arrives in Gadsden and confers with Beauregard to discuss plans to enter middle Tennessee.

Sherman outlines his plans to Thomas in a telegram dated October, 20th. He authorized Thomas to command in Tennessee and delegates him authority over Kentucky, Mississippi Alabama and etc. He also was to hold, Decatur and Chattanooga.

October 22, 1864

Hood leaves Gadsden.

October 26, 1864

"Like a dark cloud General William S. Rosecrans again appeared on Halleck's horizon and almost prevented Halleck's obtaining reinforcements for Thomas. Rosecrans had garnered the command at St. Louis, replacing Schofield,.....

....On October 26 Grant peremptorily told Halleck that Rosecrans must send all available troops to Thomas. Halleck tried to smooth out Grant’s order.... it was an honest effort, but a mistake nevertheless. His attempt to handle Rosecrans with gentleness backfired. By November 1, Hood was crossing the Tennessee River and it was imperative that reinforcements get to Thomas, who gave no indication of moving against the audacious Confederate. Rosecrans, however, had shown no inclination to forward the reserves. Rectifying his error, Halleck did not mince words as he wired this time that: "Grant directs that all available troops in St. Louis and vicinity be sent immediately to General Thomas." Rosecrans replied the next day. He wished to know what route Halleck wanted the troops to follow, if they should take artillery, ammunition, and regimental trains with them, and if they should go in "driblets" or en masse." The telegram heightened War Department officials' exasperation. Thomas was gingerly collecting troops in Nashville and watching Hood make his way, unopposed, through Tennessee. An infuriated Halleck told Rosecrans the troops could follow any route so long as they reached Nashville in the shortest possible time.'

Meanwhile, Halleck encouraged and advised Old Pap. Thomas should put reinforcements coming in from the western states into the garrisons and place veterans in the front. A division had been ordered from St. Louis to his headquarters, Halleck said, along with other spare troops in the vicinity. Halleck anticipated little cooperation from Rosecrans, but Grant in desperation sent his chief of staff, John Rawlins, to St. Louis to expedite the movement. Halleck had told Rawlins to send "all the troops you can lay hands on . . . ." to Thomas "with the least possible delay," and awaited results. Rawlins was a good choice...... he spoke with Grant's authority, ....one day after he arrived Rawlins had started 9,000 men to Old Pap from St. Louis, added detachments from Cairo, Springfield and Alton, Illinois and Paducah, Kentucky, talked with Rosecrans, and requested permission to return.' Old Rosy must have wondered dazedly what happened."1.

At Gaylesville, Sherman has enough of chasing Hood and turns back to Atlanta.

November 1, 1864

Hood starts across the Tennessee River.

Grant telegraphs Sherman to destroy Hood before heading to Savannah.

November 2, 1864

Sherman sends telegraph (9:00AM) persuading Grant to let him march. Grant acquiesces after thinking about it for a couple of hours in another telegraph that day (11:30AM).

November 4, 1864

On November 4, Forrest attacked Johnsonville and some Federal gunboats from both land and water, throwing shells from all directions.

November 12, 1864

Communication with Sherman severed, the last dispatch from him leaving Cartersville, Ga., at 2.25 p.m. on that date. He had started on his expedition from Atlanta to the seaboard, leaving Thomas to guard Tennessee. Thomas assured him by telegraph that he should go and not worry about Nashville. With the troops Sherman had left him and the additional sent by Halleck he felt confident the could defeat Hood. This message probably contained a double message. After having fought with Sherman in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia and witnessing the poor results of Sherman’s strategy and tactics, Thomas was glad to get him out of his hair. Now, he, Thomas could plan the battle of destruction of the Army of Tennessee that should have been accomplished at Missionary Ridge, Dalton, Resaca, Lays Ferry, Allatoona, Atlanta and Jonesboro. No, he would put an end to the war in the West.

November 13, 1864

During the operations in Middle Tennessee the enemy, under Breckenridge, Duke, and Vaughan, were operating in the eastern portion of the State against Union Generals Ammen and Gillem. On the 13th of November, at midnight, Breckenridge, with a force estimated at 3,000, attacked General Gillem near Morristown, routing him and capturing his artillery, besides taking several hundred prisoners; the remainder of the command, about 1,000 in number, escaped to Strawberry Plains, and thence to Knoxville. General Gillem's force consisted of 1,500 men, comprising three regiments of Tennessee cavalry, and six guns, belonging formerly to the Fourth Division of Cavalry, Army of the Cumberland, but had been detached from my command at the instance of Governor Andrew Johnson, and were then operating independently under Brigadier-General Gillem. From a want of cooperation between the officers directly under my control and General Gillem may be attributed, in a great measure, the cause of the latter's misfortune.

Hood arrives at Florence, Alabama.

November 14, 1864

Forrest reports to Hood at Florence.

November 17, 1864

Hood moves Cheatham's corps to the north side of the (Tennessee) river, with Stewart's corps preparing to follow

Two Federal divisions of infantry, under Maj. Gen. A. J. Smith, were reported on their way to join me, from Missouri, which, with several one-year regiments then arriving in the department, and detachments collected from points of minor importance, would swell my command, when concentrated, to an army nearly as large as that of the enemy. Had the enemy delayed his advance a week or ten days longer, I would have been ready to meet him at some point south of Duck River,

November 18, 1864

Following up his success (at Morristown), Breckenridge continued moving southward through Strawberry Plains to the immediate vicinity of Knoxville, but on the 18th withdrew as rapidly as he had advanced. General Ammen's troops, re-enforced by 1,500 men from Chattanooga, re-occupied Strawberry Plains on that day.

About that period Major-General Stoneman (left at Louisville by General Schofield to take charge of the Department of the Ohio during his absence with the army in the field) started for Knoxville, to take general direction of affairs in that section, having previously ordered Brevet Major-General Burbridge to march with all his available force in Kentucky, by way of Cumberland Gap, to Gillem's relief. On his way through Nashville General Stoneman received instructions from Thomas (on orders from Grant), to concentrate as large a force as he could get in East Tennessee against Breckenridge, and either destroy his force or drive it into Virginia, and, if possible, destroy the salt-works at Saltville and the railroad from the Tennessee line as far into Virginia as he could go without endangering his command.

November 19, 1864

Hood commenced his advance, moving north on parallel roads from Florence toward Waynesborough, and shelled Hatch's cavalry out of Lawrenceburg on the 22d.

November 20, 1864

"Hoods column was at Lawrenceburg, some 16 miles due west of Pulaski, his goal to interpose his force between Schofield and Nashville....and where there were less than 800 men to guard the bridges. The situation at Pulaski, with an enemy nearly three times its size fairly on its flank ...was not cheering. Warned by the reports of Hatch and Croxton (Thomas ordered Schofield to fall back on Columbia)....and Cox’ and Wagner’s divisions were ordered to march to Lynnville--about half-way to Columbia - on the 22d. On the 23rd the other two divisions, under General Stanley, were to follow with the wagon trains. It was not a moment too soon. On the morning of the 24th General Cox, who had pushed on to within nine miles of Columbia, was roused by sounds of a conflict away to the west. Taking a cross-road, leading south of Columbia, he reached the Mount Pleasant pike just in time to interpose his infantry between Forrest's cavalry and a hapless brigade, under command of Colonel Capron, which was being handled most unceremoniously. In another hour Forrest would have been in possession of the crossings of Duck River, and the only line of communication with Nashville would have been in the hands of the enemy. General Stanley, who had left Pulaski on the afternoon of the 23d, reached Lynnville after dark. Rousing his command at 1 o'clock in the morning, by 9 o'clock the head of his column connected with Cox in front of Columbia having moved thirty miles since 2 o'clock of the preceding afternoon. These timely movements saved the little army from utter destruction.

When General Sherman had finally determined on his march to the sea, he requested General Rosecrans, in Missouri, to send to General Thomas two divisions, under General A. J. Smith, which had been lent to General Banks for the Red River expedition, and were now repelling the incursion of Price into Missouri. As they were not immediately forthcoming, General Grant had ordered General Rawlins, his chief-of-staff, to St. Louis, to direct, in person, their speedy embarkation. Thence, on the 7th of November, two weeks before Hood began his advance from Florence, General Rawlins wrote to General Thomas that Smith's command, aggregating nearly 14,000, would begin to leave that place as early as the 10th. No news was ever more anxiously awaited or more eagerly welcomed than this. But the promise could not be fulfilled. Smith had to march entirely across the State of Missouri and instead of leaving St. Louis on the 10th, he did not arrive there until the 24th. Had he come at the proposed time, it was General Thomas's intention to place him at Eastport, on the Tennessee River, so as to threaten Hood's flank and rear if the latter advanced. With such disposition, the battles of Franklin and Nashville would have been relegated to the category of "events which never come to pass." But when Smith reached St. Louis, Hood was threatening Columbia; and it was an open question whether he would not reach Nashville before the (Smith’s) reinforcements from Missouri."2.

November 23, 1864

On the 23d, in accordance with directions previously given him, General Granger commenced withdrawing the garrisons from Athens, Decatur, and Huntsville, Ala., and moved off toward Stevenson, sending five new regiments of that force to Murfreesborough, and retaining at Stevenson the original troops of his command. This movement was rapidly made by railroad, without opposition on the part of the enemy. That same night General Schofield evacuated Pulaski and moved toward Columbia.

November 23, General Stoneman telegraphed from Knoxville that the main force of the enemy was at New Market, eight miles north of Strawberry Plains, and General Burbridge was moving on Cumberland Gap from the interior of Kentucky, his advance expecting to reach Barboursville that night.

November 24, 1864

Schofield in position at Columbia on the 24th.

November 27, 1864

Schofield moves his command to north bank of Duck river to prevent Hood from cutting him off.

November 29, 1864

About 2 a.m. on the 29th the enemy succeeded in pressing back General Wilson's cavalry, and effected a crossing on the Lewisburg pike; at a later hour part of his infantry crossed at Huey's Mills, six miles above Columbia. Communication with the cavalry having been interrupted and the line of retreat toward Franklin being threatened, General Schofield made preparations to withdraw to Franklin. General Stanley, with one division of infantry, was sent to Spring Hill, about fifteen miles north of Columbia.

Hood’s mismanagement of his troops at Spring Hill allows Schofield to escape to Franklin, Tennessee by a forced night march past Cheatham’s encamped Corps.

November 30, 1864

Major-General Steedman, with a command numbering 5,000, composed of detachments belonging to General Sherman's column, left behind at Chattanooga (of which mention has heretofore been made), and also a brigade of colored troops, started from Chattanooga by rail on the 29th of November, and reached Cowan on the morning of the 30th, where orders were sent him to proceed direct to Nashville.

On the morning of the 30th the advance elements of Maj. Gen. A. J. Smith's command reached Nashville by transports from Saint Louis. Thomas’s infantry force was now nearly equal to that of the Hood, although he still was outnumbered cavalry; but as soon as a few thousand of the latter arm could be mounted he would be in a condition to take the field offensively

Hood attacks Schofield’s entrenched Army at Franklin.

(Confederate casualties at the battle of Franklin, (determined) after the battles of December 15 and 16, at Brentwood Hills, near Nashville, are given as follows: Buried upon the field, 1,750; disabled and placed in hospital at Franklin, 3,800, which, with the 702 prisoners already reported, makes an aggregate loss to Hood's army of 6,252, among whom were 6 general officers killed, 6 wounded, and 1 captured.)

December 1, 1864

General Steedman's troops reached Nashville about dark on the evening of the 1st of December.

The administration in Washington, knowing that Thomas is trying to re-mount his cavalry finally on December 1st or 2nd, gives Thomas permission to seize horses and material to mount and arm Wilson. Governor Johnston donates his carriage horses.

"WAR DEPARTMENT, December 1 [2?], 1864--9.30 p.m.

Major-General THOMAS, Nashville :

You are authorized to seize and impress horses and every other species of property needed for the military service in your command. You should not hesitate an hour about exercising this power at Nashville and Louisville, and wherever property can be had. Horses and equipments enough for Wilson might thus be procured immediately. Receipts may be given for the property by the seizing officer, designating the property and its value.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.2"

December 4, 1864

The block-house at the railroad crossing of Overall's Creek, five miles north of Murfreesborough, was attacked by Bate's division, of Cheatham's corps, on the 4th, but held out until assistance reached it from the garrison at Murfreesborough. The enemy used artillery to reduce the block-house, but although seventy-four shots were fired at it, no material injury was done. General Milroy coming up with three regiments of infantry, four companies of the Thirteenth Indiana Cavalry, and a section of artillery, attacked the enemy and drove him off.

December 5, 1864

During the 5th, 6th, and 7th Bate's division, re-enforced by a division from Lee's corps and 2,500 of Forrest's cavalry, demonstrated heavily against Fortress Rosecrans, at Murfreesborough, garrisoned by about 8,000 men, under command of General Rousseau. The enemy showing an unwillingness to make a direct assault,

December 6, 1864

On the 6th of December, having received information from East Tennessee that Breckinridge was falling back toward Virginia, General Stoneman was again directed to pursue him, and destroy the railroad as far across the State line as possible---say, twenty-five miles.

December 7, 1864

General Milroy, with seven regiments of infantry, was sent out on the 7th to engage him. He was found a short distance from the place on the Wilkinson Pile.

The position of Hood's army around Nashville remained unchanged, and, with the exception of occasional picket-firing, nothing of importance occurred from the 3d to the 15th of December. In the meanwhile I was preparing to take the offensive without delay; the cavalry was being remounted, under the direction of General Wilson, as rapidly as possible, and new transportation furnished where it was required.

December 14, 1864

Both armies were ice-bound for a week previous to the 14th of December, when the weather moderated. Being prepared to move, Thomas called a meeting of the corps commanders on the afternoon of that day, and having discussed the plan of attack until thoroughly understood,......

December 15, 1864

On the morning of the 15th of December, the weather being favorable, the army was formed and ready at an early hour to carry out the plan of battle promulgated in the special field order of the 14th.

December 16, 1864

At 6 a.m. on the 16th Wood's corps pressed back the enemy's skirmishers across the Franklin pike to the eastward of it, and then swinging slightly to the right, advanced due south from Nashville, driving the enemy before him

.......Thomas still had hopes of gaining his rear and cutting off his retreat from Franklin.

December 17, 1864

Leaving directions for the collection of the captured property and for the care of the wounded left on the battle-field, the pursuit was continued at daylight on the 17th. The Fourth Corps pushed on toward Franklin by the direct pike, whilst the cavalry moved by the Granny White pike to its intersection with the Franklin pike, (trying to cut off Hood at the intersection) and then took the advance.

Action at Hollow Tree Gap, Tenn.

Action at Franklin, Tenn.

Action at West Harpeth River, Tenn.

December 18, 1864

On the 18th the pursuit of the enemy was continued by General Wilson, who pushed on as far as Rutherford's Creek, three miles from Columbia

Skirmish at Spring Hill, Tenn.

December 19, 1864

During the 19th several unsuccessful efforts were made by the advanced troops to cross Rutherford's Creek

Skirmish at Rutherford's Creek, Tenn.

Skirmish at Curtis' Creek, Tenn.

December 20, 1864

Skirmish at Columbia, Tenn.

December 21, 1864

The pontoon train coming up to Rutherford's Creek about noon of the 21st, a bridge was laid during the afternoon and General Smith's troops were enabled to cross

On the completion of the bridge at Rutherford's Creek sufficient material for a bridge over Duck River was hastily pushed forward to that point, and the bridge constructed in time to enable Wood to cross late in the afternoon of the 22d and get into position on the Pulaski road, about two miles south of Columbia.

December 22, 1864

Skirmish at Duck River, Tenn

December 23, 1864

During the 23d General Wilson was occupied crossing his command over Duck River,

Skirmish at Warfield's, near Columbia, Tenn.

December 24, 1864

....but took the advance on the 24th, supported by General Wood, and came up with the enemy just south of Lynnville, and also at Buford's Station, at both of which places the enemy made a short stand, but was speedily dislodged, with a loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Our advance was so rapid as to prevent the destruction of the bridges over Richland Creek.

Skirmish at Lynnville, Tenn.

Action at Richland Creek, Tenn.

December 25, 1864

Christmas morning, the 25th, the enemy, with our cavalry at his heels, evacuated Pulaski

The cavalry had moved so rapidly as to out-distance the trains, and both men and animals were suffering greatly in consequence, although they continued uncomplainingly to pursue the enemy. General Wood's corps kept well closed up on the cavalry, camping on the night of December 25 six miles out from Pulaski, on the Lamb's Ferry road.

Skirmish at Richland Creek, Tenn.

Action at King's (or Anthony's) Hill, or Devil's Gap, Tenn.

December 26,1864

Action at Sugar Creek, Tenn.

December 27, 1864

Skirmish at Decatur, Ala.

December 28, 1864

Pursuing the same route as the cavalry, (Woods Corps) reached Lexington, Ala., thirty miles from Pulaski, on the 28th, on which date, having definitely ascertained that the enemy had made good his escape across the Tennessee at Bainbridge, Thomas directed farther pursuit to cease.

December 28, 1864

Skirmish near Decatur, Ala.

December 29, 1964

Skirmish at Hillsborough, Ala.

Skirmish at Pond Spring, Ala.

December 30, 1864

Skirmish near Leighton, Ala.

December 31, 1864

Affair at Paint Rock Bridge, Ala.

Skirmish at Russellville, Ala.

January 4, 1865

Skirmish near Thorn Hill, Ala.

January 9, 1865

Skirmish near Thorn Hill, Ala.

January 15 - 18, 1865

The Twenty-third Army Corps embarks at Clifton, Tenn., for the East.

January 19, 1865

Skirmish at Corinth, Miss.

January 23, 1865

General John B. Hood, C. S. Army, relinquishes command of the Army of Tennessee.

Thomas has finally finished Sherman’s and Grant’s job.

Footnotes:

1. S. E. Ambrose, ‘Halleck’ (Louisiana State University Press), XIV, pp190-191

2. ‘Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. IV, pp 441-443

The unit which Thomas desired most of all (at Nashville) was not to be his, apparently. This was the elite Fourteenth Corps, the first brigade of which he had organized at Camp Dick Robinson, nucleus of the division which had won the Battle of Mill Springs. Sherman could not bear to see the Fourteenth go, refusing Thomas's request with a tribute to its fine efficiency: "It is too compact and reliable a corps for me to leave behind (the same Corps during the Atlanta campaign, he had criticized to Grant and Halleck as "entrenching at the sight of a fresh, up-turned furrow"). I can spare you the Fourth Corps and about five thousand men not fit for my purpose, but which will be well enough for garrison duty at Chattanooga, Murfreesboro and Nashville. What you need is a few points fortified and stocked with provisions and a good movable column of twenty-five thousand men that can strike in any direction." Sherman was still assuming that Hood did not intend to invade Tennessee, although before many weeks had passed he would be advising Thomas to concentrate all his troops at one point and attack the invader.

Ten thousand more men were designated for Thomas when General Schofield showed little inclination to accompany Sherman. Shrunken through losses and expirations of terms of service, the Army of the Ohio was contracted into the Twenty third Corps, which made up for the loss of Newton and Morgan. Thomas also received about 5,000 cavalry troops minus horses and all the damaged artillery from Sherman's "surplus." To bring his army up to the point of opposing Confederate strength, he called on William Starke Rosecrans, now commanding in Missouri, to lend him General A. J. Smith and two divisions of the Sixteenth Corps, Army of the Tennessee, which had remained behind to fight General Forrest that summer. Since Smith recently had been engaged in driving the Rebel Sterling Price from western Missouri, his troops were not very accessible; but after Grant had given his consent to the transfer, General John A. Rawlins entrained for St. Louis to obtain river passage for Smith and at the same time to rustle up some additional men. Since Smith had to march all the way across the state of Missouri, he would not reach St. Louis until November. Meantime the various additions to Thomas's command would comprise a net somewhat less than the forces of Forrest and Hood, while there were a dozen cities and towns to garrison against a possible Confederate strike.

Thomas's present army of 31,000 was spread so thin, in fact, that early in November, Forrest made one of his great sweeps of the war. First he began blockading the winding Tennessee River at Johnsonville, ninety miles due west of Nashville, a main army depot with acres of Federal supplies. Confederate land batteries laboriously hauled into position waylaid and captured several small Union craft, and a lubber river navy was organized. On November 4, Forrest attacked Johnsonville and some Federal gunboats from both land and water, throwing shells from all directions. Before the tireless Rebel raider had finished, he had destroyed or captured "three gunboats, eleven steamers and fifteen barges, a portion of the latter laden with quartermaster and commissary stores." Flaming vessels set fire to docks, warehouses, and sheds along the shore; several hundred barrels of liquor exploded, mingling blue flame with red, a scene described by a dazed Federal eyewitness as "awfully sublime." Schofield happened to arrive at Nashville the very next day and immediately was put on the cars going west for a glimpse of Forrest's heels as Thomas conservatively estimated the property loss at one and one-half million dollars."

Sherman had followed Hood at a safe distance as far as Gaylesville, Alabama, where he tarried a week while shaping his plans. His troops were in fine health and spirits; not a man had been lost in a fight since the Confederate attack on Allatoona. Hood, during the last week in October, was marching from Gadsden to Guntersville, then to Decatur and Tuscumbia, seeking the most suitable crossing of the Tennessee River and quarreling along the way with General Beauregard, newly appointed chief of the Military Division of the West. Sherman was not sorry to see Hood out of the way. "If he'll go to the Ohio River' " he remarked, "I'll give him rations." General Grant, however, had misgivings. He still felt that Sherman's chief assignment was Hood. "If you see a chance of destroying Hood's Army

 

To be continued!

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